Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Blackwashing: False stories about black prominence

There is a good summary of past blackwashing episodes below:

If you listen to some historians there have been blacks in Britain since prehistoric times. How you tell skin colour from a skeleton is unclear. But a new example of blackwashing has emerged in the form of a book called "Brilliant Black British History". It says; "the very first Britons were black” -- with not a shred of good evidence for most of the claims. Even Stonehenge was built by blacks, allegedly.

The one bit of real evidence offered is that the Roman historian Tacitus reported that the Silures people in Wales were “dark-skinned and curly-haired”. In Tacitus’ full account, he theorised that they may have been from Spain.

The account by Tacitus is confirmed by Jordanes in his "Origins and Deeds of the Goths , where he says, “The Silures have swarthy features and are usually born with curly black hair ... They are like the Gauls or the Spaniards.” So both ancient authors saw the Silures as having a Mediterranean appearance, not an African appearance.

A fuller critique of the book below:

Such appropriations have been rather common from American black authors -- again as mere evidence free assertions. Blacks built the pyramids, of course. I have written on that before. See:

One instance of blackwashing stands out, however: A BBC program in 2017 that describes black and mixed-race families in Britain during the Roman era. It has the distinction that a couple of British historians have defended it. A graphic from the BBC program.

I have commented on the claims of British historian Mary Beard elsewhere so will not repeat that. Link below:

A much more sustained defence of Africans in Roman Britain comes from Mike Stuchbery so I partly reproduce it below. Stuchbery's argument is mainly in a long series of tweets, which would be rather tedious to reproduce but the opening of the article concerned is as follows:
Alt-right commentator gets 'schooled' by historian over diversity in Roman Britain

An alt-right commentator who complained about the BBC portraying Roman Britain as ethnically diverse has sparked a row with a historian on Twitter.

Paul Joseph Watson (PJW), editor of alt-right website InfoWars, shared a screengrab of a BBC educational video on life in Britain, suggesting it was inaccurate. “Thank God the BBC is portraying Roman Britain as ethnically diverse,” he tweeted. “I mean, who cares about historical accuracy, right?”

Step forward writer and historian Mike Stuchbery, who gave PJW a quick history lesson on ethnic diversity in Roman Britain.

“Roman Britain was ethnically diverse, almost by design. To begin, occupying legions were drawn from other parts of the Empire,” Stuchbery responded.

“Every year we dig up new remains that suggest that Roman Britain, anywhere larger than a military outpost, was an ethnically diverse place.”

All the examples he gives of Africans in Britain are of Mediterranean people, not sub-Saharan Africans. North Africans were and are white, of course. To this day, telling a Berber he is black will get you a dusty response. He will think you are blind or mad.

Berber woman in ethnic dress. It seems likely that the Berbers are in part descendants of the ancient Carthaginians. They are at any event the native people of most of North Africa -- JR


Friday, September 22, 2023

Left-Right divide no longer relevant in modern politics?

A very good essay below which sets out how policy preferences change over time. The changes can indeed seem rather surprising.

What the author overlooks is that changing times require changing policies. A policy that seems right in one context may seem wrong in another. Change is always ongoing so policies have to cope with that and may need to change too

Because policies change so much, the author sees no continuity. He says a policy simply cannot reliably be described as Right or Left. There is no consistency over time in the policies of our major political groups.

He is however looking in the wrong place for consistency. Consistency can be found only at the psychological level -- at the level of basic motivations. The "Right" will always be cautious and the "Left" will always favour feelgood ideas. And those two can very easily be in conflict.

Feelgood policies are ones that make their supporter look good and kind and virtuous, regardless of what their long term-consequences may be. Because of their weak egos, Leftists in particular have a great need to be seen as supporters of such policies. Any long term ill results of the policy are simply ignored

The author gives as an example of change Donald Trump's support for import tariffs. When he did implement some tariffs, that did indeed make some conservatives' head spin. It was a major departure from something dear to the hearts of most conservatives: free trade.

But Trump's respose to free trade arrangements was a cautious one. And caution is the essence of conservatism. He was was acutely aware that by the time of his Presidency, free trade had become socially disruptive -- with vast swathes of American industry having been exported to China -- and he wanted to stop that disruption. He was cautious about how the loss of American industry was impacting the lives of many Americans and wanted to call a halt to the disruptions concerned. He felt that free trade had gone too far.

He was precisely NOT subservient to prevailing conservative policies. He saw the need to call a halt to something that had got out of hand. He saw that the prevailing circumstances in the world called for a new approach if Americans were to be looked after.

So he put forward a new policy that had very old and basic underpinnings. His cautious values had not changed, only the application of them to changing times. Trump was perfectly consistent in his love of America and its people

You’ve probably heard Donald Trump described as “right-wing” or “far-right” even. But what does this actually mean?

It turns out very little, given the former US president advocates policies that only a few years ago were considered “left-wing”, making a mockery of the idea that some timeless unidimensional spectrum informs how we should understand politics.

It’s really all just name-calling nonsense, as US politics demonstrates. Trump is in favour of higher tariffs on imports and a foreign policy anchored in isolationism, which were considered left-wing positions during the presidency of Republican George W. Bush less than two decades ago.

On the other side of the divide, President Joe Biden’s administration is in favour of empowering government agencies to censor “misinformation”, a position diametrically opposed to the anti-censorship stance of Democrats a generation or two ago.

For most of the 20th century it was “the right” in favour of political censorship.

In the US, as in Australia and throughout the world, the left-right dichotomy has become a divisive delusion, a legacy going back to who sat where in the National Assembly during the 18th-century French Revolution that has no relevance to the complexity of modern political life.

Modern political parties promote a hodgepodge of policies that bear little relationship to each other. Why, for example, should someone who supports the voice or abortion necessarily be in favour of higher taxes or using the military to “spread democracy” abroad?

What individual political leaders advocate at any given time and place determine the left and right, far more than any underlying ideology.

Lockdowns during the pandemic, for instance, became identified with left-wing politics in the US purely because Trump at one point opposed them – even though socialist governments in Mexico and Sweden roundly rejected them. “Ideologies do not define tribes, tribes define ideologies; ideology is not about what (worldviews), it is about who (groups); there is no liberalism and conservatism, but liberals and conservatives,” write Hyrum and Verlam Lewis, two American politician science academics (and brothers), in a provocative new book, The Myth of Left and Right.

We are social creatures who tend to feel strongly about one particular aspect of a political party’s platform, and then feel obliged to support the rest of it. Yet there is far more disagreement within political parties than between them.

“Why do we refer to Milton Friedman (a Jewish, pro-capitalist pacifist) and Adolf Hitler (an anti-Semitic, anti-capitalist, militarist) as right-wing when they had opposite policy views on everything?” the authors ask.

Of course, tribalism is often determined by social background and governs most political interaction. Julian Assange is widely perceived as left-wing in Australia, but right-wing in the US, simply because he infuriated the Democratic Party in the US by releasing its embarrassing private emails before the 2016 election.

Members of the two warring tribes like to tell themselves stories to justify their positions: leftists advocate for “change” and “progress”, while those on the right apparently “conserve”.

So why, then, do conservatives support capitalism, the most intrinsically revolutionary economic system ever devised?

Meanwhile, the supposedly pro-change left has for decades fought globalisation to maintain national and indigenous cultures.

The “left” is also for bigger government (except in the US for issues relating to policing and illicit drug regulation).

Why were Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton – Democrats allegedly in favour of bigger government – the most fiscally conservative presidents in half a century? Meanwhile, Ronald Reagan, a champion of limited government, increased US debt and deficits more than any other administration outside war time.

As for religion, for much of the 19th and 20th centuries, Christian socialism was the predominant combination; the somewhat bizarre relationship between faith and free-market ideology developing much later.

Private banking, once the enemy of left-wing parties everywhere for a multitude of philosophical reasons, is now far more comfortable with parties of the left. Democrats in the US get far more donations from Wall Street, while the Labor Party has been the best friend to Australia’s funds management industry.

Italy’s “far-right” Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, was recently attacked by mainstream media outlets for proposing a tax on bank super profits, something Ben Chifley (one of Australia’s most left-wing leaders) would have been proud of.

Cynicism about mandatory vaccination was more common among those who considered themselves left-wing until Covid-19, when it became a “right-wing issue” across much of the West.

Left-wing China, meanwhile, was one of the few nations not to mandate Covid vaccines. Maybe Xi Jinping is right-wing?

The left-right dichotomy serves two purposes. First, it enables many of us to feel righteous and principled – even though the vast bulk of political participants are really tribal lemmings without any real beliefs except, perhaps, for personal career advancement.

Second, it provides a simplistic framework to dismiss people we don’t like. Because the bulk of those in the media and academia now consider themselves “left-wing”, one almost never sees individuals described that way. By contrast, the pool of alleged “right-wingers” has exploded.

Elon Musk, who openly supported the Democrats, is now “right-wing” because he wasn’t enthusiastic about the war in Ukraine, which is currently a “left-wing” cause. The top US podcaster, Joe Rogan, who openly supported Bernie Sanders, is now regarded as “right-wing” because he questions compulsory Covid-19 vaccination.

Germaine Greer has also been called “right-wing” for suggesting trans women aren’t real women. In a similar vein, a powerful essay by John Pilger, published last month about Western propaganda, could just as easily have been written by Tucker Carlson.

But Pilger remains firmly associated with the “left wing” because he’s in the “right” tribe, while Carlson is “right-wing” because he’s in the “wrong” tribe.

If the term “right-winger” has any meaning at all, it appears to be one that dissents from whatever official orthodoxy prevails at the time for any given policy.

Whatever, the terms are highly divisive and it’s time to move on from this meaningless division. Individuals have complex views and they should be treated on their merit.


Thursday, September 21, 2023

The writer (John Ray)

29 August, 2022

My academic publications are frequently cited

I have had a lot of good news lately but "wait, there is more". According to ResearchGate, a publication which tracks such matters, my academic publications are getting a lot of attention from other academics. They say that "Your Research Interest Score is higher than 95% of ResearchGate members". The score is mainly made up of citations.

Why is that surprising? Because I last published something in the academic journals back in the '90s. The general view of academic publications is that if it is more than 10 years old it no longer exists. But the advent of the internet means that someone researching a topic will usually do an internet search at some point and that will turn up something relevant regardless of date. So as long as your writings are online they are readily accessible. Most of my publications were written before the internet existed but I have made sure to put them online retrospectively. ResearchGate has them all. Being really old means that I can look a long way back.

And the fact that I have had so many papers published (250+) of course increases the likelihood that I will hit on something of interest to others.

But I mustn't get a big head about it all. I have kept some track of my citations and they mostly come from places like Pakistan and Poland -- not great sources of cutting edge academic endeavour

Another reason for humility is that my papers that other people cite are rarely the ones which I think are most significant or important. Instead people cite papers that are more technical or utilitarian. Still, it is nice to be still ahead of the pack even after 30 years. I did after all devote 20 years of my life -- from 1970 to 1990 -- to doing all that research and writing.

I have also now spent 20 years blogging -- from 2002 to 2022.

In all my writing I have aimed to say things that are informative or helpful to others and I think I have achieved that to a small degree. I do get "thank you" messages occasionally, which I appreciate.

NOTE: There is another way in which the academic journals indicate a high level of acceptance for my academic work: My rate of publication in the journals. A look at my list of publications will reveal that in some years I was getting papers published at a rate approaching one per fortnight. That compares with the normal academic expectation of one per year

There is a subject index to my papers here

-- JR


7 September, 2022

More on my academic status

I have just received another interesting email from ResearchGate.

They report that last week I had 6 citations. That means that someone somewhere is citing one of my papers at the rate of nearly one a day. I am rather stunned by that. And half of my reads were from academics in the USA, followed by India.

Several of my papers did refer to India so the interest from India is not too surprising

What is surprising is that my most-read article is one that appeared way back in 1971. So maybe there will be someone reading my papers long after I have gone. I like that thought


ResearchGate has a comprehensive database of academic publications. They are a sort of academic Google. If a paper is cited by someone already in their database they will try to add that paper also to their database. So they would appear to have just about all the academic papers on the internet. And if a paper they see cited is not already on the net they will ask for a copy of it and put it on the net

The list of "reads" is different. They refer only to reads from the ResearchGate database. Many people will of course have read the paper in its initial appearance elsewhere. So it would probably be safe to say that the total number of reads of any paper is at least twice what ResearchGate records. But the reads that they record could be seen as a useful estimate of total reads

21 September, 2022

Another update

I really am much read by my fellow academics. ResearchGate reports that my papers had 159 reads last week, including frequent mention of two that I regard as among my more significant papers. I am glad I have lived long enough to see it.

The two articles referred to are:

An "attitude to authority" scale


Half of All Racists Are Left Wing

It should be noted that almost all my papers are research reports rather than theoretical articles. And research reports stand as facts. You can disagree about the implications of the facts reported -- theoretical articles do that -- but you cannot disagree with the facts as such. The findings stand but what a reader does with the findings will be variable.

How much influence a reading of my papers will have is unknown. Since my findings were often uncongenial to a Leftist viewpoint they will no doubt often be read and then ignored. Leftists are good at ignoring reality

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

The Feelgood versus the rational

I have set out at some length here why Leftists tend to have ego problems. They have a great need for praise and admiration. So if an opportunity comes up for a Leftist to say or do something that will win him/her congratulations for being caring (etc.), he/she will grab that opportunity. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that. The problem arises when the feelgood policy has consequences that are destructive or dangerous. What if some action that at first seems praiseworthy turns out to do a lot of harm if you take that action?

A Leftists will not normally be deterred by that. His/her need for praise will cause him to close his eyes to the bad consequences down the track and keep advocating anything that sounds good. He needs the praise too much to give up the feelgood policy

But conservatives are not like that. They are cautious and want to avoid doing anything that will hurt people. So they will point to the future harms of the feelgood policy and will oppose it because of those harms. The conservative does not allow the feelgood nature of some policy to swamp all other considerations.

And Australia is at the mmoment gripped by a debate over a policy that feels good to most people but which could do real harm if implemented: The "Voice" debate.

Leftist feel all warm and righteous at advocating a special voice in Federal parliament for Aborigines. Aborigines as a group are in a hell of a mess in many ways so "doing something" for them has great appeal. It shows how much heart you have for their problems and may lead to better treatment of them by future governments.

But conservatives know their history and are quite appalled by the prospect of racial privileges for one particular group. If the 20th century taught us anything, it taught us the evils of racial favoritism. There can be no doubt that racial preferences are simply evil and provoke disharmony.

So conservatives are against the Voice on that and other grounds. And that makes them the enemies of the Leftist feelgood policy. So what do the Left do when thretened with the loss of their feelgood policy? Do they simply concede the point and desist from advocating something that could be very harmful? No way. They like ther feelgood policy too much to abandon it.

So what do they do? In good Leftist style they resort to abuse and lies. They go "ad hominem". They cannot answer the conservative arguents so they impugn the motives of conservatives who oppose the polcy. In the oldest bit of Leftist abuse in the book, they accuse conservatives of racism. They say that it is racism that lies behind opposition to the "voice". That they are are the one who are advocating something racist seems quite lost on them.

So they pretend tat it is white supremacists who are their opposition while they are the good and noble guys. It's a sad commentary on the ego needs that drive such irrationality but it is a classic bit of Leftist argumentation.

The toon below describes the mythical world that the Left have created around the "Voice". One of the many things that the Left are sedulously ignoring is that it is not only white conservatives in opposition but many Aborigines too. Around half of Aborigines seem to be opposed to the Voice and say so. How come they oppose something that is supposed to help them?

The only way the Left have of dealing with that puzzle is by ignoring the Aborigines concerned. The toon features some well-known Aborigines who oppose the Voice and shows them as canvassing for a "No" vote


Sunday, September 17, 2023

An anachronism survives

While I am far from alone in it I appear to be one of the few still alive who had the benefit of a good classical education. That makes me an anachronism, a person from a bygone time

During my days in High school I gained a knowledge of the language and literature of three foreign languages plus ancient history and classical English literature. I entered High school at a time when a classics education was no longer compulsory but it was optionally available and I took good advantage of that opportunity

My classical education would once been have deemed incomplete without some knowedge of ancient Greek. To call a person "Greekless" was once to call them uneducated -- but to a small extent I remedied that deficiency by private study and can to this day recite two famous passages in Greek and debate the grammar involved. ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος etc

But the point of a classical education is not to know the declension of the Latin noun "mensa" but rather what goes with classical study: The introduction to assumptions and ways of thought from different times and places. It enables us to transcend our awareness of our own times and places. It "broadens" our minds, if I may be so old-fashioned as to use that phrase. It liberates us from seeing anything in our present as being inevitable or normal. It uproots assumptions

And of the three foreign languages I studied, the one I enjoy most to this day is Latin. German and Italian are more useful to me because I also like classical music and most classical music emanates from German and Italian sources. When I hear the great Bach aria "Mache dich mein Herze rein", I actually understand what the singer is saying. And when I hear the Monteverdi madrigal "Chiome d'oro" I marvel at the fact that blonde hair was admired even in Renaissance Italy -- 400 years ago.

But Latin is the language that I enjoy most for itself. I like it in part because of its succinctness. The most famous example of that is of course "veni, vidi, vinci" but a 19th century British General in the Indian wars allegedly did even better with "peccavi". And Latin is also a powerful way of putting something. "de gustibus non disputandum est" is hard to argue with.

So the point I am making is that a classical education opens doors to both enjoyment and wisdom. To have lost it is a serious deprivation. So the fact that I write from that perspective will help keep a small amount of that perspective alive and functioning for a while.

I am aware of an appearance of inconsistency in praising the classics while it is Cemiplimab that is keeping me alive but there is no opposition between the classics and science. And as someone who has had 200+ scientific papers published in the academic journals I am an embodiment of that. I even know what heteroscedasticity refers to.

And a classical education can in fact the helpful in science. Academic writing is notoriously hard to follow but a person with a background in Latin will usually be able to write English more clearly. So an academic colleague once said to me: "John, we don't always agree with you but at least we understand what you are saying"

Monday, September 11, 2023

The "extreme events" issue

The very gradual process of global warming that we have seen so far has produced no direct ill-effects that we can see.  Crops are more abundant than ever and some Pacific islands are growing rather than shrinking. So "extreme events" are the last refuge of the warmists.  Bad weather generally is routinely branded as an extreme event and is attributed to global warming without any shred of evidence for the link.

Any causal statement requires controls.  You have to show that the "caused" event would not have happened without the "cause" specified.  But that would require you to show what would have happened WITHOUT global warming -- and that is impossible.

Single events might or might not be due to some influence or other but you have no way of showing what the influence was.  It is known as the "attribution" problem and is in principle unsolvable where the event is a "one-off", a hurricane, for instance. You have to have variations in the causal condition to correlate with the alleged caused condition.  Would this hurricane have happened in the absence of global warming?  We cannot know.  We can only surmise.  And a surmise is no proof.

So the attribution of individual extreme events to global warming is LOGICALLY false.  It CANNOT be shown as be fact.   But science is at ease with hypotheses so it remains a hypothesis that COULD be true even if proving it is currently impossible.

And an hypothesis can be tested in various ways.  It is commonly tested by asking if it generates accurate predictions.  And it could be held as preliminary support for an hypothesis that the incidence of extreme events has systematically increased as the globe has warmed. Is there a correlation? So has it?  There are some claims to that effect but how well-founded are they?  Have extreme events in fact become more frequent?

A recent study has addressed that hypothesis.  They have looked at a big range of reports about extreme events and asked are such events becoming more frequent.  For each of a range or event extremes they have gathered published information about whether such events are increasing in frequency over time.  An abstract of the report concerned is given below.  It finds no evidence that any extreme event has become more frequent.  So the claimed connections are not only logically false but they are empirically false too.

The study was published 18 months ago and various climate skeptics have quoted it approvingly.  That approval has eventually got under the skin of the Warmists so they have tried to discredit the research concerned.  And their antagonism to the paper has borne fruit. The paper was "withdrawn" by its publisher, which counts as evidence that it is faulty.

But is it faulty?  A much  quoted attack on the paper in "The Guardian" lists a whole array of orthodox Warmists who say it is faulty but detailed evidence of the faults is conspicuously missing.  No detailed numbers are quoted and the issue  is entirely a matter of numbers.  The Guardian makes clear that orthodox scientists disagree with the paper but does not give chapter and verse why.  Link to The Guardian below:

Note that some of the attacks from Warmists are of the most intellectually discreditable kind:  "Ad hominem" attacks -- attacking the motives of the authors rather than the evidence they put forward

And that none of the critics quote the detailed numbers is a major scientific fault.  If a scientist disagrees with the conclusions of a particular paper  -- as I have often done -- he goes over the ground covered by the paper and shows where it went wrong.  In this case the paper at issue is a meta-analysis so the data behind it is readily available.  Its conclusions are readily tested by repeating  the meta-analysis in some more cautious way.  Nobody seems to have attempted that.  "Do better" is the obvious retort to the Warmists  but none seem even to have attempted that.

The next link takes you to an extensive discussion of whether the paper deserved withdrawal:

The abstract of the deplored paper follows:

A critical assessment of extreme events trends in times of global warming

Gianluca Alimonti et al.


This article reviews recent bibliography on time series of some extreme weather events and related response indicators in order to understand whether an increase in intensity and/or frequency is detectable. The most robust global changes in climate extremes are found in yearly values of heatwaves (number of days, maximum duration and cumulated heat), while global trends in heatwave intensity are not significant. Daily precipitation intensity and extreme precipitation frequency are stationary in the main part of the weather stations. Trend analysis of the time series of tropical cyclones show a substantial temporal invariance and the same is true for tornadoes in the USA. At the same time, the impact of warming on surface wind speed remains unclear. The analysis is then extended to some global response indicators of extreme meteorological events, namely natural disasters, floods, droughts, ecosystem productivity and yields of the four main crops (maize, rice, soybean and wheat). None of these response indicators show a clear positive trend of extreme events. In conclusion on the basis of observational data, the climate crisis that, according to many sources, we are experiencing today, is not evident yet. It would be nevertheless extremely important to define mitigation and adaptation strategies that take into account current trends.