Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Are conservatism and racism indistinguishable?

That question will no doubt amuse most readers here but that they are indistinguishable is the burden of a recent Leftist book -- called Conservatism and Racism, and Why in America They Are the Same (Part of the SUNY Series in African American Studies). From the blurb:
In this provocative, wide-ranging study, Robert C. Smith contends that ideological conservatism and racism are and always have been equivalent in the United States. In this carefully constructed and thoroughly documented philosophical, historical, and empirical inquiry, Smith analyzes conservative ideas from John Locke to William F. Buckley Jr., as well as the parallels between the rise and decline of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1970s and the ascendancy of the conservative movement to national power in 1980. Using archival material from the Reagan library, the book includes detailed analysis of the Reagan presidency and race, focusing on affirmative action, the Voting Rights act, the Grove City case, welfare reform, South Africa policy, and the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Conservatism and Racism, and Why in America They are the Same goes beyond a focus on the right wing, concluding with an analysis of the enduring impact of the conservative movement and the Reagan presidency on liberalism, race, and the Democratic Party.


It seems to be mainly a belated bit of Reagan hatred and consists of the author's own angry interpretation of various historical events.

One wonders what he makes of the fact that Hitler was a socialist, that it was Democrat politicians (George Wallace, Orval Faubus etc.) who were the chief opponents of racial integration in the South, that the KKK was almost entirely composed of Democrats and that a greater percentage of Republicans than Democrats voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

I might also note that I did some actual psychological research into the question during my academic career. I did a random population survey and found that racist attitudes were equally likely to be found among Leftist and Rightist voters in Australia. And there is little reason to expect Americans to be very different from Australians in that regard

Monday, August 30, 2010

Alternative history

I am something of an alternative history buff. Alternative history features quite a lot in Sci Fi and I used to read a lot of Sci Fi once so maybe that is why.

It seems to me that there were two great turning points in the 20th century which would have left us with a very different world today if they had been decided differently.

The first is the distinctly odd decision of Britain to enter what became WWI in support of their old enemy: France. It led to a slaughter of Britain's young men to rival the American North/South War and what did it achieve? Had Britain stayed neutral, the outcome of the war would surely have been similar to the Franco Prussian war of the 1870s: A flag-waving German withdrawl with a few small bits of German-speaking France hacked off and returned to German rule -- and a resumption of Edwardinan calm by all.

OK. I know why Britain did not go down that road. They were rightly spooked by Tirpitz's Luxusflotte. And in the one big naval engagement of the war -- the battle of Jutland -- those fears were amply confirmed -- with admiral Scheer running rings around admiral Jellicoe.

The second big turning point was Hitler's decision to make himself Oberkommando des Heeres (army chief). If he had given that job to the man who most deserved it -- Von Manstein (the conqueror of France) -- Russia would have been conquered, no doubt about it (Von Manstein destroyed two Russian armies even AFTER the Stalingrad debacle). And what a different world that would have been! How different goes beyond even my alternative history imagination.

Psychologists preaching feminism again

I had a bit to do with this in my own research career. I found huge holes in the feminism-supporting "research" of my fellow psychologists at the time. So the latest bit of nonsense does not surprise me. It says that feminized boys are psychologically healthier, just as lots of other psychologists repeatedly claim (by ignoring a lot of evidence) that leftists are psychologically healthier.

The report below has not yet passed peer review and been published in an academic journal so is a bit difficult to evaluate but it clearly depends on a questionnaire called the Children's Depression Inventory, and they almost certainly used it inappropriately. Note here for instance, that it should not be used alone as a diagnostic tool. It is too weakly predictive for that. It is supposed to be used only in conjunction with a diagnostic interview. There is no mention of such a precaution below.

Additionally, a standard warning with the test is that is is very open to the respondents "faking good" yet there is no mention below of that being controlled for or examined in any way. Use of a Lie scale might have been considered, for instance.

And since teaching is so feminized these days, more feminine boys are probably more aware of teacher expectations and are therefore both better at faking good and more motivated to do it. So their "healthier" scores could well be simple fakery.

The findings below are then readily explained as the product of sloppy and biased research rather than reflecting anything real
Being a mama's boy, new research suggests, may be good for your mental health. That, at least, is the conclusion of a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association by Carlos Santos, a professor at Arizona State University's School of Social and Family Dynamics.

Santos recently conducted a study that followed 426 boys through middle school to investigate the extent to which the boys favor stereotypically male qualities such as emotional stoicism and physical toughness over stereotypically feminine qualities such as emotional openness and communication, and whether that has any influence on their mental well-being. His main finding was that the further along the boys got in their adolescence, the more they tended to embrace hypermasculine stereotypes. But boys who remained close to their mothers did not act as tough and were more emotionally available. Closeness to fathers did not have the same effect, his research found.

Using a mental-health measure called the Children's Depression Inventory, he also found that boys who shunned masculine stereotypes and remained more emotionally available had, on average, better rates of mental health through middle school. "If you look at the effect size of my findings, mother support and closeness was the most predictive of boys' ability to resist [hypermasculine] stereotypes and therefore predictive of better mental health," Santos says. He adds that his research did not examine why a close mother-son relationship differed in its effect from a close father-son bond, but he suspects that fathers use stereotypically male behaviors to guide their sons into adulthood. "It could be, men see close relationships with their sons as an opportunity to reinforce traditional gender roles," he says. (See a story on mothers who opt for breast milk, not breast-feeding.)


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Religion and theology

Theology is an attempt by religious people to construct a version of their faith that they can intellectually assent to. There are many oddities in Christianity (such as the paradox of evil) and not everybody can simply ignore them.

I notice that with Rudolf Bultmann (1884 – 1976), a noted Lutheran theologian. He is something of a villain to traditional Christians because of his dismissal of Bible stories as essentially fairy stories. Yet if you read of his life and works you can see that he was a deeply religious man. He was not aiming so much to attack Christianity as to make it something that he could believe in.

I think that I am an instinctively religious person too. I was certainly religious in my now-distant teens. But in the end I cannot do as Bultmann did. I cannot construct a version of Christianity in which I can have faith. So I remain a sympathizer with Christianity but not a Christian myself. I sometimes wish it were otherwise but rationality intervenes and I remain an atheist.

I am reminded in that connection of a relative of mine who in his youth was an Assembly of God minister. But you don't have to have much in the way of qualifications to be an AOG minister. You just have to have the spirit. For those who don't know it, the AOG is a very fundamentalist group.

After a while however he decided that he needed to study theology. So I said to him: "Don't or you will lose the faith". But he did and he did. He is a very knowledgeable academic now.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Israel, India, China and IQ

It has always been a puzzle that Israelis tend to score BELOW the Western average on IQ. Israel is such a brilliant nation scientifically and technologically, that the finding almost seems to invalidate IQ tests. India presents a similar puzzle. Indians do very well wherever they migrate but on average seem to have low IQs back home in India.

As is common, however, the problem would seem to arise from generalizations that are too sweeping and fail to look closely at the populations concerned. I will say a bit more about India below but what needs to be noted is that both nations are NOT ethnically homogeneous. High caste Indians are a lot different from "Dalits" and Israeli "Ashkenazim" (Jews of Northern European recent origin) are VERY different from Israelis of Middle Eastern origins.

And MOST Israelis are of Middle Eastern origins. They are mostly the Jews that were kicked out from Muslim lands after the foundation of modern Israel. Hitler got most of Europe's Ashkenazim West of Moscow, leaving NYC as the great remaining Askenazi centre, and NYC is too comfortable for many Jews to leave.

And at least since the story of Ruth, Jews have never been very endogamous, and Yiddisher Mommas grieve over that to this day. One way or another, Jews have tended to become genetically assimilated into the population within which they live. So many Lithuanian Jews look just like Lithuanians and many Middle Eastern Jews look just like Arabs. Sadly, however, it is not only Arab looks that many Israelis share but also Arab IQ, which is low.

So yes. The Sephardim and Mizrachim of Israel are a bit dumb (though it is VERY incorrect to say so), but the Ashkenazim are very bright and it is they who make Israel an intellectual powerhouse.

Although there are similarities, India is not quite the same. The Northern and Southern Indians do appear to be at least partly of different racial origins and the Northerners seems to be descended in part from lighter-skinned conquerors from somewhere North of India. The conquerors were probably relatively few in number, however, as all Indians are pretty brown.

Indians generally are pretty keen endogamists, however, so the Brahmins are relatively fair of skin and are probably the most closely related to the original Northern invaders. And it is of course the Brahmins who run India. So it is the IQ of the Brahmins and other high castes that is crucial and I know of no studies that have separated out Indian IQ by caste.

And even in India some exogamy does happen. In India, you can generally tell how rich a man is not by his skin colour but by the skin colour of his wife. A rich brown Indian will generally have a fairer-skinned wife. So over the centuries capable Indians from all castes will have worked their way up the status tree and contributed higher IQs to the upper ranges of that tree.

But there is clearly a second influence at work in India: The rural effect. For various reasons a rural background tends to go with a lower IQ. You see that even in South Africa. The Afrikaners (whites of Dutch origin) have a lower average IQ than whites of British origin, even though there is no difference between the parent populations in Europe. And the Afrikaners have always been predominantly farmers.

So the current average IQ of the Indian population is undoubtedly held down by its overwhelmingly rural character. And when even Indians of a relatively low caste move elsewhere, that disadvantage seems to be lost and they prosper -- as in Fiji or South Africa, for instance.

A canny critic might at this point say: "But what about China"? The Chinese are mostly rural and their average IQ is high. Again, however, the very word "China" is an oversimplification. There are many distinct nations within China with their own languages and traditions and a generally low opinion of other such linguistic groups. The picture-based written language of China is not so much an anachronism as a necessity. It's the only way many Chinese can communicate with one another.

And from what I can gather most of the IQ testing has been done on Chinese from the coastal cities. Deep inland in rural China the IQ picture will probably be much different.