Thursday, December 17, 2009

Is Protestantism of New Testament or of German origin?

Time for some sociology! I taught sociology for 12 years at a major Australian university so maybe I can claim to have some idea what it is all about. Sociology is actually a lot like climatology. You have to try to find a common thread in a whole lot of crazy data and the thread you think you have found may in the end not be there at all. But some of us like to make the effort anyway. At least we don't try to hide our data in sociology.

Max Weber's essay The Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism is considered a classic in sociology and is usually cited with much reverence. When I was teaching in a sociology school myself, it always rather surprised me that my mainly Marxist colleagues seemed to think highly of it. I never quite saw how believers in economic determinism could accept Weber's spiritual determinism. But accept it they did.

I myself was never convinced. Weber makes a good case but I always doubted that competition for signs of election was enough to explain a capitalist orientation. I think Weber was fooled by the rationalizations that Calvinists put up rather than getting to their real motives.

The broader case that Protestantism in general was the spark that created the modern world did however seem to have something going for it. Many of the innovations and inventions that ushered in the industrial age originated from two communities with large Protestant populations: England and the German lands -- from Gutenberg's printing press to Watt's steam engine.

So it was with some interest that I read a report of some recent research which appears to show with considerable rigour that Protesant cities and Catholic cities of the early modern era in fact did equally well and were equally capitalist. I like the article so much that I have reposted it on my Paralipomena blog. The article is certainly strong support for my doubts about the Weber thesis. But does it also throw into a cocked hat the idea that Protestantism in general was beneficial?

Yes and No. It must be noted that the research concerned GERMAN cities only. It is not a comparison of Northern and Southern Europe, for instance. So it is not too disturbing to the theory overall. But the fact that Germans did equally well regardless of religion does strongly reinforce a theory that I put forward some years ago: That it was the Germanness of Protestantism that gave it its power, not its New Testament loyalties.

I am going to get myself into all sorts of strife here but Protestantism is a long way from the New Testament. I have explored the evidence for that at great length on my Scripture blog so let me just summarize that Luther, Calvin and Co. did not throw off much of Catholic theology. Absurdities of pagan origin such as the Holy Trinity mumbo jumbo (which is mentioned NOWHERE in the Bible) and the pretence that Winter solstice celebrations were somehow related to the (unknown) birthday of Christ were retained tout court. The real innovation was political rather than theological: Rejection of the authority of the Pope.

Perhaps the most vivid proof of what Protestantism is NOT lies in the fact that they still set aside the pagan Day of the Sun as their holy day, which runs contrary to every word on the subject in the Bible. Reverence for the sun was virtually universal in pagan religions and the Children of Israel deliberately set themselves aside from all that by making their holy day the day BEFORE the Day of the Sun. Had Protestantism really been a "back to the Bible" movement, they would have reverted to the Jewish Sabbath practice. Sabbath observance is after all a major aspect of Bible teachings. Jesus and the early Christians observed it, though not in a legalistic way. My copy of Strong's Exhaustive Concordance records over 50 references to the Sabbath in the New Testament. But instead of listening to the Bible the Protestants just used it as a fiddle upon which to play their preferred tunes.

So if theology was not the motor for Protestant innovations, what was? I have argued that Protestantism was a set of attiudes that came naturally to people of German stock, which includes the English, of course. Protestantism is an expression of Germanness rather than of the New Testament. But since the Germanness is basic, it is no surprise that German cities performed equally well regardless of their theology. The theology was not the driving force. It was, if you like, an epiphenomenon. All of which fits in well with the new research findings that I have mentioned above. It does however get me into deep do-do with any Leftist -- because Leftists these days refuse to believe in group differences -- no matter how much evidence you rub their noses in. American blacks as a group are just the same as whites as a group, only browner, don't you know?

So any Leftist reading this (if any) should get ready with the shrieks of "racism" now because what I am saying in summary is that the modern world was largely created by people of German origin and that their Protestant beliefs were a product and not a cause of what they were and became. I might note in passing that direct German ancestry is generally reckoned to be more common in the U.S. population than is English ancestry -- though the English themselves came from Germany 1500 years ago (the Anglo-Saxons).

My brief comments above do of course leave out a lot -- for instance the "counter-reformation" which in German lands did to an extent "Protestantize" Catholicism. But I think I have written enough for now. My earlier observations about Germanness are extensive, however, and can be found here or here.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Is the Brain Like a Muscle, Really?

I thought I would reproduce the Newsweak column below as proof that Leftists never learn anything. Results such as they describe have been known for years. What nobody has been able to show is that the beneficial effects of special training are lasting. Educationally "enriched" kids are just as dumb when they get to adulthood as are control groups -- mainly because environmental handicaps tend to fade in importance as we get older. I noted recently some very powerful genetic research which showed exactly that: Environmental influences do matter somewhat in childhood but that fades out so that in adulthood it is your genetics that dictate your abilities.

Probably what the findings below show is that if you train kids in doing the sort of tasks that you encounter in IQ tests, they will get better at doing IQ tests for as long as they remember the training.

There is a slightly expanded account of the research concerned here but I can find no trace of it being published in a peer-reviewed academic journal. That leaves a lot of questions unanswered. It is, for instance, normal for there to be a "learning effect" in IQ testing. If you give the same test to the same people two weeks apart, they will do significantly better the second time around. That alone could explain the results below. The proper academic way to circumvent that problem is to use a "parallel form" of the test on the second time around. Most tests do have such forms available. Did the researchers below do that? Who knows? Other Problems: Was the study double-blind? Again, who knows? So I think that the bright-eyed enthusiasm shown below is mainly a product of uncritical and uninformed thinking.

For a sidelight on the issue, I reproduce a recent email from a reader underneath the article below. Some people don't need "enriched" education. In fact they do very well with very little. You will never guess who. In the end genetics rule the roost. Education can increase your knowledge and give you some skills but it cannot increase your ability to learn and figure things out
Back in 2007, Ashley and I reported on the science of praise for New York magazine, highlighting in particular the body of work by Dr. Carol Dweck. Dweck had done studies for over a decade – and we covered them all – including a brand new semester-long intervention that had been conducted with Lisa Blackwell at Life Sciences Secondary School in East Harlem.

Life Sciences is a health-science magnet school with high aspirations but 700 students whose main attributes are being predominantly minority and low achieving. The scholars split the kids into two groups for an eight-session workshop. The control group was taught study skills, and the others got study skills and a special module on how intelligence is not innate. These students took turns reading aloud an essay on how the brain grows new neurons when challenged. They saw slides of the brain and acted out skits. After the module was concluded, Blackwell tracked her students’ grades to see if it had any effect.

It didn’t take long. The students who had been taught that intelligence can be developed improved their study habits and grades. In a single semester, Blackwell reversed the students’ longtime trend of decreasing math grades.

The only difference between the control group and the test group were two lessons, a total of 50 minutes spent teaching not math but a single idea: that the brain is a muscle. Giving it a harder workout makes you smarter. That alone improved their math scores.

Ever since that New York magazine story was published, it’s been common now to tell kids the brain is like a muscle, and intelligence is malleable. The catch was that the students at Life Sciences were reading a four-page middle-reader version of neuroscience-lite that was somewhat edited to enhance, or sell, the idea that IQ isn’t fixed.

So it’s been a legitimate ongoing question whether we’re really now telling kids the truth, when we tell the brain is a muscle. Just how malleable is IQ, really? Are we misleading them at all, when we suggest their IQ is something they can control?

As Ashley and I wrote in NurtureShock, children’s IQs do change a lot as they develop. More than half of children will see significant swings in their IQ – not just once, but three times. And the swings are not minor. Two-thirds of children’s IQ scores improve, or drop, more than 15 points. One-third of kids’ scores jump more than 30 points. So there’s clearly a lot of instability going on.

But does that give us license to suggest to kids their brains can really be altered, quickly? Are we lying to them if we ignore there’s some element of genetic predestination?

Well, that’s why yesterday’s column here was, we believe, so important. Drs. Silvia Bunge and Allyson Mackey set up a special afterschool program at a low-performing elementary school in Oakland. For eight weeks, twice a week, kids came into one of two rooms to play board games, video games, and card games. These are games available at most retailers, but they’d been chosen by Bunge and Mackey because they demanded very specific cognitive skills. One set of games – in one room – challenged the kids’ reasoning ability. The other set of games – in the other room – challenged those kids’ processing speed.

Before and after the training, the scholars measured relevant components of the children’s IQs. The scholars expected some modest improvement. But the results were staggering – the group that trained for reasoning ability saw their non-verbal intelligence scores leap 32%. The group that trained for processing speed saw their brain speed scores jump 27%. In just eight weeks – 20 hours total of training – the games had a drastic impact on the kids’ IQ.

Now, Mackey does warn that kids who already come from enriched home environments might already have these games, or something similar, and in many ways they might have already trained their brains. So while Mackey suspects all kids could benefit from the game training, not all kids would benefit so much, so quickly.

Nevertheless, it’s striking evidence that indeed, the brain is like a muscle. While every individual probably has upper limits to what we might be capable of, brain training – like weight training, or fitness training – can lift us towards those limits.


An email from a reader with some relevance: "My wife is picking up our 10 year old adopted Chinese child at this moment. The little girl speaks 3 dialects, knows well over 1000 Hanzi characters, is able to read (not yet speak) quite a bit of English, and is off the charts in technological aptitude. And this from a girl who hasn't been exposed to 1/5 of what kids from even our lowest, social welfare classes receive. Tell me there's not something biological going on. As well as more courage and determination that what is generally inculcated in our society - at that age, anyway."

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Tony Judt and the confusion of the modern Left

It is with a little sadness that I write this. I am going to comment on a recent essay by Tony Judt. Even though he is an anti-Israel Jew, he is a brilliant mind and a most knowledgeable historian. He is now however suffering from a severe physical disability and the essay I wish to comment on could well be his last substantial work. So, with respect:

The essay boils down to two things: A rejection of "economism" and a dreamy glorification of 20th century democratic Leftism. And he ends up saying that Leftists should be conservatives. A more confused, though lucid, set of ideas would be hard to imagine.

For a start, his central dilemma is one that is ever-present on the contemporary Left: He argues for moral values while also believing that there is no such thing as right and wrong. If self-contradiction is a mark of insanity, the modern Left is terminally deranged.

It is purely in the name of some unspecified moral order that Judt rejects "economism". And what he condemns as "economism" boils down to being concerned about your financial state of affairs. It is wrong, apparently, to be concerned about how much money you have in your pocket. It is no doubt an outcome of Judt's own privileged life that he literally seems unable to understand why people would have such concerns.

It was one of my correspondents who alerted me to Judt's essay and the comment he sent with the link was simply: "A moron". One can understand that judgement. Let me be a little more professional about the matter, however, and say that Judt's moral ideas are seriously underdeveloped and that a full elaboration of his moral beliefs and reasoning would be needed for anyone to draw any reasonable conclusions from his essay.

He goes on to glorify government-provided services generally but once again seems not to be living in the real world. Who has not experienced the horrors of dealing with large bureaucracies and who does not find small businesses easier to deal with? He seems unaware that you get much better treatment as a valued customer than you do if you are a mere number to some bureaucrat. You are virtually powerless against a bureaucracy but you have some weight as a person who can take his business elsewhere.

Judt's primary example of a service that should be government provided is the railways. He thinks that they are "an essential public service". That people in some places get along quite well without them and that the vast majority of Americans hardly use them at all appears to have had no impact on his thinking. His argument seems to boil down to saying that railways run purely for profit would not serve isolated regions or the poor very well. He is probably right about that but does it follow that a government-run railway is the answer? If we are going to subsidize anything, why not subsidize small buses to run on the route concerned? That would undoubtedly be a lot easier on the taxpayer's pocket.

So his final plea that we remember the past glories of socialism is as deranged as his moral ideas. Leftists should hope that people do NOT remember how awful past government services have been. What Judt wants us to "remember" is a dreamy ideal that never existed. His closing assertion that "The left, to be quite blunt about it, has something to conserve" is undoubtedly a common Leftist belief but it is just another example of his moral incoherence and blindness to the actual past.

In an effort to do justice to the man, however, I will happily concede his point that privatizations of government services have not always worked well. And since he seems to have railways on the brain, let me mention the privatization of British Rail. I remember the shabbiness, erratic services and awful sandwiches of British Rail well so am perhaps in some position to comment. Who could believe train drivers who drove off while people were still trying to board? I do because I saw it. I was one of the passengers concerned.

There is no doubt that rail services in Britain today are often very poor but that is a consequence of their very PARTIAL privatization. The infinitely better rail services of the Victorian era were provided by companies that OWNED not only the trains but the tracks they ran on. In Britain today, however, the private rail companies own very little. They bid for the privilege of providing a service and get a government-controlled monopoly in return. So, once they have obtained their monopoly, it makes sense for them to screw passengers for all they can. Roadspace and parking are severely limited in Britain so passengers usually have no real option of other forms of transport.

In the Victorian era, by contrast, railways DID compete (and also co-operated when that was useful). There was more than one set of tracks running North and if you wanted to get from (say) London to somewhere in Scotland, there were competing ways of doing so. So it seems reasonable that a recreation of the completely private Victorian ownership structure would give results comparable to the Victorian experience. But modern Britain is too socialist for that to be contemplated.

And as for government-sponsored or government-run train services in Australia these days, don't get me started. The Melbourne services are run on British lines and just ask any Melbourne commuter how that works out.

There many more points in Judt's essay that I could contend with but the eloquence of the essay hides such a poverty of ideas that I cannot justify spending more time on it.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Leftist psychologists prove that a conservative is someone who has been mugged by reality

It was of course Irving Kristol who first said that a neoconservative is someone who has been mugged by reality and it was some NYC police chief decades back who said that "A conservative is a liberal who got mugged last night"

So it comes as no surprise that two psychologists have just done some research which showed that people warmed to GWB and military spending after 9/11. The 9/11 events were a rather large lump of reality. And both GWB and military spending offered some prospect of coping with it.

The psychologists concerned explained their results by some babble about "motivated social cognition" but I think Irving Kristol's formulation is a lot simpler and clearer. I have in any case dealt with the "motivated social cognition" nonsense in psychology some time back.

The article is "Conservative Shift among Liberals and Conservatives Following 9/11/01" by Paul R. Nail & Ian McGregor. The journal abstract is below:
Political orientation and political attitudes were measured in two independent adult samples. One sample was taken several months before the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01; the other, shortly after. Liberal and conservative participants alike reported more conservative attitudes following 9/11/01 than before. This conservative shift was strongest on two items with the greatest relevance to 9/11/01: George W. Bush and Increasing Military Spending. Marginally significant conservative shifts were observed on two other items (Conservatives, Socialized Medicine), and the direction of change on eight of eight items was in a conservative direction. These results provide support for the motivated social cognition model of conservatism (Jost et al., 2003) over predictions derived from terror management theory (e.g., Greenberg et al., 1992).

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Stanford Study purports to demonstrate that racism is a reason why Obama policies are failing

The journal article is: "Racial Prejudice Predicts Opposition to Obama and His Health Care Reform Plan" by Eric D. Knowles, Brian S. Lowery, and Rebecca L. Schaumberg, in: Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, November 2009.

This is another "negative associations" test. Such tests are very problematical for a number of reasons -- one of which is that some actively anti-racist people score highly on them -- so claims that they measure racism are extravagant. What they most usually "measure", if anything, could well be past bad experiences with blacks.

Further notes: 1). It could be quite rational to trust in a plan authored by Clinton rather than Obama -- as Clinton was the centrist that Obama only claims to be; 2). The fact that Prof. Lowery is black may have influenced the results; 3). There seems to be no claim that the people quizzed were a random sample of any known group so the generalizability of the results is unknown. One word summary: Crap

Does racism affect voters' responses to President Barack Obama’s policies? In September, former president Jimmy Carter argued yes in an interview with Brian Williams of NBC. A Democracy Corps focus-group study published on Oct. 16 disagreed, concluding that racial issues do not affect voters' beliefs, and that it was time for those who think otherwise to "get over it."

Recent research from the Stanford Graduate School of Business finds that Carter is correct –– race does matter. People's implicit racial prejudices corresponded with a reluctance to vote for Obama and with opposition to his health care reform plan, the study finds. In fact, when a description of a health care reform proposal was attributed to former President Bill Clinton rather than Obama, reactions suggested that individuals high in non-conscious anti-black prejudice tended to oppose Obama, at least in part because they dislike him as a black person.

"Many people are influenced by race, and either will not admit it or don't know it," says Brian Lowery, an associate professor of organizational behavior. To find evidence for "implicit," or non-conscious prejudice, he and two other investigators ran a computer-based test on more than 200 subjects prior to the 2008 presidential election. Individuals were asked to quickly pair "black" names (Aisha, Jamal, and so forth) and "white" names (Brett, Jane) with good words such as "beauty" and "friendly," or bad words such as "evil" and "hate."

Non-conscious prejudice was measured according to how quickly and easily people could identify the "bad" words after seeing African-American names (Aisha, Jamal, and so forth) as opposed to Anglo names (Brett, Jane). Lowery and his coauthors found [asserted?] that fewer errors, when African-American names (as opposed to Anglo names) were paired with a negative word, indicated that individuals had internalized negative associations with black people –– and served as a measure of non-conscious prejudice.

In the month after the election, participants were asked how they had voted. Those who made few errors on the black/bad pairings were nearly 43% less likely to have voted for Obama than those with average scores. "As implicit prejudice increased, the likelihood of voting for Obama decreased," explains Lowery.

Nearly a year later, in October 2009, some of the same participants rated their attitudes about Obama's approach to health care reform. Others were randomly assigned to read a description of health care reform framed either as being President Obama’s plan or Bill Clinton's plan.

Once again, increasing implicit prejudice was associated with negative attitudes toward Obama and decreasing support for his health care policy. Prejudice scores did not correlate with favorability toward the plan when it was described as coming from Clinton, but they did result in a more negative assessment when it was described as coming from Obama.

"This study represents a powerful demonstration of the fact that racial attitudes still operate in the political arena," says Lowery, who conducted the research with Stanford doctoral student Rebecca Schaumberg and Eric Knowles, assistant professor at the University of California at Irvine. "It also suggests that Obama is likely to encounter some degree of prejudice-fueled opposition to his policies across the board."


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

LOL! Leftist philosophers tie themselves into a knot

Philosophy is a rather vague term used to cover a lot of loose thinking. I belong to the tradition called Anglo-Saxon empiricism, though some of the most notable exponents of Anglo-Saxon empiricism were not Anglo-Saxon. Ludwig Wittgenstein, for instance, was an Austrian Jew. Anglo-Saxon empiricists restrict their task to something quite akin to science. They look for order and regularity in discourse and try to clear up what people are saying and implying when they say certain kinds of things. And that is, of course, no easy task.

Such thinking was once dominant in Anglo-Saxon philosophy schools but the great expansion of tertiary education in recent decades has meant that many less rigorous thinkers have been employed as philosophers, some even being third-rate enough to find enlightenment in the words of an obsolete economist called Karl Marx. So philosophy schools are now replete with people who seem to think they are being profound when they say: "There is no such thing as right and wrong" or "There are many realities". To an Anglo-Saxon empiricist, such statements are simply confused.

Such confused thinking is usually described (rather fancifully) these days as "postmodernism" but for historical purposes it is probably best subsumed under the broad category of "existentialism" -- and there were many prominent existentialist thinkers in the first half of the 20th century, particularly in Germany. And many existentialist thinkers at that time were sympathetic to National Socialism (Nazism), just as their counterparts today are solidly in favour of all sorts of Leftist thinking. So existentialist thinking and Leftism have always been intimately associated among many who call themselves philosophers. And it should therefore be no surprise that prewar existentialists sound very profound to existentialists today.

The Nazi connection is however embarrassing. Heidegger, Carl Schmitt, DeMan and others sound very good and wise and profound to Leftist philosophers today so how do you cope with the Nazi connection? Easy: In the traditional Leftist way of dealing with all inconvenient facts -- by ignoring it.

One of the holier of today's existentialists has however recently upset the applecart by pointing out that the great god Heidegger was a Nazi and calling for all Heidegger's thinking to be denounced and renounced. Leftists are not letting go of such an inspiring (to them) figure as Heidegger, however. What Heidegger says is central to what they say, so to denounce Heidegger would be to denounce most of their own thinking. And there the matter rests at the moment. A small excerpt from a NYT story about the matter below. That Nazi thinking is one subset of socialist thinking is, of course, never acknowledged:
For decades the German philosopher Martin Heidegger has been the subject of passionate debate. His critique of Western thought and technology has penetrated deeply into architecture, psychology and literary theory and inspired some of the most influential intellectual movements of the 20th century. Yet he was also a fervent Nazi.

Now a soon-to-be published book in English has revived the long-running debate about whether the man can be separated from his philosophy. Drawing on new evidence, the author, Emmanuel Faye, argues fascist and racist ideas are so woven into the fabric of Heidegger’s theories that they no longer deserve to be called philosophy. As a result Mr. Faye declares, Heidegger’s works and the many fields built on them need to be re-examined lest they spread sinister ideas as dangerous to modern thought as “the Nazi movement was to the physical existence of the exterminated peoples.”

First published in France in 2005, the book, “Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism Into Philosophy,” calls on philosophy professors to treat Heidegger’s writings like hate speech. Libraries, too, should stop classifying Heidegger’s collected works (which have been sanitized and abridged by his family) as philosophy and instead include them under the history of Nazism. These measures would function as a warning label, like a skull-and-crossbones on a bottle of poison, to prevent the careless spread of his most odious ideas, which Mr. Faye lists as the exaltation of the state over the individual, the impossibility of morality, anti-humanism and racial purity.

The book is the most radical attack yet on Heidegger (1889-1976) and would upend the philosophical field’s treatment of his work in the United States, and even more so in France, where Heidegger has frequently been required reading for an advanced degree. Mr. Faye, an associate professor at the University of Paris, Nanterre, not only wants to drum Heidegger from the ranks of philosophers, he wants to challenge his colleagues to rethink the very purpose of philosophy and its relationship to ethics.

At the same time scholars in disciplines as far flung as poetry and psychoanalysis would be obliged to reconsider their use of Heidegger’s ideas. Although Mr. Faye talks about the close connection between Heidegger and current right-wing extremist politics, left-wing intellectuals have more frequently been inspired by his ideas. Existentialism and postmodernism as well as attendant attacks on colonialism, atomic weapons, ecological ruin and universal notions of morality are all based on his critique of the Western cultural tradition and reason.

I go into some detail about the confusions of "postmodernist" thinking here

Monday, November 02, 2009

The latest "Conservatives are stupid" accusation

This is of course an old chestnut and I have myself previously reported research on it. I found that LEFTISTS were dumber. So what are we to make of the latest research report below? Not much. Following a pattern that is all too common among psychologists, the author seems never to have heard of the concept of sampling. A group of college students or even college applicants is NOT representative of the population as a whole. And young people are notoriously Left-leaning. They have so little experience that they know no better. So if Left-leaning people among a Left-leaning group are smarter, it probably just means that smarter people are better able to pick up what is required for acceptance in that group. It has no wider implications than that.

Even if the results were generalizable, however, there would still be problems with the inferences to be drawn from them. There is in fact some generalizable evidence on the topic drawn from general population sampling. I discuss it here
Conservatism and cognitive ability

Lazar Stankov


Conservatism and cognitive ability are negatively correlated. The evidence is based on 1254 community college students and 1600 foreign students seeking entry to United States' universities. At the individual level of analysis, conservatism scores correlate negatively with SAT, Vocabulary, and Analogy test scores. At the national level of analysis, conservatism scores correlate negatively with measures of education (e.g., gross enrollment at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels) and performance on mathematics and reading assessments from the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) project. They also correlate with components of the Failed States Index and several other measures of economic and political development of nations. Conservatism scores have higher correlations with economic and political measures than estimated IQ scores.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Losing Ground: Hispanic children fall behind their peers quickly, a study finds

All the studies show that Hispanic illegals and their offspring have markedly lower average IQ scores than the white average. My orientation in psychometric research has however always been great caution about the validity of any tests used and I initially felt that the remarkable success of ancient Central Americans in building rather advanced civilizations despite being cut off from the major source of human progress (the Eurasian continent) implied a higher IQ for their descendants than the tests showed.

That is however a fairly arguable proposition and the findings reported below have changed my mind. I think that the findings below confirm what the IQ tests say. The results below show what I very "incorrectly" call the "chimpanzee effect". A month old chimpanzee is much smarter and more capable than a human infant of the same age but the human does of course far surpass the chimp eventually. In other words, low IQ is less evident in the early years and most evident in adulthood. We find a similar effect in blacks. Average black IQ is closer to average white IQ in childhood than in adulthood. Beyond the early teens, black IQ stops rising but white IQ does not. White IQ peaks at about age 16.

And what is reported below is precisely another example of the chimpanzee effect: Intellectual achievement gap smallest in early childhood but rapidly increasing with age. I must stress that I am NOT saying that either blacks or Hispanics are similar to chimpanzees. ALL human beings of any race are much smarter than chimps. I am just using chimps as a vivid demonstration of what seems a general truth: That real gaps in intellectual ability become evident later rather than sooner -- and the Hispanic developmental pattern is exactly what we expect of an average IQ that is indeed lower
A forthcoming study on Hispanic children’s cognitive skills underlines the challenges the country faces in aspiring to close the achievement gap between these children and their white and Asian counterparts. Hispanic “children fall behind their peers in mental development by the time they reach grade school, and the gap tends to widen as they get older,” reports the New York Times. “The drop-off in the cognitive scores of Hispanic toddlers, especially those from Mexican backgrounds, was steeper than for other [low-income] groups and could not be explained by economic status alone. . . . From 24 to 36 months, the Hispanic children fell about six months behind their white peers on measures like word comprehension, more complex speech and working with their mothers on simple tasks.”

This new study, from the University of California–Berkeley, may be unusually blunt in its assessment of Hispanic cognitive development, but it is hardly unprecedented. A 2004 study by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office found a similar decline in Hispanic students’ ability to keep up with their peers in learning English. Children from Mandarin- and Spanish-speaking households begin kindergarten with similar levels of English proficiency, but their paths quickly diverge. The Mandarin-speaking students make continuing progress in mastering English, while the Hispanic students’ advance stalls out in the second and third grades as the demands of California’s English-proficiency test grow more difficult. Mandarin kindergartners establish oral skills in English in one year, the legislative analyst found, and by the beginning of second grade, they have begun developing a mastery of reading and writing, unlike Hispanics. The widening English-proficiency gap between Asian and Hispanic students may reflect parental willingness to expose children to English at home, but the gap occurs in math as well.

This summer in Southern California, I observed Hispanic students who had been taught in English throughout their school careers, yet who possessed very weak formal language ability. An in-class reading assignment at Locke High School in Watts asked students to answer the question: “Why is it important to use all your skills during your teen years?” A ninth-grader wrote in response: “To make it better.” Another question, “What sudden insight came to the engineer?” elicited the answer: “How to put the little mirrors.” While diagnosing the student-written sentence, “The pigs squealed loudly because the’re [sic] bored at the barn,” a high-school English teacher in Santa Ana asked his class: “Why does the dependent clause need to be in the past tense?” A student answered: “Because you’re talking about a lot of people.”

The Berkeley researchers speculate that the early decline in Hispanic students’ language and reasoning skills may reflect inadequate maternal stimulation in the home. And indeed, a Santa Ana elementary-school principal recounted to me her largely unsuccessful efforts to get parents to teach their children such basic kindergarten-survival tools as cutting with scissors and the words for colors. “Kids come in not knowing the alphabet in Spanish or the sounds of Spanish,” she said. “They use three-word sentences; they come in without oral-language ability.”

The Berkeley study will inevitably be used to buttress the Obama administration’s plans to pour billions of federal taxpayer dollars into early-education programs. As a matter of education policy, such efforts represent wishful thinking. Head Start has been repeatedly shown to have no lasting effect on students’ academic performance. Even the most successful and lavishly-funded of such early-intervention programs — the iconic Perry Preschool Project from the early 1960s in Ypsilanti, Mich. — explained only 3 percent of the earnings of its participants at age 40, and about 4 percent of their educational-attainment levels, wrote John J. Miller in NR in 2007. Replicating the Perry Project’s services on a national scale for Hispanic children would be extraordinarily expensive and produce only modest results. Many children who receive early intervention provide inferior intellectual stimulation for their own children, whether for innate cognitive or for cultural reasons.

But the more interesting implications of the study and others like it are for immigration policy. Our de facto immigration policy is currently weighted to a population that appears to require massive additional government education spending — even before formal schooling begins — to be made academically competitive. This choice would not seem to be economically rational, at least so long as we aspire to universal college-going. If the country remains committed to sending a far greater number of students to college, as even many conservatives continue to be, we better get ourselves a different mix of immigrants if we don’t want to bankrupt our education budgets. Alternatively, if the open-borders lobby prevails and Latin American migration continues to dominate our immigration flows, it’s time to acknowledge that many students never will be college material, nor do they need to be to lead productive, fulfilling lives.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Simplistic thinking in politics and the ad hominem fallacy

Sad to say, in politics logical thinking seems to come a poor second to emotional appeals -- and we see a pernicious example of that below.

Historical revisionism is found among both Leftists and nationalists, though it is far and away most prevalent on the Left. Some surveys have shown, for instance, that a majority of U.S. Democrat voters are "truthers": People who believe that it was George Bush who blew up the Twin Towers on 9/11/2001. And the chronic Leftist denial of the horrors of Communism is legendary.

Compared to that, the skepticism about the Holocaust seen among some nationalists is small beer but the Left-dominated media seek out such views like sniffer dogs and make a huge deal about any of it that they find. So one skeptical word about the holocaust serves to stigmatize someone for life, even if it was a passing phase or an incidental element in the evolution of that person's thinking.

The prime example of that at the moment is of course Nick Griffin of the anti-immigration British National Party. And the fact that he is a staunch friend of Israel is not allowed to excuse him. So the Jewish writer below is right to say that support for Israel from nationalists is an embarrassment. But it is only an embarrassment because of the simplistic thinking of Leftists in the media and politics -- who with kneejerk predictability resort to the ad hominem fallacy (The fallacy that a statement is wrong because of who said it). So if Griffin supports Israel, support for Israel must be wrong: Quite incredible stupidity but staple fare for the Left.
In politics Over the past few weeks, the Jewish state has been publicly endorsed by two particularly controversial members of the far right.

Firstly, Nick Griffin, leader of the racist British National Party, which currently accepts only white people as members, declared that his was the only party to support Israel in its "war against terrorists" during Operation Cast Lead.

While Griffin, who was elected in June to the European Parliament, is not usually paid much attention, this time was different. He was speaking on Britain's most prestigious political television program, BBC's Question Time. The decision to invite him had proven so controversial that 8 million viewers tuned in, compared with the program's usual 2 to 3 million. The entire country was hanging on his every word.

Just three weeks earlier, the Conservative Party — now widely expected to win the next election — was embroiled in a national row over its alliance with another European member of parliament, Poland's Michal Kaminski.

Kaminski, who leads an important rightist bloc, has been disliked in Jewish circles since he declared in 2001 that the Poles should not apologise for the massacre of Jews by Polish residents of Jedwabne in 1941, unless "the whole Jewish nation [apologises] for what some Jewish Communists did in eastern Poland". There were also concerns that he had worn the Chrobry Sword, a symbol of the Catholic ultra-right in Poland and that he still maintained these unsavory connections.

So when, in early October, he appeared at the Conservative Party's annual conference, the main Jewish representative body – the archaically named Board of Deputies – wrote to Conservative leader David Cameron asking for reassurances. Labour's foreign minister, David Miliband, went on the attack and the ensuing media row, which is still ongoing – the Conservatives were forced to recently reassure Hillary Clinton on the subject — tarnished what should have been Cameron's moment of triumph.

But it did not go unnoticed that Kaminski was in Britain as the special guest of the Conservative Friends of Israel — who had also taken him, this summer, to Israel, where he was pictured smiling by the Western Wall and was welcomed by deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon. Kaminski, it emerged, was considered a staunch friend of Israel in Brussels, where he regularly spoke up for its right to self-defence...

But for Israel, this is a disaster. From now on, anyone in Britain supporting Israel publicly can be expected to be told they are holding a position only the racist BNP, or the likes of Kaminski, holds. It will many years to shake off these associations.



Perhaps I should add a few words about the Mieczyk Chrobrego or Chobry Sword, and point out that it too has become the target of an ad hominem slur. Some history: Boleslaw I Chrobry became the first King of Poland in 1025. He was a brilliant man and very successful militarily. He greatly enlarged Poland by conquest of neighbouring areas. He was able to turn Poland into one of the largest and most powerful monarchies in Europe. In the summer of 1018, in one of his most famous expeditions, Boleslaw captured Kiev (now in the Ukraine), where, according to legend, he notched his sword when hitting Kiev's Golden Gate. Later, a sword known as szczerbiec, meaning notched sword or "The dented one", would become the ceremonial sword used in the coronation ceremony of Polish kings. It is now kept at Wawel Cathedral, a church located on Wawel Hill in Kraków, which is Poland's national sanctuary. The cathedral has a 1,000-year history and was the traditional coronation site of Polish monarchs.

So it is easy to see why a representation of the Chobry sword would be chosen as their symbol by a minor 20th century Polish nationalist political party. That it was a patriotic icon long before the 20th century, however, is the main point. That 20th century nationalist political parties have used it does NOT mean that it is solely a 20th century nationalist political party symbol. It is simply a Polish patriotic symbol generally and any Pole could wear a representation of it with pride.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Leftism rots the brain (again)

There is a program being shown shortly on British TV about the connection between race and IQ. So Britain's most widely circulated "quality" newspaper has published an anticipatory article on the subject by a Professor of Genetics at a prestigious British university: University College, London. From the personal particulars he mentions, one gathers that he is also a long-time Leftist activist.

Quite unsurprisingly, he pooh-poohs the idea of any connection between race and IQ. But in the article he makes not one single reference to any scientific fact (despite over 100 years of academic research on the subject) and his only criticism of those who say that there is a connection between race and IQ seems to be that they are all elderly (which is not true and even if it were, so what?). Can academic standards get any lower than that? To read such schoolboyish amateurism from an eminent professor of genetics is about the clearest demonstration one could ask of the fact that the "all men are equal" crowd have lost the intellectual argument. All they have to fall back on is crude political polemics.

Insofar as one can detect any argument at all in his article, he seems to be saying that the unfailingly low standard of average black educational achievement is due to poor education -- quite ignoring the fact that American educators are at their wits' end in trying to find anything that will budge the black/white "gap" in attainment. If our twitchingly Leftist professor of genetics can find ANYTHING that will get blacks achieving at anywhere near white levels he will get a Nobel prize (not that that means much these days).

Our sad professor explains high Asian academic achievement by the "push" that they get from their families. And there is a similar article here which proclaims that low black educational attainment is due to "absent" black fathers. There is a small grain of truth in that. Parental pressure can indeed raise educational achievement to some degree. But since our unscientific professor's article consists mainly of anecdotes, perhaps I can offer a counter-anecdote. Let me in fact offer two anecdotes to show that parental pressure is only a minor factor in intellectual attainment:

My son had zero pressure on him during his schooling and I was an "absent father" throughout. His mother and I split up in the same year that he began school. But he was always a couple of years ahead of his class in reading age and now has a first class honours degree in Mathematics from a distinguished university and is well set for an academic career. How come? I am a high-achieving academic and he has academic genes. He didn't need pushing. He mainly just coasted but the work was easy for him so he still did well.

And I myself grew up in a working class family, which, like most such families, had no expectations of high achievements among its children, and I was in fact discouraged from continuing my education beyond junior school. But my parents were both great readers of books and both had siblings who did exceptionally well at school. So I obviously got good genes from them which enabled me also to cruise and still do well academically.

Explanations for low black achievement in terms of black family patterns do have one virtue: Black families are not going to change any time soon so if that is the problem, we have to conclude that the attainment "gap" is immovable. And it is immovable, though not for that reason.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Why are webhosts so ill-mannered?

The internet and books have opposite vices and virtues. Books are highly permanent (we have some copies from a couple of thousand years ago) but are not readily accessible. You generally have to take a trip to a library if you want to access one. The net on the other hand is instantly and very conveniently accessible but it is also evanescent. A file of writings or a picture on the net can disappear in an instant and maybe never be found again. And the vanishing act is often the fault of the webhost rather than anything that the writer or photographer concerned has done. Many newspaper sites, for instance, seem to have a policy of deleting their own articles after quite short periods of time.

But I like to keep all the files of my writings publicly available regardless of what any individual webhoster or bloghoster might do. So I try to address the big weakness of the net by following the systems theory axiom that redundancy is the path to systems reliability. In other words, I keep multiple copies of my files up -- so that if one copy disappears, there will be others to be found. As a result, I have had a lot of dealings with the various webhosts where I place copies of my files/writings. And it is truly amazing how many webhosts I have gone through over time. Whether "free" or paid, there are at least a dozen (maybe 20) locations where my files were once found which no longer host my files. Some webhosts have simply gone bust and disappeared altogether and others have decided that my files are "incorrect" in some way and have deleted or blocked them.

And I am not complaining about that. It is precisely because I expect such impermanence that I keep multiple copies of my files online. What I DO object to, however, is that NOT ONCE have the webhosts concerned had the manners to email me in advance and warn me or consult me about what is going to happen. It is always a case of "shoot first; ask questions later".

It is actually a rather common event for webhosts to be "down" for various periods -- sometimes for a week or more. One would think that on such occasions, they would email their users and say something like: "We are having problems. Don't go away. We expect to be back up in a couple of days". But that never happens. The site eventually comes back online with no explanation or apology. Even sites that boast that they talk to their users are the same. And some sites of course NEVER come back up and you are left to figure that situation out. Even if you email them to ask if the cessation of service is temporary or permanent, you never get a reply.

And the Blogspot subsidiary of Google (which hosts this blog) is as bad as any of them. You would think that a big company like Google would be conscious of PR but it is not so. They too act first and ask questions later. I have lost track of how many times my blog sites have been blocked by them -- and never after any advance warning. Usually, I can fill out a form, the form gets acted on, and the site is unblocked but NEVER have I received an explanation as to why the block was put on. And sometimes the block lasts for over a week: At which point I tend to move to another bloghost, which is part of the reason why I now have two blogs hosted on Wordpress and two on That comes at some cost as I lose my old page ranking, so if anyone reading this has a site of their own it would help if they put up a link to my new POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH site.

And sometimes filling out the Google/Blogspot form does you no good at all. The obstruction is permanent and repeated requests for review of the block are ignored -- again without explanation. No manners or anything else much there.

I have become VERY wary about such shenanigans over the years, however. I don't blame anybody for thinking that I have gone overboard but at the moment I have my files spread over ELEVEN different webhosts. None have all my files but between them all there are usually three copies of any file available. I realize that I must sound slightly mad but I think that if you had had my experiences with webhosts you might be nearly as bad or mad. The way I have it set up, if one host goes down, I have to reload only a subset of my files, not the whole lot. Even that can be pretty pesky, though. And I have various pages -- including this one -- which have sufficent links to lead you to ALL my files (writings), regardless of where they are hosted.

So what is the answer to the question I ask in the heading above? I can only see the answer as lying with the general lack of civility these days. Under the influence of the prevailing Leftist gospel that "There is no such thing as right and wrong", people who can hide behind anonymity see no reason for civility. Maybe there is a Christian webhost somewhere who has higher standards than that but I have yet to find one.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A conservatism hater

David Greenberg, a professor of history at Rutgers, has a very self-satisfied and sneering essay in Slate which admits his failure to understand conservatism at great length. Apparently inspired by the latest "Time" magazine, he dredges up the old Marxist nonsense of Hofstader, Adorno & Co. and seems to think that there is something in it, but ends up admitting that none of them give a useful explanation of modern-day American conservative politics. Rather amusing really.

It is difficult to fisk something as lightweight as Greenberg's essay but maybe I should make two points:

In typical Leftist style, he projects onto conservatives the very thing that most moves Leftists: Hate. The title of his essay is "The Obama haters". That people might violently disagree with Obama's policies without hating him seems to be a combination outside Greenberg's limited emotional range. Again in good Leftist style he offers no evidence that ANYBODY hates Obama. He just asserts it. He KNOWS! Obama is personally a very agreeable personality so I find it hard to imagine that anyone hates him. Obama's extremely limited understanding of economics (e.g. his claim that he can give healthcare to more people with less money) does reduce one to despair at times, but despair is a long way from hate.

But I suppose the main defence mechanism that keeps Greenberg's sense of superiority alive is not so much projection as denial. He just cannot see that people like Glenn Beck have reasonable points to make: Points reasonable enough to cause at least one Obama appointee to resign. So if the words of Beck & Co. are not reasonable, there must be something other than reason behind them. Frustratingly for Greenberg, he just cannot figure out what that might be. Again, quite amusing.

If Greenberg reads this, he will probably accuse me of "psychologizing" or some such. That would be amusing too as that was precisely what Greenberg tried to do, but could not convince even himself. But I do after all have over 100 papers in the academic literature on the psychology of politics so I probably have a more useful background for "psychologizing" about politics than he does.

Some excerpts that might interest Prof. Greenberg:

Secret protocols of Beck's legions

Grassroots conservative enthusiasm notwithstanding, the talk-radio host and Fox News personality is under attack this week, with the liberal establishment's favorite weapon, a Time magazine cover: "Mad Man: Glenn Beck and the angry style of American politics." This continues a long tradition of weekly newsmagazine covers demonizing conservative figures like Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich... After a few more paragraphs, Von Drehle plays his trump card: "The old American mind-set that Richard Hofstadter famously called 'the paranoid style' -- the sense that Masons or the railroads or the Pope or the guys in black helicopters are in league to destroy the country -- is aflame again." Von Drehle's invocation of "the paranoid style," a trope that Hofstadter derived from Theodor Adorno's "authoritarian personality," is intended to clearly signal the reader that Beck is a kook, a conspiracy theorist, a demagogue pandering to the dangerous emotions of the ignorant mob.

Having never met Beck, I am not qualified to speak of whether he is representative of the "paranoid style." However, my friend and fellow American Spectator contributor Matthew Vadum has been a studio guest on Beck's Fox News program and did not mention any "roiling mix of fear, resentment, and anger." If Beck rants off-camera about black helicopters and Masons, it eluded Vadum's notice.

While my acquaintance with Beck is limited to occasionally catching a few moments of his TV or radio shows, I did have the opportunity to speak to many of the people at the Sept. 12 Capitol rally. My Arizona blogger friend Barbara Espinosa was there, and I spent many hours before, during and after the event talking to the organizers, attendees and speakers, including Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and author Mason Weaver. None of these people seemed to think that Glenn Beck represented a menace to public safety or the conservative movement.

They're all in on it together -- the grandmother and teenagers, Pence and Vadum and Weaver! It's all a clandestine conspiracy to conceal the hidden agenda for global domination by the Secret Legion of Beck! And if you don't believe it, then you're obviously a paranoid kook.

More here.

Why the left hates Glenn Beck : "For the last few years the left and the press would take shots at Beck, but never in a concerted fashion. He simply could be ignored, and they had bigger fish to fry, like the long-reigning king of conservative talk radio, Rush Limbaugh. Things changed when Beck shifted from CNN to Fox News, just in time to comment on the policies of a new Democratic administration. Beck caught fire, both with his commentaries and with his growing fan base. He even took to the road for another comedy tour, blending mainstream humor with his political jabs. A few Beck bestsellers later, and he officially became a media empire. But the talker's ability to take down his targets changed the dynamics - and the ferocity of the attacks against him."

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Some rambling reflections on the flexibility of denominational loyalty among the Protestant laity

There is of course a very large number of Protestant groupings and also some Protestants who avoid groupings altogether. The reason behind the profusion of Protestant denominations is that the founders of the denominations concerned were struck by important points in the scriptures and have made those points of central importance. And if founding a new denomination seems required by the importance of those points, so be it.

But the concerns that led to the founding of the various denominations tend to be very little attended to by the laity. Protestants normally choose their church not according to its doctrine but rather according to its geographical convenience or the friendliness of its outreach.

The lady in my life -- Anne -- is a rather good example of that. Her father was Gospel Hall and her mother was brought up as a Salvationist. But for reasons of convenience Anne attended solely Methodist and Presbyterian churches -- with Presbyterians being by far her most frequent church associates. But Anne is a singer so when her Salvationist friends got to know of that, she was asked to come with them and sing solo hymns during the street corner evangelism for which the Sallies used to be so famous. And she did. She sang with the Sallies on street corners. And I am MOST impressed by that. I find it hard to think of a better recommendation of good character than that.

My own background is also a little mottled. My father was an Anglican of the most nominal sort and my mother was a Presbyterian. I cannot remember either of them ever putting a foot inside a church but my mother's denominational attachment still had some life in it so I was from an early age sent to Presbyterian Sunday School -- which I greatly enjoyed. Then when I went to High School there was a non-denominational Bible study group which met during lunch hour called the Crusaders. And I joined and enjoyed that too. So: Osama bin Laden, watch out. I am actually one of those evil Crusaders that you fantasize about!

For a while after that I joined the Jehovahs Witnesses, who are FEROCIOUS Bible students -- and that suited me down to the ground. I learnt enormous amounts about what the Bible says at that time. I even began to look at the original Greek and Hebrew of the scriptures then. Sometimes it is useful to go back to the original Bible rather than relying on any of the many translations. And to this day I still enjoy reading the Bible. Ecclesiastes is my favourite book for wisdom and Revelations is the most fun.

Eventually, however, by about age 18, I became dissatisfied with the JWs and went back to attending my local Presbyterian church (Ann st.). And I got on well there with the minister: old Percy Pearson. His sermons used to be a bit obscure but I followed them and would nod when he made a good point. So he got into the habit of addressing most of his sermons to me! Though I think only he and I knew that. We used to have good chats in the church hall afterwards too.

And at about age 20 I became an atheist -- largely as a consequence of studying philosophy. By the time I took up formal study of philosophy at university I had already read all sorts of philosophy -- from Aquinas to Bultmann. I have a younger relative (cousin one removed) who was at one time an Assembly of God minister. When he was, I warned him not to study theology as it would destroy his faith. But he did and it did. He is now an academic.

Many years elapsed after that during which I attended no church at all (except to get married). But about 15 years ago, I felt that it would be good to renew some contact with the marvellous Christian faith so have attended the very occasional service at both the magnificent Anglican cathedral and my old Presbyterian church. And I get a lot out of both, atheist though I remain. I am off to Evensong at the Cathedral this Sunday, in fact.

So I think that denominational wandering is almost a defining feature of Protestantism.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Hitler's propaganda

I am reproducing the article from the WSJ in full below because it is generally accurate as far as it goes. I was slightly amused by the comment that the exhibition the author is reviewing doesn't say much about the reactions of the German people. Since Hitler was virtually worshipped by many Germans that is of course a tactful omission. The "variety of positive appeals" that Hitler used are also far from fully detailed. That socialism was one of them could not of course be mentioned. I and many historians agree, however that "the German populace was ultimately more indifferent to the fate of European Jews than rabidly interested in their destruction". Hitler's view of the Jews was fairly incidental to his overall appeal to Germans. After all, practically everyone was antisemitic to some degree in those days. Even the man who eventually declared war on Hitler -- Neville Chamberlain -- had some antisemitic views.

The statement below that the Nazis could never "win a majority in free elections" is misleading, however. In elections where there are more than two major parties, winning an outright majority of the vote is rare for anyone. Mrs Thatcher, for instance, once had large parliamentary majorities in Britain but she never went anywhere near getting a majority of the popular vote. Britain's centrist Liberal party siphons off too many voters from both Right and Left for ANY British party to have much chance of gaining an absolute majority. So Hitler's electoral achievements were actually quite good in the context of the Germany of his day. He led the party with the largest number of votes and that normally entitles a party to govern in Europe (and also in Canada, for that matter)

There is quite a good slideshow of Nazi political posters attached to the article -- though it helps if you understand German. I reproduce below one Nazi poster that I had not seen before. It is fairly crass so was probably not very effective. I reproduce some of what were probably the more effective ones here. My own much fuller account of Hitler's motives and modus operandi is here

After the fatal shooting last month of a security guard by a white supremacist, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's entrance was garlanded by a makeshift memorial of flowers, candles and condolence notes. The memorial has since been cleared away, but a visit to "State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda," on the reverberations of hate speech, still packs an extra charge.

"State of Deception"-a special exhibition rich in content but somewhat cramped in design-follows the Nazi propaganda effort from its inception through its dismantling after World War II. With photo murals crowded with labels, vintage newsreels captioned with American newspaper headlines and oral-history interviews, the show raises questions about the links between propaganda and action. It offers insight into Nazi planning and aims. And it explores, in a fragmentary way, the German public's response to Nazi efforts at manipulation.

Vicious caricatures of Jews, both foreshadowing and facilitating the Holocaust, are the most familiar detritus of Hitler's propaganda machine. But "State of Deception" reminds us that the Nazis also employed a variety of positive appeals to rally support for dictatorship and European conquest.

Details and images nuance our picture of the times. One of the show's first images, for example, is a 1932 campaign poster with Hitler's face floating eerily against a black background, a design that evokes celebrity portraiture. The poster is book-ended later in the show by a postwar, red-on-black, anti-Nazi poster depicting Nazism as a skeletal death's head-an apparent reference to both mass murder and the insignia of SS concentration-camp guards.

Hitler drew inspiration from effective World War I propaganda denouncing the Germans as barbaric "Huns." One World War I poster-featuring an apelike figure, representing Germany, carrying a lovely maiden-was appropriated by a September 1939 Nazi poster to remind Germans of "the old hatred." The regime would later argue that rumors about the gassing of Jews were akin to the fabricated tales of German atrocities during World War I.

The Nazi message first resonated in the 1920s and early 1930s against a backdrop of the Weimar Republic's economic and social disarray. Even then, the Nazis, while preaching national unity, targeted appeals to different constituencies. Posters urged women to "save the German family" from unemployment and asked students to become "the F�hrer's propagandists." Anti-Semitic screeds were ratcheted up or down, depending on the audience.

"State of Deception" offers enticing glimpses of the regime's myth-making apparatus. A painting by Hermann Otto Hoyer is suggestively titled "In the Beginning Was the Word" and shows Hitler enthralling a group of converts during the 1920s. Another, by Hubert Lanzinger, depicts Hitler as a medieval knight on horseback and carrying a swastika flag.

A series of black-and-white photographs by official photographer Heinrich Hoffman captures Hitler rehearsing the dramatic poses and gestures that would become his oratorical trademark. Later, we can watch a clip of Hitler rousing a crowd with an emotional fervor that no longer seems spontaneous.

Once Hitler attained the chancellorship in 1933, he made the party's propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels, minister of the Orwellian-sounding Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. "Enlightenment," of course, meant book-burnings and increasingly tight Nazi control over all forms of communication and entertainment. Goebbels, we learn, sought to supplement ideological appeals with mass entertainment designed to cement the new German community.

The seductions of Nazi ritual had a certain allure even for Jewish children. Peter Feigl, who greeted Hitler jubilantly with the rest of the Austrian population during the 1938 Anschluss, was dismayed that he couldn't participate in Hitler Youth groups, with their compelling martial music and uniforms. "All this is fascinating and hypnotizing for a young kid," he explains in a video clip from a 1995 interview.

The exhibition doesn't chart German reaction to Nazi propaganda in any detail, but it does argue that not every initiative was equally successful. The nasty anti-Semitic stereotypes of the 1940 pseudodocumentary "The Eternal Jew"-likening Jews to vermin-attracted few viewers. By contrast, Veit Harlan's 1940 feature film, "The Jew S�ss," a portrait of a corrupt 18th-century Jewish court financier, was a huge hit-thanks, we're told, to its strong storytelling and production values.

The Nazi propaganda machine even extended into the Jewish ghettos and concentration camps. Scenes from "The F�hrer Gives the Jews a Town," shot at the Theresienstadt ghetto and transit camp near Prague, feature seemingly happy, well-fed Jewish children-shortly before their transport to Auschwitz.

The now-infamous 1944 documentary, never distributed, capitalized on the ghetto's beautification for an earlier visit by the International and Danish Red Cross. Their reports demonstrated that the Nazis could bamboozle even a foreign audience. The exhibition offers excerpts of an astonishing 1979 interview, conducted by the French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann, in which International Red Cross representative Maurice Rossel appears to blame Theresienstadt's "prominent" Jewish residents for helping to foster the delusion of normality.

"State of Deception" adopts the view that, on the whole, the German populace was ultimately more indifferent to the fate of European Jews than rabidly interested in their destruction. It also stresses the limitations of Nazi propaganda, which could neither win the Nazis a majority in free elections nor prevent their eventual defeat.

After the war, Allied forces tried to root out the physical residue of Nazism, from street signs to school books, and try some of its surviving propagandists for crimes against humanity.

In Germany today, advocating Nazi ideology is illegal. But in the U.S. and elsewhere, balancing free speech with the desire to silence partisans of hate crimes and genocide remains a vital and troubling concern. The exhibition ends, appropriately, with this dilemma clarified but not entirely resolved.


Friday, July 10, 2009


There is a new article out in the NYT on the research of Russell Fazio, work which I mentioned late last year under the same heading as that which I have used above. Fazio studies college students who are unlucky enough to be assigned a roommate of a different race -- in the bright-eyed but now hoary hope that living with a black will make you like blacks more. The theory (generally called the "contact hypothesis") goes back to the 1940s and I summarize most of the early research on it here. As I think most readers would expect, the facts give little support to the theory. The theory is based on the view that blacks are just the same as whites, only browner -- and if you believe that you will believe anything.

Needless to say, Fazio finds what many others before him have found -- that most whites thrown together with blacks very rapidly want out. Those who do stick it out, however, seem to have more positive attitudes towards blacks at the end of the experience. In the usual logically-deprived reasoning that seems to pervade the sciences that I know something about (psychology, sociology, medicine and climate science) Fazio just assumes he knows what is the cause of that improvement. One of the first things you learn in Statistics 101 (I used to teach introductory statistics at university level) is that "correlation does not prove causation" -- but an awful lot of scientists seem not to have done a statistics course. Fazio somehow seems to think the improved attitudes observed in some students confirms his "contact hypothesis". But what does it really prove? It COULD prove that it is only when blacks "act white" that whites can live with them and that those whites who live with such blacks are relieved to find that such blacks do exist. Much more likely, however, is that the whites who stick it out are more politically correct and know what to say when Fazio questions them. Students are very good at giving their professors the answers that their professors want. That's how most of them get their degrees.

So if anyone thinks that Fazio has found anything useful towards improving race relations, all I can say is I admire your optimism but not your reasoning power. I was amused, however, by the finding that living with Asians tended to make you dislike Asians. Given Asian superiority in all sorts of academically relevant ways, I don't find that surprising at all! And it does in fact reinforce the most usual finding from "contact hypothesis" research: That getting to know other races makes you like them LESS.

I was amused also by this sentence from one of the other researchers quoted: “Just having diversity in classrooms doesn’t do anything to increase interracial friendships”. That does rather undermine the whole rationale of having "diversity" on campus, it seems to me!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Church of England and Die Judenfrage

I should have mentioned yesterday that the "learned" British judges who ruled that Jews are a race do have on their side one authority who is much respected to this day in academe: Karl Marx. Marx was of course the original self-hating Jew. He was furiously antisemitic. But Marx was a sponger. He rarely earned enough to keep himself and his family so was always "borrowing" money from someone. It was initially his father (Heinrich Marx was a real gentleman, a lovely man. How he ever had such a monster as Karl is hard to imagine) and he was in later years supported by Friedrich Engels out of the proceeds of the Engels family business. One therefore imagines that when he wrote a letter to his Jewish uncle in Holland he had in mind ingratiating himself for future borrowing. The letter was about Marx's excitement over the American civil war and his contempt for Benjamin Disraeli but in the course of his comments about Disraeli he does refer to "our race".

As I briefly touched on in the opening sentence to my post yesterday, I am not wholly unsympathetic to self-hating Jews. It must be appalling to realize that by the accident of your birth you are a member of a widely suspect and even hated group -- regardless of what your personal characteristics might be. Distancing oneself from that could even be a perfectly healthy reaction. But it is when such Jews extend the dislike of their origins to undermining Israel that they really get my goat. Why do they have to be so extreme? Why not simply become an Anglican, as Disraeli did? The Anglicans (Episcopalians in the USA) have lovely buildings, colourful services and the sermons demand nothing and in fact mean nothing at all. Why not just treat it as a pleasant Sunday morning time of relaxation and have a whole new identity to show for it? Many Anglican bishops are barely-disguised atheists so you certainly don't have to believe anything to be an Anglican. It is sometimes said that the only requirement for being an Anglican is good taste.

By the way, "Die Judenfrage" is German for "The Jewish Question" and is an expression used by both Karl Marx and Adolf Hitler so there is an allusion to history in the title I chose yesterday and today. It is actually a bit of a tease. Any stray Leftist coming by my writings would expect something antisemitic under that title -- but, as you can see, such an expectation would have been disappointed.

In my peculiar position as a atheist with an interest in religious matters, I take a continued interest not only in Jews but also in the Church of England. And I have recently put up on my Paralipomena blog an article by a Church of England bishop that makes doleful reading. He notes the steady decline in adherents to his church and suspects that his church will not exist at all in 30 years' time. But he has no real answer to that problem. So will the Church of England eventually disappear up its own backside? I think not. The problem, as I see it, is that they have somehow become dominated by dress-up queens. People go there for a show rather than for a boost to faith.

But amid such desecration of a great heritage, real faith does survive in patches. The Sydney diocese is the most vivid proof of that. Their churches are full and their seminary is overflowing with people with a religious vocation. So how do they do it? Simple. They have returned to their roots. The original faith of the New Testament is a mightily powerful one and the closer you get to that the more empowered you will be. And the 39 "Articles of Religion" that were the original definition of Anglicanism are a very powerful expression of early Protestant faith -- a faith that was very Bible-based. So my expectation is that the show-ponies of Anglicanism will wither away eventually and a core of real believers will remain.

They may even evangelize. Priests ordained in Sydney already do. They go into neighbouring dioceses and set up "Family Churches", much to the irritation of the local bishops. The Sydney priests end up having more people in their pews than the local Bishop does! So the vitality is there if you drink from the waters of the original New Testament faith. The knowalls may dismiss such faith as "old-fashioned" and "irrelevant to the modern world" but it still has a great power to bring blessings to its people.

Monday, June 29, 2009

I'm at it again: Die Judenfrage and religious identity

Most Jews must be heartily sick of being forever singled out for discussion and scrutiny but it seems that it was ever so and ever will be. And in my utter folly, I am once again going to voice a few thoughts on one of the most hotly contested topics among Jews: Who is a Jew?

My present thoughts arise from the "wise" British judges who recently decided that Jews are a race. Since there are Jews of all races -- including black ones -- that is arrant nonsense. Yet it is also partly true -- in that various genetic studies have shown that many Jews do still have in them some Middle Eastern genes. So for Jews as a whole it is true that Israel is their ancestral home as well as their religious home.

Nonetheless, it seems clear that Jews are a religion, not a race. And the test of that, it seems to me, is that Jews do accept converts. Try converting yourself into another race: It can't be done.

But many Jews are atheists or something close to it, so how can Jewry be a religion? The easy answer to that from an Orthodox viewpoint (with which I am broadly sympathetic) is that being Jewish is not a matter of belief but of practice. A Jew is someone who follows Jewish law (halacha). What you believe is very secondary. Deeds speak louder than words. Christianity is belief based but Judaism is practice based.

But there is also a much simpler answer: MOST religion is hereditary. And those who inherit it are often not zealous practitioners of it. My late father, for instance, always put his religion down on official forms as "C of E" ("Church of England") and had no hesitation in doing so. He in fact seemed rather proud of it. Yet in all the time I knew him, he never once set foot inside an Anglican church.

So why cannot Jews be the same? Even if you are not religious, you can still have a religious identity.

Because I am an atheist, I never bothered with getting my son Christened but I considered that a knowledge of Christianity was an important element of his cultural heritage so I sent him to a Catholic school -- in the view that Catholics still had enough cultural self-confidence to teach the Christian basics. And they did. And my son greatly enjoyed his religion lessons -- as I hoped he would.

When he was aged 9 however, he said that he wanted to become a Catholic, which of course I was delighted to arrange. So he was baptised and subsequently had his confirmation lessons and was confirmed. These days many years later his beliefs seem to be as skeptical as mine -- which I also expected -- so what motivated his desire to become a Catholic? He wanted to have a religious identity. There was no pressure on him but he was greatly impressed by some very faith-filled people in the church and he wanted to identify with that. And I imagine that he still puts himself down on forms as "Catholic".

So a religious identity can be quite a significant thing for many people, not only Jews. It is a part of belonging -- and that is a very basic human need. Jews in a way are lucky there. No matter what their beliefs are, they still know that there is always one place where they belong, if they ever want to acknowledge it.

Once or twice a year I still attend my local Presbyterian church (at Easter etc.) and I certainly feel that I belong there. I feel at home with all aspects of it. My mother was a Presbyterian of sorts so that was where I was sent as a kid for Sunday School -- and that has stayed with me even though I no longer believe. So, again, one can have and value a religious identity even if one's beliefs have very little to do with it.

And the lady in my life -- Anne -- is only very vaguely religious but her background religion is Presbyterian and there are many habits of mind she has which I know well from my own family, and with which I am therefore very much at ease. Sometimes when she speaks, I hear my mother and my aunties speaking too. She has a Presbyterian mind, or a Presbyterian way of thinking -- perhaps Presbyterian assumptions. I think that in a similar way, most Jews probably have a Jewish mind too. Attitudes and habits of thought may in fact be the most important parts of a religious heritage.

I am sure that everything I have said above will be mumbo jumbo to most Leftists but, if so, that is their loss.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Hitler's motivation rediscovered

Interesting to have a noted historian confirm what anyone familiar with "Mein Kampf" would know

Adolf Hitler's obsessive hatred for Jews was sparked by his experiences after World War One, according to a new book. Respected historian Ralf-George Reuth argues the dictator blamed them for both the Russian revolution and the collapse of the German economy. The claim is a stark contrast to previous theories that Hitler's anti-Semitism was spawned on the back streets of Vienna when he was a down-and-out in the lead up to 1914. Historians have even speculated that he was partly-Jewish himself – or even that his mother died at the hands of an inept Jewish physician.

'Hitler’s Jewish Hatred; Cliche and Reality’ draws on numerous archives to pinpoint the reasons behind the Holocaust, which claimed six million lives. Reuth argues that what was probably lower middle-class bigotry shared by many at the time, morphed into murderous hatred for Hitler after 1919.

At the time almost half of all German private banks were Jewish owned, the stock exchange dominated by Jewish stockbrokers, almost half of the nation’s newspapers were Jewish run as were 80 per cent of chain stores. It became fashionable to decry the loss of the war on Jewish financiers.

But Hitler, according to Reuth, also blamed Jews for the Russian revolution, citing Leon Trotsky’s faith, as well as that of Marx whose theories he followed and even Lenin, who was one-quarter Jewish. When a Soviet republic was declared briefly in Munich that year, argues Reuth, the die was cast for Hitler to demonise the Jews as bearing responsibility for the world’s ills.

'With World War One lost and Germany in financial ruin, with revolution threatening, he came to see the Jews as solely responsible for stock-exchange capitalism, which caused acute poverty and suffering when it faltered, and Bolshevism,' said Reuth. 'These two events were pivotal in shaping his views of Jews and his subsequent plan to murder them all. 'He bought into the rumours and the whispers that blamed Jewish capitalists for stabbing Germany in the back.

'Then he saw that many Jews played prominent roles in the brief Soviet republic founded in Munich in 1919, against everything Hitler the nationalist stood for. 'The two events, together with the Russian revolution, coalesced to turn them, in his mind, into scapegoats for everything. 'But it was only after World War One, not before. I show that he had many Jewish acquaintances in Vienna, despite his writing in Mein Kampf that he was sickened by the sight of the Jews he saw there.'

Reuth draws on a wealth of archival material showing how Hitler fed off the intellectuals of the day to shape his belief. He quotes Nobel prize-winning novelist Thomas Mann who wrote in 1919 that he equated the Bolshevik revolution in Russia with the Jews. Ernst Nolte, a Berlin historian, expounded this theory over 20 years ago in a paper that was not given much credit at the time.

Reuth is a distinguished Nazi-era biographer who wrote an acclaimed book about Third Reich propaganda master Josef Goebbels.


A major omission above is that it was the prominence of Jews among the postwar Marxist agitators of Vienna that particularly alienated Hitler. The Marxist notion of class war and idealization of the proletariat cut right across Hitler's idealization of ALL Germans. The Marxist class-based ideology clashed with Hitler's race-based ideology but, typical of Leftists, both thought only in terms of groups. In the light of the current high rate of Leftism among American Jews, one hopes that a realization of where that led last time will one day dawn. That the facts of what happened last time are now slowly being acknowledged is hopeful.

Note that, as in prewar Germany, people still feel strong partisanship towards their own ethnic and national group for all that Leftists try to demonize it. For a "right now" example of that in action, see here. And for the "right now" hatred of Jews in Britain, see here and here. I give a much fuller account of Hitler's motivations here

While I am talking about Hitler and his times, I might mention briefly a rather strange article by an Italian writer Fabio Paolo Barbieri which claims to refute the idea that Nazism/Fascism was Leftist even though he appears to know virtually nothing about Nazism and Fascism. He says that Marx was primarily a Prussian rather than a socialist. But if Marx was not the quintessential Leftist, who would be? He also says that Fascism/Nazism was not Leftist because Fascists/Nazis murdered and went to war against other socialists. He has obviously never heard of sibling rivalry, which can easily be murderous. Witness the icepick to the head which Trotsky got from Stalin

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

An amazing defence of Nazism as "Rightist"

And apparently coming from someone of broadly conservative views!
Nazism and fascism were very much about restoring an earlier, idealized order – the very definition of the right, as it has long been understood. Mussolini harkened back to the lost grandeur of the Roman Empire. Hitler sought to restore the mythical purity of the Aryan race. The nationalism of these totalitarians was far more extreme than their socialism, and their cultural predilections looked largely backward (build classical columns, ban “degenerate” art). Their appeal to their followers was in no small part that they would reestablish order against modern decay.

Latter-day admirers of the Nazis and fascists, such as James von Brunn, typically emphasize racial or national chauvinism over socialistic economics by a wide margin. They want to recapture a lost (and generally bogus) past, rather than remake the world according to a future vision. As such, they are on the extreme right. It does no credit to current-day conservatives, and adds nothing to understanding, to redefine the extreme right out of existence by claiming that it’s just another bunch of leftists.

Harking back to a romanticized past is conservative?? Has this guy never heard of Greenies? Has he never noticed the strong alliance between Greens and the Left? Conservatives conserve. They want to preserve the best of what has worked. They are wary of attempts to alter the status quo. It is reactionaries who want to return to the past and the chief reactionaries of today are undoubtedly the Greenies.

And this is particularly clear in the case of Hitler. The rural agrarian past that he romanticized seems to be very much the same as what the Greenies idealize. He even shared the Greenie obsession with running out of resources. He wanted Lebensraum in the East for Germany because he calculated that Germany was soon going to have difficulty feeding its population -- so he wanted to seize Slavic farmland to grow the food that Germany would need. And as for caring about the lives of others, what Greenie has ever expressed regret for the millions of lives lost to malaria in Africa because of the ban on DDT? Hitler had a LOT in common with the Greenies but nothing in common with conservatives. He in fact persecuted Germany's conservatives.

And Mussolini was a Greenie too. As well as being an "anti-globalizer", there were several other ways in which Mussolini would have appealed to modern-day Greenies. He made Capri a bird sanctuary and in 1926 he issued a decree reducing the size of newspapers to save wood pulp. And, believe it or not, he even mandated gasohol -- i.e. mixing ethanol with petroleum products to make fuel for cars. Mussolini also disliked the population drift from rural areas into the big cities and in 1930 passed a law to put a stop to it unless official permission was granted. What Green/Left advocate could ask for more?

So if the addled writer above wants to equate reactionary ideas with the "Right", let him go ahead. He can call Greenies "Rightists" all he likes for all I care. But just don't pretend that such a "Right" has anything to do with conservatives. And if it is "totalitarians" who are Rightists, I guess Stalin was a Rightist too.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A few observations about immigration and intelligence

In my comments on IQ, yesterday, I asked why the descendants of African slaves who have in recent decades come to the USA from the Caribbean tend to outperform in various ways the descendants of African slaves whose ancestors were transported directly to what is now the USA. Afro-Americans themselves are well aware of the difference and refer to Afro-Caribbeans as "coconuts" (brown on the outside, white on the inside).

I attributed the difference between the two groups to an immigration effect: "People who have somehow got themselves out of a Caribbean hellhole such as Jamaica or Haiti and re-established themselves in America are obviously smarter than those who stay behind in their scenic but poor, corrupt and crime-ridden homelands. So they do better in America because they are smarter to start with. They are an environmentally-selected superior subset of their parent population. Most of their success follows from that. The first generation too tend to have better motivation, having grown up in a society lacking welfare payments. It's basically work or starve where they come from. And they do of course tend to pass work-oriented values onto their kids."

A question that flows from that, however, starts from the fact that Americans generally are of immigrant origin. So why is not the average white American IQ higher than the average IQ of (say) Britain? The easy answer, of course is that Americans today originate from all corners of the globe. They are not solely of British descent and some of the incoming groups may originally have come from backward populations and thus have dragged the average down.

But let me look in a bit more detail at that: Unlike the "coconuts", the earliest white settlers in North America were NOT fleeing from backward hellholes. They were in fact fleeing from the most advanced civilizations of the day, predominantly Britain and Germany. They were fleeing mainly for religious reasons rather than economic ones and whether that indicates greater intelligence or not is I think at least not obvious. Later waves of immigration, however, clearly DID come to America for economic reasons: poor people from Ireland, Poland, Germany, Russia and Southern Italy, principally. And as Herrnstein & Murray showed long ago, there is a social class effect on IQ: Poor people tend to be dumber. So the fact that the descendants of that later wave suffer no present-day IQ disadvantage illustrates that the immigration effect DID work for them too: The immigrant poor were smarter than the poor populations that they left behind. So, just looking at the major population groups that today constitute white America, there is no reason to expect in them higher average IQs than the average IQs in (say) Britain or Germany. And the reality corresponds to that expectation.

A small coda to that which I mention with some hesitation concerns Ireland -- seeing that I myself have substantial Irish ancestry. The various 20th century studies of Irish IQ have produced some rather low averages, with a 7-point disadvantage often quoted. There are various possible reasons for that but we may be seeing there the other end of the immigration effect: For various reasons, but particularly the potato blight, the emigration from Ireland was particularly heavy and the smartest people left Ireland long ago for parts of the world with greater opportunities: principally Britain, North America and the Antipodes. I am rather glad that some of them came to the Antipodes because I would not exist otherwise. And I can assure you that I am perfectly delighted by my Irish ancestry.

And that somehow brings me to the Chinese. No-one in his right mind can deny the outstanding academic success and success generally of the Chinese in America. So is that an immigrant effect too? Are they smart solely because they are immigrants who had to overcome large difficulties in order to come to America? I think that there is some truth in that, but it is far from the whole story. The studies of IQ in China itself unfailingly show an above-average result, usually considerably above average. On the other hand, as far as I am aware, none of the studies of IQ in China come from completely representative national population samples and it may be that there are among the poor populations of the more remote regions of China some quite low averages to be found, which could well drag the national average down to something like the Western average if taken into account. But that is speculation. Clearly, the parts of China from which Chinese Americans come show above average IQs so Chinese Americans are a select subset of an already talented population. No wonder they do so well.