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Brooks sets out to share his wisdom on the root causes of America’s past success and why we’re faltering of late. He writes:

As Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz describe in their book, “The Race Between Education and Technology,” America’s educational progress was amazingly steady over those decades, and the U.S. opened up a gigantic global lead. Educational levels were rising across the industrialized world, but the U.S. had at least a 35-year advantage on most of Europe. In 1950, no European country enrolled 30 percent of its older teens in full-time secondary school. In the U.S., 70 percent of older teens were in school.

America’s edge boosted productivity and growth. But the happy era ended around 1970 when America’s educational progress slowed to a crawl. Between 1975 and 1990, educational attainments stagnated completely. Since then, progress has been modest. America’s lead over its economic rivals has been entirely forfeited, with many nations surging ahead in school attainment.

What could have happened in the 1960s that could, by 1970, lead to the cessation of the educational gains we had made over the 50 – 75 years?

Has anyone looked at Senator Ted Kennedy’s handiwork? Well, Brooks certainly doesn’t even entertain the notion that the demographic nature of the US today is different from what it was during most the century preceding the 1965 Immigration Reform Act. Moreover, during the sustained periods of immigration restriction the cultural focus was squarely on assimilation and unlike today, educational resources were not squandered on celebrating diversity, rather they were targeted towards moving all children along a common cultural vector.

Goldin and Katz describe a race between technology and education. The pace of technological change has been surprisingly steady. In periods when educational progress outpaces this change, inequality narrows. The market is flooded with skilled workers, so their wages rise modestly. In periods, like the current one, when educational progress lags behind technological change, inequality widens. The relatively few skilled workers command higher prices, while the many unskilled ones have little bargaining power.

Having an immigration policy which pulls in tens of millions of 6th grade educated, Spanish-speaking immigrants is a policy that creates inequality. Goldin and Katz would do well to control for immigrant status, legal and illegal, in the ranks of the low skilled.

The meticulous research of Goldin and Katz is complemented by a report from James Heckman of the University of Chicago. Using his own research, Heckman also concludes that high school graduation rates peaked in the U.S. in the late 1960s, at about 80 percent. Since then they have declined.

In “Schools, Skills and Synapses,” Heckman probes the sources of that decline. It’s not falling school quality, he argues. Nor is it primarily a shortage of funding or rising college tuition costs. Instead, Heckman directs attention at family environments, which have deteriorated over the past 40 years.

Heckman points out that big gaps in educational attainment are present at age 5. Some children are bathed in an atmosphere that promotes human capital development and, increasingly, more are not. By 5, it is possible to predict, with depressing accuracy, who will complete high school and college and who won’t.

Again, demography matters. When we celebrate diversity and when we hold all cultures to be equal then we discount the importance that cultural practices, traditions and views have on real world factors, like education and economic productivity. Heckman notes that “some children” benefit from family practices that promote human capital development, but that many don’t. I’m willing to wager that racial and cultural factors correlate to a good deal of this disparity.

It’s not globalization or immigration or computers per se that widen inequality. It’s the skills gap. Boosting educational attainment at the bottom is more promising than trying to reorganize the global economy.

It’s fantasy to posit that the skills gap is independent of group measures of human capital stock. ParaPundit shows the dismal embrace of higher education by Hispanics even after 4 generations in the US.

America rose because it got more out of its own people than other nations. That stopped in 1970.

There are two things wrong with this claim. First, measuring what a country gets from it’s people is simply another way of referencing the concept of productivity and US productivity increases didn’t stop in 1970. In fact, from 1995-2005 the US experienced a 2.35% annual rate of productivity growth, which was only exceeded by the rates experienced in Iceland, Finland and Sweden. We’re clearly able to “get more” out of our citizens. Brooks’ conflates educational attainment in a nation with productivity growth. Clearly, some segments of our population excel at educational attainment while others groups stumble.

Secondly, it would help to disaggregate the data on educational attainment and productivity growth by demographic group. If we look at Canada, with it’s massive surge of Asian immigrants, we see that these newcomers to Canada are not having the same dismal educational experience as America’s Hispanic immigrants and Canada is managing to “get more” (36%+ of Chinese immigrants have some university, only 12% show no educational attainment) out of its new citizens than the US is managing with our new Hispanic residents. Even when we look beyond the immigrant generation and focus on their children, we see that Canada’s policy of seeking to maximize human capital stocks when making immigration decisions results in these immigrants having children who exhibit better academic performance compared to our first generation Hispanic students despite the fact that Canada’s public schools aren’t financed as generously as ours (OECD Excel File) (Education Spending/Student 2000: Primary Level – Canada $6,120, US $7,980; Secondary Level – Canada = $5,947, US $8,855; Tertiary Level – Canada = $14,983, US = $20,358) and yet Canada isn’t getting as “much out of” their citizens in terms of economic productivity as the US.

So, whatever the US is doing right in terms of productivity growth it still manages to surpass most developed countries even when handicapped by unique demographic challenges. If Brooks would like to see educational attainment increase over time then he should really begin advocating that we stop importing poverty, stop fostering cultural diversity and begin trying to assess human capital stocks in our immigrants.

Here’s a hint for Brooks – you need to understand the parameters of a problem before you can hope to discuss it accurately – leaving out demographics when questioning national performance will forever lead you to misanalyze. Peoples and cultures matter. Don’t take my word for it – here’s what the official demographer of Texas has to say:

Texas is changing. It is growing older and browner, with the elderly and Hispanic populations growing at an unprecedented rate. And as the
populations increase, so will the challenges.

If current trends continue, Texas’ work force will be less educated and less skilled. State services, already burdened, may be strained to a point never experienced before. The numbers provided by Murdock support the dire warnings:

Hispanics may represent 53 percent of the population by 2030, compared to 30.3 percent for Anglos and 9.2 percent for blacks.

More than half of Hispanics 25 and older had failed to finish high school in 2000; fewer than 20 percent had completed some college, and only about 10 percent had a college degree.

Hispanics could occupy 38 percent to 52 percent of the Texas work force by 2030.

By 2030, 16 percent to 20 percent of the population will be 65 or older, an increase of about 10 percent over 2000. Most will be Anglos. Of Texans older than 65 in 2000, 72.6 percent were Anglo, 16.7 percent Hispanic.

The aging population – coupled with a segment that is less educated and, thus, earning less money – will strain social services, including those for the elderly.

“An educated work force raises income levels, which generates businesses activity and increases the market for goods and services,” Murdock said. “It also increases investments for new businesses, which in turn increases tax revenues. Higher education equals higher incomes.”

Sen. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, said education is perhaps the most important issue facing the state.

“This is really a wake-up call,” he said. “The conclusion is that by the year 2025, if we keep doing what we’re doing now, Texas will have the economy of a Third Word country. I have a son who will be 21 in 2025, and that’s just not the kind of Texas I want to turn over to him.”

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science • Tags: Demographics 
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The debate over at The American Scene on Jim Manzi’s article “Undetermined” is now closed to comments so I couldn’t respond to one of the comments but the beauty of being a blogger is that you can use your own forum to vent your response.

The comment that I desperately wanted to respond to was left by Joe Shipman and reads as follows:

One thing that is established beyond any possibility of scientific doubt, of course, is that the genetic variability in IQ within races is much larger than the variability between races; any ethnic group of nontrivial size will have plenty of smart people and plenty of dumb people, and basing, say, educational policy on group rather than individual characteristics is therefore not only unAmerican but scientifically misguided.

Joe, will you join with me in advocating the complete dismantling of efforts to ameliorate the racial and gender wage gaps that exist, in that they too demonstrate that wage variability is larger within groups than between groups? I hit on this topic a few years ago:

It is important to recognize that most wage inequality occurs within and not between groups. The unweighted average Gini coefficient across all race, gender, and education groups was 0.256 in 1995, over 80 percent of the total Gini. Put another way, if all groups had identical mean wage rates (for example, black male dropouts had the same average wages as white male college graduates) but wages differed within groups as they do today, nearly all the inequality in wage rates would remain.

You know, if it’s unAmerican and unscientific to craft social policy on observed group differences then surely the fact that the variability in Black or Hispanic incomes is greater within their groups than it is between their group and, say, Caucasians or Asians, is an unscientific and unAmerican basis upon which to craft social policy to address the between group differences in income. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right Joe?

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science • Tags: Human Biodiversity 
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The former Miss Singapore, Cheryl Marie Cordeiro, now domiciled in Sweden, takes a crack at analyzing the Watson Affair. She’s clearly not a reactionary in that she tries to understand what Watson was saying and she goes to some effort to look at background information but along the way she falls into many of the expected traps that await those who rely on inaccurate information, to wit:

So, why do we need to assume that Watson is wrong if he says that “all testing shows that Blacks or Africans indicate that they are less intelligent”? Aren’t we missing the small detail of how and by whom these tests were made? IQ tests, though widely accepted as a standard indicator of how “intelligent” an individual is, still comes with a white / western / male bias, because that is from where the tests originated. I don’t think we need to doubt that white, western male scientists whose socio-cultural, historical and political backgrounds are different from those of the Africans or Black Americans. So, while these IQ tests cannot be “universal”, they are often referred to as if they were.

PS: – If you have time to kill and wish to see the amazing Ms. Cordeiro model her outfit of the day, then spend some time exploring her blog and marvel at the limitless wardrobe she’s accumulated.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science • Tags: Watson 
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Dissent has published an article on how pro-choice advocates should start thinking about the prospects of designer babies and the author broaches the subject of regulating, and perhaps prohibiting, access to such procedures. What’s striking about the article is the heavy reliance on the “barn door effect” wherein pro-choice advocates, once through the barn door, slam it shut in order to prevent others from using the same rationales to get through the door. For example:

Now, we who support abortion rights may fear that regulating reproductive technologies could endanger our cause. There is no doubt that maintaining the legality of abortion-and fighting to reverse harmful restrictions of it-is paramount. But it is also important for us to sustain a larger moral vision.

The larger moral vision which the author seeks to protect imposes a cost of loss of reproductive freedom on couples who wish to use reproductive technologies. During the Abortion Wars the pro-choice advocates rejected the very notion of a larger moral vision being protected at the cost of individual reproductive freedom yet now, through the use of selective definition, wherein abortion is synonymous with reproductive freedom and the use of reproductive technologies falls outside the definition, some seem fine with the very idea of limiting individual choice in order to advance their vision of a societal interest.

One of the lines of argument she develops begins with the premise that “individual choices can have larger social consequences.” I wonder what the author’s response would have been to this same premise being used in the early abortion battles, for abortions themselves also create larger social consequences. As women exercise their individual right to abortion they create effects that ripple through society. The same process is at work with regard to access to birth control.

The author makes much of the arbitrary line in the sand she’s drawn wherein she places high value on individual liberty for women to control their own bodies and timing of reproduction yet she devalues the individual choice of embryonic trait selection which leads me to question whether she stands for principle or outcome. If the principle of individual liberty is paramount, as we see with free speech cases where disagreeble speech is frequently defended, then we should expect support for individual exercise of reproductive freedom even when one may personally disagree with the choice made. If the outcome is of the highest importance, then we should see the jettisoning of principle when it is no longer convenient. I believe the author is arguing the latter position and this may come to be exploited by those who oppose her viewpoints on abortion, for if one jettisons principle when it is inconvenient to one’s immediate concerns then it becomes harder to argue on the basis of principle when one’s position is threatened.

I find it interesting to watch these early stumblings on the question of reproductive technologies and the shifting alliances that may result. Earlier I took a rudimentary stab at outline the shifting alliance in the post The Turning of the Tides. One of the most glaring examples of the conundrum reproductive technologies pose for dogmatic feminists was laid bare within this post, Feminist != Support for Reproductive Rights.

While the ideological contortions are interesting to watch what I find most amazing is the penchant for social engineering by fiat. The belief that legislation which restricts a couple’s reproductive choice will adequately address what the author see as a problem and that people shall willingly constrain their reproductive choices. Bush and Kennedy championed a law (NCLB) which mandated that all students shall meet proficiency standards in their educations. How’s that working out? Is the War on Drugs eliminating all drugs from society? Before abortion was widely legalized, did laws against abortion prevent abortions from taking place? Do Bio-Luddites really believe that prohibitions on advanced reproductive technologies will eliminate choice for parents? The most likely effect will be to drive such parents to underground providers or to exercise their choice overseas, in countries like China, where attitudes on this topic are quite different:

A survey of Chinese scientists working in the field of genetics suggests they overwhelmingly support eugenics to improve public health.

The theory of eugenics – which is considered highly controversial in the West – suggests that the human race can be improved by selective breeding. The survey, which was conducted in 1993 among 255 geneticists throughout China, was reported in the British magazine New Scientist. Almost unanimously – by 91% – the scientists said that couples who carried the same disease-causing genetic mutation should not be allowed to have children. More than three-quarters believed that governments should require pre-marital tests to detect carriers of hereditary disease. They also supported the routine genetic testing of job applicants by employers. There was also strong backing for the genetic testing of children to see if they are susceptible to problems such as alcoholism.

If the authors worried about a class divide developing between the “GenRich” and the rest of the population then the surest way to bring this about is to create a regulatory framework where only those with means can access the service by traveling overseas in order to have their embryos transfered. Does the author imagine that US Customs will maintain a pregnancy screening service for Americans arriving back in the country, or that abortions will be forced on people who have been found to have used reproductive technologies, or that the children, once born, will be born with a Scarlett Letter emblazoned on their foreheads announcing to the world that they are “GenRich.”

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science • Tags: Civilization, Genetic Engineering 
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Tim Krueger writing in the Cornell Daily Sun focuses on the higher admissions hurdles that Asian applicants to Cornell face and advocates that something be done about this injustice. By his back of the envelope calculations:

In the interest of space I’ll put the calculations on The Sun website instead of here. The figure I arrive at suggests that Cornell would have around 258 more domestic Asian/Pacific Islander undergrads in the absence of racial considerations in our admissions process.

He began his editorial with some promise by making note of the distorting effect of racial preferences, but he just couldn’t commit to the consequences of a merit system and falls back on tinkering with racial gerrymandering but unlike most of the advocates of Affirmative Action, with their stale, run of the mill, pronouncements, Mr. Krueger offers us a grand vision:

Noting that Cornell is a truly global institution, can the geographic limits of its responsibility to educate defensibly be established within the U.S.? I would argue not. And if Cornell has a global responsibility, any affirmative action policy rooted in this second “instrumental” argument would be expected to aim for a student body that’s a microcosm of global, not simply U.S., demographics.

Seeing as a) Asian Americans have indeed been subject to extreme experiences, even within the past century (deportation, concentration camps, reproductive manipulation, ghettoization), and b) even aggregating the domestic and international Asian populations at Cornell only gives us less than half of 42 percent – the percentage of the world projected to be Asian by 2011 – I find it hard to justify Cornell’s policies towards prospective Asian students.

So let’s cut to the chase, what does he propose be done about the plight of Asians not being admitted on merit? Implement a merit-based admissions system? Nope:

Does this mean Cornell should end racial considerations in admissions? Of course not – the rest of Berkeley’s demographic story boasts a black population of only 3.8 percent. . . . . Either of the above constructions of affirmative action justifies its application towards blacks, Latinos and Native Americans. The loosening of admissions standards for Asians should instead come at the expense of white applicants. This would strengthen the academic caliber of our student body while furthering our commitment to diversity; the combination should not be taken lightly.

I eagerly await news of Mr. Krueger’s withdrawal from Cornell in order to make room for the meritorious Asian or the Diversity-embodying Black, Hispanic or Native American. Come on Mr. Krueger, do your part.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science 
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You would think that the New York Times reporters on the education beat could write an article without blatantly proclaiming their gullibility or willingness to engage in obfuscation but I see no evidence of any desire to avoid such sins, especially in this article on how school districts are pursuing diversity agendas by parsing students according to socioeconomic status. The Times reports:

The most ambitious effort and the example most often cited as a success is in the city of Raleigh, N.C., and its suburbs.

For seven years the district has sought to cap the proportion of low-income students in each of the county’s 143 schools at 40 percent.

To achieve a balance of low- and middle-income children, the district encourages and sometimes requires students to attend schools far from home. Suburban students are attracted to magnet schools in the city; children from the inner city are sometimes bused to middle-class schools at the outer edges of Raleigh and in the suburbs.

The achievement gains have been sharp, and school officials said economic integration was largely responsible. Only 40 percent of black students in grades three through eight in Wake County, where Raleigh is located, scored at grade level on state reading tests in 1995. By the spring of 2006, 82 percent did.

What’s changed in the education landscape betweeen 1995 and 2006? We’ve seen the introduction of the NCLB which has created a massive incentive for States to game their achievement tests in order to meet Federal compliance thresholds. Is there any evidence that North Carolina has gamed their achievement tests in order to boost the proportion of students who met proficiency standards? You bet there is. Unlike the achievement tests that states devise the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is a uniform measure not subject to “dumbing down.” According to this national survey, North Carolina is ranked ninth in 4th grade reading score variance, and third in terms of 8th grade math score variance, between NAEP scores and state developed assessment tests.

If we go directly to the NAEP Reading statistics we see the results for the 4th graders in 1994 was 214 (212 national ave.) and that the 2005 scores were 217 (217 national ave.). The 8th graders 1998 scores were 262 (261 national ave.) and the 2005 score was 258 (260 national ave.) Here we see only miniscule gains across the years and a slippage against national trends. While it’s certainly possible that the Raleigh schools are bucking the statewide trend the reporters don’t verify that this is indeed the case and simply rely on meaningless statistics offered up in support of the educational fad du jour, that socioeconomic integration will produce the diversity that will finally close the achievement gap.

Instead of touting the success of the Raleigh schools in meeting proficiency standards because of economic integration shouldn’t the reporters have verified that they weren’t reporting phantom gains attributable to a gaming of the testing regime?

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science 
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I’m having some trouble deciphering the economic principles underlying the following argument that Mark Thoma made regarding economic inequality:

As for inflation, in general, if wage growth equals inflation plus productivity growth, there is no inflation pressure.

Now I understand an argument which allocates to wages the productivity growth derived from more efficient workplace practices but my understanding of labor market economics is that the majority of productivity gains result from capital investment, so if all, which Thoma seems to imply, or even most, productivity growth is allocated to labor then none, or only some, of the gain will be allocated to capital. Yet, we know that capital will not invested in an environment of substandard, or non-existent, returns, so when labor is awarded a benefit that results from capital investment how does this not lead to inflationary pressure?

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science 
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Will Wright of The Sims and SimCity fame has been developing his new game Spore for over 6 years and the canvas he’s painting on is large indeed for the game begins with the player controlling the evolution of cells within a tidal pool and it progresses up the evolutionary ladder, with intermediate stops at controlling individual creatures which have evolved from the cells, controlling early tribes of creatures, controlling the sociological aspects of creatures living in cities, controlling civilizational issues confronting the creatures, and finally leading the creatures into a space-based expansion where they meet other species that have evolved from different evolutionary niches.

Wikipedia has an extensive write-up on the entire project and notes that Wright is using procedural generation code to allow the player to define their evolutionary features via permutations rather than simply drawing the features from preexisting code.

To illustrate the the power of evolutionary branching that permeates the game consider the following:

The Cell Phase is the starting point of the game. The player guides a simple micro-organism (microbe) around in a 2D environment, eating other, weaker cells. There are at least three other types of cells, two of which can eat the player’s microbe to begin with. Once the microbe has eaten several cells, it lays an egg which, when clicked, opens the creature editor which allows the player to modify the appearance, shape, and abilities of the microbe. This includes adding offensive abilities. For example, in Will Wright’s 2005 demo, he added a small spike which allows the player’s microbe to attack the organisms which would previously eat the player’s microbe. Each time the player’s microbe progresses to the next generation, it grows larger. Once the microbe grows to a certain size, the player leaves the 2D world of the microscopic and enters the creature phase.

Spore seems to be generating quite a bit of buzz and anticipation within the gaming community and I imagine that kids who are playing the game and seeing evolution play out before their eyes will come to understand the evolution vs. creationism debate with a deeper understanding of the process underlying evolution. The upshot here: the more entertaining the lesson the greater its impact.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science 
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We’re reading a lot lately about how the producers of Borat set up ordinary citizens in order to mock them in the film and here we see how Sacha Baron-Cohen likes having the tables turned on him as his “cousin” Horat crashes the L.A. premiere and ambush interviews him. Sacha Baron-Cohen enters the clip at the 5 minute 30 second mark and I’d swear that the reaction we see is Baron-Cohen breaking from character.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science 
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The Cylon home world has been discovered – it’s Earth, and the Cylon nexus is Japan.

The Japanese drive to avoid the societal turmoil that often accompanies immigration has made them world leaders in robotic technology as they seek to develop robots to do the work of low-skill immigrants.

Their latest models are startlingly human-like.

Yahoo has a photo spread here, BBC has a story here, the Discovery Channel has a report here, and here’s a YouTube video.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science 
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If you’re a Romanian who wants to get into Canada, but you’re already on their watch lists because they’ve deported you before and intercepted you on your other attempts to enter the country illegally, what to do? Why that’s simple, flank the enemy and make your run for the weakest border front, so buy an airline ticket to Greenland, buy an 18 ft. fiberglass boat and cross the daunting sea to make landfall on the frozen tundra of the Canadian High North:

It’s hard to slip under the radar in a tightly-knit community of less than 200, and as the Romanian emerged from a thick fog onto the shores of Grise Fiord, he was met by a welcoming party of curious Inuit. Wet from the journey, with no food and only 20 litres of fuel remaining, the Romanian was nonetheless freshly shaved and eager to sell his boat to raise money for his airfare south.

Those who met him offered to take the man, whose name has not been released, to the local Co-op store to buy food.

On the way, they happened to run into RCMP Const. Ian Johnson, and the Romanian’s scheme crumbled.

Ah, the Mounties get their man, even in the desolate frozen tundra. See maps here.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science 
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The International Journal of Evidence-Based Healthcare has seen fit to advance the state of humanity’s knowledge by publishing the article “Deconstructing The Evidence-Based Discourse In Health Sciences: Truth, Power And Fascism” in their latest issue:

Background Drawing on the work of the late French philosophers Deleuze and Guattari, the objective of this paper is to demonstrate that the evidence-based movement in the health sciences is outrageously exclusionary and dangerously normative with regards to scientific knowledge. As such, we assert that the evidence-based movement in health sciences constitutes a good example of microfascism at play in the contemporary scientific arena.

Objective The philosophical work of Deleuze and Guattari proves to be useful in showing how health sciences are colonised (territorialised) by an all-encompassing scientific research paradigm – that of post-positivism – but also and foremost in showing the process by which a dominant ideology comes to exclude alternative forms of knowledge, therefore acting as a fascist structure.

Conclusion The Cochrane Group, among others, has created a hierarchy that has been endorsed by many academic institutions, and that serves to (re)produce the exclusion of certain forms of research. Because ‘regimes of truth’ such as the evidence-based movement currently enjoy a privileged status, scholars have not only a scientific duty, but also an ethical obligation to deconstruct these regimes of power.

You can read the full paper here and you really should for only then can you savor such exquisite insights as:

Rather than risk being alienated from their colleagues, many scientists find themselves interpellated by hegemonic discourses and come to disregard all others. Unfortunately, privileging a single discourse (evidence-based medicine (EBM)) situated within a single scientific paradigm (postpositivism) confines the researcher to a yoke of exactly reproducing the established order. To a large degree, the dominant discourse represents the ladder of success in academic and research milieus where it establishes itself as a weapon used against those who praise the freedom of scientific inquiry and the free debate of ideas. . . .

Accordingly, we believe that a postmodernist critique of this prevailing mode of thinking is indispensable. Those who are wedded to the idea of ‘evidence’ in the health sciences maintain what is essentially a Newtonian, mechanistic world view: they tend to believe that reality is objective, which is to say that it exists, ‘out there’, absolutely independent of the human observer, and of the observer’s intentions and observations. They fondly point to ‘facts’, while they are forced to dismiss ‘values’ as somehow unscientific. For them, this reality (an ensemble of facts) corresponds to an objectively real and mechanical world. But this form of empiricism, we would argue, fetishises the object at the expense of the human subject, for whom this world has a vital significance and meaning in the first place. An evidence-based, empirical world view is dangerously reductive insofar as it negates the personal and interpersonal significance and meaning of a world that is first and foremost a relational world, and not a fixed set of objects, partes extra partes. . . .

A starting point for health sciences would be to promote the multiplicity of what Foucault describes as subjugated forms of knowledge (savoirs assujettis): these forms of knowledge are ways of understanding the world that are ‘disqualified as non-conceptual knowledges, as insufficiently elaborated knowledges: naive knowledges, hierarchically inferior knowledges, [and] knowledges that are below the required level of erudition or scientificity’ (p. 7). These forms of knowledge arise from below, as it were, in contradistinction to the top-down approach that characterises the hegemonic thrust of EBHS. For Foucault, a subjugated knowledge is not the same thing as ‘common sense’. Instead, it is ‘a particular knowledge, a knowledge that is local, regional, or differential’ (pp. 7-8).

And, you know, a paper on linking Evidence-Based Medicine to Fascism simply wouldn’t be complete without a token quote from President George. W. Bush, but to find out how the authors make the linkage you’ll actually have to read the conclusion of the paper.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science 
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This month Nature Reviews:Neuroscience published an opinion piece “Gene-environment interactions in psychiatry: joining forces with neuroscience” by Avshalom Caspi and Terrie E. Moffitt who follow-up on their well-cited 2002 article in Science “Role of genotype in the cycle of violence in maltreated children.” In the opinion piece the authors present a broad overview of the opportunities and challenges present in studies that address the gene-environment interactions that exist within nature. In their earlier earlier paper they:

. . studied a large sample of male children from birth to adulthood to determine why some children who are maltreated grow up to develop antisocial behavior, whereas others do not. A functional polymorphism in the gene encoding the neurotransmitter-metabolizing enzyme monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) was found to moderate the effect of maltreatment. Maltreated children with a genotype conferring high levels of MAOA expression were less likely to develop antisocial problems. These findings may partly explain why not all victims of maltreatment grow up to victimize others, and they provide epidemiological evidence that genotypes can moderate children’s sensitivity to environmental insults.

It’s quite plausible that as this science develops it will enter into the social and legal arena where it will be useful in questions dealing with Indefinite Commitment Laws. David Rose tackles this subject, and provides a useful historical overview on “genetic determinism” scaremongering, in the latest issue of Prospect (UK). I want to add to the topic, but first a little background.

Indefinite Commitment Laws are designed to keep dangerous individuals from being released from prison after they’ve completed their terms of incarceration, have been passed in 16 U.S. States and have passed through Constitutional challenges by claiming that the commitment is a medical treatment, rather than a double-jeopardy penalty of continuing incarceration. The case law can be sampled here, here and here.

The impetus for these types of laws clearly centers on fears of high recidivism probabilities of the ex-convict. Because the legal proceedings are dealing with civil commitment rather than criminal commitment, the standard of evidence must only meet a clear and convincing threshold, rather than the higher bar of beyond a reasonable doubt. Due in large part to this lower evidenciary standard the adjudicating authority becomes a de facto actuary and much of the focus deals with probability of recidivism. To gauge the boundaries of the probability estimate there are prescribed protocols which must be followed by the State. More details in this Handbook for “Sexually Violent Predator Assessment Screening Instrument for Felons: Background and Instruction” and in this Memorandum on “Civil Commitment of Sexually Violent Predators” that was prepared for Virginia Circuit Court Judges. But what are the actual probabilities of recidivism that have spurred on this legislation? In their meta-analysis of recidivism studies, Predicting Relapse: A meta-Analysis of Sexual Offender Recidivism Studies, R. Karl Hanson and Monique T. Bussiere find:

On average, the sex offense recidivism rate was 13.4% (n = 23,393; 18.9% for 1,839 rapists and 12.7% for 9,603 child molesters). The average follow-up period was 4 to 5 years. The recidivism rate for nonsexual violence was 12.2% (n = 7,155), but there was a substantial difference in the nonsexual violent recidivism rates for the child molesters (9.9%; n = 1,774) and the rapists (22.1%; n = 782). When recidivism was defined as any reoffense, the rates were predictably higher: 36.3% overall (n = 19,347), 36.9% for the child molesters (n = 3,363), and 46.2% for rapists (n = 4,017).

Margaret A. Alexander performed a meta-analysis of 79 studies that looked at recidivism rates after the criminals participated in various treatments regimes in her study, Sexual Offender Treatment Efficacy Revisited and found the following recidivism rates: Rapists (treated 20.1%, untreated 23.7%); Child Molestors (treated 14.4%, untreated 25.8%); Exhibitionists (treated 19.7%, untreated 57.1%) and the by far largest group, Types not specified (treated 13.1%, untreated 12.0%). The last entry isn’t a typo, the untreated did in fact have lower recidivism rates.

I thought it would be useful to survey the probability universe that we’re dealing with when we deprive people of their freedom via Indefinite Commitment Laws for they do work on the basis of probabilities rather than certainties and it’s quite likely that genotypic information will significantly improve the accuracy of assessments, especially when such information is combined with data on the life history of the subject. Rose summarizes the 2002 Caspi and Moffitt paper:

The paper’s hypothesis was that one of the factors that differentiates individuals’ propensity for antisocial behaviour is a particular gene-the one responsible for generating the enzyme monoamine oxidase A (MAOA). This enzyme regulates neurotransmitter levels in the brain: one of its roles is to get rid of excess serotonin, dopamine and so on, in order to keep neurological circuits working smoothly.

In fact, there are five known variants-known as alleles or genotypes-of the MAOA gene, although three of them are rare. The authors of the 2002 paper examined the two main types. The low-activity allele, which programmes the body to produce low levels of the MAOA enzyme, is found in about one third of males. The more normal, high-activity allele is found in almost all of the rest. In order to test their hypothesis about the role of MAOA, the researchers went back to the Dunedin cohort. Its members’ history had already been examined and described, so that it was already known that between the ages of eight and 11, 8 per cent of the cohort’s children had suffered “severe” maltreatment, and 28 per cent had experienced “probable” maltreatment. As we have seen, the team already knew which members of the study had exhibited antisocial behaviour, and when. Now researchers also found which of the MAOA genotypes they had by examining their DNA.

As might have been expected, the Dunedin study found that maltreatment in childhood would, on its own, make someone more likely to commit crime and display antisocial behaviour. About 35 per cent of the maltreated men with the normal high-activity genotype had shown conduct disorder, and 20 per cent had a conviction for violence. But when the two risk factors were found together-the low-activity genotype and childhood maltreatment-the correlation with antisocial behaviour was far stronger. More than 80 per cent of the men in this category had exhibited conduct disorder, and more than 30 per cent had convictions for violence. As a group, they were all among the most violent third of men. No fewer than 85 per cent
of the cohort’s men with the low-activity genotype who had also been severely maltreated went on to develop antisocial behaviour.

Notice that the rate for conviction of violent crime was 50 percent greater in the low-activity genotype group than in the high-activity genotype group. In absolute terns the former group has a conviction rate that is 10 percent greater than the latter group. Compare these rates to the the recidivism rates for rapists (18.9%), child molestors (12.7%) and violent offenders (12.2%.) When we’re dealing with probabilities of recidivism it seems that genotypic information will only serve to improve the decision process underlying indefinite commitment proceedings.

An added benefit of developing this research will be the likely erosion effect on the Axiom of Discrimination as it pertains to the question of race and crime. We already have studies which have charted monoamine oxidase activity across demographic groups:

Reported here are variations for all three demographic variables such that significantly greater enzyme activity is seen in female, older, and white subjects relative to male, younger, and black subjects.

Note that the groups most prone to low enzyme activity are males, the young, and black subjects. Another study makes the implication more explicit:

Overall, low MAO activity appears to be associated with restless and uninhibited behavior patterns, and may reflect some of the mediating effects of serotonin and sex hormones (especially androgens) on criminal behavior. Lower MAO activity is more characteristic of males than females, and appears to be lower in Blacks than Whites, and lowest during the second and third decades of life.

Of course, a research design that broaches the sensitive topic of race, genetics, and criminality is certain to dissuade many scientists from getting involved, for as Stanford’s David Botstein remarks about genetic causes of violence:

“I think there’s more scientifically to that one, a greater likelihood of finding it, more than IQ. But it’s COMPLETELY unacceptable at the moment. You can’t even talk about it. Go to any university, research center, no one — NO ONE — will talk to you about this. Why? Simple. Because of the fear that there will be a racial correlation.

We need look no further than Rose’s essay for a sampling of what the future portends:

The academy can be a compartmentalised place, with surprisingly little dialogue between disciplines, and mainstream sociological criminology is only beginning to become aware of the work described here. It may not evoke a favourable response. A recent issue of the journal Criminal Justice Matters, published by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King’s College London, contained a fierce attack on the work of Terrie Moffitt and others. The article accused researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry and elsewhere of “genetic fundamentalism-a belief in a mythic, not a real genetics,” and suggested that twin studies that found a genetic component in antisocial behaviour were without value. Moffitt and her colleagues have, in fact, stressed that genetic predispositions must be “switched on” by childhood maltreatment, and that the important thing was to concentrate on eliminating this and other types of adverse environment.

Asked to give an after-dinner speech to Liberal Democrat lawyers, I caught a different glimpse of the hostility that behavioural genetic research into the causes of crime can evoke. After I had presented an account of some of the work described here, the response was viscerally critical. Speakers claimed that it was “deterministic,” and would surely lead to a wanton attack on civil liberties. One distinguished legal practitioner went so far as to demand who had funded these investigations, claiming that they must have been cooked up according to some pre-ordered, authoritarian agenda.

For most of the regular readers of this blog these types of frothing-at-the-mouth attacks are old hat. Just a few weeks ago we saw Stanford’s Barres preparing the ground for classifying science he didn’t like as hate crimes:

. . . what is the difference between a faculty member calling their African-American students lazy and one pronouncing that women are innately inferior? Some have suggested that those who are angry at Larry Summers’ comments should simply fight words with more words (hence this essay). In my view, when faculty tell their students that they are innately inferior based on race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, they are crossing a line that should not be crossed – the line that divides free speech from verbal violence – and it should not be tolerated at Harvard or anywhere else.

The Leftist Creationists who believe that humans are immune to evolutionary processes will not go down without a fight. Unfortunately, these types of creationists are a monolithic bloc within Academia and they can indeed put up impediments to research or simply resurrect the tactics used during the Sociobiology Wars. However, even if they can groom an obscurantist of Gouldian proportions, they’re going to have a difficult time refuting the work of good scientists, work which been replicated many times over. In the end these new insights should aid society in furthering the cause of justice, just as DNA testing has been instrumental in setting unjustly incarcertated people free and helping to convict those who are guilty of crimes. The science and technology are neutral but they do aid in guiding the decisions made by our arbitors of justice.

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Steve has already reported on the issues that New Jersey State Police are having with an ever rising number of women and minority applicants who are applying for positions but who are disproportionately failing the background checks, physical exams and written tests. But what happens when some of these applicants do pass the tests? Another case of a woman officer being overpowered by a handcuffed suspect has made the news:

A suspected burglar put in handcuffs after his arrest attacked a woman police officer and then escaped by driving off in her car.

The female officer was driving the man to Slough police station when he forcibly took control of the car.

The man, one of three arrested on suspicion of burglary, dumped the car in Keel Drive about six minutes away.

Also, recall the case of the black police officer who sued for racial discrimination because the police force promoted him beyond his level of competence and his incompetence led to disciplinary action:

A BLACK police bodyguard who protected the Duchess of Cornwall has won $70,000 compensation after suing Scotland Yard for “over-promoting” him because of political correctness.

Sgt Leslie Turner — the first black personal protection officer to guard the royal family — will receive the “racial discrimination” payout after reaching an out-of-court settlement with London’s Metropolitan Police.

His representatives argued he landed the prestigious job as Camilla’s bodyguard only because he was black.

It was claimed that as a result of being over-promoted and not receiving proper training and support, Sgt Turner made mistakes which led to him being re-assigned.

He launched legal proceedings against the force in October and Scotland Yard chiefs have agreed to pay “substantial” compensation — understood to be about $70,000 — to the married father of two.

Colleagues of Sgt Turner, who was born in Britain, say he is a “model professional”‘ who had a good relationship with Prince Charles and Camilla.

He began guarding Charles in August, 2004 and was re-assigned to Camilla in February last year when the royal couple were engaged.

But in June, it emerged he had suddenly been replaced.

Royal insiders stress that the decision to move him was not taken directly by Clarence House. But they concede that the race row is extremely embarrassing for Charles and Camilla.

Had Sgt Turner’s case reached a tribunal, potentially embarrassing secrets about Charles and Camilla’s lives may have been aired.

A Met spokesman refused to confirm the compensation deal.

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Great juxtaposition of Monty Python storyline with Star Trek clips, but how much time do you think it must have taken to cull through 3 years worth of Star Trek episodes looking for just the right snippets to fit in with the Monty Python sketch? Congratulations to the creators for their imagination and most of all their patience.

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It’s not really surprising to see that some stereotypes are in fact based on reality. If you’re seeking to confirm the stereotype of the all-empathy feminist who spouts Leftist dogma and does so in a fashion that garbles the rules of logic, then look no further than this essay from the law-student blogger who publishes Feministe. In her latest blog posting she unwittingly does harm to her fellow feminists by confirming the worst stereotypes of feminists. She objects to the existence of a non-profit agency, Project Prevention which is headed by Barbara Harris, because it offers $300 to crack-addicted women as an incentive for the women to seek either long term birth control or sterilization.

In order to make her case against this service Jill bends logical reasoning into a pretzel by:

-redefining coercion so as to encompass the voluntary exchange of money for compliance with birth control measures;

-invokes historical injustices going back to the days of slavery and how the women who were victimized during those times were not able to control their own reproduction;

-throws out charges of “It’s racist. It’s classist. It’s ableist” without bothering to make a case for each charge, for the charges alone are deemed to be the equivalent of argumentation;

-Invokes sympathy for females who are incarcerated, (innocent victims) and chastises the non-profit agency (evil eugenicists) for extending the cash offer to these women;

-Decides on a narrative and then bends the facts and logic to support her desired thesis. Consider the following excerpt:

They’re drug addicts, which severely compromises their abilities to reason and make healthy decisions.

Here she lays the groundwork for allowing others to make reproductive choices for women, but expect her to flip-out if some pro-life advocate used her reasoning to withdraw reproductive choice from pregnant women. So long as the narrative supports her ideological position then logic or consistency is immaterial.

-Next up, Jill proclaims that there is a correct way to spend a non-profit’s resources, and coincidently that correct way happens to be a method she favors. Odd though that she feels entitled to counsel others on how they should spend their money but she doesn’t put up her own money or own effort to further the process she favors. In the end she wants to compell action and restrict choice.

-She infers racism from the fact that 43% of the recipients of these grants are Black, when Blacks only comprise 12% of the American population. No exploration of the details concerning drug abuse patterns across racial groups, nor of the reliance of drug abusers on the public welfare system, nor of the racial background of the mothers of crack babies. No, if there isn’t racial proportionalism then of course there is racism at work. Funny that the proponents of diversity seem to expect uniformity.

-Feeble attempts at smearing by invoking the names of Steve Sailer, Jim Woodhill, Richard Mellon Scaife and Dr. Laura Schlessinger. I suppose in her imagination the case is now closed for anything these folks could support must by defintion be racist and eugenicist.

-Quote Lynn Paltrow as one of my feminist heroes for she disputes the notion that there are such things as crack babies, for

The harm that drugs cause during pregnancy is impossible to measure or single out from other factors (poverty, malnutrition, stress, inadequate pre-natal care and so on). . . . Other symptoms of drug dependence – such as craving’ and compulsion’ – cannot be detected in babies.

Never mind that:

the fact that most of these children appear normal should not be overinterpreted as indicating that there is no cause for concern. Using sophisticated technologies, scientists are now finding that exposure to cocaine during fetal development may lead to subtle, yet significant, later deficits in some children, including deficits in some aspects of cognitive performance, information-processing, and attention to tasks-abilities that are important for success in school.”

To cap off her essay, Jill invokes her Leftist-Racist bona fides by quoting from Steve Sailer’s interview of Barbara Harris:

Harris: One of the women who came through our program had 14 babies. She doesn’t know who the fathers are, and that’s usually the case. A lot of times they don’t even know what race the kids are. How sad is that?

Jill: You mean these women might not know if they’re giving birth to a darkie? How tragic.

The lesson here is not to expect logic or rhetorical rigor from a feminist intent on posturing.

Update: Amber at Prettier than Napoleon addresses the issue.

Related: Feminist != Support for Reproductive Rights

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What was going on in Germany in April of 2001 that so distracted people that many of them forgot to get busy making babies that month? And when the sudden forgetfulness was likely noted shortly after January of 2002, did the Germans feel guilty and make a concerted effort to get back on track by getting extra busy in March of 2002, or was there a massive power failure which left people with little to do but seek their own form of entertainment?

Check this graph of Germany’s birth data and note the deviation from expected norms in the months of January 2002 and December 2002. I’ve graphed 10 years of data and the monthly average for births in January is 62,881, usually in a narrow range of 59,000-65,000 but in January of 2002 the births dropped to 47,613. Then to close out the year there were 73,104 births in December when the monthly average is 61,916 ranging between 56,000 – 67,000.

What I’ve done for the graph is taken the annual mean and then charted the monthly variance from the mean. Quite clearly there are annual cycles to conception (and these vary by country – more data in subsequent posts) and there are two very noticable deviations from the norm in 2002.

So, what was going on in Germany back then?

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Can anyone beat the number of authors of this paper entitled Top Quark Mass Measurement from Dilepton Events at CDF II with the Matrix-Element Method?

I counted 729.

Hat tip ChicagoBoyz

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This is too good not to share – Razib takes on the persona of a more “enlightened” being. Could this be a Sokal Hoax in the making or have we lost Razib, as he transcends to a higher plane of being?

but don’t you worry about the perpetuation of heteronormative discourse in a society where we are attempting to value individuals for their character rather than their physical features? this individual, for example, would have illustrated the problems with loss of functionality on the MC1R locus that is endemic to redheads without the distractions of objectification, and, reinforcement of capitalist & patriarchical values of “attractiveness” promoted simply to perpetuate arbitrary power relations. as a white male (generalizing from your photograph) don’t you think you in particular can set a progressive example of sensitivity toward those who do not benefit from either your gender or skin color privilege? (speaking as an operational heterosexual non-”native” born male of color who does not benefit from white skin privilege and is excluded from the dominant patriarchal caste by virtue of my origin) one can argue that as highly depigmented individuals who often exhibit brown “freckles” redheads are themselves a demonized minority, a group “of color,” so to speak, around whom negative folk mythologies have cohered (how many reheads have had to deal with the slur “firecrotch” during their adolescence?). in other words, they are the internal Other. haven’t you read the book how redheads became Colored?

Later in the day, we see him getting used to his new liberal skin:

DFX: Plus, you’re much better looking than PZ!

Razib: itz a sad statement of our culture that gratuitous comments about physical appearence are considered “amusing” by some.

When a commenter, who must obviously be blind to his own privledge, rebukes Razib, we see the full emergence of “Sensitive Man” with this comment:

DFX: Some might argue that it’s a worse statement of our culture when people lose their sense of humor.

Razib: humor is the Privilege of heterosexist white males. perhaps the key is that for you “our culture” is bounded by your own eurocentric biases, while as a person of color i have to live every day with a culture of oppression.

I used to have to scour the darkest corners of the feminist and liberal blogospheres to find this kind of mindset, but now we have it close to home.

What, oh what, could be causing this hideous transmogrification? Could it be a satirical virus of some sorts, too much interaction with people who think like that, or something more sinister? If you ask me, this is a shout out for an intervention!

Update from Razib: I “explain” myself yo!

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The next time you encounter Lewontin’s Fallacy in which someone is arguing that between groups differences are not important when compared to the variation within the group, one should discern how they feel about race and gender wage differentials, for:

It is important to recognize that most wage inequality occurs within and not between groups. The unweighted average Gini coefficient across all race, gender, and education groups was 0.256 in 1995, over 80 percent of the total Gini. Put another way, if all groups had identical mean wage rates (for example, black male dropouts had the same average wages as white male college graduates) but wages differed within groups as they do today, nearly all the inequality in wage rates would remain.

So, when it comes to genetic variation and the implications which arise from biology, the between group differences are minimized in comparison to the in-group differences and we see a full on embrace of Lewontin’s outdated analysis, yet when the topic is a liberal touchstone, income inequality, then the small between group differences matter so much more than do the in-group differences.

Geez, can’t they simply pick a position and stick to it.

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