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    Went to Z & Y in San Francisco recently. Second time. Still have to give Mala in Houston better marks. A friend who has been to both agrees. Been busy working recently. But obviously a lot is going on in science and non-science....
  • Neo-Nazis have been around for ages and I don’t think their numbers have greatly increased in this country recently (at least not yet), but their visibility certainly has.
    Part of this is certainly because Trump and his team (especially Breitbart) played around with the “Alt-Right” to solidify their White base (not because the White base is heavily “Alt-Right” but because they are an identity group and this kind of crap helped to signal that the campaign was willing to use this identity (partly because the group and the campaign are indeed moderately racist; perhaps partly as a reaction to two decades of Left wing promotion and use of smaller identity groups)). I doubt that the campaign really wanted to promote Nazi-like race ideas, but they certainly ended up doing that to some extent.
    A part is probably the Democrats and their political sympathizers thinking that highlighting this nasty group will smear Trump more than it actually promotes the Nazis (they may be wrong about that. Instead of “fringing” him, it more likely mainstreams them).
    And the last but not least part is probably the media’s tendency to focus on car wrecks, the nastier the better.
    The part I am not clear about is whether some deeper crisis of the modern liberal nation state (broadly defined, thus including most Republicans as well as Democrats) means this crap could actually be coming back.
    I realize these are just typical “musings”. Is there a more data-based and solidly argued article out there?

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  • A bit late in the day, but anyone have good suggestions/recipes for a Chinese food themed thanksgiving meal?

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  • From the Hollywood Reporter: Ringside With Steve Bannon at Trump Tower as the President-Elect's Strategist Plots "An Entirely New Political Movement" (Exclusive) 10:00 AM PST 11/18/2016 by Michael Wolff "I'm not a white nationalist, I'm a nationalist. I'm an economic nationalist," Bannon tells THR media columnist Michael Wolff as the controversial Breitbart News chief turned...
  • @Anonymous
    Cromwell's family eventually got their revenge against the royals. One of Thomas Cromwell's sisters was the great-grandmother of Oliver Cromwell.

    In any case, Cromwell’s achievements seem to have been real and lasting. My impression (and I am not a historian, so I look forward to being corrected) is that he smashed and grabbed all the monasteries and basically ended the domination of the Catholic church in England. He improved the administration, promoted the Protestant reformation in England and left England a stronger kingdom than it was when he became the dominant minister… before he was finally beheaded by his beheading-friendly king.
    Not being a supporter of Trump, I hope Bannon is not 10% as successful or as talented as Cromwell was.

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  • Listened to an interesting interview this morning with the author of a new book, The Latinos of Asia: How Filipino Americans Break the Rules of Race. There was a lot to agree with and disagree with, but it rang true in many ways for me because I have had a fair number of students with...
  • @John Massey
    I don't 'party' with anyone. And I'm sorry, but I just don't believe you, and don't take your word for anything. The Filipinos I am on very familiar terms with include highly educated people, and I have also been to the Philippines on numerous occasions. Because Filipinos almost universally speak a reasonable standard of English, and tend to be quite open and friendly, it is not difficult to engage them in fairly deep conversation.

    My overwhelming sense is that they are strongly and proudly Pinoy (or Pinay in the case of females), very nationalistic, and with a strong sense of resentment of their colonial past. At times when I have raised the subject of Spanish inheritance in the Philippines, they uniformly become defensive and evince distaste for it. Some even become quite aggressive in condemning and rejecting it. I have learned from experience not to mention it. And they obviously regard themselves as 'Asian', in whatever sense that is intended.

    This might well change for 1st, 2nd or 3rd generation Filipinos when they migrate to the USA and where they might choose to align themselves with Hispanics, for lack of another group they can ally themselves with. I don't know anything about that. I'm certain that Chinese Americans will not recognise Filipino Americans as 'same', unless they happen to be genetically and culturally Chinese.

    Your tone is elitist and deprecating. Don't bother commenting to me again unless you have something more than your own suspicions to go on.

    I shouldnt have said “party” and I apologize for that. also should not have been snarky, but the snark was not directed at you (or at Filipinos for that matter) but at the elite universities, where they will indeed learn to become Latino if they happen to pass through some of the more identity-friendly departments. I sincerely think you misunderstood me there.

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    • Replies: @John Massey
    Apology accepted.

    The Philippines has a population of more than 100 million people. What % make it to the USA and get into elite universities, would you think?

    A quirk of the Spanish occupation was that many Filipinos took Spanish names, despite having no Spanish ancestry at all. This can fool people. Evidently there are any number of identity friendly departments at elite American universities who are willing to be fooled.
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  • @John Massey
    I'm trying to get my head around this: he considered that he was qualified to be a candidate for the study because he had Asian ancestry (presumably by geography), but then was offended because he was excluded by virtue of not having NE Asian ancestry (which can also be identified by geography, if you ignore the southern Chinese diaspora), arguing that race is a 'social construct' (committing yet again the egregious offence of turning a verb into a noun). So by his argument 'Asian' is not a population substructural category, it is geographical, but any division of Asian into substructural categories is not real, and not geographical either, it is a social construction.

    I don't get it.

    Incidentally, I have a lot of contact with Filipinos, or more correctly mostly but not all Filipinas, and they would all be deeply offended by being labelled as 'Latinos'.

    “Incidentally, I have a lot of contact with Filipinos, or more correctly mostly but not all Filipinas, and they would all be deeply offended by being labelled as ‘Latinos’.”

    I suspect that depends on where/in what social circle they are located. If they are in the better universities (student OR faculty) or in the liberal media, they are almost certainly very happy to be labeled Latino (they may not have heard of it, but when and if they do, it will make sense to them).

    On the other hand, if you are partying with nurses or any other group of “ordinary Filipinos”, then yes, my sense is that they would be surprised, at least mildly offended, and certainly not delighted. This may change if they went to one of the better universities for higher education.

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    • Replies: @John Massey
    I don't 'party' with anyone. And I'm sorry, but I just don't believe you, and don't take your word for anything. The Filipinos I am on very familiar terms with include highly educated people, and I have also been to the Philippines on numerous occasions. Because Filipinos almost universally speak a reasonable standard of English, and tend to be quite open and friendly, it is not difficult to engage them in fairly deep conversation.

    My overwhelming sense is that they are strongly and proudly Pinoy (or Pinay in the case of females), very nationalistic, and with a strong sense of resentment of their colonial past. At times when I have raised the subject of Spanish inheritance in the Philippines, they uniformly become defensive and evince distaste for it. Some even become quite aggressive in condemning and rejecting it. I have learned from experience not to mention it. And they obviously regard themselves as 'Asian', in whatever sense that is intended.

    This might well change for 1st, 2nd or 3rd generation Filipinos when they migrate to the USA and where they might choose to align themselves with Hispanics, for lack of another group they can ally themselves with. I don't know anything about that. I'm certain that Chinese Americans will not recognise Filipino Americans as 'same', unless they happen to be genetically and culturally Chinese.

    Your tone is elitist and deprecating. Don't bother commenting to me again unless you have something more than your own suspicions to go on.
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  • One of the first things I wrote on the internet related to Indonesian Islam, and what we could expect in the future. This was before Gene Expression, and I don't have archives of that blog. There are many issues where my views have changed over the past fifteen years, but that is a piece of...
  • @Talha
    Also fictitious and malicious underhanded attempts to use blasphemy laws to harm non-Muslim minorities are deplorable. Those laws are there to be used in instances of true public blasphemy and not to score political points otherwise they will be seen as a joke and not the serious charge that they are.

    Peace.

    “Those laws are there to be used in instances of true public blasphemy and not to score political points otherwise they will be seen as a joke and not the serious charge that they are.”

    LOL
    Seriously, you are mixing up your academic ideals and what happens (and has always happened) in real violence among real people. I do not doubt that a few extremely educated Islamist intellectuals do believe your version to be the ideal. But any claim that this ideal was also the practice (in the past or today) is, I am sorry to say, laughable.
    See more here http://brownpundits.blogspot.com/2015/01/blasphemy-in-pakistan.html?spref=tw

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    • Replies: @Talha
    Hey OA50,

    I share many of your same concerns about the sanguinary mentality of modern-day Muslims and Islamists.

    (and has always happened) (in the past or today)
     
    This seems a bit absolutist. 'Islamist' is a fairly contemporary or recent historical phenomenon. If you are referring to their historical record then I would largely agree. Oliver Roy has already written many searing jabs at its contradictions and other issues:
    http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674291416&content=reviews

    However to project the systemic failures or ignorant mob mentality, endemic in post-colonial Pakistan, to Muslims and Islam throughout history - um - lacks nuance and historical backing.

    Peace.
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  • I'm reading Unfinished Empire: The Global Expansion of Britain. Not as well paced as his previous After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000, but pretty good nonetheless. Politics exhausts me. This is an exhausting time for me mentally as I'm overwhelmed by the din of political chatter and fixation. I'm very excited...
  • @Sean
    I doubt you will find new information in them but intriguing interpretations are found in the very brief discussion contained in Chomsky's Year 501, and Harman's Imaterialism

    Holland and Britain were the rogue states of their day, both looted the Hapsburgs. Sir Walter Raleigh's piracy and the Dutch seizure of the Santa Catarina got them off to a flying start. They needed to outmatch the power of the Hapsbug's vast realm to survive as Jan Pieterszoon Coen's proposal for unlimited expansion of the VoC explicitly said. The VoC was successful but Dutch commercial organisation was no match for the British once they used state power (via Navigation acts) to build a global naval supremacy that smashed all monopolies, except their own.

    The Darien scheme was a laughably inept attempt at empire, but revealing as to the motives for it. Like the successful empires of the British and Dutch it aimed at national survival against a vastly more powerful neighboring rival.

    I don’t see why the British or the Dutch were any more “rogue” than the Spanish or the French (or the Ottomans for that matter). I know there is broad and deep support for such characterization among all sorts of people (from Leftists and liberals trying to feel good to all non-British and non-Dutch Europeans trying to feel good?) but I don’t find this idea very convincing… not because the British were not “rogues” but because who was not?

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  • Would You Want To Know The Secrets Hidden In Your Baby's Genes? Turns out most people don't. The article profiles the BabySeq Project, and the offer of whole exome sequencing (exomes are the parts of the genome which code for proteins). In some ways, the results were discouraging: So that leaves 6 percent. That's not...
  • “Probably the bigger issue is that people need to not overreact. A lot of loss-of-function mutations turn out to be innocuous in many people.”
    a
    THIS needs to be emphasized again and again. As we do more whole genome and exome sequencing, we are finding more and more people who have known “pathogenic” mutations, but no obvious pathology. We still have a lot to learn about all the ways in which a mutation can be compensated for by other mechanisms (some of which are surely completely unknown to us at this time; i.e. not only do we not know why mutation x is not causing disease in this person, we may not even know the general mechanism that is being used to prevent or suppress pathogenicity).

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  • I'm reading Unfinished Empire: The Global Expansion of Britain. Not as well paced as his previous After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000, but pretty good nonetheless. Politics exhausts me. This is an exhausting time for me mentally as I'm overwhelmed by the din of political chatter and fixation. I'm very excited...
  • Related to the British empire theme, I liked “The East India Company: The World’s Most Powerful Corporation” by Tirthankar Roy and Gurcharan Das. It is a business-school grads history of the EIC, and pays little or no attention to standard Indian nationalist (or British Left-revisionist) talking points about the company. On the other hand, I have not read any of the standard histories of the EIC and have had the thought that there are better histories out there. Any recommendations (for books about the history of the EIC)?

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    • Replies: @Sean
    I doubt you will find new information in them but intriguing interpretations are found in the very brief discussion contained in Chomsky's Year 501, and Harman's Imaterialism

    Holland and Britain were the rogue states of their day, both looted the Hapsburgs. Sir Walter Raleigh's piracy and the Dutch seizure of the Santa Catarina got them off to a flying start. They needed to outmatch the power of the Hapsbug's vast realm to survive as Jan Pieterszoon Coen's proposal for unlimited expansion of the VoC explicitly said. The VoC was successful but Dutch commercial organisation was no match for the British once they used state power (via Navigation acts) to build a global naval supremacy that smashed all monopolies, except their own.

    The Darien scheme was a laughably inept attempt at empire, but revealing as to the motives for it. Like the successful empires of the British and Dutch it aimed at national survival against a vastly more powerful neighboring rival.

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  • Since we're on the topic of religion, I thought I would make a book recommendation. If there is one book I would read on the Reformation if there was one book, it is Diarmaid MacCulloch's The Reformation. I read this magisterial work in 2004 over a week and it has stuck with me in a...
  • @j mct
    Here is another Telegraph article about the English Reformation like that.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/9350681/The-story-of-the-Reformation-needs-reforming.html

    I am not sure what one might call questioning the usual English narrative about the English Reformation, Jacobite?, but I always thought that if it were questioned, the Telegraph doing it would be surprising, but I guess I do not know enough about English society as in what type reads the Telegraph.

    Not to say that the English story of its Reformation is in any way, shape or form true, it’s hogwash, but it’s a specific and meticulously crafted bit of hogwash.

    England in 1509 was not a nation state, though the idea of a nation state, or that the subjects of the English crown might have be a tribe or a nation based on being subjects of the English crown, rather than something else was an idea floating around England, and Europe in general at the time. In Syria right now, there is no Syrian nation, if anyone who lives there has any tribal feeling that goes beyond family and neighbors, it’s based on religion, as in being a Shiite or a sunni or an alawite, and political borders are irrelevant to its existence or its particulars. England in 1509 was the same way, if any of the newly crowned Henry VIII subjects felt any tribal feeling beyond the local, it was to Christendom, not to England, and the man who it might be directed at was the Pope, not the King. No one would have found ‘England expects every man to do his duty’ to be stirring in 1509, though some might have found ‘Christendom expects every man to do his duty’, stirring in the proper context as in who the enemy was. By 1805, that had changed quite a bit, at least in the upper classes.

    The English nation, or tribal feeling among the subjects of the English crown based on being subjects of the English crown, didn’t arise in any sort of unplanned fashion, it was the result of a sustained long term deliberately planned policy of the English govt, there was nothing at all spontaneous or unplanned about it. Just like the French, the Germans, the Italians (not done as well as the others). The Dutch are the exception, they were the first European nation state, from 1625 or 1650 or so, and they arose in an unplanned fashion, unlike the others. The problem with this factually correct story is that tribal feeling being the sort of thing that it is, this story is a problem. A much better story would be that the English tribe began sometime before history, like the 700’s, and you, John Smith of Lancashire, are a proud Englishman as was your father and his fathers before that going back to time immemoriam or the reign of the Great Alfred, so even if this story is completely fictional, if a govt official wants to create English tribal feeling, what does he have taught in school? It was also quite successful too, there definitely was an English tribe in 1750, and at least in Hume’s History of England, published around then, this is the story Hume tells, this story and the nation part of the English nation state are quite intertwined. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t even slightly true, that is not the point, it was designed to help create tribal feeling and it worked, and believing in it, even if wrong, was part of being a good member of the English tribe.

    I recently read Robert Tomb’s “The English” and he would vigorously disagree with this characterization. He makes the argument that England had a sense of being one country before any of the other nation states in Europe. Like most things in history, this is arguable, but he did seem to have a good argument.

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  • @ohwilleke
    A question I've repeatedly pondered at length is "why the Islamic world doesn't seem to have had the equivalent of a Reformation yet?" and whether it will ever do so.

    I can't say that I've ever answered the question satisfactorily.

    Perhaps a better question would be: why did the development of philosophical and scientific thought in the core Islamicate region get stuck/fall behind/remains bankrupt?
    After all, the Eastern Mediterranean, Persia, even Central Asia, were as developed a civilization (or more developed at times?) than Western Europe, but they have decayed and stagnated. Why?
    This way of posing the question would make the reformation just one facet of a general development of arts and sciences that characterized Western Europe from, say, 1200 AD onwards. Why wasnt there a parallel and equivalent development in the great gunpowder empires of the Islamicate world?
    (there wasnt in India either, but India was colonized by the Islamicate empires, so that just counts as “Islamicate stagnation”.. The Hindus can (and do) blame their Turko-Afghan conquerors for the rot. China fell behind in relative terms, but seems to have recovered momentum. Japan caught up. What happened to the Islamicate region? Out of the great centers of ancient civilization, they seem to be the ones most bankrupt today)
    Something on these lines would avoid making theology the central issue.
    Unless you think theology IS the central issue?

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    • Replies: @Yudi
    I've asked this question before and tried to find books on the topic, but haven't found much of answer so far. I'd like to hear of some good reads about the decline of the Islamic world that are relatively ideology-free.
    , @rec1man
    http://www.mercurynews.com/2016/09/14/national-merit-semifinalists-announced/

    Has the 2017 , California National Merit List ;

    Total 2100

    850 Chinese
    100 Korean
    75 Vietnamese
    25 Japanese

    125 Jews

    55 Muslims

    275 Hindus ( of which 125 Brahmin and 20 Jains and 18 Khatri and 55 Dravidian )
    ( and 3 Jat Sikhs and 4 Patels )

    Islam bans free thinking and is like puttin blinders on a horse - whereas Science can induce disbelief as real data conflict with theology
    , @BB753
    "Perhaps a better question would be: why did the development of philosophical and scientific thought in the core Islamicate region get stuck/fall behind/remains bankrupt?"

    Lower IQ. They didn't have enough brains to make it to the industrial revolution.
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  • At a readers' suggestion I got Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault. Unlike The Dialectical Imagination this is not necessarily a detached academic book. Rather, the author has a definite perspective. About 20 years ago I read George H. Smith's Atheism: The Case Against God, and there are a lot of similarities...
  • @Commentator
    @Seth Largo

    Foucault's whole body of work was directed at the social sciences/humanities, he never touched on the natural sciences.

    Anyway, this kind of work doesn't aim at "critique", which may suggest, to some lay readers, a sort of antagonistic assessment (not everyone is familiar with Kant). Rather, "analysis" is what this is all about, that term paints a more accurate picture, for the philosophically uninitiated.

    Interestingly, for many people who consider themselves "Post-Modernist", Thomas Kuhn's work is considered essential (with regard to the "hard" sciences), even though he was operating in the analytical tradition.

    That says a lot. Objectively speaking, the Continental tradition has not yielded any significant radical critique of scientific knowledge. This is territory occupied by analytic thinkers, like Paul Feyerabend, and in an indirect way, even Ludwig Wittgenstein.

    For example, the very radical "strong programme" in the sociology of science had nothing to do with Post-Modernism, it was based in the analytic tradition. If you are looking for something that problematizes hard scientific work, that is the sort of theoretical framework you are need, not Derrida and Foucault.

    In addition, some thinkers who tend to be occasionally pigeonholed as Post-Modernist were rather interested in the hard sciences and mathematics.

    For example, Gilles Deleuze was in no way a "conventional" thinker, his work is some pretty counter-intuitive/unusual stuff, and he belonged to the same generation as Foucault/Derrida, so he tends to be mentioned alongside them. Yet, he was an ontological realist, had a deep interest in constructing an ontological/metaphysical system, integrated calculus concepts into his work/had a deep familiarity with mathematics, based his conception of reality on what is now known as "chaos theory", took advantage of thermodynamic physics, and had a deep interest in the philosophical implications of developmental biology (not to mention genetics, and information theory).

    The only attack on science which was vaguely affiliated with Post-Modernism came from Martin Heidegger (anyway, he was a phenomenologist/existentialist, not a Post-Modernist), and his problem was more with the technological implications of science, its affect on how we think. Also, he was very much on the far Right. Politically speaking, conservative would be an understatement to describe his leanings, so the whole "lefty postmodernists hate science" is just a "meme" (God, I hate Dawkins for coming up with that notion, such a useless concept) people like to throw around, without having read any of the primary sources, or even the better secondary sources (I'm directing this at omarali50). This: "Perhaps the issue is not with “postmodernism” but with my particular encounter with progressive friends and family and their sampling of postmodern memes", sums things up rather nicely.

    Personally, my philosophical interests lie elsewhere. I don't identify with the Hegelian shadow that covers everything in Post-Modernism. I prefer weirder philosophers, thinkers who can't be shoved into either the "analytic" or "continental" labels. For example, I love reading Alfred North Whitehead, and Henri-Louis Bergson. The American pragmatists are also a long abiding interest of mine. So, I don't have a dog in this fight. I don't defend the actual Post-Modernist thinkers because I have philosophical sympathies with them. Rather, I'm just tired of people who don't really know what they are talking about, people who create fictive opponents with fictive arguments and fictive viewpoints, and then beat those fictive opponents with pointless counterclaims.

    Everyone can benefit from studying philosophy, and from studying theoretical work in the sciences inspired by philosophy (there is theoretical work in the sciences inspired by philosophy, especially in physics and the social sciences), so just read everything. If you look at this stuff in depth, misunderstandings won't be a problem. That's all.

    Just to make it clear, I was not thinking of attacks on science, but of the fact that “postmodernism” (at least once it filters down to middle brow people, or even middling professors for that matter) seems to be associated with “anti-establishment” and vaguely left wing positions. And that the people using those scattered memes (i agree that they have rarely read much more than I have, i.e. very little) seem to have no self-awareness at all. The “tools” they deploy against the “dominant narrative” are never deployed against their own narrative, which seem to be a problem.
    I can see that a few people do read the original sources and do so very carefully and engage with those arguments in very sophisticated ways. All of that seems to have very little impact on society at large, one way or another, but I am open to being convinced otherwise. It is possible that I just cannot see what I do not know…

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    • Replies: @Commentator
    Honestly, I see where you're coming from. I guess most intellectual work is subjected to this sort of mutation/transformation, once it filters down to people who don't really intensively think about/read this sort of material.

    Personally, when it comes to political philosophy, I am a skeptic, via some strands I find in Nietzsche. Basically, in a secular context, I really don't think its truly possible to achieve a pragmatically effective normative consensus about political legitimacy, or at least one which is untainted by the machinations of state power itself.

    I find that deeply unsettling. In addition, reading the "political realism" literature, not to mention good old Machiavelli, has given me a very bleak perspective on political questions, in general. Hell, one doesn't even need that sort of intellectual heft to arrive at a rather fucked up conception of how society/politics/economics intersect. One simply has to open one's eyes, and observe.

    On top of that, I've read my fair share of Carl Schmitt, and Leo Strauss, so I understand the intellectual foundations of the far Right.

    Despite all of this though, I am a Leftist when stuff gets "real", and I like Marx (don't agree with him, not a traditional communist, but I do enjoy reading him, and I would like more socialism in the USA). So, I don't mind the viewpoints of my self-absorbed, unaware, and often annoying friends (all students), I usually share their take on practical questions of policy. But I don't like the way they lack understanding of what they speak, and their close-mindedness.

    Basically, I get what you're saying, even though we probably don't share the same views on concrete political questions.

    (Sidenote: sorry for the consecutive postings)
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  • @Seth Largo
    Your reference to Plato tells me that we're each talking about a very different context. When I said that postmodernists rarely turn their critique against themselves or the humanities, I meant the humanities as they exist today. If by "humanities" you mean everything and anything going back even before Cicero's humanitas, then yes, obviously, postmodernists turn their critique against "the humanities."

    Turning it against themselves is the crux of the problem. Most postmodernists (however defined, I don’t think the details matter for this purpose) appear to have “leftish” political views. This means they are quick to point out how all “oppressive institutions” and historical narratives are built on sand, but are rarely, or never, equally critical of narratives from “their own side”. The standards applied to their opponents cannot be met by their favored ideologies and political movements, but they are usually not subjected to the same examination.
    I have to use so some scare quotes in the above paragraph because none of these terms is rigorously defined or uncontested (and no generalization will apply to every postmodernist), but I think it can be shown that as a political weapon, postmodernist thought is almost always pressed into service against “Right wing” enemies, not against “Left wing” friends. That is fine, but it does seem that the choice is based on fashion, associations, historical accidents and other factors, not on some sort of rigorous application of postmodern insights to history (if there could be such a thing; but if not, then why any political position at all?)..
    At this level, all these thinkers appear to be destructive of civilization without being constructive of anything of lasting value.
    Then again, I guess you could cite someone like Heidegger and say he too was postmodern in some sense, but his personal choices ended up on the Right rather than the Left. Perhaps the issue is not with “postmodernism” but with my particular encounter with progressive friends and family and their sampling of postmodern memes.
    I hope someone else will comment and add value to my comment :)

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    • Replies: @Seth Largo
    Yes, I think you're broadly correct. Many "anti-foundationalist" folks (to use a less loaded term than post-modernist) become Platonists or empiricists when they start talking about, e.g., climate change or homosexuality. In both cases, it's the right wing who take a post-modern turn. Read the climate-skeptics; they're essentially undertaking a "sanctioned knowledge as institutional power" analysis.

    Not that such analyses are wrong per se. Knowledge is absolutely bound up with power, bias, and all the rest of it. I think the difference is between those who think it's just power and bias all the way down and those who think that---with a lot of effort and self-correcting methodical mechanisms---there yet remains real knowledge down there somewhere.
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  • The above talk is from Alice Dreger, author of Galileo's Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and One Scholar's Search for Justice. I don't know Dreger personally, but she seems like a brave and courageous person. In the broadest strokes there's very little where we disagree. Yes, our politics, and many of our specific beliefs, diverge, but...
  • @iffen
    Razib is going undercover. He's going in so that he will be in place to help those of us on the outside. Right Razib? Right?

    There is no need to go undercover. The secret protects itself. It can only be understood by those capable of understanding it. It can hide in plain sight.
    Or at least, that is what my sufi master used to say :)

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    • Replies: @Yudi
    For example, I've come to believe that the argument "even if we're not all the same, fairness and decency dictate that we treat all people as well as possible," which has appeared in Joe Henrich's book and elsewhere, is a tell. It's both good in and of itself and indicates that the speaker is at least cautiously accepting of some HBD ideas.
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  • @Razib Khan
    it'll be incommensurable ghettos. in fields without direct impact outside of science one can make up stuff without consequence. all that restricts us is decency, conscience, and a genuine love of the truth. what if you have none of these? even in statistical science you can row up the river for decades.

    My thought is that many (maybe even most) people do in fact have some decency, conscience and genuine love of truth. It is easy to be trapped within a ridiculously false framework if that is the dominant mode of thought and nobody is saying otherwise (see someone like Peter Abelard, clearly a lover of truth and knowledge, blessed with a high IQ and the motivation and discipline to study and write, yet for all his originality and intelligence, what comes out is still Catholic Christian theology), but it is impossible to imagine a future where all this postcolonial crap is as overwhelmingly dominant and unchallenged as Catholicism was in 12th century Europe. Even within academia, it is by no means the only story out there. It is not society that will entirely succumb to this crap, it is small islands of nonsense within society.
    On the other hand, the damage will not be trivial. A critical mass of such memes exists and they will no doubt circulate well beyond the swamps of critical studies and postmodern nonsense generators in liberal academia. Shit happens. But shit may not prevail.
    Or at least, I hope that is the case.

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  • There are twists and turns, but we do approach the truth, even if slowly and tortuously. I think you are too pessimistic. This is the great age of direct-to-home knowledge dissemination. No Kommissariat will be able to sell snake oil forever.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    it'll be incommensurable ghettos. in fields without direct impact outside of science one can make up stuff without consequence. all that restricts us is decency, conscience, and a genuine love of the truth. what if you have none of these? even in statistical science you can row up the river for decades.
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  • So I don't really have strong opinions on the whole controversy over women's sports at the elite level...mostly because I have a really hard time following all the logic. For me the biggest problem seems to be that we have two categories, men's and women's, and there are those who are arguing that they're actually...
  • This is an interesting conundrum. There ARE intersex individuals who are born that way, but at the same time most people are rather distinctly male or female. And males are stronger than females (and that is not just culture or training or whatever, it is due to very clear biological differences between the sexes). If Allah had decided to make the sexes COMPLETELY binary, we wouldnt be discussing this. If there was a continuous spectrum with no big poles of male and female (i.e. a bell shaped curve, with most people in the middle) we wouldnt be discussing this. But as it happens, we have a species with two rather distinct sexes, but with occasional exceptional cases in between (and a small, but apparently growing, number of cases of desire to move from one pole to the other). The intersex cases (and the artificially treated cases of sex-change) exist and complicate the discussion. Not so much in practice (yet) because natural intersex cases are rare, and most will not be runners or swimmers at olympic level in any case, but occasional athletes identified as females but with unusual levels of male hormones will come up and will cause controversies. We can probably live with that, even with no clear or consistent policy in place. But if trans-females become more common, the issue may become more real…

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  • Taking a break in my work of the day I stumbled upon the fact that Bernard Cornwell's series based on King Alfred's period, which began with The Last Kingdom, is a Netflix series. To be honest I much preferred the three volume Warlord Chronicles, set more than three centuries earlier, in post-Roman and pre-Saxon Britain....
  • @Halvorson
    A Norwegian linguist managed to draw some journalistic attention to himself a few years back by claiming that English was really a North Germanic language is disguise:

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121127094111.htm

    Everyone agrees that his fundamental point is wrong, but it is true that English word order is more like Norwegian than German or Dutch and that Norse was very effective at pushing aside many perfectly good English words. When you consider that the Danes only ever occupied half of England, and that half only briefly, the language shift seems pretty large. Had their occupation lasted for another century it seems possible that English would have evolved to into something unrecognizable to us.

    The big Viking counter-factual is of course a successful colonization of Vinland, which I am actually amazed did NOT happen. Had Leif Erickson been a little more high energy he could have easily recruited 500 or so settlers and, assuming fertility rates at the French Canadian or Puritan level, that would have been all she wrote for Indians on the Atlantic seaboard. If you imagine Earth's history as one run of the game Civilization, the Scandinavians had the best chance of anyone to win, but they blew it........

    How strong is the correlation between cultural domination and demographic success? If England had been ruled more completely and lastingly by a Viking elite, its culture would presumably have been more obviously Scandinavian than it is, but would that mean more Viking descendants spread across the globe than is the case now?
    What population groups have had the greatest demographic success in the last 2000 years? Is there a good essay or book out there on this topic?
    Just curious.

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    • Replies: @Halvorson
    The genetic evidence that Razib has linked to in the past suggests that there were never all that many Scandinavians living in Britain in the 10th/11th centuries. Even if they had all been brutal Conan the Barbarian types who took multiple wives they would have not left all that many descendants.

    I'm not an expert on the demographic history of the world, but as just one example compare the demographics of France against Britain in the last 500 years. In 1500, there were about 3 million people in England, Wales, and Scotland combined. At the same time, there were about 20 million people living in France. Now that in and of itself is amazing because those countries have roughly equal populations today, but the actual difference in fertility is much larger because of the enormous English diaspora.

    It's tough to find exact numbers here, so I'll assume conservatively that Americans are only about 20 percent British, and the Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders about half. Adding these numbers up I get a total diaspora size of about 100 million. When you add that to the number of white British today you get a lower bound estimate of about 150 million British people, or a 50 fold increase in just 500 years. In the same span of time the French have only increased in numbers 3-4 fold. Partly, this is because they weren't as good at empire building as Britain, but also because for mysterious reasons they just stopped making babies.

    The world belongs to those who show up.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • The Great Ordeal, the third book in R. Scott Bakker's Aspect Emperor series is going to come out in nine days. Bakker is apparently working on revisions to the fourth book, The Unholy Consult. So this series will complete (apparently Bakker's original vision was for three related sequential series, so this would be the second...
  • @Razib Khan
    well, in the generality he's on to something, but why is he always wrong on the details?

    1. Bangladesh is a multicultural state, where some 9 percent of the population is Hindu. The birthdays of Buddha and Krishna are official holidays. Radical Sunni Muslims, like the US Ku Klux Klan, are about a single ethnicity being exalted above all the others in a society.

    it's not multicultural, it has one very dominant culture, that of bengalis. there are differences btwn hindus and muslims, large ones at that, but bengalis are clearly one culture. the national poets of bangladesh are a hindu from east bengal, tagore, and nazrul islam, a muslim from west bengal (now in india). that culture is multireligious, but that is different from multicultural. ethnic minorities like chakmas and garos and biharis have to deal with this dominant culture. e.g., the chakmas in bangladesh generally speak their own dialect of bengali, the tibeto-burman language they originally spoke.

    the bangladesh identity has always had tensions between its dominant islamic religious ethos, and its pan-religious identity, which has roots outside of islam. this was evident before partition, when bengali muslims were solid backers of the muslim league, and after partition, when within united pakistan bengali muslims were marginalized and began to emphasize their ethno-linguistic identity in the face of west pakistani religious and racial prejudice.

    the international salafi streams are obviously new, but they are injecting themselves into this tension at the heart of bangladeshi society (many devout bengali muslims supported pakistan in the 71 war, while the large hindu minority threw themselves behind mujib's rebellion en masse, seeing in secular socialist bengali nationalism a way to full integrate into the society).

    2. Among the Muslim majority, large numbers of the Muslims are Sufi mystics. Bangladeshi Sufism had tended to be tolerant and universalist. Many Hindus frequent shrines of Sufi saints. Radical Sunni Muslims want to destroy Sufism and to herd Muslims into the hard line ‘protestant’ Salafi trend.


    this is misleading. many of the sufis in bangladesh are quite orthodox. i would know, i am descended on the maternal side from a sufi lineage, and on the paternal side i am from conventional hanafi ulema. they're not like salafis, but they are not mystical new agey types either.

    there is an element of syncretism, though that's more the baul culture, not the sufis.

    one thing to note is that the 'bengali' cultural revival in the past few centuries was driven by hindu upper classes. the elites in bengal of the muslim religion tended to speak urdu and identified with a pan-indian muslim identity. the emergency of a bengali speaking middle class of muslim religion challenged both this urdu elite and the hindu upper classes. this identity is what's often at tension with muslim radicals, who want to flatten bengali identity and replace it with something more 'muslim.' bengali muslims share not only a language, but a script, with hindus.

    3. Large numbers of Bangladeshis are secular-minded. There is a significant Communist Party and the secular nationalist Awami League controls the national government. Indeed, it could be argued that of all South Asian countries, Bangladesh has the most secular government now that the fundamentalist BJP is ruling India.


    this is right, though not a majority. but enough to scare radical muslims. OTOH, how can cole forget that the PM of nepal is a marxist??? again, he fucks up details. isn't this sort of stuff his speciality? i'm just a dilettante geneticist.

    4. Bangladeshi nationalism is grounded in national identity rather than fundamentalist religion. Bangladesh was forged in the crucible of 1971, when Bengali Muslims there signaled that they were disillusioned with the Pakistan project and would seek their own Bengali nationalism rather than subsume it under a South Asian Muslim identity. Radical Muslims hate ethnic nationalism and want to make fundamentalist Muslim universalism the keystone of identity.


    pretty much right.

    5. The Bangladeshi government has been prosecuting Muslim fundamentalists who have committed violent crimes in the past, even executing two former leaders of the fundamentalist Jama’at-i islami. Hard line fundamentalists think they are above the law and insist that violence committed in the name of religion is licit. The radicals are thus ‘haunting’ the Federal government.


    yes. a large % of the population is sympathetic to violence against atheists, gays, and to some extent hindus. but this % of the population probably is scared that attacks on foreigners will destroy the economy.

    Just a tangential comment:

    Cole’s statement: “Indeed, it could be argued that of all South Asian countries, Bangladesh has the most secular government now that the fundamentalist BJP is ruling India. ”

    This is a bit hyperbolic… Modi is a Hindu nationalist and who knows, if he had his way unhampered by the Indian constitution and the realities of Indian politics, maybe he would do X (but then again, who knows what Hasina or Nawaz Sharif would do if unhampered by reality), but in terms of what he preaches AND what he has practiced to date, he is at least as “secular” as the secular Awami League; and his country and constitution are definitely more secular/multicultural than Bangladesh is. Since Juan Cole is something of a “Muslim-ally” (in the sense in which people can be “allies” of this or that intersectional feminist movement or race-based liberation ideology, etc), he automatically takes the default position of mainstream Muslim spokesmen (which in the case of Modi, also happens to be the default position of the Indian liberal-Left, which is where most American academics are likely to have contacts and friends, so that helps too), but this position obscures the fact that “mainstream secular” in a Muslim country (even in a relatively liberal one like BD) is still well to the “Right” of what “secular” means in Western parlance.
    This is not to deny the overall point. Bangladesh IS a relatively liberal Muslim country and COULD BE on its way to becoming more liberal, which is why Islamists are so determined to do what they can to stop this, but Juan Cole mixes up good observations with careless and/or apologist memes too frequently to be a good guide to what is happening and what is coming…

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    • Replies: @Vijay
    And, add to the fact that Bangladesh derives off a Bengali liberal tradition that itself has its roots in British colonization of 1850-1900, it is unclear why BD is chosen as an exemplar secular state. If anything, I do not understand what secularism means within an Islamic concept. Can one say anything about Islam within an Islamic polity? The atheist and Hindu bloggers are realizing the limits of secularism within an Islamic polity.

    I wish to point out another strain in Bangla politics; for 40 years, it essentially encompasses the "mourning" of two widows who have been unable to work with each other in any meaningful way, and they have taken the "personal" into the political. As such, they are jockeying for 40-45% votebank politics, and in this milieu, a very small minority can easily seize the dialog pointing out that this is not what will move BD forward. If anything, Khaleda or Hasina have no interest in arguing against that minority, and the minority would be happy to get rid of both. I am not even sure that Khaleda or Hasina realize that they are being slowly sunk under by a small hole in their boats.

    The summary of this longwinded diatribe is that the "secularist" nature of BD owes more to Bengali "plain living and high thinking" nature (I don't think that this is true), and less to BD politics. However, it is reaching the logical limit of conflict between a "secular" polity and the religion. For that matter, I do not think that BD is secular, it is simply a muslim country with a 10% Hindu population. If women or atheists take on more power, then the underlying ethos will result in a severe backlash.
    , @Razib Khan
    agreed.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • I have been very busy obviously. This is not a complaint, though I wish I could spend more time with my family. I do things professionally that I love. And, I'm well compensated for it. Many people are not in a similar situation. I don't have a major comment on the recent British vote aside...
  • @omarali50
    Well, they tell of a people obsessed with great warriors, with "beauteous horses and of kine, In thousands", with lots of soma drinking and fort-breaking.. who hoped to win " wealth, renowned and ample, in brave sons, troops of slaves, far-famed for horses". They also had priests who wanted the warriors to be generous with gifts (including mead). And they gambled, and got into trouble because of it:

    "1. SPRUNG from tall trees on windy heights, these rollers transport me as they turn upon the table.
    Dearer to me the die that never slumbers than the deep draught of Mujavan's own Soma.
    2 She never vexed me nor was angry with me, but to my friends and me was ever gracious.
    For the die's sake, whose single point is final, mine own devoted wife I alienated.
    3 My wife holds me aloof, her mother hates me: the wretched man finds none to give him comfort.
    As of a costly horse grown old and feeble, I find not any profit of the gamester.
    4 Others caress the wife of him whose riches the die hath coveted, that rapid courser:
    Of him speak father, mother, brothers saying, We know him not: bind him and take him with you.
    5 When I resolve to play with these no longer, my friends depart from me and leave me lonely.
    When the brown dice, thrown on the board, have rattled, like a fond girl I seek the place of meeting.
    6 The gamester seeks the gambling-house, and wonders, his body all afire, Shall I be lucky?
    Still do the dice extend his eager longing, staking his gains against his adversary.
    7 Dice, verily, are armed with goads and driving-hooks, deceiving and tormenting, causing grievous woe.
    They give frail gifts and then destroy the man who wins, thickly anointed with the player's fairest good.
    8 Merrily sports their troop, the three-and-fifty, like Savitar the God whose ways are faithful.
    They bend not even to the mighty's anger: the King himself pays homage and reveres them.
    9 Downward they roll, and then spring quickly upward, and, handless, force the man with hands to serve them.
    Cast on the board, like lumps of magic charcoal, though cold themselves they burn the heart to ashes.
    10 The gambler's wife is left forlorn and wretched: the mother mourns the son who wanders homeless.
    In constant fear, in debt, and seeking riches, he goes by night unto the home of others.
    11 Sad is the gambler when he sees a matron, another's wife, and his well-ordered dwelling.
    He yokes the brown steeds in the early morning, and when the fire is cold sinks down an outcast.
    12 To the great captain of your mighty army, who hath become the host's imperial leader,
    To him I show my ten extended fingers: I speak the truth. No wealth am I withholding.
    13 Play not with dice: no, cultivate thy corn-land. Enjoy the gain, and deem that wealth sufficient.
    There are thy cattle there thy wife, O gambler. So this good Savitar himself hath told me.
    14 Make me your friend: show us some little mercy. Assail us not with your terrific fierceness.
    Appeased be your malignity and anger, and let the brown dice snare some other captive."


    I am also told (though I don't know enough to be able to check) that there are names of rivers and astronomical observations and names of animals and plants that may point to where the composers were warring and drinking soma. And so on and so forth...with a little imagination you can imagine an HBO series coming :)

    Though I will be the first to admit that instead of reading the repetitive hymns, I would prefer to read a book by someone who has collected all these bits of information and explained them..or maybe someone who has written a fantasy book series about those people.

    I was not thinking of any special philosophical insights, though I guess someone like Christopher Beckwith (the guy who writes about central Asia) would say this IS a philosophy, even an attractive one.

    To all of which an insider/believer can add his own list of “what use is it”. These are, after all, hymns that are meant to be recited. Their very sound is supposed to have quasi-magical properties. Their addressees are higher beings who can bestow favors or withdraw them. This level of usefulness is obviously meaningless to a modern secular person, but even a modern secularized Hindu may feel the recitation creates a psychological connection to his or her people and their traditions and community values. .. and so on. Just like reciting the Quran and hearing it being recited provides some psychosocial connection/rootedness/whatever to a Muslim and even more (magical or placebo) benefits to the true believer.
    All of which is not without consequences.

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    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Vijay
    The Griffith text that Razib mentioned is at:
    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/rigveda/

    That site also has Max Mueller version, but that one is incomprehensible because Herr Mueller spends incredible amounts of time comparing translations.

    You can read and see if it provides any insight into Indo-European. I contend that it does not, and appears to be fanciful verses.

    Well, they tell of a people obsessed with great warriors, with “beauteous horses and of kine, In thousands”, with lots of soma drinking and fort-breaking.. who hoped to win ” wealth, renowned and ample, in brave sons, troops of slaves, far-famed for horses”. They also had priests who wanted the warriors to be generous with gifts (including mead). And they gambled, and got into trouble because of it:

    “1. SPRUNG from tall trees on windy heights, these rollers transport me as they turn upon the table.
    Dearer to me the die that never slumbers than the deep draught of Mujavan’s own Soma.
    2 She never vexed me nor was angry with me, but to my friends and me was ever gracious.
    For the die’s sake, whose single point is final, mine own devoted wife I alienated.
    3 My wife holds me aloof, her mother hates me: the wretched man finds none to give him comfort.
    As of a costly horse grown old and feeble, I find not any profit of the gamester.
    4 Others caress the wife of him whose riches the die hath coveted, that rapid courser:
    Of him speak father, mother, brothers saying, We know him not: bind him and take him with you.
    5 When I resolve to play with these no longer, my friends depart from me and leave me lonely.
    When the brown dice, thrown on the board, have rattled, like a fond girl I seek the place of meeting.
    6 The gamester seeks the gambling-house, and wonders, his body all afire, Shall I be lucky?
    Still do the dice extend his eager longing, staking his gains against his adversary.
    7 Dice, verily, are armed with goads and driving-hooks, deceiving and tormenting, causing grievous woe.
    They give frail gifts and then destroy the man who wins, thickly anointed with the player’s fairest good.
    8 Merrily sports their troop, the three-and-fifty, like Savitar the God whose ways are faithful.
    They bend not even to the mighty’s anger: the King himself pays homage and reveres them.
    9 Downward they roll, and then spring quickly upward, and, handless, force the man with hands to serve them.
    Cast on the board, like lumps of magic charcoal, though cold themselves they burn the heart to ashes.
    10 The gambler’s wife is left forlorn and wretched: the mother mourns the son who wanders homeless.
    In constant fear, in debt, and seeking riches, he goes by night unto the home of others.
    11 Sad is the gambler when he sees a matron, another’s wife, and his well-ordered dwelling.
    He yokes the brown steeds in the early morning, and when the fire is cold sinks down an outcast.
    12 To the great captain of your mighty army, who hath become the host’s imperial leader,
    To him I show my ten extended fingers: I speak the truth. No wealth am I withholding.
    13 Play not with dice: no, cultivate thy corn-land. Enjoy the gain, and deem that wealth sufficient.
    There are thy cattle there thy wife, O gambler. So this good Savitar himself hath told me.
    14 Make me your friend: show us some little mercy. Assail us not with your terrific fierceness.
    Appeased be your malignity and anger, and let the brown dice snare some other captive.”

    I am also told (though I don’t know enough to be able to check) that there are names of rivers and astronomical observations and names of animals and plants that may point to where the composers were warring and drinking soma. And so on and so forth…with a little imagination you can imagine an HBO series coming :)

    Though I will be the first to admit that instead of reading the repetitive hymns, I would prefer to read a book by someone who has collected all these bits of information and explained them..or maybe someone who has written a fantasy book series about those people.

    I was not thinking of any special philosophical insights, though I guess someone like Christopher Beckwith (the guy who writes about central Asia) would say this IS a philosophy, even an attractive one.

    Read More
    • Replies: @omarali50
    To all of which an insider/believer can add his own list of "what use is it". These are, after all, hymns that are meant to be recited. Their very sound is supposed to have quasi-magical properties. Their addressees are higher beings who can bestow favors or withdraw them. This level of usefulness is obviously meaningless to a modern secular person, but even a modern secularized Hindu may feel the recitation creates a psychological connection to his or her people and their traditions and community values. .. and so on. Just like reciting the Quran and hearing it being recited provides some psychosocial connection/rootedness/whatever to a Muslim and even more (magical or placebo) benefits to the true believer.
    All of which is not without consequences.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Vijay
    "In particular, the Rig Veda seems likely to have fragments of a world that made us"

    I am curious why you think so. I think Rig veda as a puzzle with no use to understand and interpret, and I will come back to that point later.

    Joel P. Brereton, Associate Professor of Asian Studies and Religious Studies at Texas, Austin, together with Stephanie Jamison (UCLA), made a new translation of the complete Rig Veda, which was published in 2014. It's the first time in more than a hundred years that the Rig Veda has been translated to English in its entirety. It is a three volume set costing some 420$ published by OUP, and I am not sure if you can afford it since you appear to be out of academy. Other translators are Wendy Doniger, A. L. Basham, A. A. Macdonell, R. T. H. Griffith , H. H. Wilson, and Max Müller. There are subtle differences, but the Brereton translation seems to use more modern verbiage with none of the Freudian interpretive overtones.

    Getting back to the point, look at his translation of hymn CXXIX. Creation:

    "The non-existent did not exist, nor did the existent exist at that time.
    There existed neither the midspace nor the heaven beyond.
    What stirred? From where and in whose protection?
    Did water exist, a deep depth?

    Death did not exist nor deathlessness then.
    There existed no sign of night nor of day.
    That One breathed without wind through its inherent force.
    There existed nothing else beyond that."

    What does this mean? What does any of this mean?

    A Tamilian wag once said it is like an onion - once the layers peeled, there is nothing. Seinfeld is more profound.

    I would think it is worth reading, not necessarily for profound insights into reality, but because it is a window into the ancient Indo-European world that played such a huge role in the creation of the present cultures of much of Eurasia.. from Western Europe to India (and beyond). The heroic age, so to speak..

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    • Replies: @Vijay
    The Griffith text that Razib mentioned is at:
    http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/rigveda/

    That site also has Max Mueller version, but that one is incomprehensible because Herr Mueller spends incredible amounts of time comparing translations.

    You can read and see if it provides any insight into Indo-European. I contend that it does not, and appears to be fanciful verses.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • There has been extensive discussion online about the fact that the character of Ramsay Bolton on the HBO television show Game of Thrones was irredeemably psychopathic, cruel, and so ghoulishly sadistic as to be a cartoon of evil. But as a reader of the books I've generally shrugged off these complaints, because the character is...
  • @Karl Zimmerman
    I'm pretty sure that everyone shits themselves to some extent when they die, unless they have absolutely nothing in their large intestine. The combination of the final relaxation of all of your muscles and gas pressure building up within your intestines makes it inevitable.

    Actually everyone does not soil themselves when they die. But some people do. I will see if I can find an estimate somewhere, but it is certainly not anywhere close to all or even most people. On the other hand, it is certainly more common in violent, frightening deaths (so, for example, in hangings). There are some reports of people ejaculating when hung (likely, improperly hung), but that is a very rare event (which did not prevent William Burroughs from putting it in “Naked Lunch”).
    By the way, I remember reading that one of the “three feudatories” (the Chinese “war of the three feudatories”) used to feed his enemies to the dogs in the later stages of his revolt. But I don’t remember which one. Readers of this blog will undoubtedly provide details soon :)

    Read More
    • Replies: @iffen
    likely, improperly hung

    Being improperly hung does not usually prevent ejaculation. It might reduce one's opportunities for help with same.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • The show runners of Game of Thrones (the HBO television which will actually complete its run under its original creators) admitted that they patterned part of the battle in yesterday's episode on the Battle of Cannae. This was obvious to me, as I was actually thinking that the Boltons were exhibiting something similar to the...
  • @Twinkie
    The Battle of the Bastards might have been inspired by the Battle of Cannae (per the producer), but the specifics differ significantly.

    1. Defensive double-envelopment.

    The Carthaginians at the Battle of Cannae set a trap for the Romans by using a defensive double-envelopment based on inducing a charge at the center by the Romans and employing a controlled retreat by their own center (made up of Iberian and Gallic warriors) while the elite African (Carthaginian/Libyan) troops held the anchors at the flanks. In the Game of Thrones battle, the Boltons used an offensive pincer movement by their spearmen to surround the already battered stark forces.

    In fact, the night before the battle, Jon Snow planned something like Cannae - he wanted to secure the flanks with trenches and then induce the Bolton forces to push his own forces back at the center, falling into his planned defensive double envelopment. Sansa pointed out, of course, that Ramsay was not stupid enough to fall for this, and he didn't.

    2. Cavalry at flanks

    In real life, ancient/medieval battle formations typically arrayed missile troops (javelin throwers, slingers, and archers) at the front, heavy infantry at the center, and cavalry at the flanks (the missile troops would retreat behind the heavy infantry before the main formations clashed).

    At the Battle of Cannae, Hannibal deployed the famed Numidian light cavalry on his right flank to hold off the heavier armed Roman allied cavalry while he utilized the heavier armed Iberian and Gallic cavalry to defeat the weaker Roman citizen cavalry on his left flank. Once the Roman citizen cavalry was driven off, the Iberian/Gallic cavalry maneuvered behind the Roman lines and slammed into the rear of the Italian allied cavalry that had been pinned by the Numidians. The Italian allied cavalry broke and was chased off the field by the Numidians while the Iberian/Gallic cavalry then hit the rear of the main Roman forces, completing the encirclement.

    In the Battle of the Bastards, the two cavalry forces clashed at the center in the beginning, a most unlikely situation in real life. And contrary to the cinematic depictions of cavalry clashes, in real life, such forces never crashed into each other in closed formations at high speed. Anyone who has ridden a horse would know this.

    3. Skirmishers

    In real life, skirmishers who employ missiles such as javelins, slingshots, and arrows engage in a preliminary skirmish before the main bodies of troops clash. One thing to remember about the real Battle of Cannae is that while the Romans held a numerical advantage over the Carthaginian forces, especially in heavy infantry, the latter employed an outstanding corps of missile troops - perhaps the best in the wider Mediterranean area - the famed Balearic slingers from the islands off Iberia. Superior skirmishing force could "screen" the movement of one's main body of troops from enemy view and, in turn, sow confusion and attrition amongst the enemy forces.

    In the Battle of the Bastards, the Bolton archers are used to shoot into the melee between the two cavalry forces (!) and the Stark archers decline to do the same and instead join the melee. Both are historically impossible.

    In real life, bows were rarely fired at an angle, except at the very beginning of battle perhaps, because accuracy was horrendous with that method of firing. It was a waste of precious arrows. It's especially something of a cinematic fantasy to think that archers could fire *over* friendly troops and hit the enemy forces with any degree of accuracy. We are not talking about modern artillery with trigonometry calculations here.

    What the Boltons did was unthinkable. First of all, firing into the rear of one's own cavalry meant that they were more likely to hit their own troops than those of their enemies. Second, what idiotic commander would allow his archers to fire into his own cavalry, horses and skilled mounted men being extremely expensive and precious.

    What the Stark archers did was equally inconceivable. Archers are light troops and are not armed for melee combat. They have no armor or shield (and the Stark ones didn't even seem to wear a helmet or a leather cap). At most, they would carry a dagger in addition to their bows and arrows. It would be madness to charge archers into a melee with cavalry and heavy infantry.

    4. The Phalanx

    Somewhat anachronistically, as the phalanx formation was used by the Romans, and perhaps not the Carthaginians.
     
    In their early history, the Romans used a tribally-levied phalanx of hoplites along the Etruscan pattern. By the time of the Punic Wars, they had altered their military organization (after stinging defeats in various Samnite Wars), so they no longer used an Etruscan or Greek phalanx, but that of a manipular legion: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maniple_(military_unit)

    Eventually the experiences of the Punic Wars and the subsequent demographic changes would lead to the cohort system, after the so-called Marian Reform: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cohort_(military_unit)

    The armaments and organization of the Carthaginians are in great dispute. Hannibal's Spanish infantry was probably armed with shields and "Falcata" swords. His Gallic troops were likely armed with long swords. Scholars debate whether his crack Africans (Carthaginian/Libyan) were armed in the traditional hoplite style, i.e. spearmen with shields, or some combination of the Roman manipular pattern and the Spanish Falcata infantry, i.e. shield, javelin, and short sword that would throw the javelin and then close in with the sword. In any case, recognizing the material superiority of the Roman arms, Hannibal re-armed many of his troops with the captured armaments of the defeated Romans from previous battles. So the two sides were probably armed in a pretty similar fashion.

    In any case, the Testudo ("turtle') formation seen in the Battle of the Bastards was not a typical Roman field maneuver, but a specialist formation used during sieges, but one that, for some reason, seems to capture the imagination of filmmakers. Testudo or any type of a very tight formation gives away mobility and, worse, would be highly ineffective in any but completely level terrain.

    5. Most killings after battle

    One thing I'd like to note is that battles such Cannae were extremely rare. The Romans were completely encircled by a numerically inferior force by a combination of stupidity and bad luck on their own side and by an amazing combination of genius and unusual discipline on the Carthaginian side (a disengagement/retreat under fire is harrowing enough, Hannibal managed to do this with his most untrustworthy/undisciplined troops). So the slaughter during the battle was enormously great.

    But in real life, most battles ended when the morale of one side broke despite there not being a great number of casualties from the actual clash of arms. It's when the men on one side threw down their arms and shields (these being too heavy to run away with) and turned their back and ran, that the real slaughter began. Historically, the vast majority of "combat deaths" actually occurred after main combat had ended. "Fighting to the last man" is, again, very cinematic, but rarely occurred in real life. When isolated groups of the defeated did make their stand and fought to their last man rather than surrendering, it was looked upon with great awe, precisely because such valor was rare.

    The original Stark plan was for a Hanibal style double envelopment. But Ramsey ruined the plan by having John Snow rush in for his damnfool horse ride. But earlier details and plans aside, the scene where the Stark troops are surrounded and being gradually annihalated can be said to be Cannae inspired.

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    • Replies: @Twinkie

    the scene where the Stark troops are surrounded and being gradually annihalated can be said to be Cannae inspired.
     
    Yes, I suppose the crowding scene must have resembled what the Romans and their allies experienced at Cannae, only the nightmare for the Romans must have been vastly larger in scale as the number of combatants was probably ten times or more greater than in the Battle of the Bastards.

    On the other hand, any idiot can double-envelop his numerically inferior (and already battered) enemy.* It takes genius to be able to do that to a numerically superior foe.

    One question I have is why, when the Stark forces saw the Bolton spearmen being deployed, they did not try to break out. They kinda sat and watched. The whole battle depiction, it seemed to me, was designed to generate the wow factor rather than being historically or physically accurate.

    *Traditionally in pre-modern battles, the side with the greater numbers had three ways to beat his enemy. First, he could extend his line and envelop the flank of his enemy, then "roll it down." Second, he could increase his depth (or concentration) at a certain key point (what the German call Schwerpunkt) and produce a breakthrough in the enemy's line. A variation of this was attacking in an oblique order (or "refuse a flank"): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oblique_order. Third, he could detach a portion of his army and maneuver it to the side or rear of his enemy.

    The easiest and the most obvious was the envelopment. Where the flanks were constrained by obstacles (rivers, frequently), the second option of increased concentration would be favored. The least used method was detaching a separate force. Unless the force in question was quite cavalry-heavy, speed was a concern (the battle could be over before the second force was able to maneuver around the enemy). Also, in the days when command and control beyond the eyesight/hearing was non-existent, it was dangerous to voluntarily reduce one's own forces in front of the enemy.
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  • Pregnancy has been socially gendered as feminine https://t.co/UeDvV25wIk — New Real Peer Review (@RealPeerReview) June 14, 2016 If you aren't following the New Real Peer Review, you should. Endless enjoyment. What happened to the "old" Twitter account? The Daily Caller has an article about it, Social Justice Warriors Declare Battle On Colleague For Exposing Their...
  • @Anatoly Karlin
    Most people, even (especially) the poorly educated, recognize this BS for the BS it is and would demand its defunding were they to be given the opportunity to do so.

    But such initiatives need money behind them.

    The banal reality however is that the people with money are by and large utterly disinterested in this.

    There are good reasons for that.

    Many of the big rebellions in Chinese history were led by failed exam takers. In the West, this dissatisfied intellectual caste is sequestered off into an obscurantist cult that no normal person wants to be associated with. Solution to the elite overproduction problem?

    Interestingly this exact thought came up during another debate. I am copying and pasting my comment from that thread, since it is also relevant here:
    Your argument rests on the assumption that college humanities departments have no real-world consequences at all, so it is safe to put leftists there and let them spout endless reams of pure bullshit….. But while they may not have immediate consequences, they may still have longer term consequences, no?… after all, they do set the intellectual agenda to some extent. ..it may be enough to matter. (This is my favorite theory for why a smart person like Edward Said spewed so much nonsense; he knew it was nonsense, but he was fighting a war and all is fair in love and war. He was doing nothing less than bringing down Western civilization, opera and all. The Samson option)

    On the other hand, there is always the possibility that social change happens a few years (at least) ahead of any effort to conceptualize or understand it. So if we are doomed, we are doomed. ..in this theory, it may still be possible for scattered individuals to grasp what is going on in some limited area and take advantage of foreknowledge, but even they only know a few things, not the overall picture.
    It is what it is, nobody is in control and nobody can consciously alter the big picture… Fate rules everyone.
    It is a cheery thought somehow :)

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  • @Seth Largo
    They all have "real" content, insofar as they can be translated into normal English to make a coherent argument. Typically, though, once translated into normal English, the arguments are seen to be simplistic, obvious, or open to easy counter-argument.

    In fact, the tweet above is looking at an interesting phenomenon: the lack of a desire to reproduce among a certain female demographic group. It's a phenomenon that could be studied as a social or a scientific fact for edifying ends---looking at how the scientific fact and its social expression interact would actually be pretty interesting. The problem is the intransigent adoption of critical theory to explain everything and everyone "in terms of" the most extreme blank slate social constructionist assumptions.

    Critical theorists believe that the ways humans have categorized the world have historically led to all manner of great evil. By destabilizing those categorizations, they hope to construct new categorizations informed by (white cosmopolitan) ethics rather than logical coherence, predictive value, or scientific method. In their heart of hearts, they know that phenomena exist independent of human agency, but they don't think it's worth modeling those phenomena in ways that don't further their progressive ends. Hence you get statements like "pregnancy has been socially gendered as feminine" rather than "females have babies, and men don't." The latter leaves no room for social change. The former does. (I don't agree with this line of thinking, but I do endeavor to understand it.)

    I agree. But I was thinking of papers where the “real content” is not just about the real world when translated, but which also make an argument or (heaven forbid) reaches conclusions that intelligent people may not find totally laughable (once translated into plain English). I want to encourage the “new real peer review” to be careful and stick to the absolutely incomprehensible or absolutely ridiculous papers.
    It can be done :)

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  • I have a feeling that in time “real peer review” will tweet out just enough papers that have SOME real content to them (i.e. that are not the complete nonsense they appear to be on first sight to someone who is already primed to laugh at Gayatri Spivak) to provide an opening for a well-written liberal takedown of “real peer review” that will have just enough substance to satisfy the liberal tribe…after which admiring or following “real peer review” will become just another marker of whether you are in tribe Rightwing or tribe Leftwing.
    I guess my comment is a not-so-veiled appeal to the new real peer review to please keep up standards. There is enough nonsense out there. Stick to the nonsense that is so nonsensical, anyone outside the very tiny academic-critical-theory bubble will die laughing. We NEED this to do real damage (i.e. to change minds in the middle and even on the Left).

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    • Replies: @Seth Largo
    They all have "real" content, insofar as they can be translated into normal English to make a coherent argument. Typically, though, once translated into normal English, the arguments are seen to be simplistic, obvious, or open to easy counter-argument.

    In fact, the tweet above is looking at an interesting phenomenon: the lack of a desire to reproduce among a certain female demographic group. It's a phenomenon that could be studied as a social or a scientific fact for edifying ends---looking at how the scientific fact and its social expression interact would actually be pretty interesting. The problem is the intransigent adoption of critical theory to explain everything and everyone "in terms of" the most extreme blank slate social constructionist assumptions.

    Critical theorists believe that the ways humans have categorized the world have historically led to all manner of great evil. By destabilizing those categorizations, they hope to construct new categorizations informed by (white cosmopolitan) ethics rather than logical coherence, predictive value, or scientific method. In their heart of hearts, they know that phenomena exist independent of human agency, but they don't think it's worth modeling those phenomena in ways that don't further their progressive ends. Hence you get statements like "pregnancy has been socially gendered as feminine" rather than "females have babies, and men don't." The latter leaves no room for social change. The former does. (I don't agree with this line of thinking, but I do endeavor to understand it.)
    , @blankmisgivings
    This is a very good point. But the problem is that the SJW agenda (which extends far further than the silly Spivak-Butler critical theory stuff) is better funded and has better institutional connections and the 'high quality' work it produces (based on access to multiple research assistants, large budgets, statistical support, multiple friendly suggestions and annotations by well placed 'experts') simply looks more professional than most work that strays from the 'narrative'. I say this in all modesty as a somewhat 'heterodox' social scientist who knows very well that I can't compete with the SJW stuff because a. I have far fewer resources of time and money (due in part to my interests and positions making me less marketable at prestigious places) and b. the empirical standards (e.g size of your samples, archives, etc) for publication of heterodox work are far higher than for SJW work.

    What is needed is for at least a few colleges to 'jump ship' and actively seek out the 'heterodox' . Haidt's initiatives in this area are a very small start. There surely must be at least 5% of colleges that might be able to exploit this gap in the market and actively promote their humanities/social sciences as being 'intellectually diverse'.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • Several years ago there was a famous exchange between Ben Affleck and Bill Maher & Sam Harris on the nature of Islam. In response I published a post titled "ISIS' Willing Executioners". The overall point was that Affleck's comments were not informed by the nature of Islam or Muslims, but broader political currents. As for...
  • @Talha
    Wow! OK - you've given me a lot to do. First and foremost, let me be clear. Shah Waliullah (ra) was a great scholar, but not perfect. Traditional Islamic scholarship has always had a nuanced view on things; for instance, you would be hard pressed to find a better exegesis on the Qur'an from a linguistic perspective than that of Imam Zamakhshari (ra), but his Mu'tazilite views are simply discarded. So...

    As far as the anti-Shiah stances. Let's be fair, the Mughals were a struggling power. To the West, they had a hostile Persian Empire that had made inroads into their territory. An empire that "used "proselytizing and force to convert the large majority of Muslims in Iran to the Shia sect."(http://countrystudies.us/iran/11.htm) Technically, it was no longer Safavid, but that was a very recent change, contemporaneously. This was the environment of the time. Sunni-Shiah tension has always been there and has ups and downs. Likely this was Shah Waliullah (ra) wanting to assert the Mughal identity as a Sunni polity - this does not automatically follow that his advice to an Afghan king is relevant to our situation. The current spike (since the 80s) has a lot of the Wahhabi footprint on it. In the current milieu, both Sunni and Shiah are making progress in toning things down. Even Mufti Taqi Uthmani (db) - a household name among Deobandis - has signed onto the Amman Message (http://ammanmessage.com/) that is a conciliatory move (headed by the Hashimite Kingdom of Jordan) among the major divisions of Islam.

    As far as the other notes, I'm going to assume those caricatures of his suggestions are true. Unfortunately it has been a long while since I was researching him, but Prof. Hermansen (http://homepages.luc.edu/~mherman/) is an absolute expert on the man and I would highly recommend any of her books including her translation of Hujjat Allah Al-Baligha (http://www.amazon.com/Conclusive-Argument-God-Al-Baligha-Philosophy/dp/9004102981) but I don't have a copy on me to verify. So let's assume he does recommend to smash the power of the ruling Hindu elites. Did he mean all of them? Not all were rebellious toward the Mughals, but the Marathas certainly were. The Marathas were no joke - anyone who went against them considered them to be difficult opponents even in defeat. The resurgent Maratha Empire was a threat and decapitation of the ruling hierarchy was a sensible policy - see my note to Razib about smashing Sassanid and Byzantine upper echelons. Some of the policy that he advocates sounds much more like what one finds in the books of the Shafi'i school and not like the expansive and more tolerant Hanafi (and Maliki) school rulings. So perhaps he was looking into another school to find a policy that would allow the Mughal Empire to show its muscle to let people know who is in charge - though this seems to have backfired.

    As fire as him inviting Shah Durrani to help put down the Maratha revolt, well, that is a benefit of belonging to an Ummah. Sometimes the call is answered and sometimes all you get is a letter of encouragement (like the Chechens got from the Ottomans). From a nationalist Indian perspective, it makes total sense to see it as an invitation for outside interference. From a Muslim perspective, I don't see it as a grand travesty. Again, I would not advocate some of the policies vis-a-vis the population that he wrote about.

    Now, as far as those Muslims who either adopt all his writing 100% or reject it 100%. That makes no sense. To recognize his strengths and adopt those while rejecting those views that definitely don't belong (except inside the context of a dying pre-modern Empire struggling to keep its territorial integrity in the face of outside and internal threats) seems to be the msot sensible way to go.

    Peace.

    Peace is one of the issues though, isnt it? If I sign every letter with peace and invite a VERY bloodthirsty and rapacious general to come and “decapitate” XYZ elite and loot the common people in the bargain, then my peaceful intentions are put in doubt.
    So the “ummah”, once it has got into a place (and is not even a majority yet) has the right to demand military reconquest, no matter what the price? by any adventurer who happens to be available?
    By the way, that is not necessarily a bad idea. As conquests and empires go, that is a very powerful policy and asabiya to have. But then lets not go on about “peaceful rise” (to quote our Chinese brethren) and lets not make hypocritical noises if the Han want to apply the same rule in Xinjiang.
    And may the best man win.

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    • Replies: @Talha
    Dear Omar,

    Peace is one of the issues though, isnt it?
     
    Of course.

    If I sign every letter with peace and invite a VERY bloodthirsty and rapacious general to come and “decapitate” XYZ elite and loot the common people in the bargain
     
    I think he asked for help in defeating the Marathas, where did he ask for the Afghans to come loot and rape? They likely fought like Afghans, not necessarily according to ideal Islamic rules of warfare. Check out Tamerlane if you want to know how bloodthirsty some of these Muslim armies could be. On the other side of the coin, it was definitely not good prospect to be on the losing side to a Maratha army, if you read the reports.

    no matter what the price?
     
    Of course not, there are ancient rules of engagement. They must be upheld. Again, do you really think some scholar of hadith and Qur'an in Delhi could truly predict what the Afghan attack would entail in details? As far as some of the restrictive policies he advocated for the local non-Muslim populace, I can understand (not necessarily agree) him calling for those in the environment of a crumbling empire on the ropes.

    But then lets not go on about “peaceful rise”
     
    I never have. I invite people to read excellent books on the subject with titles like 'Jihad in Islamic History' by Bonner or 'Armies of the Muslim Conquest' by Nicolle.

    lets not make hypocritical noises if the Han want to apply the same rule in Xinjiang
     
    They have, they are in full control and have no qualms about letting everyone know who is the sovereign. I would not advocate for independence, simply being able to practice religion - which should be advocated for all non-Muslim minorities in Muslim lands.

    But, let's step back for a minute; so I am not misunderstood. One must understand the world as it existed at the time. Pre-modern norms and ideas of sovereignty do not translate to our current international model. Anyone who advocates Muslim nation-states to act in contradiction to these norms of which they are signatories - is ignorant or mad.

    May god bless you and yours.
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  • @Talha
    Dear Omar,

    Really? Which circles are you in? It cannot be Indo-Pakistani circles...can it?

    This book is widely distributed and you can find it published from Malaysia to Beirut to Cario:
    https://ukm.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/hujjat-allah-albalighah(edcccd2c-86a5-46f0-9e87-3ff8094c6b85).html

    Even people (that Islamists look up to) like Shaykhs Sayyid Sabiq, Qaradawi (both of Egypt) as well as more traditional minded people like the late Shaykhs Abul Fattah Abu Ghuddah, Ramadan Buti (both of Syria) referenced him. He was even praised (and criticized) by Shaykh Kawthari (the last grand Mufti of the Ottoman Caliphate). Some have considered him to be Ghazali-lite.

    That is around the world. As far as the Indian Subcontinent, everyone references him, even the most non-political Sufi Orders (like mine), to the Jamaat Islami (and likely even the Taliban) - his influence is that wide.

    But you are right, this is mostly among scholarly circles, your average rickshaw driver won't have a clue. There is one other note to make; the Hujja, is a comprehensive work, of which only one part is kalam. The rest deals with everything from jurisprudence to delicate Sufi insights.

    His Shia-hatred, hatred of Hindus and Muslim separatism did leave a legacy
     
    Can you give specific references for this hatred? Please keep in mind the context of his time. He had been borne when the Mughal empire was at its geographic peak and had started to crumble. The legacy of the powerful Maratha Empire was reasserting itself over Mughal politics also the Sikhs - internal revolt was feared so he advocated Mughal assertion of power. Also, the British East India company had already began their (military) footprint in the region. To not assume someone would have a view that comes across as militant to some seems to lack nuance. Now, there is another note to be made here. One that even traditional scholars have criticized (not in a moral sense, but in thought and approach) the way the Muslim scholars of India generally approached the Hindu population which was alienating (i.e. keeping the language in Persian and Arabic, isolating themselves from the local population, etc.) - though this was not always the case with the Sufi Orders. This is in contrast with a large number of people who came to Islam among the Javanese due to the more down-to-earth local approach of the scholars like the Wali Songa who mixed in with the people, adopted names in the local language and presented them with an Islam that was authentically Javanese.

    I think it is important to recognize that no oak of kalam knowledge is extending its shade over the lands of Islam at this moment in history
     
    Agreed, again...context. This doesn't seem to be the preeminent need of the time, in my opinion. Kalam tends to be a reactionary discipline, it rises to meet the challenges against the Orthodox beliefs of the Muslims when groups like Jabbriyah, Qaddriyah (not the Sufi order), Jahmiyyah, etc. arise or when new ideas like Platonic and Aristotelian thought is encountered. From what I have seen, much of it is baked and I can't imagine many new frontiers on it other than commentaries, which keep coming out - can you? Keep in mind, the Sunni Orthodox creeds are basically adopted from Senegal to Malaysia and this was done without resort to synods, ecumenical councils, etc. but to a fairly open debate of ideas.

    May God preserve you and yours.

    I have not read his original books, and I know that he made some efforts for shia-sunni unity of some sort (under the umbrella of correct Sunni shariah of course), but pro-Shia websites certainly regard him as “anti-Shia” (see here https://lubpak.com/archives/306269 and https://lubpak.com/archives/313032 ) , as does this book https://books.google.com/books?id=TLi2BgAAQBAJ&pg=PA206&lpg=PA206&dq=shah+waliullah+fatwa+on+shia&source=bl&ots=Rsc4tljixJ&sig=H5XWgizdmBQar1cYXtEF4MrpI8A&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwio8MrIyJnNAhUPQlIKHQYLAXAQ6AEIUTAI#v=onepage&q=shah%20waliullah%20fatwa%20on%20shia&f=false and his descendants and great fans (the Deobandis) are certainly anti-Shia.

    About being anti-Hindu there is much less doubt. Here, for example, is an article from Professor Mubarak Ali (professor of history in Lahore) about Shah Waliullah and his ideals: http://www.dawn.com/news/1038270 . If you feel he is being misquoted, it would be great if you could find the original text of his letter to Abdali and other writings on the need for Muslims to separate themselves from Hindus in all matters and for outside Muslim rulers to invade India and destroy “Hindu Power” and so on.
    This fan of Shah Walliullah certainly does not regard him as a proponent of interfaith dialog and peace http://www.academia.edu/592790/SHAH_WALIULLAH_AL-DEHLAWI_THOUGHTS_AND_CONTRIBUTIONS

    Are the thoughts of Shah Walliulah on Jihad etc presented in these (Hindu writers) articles accurate or misquotes?

    http://voiceofdharma.org/books/muslimsep/ch6.htm

    http://www.kashmirherald.com/featuredarticle/shahwaliullah.html

    And so on. Whether the man wanted to or not, his legacy seems to be about Muslim separatism, supremacism and jihad (not the “inner spiritual” kind). Is that a misunderstanding? I have not read him in the original. Is he being misquoted and misrepresented? can you clarify? thanks

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    • Replies: @Vijay
    I will take the bait. The idea of recasting Shah Waliullah as any form of subcontinental Sufi thinker is nonsense. He was the product of the time of end of the Mughal empire. In his mind, the Muslims off India should have no truck with India and its culture ("integration of Islamic culture in the cultural mainstream of the sub-continent and ...... the Muslims to ensure their distance from it. the he health of Muslim society demanded that doctrines and values inculcated by Islam should be maintained in their pristine purity unsullied by extraneous influences", see page 215-216 of Istiaq Quereshi, he Muslim community of the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent, 610–1947: a brief historical analysis).

    You can futher read "Muslims in India, by Qamar Hussein, pages 3, and 300; he says that "regarded the classical Muslim law as sum and substance of the faith, and therefore, demanded its total implementation"and "regarded the classical Muslim law as sum and substance of the faith, and therefore, demanded its total implementation".

    He invited Abdali to attack India in 1761 to regain the lost Muslim glory. an lettre contains the usual "orders prohibiting Holi and Muharram". In this aspect, he had no use for Shias, and was a essentially a follower of his contemporary, Abdul Wahaab.The waliUllah -Nader Shah ruckus is also quite indicative of his dislike of Shia sect.

    Essentially, it is to view Waliullah as a continuum of the Aurangzeb strain of personal piety, purity and strong adherence to Shariah; bitter opposition to polytheists and Shia; and the belief in return to pure Salafi thought as a path to return to golden age of Islam. In this sense, essentially he is the contemporary or the forerunner to Wahabi thought. It should be clear that this thought has considerable influence among Muslim intelligentsia before and after independence. Sufism is considered the religion of the streets. Barelvi, Deobandi and other strains seek to attain and implement the Waliullah school as the "pure" and uncorrupted " (i.e., not by the streets, multitheism and Shiism) that shoul be a model to be attained.
    , @Talha
    Wow! OK - you've given me a lot to do. First and foremost, let me be clear. Shah Waliullah (ra) was a great scholar, but not perfect. Traditional Islamic scholarship has always had a nuanced view on things; for instance, you would be hard pressed to find a better exegesis on the Qur'an from a linguistic perspective than that of Imam Zamakhshari (ra), but his Mu'tazilite views are simply discarded. So...

    As far as the anti-Shiah stances. Let's be fair, the Mughals were a struggling power. To the West, they had a hostile Persian Empire that had made inroads into their territory. An empire that "used "proselytizing and force to convert the large majority of Muslims in Iran to the Shia sect."(http://countrystudies.us/iran/11.htm) Technically, it was no longer Safavid, but that was a very recent change, contemporaneously. This was the environment of the time. Sunni-Shiah tension has always been there and has ups and downs. Likely this was Shah Waliullah (ra) wanting to assert the Mughal identity as a Sunni polity - this does not automatically follow that his advice to an Afghan king is relevant to our situation. The current spike (since the 80s) has a lot of the Wahhabi footprint on it. In the current milieu, both Sunni and Shiah are making progress in toning things down. Even Mufti Taqi Uthmani (db) - a household name among Deobandis - has signed onto the Amman Message (http://ammanmessage.com/) that is a conciliatory move (headed by the Hashimite Kingdom of Jordan) among the major divisions of Islam.

    As far as the other notes, I'm going to assume those caricatures of his suggestions are true. Unfortunately it has been a long while since I was researching him, but Prof. Hermansen (http://homepages.luc.edu/~mherman/) is an absolute expert on the man and I would highly recommend any of her books including her translation of Hujjat Allah Al-Baligha (http://www.amazon.com/Conclusive-Argument-God-Al-Baligha-Philosophy/dp/9004102981) but I don't have a copy on me to verify. So let's assume he does recommend to smash the power of the ruling Hindu elites. Did he mean all of them? Not all were rebellious toward the Mughals, but the Marathas certainly were. The Marathas were no joke - anyone who went against them considered them to be difficult opponents even in defeat. The resurgent Maratha Empire was a threat and decapitation of the ruling hierarchy was a sensible policy - see my note to Razib about smashing Sassanid and Byzantine upper echelons. Some of the policy that he advocates sounds much more like what one finds in the books of the Shafi'i school and not like the expansive and more tolerant Hanafi (and Maliki) school rulings. So perhaps he was looking into another school to find a policy that would allow the Mughal Empire to show its muscle to let people know who is in charge - though this seems to have backfired.

    As fire as him inviting Shah Durrani to help put down the Maratha revolt, well, that is a benefit of belonging to an Ummah. Sometimes the call is answered and sometimes all you get is a letter of encouragement (like the Chechens got from the Ottomans). From a nationalist Indian perspective, it makes total sense to see it as an invitation for outside interference. From a Muslim perspective, I don't see it as a grand travesty. Again, I would not advocate some of the policies vis-a-vis the population that he wrote about.

    Now, as far as those Muslims who either adopt all his writing 100% or reject it 100%. That makes no sense. To recognize his strengths and adopt those while rejecting those views that definitely don't belong (except inside the context of a dying pre-modern Empire struggling to keep its territorial integrity in the face of outside and internal threats) seems to be the msot sensible way to go.

    Peace.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
  • @Talha
    I realize that I was remiss and may have left the wrong impression. It is not that the Indian Subcontinent did not have discussion on the 'nature of God' since the Mughal period. Shah Waliullah's magnum opus (Hujjat Allah al-Baligha) is recognized for its piercing metaphysical insights across the Muslim world. Rather, the parameters of the discussion changed priorities - since the defeat of Akbar's syncretic creed and Shiah influence. Kalam is the technical knowledge of God and the universe - i.e. the creeds. That is definitely not as big a thing in the Indian subcontinent as it used to be. Rather, the other branch of this knowledge - the experiential knowledge of God - has always been in the purview of the Sufi Orders. This is indeed alive and well. Many of the top scholars of the region are also Sufi masters. Their treatises on the nature of God and the self (including their poetry) usually takes the form of insightful letters to their disciples which are collected in book form (various 'maktubat' abound). Imam Ghazali (ra) said of this branch of knowledge, that it was more effective in achieving the goal than intricate knowledge of creedal formulas and their logical proofs.

    Peace.

    “Shah Waliullah’s magnum opus (Hujjat Allah al-Baligha) is recognized for its piercing metaphysical insights across the Muslim world”

    I know you don’t mean to imply “all Muslims” or even “most Muslims”, but just the select few who are members of the local Kalam study circle, but I think the statement is still a bit hyperbolic. I cannot think of a single acquaintance (including several who think of themselves as Islamists and are eager readers of Islamic texts) who has ANY clue about anything written by Shah Walliullah about kalam. I think the impact of such things on the wider world has to be shown before we get too worked up about the great worldwide reputation of Shah Walliullah in the field of kalam.
    His Shia-hatred, hatred of Hindus and Muslim separatism did leave a legacy though, and are something a few of my more extremist Sunni Islamist acquaintances are likely to quote approvingly. Kalam, not so much.
    I do not doubt your sincerity and knowledge in this area, just its significance outside of a very small circle of modern Muslims. And I am open to the idea that great oaks can grown from small acorns, but I think it is important to recognize that no oak of kalam knowledge is extending its shade over the lands of Islam at this moment in history.

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    • Replies: @Talha
    Dear Omar,

    Really? Which circles are you in? It cannot be Indo-Pakistani circles...can it?

    This book is widely distributed and you can find it published from Malaysia to Beirut to Cario:
    https://ukm.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/hujjat-allah-albalighah(edcccd2c-86a5-46f0-9e87-3ff8094c6b85).html

    Even people (that Islamists look up to) like Shaykhs Sayyid Sabiq, Qaradawi (both of Egypt) as well as more traditional minded people like the late Shaykhs Abul Fattah Abu Ghuddah, Ramadan Buti (both of Syria) referenced him. He was even praised (and criticized) by Shaykh Kawthari (the last grand Mufti of the Ottoman Caliphate). Some have considered him to be Ghazali-lite.

    That is around the world. As far as the Indian Subcontinent, everyone references him, even the most non-political Sufi Orders (like mine), to the Jamaat Islami (and likely even the Taliban) - his influence is that wide.

    But you are right, this is mostly among scholarly circles, your average rickshaw driver won't have a clue. There is one other note to make; the Hujja, is a comprehensive work, of which only one part is kalam. The rest deals with everything from jurisprudence to delicate Sufi insights.

    His Shia-hatred, hatred of Hindus and Muslim separatism did leave a legacy
     
    Can you give specific references for this hatred? Please keep in mind the context of his time. He had been borne when the Mughal empire was at its geographic peak and had started to crumble. The legacy of the powerful Maratha Empire was reasserting itself over Mughal politics also the Sikhs - internal revolt was feared so he advocated Mughal assertion of power. Also, the British East India company had already began their (military) footprint in the region. To not assume someone would have a view that comes across as militant to some seems to lack nuance. Now, there is another note to be made here. One that even traditional scholars have criticized (not in a moral sense, but in thought and approach) the way the Muslim scholars of India generally approached the Hindu population which was alienating (i.e. keeping the language in Persian and Arabic, isolating themselves from the local population, etc.) - though this was not always the case with the Sufi Orders. This is in contrast with a large number of people who came to Islam among the Javanese due to the more down-to-earth local approach of the scholars like the Wali Songa who mixed in with the people, adopted names in the local language and presented them with an Islam that was authentically Javanese.

    I think it is important to recognize that no oak of kalam knowledge is extending its shade over the lands of Islam at this moment in history
     
    Agreed, again...context. This doesn't seem to be the preeminent need of the time, in my opinion. Kalam tends to be a reactionary discipline, it rises to meet the challenges against the Orthodox beliefs of the Muslims when groups like Jabbriyah, Qaddriyah (not the Sufi order), Jahmiyyah, etc. arise or when new ideas like Platonic and Aristotelian thought is encountered. From what I have seen, much of it is baked and I can't imagine many new frontiers on it other than commentaries, which keep coming out - can you? Keep in mind, the Sunni Orthodox creeds are basically adopted from Senegal to Malaysia and this was done without resort to synods, ecumenical councils, etc. but to a fairly open debate of ideas.

    May God preserve you and yours.
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  • @Vijay
    "would happen if, say, Tamil Nadu became Christian, or alternatively, became Muslim"

    Of course, I cannot let this pass without comment. Both, Islam and Christianity has been in TN for 9 and 5 (or 18) centuries, depending on what you believe.

    Christianity has been there since the time of Vasco Da Gama or St. Thomas (possibly made up). The earliest Christians follow Tamil traditions (like mangalasutra) in marriage. It is the latest converts who do not follow all Tamil customs (not that they need to). If anything, Tamil Christains seem more conservative than Tamil Brahmins! Of course, Christians have ben in the forefront of pioneering education.

    Islam has been there for 800 years. The sufi traditions of saints and mosque visits by poor of multiple religions has been popular, but Gulf workers have moved the pendulum in a slightly more conservative direction, except in girls education.

    "women out in motorbikes" is common, albeit in scooties. The Chief minister, of course, promised 50% subsidy for scooties. Do not scoff! They are primarily used for travel to school/work.

    The state is the opposite of all your beliefs; very conservative in all manners in spite of spewing "rational" cliches. It has the fewest percentage (3%) intercaste marriage. The various pieces that form Hinduism were formulated in Tamilnadu even prior to Aryan formulation of Hinduism. It can be said the Vedic Gods lost to the Trinity, and Buddhism/Jainism lost to Saivism here. The net effect has made the state moridly conservative; changing it into Islam or Christianity, may not change things substantially. This might be the only place on the earth that has Christian castes!

    I know there are Muslims and Christians in Tamil Nadu. I just picked TN as a reasonably large entity in the third world that could conceivably be majority Christian or majority Muslim country on its own, and then try to imagine if it would look any different in either case. I think a majority Xtian TN independent nation may not look too different from what the state looks like now (conservative in some ways, not so conservative in others), but a majority Muslim TN may have some (superficial?) differences: there would be a party trying to discourage women from being too out and about (with or without great success) and there would be groups focused on transnational Ummah issues, but maybe not that different otherwise.
    It was a hypothetical scenario. Dont take it too literally :)

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    Which is the exact point that I do not agree with. SriLanka is a reasonable equivalent, where Muslims and Hindu Tamils (yes, the Moors are not Tamils!) are exactly the same, but the Muslims and Tamils (Hindu and Christian) took opposite positions on their place in Srilankan society. The Srilankan Muslims did not even seek an united Ummah role. They just wanted to be left alone. It would be greatly difficult to argue how a religious minority would act.
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  • @Razib Khan
    In other words, two otherwise identical societies would diverge if one were to adopt Christianity and the other Islam.

    how

    I have no idea what Mark is thinking, but I tried to imagine what would happen if, say, Tamil Nadu became Christian, or alternatively, became Muslim.

    Christian Tamil Nadu: would identify with and accept many aspects of Western civ (not all) and would be just another developing country with problems and hangups, but also accelerating modernization, women out in public on motorbikes, and relations with the modern world (whether Xtian or Confucian) that are smack in the middle or tilted towards the “relatively liberal” end of the spectrum of “third world relations with first world nations and their fashions”.

    Muslim Tamil Nadu: would be all of the above except NOT smack in the middle of the spectrum. Rather, in some areas (blasphemy, apostasy, support for revivalist Islamist movements and terrorist groups, women out in public on motorbikes) would be at or near the “Islamic” end of the spectrum, which is an identifiable end of the spectrum…a spectrum in which liberal Turkey is a bit of an exception, but is still more involved in Islamist renaissance projects, Islamicate terrorism, “women as mothers”, and anti-apostate and anti-blasphemer outbreaks, than other equally Europeanized and prosperous non-Muslim countries? and of course, no pork and some hypocrisy about alcohol. That is pretty standard. Russian imperialism made alcohol public in Central Asia, but a sense of that being “abnormal” still persists. In fact, I have heard that the public acceptance of alcohol in Turkey is also unstable and “feels wrong” to many in the hinterland. Or is that just my Pakisani-centric view?

    Hmm… I guess it is possible to describe this as a somewhat contingent and contemporary set of problems. Not necessarily an eternal essence issue..

    Then again, the Hui do blend in, but they dont eat pork and when they revolted, it was a jihad, not just a revolt. Is that a meaningful distinction? I am not sure. Better informed people can tell us more…

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    Hmm… I guess it is possible to describe this as a somewhat contingent and contemporary set of problems. Not necessarily an eternal essence issue..


    that's my point.

    Then again, the Hui do blend in, but they dont eat pork and when they revolted, it was a jihad, not just a revolt. Is that a meaningful distinction? I am not sure. Better informed people can tell us more…


    there are aspects of folkways were serve as cultural markers. they're not substantive though. in northern europe christianization often came with banning consumption of horse flesh because of pagan associations. it was a cultural marker. but it didn't make them more or less prone to libertarianism (to give a weird example). pork is like that. pork is a good way to get protein for the chinese in a dense land, so there might be some nutritional deficiencies? that's all i can think. also some differences in disease. but for the vast majority of chinese historically meat was rare, and the elites could afford what they could afford.

    second, re: the hui, their recalcitrance in the 19th century is often attributed to their reintegration with world-islam via the naqshbandi order's push east as well as greater contact with the middle east by pilgrims, and influences from middle eastern revivalism and reform in the 18th century. hui assimilation and accommodation was reversed in large part by cultural shifts in the late 18th century that had external stimulus from the ummah. IOW, it wasn't constitutive to the hui.
    , @Vijay
    "would happen if, say, Tamil Nadu became Christian, or alternatively, became Muslim"

    Of course, I cannot let this pass without comment. Both, Islam and Christianity has been in TN for 9 and 5 (or 18) centuries, depending on what you believe.

    Christianity has been there since the time of Vasco Da Gama or St. Thomas (possibly made up). The earliest Christians follow Tamil traditions (like mangalasutra) in marriage. It is the latest converts who do not follow all Tamil customs (not that they need to). If anything, Tamil Christains seem more conservative than Tamil Brahmins! Of course, Christians have ben in the forefront of pioneering education.

    Islam has been there for 800 years. The sufi traditions of saints and mosque visits by poor of multiple religions has been popular, but Gulf workers have moved the pendulum in a slightly more conservative direction, except in girls education.

    "women out in motorbikes" is common, albeit in scooties. The Chief minister, of course, promised 50% subsidy for scooties. Do not scoff! They are primarily used for travel to school/work.

    The state is the opposite of all your beliefs; very conservative in all manners in spite of spewing "rational" cliches. It has the fewest percentage (3%) intercaste marriage. The various pieces that form Hinduism were formulated in Tamilnadu even prior to Aryan formulation of Hinduism. It can be said the Vedic Gods lost to the Trinity, and Buddhism/Jainism lost to Saivism here. The net effect has made the state moridly conservative; changing it into Islam or Christianity, may not change things substantially. This might be the only place on the earth that has Christian castes!
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  • I agree with you. I think one can (and should) be able to believe that Islam has unique features/tendencies AND that there is a lot of historical contingency in what actually happens in any given time and place AND that all religions and political phenomena are ultimately derived from aspects of our biology and psychology as human beings, etc etc. To give a very concrete example, there is a large Muslim population in Punjab and these days they are the core demographic of a supremacist and separatist “Pakistanism” that officially and formally idealizes the trans-national Ummah. But while the majority of Punjabi Muslims may tell pollsters that they support worldwide Islamic unity, that apostasy should be punishable by death and that blasphemers should be lynched, that doesnt cover all that goes on in their politics and their daily lives (which are frequently far more “secularized” and “compromised” than that)..and 75 years ago these Punjabi Muslims were the most reliable and loyal allies of the British Raj and fought in large numbers (and with great distinction) FOR the British against their co-religionists in the Middle East and anywhere else the Brits wanted to use them. And another 75 years before that they were being ruled by a Sikh ruler, serving in his Sikh supremacist army; and very few responded to a Jihadist preacher who came to incite them to revolt on Islamist grounds. And another 75 years before that their main poets and intellectuals seem to have espoused a syncretic Islam that was obviously “Indian” in ways that are now anathema to “mainstream classical Islam” (which we are told, correctly, had developed its own elaborate separatist and supremacist theology centuries before the Punjabis became Muslim, yet the Punjabi Muslims dominant form of Islam was very far from this classical orthodox version).
    I have Hindu nationalist friends who tell me that the correct way to look at it is to see earlier Punjabi Islam as “not fully Islamic yet”, pointing to its current tendencies as the ones that were ALWAYS going to be the end-product of that first conversion. But it seems to me that 100s of years and millions of people were born and died without becoming rabid neo-Wahabis. The default may not be that default… and a LOT depends on what context they happen to be living in.

    Also, a shoutout to the importance of basic skills and institutions; without the CIA teaching the Pakistani special forces (back in the 50s and 60s) and then both of them teaching the Islamic mujahideen (in the 80s and 90s), the urge to fight for pure Islam may have existed, but the ability to set up cells, train fighters, make elaborate bombs, run psyops, etc. would have been very primitive indeed. Specific transmission lines of X taught Y and he taught everyone from A to M can surely be described by someone with inside knowledge of the networks. Specific people organize and teach and lead. And there are specific skills that are needed. Someone had to bring them in….someone still has to take them from A to B. Take away a few of them and the threat is very different… And continuing on this theme: I am firmly convinced that there is no such thing as a seriously capable terrorist threat (0ne that can take down a state, not just discomfit it) without a modern state willing to host and support it (usually covertly). All the ideology and grievances in the world will not create a Tibetan insurgency that can defeat China. Great empires have been built and have lasted for centuries because they were better at the coherent and targeted application of force… Muslims don’t become single-minded supermen just by becoming Muslim.

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  • The origins of Islam are fascinating, because the religion is critically important in the modern world, but its genesis within history is surprisingly vague for its first decades. Muslims have their own historiagraphy, and some Western historians, such as Hugh Kennedy transmit this narrative with high fidelity, albeit shorn of sectarian presuppositions and strongly leavened...
  • “it has come to my attention”? Are there more details to come?

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  • I've joked on Twitter that one aim of conservatives should be to defund disciplines whose avowed goals are to espouse a particular ideological viewpoint. Of course "scholars" in those disciplines might dispute the characterization of their chosen fields in such a manner, but the reality is that that's how they roll. Conservative or moderate viewpoints...
  • @Karl Zimmerman
    I don't think the right wing would like the effects if the left-wing bastions in academia were defunded one bit.

    Look at the social function of the academy for the left. Historically, before tenure began getting ripped apart, you could basically land in a privileged job where never had to worry about getting fired, could take years off at a time, and often didn't have to work particularly hard once you established yourself. But your left-wing politics were shunted into your field, so increasingly you saw your "activism" as writing papers that no one read. Or maybe you still did engage in activism to a limited extent, but it revolved around campus issues which really didn't threaten the wider socio-economic system in any real way.

    By taking over large segments of the social sciences and humanities, the left was effectively "tamed" in the U.S. They became part of the establishment through being allowed a little safe space away from capitalism. Without this escape valve, they may have been trade unionist leaders like their forebears, or more may have been members of socialist parties which actually sought to directly challenge the capitalist system.

    I suppose we will see soon enough what the results are of its destruction though. While the ideological lock isn't really changing, the rise of adjunct faculty has completely destroyed the idea of being college instructor as a secure middle-class lifestyle, with the ranks of tenured professors now heavily over-represented by those near retirement, whose positions are not filled at least half the time. I'm guessing it is true that a fair number of today's would-be academics will sell out eventually, but if even a portion do not, it may spell trouble for the ruling classes.

    Your argument rests on the assumption that college humanities departments have no real-world consequences at all, so it is safe to put leftists there and let them spout endless reams of pure bullshit….. But while they may not have immediate consequences, they may still have longer term consequences, no?… after all, they do set the intellectual agenda to some extent. ..it may be enough to matter. (This is my favorite theory for why a smart person like Edward Said spewed so much nonsense; he knew it was nonsense, but he was fighting a war and all is fair in love and war. He was doing nothing less than bringing down Western civilization, opera and all. Samson option)

    On the other hand, there is always the possibility that social change happens a few years (at least) ahead of any effort to conceptualize or understand it. So if we are doomed, we are doomed. ..in this theory, it may still be possible for scattered individuals to grasp what is going on in some limited area and take advantage of foreknowledge, but even they only know a few things, not the overall picture.
    It is what it is, nobody is in control and nobody can consciously alter the big picture… Fate rules everyone.
    It is a cheery thought somehow :)

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  • Facts are important. But they can be inconvenient. Despite the stream of "think" pieces about "hookup culture" over the past decade there is no evidence that young people today are more promiscuous than in the past. In fact, on the contrary. Young people today are by most measures less promiscuous than past post-WW2 generations, in...
  • I would add that while Asian Americans in general suffer from discreet (or not so discreet) anti-Asian quotas that are put in place to limit their numbers in elite institutions, the kind of Asian-American intellectuals who write books about “POC solidarity” and run blogs called “racialicous” are in a different category; they are net (niche) beneficiaries of the “Asians as picked-upon-POC” framework they promote about Asians in America and this provides an obvious motivation for them to stick to it… For example, it gives them victim status in a social and academic setting where victim status is a very desirable good.
    I understand that Asian Americans are not getting jobs on diversity quotas in most places, but the victim status still has clear psychological and social benefits and I strongly suspect that it also protects mediocre work (or whatever passes for work in the social sciences) from criticism OVER AND ABOVE the protection enjoyed by their White colleagues. Imagine 5 equally mediocre bullshitters who happen to be critical studies faculty at a liberal institution. They are not all equally protected. The White faculty member may benefit from connections and “White privilege”, the Jewish faculty from Jewish networking, but what defends the Asian guy? He or she has to rely on the POC card. Maybe they are still at a disadvantage versus equally mediocre Jews or Whites, but it is better than nothing. My point is that this motivation cannot be excluded when we think of WHY some Asian-American intellectual is pushing X or Y crap. In fact, I can think of examples of Indian-American writers and intellectuals who are clearly not being held to very high standards by the New York Times types and I suspect that successful manipulation of White guilt/POC privilege plays a part..

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  • The map to the left is derived from 2005 census data from South Korea. You see religious affiliation by region. The blue bar represent Buddhists. The purple bar Protestants. And the orange bar are Catholics. The figures do not add up to 100% because a large number of South Koreans do not have a religious...
  • @Marcus
    Kim Il-Sung was apparently born into a Christian family.

    Yes, Presbyterian Christians, and I remember reading somewhere that Kim il Sung even considered a career in the church at some point. I will try to look this up. I think it may have been in “Red Flag, a history of communism”.

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    • Replies: @Monty Crisco
    Billy Graham and his family were welcomed warmly by Kim Il Sung and the communist elite on their visits to the North. Graham's wife had spent part of her childhood in Pyongyang.

    From http://cominganarchy.com/2009/01/16/reverend-graham-and-the-dprk/

    >>"Thus it happened that Billy Graham visited North Korea in 1992 as a guest of President Kim Il-Sung, the first non-Communist figure of importance since the Korean War. The visit had a profound effect in encouraging North Korea to recognize foreign visitors, and arguably set the stage for Jimmy Carter’s 1994 trip during the 1994 nuclear weapons development crisis. Carter’s freelance mediating arguably prevented a war from breaking out on the peninsula (whether that was good or bad is a different topic). It was also a positive move for Christians in North Korea, as Graham’s visit preceded President Kim’s invitation of the leaders of the Protestant and Catholic associations to his annual New Year reception, the first time he had ever recognized those associations at all. Years later, Graham praised Kim as a “different kind of communist” and “one of the great fighters for freedom in his country against the Japanese.”<<

    Lately, the North Korean media has been pushing a story that Billy Graham recognized Kim Il Sung as God:

    http://www.christianpost.com/news/billy-graham-called-kim-il-sung-god-north-korea-greatest-heaven-state-media-claims-161884/

    Kim Il Sung's mother was a Christian. The North Korean government persecutes Christians and arrests foreign missionaries if they are caught proselytizing, but at the same time North Korea maintains ties with Christian institutions in the West, not least for the reason of educating the children of the elite.
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  • Still settling in....
  • At the opposite end of the spectrum (since the universe should remain in balance), Autolux was on Colbert, and did a pretty good job :)

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    • Replies: @Michelle
    That was fun. I like the Fruit Loops dress. That they actually play instruments is a plus! There is no music that I do not like.
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  • Reading The Shape of Ancient Thought. Not a light read, but worthwhile so far. I'm not a big fan of metaphysics in general, but the empirical patterns are interesting. Surprised at the likely Mesopotamian influence on both India and Greece, though in hindsight it makes sense. More to say on this later.... Some people are...
  • @Twinkie

    If you want to kill someone in the opposing army during a war, you shoot him.
     
    That's very satisfying, I must admit, but it's really better to drop arty or CAS on the enemy.

    The no. 1. killer in WWII was artillery, "the God of War."

    Was that so in all sectors or only on the Eastern front (where the leading cause would automatically become the leading cause overall)? I am just curious.
    Was this true, for example, of US battle casualties (whether in the pacific or in the West)?

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  • Over then years ago The Genetic Legacy of the Mongols was published. This paper illustrated the surprising genetic effects that historical demographic events might have; the authors found that one particular Y chromosomal lineage was extremely common in Central Eurasia, and, that lineage exhibited an explosive growth over the past 1,000 years. Combined with the...
  • what would a truly updated version of the Indo-European migration/conquest of North/West India look like today? Does anyone have a suggestion for a good summary? Thanks

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  • Reading The Shape of Ancient Thought. Not a light read, but worthwhile so far. I'm not a big fan of metaphysics in general, but the empirical patterns are interesting. Surprised at the likely Mesopotamian influence on both India and Greece, though in hindsight it makes sense. More to say on this later.... Some people are...
  • @Twinkie

    If you do a ranking of small unit military capability
     
    I don't like to engage in this kind of national penis-size contest, because projection of military force is highly situational and synergistic. In the right circumstances, a small American unit with the benefits of the full spectrum support and force-multiplier capabilities can overrun a vast horde of "Third World" forces, while in the wrong circumstances even a middling sized ragtag force of militiamen can defeat the most highly trained, tough American SOCOM unit.

    Nonetheless, based on my direct, personal experiences interacting with some of the foreign military forces as well as observing and studying their capabilities, I can offer some rudimentary assessments of combat capability of an average small infantry unit from some of these countries you mentioned.

    1. Israel. See my response above to Mr. Khan. It is certainly not "no. 1." Generally good quality, but not all that they are cracked up to be.

    2. U.S. Highly capable and experienced. Top tier.

    3. Japan. Technically proficient. Unknown durability under the stress of combat. JSDF air and naval elements are very high quality, but I have doubts about its army elements.

    4. Korea. Well-disciplined. Probably reasonably tough, but averse to risk. Its units in Irbil buttoned down and avoided all contact.

    5. Taiwan. Similar to Korea.

    6. French. Low readiness than you'd think. I don't have a good opinion of the bulk of the French army, for a first world country.

    7. British. Top tier, similar to the U.S.

    8. Russia. Poor quality of training and technical proficiency compared to top tier countries. There is a reason why it relies so heavily on specialized units and artillery/air capability.

    9. China. Better than before.

    10. India. Highly variable quality. Most units are of very low quality, training, and morale. I suspect most units are quite brittle.

    11. Pakistan. Similar to India, but probably technically even less proficient.

    12. Bangladesh. Similar to Pakistan. But as you say, may be a rung lower than India and Pakistan. On the other hand, their peacekeeping troops are considered to have better discipline than Pakistani contingents.

    13. Indonesia. Very good at killing and keeping down civilians.

    14. Malaysia. I would rate it higher than India and Pakistan.

    15. Arabs. HIGHLY variable. There are some tough, capable Arab units. And then there are worthless conscripts who flee on first contact. However, they universally talk enormous shit, which I find irritating.

    16. Africans. Generally completely worthless, and they know it too. There are, however, some exceptions (e.g. Chadian long range desert units are quite capable in their environment).

    I should also note that these characteristics are not set in stone, and are subject to the circumstances of time and place. The U.S. Army in the late 70's and early 80's was in a very rough shape in terms of manpower quality, for example. The Japanese military, which was quite fierce in previous eras, now draws its manpower from a strongly pacifist populace. South Koreans in early Korean War were notorious for breaking and running on contact but then became ass-kicking, bad mo-fo's in the Vietnam War, who would ambush and annihilate the VC in their own terrain, sometimes in hand-to-hand combat (they had something like 20-to-1 kill ratios in Vietnam). Africans are generally useless, but the Askaris who fought for the Germans in World War I (under the magnificent leadership of von Lettow-Vorbeck) fought excellently against the combined might of the British, Portuguese, and Belgian forces.

    I agree with all of this. So we can move Israel to 2nd tier alongside the other professional Western armies :)

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  • @j mct
    Though it's getting back there in the rear view mirror, in the last real military to military war the Israelis fought, the Egyptians made a real good show during the Yom Kippur War against the Israelis. They lost in the end, but they won the opening. Also, Nixon gave the Israelis lots of aid, which might or not have been decisive, but the Egyptian in the street definitely thought they would have beaten the Israelis if the US didn't help them. This was good for morale, in that the Germans lost both WWI and WWII but no one would say that it was because they were lousy soldiers, and after 1973, the Egyptians said that to themselves too. It also made Sadat, who was a military guy just like the present Sisi, popular and respected enough so he could do the Camp David accords in 1978. Whether or not all that means the Israelis can lose to Arabs, I would say yes but I suppose I am not a recognized authority on such things, is uncertain I guess.

    I did separate the Egyptians from the other Arabs, and the canal crossing was definitely an achievement. But they were also executing a set-piece plan that required units to do their job according to plan, under cover of SAMS whose effectiveness the Israelis had not fully anticipated and then deploying anti-tank missiles that too the Israelis had not apparently really anticipated> and of course, they had massive numerical superiority. Clearly. the Israelis had been far too arrogant; it is not like they did not know what the Egyptian capabilities were on paper. The Egyptians had been planning and rehearsing this war for years; they were just not taken seriously. It was a failure of imagination more than a failure of intelligence.
    But anyway, I was thinking of peacekeepers: small units in faraway lands faced with an emergency. That is not the setting in which you want an Egyptian army unit over an Israeli one. The cultural gap between Arabs and Israelis has narrowed and is not at the “order of magnitude” level it was in 1948, but an Egyptian colonel still has less individual initiative than an Israeli captain (I have heard the comment “less than an Israeli sergeant”, but I will take captain, just to be sure).
    I think
    :)

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    • Replies: @Twinkie

    the canal crossing was definitely an achievement
     
    It was successful because the Egyptians at the time were unusually well-disciplined, and the Israelis were still drunk with their "superhuman" success trip in the Six-Day War. And, yes, as you put it, Israelis badly underestimated the new anti-aircraft and the anti-tank missile units the Egyptians possessed.

    Once the battlefield became fluid, however, the Egyptians were no match for the Israeli mobile warfare capability.

    The current Egyptian military is a shadow of what it had in the opening phase of the 73 war even though the equipment is a lot shinier.
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  • @Razib Khan
    many ppl have said that israelis are a bit overrated because so much of their experience/record is against arab armies. particularly, israelis are arrogant because of their success, but other western armies like to point out who they got their victories against...

    That is a fair point, but I think of Israel as basically a Western army with even stronger asabiya. There is no reason to think that the Israelies (as educated, as well trained, as disciplined, as physically fit, as well equipped) would not fight to the same standard as Western armies (though we obviously do not have a direct battle we can point to as an example).
    Also, there are examples (from their wars as well as special ops) that seem to indicate that Israeli troops have Western (or superior) levels of individual initiative (an area where South Asian armies fall behind them, and Arab armies are quite hopeless).
    That said, they were fought to a standstill by Hezbollah, so there is always that.
    But I remain confident in my rankings (which, like all rankings where direct competition has not happened, are subjective and open for debate) :)

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    • Replies: @j mct
    Though it's getting back there in the rear view mirror, in the last real military to military war the Israelis fought, the Egyptians made a real good show during the Yom Kippur War against the Israelis. They lost in the end, but they won the opening. Also, Nixon gave the Israelis lots of aid, which might or not have been decisive, but the Egyptian in the street definitely thought they would have beaten the Israelis if the US didn't help them. This was good for morale, in that the Germans lost both WWI and WWII but no one would say that it was because they were lousy soldiers, and after 1973, the Egyptians said that to themselves too. It also made Sadat, who was a military guy just like the present Sisi, popular and respected enough so he could do the Camp David accords in 1978. Whether or not all that means the Israelis can lose to Arabs, I would say yes but I suppose I am not a recognized authority on such things, is uncertain I guess.
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  • @Twinkie

    Coming from someone who claims to be a military man, this is below the belt.
     
    Do you find my opinion of Bangladeshi troops serving as peacekeepers inaccurate? If so, on what basis? If your compound is under attack from some African (or Serb) militiamen, do you want a force of Bangladeshi infantrymen or British ones?

    Pray give an example of “impressive contributions” made by Western peacekeepers. They didn’t exactly distinguish themselves in Bosnia, from what I recall.
     
    UNPROFOR had a limited mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina, mostly humanitarian relief and enforcing a no-fly zone (it had a much greater scope in Croatia). UNPROFOR was also made up of forces from many nations and regions, including those from Bangladesh. You are going to have to elaborate if you wish to make a point of substance here.

    And more generally, peacekeepers (Western, South Asian, Anyone Else) are supposed to “keep the peace”, and not participate in combat unless ABSOLUTELY necessary, like protect civilians from genocide.
     
    There are several different types of "peacekeeping" missions. In a situation, for example, where there is a mutually-respected ceasefire, yes, poorly-trained, combat-averse Bangladeshi or Pakistani peacekeepers will do just fine. They are mostly there just for the show.

    If, however, the ceasefire is tenuous or there are active firefights (and to borrow an American Civil War term, bushwhacking) going on, you are going to want Western, better yet Western Anglophone, troops. Of course I prefer my own countrymen, the Americans, but I'd be happy to take a battalion of British, Canadian or Australian infantrymen (backed by suitable air assets, thank you very much)... because when it came down to it, those guys will fight and do their best to keep me alive when things go sideways. They are competent and professional, they are well-trained, and they are generally quite courageous and self-sacrificial.

    If you do a ranking of small unit military capability (larger armies is a different matter), then your choice in a firefight would have to be:
    1. Israel (Well trained, disciplined, well equipped AND fair amount of (at least low level) combat experience) and the US (ditto, ditto, ditto, and more combat experience recently than even Israel)
    2. Other professional Western armies, Korea, Japan, Taiwan (well trained, disciplined and well equipped). But there are still differences. French and British forces may have elan and experience well above the others for example.
    3. Russian? Well equipped, not so well disciplined, but high level of Russian asabiya means they WILL fight for each other. Much improved from Chechnya days? OR Chinese. A bit of an unknown quantity. OR India and Pakistan (very professional, disciplined, reasonably well equipped, excellent record as fighters in all theaters since British Indian army days). The idea that Pakistan and India are just some kind of incompetent place-holders is very mistaken. These are professional armies, well trained, with some experience and good discipline. Bangladesh is likely one rung lower.
    China performed poorly against Vietnam, but they have improved a lot since then.
    Oh, and Indonesia, Malaysia etc are probably in the same league as India and Pakistan.
    African armies are several rungs lower and no comparison to this group. Most Arab armies are above the Africans, but not by much (except Egypt, which may rank just below South Asian armies).
    But all of this has very little relevance to whether they will fight for YOU in a peacekeeping mission. Most peacekeeping missions are just light policing..anything more, and the peacekeepers (of ANY nationality) will defend themselves and wait for orders.
    By the way, in blackhawk down, Pakistanis and Malaysians were part of the rescue convoy and I dont think there were any complaints about their willingness or ability to fight.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    many ppl have said that israelis are a bit overrated because so much of their experience/record is against arab armies. particularly, israelis are arrogant because of their success, but other western armies like to point out who they got their victories against...
    , @Twinkie

    If you do a ranking of small unit military capability
     
    I don't like to engage in this kind of national penis-size contest, because projection of military force is highly situational and synergistic. In the right circumstances, a small American unit with the benefits of the full spectrum support and force-multiplier capabilities can overrun a vast horde of "Third World" forces, while in the wrong circumstances even a middling sized ragtag force of militiamen can defeat the most highly trained, tough American SOCOM unit.

    Nonetheless, based on my direct, personal experiences interacting with some of the foreign military forces as well as observing and studying their capabilities, I can offer some rudimentary assessments of combat capability of an average small infantry unit from some of these countries you mentioned.

    1. Israel. See my response above to Mr. Khan. It is certainly not "no. 1." Generally good quality, but not all that they are cracked up to be.

    2. U.S. Highly capable and experienced. Top tier.

    3. Japan. Technically proficient. Unknown durability under the stress of combat. JSDF air and naval elements are very high quality, but I have doubts about its army elements.

    4. Korea. Well-disciplined. Probably reasonably tough, but averse to risk. Its units in Irbil buttoned down and avoided all contact.

    5. Taiwan. Similar to Korea.

    6. French. Low readiness than you'd think. I don't have a good opinion of the bulk of the French army, for a first world country.

    7. British. Top tier, similar to the U.S.

    8. Russia. Poor quality of training and technical proficiency compared to top tier countries. There is a reason why it relies so heavily on specialized units and artillery/air capability.

    9. China. Better than before.

    10. India. Highly variable quality. Most units are of very low quality, training, and morale. I suspect most units are quite brittle.

    11. Pakistan. Similar to India, but probably technically even less proficient.

    12. Bangladesh. Similar to Pakistan. But as you say, may be a rung lower than India and Pakistan. On the other hand, their peacekeeping troops are considered to have better discipline than Pakistani contingents.

    13. Indonesia. Very good at killing and keeping down civilians.

    14. Malaysia. I would rate it higher than India and Pakistan.

    15. Arabs. HIGHLY variable. There are some tough, capable Arab units. And then there are worthless conscripts who flee on first contact. However, they universally talk enormous shit, which I find irritating.

    16. Africans. Generally completely worthless, and they know it too. There are, however, some exceptions (e.g. Chadian long range desert units are quite capable in their environment).

    I should also note that these characteristics are not set in stone, and are subject to the circumstances of time and place. The U.S. Army in the late 70's and early 80's was in a very rough shape in terms of manpower quality, for example. The Japanese military, which was quite fierce in previous eras, now draws its manpower from a strongly pacifist populace. South Koreans in early Korean War were notorious for breaking and running on contact but then became ass-kicking, bad mo-fo's in the Vietnam War, who would ambush and annihilate the VC in their own terrain, sometimes in hand-to-hand combat (they had something like 20-to-1 kill ratios in Vietnam). Africans are generally useless, but the Askaris who fought for the Germans in World War I (under the magnificent leadership of von Lettow-Vorbeck) fought excellently against the combined might of the British, Portuguese, and Belgian forces.
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  • Sometimes you don't know what is real or not real. What do people really believe? Do they really believe what they say? Even if it's clearly ridiculous? Probably internalized 1984 too much. Also, many of my white friends have admitted to me that in university contexts when talking about sensitive topics such as race they've...
  • My fear is that this putrefied mess is not easily reversed. Many healthy and desirable babies could be lost when this bathwater is finally thrown out.
    I do believe that this PC BS is part of why so many are voting for a conman like Trump. The prevailing wisdom is in an advanced state of putrefaction..

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  • The figure above popped up on Twitter to show that even within a socialized medical system, in this case in the United Kingdom and its NHS, ethnic differences in infant mortality remain. But what jumped out at me immediately was the high rate for infants whose mothers were born in Pakistan, as opposed to India...
  • @Ruben Arslan
    It's a very small effect and I would advise to consider the possibility that freezing your sperm might also damage it (but I know little about that).

    There is an excellent review of the effects of cryopreservation on the genomes of sperm as well as oocytes here:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25519143

    It seems there is some detectable damage to DNA, but it is not clear how significant this is in terms of the future health of successfully fertilized embryos. There just isn’t enough data out there yet. So yes, there may well be ill effects of freezing a 20 year old male’s sperm that outweigh the benefit of using a young person’s sperm instead of a 40 year old’s. On the other hand, the effects seem to be mostly related to freezing and thawing, not to the duration of storage. So the risk-benefit calculation may improve as you get older.

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  • At the moment I am taking a break between non-internet related professional obligations. No real time to write something interesting, though I now plan to write a post with the tentative title of "the pagan kafir origins of Islam." This, inspired by my quick reading of Warriors of the Cloisters: The Central Asian Origins of...
  • Have you read http://www.amazon.com/Early-Islam-Critical-Reconstruction-Contemporary/dp/161614825X/ref=pd_sim_14_1?ie=UTF8&dpID=614cyv0xnJL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR104%2C160_&refRID=1YWDV8QG5VTN8V1TW960

    I have not read it but am hoping to do so soon.. it seems like it overlaps with your topic.

    I hope it is better than this one: http://www.amazon.com/What-Koran-Really-Says-Warraq/dp/157392945X/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8 which I did happen to read and which has some interesting things in it, but the essays are mostly old and ibn warraq makes no attempt at synthesizing what we know into one coherent account of the topic. Having scanned a couple of his other books, i think he is just not capable of doing that. I am hopeful that your essay will do a much better job (and will include more on the POST-Islamic origins of classical Islam…Warraq spends most of his energy on trying to show that bits and pieces come from this or that pre-islamic middle eastern source, but the work was completed in Baghdad, by scholars who had a LOT of Persian and central Asian connections. That (I am guessing from your post) is what we will learn about from your essay.
    I am looking forward to it. :)
    btw, I read this book (borrowed from the UCLA library) a few years ago. It is very dated, and Torrey takes the basic Islamic storyline (Mecca, Medina, the whole thing) for granted, then hightlights the parts he thinks are cribbed straight from Judaism. Still interesting. Someone has posted it on an Islamophobic website: http://www.truthnet.org/islam/Jewish/Preface/

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  • For a while I've been playing around with 1000 Genomes South Asian data. It's an interesting exercise, because unlike other South Asian data set it's relatively generic with minimal ethnic/caste labels. This is important because unlike other population groups that the 1000 Genomes has sampled, such as in Africa, Europe, and East Asia, the South...
  • @Razib Khan
    Two, possibly overlapping, hypotheses come to mind, based on my layman’s knowledge of the differences in how present-day Pakistan and Bangladesh Islamicized: Pakistan after Arab conquest about 1300 years ago, Bangladesh after Turkic conquest about 800 years ago.

    the arabs conquered sindh, but not punjab. most of punjabs was conquered by the turco-persians under https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahmud_of_Ghazni

    Because of Pakistan’s 500+ year head start, Pakistan may be past the latter stage, but Bangladesh is not.


    so actually there's a 200 year head start. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bengal#History

    the islamicization of eastern bengal is somewhat mysterious from a scholarly perspective. the british census which showed muslims in the majority in the late 19th century in the east surprised many people. but the rule of thumb is that bengalis are less 'islamic' in their self-identity than pakistani muslims (bengali speaking muslims use the bengali script and share a common literary culture with hindu bengalis).

    “the rule of thumb is that bengalis are less ‘islamic’ in their self-identity than pakistani muslims (bengali speaking muslims use the bengali script and share a common literary culture with hindu bengalis).”
    This is true, and because of this Bengalis seemed more “Hindu” to West Pakistani elites, but there is another interesting (at least anecdotal side) to it: My father was an army officer in East Pakistan for 4 years and he and his colleagues had a general belief that Bengali Muslims were MORE observant of Islamic liturgical practices than Punjabi Muslims. This was a frequently remarked upon fact in that circle (even as they were also regarded as somehow “more Hindu” because of language and script and greater identification with their own cultural identity than with the Urdu-centric “high culture” of the North Indian Muslim elite). e.g.. it was frequently remarked that they were more likely to pray or fast.
    I don’t know if there is any way to confirm or deny this with real data.
    And rates of publicly praying and fasting have increased exponentially in rural Punjab, so this certainly doesnt seem to be true any longer. OTOH, maybe they have increased in Bengal even more?

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  • I've been doing reader surveys for a while, so I figured now was about time. For the demographic questions I tried to mimic the GSS more than usual. It's two pages and 40 questions, but it should be pretty quick (it's not a quiz, you shouldn't have to think). Here is the link to the...
  • I am surprised by two things and wonder if people have any theories about them:

    1. Very few East Asians. Why?

    2. Trump is still leading. Do any of the Trump supporters wish to tell us why they would prefer him in this election? Immigration? Something else? I am just curious.

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  • I assume there is no way to check how individual survey-takers responses have changed over time?
    If an anonymized way of tracking that were built in, it would be interesting though. It could be an interesting study in a few years. How individual preferences change over time.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    i don't track IPs that closely!
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  • The first step in discussing any matter of social importance is to quantify it. This invites attack when applied to a topic as taboo as rape and sexual violence, but that is if anything all the more reason to do it. International statistics on rape per 100,000 people are all but useless because - unlike,...
  • @Anonymous

    well, that man is very likely to behave rather better than the average ethnic-Nipponese-trash living in the neighborhood. In ALL the “better behaved” countries, the local underclass regularly beats women under their control, and especially so when drunk.
     
    I don't know that this is true of the native underclass in developed countries. At any rate, what's the basis for your suggestion that the native underclass in developed countries is just as prone to wantonly sexually assault women in public en masse?

    I think I specifically noted this exact difference. Native “Nipponese-trash” may indeed beat wives and girlfriends when drunk, but their public behavior is still better. Culture, expectation, messaging (explicit and implicit) from the media and other sources, policing, etc.. all these matter.

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  • @Vijay
    "In short, there are reasons why women in the Middle East, South Asia, and apparently (if to a smaller extent) in Central America are segregated and kept out of the workforce"

    This is basically incorrect regarding India. Workforce participation of women is high especially in rural agricultural areas (even if not credited), and in urban higher income occupations. Economically, it would be impossible to farm and survive in rural India without working women.

    This should not mean to imply that violence against women in India is small. The idea that they are segregated out of the workforce is laughable, and occurs only for the highest income castes, and some significant extent, North Indian Muslims. Segregation of gender is not the driver for violence; it is the religion, caste and culture, and lack of education.

    Workforce participation is similarly high in rural pakistan (and rising in urban Pakistan as well), but that does not mean they take no precautions. They move in groups, avoid isolated spots, use male guardians in some situations, cover themselves, etc …and they still get groped and ogled and occasionally raped (though they would be foolish to report it if not seriously hurt or publicly seen…in all other situations, as you of course know, they will prefer to hide the fact).

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    • Replies: @Vijay
    There is a bit of difference between India/China and Pakistan. Rice farming and very tiny plots with small amounts of mechanization means women are as omnipresent as men in farming, urban/rural construction, etc. The gradient of female participation is high in Punjab and increases from Indo Gangetic plain to the south (and onto SriLanka) and east. Women walk around uncovered without being worried about ogling being groped etc. Many of the female issues in India are in Delhi/Haryana/UP region where clannishness is stronger than caste considerations. The point in my comment was that female participation in the workforce is not correlated to ugliness against women. Experience on Pakistan (or even Jatland/UP) does not provide insights for all of India. We know of thousands of Indian and Srilankan women working alone in the middle east and not significantly impacted (except a few cases). The actions towards women are not created by segregation, but by what is taught to the men by families, religion and culture.
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  • @omarali50
    About the Pakistani youth comment, I would add something that you are probably aware of but that is not mentioned in the article. People are not entirely dumb; whether the migrant from a culture prone to violence against women checks himself or lets himself go depends to some extent on their estimate of how likely they are to be punished and how desirable it is to rapidly integrate into the local milieu. For example, I would wager (without any data obviously) that if Syrian refugees arrive in small numbers in a very well-policed East Asian country and are explicitly told (by earlier migrants, first and foremost; and by everyone else they meet) that the local Nipponese police (I am NOT referring to actually-existing Japan, whose police are actually thought of as something of a soft touch) treats criminals VERY harshly and tends to "find their man", and is never told that he has a right to rape Nipponese women because Nippon is responsible for all his woes...well, that man is very likely to behave rather better than the average ethnic-Nipponese-trash living in the neighborhood. In ALL the "better behaved" countries, the local underclass regularly beats women under their control, and especially so when drunk.
    But this newfound code of good behavior does not apply to the bride he may import later from back home. SHE may get it bad. I would wager (again, without data, but with multiple anecdotes known to me) that girls from back home brought to marry working class migrants in Nipponia will be mistreated at rates that may be even higher than girls back home (though may or may not be higher than those of the local underclass).. Actual physical beating may be deterred by fear of the Nipponese police, but barely so. Girls will know their place, or will face a lot of disciplining. Since they too are not dumb, and the messaging is clear and is reinforced by the in-laws of all description, most will not need to be actually beaten.
    On the other hand, upper class educated migrants will have my head for even imagining that such a scenario exists.

    Random thoughts that came to me after this comment:
    1. Is there some way to distinguish between violence against women in the streets and violence at home? Is it possible that domestic violence (which is most of the violence in all of the above stats) is NOT that different between migrants and local Europeans living in the same (mostly underclass) neighborhoods? This would seem to be the anecdotal impression certainly (given all the accounts of “he comes home drunk and beats me up” found in ethnic European literature). What is likely to be very different is the value-set about assaulting women on the street. People from Africa, South Asia and the Middle East (but not necessarily from SE Asia?) come from societies that implicitly accept that women are prone to being attacked if they are caught in the open without protection from males guardians (and so, when they are out like that, are “asking for it”) and have public behavior codes that make such situations unlikely by teaching women to stay away from such situations (not work with strange men, not walk alone at night, etc etc). Add to that the widespread belief (taught, like most modern beliefs, first and foremost by Europeans) that “Europeans are responsible for whatever bad state you are in” and it is not difficult to see why gangs of young migrants would convince themselves that they are not breaking any moral code by assaulting that woman in the subway station. Thus enlarging the circle of possible attackers beyond the usual percentage of inherently criminal/violent/sociopathic individuals.

    2. It is very likely that older fresh migrants are actually more respectful of authority and “law and order” than the average underclass citizen of the host country. It is the younger males (and especially the second generation kids) who have fully imbibed the victimhood-revenge-superiority package.

    3. That people in the situation that exists would imbibe/generate such a package of beliefs is perfectly in line with what we know of humans and human nature (and not specific to Africans or South Asians in some genetic sense). i.e. a different set of social policies, educational policies, expectations etc would tilt this situation in a different direction (though only if numbers were relatively low?). But given the current state of sociology etc, this is exactly what is not likely to happen. The remedies applied will be ineffective because they are based on false models of what is happening.
    Something like that. These are random thoughts, not well thought out analyses.

    From an (imaginary) olympian height, all of which is human, all too human.

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    • Replies: @Anonymous

    What is likely to be very different is the value-set about assaulting women on the street. People from Africa, South Asia and the Middle East (but not necessarily from SE Asia?) come from societies that implicitly accept that women are prone to being attacked if they are caught in the open without protection from males guardians
     
    Gang sexual assaults against women in public suggest a different degree or kind of aggression and temperament than domestic abuse.

    Unless there were tendencies to sexually assault women in public, the mere belief that women are prone to being assaulted should not result in attacks.
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  • About the Pakistani youth comment, I would add something that you are probably aware of but that is not mentioned in the article. People are not entirely dumb; whether the migrant from a culture prone to violence against women checks himself or lets himself go depends to some extent on their estimate of how likely they are to be punished and how desirable it is to rapidly integrate into the local milieu. For example, I would wager (without any data obviously) that if Syrian refugees arrive in small numbers in a very well-policed East Asian country and are explicitly told (by earlier migrants, first and foremost; and by everyone else they meet) that the local Nipponese police (I am NOT referring to actually-existing Japan, whose police are actually thought of as something of a soft touch) treats criminals VERY harshly and tends to “find their man”, and is never told that he has a right to rape Nipponese women because Nippon is responsible for all his woes…well, that man is very likely to behave rather better than the average ethnic-Nipponese-trash living in the neighborhood. In ALL the “better behaved” countries, the local underclass regularly beats women under their control, and especially so when drunk.
    But this newfound code of good behavior does not apply to the bride he may import later from back home. SHE may get it bad. I would wager (again, without data, but with multiple anecdotes known to me) that girls from back home brought to marry working class migrants in Nipponia will be mistreated at rates that may be even higher than girls back home (though may or may not be higher than those of the local underclass).. Actual physical beating may be deterred by fear of the Nipponese police, but barely so. Girls will know their place, or will face a lot of disciplining. Since they too are not dumb, and the messaging is clear and is reinforced by the in-laws of all description, most will not need to be actually beaten.
    On the other hand, upper class educated migrants will have my head for even imagining that such a scenario exists.

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    • Replies: @omarali50
    Random thoughts that came to me after this comment:
    1. Is there some way to distinguish between violence against women in the streets and violence at home? Is it possible that domestic violence (which is most of the violence in all of the above stats) is NOT that different between migrants and local Europeans living in the same (mostly underclass) neighborhoods? This would seem to be the anecdotal impression certainly (given all the accounts of "he comes home drunk and beats me up" found in ethnic European literature). What is likely to be very different is the value-set about assaulting women on the street. People from Africa, South Asia and the Middle East (but not necessarily from SE Asia?) come from societies that implicitly accept that women are prone to being attacked if they are caught in the open without protection from males guardians (and so, when they are out like that, are "asking for it") and have public behavior codes that make such situations unlikely by teaching women to stay away from such situations (not work with strange men, not walk alone at night, etc etc). Add to that the widespread belief (taught, like most modern beliefs, first and foremost by Europeans) that "Europeans are responsible for whatever bad state you are in" and it is not difficult to see why gangs of young migrants would convince themselves that they are not breaking any moral code by assaulting that woman in the subway station. Thus enlarging the circle of possible attackers beyond the usual percentage of inherently criminal/violent/sociopathic individuals.

    2. It is very likely that older fresh migrants are actually more respectful of authority and "law and order" than the average underclass citizen of the host country. It is the younger males (and especially the second generation kids) who have fully imbibed the victimhood-revenge-superiority package.

    3. That people in the situation that exists would imbibe/generate such a package of beliefs is perfectly in line with what we know of humans and human nature (and not specific to Africans or South Asians in some genetic sense). i.e. a different set of social policies, educational policies, expectations etc would tilt this situation in a different direction (though only if numbers were relatively low?). But given the current state of sociology etc, this is exactly what is not likely to happen. The remedies applied will be ineffective because they are based on false models of what is happening.
    Something like that. These are random thoughts, not well thought out analyses.

    From an (imaginary) olympian height, all of which is human, all too human.
    , @Anonymous

    well, that man is very likely to behave rather better than the average ethnic-Nipponese-trash living in the neighborhood. In ALL the “better behaved” countries, the local underclass regularly beats women under their control, and especially so when drunk.
     
    I don't know that this is true of the native underclass in developed countries. At any rate, what's the basis for your suggestion that the native underclass in developed countries is just as prone to wantonly sexually assault women in public en masse?
    , @rvg
    So given that chavs/working class Irish and the Merkel youth beat up their girlfriends/children/spouses at the about same rate as you as implying what's so bad about accepting the Merkel youth, given that they will just blend in with the existing white trash population.
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  • Aeon Magazine has published a 11,000 word essay by Scott Atran, ISIS is a revolution. Atran is one of my favorite thinkers, and his book In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion, is one of the more influential in shaping my understanding of cultural phenomena (warning, the prose is dense, but worth it!)....
  • I agree with your conclusion wholeheartedly.. . Though I would be somewhat harsher on Atran. I think he is right in broad theory, but casually and almost mindlessly repeats several fashionable (and pedestrian) liberal talking points when it comes to details of recent history and even long past history… Also he seems genuinely confused about some of the implications of his own core arguments.. Anyway, I have to think this through and then comment in detail.. Enjoy. And Happy New Year!

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  • I was talking to a friend recently about life and its aims and meaning. Offhand I mentioned I was reading Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius, arguably the most powerful man in the world when he was composing it. There is debate about whether he wrote Meditations for public consumption, but that is somewhat irrelevant to why...
  • @pbnj
    I think a good conclusion was reached ca. 2000 B.C.:

    "Gilgamesh, whither are you wandering?
    Life, which you look for, you will never find.
    For when the gods created man, they let
    death be his share, and life
    withheld in their own hands.
    Gilgamesh, fill your belly-
    day and night make merry,
    let days be full of joy,
    dance and make music day and night.
    And wear fresh clothes,
    and wash your head and bathe.
    Look at the child that is holding your hand,
    and let your wife delight in your embrace.
    These things alone are the concern of men."

    Hadees az mutrib o may goo wa raz e dahr kamtar joo.
    Keh kus na kushood o na kushayed ba hikmat een muimma ra

    Speak of wine and song, and less of the ways of the world
    For no one using wisdom/knowledge has solved or can solve this puzzle

    Hafez Shirazi

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  • Over at Heterodox Academy there's a post, Heterodox Academy’s Guide to the Most (and Least) Politically Diverse Colleges, First Edition, geared toward those looking for "unsafe spaces." This isn't on the list, but there's another option: just be around me! Recently a friend found out I was a conservative, and he expressed total wonderment at...
  • As you point out, just regular interaction with a well-informed and intelligent representative of the “other side” can be illuminating and helpful. For some years I was on an email group that included a Pakistani-American Islamist with a PhD in history from U Chicago. While we disagreed vehemently on almost all issues, he repeatedly caused me to revise the form of my pet arguments because he was able to show that “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”. I could stick to many of the same conclusions as before, but i sure had to dig deeper and look about further to be able to support them. And some conclusions I did change.
    He disappeared from social media, but luckily I found this blog about the same time and it is Omar Qureshi (that was his name) raised to the power X :)
    Nassim Talib said something like: “if you don’t think “I have NOT read enough books”, then you have certainly not read enough books”.
    The truth is out there. But there is so much of it. Reincarnation for many lifetimes is clearly needed. Our ancestors may have been on to something :)

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  • Over Thanksgiving I tried Marie Sharp's Habanero Pepper Sauce. It is apparently from Belize. Highly recommended. It's a genuine habanero sauce, in that it actually is spicy. The additives don't overwhelm the habanero flavor and impact. I would say it is very mildly on the sweet rather than vinegar side, but the other flavors don't...
  • @Razib Khan
    Do Arabs discriminate against other Arabs on the basis of skin color, “black” facial features etc. or are they primarily prejudiced against recent immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa (like was reported about Libya during the anti-Gaddafi uprising)?


    all of the above.

    http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/06/black-iraqis-face-discrimination-racism.html

    also, there's probably ascertainment bias a bit in terms of who looks arab. someone like bashar al-assad has levantine features, but he has white skin and blue eyes. there are a fair amount of syrians who look like this judging from syrians i've met. but, some syrians are also quite brown, like me (probably african admixture?). most are in between. in general it is better to be white, especially women.

    also varies by region. from the data i've seen north africa (morocco to egypt) has higher basal levels of african admixture than syria or lebanon, where it is quite low. the arabian peninsula is more like north africa, with the fraction being high enough among yemenis that they look african, even if they are not part of the african minority (again, judging by ppl i've met at mosque).

    turks, kurds, and persians, tend to not have african admixture beyond a few percent. so if they are swarthy, that is not through admixture.

    I lived in Saudi Arabia for 6 years and my anecdotal observations on this issue:
    They are indeed full of contempt for South Asians and Africans, but they have been taught (and seem to believe) that “Islam is color blind, and Muslims are not racists”, so they won’t own up to blatantly “colorist” views in public. The same person who passes comments about “darkies” will not admit to any such prejudice when asked and will know what the politically correct thing to say is.
    About Islam, they are very clear. They know what it is and everyone else should shut up and listen. And since many (most?) South Asians and others will do exactly that (will accept their superior knowledge and understanding of “real Islam”), this belief is constantly reinforced.
    I agree with your skepticism about the Indonesians (or anyone else) reforming Islam from the periphery FOR the core region. The core region is the heartland of Islam and they know it.
    So do most Indonesians and Malaysians and Pakistanis. All this talk about enlightened moderation coming from the supposedly more tolerant and multi-culti periphery is wishful thinking.
    Or at least that is how it looks to me.

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    And since many (most?) South Asians and others will do exactly that (will accept their superior knowledge and understanding of “real Islam”), this belief is constantly reinforced.

    yeah. it seems about right. i can't remember a south asian every schooling an arab at the mosque on islam, but the reverse happened now and then (in terms of the arab showing the south asian the 'proper' way to do something, though sometimes it had to do with something as trivial as shafi vs. hanafi norms in prayer stance).
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  • Sharia should be law of land Muslims who believe sharia should be law who accept death penalty for apostasy % of Muslims who accept death penalty for apostasy Afghanistan 99% 79% 78% Pakistan 84% 76% 64% Egypt 74% 86% 64% Palestinian territories 89% 66% "59% Jordan 71% 82% 58% Malaysia 86% 62% 53% Iraq 91%...
  • @frizzled
    Razib, how about as another control, you try tweeting "Judaism is a fucking cancer"?

    How do you think that one would go down?

    I think any such tweet about Judaism would be widely condemned in liberal as well as pro-zionist right-wing circles, but like any other tweet, the response also depends on the context. If Gaza was under attack by the Israeli Air Force for several days, with many smoking ruins on TV and so on, then such a tweet would likely pass muster on any left-of-center blog in Europe and may not be instantly condemned by everyone in the US either. If it was just a random tweet in the middle of a slow news day, then it would likely be taken as evidence of pathological anti-semitism.
    The same for tweets about Islam. On a day when no new atrocity from ISIS or Bangladesh had appeared in the news, it would be (correctly?) regarded as evidence of pathological Islamophobia. But if a Bangladeshi atheist tweeted thus on the day another Bangaldeshi atheist was chopped up in the streets of Dhaka, then it would be allowed to pass by many people who do not otherwise agree with the sentiment. Something like that.
    In the longer term, it all depends on the standing of the tweeter in history. Both Marx and TS Elliot get away with saying more or less exactly this, so there can be exceptions, even prominent ones.

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    • Replies: @BurplesonAFB
    Doubtful. Outside of extremist islamic sites, none of the pro-palestinian fervor is directed towards Judaism as an ideology being the cause of 'the occupation'. Always 'Zionism'. Really, nobody talks about Judaism or its tenets at all, outside of the occasional cheerleading article.
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  • I've been on the internet for over 20 years. When I initially got on the net I remember interacting with people who lived in England, and it was so cool! At one point I recall getting into a talk session with someone who lived in Ecuador. If you lived through the era of Wired circa...
  • @ohwilleke
    My experience with the Internet in general, and Facebook in particular, has not been the same.

    Pre-Internet, I had almost no awareness of anyone outside the U.S., although I had been told the dim outlines of the family immigration story, and I didn't know any relatives more distant that first cousins and grandparents except for a couple of great-aunts and one or two of my dad's first cousins in his generation. I'm a lousy correspondent via snail mail, and I'm sure that that didn't help.

    Post-Internet, I am familiar with the daily lives of many third and fourth cousins who I didn't know existed growing up (and a host of more recently acquired cousins in law and step-relations), including several who live abroad. I am also far more aware of what is going on in the lives of friends and acquaintances I've made from elementary school through college, some of whom live abroad and are outside my ordinary social circle. The Internet has also facilitated in person visits in both the U.S. and Europe with some of my relatives in Finland and Germany, although I've been unfortunate and missed out on the European meet ups.

    For example, when a mathematician whom I know exclusively through the Internet who lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, appeared to be entering a mental health crisis, I was able to contact a friend from high school in Ohio, and another friend whom I met while I was living in New Zealand for a year, both of whom live tolerably nearby, to attempt to organize an intervention or welfare check. (As it happened, the situation resolved itself a few hours before those steps would have been taken.)

    There are probably a dozen people I've met over the Internet and never met in person that I regularly communicate with and with whom I have some awareness of what is going on in their lives, all over the world.

    I'm at least dimly aware of what is currently going on in the lives of almost everyone I've ever dated or even had a crush on, ever, even though they have spread to the four winds and I haven't seen some of them in person for a couple of decades. I recently sent flowers to a college friend who just got tenure.

    For me, the combination of the ease with which one can find contact information for someone and the negligible cost of making intercontinental contact have both been important.

    There may be limits to how much you can inflate Dunbar's number, but the Internet does allow you to deepen your relationship with those people to levels comparable to what would have been present in ancient Neolithic villages or Paleolithic bands, at immense distances. It has also strengthened greatly the amount of awareness I have of what is going on with people in different generations (both down to people about my children's age and up to people in my parents' generation.)

    I am not sure it has increased “internationalism”. For example, i don’t think it has (at least till now) changed or diluted national loyalties or lessened sectarian divides (even though international shouting matches have become more possible, I dont think it has made things worse either, maybe a little better, if only a little).
    But I too have had a very different experience in terms of relationships and friendships. That doesnt mean my experience is the modal experience, but I definitely got in touch with a much more diverse cast of characters via the internet (and probably became more anti-social within the physical community I live in). Some of it is just old friends and family, so I am in touch with many old friends and acquaintances whose lives I was not in touch with in the pre-internet era (and being over 50, I can compare to some extent). And the same for extended family: I am much more in touch with extended family scattered widely around the world, not just (or even mostly) in the US. But even those contacts include intensified relationships that were not always that close in the time we were together physicially. Things changed, and thanks to the internet, we could discover and coordinate that change.
    I think my experience may be more typical of older immigrants who grew up in other countries and have wide international circles (given the way emigrants radiated out from the Indian subcontinent) with whom we would have lost touch after migration in the good old days.. or this may be personality specific. But I do think it has made a difference, beyond just amplifying existing trends (for example, I had a few local Indian friends wherever I moved, but never the variety and number I have via the internet…it’s not just that the number and variety of locations is greater, it’s also the ability to pick out those you share interests with, which was always far more limited in the past when physical contact was whatever it happened to be).
    The Dunbar number may not have increased much, but it’s cast of characters has definitely changed in my case.

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    • Replies: @Ali
    I think we may need a new concept: The "effective Dunbar number", based on a time-varying field of social attention.
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  • A week ago a friend was asking about my opinion on a long article that was shared on Facebook about ISIS and the nature of Islam. It came up that I don't talk about religion too much on this blog in the same way I did before 2010 or so. The primary reason is that...
  • I have Cook’s book but have not yet read it (because it keeps getting pushed back in the que compared to books I have to return to the library), but on the question of Muslim Asabiya, it doesnt have to be much stronger than that of any other religion to be a signficant factor in history. Sure, when Muslims face significant pressure to assimilate to some non-Muslm loyalty, most of them do so, but not without pain.

    Maybe one way of looking at it would be that Muslim asabiya is overblown, but there IS a stronger element of militant solidarity in the Muslim self-image than there is in most religions (some smaller religions exceed Muslim-level group solidarity, e.g. Sikhs, but then the religion overlaps with ethnic and linguistic identity, so maybe an apples and oranges comparison) and this self-image is well preserved in classical Islamic literature, theology and historical mythmaking. So it is always available, especially as communication and education improve.

    For example, look at Indian Muslims and their relationship with the caliphate in the early 20th century. It can be seen as an example of Muslim asabiya NOT matching the pull of other factors, but at the same time, it is an example of that asabiya being real (even if not sufficient to change loyalties during the first world war).

    The British worried (a lot) about the loyalty of their Musalman subjects. That they did not betray the crown in large numbers shows that Muslim asabiya was not enough. But that the Brits had to worry so much and take several steps to prevent such an outcome shows that the issue was not trivial. During the war, the Brits (who knew a thing or two about their subjects and about such things in general) were able to emphasize Turkey’s alliance with Germany (an infidel power) as a way to discredit Turkish claims of fighting for Islam and to soothe fears by vocally promising to defend the sanctity of Mecca and Medina and so on…though an even bigger factor may simply have been the fact that most Muslim recruits were still more anchored in traditional Punjabi honor codes than in (relatively modern) notions of transnational loyalty to Islam or any other thing.
    I remember my grandfather (approvingly) relating the story of a Punjabi Muslim VCO (Viceroy’s Commissioned Officer) of the British Indian army who, after the surrender at Kut, was offered his sword back by the Turks with the offer to join his fellow Muslims on the “right side” of the war, instead of enduring POW status on the side of the British infidels: he broke the sword on his knee and contemptously asked if the Turks thought he was such a low-life “namak haram” (traitor to his salt) that he would betray his oath and his fellow soldiers?
    A bit more education and he might have gone the other way.

    After the war, when it was not so dangerous and was more or less a theoretical issue, large numbers of Indian Muslims started a movement in favor of the Ottoman Caliphate (just when the Turks themselves were about to bury it). Maybe some of them were working out their guilt at having fought for the Brits in WWI.

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  • Update: On Twitter it came to my attention that some think that this post is about growth Actually, my point is that the Communist period, and Mao's period of domination, with the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, probably are huge decrements to utility over the 20th century which the Chinese are now just...
  • Several people continue to conflate the achievements of the CCP in 1949-1959 with Mao, but I think any detailed look at the facts will show that his influence tended to be negative even then. The CCP was a large party. It had attracted many idealists as well as pragmatic “side-changers” to itself. China had a long history of bureaucratic rule and many of those people were still around (and willing to switch sides). It also had a huge underclass that had been deprived of opportunities and out of which the CCP was able to attract many capable people. But all this was not Mao’s doing by any means. Even as a leader/manipulator at the top of the pyramid, he was ruthless, scheming and frequently obstructionist. He happily sacrificed one “army” (I forget the number, 4th route army or whatever) when he got to the end of the long march just so he could get one rival out of the way. People like Zhuo, Zhu Teh, Liu Shao Chi, Deng etc were not somehow handpicked by Mao, they were already in the party and in some cases had more powerful roles before Mao got to be top dog. Deng actually was a bit of a Mao loyalist and Mao showed favor to him many times, but many other capable people had good ideas and would have done better without Mao at the top. My impression is that many of the policies being cited as successes (land reform, mass literacy, law and order) were policies to which all the top people were committed and the details were frequently worked out and implemented by them, and more often than not, obstructed by Mao or ignored by him. Mao, for example, had a horror of experts and people like Zhou had to work around him to make sure particular capable and necessary people were not lost to the party.
    Things like that.
    I realize this is not data. Just impressions. But I wonder if people who do have detailed knowledge and facts and figures feel these impressions are correct or I am over-correcting for my teenage “Maoist” years :)

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    • Replies: @CaoMengDe
    you are over-correcting for your teenage “Maoist” years
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  • @Ron Unz
    Just for fun, I took a quick look at Google's handy World Bank data-charts, and they very much supported my recollections. Unfortunately, the more meaningful PPP-adjusted per capita GDP figures don't go back before 1990, but the constant-dollar charts are better than nothing and they go back to 1960. Here they are for China, India, The Congo, and Nigeria:

    https://www.google.com/publicdata/explore?ds=d5bncppjof8f9_&met_y=sp_pop_totl&idim=country:CHN:IND&hl=en&dl=en#!ctype=l&strail=false&bcs=d&nselm=h&met_y=ny_gdp_pcap_kd&scale_y=lin&ind_y=false&rdim=region&idim=country:CHN:IND:COG:NGA&ifdim=region&hl=en_US&dl=en&ind=false

    As you can see, Indians were almost twice as wealthy as Chinese in 1960, Nigerians were 400% wealthier, and Congolese were maybe 1000% wealthier (*obviously* this doesn't tell us anything about the *distribution* of the Congo's wealth).

    Then I dug out my old copy of Angus Maddison/OECD, which provides per-capita tables going back to 1950 (I'm sure the statistics aren't the most reliable in the world, but again, probably better than nothing). Sure enough, in 1950 China was just about the poorest country on earth, far, far below even the poorest African or Latin American countries (naturally Maddison's figures aren't too consistent with World Bank/Google's, e.g. different dollars and guesstimates). But if you believe Maddison, China's per capita GDP growth rate 1950-1960 was roughly the same as that of South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, and much better than that of India, Indonesia, Thailand, or Singapore, Communism or not.

    I think the reason people think China did so badly prior to 1980 was (1) tens of millions of Chinese starved to death during the (very stupid) Great Leap Forward and (2) China's post-1980 PPP-adjusted growth rate has been by far the fastest in the history of the human species, seeming to totally eclipse that of previous stars such as South Korean, Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Japan during their own peaks.

    https://www.google.com/publicdata/explore?ds=d5bncppjof8f9_&met_y=sp_pop_totl&idim=country:CHN:IND&hl=en&dl=en#!ctype=l&strail=false&bcs=d&nselm=h&met_y=ny_gdp_pcap_pp_cd&scale_y=lin&ind_y=false&rdim=region&idim=country:CHN:IND&ifdim=region&hl=en_US&dl=en&ind=false

    That still leaves open the question: would growth have been equally rapid (or even more rapid) if reunification had happened under the KMT? or under the communist party minus Mao (many of the other senior party members being more pragmatic and nationalist than “Maoist”)?
    Of course, like so many other “what if” questions, we can never reach a consensus, but at the very least one has to be open to the possibility that Mao was almost always a negative influence..The dividend we see (1950 onwards) is a reunification dividend, not a “communist” dividend. To the extent that Mao’s social fantasies were actually implemented or attempted, they all did more harm than good. Except maybe one: women’s liberation. That one he may have nailed.

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    • Replies: @Ron Unz

    That still leaves open the question: would growth have been equally rapid (or even more rapid) if reunification had happened under the KMT? or under the communist party minus Mao (many of the other senior party members being more pragmatic and nationalist than “Maoist”)?
     
    Absolutely. I'm certainly not denying that Communism in Maoist China was a very stupid system that didn't work well. Just that it wasn't *as* bad economically as many people believe. And obviously, causing maybe 35M people to accidentally starve to death during the Great Leap Forward was another significant minus...

    However, my impression is that the KMT leaders weren't very good at economic development either, due to their massive corruption, and only improved once they really had their backs to the wall in Taiwan.

    My guess is that if Mao had had more sensible economic ideas starting in 1950, the main difference is that the astonishing development trajectory that began around 1980 would just have begun thirty years earlier. After all, that's what smart Western observers had been predicting since around 1900:

    http://www.unz.com/article/how-social-darwinism-made-modern-china-248/
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  • @omarali50
    I think this is a common misconception. The Chinese nationalists were not incapable of uniting or administering China. Their incompetence and corruption was massive, but not incurable...and was far less than portrayed in later propaganda. Remember, this state fought the Japanese army to a standstill in world war two and managed to administer (loosely and badly at times, but not always) a rather large state in the midst of civil war, revolution and foreign invasion.
    The communist victory in the civil war looks inevitable in retrospect but was much more contingent than that. Frank Dikotter's books on this topic (I am in the middle of "the tragedy of liberation" right now, I have not yet read the earlier one, but having been long interested in that period, I am finding his arguments to a large extent plausible, though occasionally exaggerated and biased) may be a good resource. But not just those books (and others by those who hate Mao), even wikipedia and Google may be enough to initiate a rethink.
    Even if the communist takeover is regarded as a plus for the reasons you cite (infrastructure, land reforms, education, centralization, etc), one absolutely should not ascribe those positives to Mao. The party had many nationalist and capable people, but his personal role was hugely negative. A communist party led by Zhou and Deng would have achieved the same and much more, without the total disasters of the great leap forward and the great proletarian cultural revolution.

    One additional point: I really started to re-evaluate my own (naive) view of the Chinese revolution not so much by reading new books, but by meeting and working with Chinese colleagues in the US. It is not that they had some sort of coherent critique of the revolution, but that their particular stories (or rather, the stories they told about their parents and grandparents) made me realize that my view of China was too superficial, distant and “Western”. China suddenly started to look like this very vast, very deeply rooted nation with millions of educated and nationalistic people who worked as bureaucrats, teachers, soldiers etc and who did not live in a country that had no deep feeling of being ONE country. For example, the “Ma-clique” , typical “warlords” of the Northwest and Muslims to boot, when they ruled the roost over their vast domain, did not immediately think “now I have my own country”. They swore loyalty to the KMT regime (the “republic of China”). And there were many others like them. Disorder was real, but the IDEA of China was also real. As was a vast apparatus of rule that was decayed but not at all absent.

    that got me thinking…

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    the usual idea is that the contingent turning point in the chinese elite's attitudes/expectations occurred between the long gap of eastern han and sui-tang. after that unification, the 'model' was set. and each chaotic gap got shorter and shorter.
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  • @Razib Khan
    france isn't that bad. i agree it's sclerotic, but really that's not bad.... (it's not as wealthy as germany, but it's still a wealthy country and a european union relative dynamo). kerala seems to have weathered communism better. why? more remmitances?

    France gets bad press in the Anglo-world (because Napoleon??) but is really not bad at all. Not Germany, but not a basket case by any means.

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  • @Pseudonymic Handle
    The disastrous effect of communism can be easily noticed comparing the 2 Koreas, East and West Germany or the Czech Republic and Austria.
    China is a more complicated case as there communists made some important steps that a nationalist government would have had problems doing like the centralization of the country, de facto independence from the West, the nationalization of land and of foreign businesses, the banning of christian missionaries, ending opium use, pouring resources into transport networks and heavy industry, establishing a vast and solid education system, developing nuclear and missile technologies etc. The pre communist period shows that no other political force was capable of achieving these goals.
    Of course, the Great Leap Forward was an economic disaster and the Cultural Revolution delayed the transformation of the party elite into an hereditary red plutocracy, but the growth of the chinese economy was built on the foundations laid during Mao.

    I think this is a common misconception. The Chinese nationalists were not incapable of uniting or administering China. Their incompetence and corruption was massive, but not incurable…and was far less than portrayed in later propaganda. Remember, this state fought the Japanese army to a standstill in world war two and managed to administer (loosely and badly at times, but not always) a rather large state in the midst of civil war, revolution and foreign invasion.
    The communist victory in the civil war looks inevitable in retrospect but was much more contingent than that. Frank Dikotter’s books on this topic (I am in the middle of “the tragedy of liberation” right now, I have not yet read the earlier one, but having been long interested in that period, I am finding his arguments to a large extent plausible, though occasionally exaggerated and biased) may be a good resource. But not just those books (and others by those who hate Mao), even wikipedia and Google may be enough to initiate a rethink.
    Even if the communist takeover is regarded as a plus for the reasons you cite (infrastructure, land reforms, education, centralization, etc), one absolutely should not ascribe those positives to Mao. The party had many nationalist and capable people, but his personal role was hugely negative. A communist party led by Zhou and Deng would have achieved the same and much more, without the total disasters of the great leap forward and the great proletarian cultural revolution.

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    • Replies: @omarali50
    One additional point: I really started to re-evaluate my own (naive) view of the Chinese revolution not so much by reading new books, but by meeting and working with Chinese colleagues in the US. It is not that they had some sort of coherent critique of the revolution, but that their particular stories (or rather, the stories they told about their parents and grandparents) made me realize that my view of China was too superficial, distant and "Western". China suddenly started to look like this very vast, very deeply rooted nation with millions of educated and nationalistic people who worked as bureaucrats, teachers, soldiers etc and who did not live in a country that had no deep feeling of being ONE country. For example, the "Ma-clique" , typical "warlords" of the Northwest and Muslims to boot, when they ruled the roost over their vast domain, did not immediately think "now I have my own country". They swore loyalty to the KMT regime (the "republic of China"). And there were many others like them. Disorder was real, but the IDEA of China was also real. As was a vast apparatus of rule that was decayed but not at all absent.

    that got me thinking...
    , @CaoMengDe
    The Chinese nationalists were not incapable of uniting or administering China because they were defeated by Communists.

    The communist victory certainly was not inevitable in the immediate aftermath of Japanese surrender.

    In fact, that's why between Sept 1945 to ceasefire of June 1945, Communists were more eager to seek negotiate settlements because they are in the position of weakness vs Nationalists.

    But the biggest disagreement between the two sides was Manchuria, how it will be divided.

    Since Soviet's August Storm smashed Japanese Kwantung Army, Communists have been the first to slip in their cadres and men into Manchuria to prepare for the takeover.

    Initially Communists seek to take over whole of Manchuria and stop Nationalists south of the Great Wall. When Nationalists army ferried by American planes and ships from Southern China smashed Communists ' defense around the Great Wall, Communists still seek to hold the bulk of Manchuria.

    Communists' aim at the time was only to establish a Communist state in Manchuria with Mukden (capital of former puppet state of Manchukuo) as its new capital.

    In order to achieve this aim, Communist committed their best troops in Manchuria into "Campaign to Defend Siping" on 1946

    But American trained Nationalist Army continued to push north and decisively crushed the Communist Army in the Siege on May 1946. Mass defection ensued among Communists ranks as many were recent recruits from puppet army of the former puppet state of Manchukuo.

    Because close aide to Lin Biao defected to Nationalists, dire straits of Communist Army was revealed. Nationalist Army chased Communists all the way to the bank of Songhua river.

    This was the closet point, Nationalists have ever come to crush the Communist once for all.

    Lin Biao had already drawn up plans to evacuate Harbin and withdraw into Soviet Union if the Nationalist pursuit had continued.

    But combination of pressure from United States in the form of George Marshal and overstretching of Nationalist supply lines, lead Chiang agree to June cease fire.

    The June cease fire of 1946 is probably the turning point of the war. It allow Communists to regroup in Northern Manchuria, and consolidate its rule over Heilongjiang province. The pacification of Bandits as glorified in the recent 2014 Tsui Hark movie "The Taking of Tiger Mountain" in combination of land reform shored up Communist support.

    Lin Biao institute mass mobilization in the Northern Manchurian countryside.

    For example, there were 30,000-40,000 Sino-Koreans in Lin Biao's Army. Consider that there were probably just around 1 million Koreans living in Manchuria at the time, extrapolate that to the general population in Manchuria, you get the picture that basically all the able bodied men were drafted.

    After that Nationalists had no chance.

    After Lin Biao eventually conquered the entire Manchuria after Liaoshen Campaign in November 1948, he had over a million men serving under his Fourth Field Army.

    As those million men marches south pour over the Great Wall into rest of the China like the Manchu horde of yesteryears, the rest is history.

    So yes, Nationalist did have a chance to defeat the Communists before June 1946, but not a chance ever since.
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  • About a year ago I heard a pop song on my Pandora that was a little less annoying than Ke$sha, and I looked up the singer up. Her real name was Jessica Malakouti. My immediate though was "that last name sounds Iranian." Then I watch the video above, and my revised thought with the new...
  • @AG
    Just back from vacation in Berlin, Germany. The impression is that Berlin entire city is big memorial for WW 2 sin and education for young German students about fault of their ancestors. They did not just blame Hitler for the disaster, but themself as people to embrace the national socialism. In other words, there is no `scapegoat'. Never seen such remoseful people on the earth. All memorial and mesuems educate young Germans about historical prejudice against Jews and racist nature of national socialism. All these places are full of young German students with their teachers for the education. Quite remarkable. It seems that German tried hard never repeating history.

    Comparing to Germany, Japan might miss some thing after ww 2. But the nature of Japanese aggression against neighors are different from that of Germany.

    Indeed, I think the Japanese do have a point. Their army was cruel and atrocity-prone, but even in China they did not have any large-scale extermination project to compare with Germany.
    The Nazis were not just quantitatively worse, they were qualitatively different: http://t.co/1ulhihOQ2Q

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  • I just started reading Frank Dikotter’s “The tragedy of liberation” (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1620403471/ref=x_gr_w_glide_bb?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_w_glide_bb-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1620403471&SubscriptionId=1MGPYB6YW3HWK55XCGG2) . It is clear that he really really disapproves of the Maoist revolution, so it is not an attempt at being (or sounding) very “objective and neutral”, but it adds a lot of detail to the period from 1949 to 1959 (the “good period” of the Chinese revolution) and seems well worth reading. I have not read his other books, but his pre-1949 book also looks very interesting.
    It may be that as a “lapsed Maoist (very superficially knowledgeable “Maoist”, as most supporters of any ideology are), I find these books more interesting because I used to have the opposite biases once upon a time, but if you have not already read it, you may wish to add this to your book pile.

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  • Recently a prominent public intellectual emailed me and asked for an introductory genetics text. Not necessarily focused on population genetics (in which case, John Gillespie's Population Genetics would do). I suggested An Introduction to Genetic Analysis, mostly because it seems pretty comprehensive, and, runs the gamut from classical genetic analysis to 21st century genomics. Yet...
  • It has been 25 years since I read Orientalism, but I remember having the thought that Said is too intelligent and well-read for us to attribute his misrepresentations, exaggerations and errors to plain ignorance (as one can in the case of most of his fans, who tend to be more or less ignorant and have read very little history outside of a few select propaganda-type courses and books).

    At that time, I think I concluded that Said knew this was not how orientalism really worked, but he thought this was the best way to attack the specific imperialism that he felt was responsible for Israel. i.e., I thought his motivation was very personal and very specific and that was why he paid little or no attention to Russian, Chinese or Arab imperialism. What motivated him was the urge to undermine (by any means necessary) one specific imperium, not imperialism or “othering” in general.

    I wonder if I would think the same if I read him now?

    Does he strike you as a knowledgeable but slimy intellectual who is deliberately creating propaganda? or as someone who really does not know better and more or less believes what he is writing?

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  • Periodically rather than offering up original thoughts it is needful to engage defensive warfare against pernicious memes. For example, one thesis that is commonly bandied about today is that racial admixture will result in the blending away of all differences, toward a homogeneous beige future without end. This is false. It is false for several...
  • Most people in China or India or even Europe may remain in their current race categories, but will that also be true of the US? (I don’t know the answer, I am just curious what the data says and what your prediction is about the US as a whole, or about California in particular? I ask because my ex-boss used to say that race will become meaningless and irrelevant in California in our lifetime. Any chance he was right?)

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    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    I am just curious what the data says and what your prediction is about the US as a whole, or about California in particular?

    the census has predictions. substantial minority will be multiracial. but hawaii has been like this for generations. race still matters. just different and more complicated. though it does look like for all practical purposes part-white people with asian/hispanic heritage default to white socially even if they give different responses on surveys.
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  • Free speech aside, why would anyone do something as provocative as hosting a "Muhammad drawing contest"? — Rukmini Callimachi (@rcallimachi) May 4, 2015 In the wake of the events in Garland a few days ago the above tweet by a reporter at The New York Times has garnered a fair amount of attention. It's really...
  • @omarali50
    It is my (anecdotal) impression that liberals (and even more so, leftists) who are willing to be "anti-free speech" in this case may, in other conversations, come across as "free speech absolutists"; but they slip and take a contradictory position in such cases. When pointed out (or when this recurs) they may eventually develop a theological justification for their shift, but until then, it may even be subconscious. It seems to happen because they have a heirarchy of crimes in mind, with "Western hegemonism/colonialism/imperialism/racism" being at the top of the list. Between suppression of speech and (perceieved) support of "the metropole" in the name of free speech, they will opt for suppression of speech.
    When doing so, some of them feel genuine conflict (see Joyce Carol Oates on twitter for hilarious examples) but feel that they have to come down on the side of the "under-privileged".
    It sort of makes sense if you buy into their premises.

    This, btw, is one of the best takedowns of the PEN "dissenters" . The last line is philosophical gold
    http://tapferimnirgendwo.com/2015/05/03/dear-joyce-vcarol-oates/

    That link to the takedown of Joyce Carol Oates doesnt work for me, here is a corrected link

    http://tapferimnirgendwo.com/2015/05/03/dear-joyce-carol-oates/

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  • It is my (anecdotal) impression that liberals (and even more so, leftists) who are willing to be “anti-free speech” in this case may, in other conversations, come across as “free speech absolutists”; but they slip and take a contradictory position in such cases. When pointed out (or when this recurs) they may eventually develop a theological justification for their shift, but until then, it may even be subconscious. It seems to happen because they have a heirarchy of crimes in mind, with “Western hegemonism/colonialism/imperialism/racism” being at the top of the list. Between suppression of speech and (perceieved) support of “the metropole” in the name of free speech, they will opt for suppression of speech.
    When doing so, some of them feel genuine conflict (see Joyce Carol Oates on twitter for hilarious examples) but feel that they have to come down on the side of the “under-privileged”.
    It sort of makes sense if you buy into their premises.

    This, btw, is one of the best takedowns of the PEN “dissenters” . The last line is philosophical gold

    http://tapferimnirgendwo.com/2015/05/03/dear-joyce-vcarol-oates/

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    • Replies: @omarali50
    That link to the takedown of Joyce Carol Oates doesnt work for me, here is a corrected link

    http://tapferimnirgendwo.com/2015/05/03/dear-joyce-carol-oates/
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  • Everyone and their mother has heard of the story about the CRISPRed embryos by now. If you haven't, the original paper is open access. Second, Carl Zimmer's primer is excellent, Editing Human Embryos: So This Happened. For those who are overly alarmed by the non-ethical aspects, I think this is key: Livestock and pets. And...
  • @Kamran
    So the question is - who's going to be the first offender? North Korea?

    I would guess China. Metal chopsticks are great, but provide no advantage in this field ;)

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  • After the events of today I'm going to curl up with Xunzi: The Complete Text. That's just how I roll. Most of my friends are more outraged than I am. I don't know why. It just is that way. It is heartening that people care about me, and I appreciate it. But there's not much...
  • I know Razib is not interested in pushing this, but I storified the story as it unfolded on Twitter

    https://storify.com/omarali50/razib-khan-at-the-times

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  • Several people have contacted me about the Aylmer twins, who exhibit very distinct phenotypes. In short, one twin is very fair skinned, to the point of being a redhead, while the other twin has visibly African features and a darker complexion. What caught my attention is that their surname is the same as the middle...
  • @Seth Largo
    Someone said, re: these twins, that there is no genetic test that could tell them apart. Is this true? Based on your clear and concise discussions of this issue in past articles, it seems like it would be possible to do so, and I've read that it's possible in general now to locate differing alleles in all twins.

    Some people have been tweeting or commenting about these two sisters being identical twins, from which they conclude that they are “genetically identical” . This is simply false. These are fraternal twins, so there is no question of being “genetically indistinguishable” as is being claimed on the intertubes. (of course even identical twins are NOT 100% identical and modern techniques can identify those tiny differences, if you wish to do the work involved)

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  • Yesterday I speculated that the plethora of fraudulent Turkish passports showing up in the hands of Uyghur refugees could be attributed to the connivance of Turkish government elements. The passports, after all, are smart-chipped biometric documents (in order to satisfy EU requirements as part of the Turkish admission campaign), and seem virtually impossible to forge...
  • Just curious: why would it “not please the US”?

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  • Many people have read Graeme Wood's cover story in The Atlantic, What ISIS Really Wants, by now. I have, and I recommend you do so as well. You'll learn a lot. And there's much within it that I can assent to without hesitation. It overlaps in key ways with my post from last August, The...
  • @sprfls
    Here's a very good documentary filmed by an Israeli war journalist in November/December. He embeds himself with Kurdish guerilla fighters, many of whom are women. Spoiler alert: ISIS fighters run away from the women because they won't get their 72 virgins if they die by a woman's hand.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctQFgDabh1U

    I recall years ago making the case to an Orthodox acquaintance that Jewish custom of matrilineal descent is clearly a Roman era innovation, as the sons of Joseph by an Egyptian woman were recognized as legitimate. She responded without hesitation that her rabbis had explained that in the “oral law” it was recalled that Joseph’s wife was actually adopted, and her biological mother was a Hebrew. My own supposition is that this tradition is a fiction quickly conceived to give an ancient patina to a novel practice in Roman antiquity.
     
    A bit OT, but gets back to population genetics. A close Jewish friend is currently making his girlfriend convert so I've been thinking about the whole Jewish matrilineal decent thing, and trying to reconcile it with what's been coming out of the genetics regarding Jewish mtDNA and with history as well.

    So, how can it be that this custom traces itself to Roman times, when this is exactly the time when Jews were supposed to be marrying Roman women en masse, thus becoming "half-European" and picking up the significant "European" mtDNA seen today!? It's always felt a little dubious to me. Razib, isn't it difficult to tease out the differences between two populations who, even if diverged for a while, come from an nearly identical founder population? How do we know that the "Italian" mtDNA isn't actually an uncommon Ashkenazi-specific line that goes back to the Levant / early farmers? (Asking as a technical pop genetics question, not historical one.)

    I dont know where this notion of “ISIS fighters run away from women because they wont get their virgins if a woman kills them” comes from. ..You get the virgins if you die for the cause of Islam. And I find it very very hard to believe that ANY ISIS guy ran away for this particular reason.
    I suspect that some psyops genius in Centcom dreamed this up and it makes fun of ISIS to be sure, but let’s not take it too seriously. This is FOX news territory, not reality.

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  • @jtgw
    Well, if you take the Old Testament and Koran at face value, the OT is more violent. The interesting question is then why Islam ends up being more violent than Judaism or Christianity, and for that I agree you have to thank subsequent tradition and reinterpretation of the violence in the text. It appears that for whatever reason Islam has carried out less of this kind of reinterpretation, so what was originally a less violent founding text ends up causing more violence because it is being interpreted much more literally.

    There is an easier explanation. Islam the religion we know today (classical Islam of the four Sunni schools and it’s Shia counterparts) developed in the womb of the Arab empire. It is evident that it provided a unifying ideology and a theological justification FOR that empire (and in the case of various Shia sects, varying degrees of resistance or revolt AGAINST that empire), but at the very least, they grew and formed together; one was not the later product of the fully formed other. Being the religion of a (very successful and impressive) imperialist project, it’s “official” mature Sunni version obviously has a military-supremacist feel to it.
    Whether the text canonized as “foundational document” does or does not fully explain the imperialism and supremacism is a red herring. The Quran is a fairly long book, but to an outsider it should be immediately obvious that you can create MANY different Islams around that book and if you did it all over again, NONE of them have to look like classical Sunni Islam. The details of Sunni Islam (who gets to rule, what daily life is supposed to look like, how non-Muslims should be treated, etc) are not some sort of direct and unambiguous reading of the Quran. Even the 5 daily prayers are not specified in the Quran. The schools of classical Sunni Islam are supposedly based on the Quran and hadith, but the Quran and the hadiths are clearly cherry picked and manipulated (and in the case of the hadiths, frequently just invented) based on the perceived needs of the empire, the ulama, the individual commentators, human nature, economics, whatever (insert favorite element here).
    So in principle, we should be able to make new Islams as needed (and some of us have indeed done so over the centuries…the Ismailis being one extreme example) and I am sure many of us will do that in the days to come as well. The Reza Aslan types are right about that (though i seriously doubt that HE can make anything lasting). In fact, in terms of practice, millions of Muslims have already “invented new Islams”. Just as a random example, most contemporary Muslims do not have concubines and do not buy and sell slaves (and find the thought of doing so shocking). They take oaths of loyalty to all sorts of “un-Islamic” states and most of them turn out to be loyal at least to the same degree as their other fellow citizens of various hedonistic modern states. And so on and so forth.
    What sets them apart is their inability (until now) to publicly and comfortably articulate a theological framework that rejects medieval (aka no longer fashionable) elements of classical Sunni Islam. And this is especially a problem in Muslim majority countries. What stops them? I think apostasy and blasphemy laws (and the broader memes that uphold those laws) play a big role. King Hussein or Benazir Bhutto or even Rouhani may have private thoughts about changing X or Y inconvenient parts, but to speak up would be to invite accusations of blasphemy and apostasy. So they fudge and do one thing while paying lip service to another. Unfortunately, this means the upholders of classical Islam (and ISIS and the Wahabis are not as far from the mainstream Sunni Ulama in theory as is sometimes portrayed, though clearly they are pretty far in practice) have the edge in debates in the public sphere. This IS a serious problem. But the internet has made it very hard to keep inconvenient thoughts out of view. So there will be much churning. Eventually, some countries will emerge out of it better than others.
    ISIS itself will not. Of course, in principle, anything is possible. But we can still make predictions based on whatever model we have in our head. Like most predictions in social science and history, they will not be mathematical and precise and our confidence in them (or our ability to convince others, even when others accept most of our premises) will not be akin to the predictions of mathematics or physics. But for whatever it’s worth, I don’t think ISIS will settle into some semi-comfortable equilibrium. They will only destory and create chaos. And eventually they will be destroyed, though it is possible (even likely) that large parts of Syria, Iraq and North Africa could become like Somalia. Too messy, too violent and too poor to be worth the effort of colonizing even by intact nearby states. But probably not forever. The real estate is too valuable and eventually someone will bring order to it. Probably using more force and cruder methods than liberal modern intellectuals are comfortable with.

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    • Replies: @Vijay
    But, does any of this matter? ISIS is not looking to recreate a sect based on Quran and Hadith, but attempting to create a nearest to 630-660 Arabia in the modern world. They can just turn the dial on the harshest parts of Quran and Hadith and employ them practically saying here it is Quran. They are not listening to a scholar saying "No, that was not what was intended". Once they say that here it is in Quran, 90% of Islam becomes quiet, and a large majority nods silently. The point is: once we go into the slope of where it is in the Quran, and then in the Hadith, there is not an easy way forward.

    "I don’t think ISIS will settle into some semi-comfortable equilibrium. They will only destory and create chaos. And eventually they will be destroyed, though it is possible (even likely) that large parts of Syria, Iraq and North Africa could become like Somalia. Too messy, too violent and too poor to be worth the effort of colonizing even by intact nearby states. But probably not forever."

    I do not see why ? Somalia exists now. What is so valuable about Syria and Iraq that they cannot exist like Somalia and Angola? You cannot say oil, because that is not true. Nigeria, Angola, even Venezuela existed with oil production on one side, and a lack of civilization. ISIS can and will grant out concessions to Russia, China, and even EU companies while running their empire on the side.

    Afghanisthan existed. Somalia exists. Angola exists. ISIS can exist too; as long as they do not get greedy and try to engage Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia simultaneously. The fact that there are a number of "western" muslims exist that do not approve silently, does not work against it.
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  • I'm old enough to remember when people were advised by severe-faced nutritionists about the dangers of eggs, all the while being totally unaware of the possible downsides of gorging on high-sugar, fat-free SnackWells cookies. This was the 1980s and early 1990s, when low fat and cholesterol were all the rage. Now The Washington Post is...
  • Professor Campos has been leading the charge against the “moral panic” about obesity for several years. An old interview in the Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2009/07/americas-moral-panic-over-obesity/22397/

    And an even older comment in the international journal of epidemiology: http://www.nourishingconnections.com/Handouts/The%20Epidemology%20of%20Overweight%20and%20Obesity_Moral%20Panic_Campos%20et%20al_IJE_2006.pdf

    Worth a read.

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    • Replies: @res
    Thanks for the links. The second was interesting in that immediately after it there was a counterpoint that was omitted. Here's a link to that as well:
    http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/35/1/60.full.pdf
    (it looks like there is a related article after that one as well, but I did not follow further)

    I agree with Campos about:
    1. Being underweight (or low-normal weight) is an underemphasized health issue.
    2. The optimal weights for survival/longevity include at least part of the "overweight" BMI category.
    I just worry about the obesity backlash removing attention from the aspects that really do matter to health. In these I include:
    - The upper ranges of BMI (say over 35) are problematic. I think Campos would agree with this.
    - I think higher BMI's (say 25-35 with some allowance for gender) are a flag that there might be an issue. Rather than emphasizing the longevity benefits for the group I think we need to better understand how to detect risks to health in individuals from that group. For example, look at outcomes for people in those ranges controlling for fitness, percent body fat, fat distribution, etc.
    , @Robert Ford
    nothing personal but IMO Campos is an insane ideologue. plus he needs to update his priors, as Razib would say: http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2015/01/healthy-obesity-actually-a-thing.html

    http://www.webmd.com/diet/20140430/is-healthy-obesity-a-myth

    http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/09/idea-of-healthy-obesity-is-tested/


    as an aside i'm gonna stick my neck out and say that the fecal transplant/gut bacteria obesity connection is BS. that study was, at best, inconclusive.
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  • A few people have mentioned that my Goodreads profile has been helpful to them. I used to find Amazon's recommendations very useful, but lately that's been less so, perhaps because the low hanging fruit has been picked. So manual/human curation has been more important for me of late. As an example, I really like checking...
  • I just started reading (actually, listening on audiobook) to The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, by Walter Isaacson. It sounds really interesting. I knew the Babbage and Ada Lovelace parts (from having read “The Information”) but coming to the 1930s and 1940s I am learning new things. Worth a look https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21856367-the-innovators?from_search=true

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  • The Atlantic has a long piece up which basically consists of a list of the usual objections to DNA testing from some Native American groups and individuals (which can be generalized to any indigenous group), Genetic Testing and Tribal Identity: Why many Native Americans have concerns about DNA kits like 23andme. There's the standard stuff...
  • btw, Kenan Malik has a book out about the Kennewick man affair..I have not read it, but he has posted excerpts

    https://kenanmalik.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/the-battle-of-the-bones/

    https://kenanmalik.wordpress.com/2012/12/18/ancient-race-wars-and-modern-race-science/

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  • My intention was to read Ian Morris' War! What Is It Good For?, but I've decided on Jonathan Spence's Emperor of China: Self-Portrait of K'ang-Hsi. I've had this book for about seven years, and haven't gotten to it, but now is a good time since I'll be tackling Marcus Aurelius: A Life, and Meditations. The...
  • Since this is an open thread, I have a totally random science question and hope someone here will answer it or direct me to a site that can: In several descriptions of the Pakistani nuclear test one sees this sort of description: “The mountain shook and changed colour as the dust of thousands of years was dislodged from its surface. Its black granite rock turning white as de-oxidisation from the radioactive nuclear forces operating from within..”
    The last phrase bugs me at two levels:
    1. I suspect radioactivity had nothing to do with this change in color (and I dont like the term “nuclear forces” here).
    2. Does black granite turn white via “de-oxidisation”, whatever that may mean? I have no clue, but I want someone who knows granite and chemistry to tell me. And this site seems as good a place as any to find out if this description is scientifically accurate. Any takers? Thanks

    (the quote is from this history the Pakistani Nuclear tests: http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Pakistan/PakTests.html

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    • Replies: @Anthony
    Granite is a composite of various mineral grains of different colors. Blasting apart a large body of granite could change its color by separating the clear quartz from the darker minerals it's bound to, or the heat of the nuclear explosion could cause a crystalline or chemical change in one or more of the minerals which caused it to change color, or it could just be the dust shaking off.
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  • Here's what we know. Intelligence, as defined by a general factor which explains variation across a range of cognitive tasks, is substantially heritable, with a narrow sense heritability on the order of 0.25 to 0.75 depending on who you talk to and what context.* Intelligence itself exhibits correlations with other traits, from those of social...
  • Your point about small-effect variants being possible drug targets is very true, but it is worth pointing out that in the case of statins the critical role of HMG-CoA reductase in cholesterol synthesis was very well known, and it was a very hotly anticipated drug target. It is possible that genetic studies will unveil a variant of small effect that turns out to be a crucial component of some pathway very central to the development of schizophrenia, but in our current state of knowledge, we have no idea if any such pathway even exists.
    I am not saying it’s not possible, just mentioning this in case someone thinks statins came to us via a small effect genetic discovery.. (I know you don’t think that).

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  • Sex ratio effects on reproductive strategies in humans: The topline result is simple, and takes off on basic evolutionary logic. When there is a surplus of men then they compete to "lock in" women into long term relationships. In contrast, when there is a surplus of women the men tend to be much less inclined...
  • Is the situation the same in “traditional cultures” where social mores are very deeply rooted and don’t change that easily (though they do change eventually, of course)? Or is “traditional culture” itself a myth?
    I ask this question because I was thinking of how this would work in most parts of India. The culture puts strict limits on public relations between unmarried men and women. Given sufficient incentives, the limits will be transcended, but there is significant inertia in the system. Temporary differences in sex ratio (e.g. when lot of men went off to join the British army from Northern Punjab) did not seem to change the behavior of those left behind in any noticeable publicway. Families arranged marriages and marriages lasted forever in most cases. The notion of some men being cads and others being dads seems foreign to the whole situation. (They may have had more affairs, but did public behavior and norms change?)
    Or is this just a figment of my imagination? I have not done any research on this topic. Just curious to see what well informed people know about such situations.

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  • I'm pretty busy now with non-internet related stuff (i.e., life), so not giving much thought to what's going on in the big wide world. But I do want to say something about the goings on in France. First, it's really fucking offensive to me that social-justice-warrior types decide to tell me what's offensive and/or racist...
  • @CupOfCanada
    That one cartoon doesn't change my opinion of the others. Nor am I left wing. Racism isn't all that particular to the right here either.

    My fundamental issue is that they are talking at people, not persuading.

    Bro, I realize how hard it is to back away from a public position one has taken, but really, you are just digging yourself in deeper.
    I am too busy, but I am sure you can find thousands of progressive, approved cartoons, articles, blog posts etc that are “talking at people, not persuading”. Or at least, that is how it looks to the people they don’t approve of.
    This is not a standard you can reasonably apply to a satirical magazine. Forget Hebdo (whose shtick was indeed MEANT to be offensive and gross on many an occasion), this standard will pretty much kill everyone, everywhere, who draws cartoons or writes satire.

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  • Several of the commentators here seem to have a rather extreme view of how dominant the PC-Left view really is in Western society. To say that freedom of expression is curtailed as effectively in the modern West as it is in Saudi Arabia (just that it is controlled by non-violent means) seems absurd.
    The politically correct Left DOES exist and within the bubble (for example, in liberal academia) they had become astoundingly dominant. But I think (hope?) that this particular episode will finally cause serious cracks within that group.
    Having said that, I also worry that I/we may be missing something. What is it about the modern liberal elite that makes it susceptible to these memes? (“the West is responsible for these killings” or “the cartoonists were racist rightwing fascists who got what they deserved”, “people who are defending free speech are Whitesplaining and dont get the true awful condition of Western civilization”)
    Could it be something stuctural that will reassert itself after the first shock of the Hebdo episode has passed?
    And another tangential point: I think we should distinguish between two kinds of PC-leftists. Those who are ignorant or foolish or blinded by political correctness (Fisk?) and those who are deliberately cherry-picking or exaggerating or even lying in order to advance the cause of world revolution (“all is fair in love and war”).
    I am reproducing a description of these two groups I wrote on another friend’s blog post (http://leftfootforward.org/2015/01/why-it-is-wrong-to-blame-western-policies-for-the-paris-attacks/), if I am completely on the wrong track, set me right!

    1. A small percentage of the “I am not Charlie Hebdo” crowd still believe they are part of some vanguard revolutionary army, fighting (mostly clandestinely, and shadowed therefore by the secret police of the empire) to overthrow the world capitalist system as part of a planet-wide resistance movement led by the Soviet Union and the comintern (or, even better, by the fourth international or the fifth or an even purer and cleaner sixth). I guess Tariq Ali would fall into this group. In his own mind he is like Victor Lazlo, slipping in and out of outposts of the empire with the Gestapo one step behind him. Therefore in his case (and that of others living out a similar movie-based fantasy) one does not have to posit ignorance. Calculation is more likely; the world revolution must use this event (and EVERY event) to further the revolutionary cause and if that requires making up stories and nasty insinuations about dead cartoonists (and linking them to the actually right-wing Jylland Posten and implying that they would insult Mohammed, but never Moses, as Tariq slimily did on “Democracy Now”) is par for the course.

    2. A much larger group (Fisk among them) is simply partaking in the ancient pleasure of feeling simultaneously superior and guilty. Superior by implying that “we” (the West) are the only people capable of DOING things, while childlike simple people (aka “the oppressed”, which list conveniently includes Hafez Assad and even Mao) react helplessly and chaotically to our schemes and conquests. Guilty at the crimes committed in “our name”. Then EVEN MORE SUPERIOR in the feeling that we few, we happy few, are able to see through this charade and pass our wisdom on to the toiling brain-damaged masses who look up to us as moral and intellectual giants.

    Something like that.

    Any takers who can fix these thoughts or flesh them out?

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    • Replies: @asdf
    Omar,

    Because the left doesn't believe in HBD the only reasons they can come up with for NAM dysfunction are either discrimination or historical inequity (they get worse education, their culture is bad because of the legacy of slavery, etc). I know because before I knew about HBD I believed the same things, and like everyone else I thought this or that technocratic or social change would eventually make them just like us. After all, if you believe everyone is the same you need some explanation why they are different.

    The problem is that they are different because of genetics (and other things I grant you, but genetics is the big elephant). Once you eliminate the actual reason, you have to keep making up fake reasons why the difference remains. Since you are dealing purely in the realm of fantasy these fake reasons will of course not make sense, and as NAMs increase in quantity via immigration and their dysfunction remains despite great time and effort you'll need ever more ridiculous and nonsensical non-genetic explanation (micro-aggressions!).
    , @asdf
    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/27/opinion/joe-nocera-silicon-valleys-mirror-effect.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=c-column-top-span-region&region=c-column-top-span-region&WT.nav=c-column-top-span-region

    There aren’t many women or African-Americans working in Silicon Valley who would agree. “Silicon Valley’s obsession with meritocracy is delusional,” Freada Kapor Klein, the co-chair of the Kapor Center for Social Impact, told The Los Angeles Times in May. “Unless someone wants to posit that intelligence is not evenly distributed across genders and race, there has to be some systemic explanation for what these numbers look like.”
     
    , @Pithlord
    I agree that the American right has an exaggerated sense of how persecuted it is. I once imagined they could overcome the hostility of social psychology departments, but they are fragile creatures.
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  • @omarali50
    I am not convinced that genetics explains much of these differences in criminality. Aggregate criminal behavior is mostly a cultural issue. Even if a given population has a lower average IQ, if they are socialized successfully (using varying combinations of carrots and sticks...in some but not all cases, more stick than carrot) they can have very low rates of criminality. Among the cultural memes that seem to matter are whether we are being given the constant lesson that our current status in society is a crime commited by the rest of society, which explains ALL of our shortcomings, and for which we have the right to get back at everyone else; note that this involves no judgment on whether it IS the fault of the rest of society. It may well be, but if that is not what we are being taught by sympathetic sections of the dominant elite, we may not pick the victim-liberationwarrior theme. Culture matters.
    This is more or less anecdotal and/or subjective impression in my case. Better read people may have specific examples and data to back this up (or to correct my misconceptions)

    Sorry. The above comment seems to imply that the victim narative is the most important cultural meme driving everyday criminality. I should have edited my comment while I had time.
    I think culture matters. But things like intact family and community matter much more than whether White people are around to teach me about my status as heroic victim. But I do think the victim piece is a part of it, once family breakdown and community decay have set the ball rolling.

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  • @Curious Canadian
    Was always curious: what is the deal with Canadian Indians? The data I've seen says they score higher on IQ than black americans, and yet having dealt with them and blacks a lot I find it really hard to believe. Also: why are Canada's Natives such a huge social problem and not as much in USA, or perhaps central & south America? You know how La Griffe de Lion has the Fundamental Constant of Sociology (1 SD)? IN Canada it's 8, as in Indians are 8 times more likely to murder/rape/be in jail.

    I do a lot of reading on genetics but I can't find much on Canadian Indians.

    I am not convinced that genetics explains much of these differences in criminality. Aggregate criminal behavior is mostly a cultural issue. Even if a given population has a lower average IQ, if they are socialized successfully (using varying combinations of carrots and sticks…in some but not all cases, more stick than carrot) they can have very low rates of criminality. Among the cultural memes that seem to matter are whether we are being given the constant lesson that our current status in society is a crime commited by the rest of society, which explains ALL of our shortcomings, and for which we have the right to get back at everyone else; note that this involves no judgment on whether it IS the fault of the rest of society. It may well be, but if that is not what we are being taught by sympathetic sections of the dominant elite, we may not pick the victim-liberationwarrior theme. Culture matters.
    This is more or less anecdotal and/or subjective impression in my case. Better read people may have specific examples and data to back this up (or to correct my misconceptions)

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    • Replies: @omarali50
    Sorry. The above comment seems to imply that the victim narative is the most important cultural meme driving everyday criminality. I should have edited my comment while I had time.
    I think culture matters. But things like intact family and community matter much more than whether White people are around to teach me about my status as heroic victim. But I do think the victim piece is a part of it, once family breakdown and community decay have set the ball rolling.
    , @CupOfCanada
    I think you're more or less correct on culture being the biggest factor Omar. IMHO a big factor in Canada has been the government's policies towards indigenous people, which seems much more paternalistic and prone to creating dependency than a lot of other countries. The general thrust was "we'll give you food and clothing if you just stay on this parcel of marginal land." Even today there are no property rights on First Nations reserves - all the land is owned by the Crown and held in trust for use of that First Nation. Which effectively means if you repaint your house or reroof it, that house can be taken away from you at any point, since it wasn't really your house to begin with. Not really a great environment.

    Then there's geography. From what I understand, there are HUGE disparities from First Nation to First Nations in terms of quality of life outcomes, and one of the biggest factors is how connected the reserve is to the transportation network. If the reserve is connected to the highway network, outcomes aren't so bad. If the reserve isn't connected to the highway network, but has access to the sea or another major waterway, things are a bit worse. If the reserve has neither road nor sea access, but has access by ice road in winter, things are worse still. If the reserve doesn't even have access by ice road, the situation is absolutely horrific. I don't think it should surprise anyone that if you're living somewhere that even a jar of peanut butter has to be flown in on some float plane, living conditions aren't going to be great.

    On top of that, there was the residential schools system, where the government basically rounded up aboriginal children and sent them to boarding schools that were run by pedophiles and where they would be beaten for doing anything even resembling their original culture. Unsurprisingly, if your parents were abused, your home situation may not be all that great either.

    On top of that, First Nations reserves are the only part of Canada where the federal government administers health care and primary/secondary education; in all other cases it is funded provincially. Unsurprisingly, the government chronically underfunds First Nations education, to the tune of 50 cents on the dollar compared to broader society.

    So yah, lots of cultural/political explanations before looking for anything genetic.
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  • In relation to what happened in Paris today, Ezra Klein ends a passionate post with this: Much of the above is so wrong that it is jaw-dropping. Does Klein really believe this? Is it copy rushed out in the moment? If you read history and observe patterns in human culture it is clear that most...
  • @vijay
    "that ancient and even medieval India did not enforce orthodoxy (although they did enforce orthopraxy) and therefore did not really have any prosecutions for blasphemy"

    This is incorrect. First, traditional India had multiple upheavals that saw the orthodoxy swing from unknown paganism to vedic Hinduism to Jainism to Buddhism to yet another form of Hinduism. The swings were associated with hanging of the the proponents of the previous order, temple absorption into the new order with minor modifications of te presiding deity, and wholesale transfer of concerts as new elites. In south India, wholesale slaughter of Jains when Saivite kingdoms came about, are actually celebrated as religious poetry.

    The reason why the impact of orthodoxy switching upon the masses and the history was minor, was that 80% of the population had been outside the fold of mainstream Hinduism, be it Vedic or the dvbaita or Adavaita or any later sufi influenced versions. Whatever happened at the top, the masses ("sudras") went on celebrating their own variants of local gods.

    Let us not assign credits where credits are not due.

    This is what I meant by “i have not researched this”. I have been hearing some version of “tolerant multicultural India” for a while, but have not really looked into it in any detail. My impression has been that there was relative tolerance of “wrong belief” and the weakness of state control meant a lot could go on, but I need to look this up in detail some day. Any good books or articles you can suggest?

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    • Replies: @Vijay
    An answer to this question would test Razib's patience, and would need to move outside this format, and I try to be brief.

    The dictionary defines tolerance [1] as " the disposition to tolerate or allow the existence of beliefs, practices or habits differing from one's own; with freedom from bigotry, sympathetic understanding of others’ beliefs without acceptance of them...”

    The above sense of the word which is now the main or usual sense became prominent perhaps only in the 17/18th century when Western Europe (and US?) saw the dawn of the age of tolerance, and is strongly related to the idea of nation-state (which legally permitted tolerance). With this definition, and a requirement of a nation-state that emphasizes the practice of tolerance, the answer is "No, Ancient India neither defined or allowed tolerance, nor did there exist a polity that allowed the practice of tolerance.

    When people say Hindu religion permits "the existence of beliefs, practices or habits differing from one's own", the interpretation (per Ambedkar/EVR) is "as you are outside the scope of the sanatana Dharma, you are allowed to make up beliefs and be as wild as you wish". That is not the same as what the modern Nation-State practices as tolerance.

    I cut my answer short with the following references:
    1. http://www.jamalkhwaja.com/jamalbooksite/Lecture_-_Concept_and_Role_of_Tolerance_in_Indian_Culture.html
    2. "The Political Thought of Ambedkar" K.S.Bharathi, Concept Publishing Company.
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  • btw, in Pakistan, we dont wait for killers from alqaeda to show up. Every region seems to have it’s own enforcers. And they wont even let you bury the body of the blasphemer (in this case, a mentally ill blasphemer)

    http://www.dawn.com/news/1155650/blasphemy-accused-killed-after-release

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  • I have not researched this seriously, but I have frequently heard (from Amartya Sen in the argumentative Indian to Hindutvadis expressing pride in ancient India, to friends and family) that ancient and even medieval India did not enforce orthodoxy (although they did enforce orthopraxy) and therefore did not really have any prosecutions for blasphemy. Intellectuals disagreed about every aspect of philosophy and it was posibble to be a nastik (non-believing) Hindu in ways that it was not possible to be a non-believing Christian or Muslim.
    Jews have made similar claims.
    Do these in some way constitute exceptions to the above post?

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    • Replies: @vijay
    "that ancient and even medieval India did not enforce orthodoxy (although they did enforce orthopraxy) and therefore did not really have any prosecutions for blasphemy"

    This is incorrect. First, traditional India had multiple upheavals that saw the orthodoxy swing from unknown paganism to vedic Hinduism to Jainism to Buddhism to yet another form of Hinduism. The swings were associated with hanging of the the proponents of the previous order, temple absorption into the new order with minor modifications of te presiding deity, and wholesale transfer of concerts as new elites. In south India, wholesale slaughter of Jains when Saivite kingdoms came about, are actually celebrated as religious poetry.

    The reason why the impact of orthodoxy switching upon the masses and the history was minor, was that 80% of the population had been outside the fold of mainstream Hinduism, be it Vedic or the dvbaita or Adavaita or any later sufi influenced versions. Whatever happened at the top, the masses ("sudras") went on celebrating their own variants of local gods.

    Let us not assign credits where credits are not due.
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  • Been reading A Cooperative Species and A Wonderful Life. The grammatical sections of The Sense of Style were heavy-going for me. Jason Collins reviewed A Cooperative Species a few years ago. As for A Wonderful Life, it seems to me that Stephen Jay Gould had mastered the ponderous and egotistical prose flourishes evident in The...
  • @Razib Khan
    the ducks will kill!

    That does seem to be the view among experts (aka one uncle who follows college football). Oregon will win…

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  • "Tree thinking", just like "population thinking", is essential to understanding evolutionary biology. But there are problems with this. First, even on a macroevolutionary scale there is massive violation of separation between the branches of the tree of life due to lateral gene flow, whether directly or mediated via viruses. As you drill down to a...
  • Just a small correction. I posted Razib’s post on my facebook wall. It was then posted on 3QD by Abbas Raza, who is the editor at 3QD and is my friend (on the internet, and someday, I hope, in person)
    :)

    I think changing anyone’s opinion is a multistep process (as described by several commentators here) but one should not be discouraged by how the most aggressive commentators on 3QD are reacting. There are a lot of readers of that blog who will see a few things differently after reading Razib’s post AND the argument in the comment section.

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  • In an article titled Restored Forests Breathe Life Into Efforts Against Climate Change, there's an interesting portion which talks about how farming techniques relate to reforestation: Life is about trade-offs, even if you don't want to admit it. Organic farming uses more land to produce the same amount of food. Basically, it's a luxury good...
  • Do not underestimate the desire for a mass human die-off. While rarely expressed explicitly as such, it seems to be a background assumption in the dreams (or nightmares) of many environmentally conscious friends. Of course, no one wants to die themselves (and most would not like to see their families and friends die either), but the idea of depopulation evokes very positive feelings in people who see “the planet” as some kind of individual/friend/mother and are very concerned about her supposed well being…
    I am not kidding.

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  • My friend Randall Parker sent me an email where he suggested I should put up a post relating to books for the holidays. This makes sense, since I'm a book nerd. Over the years I've started to realize time is precious, and have offloaded a lot of the hard work of figuring out things to...
  • I am chastened by how many of these books i have not read. Meanwhile, a few that I have and that I think are worth reading:
    I am reading (and enjoying) Fukuyama’s “origins of political order”, though I am beginning to feel that at some point it may be OK to say “and this is just how it happened to happen” instead of trying to explain every turtle with 1 or 2 new turtles. http://www.amazon.com/The-Origins-Political-Order-Revolution/dp/0374533229

    I also loved Frederick Starr’s “Lost Enlightenment”. http://www.amazon.com/Lost-Enlightenment-Central-Conquest-Tamerlane/dp/0691157731 . His insistence on separating Persia and Central Asia may be a bit unfair, but a great introduction to an important era in human intellectual history.

    Tombstone, the great Chinese famine. http://www.amazon.com/Tombstone-Great-Chinese-Famine-1958-1962/dp/0374533997/ref=sr_1_sc_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1418400609&sr=1-1-spell&keywords=Tombstone+the+great+chinese+famin
    and https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18579516-the-master-of-confessions about a Khmer Rouge torturer. and Anne Applebaum’s http://www.amazon.com/Gulag-A-History-Anne-Applebaum/dp/1400034094/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top, Just to tamp down enthusiasm for revolutions.

    And since we are missing fiction, the audiobook of Ulysses read by Jim Norton (NOT the Donnely one) http://www.audible.com/pd/Classics/Ulysses-Audiobook/B002V8L4X6/ref=a_search_c4_1_1_srTtl?qid=1418400388&sr=1-1

    And always, Borges. , not just the collected fictions http://www.amazon.com/Collected-Fictions-Jorge-Luis-Borges/dp/0140286802/ref=asap_B000APW7C4?ie=UTF8 but also the selected non-fictions, which were a revelation and a treasure http://www.amazon.com/Borges-Selected-Non-Fictions-Jorge-Luis/dp/0140290117/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1418400505&sr=1-2&keywords=borges+collected+non+fictions

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  • The two major issues where liberals in the United States get tagged as "denialist" or "anti-science" is on vaccination and GMO. A major problem with this thesis though is that in aggregate the social science doesn't support this. I've used the GSS to check on GMO attitudes, and education/intelligence (or lack of) are the strongest...
  • This is just anecdotal, but in my circle of friends and family (mostly left-ish), anti-GMO feeling seems to have less to do with any opinion about the biological or environmental danger posed by GMO plants and more to do with the notion that GMO is “big Agribusiness”, hence anti-people and capitalist, oppressive, etc. Some vague fears about the ill-effects of GMO technology itself do circulate, but the overwhelming motivation seems to be “anti-big-business”…

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  • I'm at ASHG.
  • It was great meeting the flesh and blood Razib at the meeting. Not that it was a surprise, but still good to see that you are not as intimidating in the flesh :)

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  • 1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; 2 male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created. 3 And Adam lived a hundred and thirty...
  • @Razib Khan
    Isn’t wanting to have children what’s relevant here? And what’s the evidence that wanting to have children, as opposed to having children, was “selected for”?

    well, obviously not necessarily. people like sex. that's probably sufficient. though it seems that we're strongly adapted as a species to nurturing and tending to our children up until their teens. the extended childhood is really strange in the animal kingdom. i would suggest that people often have a need to engage in activities which they are naturally geared toward. this can be channeled in many situations to other domains (e.g., childless humanitarians). but in the pre-modern context the parent-child relationship was pretty one of the main (the main?) outlets for the social bonds which humans seem to require (most).

    Spoken like someone who has never had to face infertility. In practice, the routes to adoption involve either facing heavy competition in getting a chance to adopt a healthy infant, or spending a lot of thought and consideration on just what known problems you feel ready to face right from the start, when you adopt your child.


    well, you should chill on the patronization. i'm of a social class where lots of people face infertility due to delaying childbirth, so even though i haven't personally faced this issue, i know ppl who've spent hundreds of thousands on in vitro. and yes, adoption isn't easy either.

    Is that because EEA ancestors were likely to become parents regardless of their preference?

    well, infanticide....

    Will you elaborate on which traits do or do not regress? And why or why not?


    another post.

    I know an Indian-American couple who have stated that rather than having children of their own they plan on adopting a girl from India, since that would be a drastic improvement in circumstance. It hasn’t been all that long since then, but on hearing of your Facebook friends I will update my priors.


    will wilkinson and kerry howely talked about child-free life and decreased population years back. now they have a child and are very happy and quite proud of him (facebook makes this clear).

    She found out where roughly half of her genome came from, but she already knew who her father was.


    i did qualify biological father earlier. but you can be an asshole about it if you want (at least in this comment).

    That’s not entirely correct though. There are evolutionary strategies where contributing to the survival of fellow members of your community or family can be just as successful as having biological children yourself. You yourself have blogged about this.


    no shit. and the inclusive fitness argument for humans is pretty weak for obvious technical reasons. we're not eusocial insects! (though don't tell frank salter)

    then the drive to have heterosexual vaginal intercourse would be ubiquitous among humans.

    i'd like to see high coverage exome sequencing on gays.

    I thought read that Roman nobles would adopt gifted kids and even promote them to high positions.


    name a non-relative. i think it happened in some cases, but none off the top of my head.

    This would obviously not be evidence of a general aristocratic trend (emperor being a rather special category all its own) but IIRC, several adopted Antonine emperors were either unrelated or only very distantly related… :)

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  • One elegant model of the origin of modern humans as we understand them is that we exploded upon the hominin scene, and swept all before us with our suite of cultural creativity. This is the "Great Leap Forward" thesis, supported by the sudden appearance of symbolic expression in European ~40 thousand years ago. In this...
  • @Helga Vierich
    "We must have been better"...This is where the idea comes from that the archaic humans still left in the world when anatomically modern humans arrived were killed off by them. Similarly, the idea that once behaviourally modern humans arrive, they eventually kill off all humans that are not behaviourally modern. When we find evidence that there was no sudden onset of behavioural modernism in humans, and that evidence of it emerged all over the place in many anatomically modern humans separated by bast distances and time, it blows all these simple ideas out of the water. It goes fundamentally against the idea that some anatomically modern humans were, in the past, or are, today, superior to others, more evolved. The genocidal agenda is exposed as political - and nonscientific -poison.

    Racism, above all, is a disbelief in human equality. The conviction that some humans are superior to others, and that only those humans have the right to survive, can rather sadly easily be used as a justification, or even the obligation, to civilize "savages", "develop" or "modernize" nonindustrial subsistence economies or, ultimately, to kill off groups labelled inferior or evil.

    #3:
    you said “Racism, above all, is a disbelief in human equality. The conviction that some humans are superior to others, and that only those humans have the right to survive, can rather sadly easily be used as a justification, or even the obligation, to civilize “savages”, “develop” or “modernize” nonindustrial subsistence economies or, ultimately, to kill off groups labelled inferior or evil.”

    In the world TODAY, who (in your view) is doing this to whom? and what justification do they themselves use for these efforts? (not asking for 19th and early 20th C quotes, or for quotes picked out from some interview Sam Harris gave to the Topeka inquirer, but something more obvious and widespread…something that connects current major events with these major themes, thanks)
    Just curious.

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  • The Ben Affleck vs. Bill Maher and Sam Harris debate about Islam is all over the interwebs, and seems like something of a Rorschach test. On my Twitter some people seem awfully impressed by Ben, while others (including me) think that it's a pretty good illustration of the shallowness of contemporary Left liberalism when it...
  • Thanks for the mention at the end, but just to clarify, I dont think you are giving succour to the average Fox News watcher. My “Fox News” comment on twitter (“a lot of afflecism is ridiculous, but even many skeptical Muslim Americans cheer it uncritically . Fear. Fox news… irrational?”) was more a thought that many not-so-Muslim American Muslims who know Affleck is naive about the topic may still cheer him on because they fear that “Islamophobia” could directly affect their lives one day and when (if) it does, the Islamophobes will not be asking who really believes apostates should be killed and who is getting as far away from apostate-killers as possible. So having the Ben Afflecks of America batting for you may be a good idea.
    Personally, I am not sure it is a good idea. It’s likely that Affleckism does more harm than good. It just shows Fox-viewers (by no means a homgeneous group, I know) that the s0-called liberals really are naive and even silly. Anyway, I live among Fox News watchers and go to boy scout campouts with them and I don’t find them as threatening as some people do. But you get the picture: when things are getting polarized, minorities can be a bit paranoid, and even naive and silly supporters of your nominal group at least look like supporters.
    As far as this post goes, I dont think accurate information and a rational perspective is ever a bad idea. We need more information, not less.

    About what is happening in Sunni areas (with some local Sunnis joining in the slave buying with gusto) that may be more about humanity than about Sunnis. My touchstone for this is what happened in partition in 1947. Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, they all killed neighbors, stole their property, raped their women (and in some cases, converted them to their own faith and kept them as wives after having killed off their families, etc) and so on. Beyraja is a Punjabi term that means “without Raj”, i.e. anarchy. And it is not pleasant. I wrote an article about that once (http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2012/01/beyraja-from-1947-to-1971-and-beyond.html) and here is an excerpt that gives you a flavor of what happened (the “younger relative” was my own father)
    “an old man in our village in West Punjab was near death in 1970 and like most people in our village, was dying after a lifetime of poverty and hardship. He had become incoherent but a few minutes before the end, he suddenly became lucid and grabbing the hand of a younger relative, passed on this deathbed advice: “agli wari beyraja peya tey chaddna nahin…” (the next time anarchy occurs; don’t miss your chance…). Beyraja (absence of Raj) here refers to the time in 1947 when, for a few months, every property owned by Hindus and Sikhs was suddenly there for the taking. He, like most people, had missed his chance. He did not want his younger relatives to miss the next one).
    Things fall apart and people do horrible things. It is best not to let them fall apart that much... So I dont see the Sunni’s behavior in this case as particularly informative about Sunni-ism, but a different example DOES tell you something about Islamicate culture: the example of what happens when a blasphemy allegation is made in Pakistan in areas which have not yet descended into anarchy. The police stand aside, or actively help kill the blasphemer. THAT is not just “human nature” on display. It is a particular feature of core Islamicate societies (knocked down in ex-Soviet republics and China and suppressed to some extent in Western ones, but otherwise found from Morocco to Malaysia), a belief that is part of religious education: that blasphemers deserve to die. It is repeated in newspapers and on TV (Musharraf’s minister of religious affairs wrote an op-ed in the newspaper in which he fantasized that if ever got his hands on Salman Rushdie, he would skin him alive with sharp hooks..this is a minister in the enlightened regime of “moderate” Musharraf). No breakdown of law and order is needed to get to this point. Killing apostates is a less powerful meme (several people who have converted to Christianity have lived to tell the tale in Pakistan, including at least one Bishop in the church), but it is not as weak as Affleck may imagine. An apostate may keep a low profile and make it to his natural death, but the threat of a campaign against him is always there….he or she cannot ever afford to upset a local cleric, because that might trigger a mob baying for his blood..the “real cause” may be his property dispute or parking argument with the local cleric, but the meme that allows the cleric to gather a mob and attack him is the “death to apostates” meme. And it can be very real… (see some background here: http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2010/11/blasphemy-law-the-shape-of-things-to-come.html)
    For anyone who thinks Pakistan is particularly bad, this is moderate Indonesia: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D59x516Dirk

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    • Replies: @Abelard Lindsey
    This is a video of Indonesians running amok. They do this from time to time. The most notable case was the killing in 1965-1966 that followed in the wake of an attempted coup on the part of PKI (indonesia's communist party) in 1965. They also went amok in 1998 when Suharto resigned.
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