Friday, July 29, 2011

"Psycho-analysing" terrorist Breivik

There are by now innumerable psychological assessments of Breivik online. Practically every publication you log on to has one. And they are all rather laughable when one looks at the things upon which the various diagnoses are based:

Breivik played violent computer games. So do a billion other men. Breivik did not relate well to women. That's also true of millions of American men -- particularly if you ask American women. Breivik lived with his mother well into adulthood. That too is common these days. It's almost the norm in Italy and Japan. He liked dressing up and giving himself titles. So do the freemasons. And so it goes: Things that do not cause terrorism in millions of others suddenly caused terrorism in Breivik? What a heap of nonsense!

My Ph.D. is in psychology, my academic specialty is political psychology and I have had over 100 papers in that field published in the academic journals -- including papers on what would seem to be relevant phenomena, such as neo-Nazism and psychopathy. So can I do better? Perhaps. To make any diagnosis when you have never even met the person is a very bad start but I will try.

So, for starters, is Breivik mad? Is he insane? There is general agreement that he is not and I agree with that. He shows no signs of delusions and has normal reality contact. He is not psychotic.

The one glaringly salient fact about Breivik is that he is a one-off. People with broadly conservative views are almost never terrorists. Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh is the nearest comparable case and there are considerable differences beteeen him and Breivik. Breivik is much more intellectual, for a start.

And that one salient fact is in my view the key to Breivik. Terrorism is not the product of personality. It is ideologically motivated. Personality plays some part but ideology is the overwhelming influence behind terrorist deeds. Nearly two years ago, U.S. army Major Nidal Hasan stood up at Ft. Hood shouting "Allahu Akbar" - Arabic for "God is great" -- before opening fire methodically from two handguns, killing 13 and wounding 32. Very similar behaviour to Breivik and with the motive being clearly ideological, in his case the ideology of fundamentalist Islam.

And there is no denying where Breivik got most of his ideas. He got them from fairly mainstream conservative sources. What he says in his manifesto about the Left and about Islam could be duplicated from many mainstream conservative sources. Indeed, he quotes such sources at length in his manifesto.

So how come hundreds of millions of conservatives have ideas similar to Breivik but only Breivik used them as a basis for a terrorist attack?

To answer that we have to move from ideology to sociology. I taught sociology for some years in a major Australian university so perhaps I have a few ideas in that department too.

And what seems to be the key sociological context is Norwegian society itself. Norwegians are very self-righteous and politically correct and one result of that is that Norway's penal code (Straffeloven, section 135 a) prohibits "hate speech" and defines it as publicly making statements that threaten or ridicule someone or that incite hatred, persecution or contempt for someone due to their skin colour, ethnic origin, homosexual life style or orientation or, religion or philosophy of life. So criticism of Muslims is illegal in Norway.

And yet, of all Western countries, Muslim aggression against the host country would seem to be at its peak in Norway and Sweden, two of the world's most permissive countries. Permissiveness is NOT the key to restraint and as the old proverb has it: "Give them an inch and they will take a mile". Because Norway and Sweden not only put up with Muslim lawlessness but actually protect it from view, the misbehaviour has escalated in those countries to quite appalling levels. Rapes in those countries in recent years have almost entirely been the doing of Muslims, for instance.

And the average Norwegian is not oblivious to that, for all the clampdown on mentioning it by Norway's Leftist government. Norwegian experts say that Breivik's attitude to Muslims is in fact common among ordinary Norwegians. Leftist reality denial doesn't work for long.

So the pressure towards retaliation against Muslims is in proportion to the Muslim outrages committed. Muslim behavior is at a peak of unacceptability in Norway and that generates a peak head of steam for retaliation against Muslims. Muslims are not as indulgently treated in other countries (even Britain locks some Muslim haters up) so their behaviour is better and that in turn means that resentment against them does not build up so much.

So Breivik was simply the point at which the Norwegian dam burst. When any dam bursts it is always possible in retrospect to say where the weak point was but that is rarely apparent in advance. The point at which the dam bursts can be essentially random.

So we come back to the question: Why was Breivik the weak point? I think it was essentially random. Other Norwegians would have eventually done something similar if Breivik had not.

One thing that I do notice, however, is that a lot of his mental characteristics seem rather adolescent. So we have adolescent mental characteristics combined with a very capable adult brain. And adolescents make great warriors, warriors who are largely heedless of their own wellbeing in fighting for what they are told is the common good. The undoubted heroism of the Hitler Youth in the closing stages of WWII is an obvious example of that and armies generally do recruit heavily from teenagers.

And it is clear that Breivik saw himself as self-sacrificing in what he did. He acted for what he saw as the general wellbeing by attacking the protectors of Muslims at their weakest point: Their children.

And I see no reason to doubt the account Breivik gives of his motivation: It was self-sacrifice for the common good, a very Norwegian motivation. He wanted Norwegians freed from the very real oppressive burden of their Muslim minority.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

People from the higher latitudes of the world have bigger brains

I reproduce below the results of a small study of an old skull collection. Given the limits of the basic data, the generalizability of the findings is uncertain but they are interesting nonetheless -- in that they confirm other findings about the effect of latitude on IQ.

The authors were apparently rather embarrassed by their findings so they have presented their findings in a very politically correct way. A lot of the presentation is blatantly speculative and certainly over-interpreted. They talk, for instance, about Arctic brains in blithe indifference to the fact that they had zero data on Arctic brains! So I reproduce below only the more factual bits.

The finding that eyes are bigger in Northern latitudes is a genuine contribution to knowledge but saying that bigger eyes lie behind larger brain size is tendentious. The larger brain of the North is much more likely to be a result of the generally greater survival challenge in Northern latitudes.

In support of that it may be noted that the spectacular visual acuity of Australian Aborigines is found among a people who tend to have somewhat smaller brains than Europeans.

It should be noted that the present "native" population of the British Isles is of peri-Baltic origin (North German and Scandinavian) so should be at the high end of brain size. The authors below deny that greater brain size indicates greater intelligence but ignore most of the literature on the subject in doing so. Most research indicates a positive correlation of .30+

Students of ancient history will also be aware that Northerners have been invading the South for a very long time -- and usually leaving some genes behind. Germans have been invading Italy since the days of the Roman Republic (i.e. before the Roman empire) so Teutonic genes are undoubtedly widely spread throughout Europe today. So Northern brains too are undoubtably to be found throughout Europe these days.
People who live in high latitude regions have bigger eyeballs and brains than other individuals, according to new research.

The increase in brain and eye size allows people to see better in places that receive less light than areas closer to the equator, according to the new study, published in the latest issue of the journal Royal Society Biology Letters.

"People living at high latitudes have greater visual acuity than those who live at the equator," added Dunbar, who is head of the Institute of Cognitive & Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Oxford.

"The whole point is that they need to have better vision to compensate for the lower light levels at high latitudes, as indicated by the evidence we provide that visual acuity under ambient/natural light conditions remains constant with latitude."

For the study, Dunbar and colleague Eiluned Pearce measured the skulls of 55 individuals from 12 different populations, focusing on the dimensions for orbital volume and cranial capacity. The people lived about 200 years ago. Their skulls are now part of collections housed at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and the University of Cambridge's Duckworth Collection.

The researchers found significant positive relationships between absolute latitude, orbital volume and brain size. Eyeballs varied in size from around a quarter to a third of an ounce in volume.

The brains, in turn, ranged from about 40.6 ounces for Micronesians, on the low end of the size spectrum, and 50.2 ounces for Scandinavians on the high end.

As for the larger eyeballs, they permit smaller proportions of images to fall upon each photoreceptor field so that more details can be distinguished. The amount of light hitting Earth's surface as well as minimum day length decrease with increasing absolute latitude, so people living in such areas need the visual boost.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Another potshot at conservative IQ

This won't detain us long. It's an abstract of an article by former Yugoslav psychologist Lazar Stankov. Considering its poor quality and dogmatic conclusion, it is rather a surprise that it got published in Intelligence (37, 2009, 294–304), which is a respectable academic journal.
Conservatism and cognitive ability


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.

The "sample" is of course laughable and provides no basis for generalizing to any known population. Its representativeness is unknown. If the findings suggest any inferences at all, they may tell us that only dumb conservatives need to go to community colleges but even some smart Leftists need to, perhaps because they were less conscientious during their high school studies.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The success of Anders Behring Breivik

It looks like Anders Behring Breivik may have achieved his goal. We see already in the media (e.g. here) a recognition that failure to hold full and fair discussions of immigration issues has been a mistake and some view that more openness might have prevented the massacre

For many years, the USA, Australia, Britain, Norway and many other advanced countries were perfectly at ease with immigration but when some groups started arriving that caused problems for the existing population, the public rightly expected their governments to do something about it. But governments instead tried to suppress debate about the issues concerned. One result of that policy is Anders Behring Breivik -- and his clear and very loud message that the Leftist elite have got it wrong. He killed nearly 90 of their children.

He will go to one of Norway's humane jails for 10 years and make many converts whilst there. To be in a Norwegian jail you have to have shown considerable disrespect for society's rules and most probably an inclination to violence. So as his fellow prisoners complete their terms and get out of jail we could well see a stream of deaths among the children of pro-immigration politicians.

So if the recent massacre has not done so it seems highly likely that some crackdown on the menace that Muslims pose to Norwegian society will eventually be initiated. I am confident that the Norwegian police could rapidly curb Muslim lawnessness once given the go-ahead by the politicians.

One of many reports here about the mayhem Muslim "refugees" have inflicted on Norwegian society.

And it does seem that the more permissive and "progressive" a country is, the worse the Muslim behaviour becomes. So that a reaction against those who foster Muslim immigration should come from one of the Scandinavian countries was in retrospect to be expected. Muslim aggression against the rest of the population certainly seems to be at a peak in Norway and Sweden. And Viking ancestry probably helped Breivik along too. The Vikings were not notable humanitarians.

I have read or skimmed most of Breivik's manifesto and find it exceptionally rational and well-informed. His extensive survey of Muslim history is a horror story but is to my knowledge perfectly accurate. I get the impression that his lengthy exploration of the horrors that Muslims have inflicted on others may have been the spark that spurred him into action.

And the action that he took also follows easily from a close study of Muslims. Violence and threats of violence have served Muslims in Western countries very well in recent years. It was surely inevitable that some non-Muslims would learn from that.

And Breivik's one/two punch -- a bomb in the city centre followed by an attack on an outlying island -- was pure Al Qaida

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Does religion rot your intelligence?

The article below makes some useful observations but I believe that the case for the "No" answer can be put even more simply:

There are two large and important nations with high levels of Christian belief where about 40% of the population are regular churchgoers: Russia and the USA. Lying geographically in between them, however, is another large group of important nations where religious observance is very low: England and Western Europe. Yet from the USA to Russia and in between IQ levels are virtually the same: About 100. That sounds like a zero correlation between belief and IQ to me.

And given the very different histories of the two countries, attempts to explain why America is different collapse into absurdity if one attempts to apply such explanations to Russia.

Another rather obvious point that often seems to be overlooked is that religion and church affiliation are not at all the same thing. I did many random surveys of various populations in my 20 year research career and religion was often one thing I asked about in my surveys. And, being a psychometrician, I exercised great care about how I asked the religion question. I always provided a considerable list from which people could choose in order to specify what their religious views were. And an option often chosen (by up to 20% of the respondents) was: "Belief in God only".

And that is a very reasonable choice. One hardly needs to refer to the sexual misconduct scandals that have engulfed the Catholic and Anglican churches to understand why many people would feel that the churches know no more about God than anybody else. The very multiplicity of denominations and faiths also suggests that conclusion. So questions about church affiliation could yield very different correlations from questions about religious belief. And there seems to be very little data on the latter.

A more cogent explanation for national differences in religious committment is that the key ingredient is not IQ but rather the presence or absence of a welfare State. Where the State provides you with cradle-to-grave security, you have less need for God. And that indeed is a stronger correlation. England and Western Europe do have much more pervasive welfare provisions than do the USA and Russia.

From a Christian viewpoint, however, welfare States could be seen as delusions of the Devil. As one writer says:

"Charles Murray, among others, has shown that welfare programs often end up being a remedy more deadly than the malady by creating the very situations they profess to cure. The simple reason for this was identified by the insightful economist Walter Williams, who said, "What you subsidize (poverty) you get more of; what you penalize (prosperity), you get less of." Nor has the welfare state reduced crime, because crime is not primarily rooted in economic causes. It is rooted in moral causes."

So while the Devil may have deluded people into thinking that they have no need for God, that delusion will have the harmful results that one would expect from the Devil.

But from both a social science and a Christian viewpoint the idea that people most turn to God when they are most in need of him is quite uncontroversial I would think. It says nothing about God but much about people.

There are some not wholly convincing dismissals of the welfare/belief correlation here

Disclosure: (for those who are not already aware of it) I am myself an utter atheist -- JR
"Why should fewer academics believe in God than the general population? I believe it is simply a matter of the IQ. Academics have higher IQs than the general population," says Ulster University academic Richard Lynn. "Several Gallup poll studies of the general population have shown that those with higher IQs tend not to believe in God."

Hmmm. What are we to make of this? Professor Lynn and colleagues wrote a paper in 2008 in the journal Intelligence which has been widely discussed. Here is a summary of its claims:

"Evidence is reviewed pointing to a negative relationship between intelligence and religious belief in the United States and Europe. It is shown that intelligence measured as psychometric g is negatively related to religious belief. We also examine whether this negative relationship between intelligence and religious belief is present between nations. We find that in a sample of 137 countries the correlation between national IQ and disbelief in God is 0.60 [a high correlation]."

The highlight of the paper is the chart of 137 nations. And it looks pretty convincing until you study it carefully. Then, picturing the data is a cart for the theory, wheels start wobbling.

I first became suspicious when Lynn et al. tried to explain why the United States is anomalous "in having an unusually low percentage of its population disbelieving in God (10.5 percent) for a high IQ country [98]."

"One factor that could provide a possible explanation for this is that many Americans are Catholics, and the percentage of believers in Catholic countries in Europe is generally much higher than in Protestant countries (e.g. Italy, 6 percent; Ireland, 5 percent; Poland, 3 percent; Portugal, 4 percent; Spain, 15 percent). Another possible contribution to this has been continued high immigration of those holding religious beliefs. A further possible factor might be that a number of emigrants from Europe went to the United States because of their strong religious beliefs, so it may be that these beliefs have been transmitted as a cultural and even genetic legacy to subsequent generations. Parent–child correlations for religious belief are quite high at 0.64 (fathers–sons) and 0.69 (mothers–daughters) (Newcomb & Svehla, 1937). It has been found that religious belief has a significant heritability of around 0.40–0.50 (Koenig, McGrue, Krueger & Bouchard, 2005), so it could be that a number of religious emigrants from Europe had the genetic disposition for religious belief and this has been transmitted to much of the present population."

Good thing it’s easy to test that one. Canada has a similar history, and features average IQ 99, with 22 percent not believing in God. So twice as many Canadians don’t believe in God but exhibit no statistically significant reward in IQ. That’s one wheel off - but it’s still a tricycle.

Looking at the chart closely, I noticed another anomaly: The Czech Republic and Slovakia split on January 1, 1993. In 2008, the Czech republic clocked IQ 98, 61 percent disbelieving in God, and Slovakia at IQ 96, with only 17 percent disbelieving in God. The difference is obviously cultural. Second wheel gone. We now have a bicycle.

The third wobbly wheel was the fact that Israel and Portugal -with very different culture and histories - both feature IQ 95. But in Israel 15 percent disbelieve and in Portugal 4 percent. So tripling or quadrupling the number of atheists did nothing for IQ when culture and history are different.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Weltbuergertum (World citizenship)

I remember reading about Weltbuergertum about 50 years ago in something or other by Hendrik van Loon. It struck me as a high ideal and a good idea at the time (in my teens).

The fact that Van Loon used the German term Weltbuergertum for the concept was unremarkable to me at the time as I already had a useful command of German by then but on thinking about it in more recent times it seemed obvious that the idea must go back to those two second-rate German philosphers, Karl Mark and his mentor, GWF Hegel. And in Mein Kampf Hitler also describes himself as originally being a Weltbuerger -- though he changed his tune on that later, of course

On checking, however, I found that the idea actually goes further back again -- to the classical German poet JW von Goethe. So the idea obviously has some simplistic appeal and now seems to be standard Leftist gospel. To the Left of today, patriotism is absurd and contemptible. Democrat politicians have to pretend otherwise in a country as patriotic as the USA but elsewhere on the Left -- particularly in the educational system -- Weltbuergertum is the only respectable stance, though not usually by that name

And as a means of avoiding war etc., the idea does have some appeal. Where it falls down, however, is in the composition of the world as we actually have it. Do I want to be a citizen of a polity that includes the corrupt and bloodthirsty tyrannies of Africa, the negligible civil liberties of China or the starvation of North Korea -- not to mention the corruption and hate of the Arab world?

I can quite cheerfully imagine myself as a citizen of a polity that comprised all the English-speaking democracies but until the rest of the world reaches that standard of civility and respect for the individual, leave me out of it

Walter Williams has some good comments on the matter below -- JR
The National Assessment of Educational Progress reports that only 1 in 4 high-school seniors scored at least "proficient" in knowledge of U.S. citizenship. Civics and history were American students' worst subjects. Professor Damon said that for the past 10 years, his Stanford University research team has interviewed broad cross sections of American youths about U.S. citizenship. Here are some typical responses: "We just had (American citizenship) the other day in history. I forget what it was." Another said, "Being American is not really special. ... I don't find being an American citizen very important." Another said, "I don't want to belong to any country. It just feels like you are obligated to this country. I don't like the whole thing of citizen. ... It's like, citizen, no citizen; it doesn't make sense to me. It's, like, to be a good citizen -- I don't know, I don't want to be a citizen. ... It's stupid to me."

A law professor, whom Damon leaves unnamed, shares this vision in a recent book: "Longstanding notions of democratic citizenship are becoming obsolete. ... American identity is unsustainable in the face of globalization." Instead of commitment to a nation-state, "loyalties ... are moving to transnational communities defined by many different ways: by race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, and sexual orientation." This law professor's vision is shared by many educators who look to "global citizenship" as the proper aim of civics instruction, de-emphasizing attachment to any particular country, such as the United States, pointing out that our primary obligation should be to the universal ideals of human rights and justice. To be patriotic to one's own country is seen as suspect because it may turn into a militant chauvinism or a dangerous "my country, right or wrong" vision.

The ignorance about our country is staggering. According to one survey, only 28 percent of students could identify the Constitution as the supreme law of the land. Only 26 percent of students knew that the first 10 amendments to the Constitution are called the Bill of Rights. Fewer than one-quarter of students knew that George Washington was the first president of the United States.

Discouraging young Americans from identifying with their country and celebrating our traditional American quest for liberty and equal rights removes the most powerful motivation to learn civics and U.S. history. After all, Damon asks, "why would a student exert any effort to master the rules of a system that the student has no respect for and no interest in being part of? To acquire civic knowledge as well as civic virtue, students need to care about their country."

Ignorance and possibly contempt for American values, civics and history might help explain how someone like Barack Obama could become president of the United States. At no other time in our history could a person with longtime associations with people who hate our country become president. Obama spent 20 years attending the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's hate-filled sermons, which preached that "white folks' greed runs a world in need," called our country the "US of KKK-A" and asked God to "damn America." Obama's other America-hating associates include Weather Underground Pentagon bomber William Ayers and Ayers' wife, Bernardine Dohrn.

The fact that Obama became president and brought openly Marxist people into his administration doesn't say so much about him as it says about the effects of decades of brainwashing of the American people by the education establishment, media and the intellectual elite.