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Matt Ridley, author of The Red Queen, is a distinguished science journalist in the Anglo-Darwinian tradition of Richard Dawkins. He’s a good example of the trend toward the name “Matthew” being what “Steven/Stephen” was for the previous generation.

But, Matt Ridley also has another identity besides science writer with a Oxford Ph.D. in zoology that I’ve been looking for an excuse to point out, so I’ll grab this one. I’m not particularly interested in the policy controversy below, I’m just using it as a launching pad for some fun details.

Statistics professor Andrew Gelman blogs in “Irritating Pseudo-Populism” that he is annoyed by Ridley’s assertion in a WSJ op-ed “Free-market solutions for overweight Americans,” that:

Education vouchers, they point out, are generally disliked by rich whites as being bad for poor blacks–and generally liked by poor blacks.

Gelman replies: 

First, I’m sick and tired of all the rich-white bashing. I mean, what’s the deal? Matt Ridley is a rich white, I’m a rich white, so are lots and lots of the readers of the Wall Street Journal. If you got a problem with rich whites, maybe you should start writing for a publication associated with a different income stratum and a different ethnic group.

A good point in general. And in this specific case, it’s worth noting that very, very few people are quite  as white and rich as Matthew White Ridley VIII, the future Fifth Viscount Ridley. He lives in the family pile of Blagdon Hall on an 8,500 acre estate in Northumberland (see above). Here’s a picture of his elderly father, Matthew White Ridley VII, fourth Viscount Ridley and former Lord Steward of the Household. (The journalist’s grandfather on his mother’s side was the 11th Earl of Scarbrough.) The Blagdon Estate’s website says:

The Families of Ridley and White 

Blagdon has been home to the same family since 1700. The first three generations of owners were all named Matthew White. The next nine generations of owners have all been named Matthew White Ridley. For more than 300 years Blagdon has been owned by somebody called Matthew.

In general, the Darwinian tradition has tended to be pushed forward by country boy s who grew up around nature. Wealthy country gentlemen like Darwin, Galton, and Ridley may sound like P.G. Wodehouse’s parody of the type, Gussie Fink-Nottle, newt fancier from deepest Lincolnshire, but science owes them a lot. 
(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Family Matters 
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A certain share of the craziness in the world is the fault of freelance journalists looking for something to write about. Combine that with the fact that most of the market for women’s journalism revolves around self-improvement, since only men will read about The Crisis in Yemen (there is one, isn’t there?) and pretend it’s conceivably relevant to their lives (“What if the White House calls seeking my advice on Yemen? I must be ready for The Call.”)

For example, the NY Times Magazine features this long article by Elizabeth Weil called “Married (Happily) with Issues)” about her attempt to fix her unbroken marriage via narcissistic yuppie self-improvement efforts. It’s been among the most emailed articles on the NY Times for most of a week:

I have a pretty good marriage. … The idea of trying to improve our union came to me one night in bed…. And as I lay there, I started wondering why I wasn’t applying myself to the project of being a spouse. My marriage was good, utterly central to my existence, yet in no other important aspect of my life was I so laissez-faire. Like most of my peers, I applied myself to school, friendship, work, health and, ad nauseam, raising my children. But in this critical area, marriage, we had all turned away. I wanted to understand why. I wanted not to accept this. … So I decided to apply myself to my marriage, to work at improving ours now, while it felt strong.

I can’t possibly bring myself to read the entire article, but let me make a guess: It turns out not to be a good idea.

Tom Wolfe explained it all 33 years ago in The “Me” Decade and the Third Great Awakening:

A key drama of our own day is Ingmar Bergman’s movie Scenes From a Marriage. In it we see a husband and wife who have good jobs and a well-furnished home but who are unable to “communicate”—to cite one of the signature words of the Me Decade. Then they begin to communicate, and there upon their marriage breaks up and they start divorce proceedings. For the rest of the picture they communicate endlessly, with great candor, but the “relationship”—another signature word—remains doomed. Ironically, the lesson that people seem to draw from this movie has to do with . . . “the need to communicate.” Scenes From a Marriage is one of those rare works of art, like The Sun Also Rises, that not only succeed in capturing a certain mental atmosphere in fictional form . . . but also turn around and help radiate it throughout real life. I personally know of two instances in which couples, after years of marriage, went to see Scenes From a Marriage and came home convinced of the “need to communicate.” The discussions began with one of the two saying. Let’s try to be completely candid for once. You tell me exactly what you don’t like about me, and I’ll do the same for you. At this, the starting point, the whole notion is exciting. We’re going to talk about Me! (And I can take it.) I’m going to find out what he (or she) really thinks about me! (Of course, I have my faults, but they’re minor, or else exciting.)

She says. “Go ahead. What don’t you like about me?”

They’re both under the Bergman spell. Nevertheless, a certain sixth sense tells him that they’re on dangerous ground. So he decides to pick something that doesn’t seem too terrible.

“Well,” he says, “one thing that bothers me is that when we meet people for the first time, you never know what to say. Or else you get nervous and start babbling away, and it’s all so banal, it makes me look bad.”

Consciously she’s still telling herself, “I can take it.” But what he has just said begins to seep through her brain like scalding water. What’s he talking about? . . . makes him look bad? He’s saying I’m unsophisticated, a social liability, and an embarrassment. All those times we’ve gone out, he’s been ashamed of me! (And what makes it worse—it’s the sort of disease for which there’s no cure!) She always knew she was awkward. His crime is: He noticed! He’s known it, too, all along. He’s had contempt for me.

Out loud she says. “Well, I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do about that.”

He detects the petulant note. “Look,” he says. “you’re the one who said to be candid.”

She says, “I know. I want you to be.”

He says, “Well, it’s your turn.”

“Well,” she says, “I’ll tell you something about when we meet people and when we go places. You never clean yourself properly—you don’t know how to wipe yourself. Sometimes we’re standing there talking to people, and there’s . . . a smell. And I’ll tell you something else. People can tell it’s you.”

And he’s still telling himself, “I can take it”—but what inna namea Christ is this?

He says, “But you’ve never said anything—about anything like that.”

She says, “But I tried to. How many times have I told you about your dirty drawers when you were taking them off at night?”

Somehow this really makes him angry. . . . All those times . . . and his mind immediately fastens on Harley Thatcher and his wife, whom he has always wanted to impress. . . . And all at once he is intensely annoyed with his wife, not because she never told him all these years—but simply because she knows about his disgrace—and she was the one who brought him the bad news!

From that moment on they’re ready to get the skewers in. It’s only a few minutes before they’ve begun trying to sting each other with confessions about their little affairs, their little slipping around, their little coitus on the sly—“Remember that time I told you my flight from Buffalo was canceled?”—and at that juncture the ranks of those who can take it become very thin, indeed. So they communicate with great candor! and break up! and keep on communicating! and then find the relationship hopelessly doomed.

One couple went into group therapy. The other went to a marriage counselor. Both types of therapy are very popular forms, currently, of Let’s talk about Me. This phase of the breakup always provides a rush of exhilaration, for what more exhilarating topic is there than . . . Me? Through group therapy, marriage counseling, and other forms of “psychological consultation” they can enjoy that same Me euphoria that the very rich have enjoyed for years in psychoanalysis. The cost of the new Me sessions is only $10 to $30 an hour, whereas psychoanalysis runs from $50 to $125. The woman’s exhilaration, however, is soon complicated by the fact that she is (in the typical case) near or beyond the cutoff age of 35 and will have to retire to the reservation.

Well, my dear Mature Moderns . . . Ingmar never promised you a rose garden!

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Family Matters 
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An excerpt from my new column:

This weekend saw the national rollout of two crowd-pleaser movies about impoverished 350-pound black teens: Precious and The Blind Side. (What an amazing country we have, where a pair of poor waifs can tip the scales at 700 pounds!)

Together, the two films reflect an emerging, if seldom fully articulated, consensus among all right-thinking people in this Bush-Obama era about what to do with underclass black children.

Precious is the story of an illiterate 16-year-old girl who was made pregnant and HIV-positive by her rapist father, but her even bigger problem is her abusive welfare mother with whom she shares a Section 8 apartment. Still, with the help of tireless teachers and social workers, she moves into a halfway house and begins to turn her life around.

The Blind Side is an adaptation of Michael Lewis’s 2006 nonfiction bestseller about Michael Oher. A homeless 16-year-old with a drug addict mother and a father who was thrown off a bridge, Oher was adopted by a rich white family. He’s now a rookie starting offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens of the NFL, with a five-year $13,795,000 contract.

The Blind Side’s writer-director John Lee Hancock told Michael Granberry of the Dallas News:

“He loves what he calls its nature vs. nurture story line. ‘It’s like a test case for nurture, and nurture wins in a big way. You’ve got a kid who’s cast on the junk heap of life, socially and from an educational standpoint. And it’s amazing what a roof, a bed, meals and an emphasis on schools can do, when everybody had written him off.’

The Blind Side is the rare movie in which white Southern Republican born-again Christians are portrayed favorably. One liberal commenter on raged, “I feel insulted (in the same way I felt insulted when McCain chose Palin for his running-mate) …”

But, whether Republican or Democrat, white or black, everybody who is au courant is coming to agree upon one solution for poor black children: keep them away from their own families as much as possible.

Read the rest of my review The Blind Side here and comment upon it below.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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An anthropologist responds to my posting on the loss of interest among the public in the bread-and-butter topic of cultural anthropology — kinship structures:

Steve Sailer noted that the study of family structure has fallen on hard times in anthropology. This is perfectly true. It is now very widely believed by anthropologists that ‘kinship’ is a Eurocentric construction, and that other folks actually have their own folk theories about ‘relatedness’ which have to be understood in their own terms, and don’t map closely on to Western folk theories of ‘blood’ and biology (which in turn don’t map closely on to actual genetic relatedness).

Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth, even serious treatments of kinship often veer between microscopic and telescopic: either details of particular societies or general principles underlying all human kinship systems. But there’s also a middle range to kinship: different geographic areas have (on average) characteristic differences in their kinship systems.

In Sub-Saharan Africa (henceforth just ‘Africa’), for example, family establishments commonly take the form of separate households for each of a man’s co-wives (and her children), with husbands moving between wives’ households, and women having considerable autonomy, and not much day-to-day economic support. Polygyny is certainly found outside of Africa, but this particular household arrangement is vastly more common in Africa than anywhere else. African societies also generally have strong unilineal descent groups, and great religious power vested in elders and ancestors. (This actually converges somewhat with China, but economics and male-female relations are very different there). Marriage is stronger in some parts of Africa than others, but is generally seen as a device for expanding the lineage, rather than as an economic and emotional union. Within Africa. the major exceptions to these generalizations are often genetic outliers as well: Bushmen, Pygmies, and Ethiopians.

Africans on the other side of the Atlantic are an interesting comparison. In some ways they look very African: marriage is not very strong among blacks in the New World. But in other respects, New World blacks look Western: African lineage systems and ancestor worship didn’t survive the Middle Passage and slavery (except among scattered maroon (i.e. runaway slave) groups in places like Surinam). One result is that, although blacks in the US, the Caribbean, and Brazil have all sorts of social problems related in part to family structure, tribalism is really not the issue that it is in Africa.

More speculatively, another result may be much higher levels of creativity in popular culture, especially music, among blacks on the western side of the Atlantic than in Africa. I suspect that Jamaica alone has had as much impact on popular culture around the world as all of sub-Saharan African. There are all sorts of factors contributing here: more money, more miscegenation, a greater proportion of English speakers. But it may also be that in the African Diaspora as in the Jewish Diaspora, the assimilation of Western individualism has unleashed a degree of cultural creativity not seen in more tradition-bound kin-group-oriented sectors of the population.

I had a summer job once sharing an office with a Ph.D. student from Cameroon. All day long we played his tapes of African pop music. Wonderful stuff, but it lacked the “star power” of African-American pop music. It was more communal, less show-offy than James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, or Jimi Hendrix.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Africa, Family Matters 
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One of the few positive surprises in the Kennedy-Bush immigration bill is the slow phasing in of a Canadian-style points system intended to bring in more skilled legal immigrants by cutting back on nepotistic chain migration. Reunification bonus points for Of course, that’s exactly the part of the bill that Democrats such as Barack Obama have zeroed in on to criticize. As Your Lying Eyes pointed out, Obama proclaimed:

But the most disturbing aspect of this bill is the point system for future immigrants. As currently drafted, it does not reflect how much Americans value the family ties that bind people to their brothers and sisters or to their parents.”

“As I understand it, a similar point system is used in Australia and Canada and is intended to attract immigrants who can help produce more goods. But we need to consider more than economics; we also need to consider our nation’s unique history and values and what family-based preferences are designed to accomplish. As currently structured, the points system gives no preference to an immigrant with a brother or sister or even a parent who is a United States citizen unless the immigrant meets some minimum and arbitrary threshold on education and skills.”

“That’s wrong and fails to recognize the fundamental morality of uniting Americans with their family members. It also places a person’s job skills over his character and work ethic. How many of our forefathers would have measured up under this point system? How many would have been turned back at Ellis Island?”

“I have cosponsored an amendment with Senator Menendez to remove that arbitrary minimum threshold of points before family starts to count and to bump up the points for family ties.”

“And at the appropriate time, I will be offering another amendment with Senator Menendez, to sunset the points system in the bill. The proposed point system constitutes, at a minimum, a radical experiment in social engineering and a departure from our tradition of having family and employers invite immigrants to come.

Let’s not try to make the current immigration system more rational because that would constitute “a radical experiment in social engineering”!!! Whereas the effects of the current free-for-all are downright Burkean.

The thing that makes Obama so dangerous is his mastery of conservative rhetoric — “a radical experiement in social engineering” — that he deploys shamelessly to advance his own leftist and/or idiosyncratically personal obsessions, combined with how his charisma interacts with white American fantasies about racial transcendence to inspire the He Understands Us! response that De Gaulle mastered to get enormous power put in his hands. Well, yeah, sure, Obama understands us. Foxes understand hens, too.

One obvious distinction that is lost in this kind of demagoguery is that the proposed changes would retain “nuclear family reunification” (spouses and minor children) while cutting back on “extended family reunification” (siblings, parents, and adult children). Although Hillary and Barack have been rattling on about how America is built on family values, the reality is that traditional American culture values nuclear families (e.g., Ozzie and Harriet) and is suspicious of extended families (e.g., the Corleones).

Extended family reunification has been bad for low-skilled Americans, especially African-Americans, who have very little chance to get hired by by nepotistic immigrant entrepreneurs, who would rather import their low-skilled relatives. As you travel about the country, notice how few American blacks work in immigrant-owned businesses versus how many African-Americans work in big national chains (e..g, Hertz, Marriot, Ruby Tuesday, etc.)

Of course, driving African Americans out of New York City and replacing them with more docile immigrants has been long one of the covert reasons for the media enthusiasm for the current immigration arrangement.

However, with Obama, everything is personal. His biggest motivator is his enormous personal ambition. He chose ethnic politics as his career, so helping African-Americans get ahead in the market place isn’t all that interesting to him because he is a politician and is rewarded for delivering tax money and favors.

Second, his unknown African extended family has always played a much more idealized role in his emotional life than his white semi-nuclear family that actually raised him.

The son of a bigamous marriage between an 18-year-old Kansas girl and a Kenyan who quickly abandoned her, grew up, as he details at vast length in his 1995 autobiography Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, fantasizing about the love of his African extended family and resenting his white mother. He has approximately a half dozen half-siblings by his father. Some of them, such as his beloved alcoholic half-brother Roy (who now calls himself Abongo after converting to Islam and Afrocentrism) might have trouble qualifying for immigration under a rational system designed to benefit American citizens. In contrast, Obama’s half-brother Mark, a physicist whom Obama cut off all contact with because he rejects Obama’s Afrocentrism, is exactly the kind of skilled individual who would be chosen under the rational Canadian-style immigration system that Obama opposes.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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