The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Should Smart People Worry?

Buzzword has just revealed another fun trick. When I output Final Draft to RTF and then upload that to Buzzword, the formatting doesn't hold. But if I output Final Draft to RTF, then open and save that document with Word, then upload the Word document with Buzzword, the formatting holds almost perfectly. REALLY cool.
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Should smart people be worried about not having as many kids as "dumb" people? The problem, from my point of view, is that the smart people I've met who worry about this believe more in Nature over Nurture--in other words, they don't believe that the context affects the content. In many, many cases, I see this combined with genteel racism: "well, they don't have it, but it's our responsibility to take care of them..." and I find that casually vile.



To me, this is what rankles with the suggestion that

1) Hillary has had it tougher because she is a woman and

2) Obama has had it easier because he is black.



I find the first contention to be reasonable. And the second to be either blissfully ignorant or politically dishonest. And it carries with it that "genteel racism" quality. If he's gotten further than any black person EVER, and there are ADVANTAGES to being black, but Obama still "doesn't have it" (his being an affirmative action candidacy) I fail to see how this doesn't lead, in the majority of agreeing minds, to the conclusion that black people just aren't up to snuff. All right--people are free to believe what they want, but I think they are hiding that belief behind layers of polite, PC obfuscation.

Watching three or four movies/movie previews over the last days where minority women are presented as swooning for white guy, while minority males apparently have no sex drive at all, I think that this attitude of "we're different, and the difference is an improvement" is pretty close to universal among human beings--it just gets hidden behind polite smiles, courtesy, and double-speak.



Back to reproduction: the "I'm wonderful! The world needs more of me!" attitude is interesting. While absence of an educated class seems to be damaging to a society, I'm not sure where the evidence of the "smart class underbreeding is a tragedy" comes from. And frankly, a disproportunate proportion of those who have suggested this also, in my mind, harbor racial attitudes I find unfortunate and self-serving, if not actually bigoted.

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Another thought experiment that cropped up again is the idea of all politicians being dishonest (I do think dishonesty can be a survival value for politicos, however) but if government's functions were just handed over to private industry...



I just don't buy it. I think that this appeals to people who earn above average, and therefore believe that they could purchase, on the open market, better serviced than those currently provided by taxes. Not to mention the fact that their taxes would go down thereby.



But the gap between the social/governmental services available to the rich and the poor is not as wide as the gap between the commercial services available to the two groups. The gap between an inner-city grocery store (uh...what grocery stores?) and one in Beverly Hills is WAY wider than the gap between an inner-city Post Office or police department. If all of the companies providing formerly public services were Non-Profit, I would consider the two to be in closer competition. But a commercial venture has as primary responsibility the production of profits--NOT providing a service. That means that they HAVE to widen the gap between what it costs them to supply a service and how much they can charge for it. Nothing immoral or wrong in that, but I see the poor get screwed worse by the private companies than the governmental agencies. And YES, I see tons of problems with the governmental agencies.



But I consider this a perfect example of a thought experiment ungrounded in basic reality of huan existence--just as bad as Communism, which also ignored what I consider to be basic aspects of human nature. You have to factor greed and fear into the equations, or they get away from you.

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The most important thing about Yoga is the word itself. From a sanskrit term meaning "to yoke, to unite, to join" it concentrates on the BOND between mind and body. Looking at yoga as the balancing or stretching or strengthening exercises is looking at the grass bending and thinking you are looking at the wind.



You have to slow down, get quiet, calm your mind. This is the LAST thing that the ego ever wants to do, and it will fight you like crazy. It would ABSOLUTELY rather you spend, say, ten minutes a day than seventy minutes once a week (although there actually are some advantages to the short-workout approach).



But if you treat yoga as a meditation, the first 15 minutes or so are just the beginning entry to the inner world. Following your breathing down into the depths of your being you will burrow past layers of excuses, intellectualisms, and more. What you search for is the sense of flow, of surfing on the process of self-examination. To get there, you CAN'T overdo your poses. You have to stay just disconnected enough to maintain perspective. After 15-20 minutes, you should experience the same sense of Flow that you reach when writing, making love, driving a familiar route, playing a favorite game.



It is THIS quality of subject-object melting together that you seek. It is the doorway to a deeper world.

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The question of the day is: where in your life do you experience flow states?

42 comments:

Dan Moran said...

Flow states --

Programming. Sex. Basketball. Writing text (at least lately; hadn't written in a long while, and getting it back took time.) Playing with my kids.

Very occasionally, working out -- more often with weight work than other exercises.

Not getting it from the yoga yet, though I am at least clear that's where I want to go.

~~~~~

The Marching Morons stuff doesn't worry me. One, I doubt whites and Asians are really that much smarter than everyone else, if at all. It wouldn't stun me if they turned out to be dumber, in given areas or even overall. Two, by the time we can genetically prove it one way or another, we'll also be able to fix it. If it's really the case that intelligence is tied to ethnicity in measurable ways, we'll lift the genes from the smart people and start inserting them into all the babies ...

Howls of outrage from the fundamentalists, sure. Probably this will be illegal, too. Won't stop it, though. People want their kids to do better than they do, and if there's a real way to insure that, legality won't stop them. Wouldn't stop me, anyway. If I could root the weak eyes and heart disease out of my genetics, I'd do it in an instant. No one I'm related to has ever gotten Alzheimers, but plenty of them have been alcoholics -- if I could rip out those genes, I'd do it in a second.

If it turns out that those tricky Orientals really are smarter than me, I'll borrow those tricky Oriental genes for my kids. Then my kids (well, my kids' kids, since I'm done) ... will be tricky Orientals with blue eyes. Bonus...

(Yeah, I know we're not supposed to say "Oriental" any more. Or "tricky." But you have to cut me some slack, I just learned recently "retarded" was now a bad word. It's now "developmentally disabled." I'm keeping up as fast as I can ...)

Steven Barnes said...

The yoga attitude is as important as the poses. If you find it in weight work, I suggest that you investigate the "why" of that, and deliberately try to replicate it in your yoga. If the poses aren't intense enough...or are conversely too intense, this could influence the result. And you know what the bottom line is? Not every exercise/meditation/or whatever is for everyone. I find that a day without yoga now feels MUCH different than days when I engage: stiffness, soreness, lack of proper alignment, and more. But the mental qualities gained from meditation, yoga, flow-state work, whatever, are even more important.

Mike Ralls said...

>If he's gotten further than any black person EVER, and there are ADVANTAGES to being black, but Obama still "doesn't have it" (his being an affirmative action candidacy) I fail to see how this doesn't lead, in the majority of agreeing minds, to the conclusion that black people just aren't up to snuff.<

Couple of things Steve. Someone can believe that;

1) Black people are genetically equal to whites.

2) For most of American history blacks, for societal reasons, were denied access to most of the experiences that lead one to become President.

3) To become President you need a, literal, lifetime of experience. It's not enough that the weight around your leg was lessened or removed when you were in your 40's or even your 20's, because you will be competing against people who never had that weight to begin with, and it's a marathon, not a sprint.

4) You also need to be extremely lucky and in the right place at the right time.

Therefore, it was only once the barriers against Black entry to most of the experiences that lead one to be President fell down (in rough terms this would probably be for those born in the 1960's) that the odds of the US electing a black President could be closer in line with their proportion to the US population (roughly 1 in ten). That means that, statistically speaking, of the next 10 president one should be black. So we should have one anywhere from 2008 to 2063 if the playing field really is even.

And furthermore someone had to fit qualifaction number 4 and that is extremely random in who exactly would get all the powerballs to fall into place at the right time.

There is also a difference between thinking that Obama, the individual, received some advantages, at this point in time, in his run for President from being black, and in thinking that blacks, collectively have advantages.

When was the last time someone became President who had less than one full term in the Senate and no other significant national experience (no terms in Congress, no terms as VP or cabinet positions, no governor experience, and no high level military experience)? As far as I can
tell, Waren G. Harding was the last President who would qualify for
this, and that was an awfully long time ago.

Obama, in terms of those who have made a serious run for the Presidency over the last 80 years, just has not accomplished that much. Because of that, people want to search for reasons for why he has gotten as far as he has. His race is the most obvious thing that can be pointed out. Now, that doesn't mean that the most obvious difference is the reason, but its not surprising that it is questioned.

Josh Jasper said...

Should smart people be worried about not having as many kids as "dumb" people?

They should worry more about many children not getting a sufficient education.

Josh Jasper said...

Howls of outrage from the fundamentalists, sure. Probably this will be illegal, too. Won't stop it, though. People want their kids to do better than they do, and if there's a real way to insure that, legality won't stop them.

A lot of these immigrant kids kids have beens tarting families in the US, and over time, will represent a large segment of the population.
Most Latinos in the US have a friend or relative who is, or at one time was illegal. Eventually, the people who're fronting the anti-immigrant movement are going to be closer to a minority, and the kids of those immigrants they vilified are going to be part of the running of the country. We're already seeing this in border states.

Kukulkan said...

I'm going to try to eliminate the issue of intelligence and race from the debate, since these are unnecessary and only inflame the passions.

Births per 1000 women. Family income under $20,000 = 86.2; Family income $20 to $35,000 = 66.5; $35 to $50,000 = 57.1; $50 to $75,000 = 55.2; $75 to $100,000 = 58.8; over $100,000 = 50.4 http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p20-555.pdf

Ok, clearly the people who are the least economically successful people in the U.S. are the most fecund. This is not necessarily a bad thing. If the children of poor people are just as likely to be rich as poor, then it doesn't matter who is having the children. Unfortunately, there is a very strong statistical link between the economic status of a father and and economic success of a son. http://www.economica.ca/ew02_1p1.htm Although the studies referenced in the link deal with fathers and sons, I think the correlation remains true for the economic success of children based on family wealth.

So, if (1) poor people have more children than rich people and (2) there is little class mobility, what do you get? A growing class of poverty.

More women now give birth where the woman is not married with a present husband than where the woman is married with a present husband (and the trend is to more children of unmarried parents). http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/p20-555.pdf Again, this would not be a problem if children of single mothers were just as likely to succeed as children of married, stable parents. Unfortunately, it's not true. "Studies have found that children born to single mothers are vastly more likely to be poor, have behavioral and psychological problems, drop out of high school, and themselves go on to have out-of-wedlock children." http://www.slate.com/id/2185944/pagenum/all/

"Half of American taxpayers will pay 97 percent of the individual income taxes the government will collect for 2008, according to IRS data. The other half will pay little or nothing, yet receive billions in benefits in the form of cash, subsidies, 'free' services and other benefits, and loans." http://www.examiner.com/a-1339123~Two_Americas_on_taxes.html Okay, so we've got a growing class of people who cannot pay taxes and increasing entitlements. Doesn't sound like a good mixture to me.

Now, explain to me in evolutionary terms how it can be a good thing that the least successful of a species are the most fecund. We don't even need to conclude that the children of the least successful are genetically inferior. All we need to know is that class mobility is limited -- we don't need to know the reason for it. Shouldn't we want a society in which the people with the most wealth have the most children instead of society where the wealthiest people pay the poorest people to have children? Since the tax dollars of the wealthiest are used to pay for social services to the poorest, that is exactly the situation we have.

If you look at census statistics and statistics of income tax payments, you see that wealth in the U.S. is becoming concentrated (i.e., a smaller privileged class) and that there is a growing "underclass." There is therefore a correlation between the concentration of wealth and the lack of fecundity of the wealthy. Correlation clearly doesn't mean causation. Nevertheless, I think it is a bad thing that our society discourages economically successfuly women from having children while at the same time encouraging (or at the very least not discouraging) economically unsuccessful women to have children. We have a eugenics program already in place -- and it is geared to favor the economically unsuccessful. Moreover, our social surrender to unmarried procreation is similarly increasing poverty.

Challenge your preconceptions.

Steven Barnes said...

"There is also a difference between thinking that Obama, the individual, received some advantages, at this point in time, in his run for President from being black, and in thinking that blacks, collectively have advantages."
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Of course there is. All I'm saying is that people who leap to the idea that it was his blackness that gave him the advantage are, in my opinion, either ignorant or politically disingenuous. For one thing, it begs the question "why THIS particular black man?" Since there is no evidence that such "advantage" has helped anyone else. Why not Jackson, or Sharpton? The answer will be that he has, within the subset called "black," extraordinary qualities that set him apart. (I don't think anyone would claim simple luck.) If I'm right, then, those qualities have to do with a sky-high EQ, extraordinary communication skills, and a very high intelligence. I also suspect that he is FAR better balanced than the average person, and has engaged in vastly more introspection. I would think that these qualities alone would create the phenomenon we see here--humanity loves to find and lift such people up. Viewed from that vantage point, his blackness simply makes him more remarkable. I believe that thinking his way has been easier because he's black is a sign that someone is either a political hack...or doesn't know too many black folks.

Steven Barnes said...

I'm not saying that it is good for a groups "least competent members" (by whatever measurement) produce the most children. I'm saying that I'm suspicious when people announce that it is THEIR genes that would make the world a better place. In my experience (and opinion), people who actually make the world a better place rarely talk like that. And the ones who do have more of a tendency to rank different groups according to criteria that favor them. I find it self-serving: how much more common is that than people ranking the world's people and placing themselves in the middle or at the end? About the most I ever see is "my group is second best...by a tiny margin." Usually this is compounded by "and a sub-set of my group (usually Jews) are at the very top!"
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I see no real moral or intellectual courage in taking such a position. More like a whining that "oh, I'm so wonderful because I'm smart, and all those dumb people are dragging me down..."
That's one way to look at it. Another is that the process of creating the advantages I enjoy also tore the living hell out of other groups.

1) Without a safety net, that damage will boil out of the poor areas and affect my life.
2) Without a safety net, the children of those who were damaged to build a society advantageous to me will NEVER have a chance to run on an even playing field.
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While it is true that some in poverty allow themselves to be subsidized by society, if I grant them the same humanity I grant others when dealing with obesity, lack of success, or relationship failures, it seems more a lack of programming than potential. And while it is true that the parents are primarily responsible for this programming (or should be) the reality is that once you're damaged it's hard to see straight and clear (note my belief that even successful advantages warp perception. Pain warps it even worse).
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So damage done tends
1) to be disbelieved by the advantaged group. Note Southerners' "our nigras are happy" or men saying women don't need the vote.
2) To be passed from generation to generation.
3) To be used by some members of the advantaged group as EVIDENCE that the disadvantaged group is deserving of what happened to them. "Hell, they need someone to take care of them..."
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And this last I find really irksome. To rape, murder, rob, or oppress someone is pretty normal human nature. To then blame the victim for their status is also normal. To use the differential between your status and theirs as justification for continued abuse is pretty hideous.
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As I've said, I've been in hundreds of conversations with people who look at the stats. It's not that the stats are wrong. It's that they are a Rorschach test: there is a continuum. On one side is "it was all environment, and society is totally responsible" and on the other side is "it's all nature, and it's all in the genes." Most of us are in the middle somewhere. What you see when you look at the data says more to me about who you are than what the world is.

Mike Ralls said...

> Since there is no evidence that such "advantage" has helped anyone else. Why not Jackson, or Sharpton?<

"X needs ABCD in order to win."

"Yea, but what about Y & Z? They had D, and they didn't win."

"Yea, but he didn't have A, B, or C."

Life is not a binary flow. There are tons of instance where a trait, condition, mindset, look, etc, etc, can be beneficial to success while in a different situation it can be detrimental to success.

Off the top of my head, both Sharpton and Jackson were even more inexperienced than Obama is. At the very least, Obama has been a Senator for four years, which while not much in Presidential terms is a lot more than Sharpton or Jackson terms in office (0). And Obama is just a lot more skilled at politics than either of them.

> (I don't think anyone would claim simple luck.)<

It's never _just_ luck, but luck always plays a role when talking about something as contingent as who gets to be President. How many people in America do you think have ever wanted to be President? Now of that large number you can cut out those who never made an effort, those who chose life paths or had life paths thrust upon them that would make them unable to ever realistically be president, those who lacked the skills or failed to develop the skills, and even after you cut that large number to a teeny tiny percent, there are still large numbers of people who have the skill, the drive, the determination, to become President. But not all of them can become President so luck will inevitably play a role. Not the sole role, because luck favors the prepared, but some role, yes, without a doubt.

Anonymous said...

I have always felt that the world was worse off because four of my brightest friends(1 black) never had children of their own. This has nothing to do with race. While none of these people have contributed anything outstanding to the human race I always felt perhaps their children under the right circumstances might have. There was a popular philosophy a few years back that "all of us are smarter than any of us." I personally don't believe that. I don't believe 100 ordinary chess players will defeat one Bobby Fisher. Most of us, white black,yellow or whatever move through life without affecting the rest of the human race significantly. It is the few that do that are in some sense important. If given his intelligence and eloquence Obama would be where he is were he not black we can debate, but there is no debate that if weren't for his intelligence and eloquence he wouldn't be where he is white or black.

Marty S

Kukulkan said...

Steve:

"It's that they are a Rorschach test: there is a continuum. On one side is "it was all environment, and society is totally responsible" and on the other side is "it's all nature, and it's all in the genes."

I agree with you that statistics can be used to say things that do not necessarily follow from the statistics (i.e., nature or nurture). However, I kept that debate completely out of my comment. I am confident the following are true: (1) children born to tax consumers are more likely to be tax consuming adults than children born to tax contributing adults; (2) tax consuming mothers are more fecund that tax paying mothers; (3) children of single mothers are more likely to become tax consuming adults than children of married mothers who live with the husband; (4) governmental policies influence fecundity; (5) federal policies selectively prefer fecundity amongst tax consuming women than tax paying women.

What bothers me about the debate is that people (1) loudly proclaim that eugencis programs are bad; and (2) ignore the fact that there is a eugenics program in place (even if that effect is unintentional).

If we as a society cannot accept the thought of discouraging fecundity in an "undesirable" group, we should try to ensure that our policies do not disparately encourage/discourage fecundity in any group.

I understand the desire to be fair. "These kids were born into poverty and won't have a fair chance at the American dream; let's help 'em out." That, however, is not my idea of what government is supposed to do. Government is supposed to provide a level playing ground. Laws that discriminate (race, gender, economic status) create an uneven playing ground. Life isn't fair. Children of privileged people will have advantages never enjoyed by children of disadvantaged people. Government cannot and should not equalize this inequality.

Ethiopian Infidel said...

"Now, explain to me in evolutionary terms how it can be a good thing that the least successful of a species are the most fecund."

This apparent affront to the principles of natural selection can be explained by populations within a species perusing differing reproductive strategies in accord with the survival prospects offered by their disparate abilities. Poor people should produce larger families, since those mired in poverty suffer higher rates of incarceration, murder, AIDS and (in the 3rd World), starvation. Lemming-like fecundity among the indigent raises the probability that someone will survive to perpetuate the parental lineage, which is the core Darwinian principle. By contrast, the prosperous the world over have access to premium health care, are comparatively insulated from crime and suffer overall far lower rates of mortality. Additionally, the education and social connections enjoyed by the rich and middle classes facilitate opportunities for upward mobility that are largely denied to the poor. Accordingly, the middle and upper tiers have smaller families, while investing heavily in education, thus maximizing the economic potential of each descendant, which in turn increases the probability that their offspring will hail from the true ruling class. Ultimately. both breeding and rearing strategies serve to perpetuate the various social classes, while maintaining class ratios that preserve overall social viability (i.e. the ratio of rich:middle class:poor probably reflects the proportions of various physically or mentally challenging jobs).

Mike Ralls said...

>If I'm right, then, those qualities have to do with a sky-high EQ, extraordinary communication skills, and a very high intelligence. I also suspect that he is FAR better balanced than the average person, and has engaged in vastly more introspection.<

Let's game this out. Say that instead of having an African biological father who ran out on him and his Mom, he had a European one. He still grows up in Hawaii and Indonesia, and still has most of his life experiences and upbringing of Our Time Line, but "Barry O'bama" is white. He's still as smart, EQ & IQ wise as OTL, and just as introspective. If he still goes into politics, do you think Barry O'bama would still be in a good position to become the next President as Barack Obama?

Lets look at two important points in Obama's recent rise; the Democratic Convention and his book deal, both of which helped push his national renown far above that of any other Freshmen Senators of 2004.

Would O'bama (with the same extradinary speaking skills as our Obama) still be invited to give the keynote address at the '04 convention? If so, would he make such a big splash as Obama did?

Would 0'bama still get the same huge bookdeal as Obama did in '06?

Anonymous said...

I get confused by this nature versus nurture argument. If a person's father is 5'6" and his mother is 4'11 he is unlikely to grow up to be an NBA center no matter how early or how often he plays basketball. Thats where nature comes in. However, given two children of tall parents both of whom grow to be 6'11 if one set of parents see the NBA in their child's future and starts teaching him basketball at a young age and the other family sees a future scientist and buys him science kits thats nurture. Both play an important role. It is not either or. If the point is that the poor most often don't achieve their full potential, because they cannot get the nurture needed to accomplish that goal, I readily concede that point. That is why I favor government programs aimed at giving disadvantaged children the best start we can. This is irrelevant to my belief that too many bright people do not pass their genes on and that to some degree we are all worse off for that.

Marty S

Steven Barnes said...

My wife, who is an American Book Award winning writer, thinks Obama is a better writer than she is. Considering that...
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Barry Obama, with an absent immigrant father and a single mother, is raised in Hawaii and Indonesia.

1) You think white people don't get book deals? They get MORE of them, by population, and those books sell more copies.
2) A white guy of Obama's eloquence and unifying power would be just as much of a cultural phenomenon. The number of people who would vote FOR him on the basis of race are at LEAST equaled by those who would vote against him for the same reasons, in my mind.
3) A white guy of Muslim name would deal with the same crap on the religious account--I say it equals out.
4) The white guy doesn't have to pay what I call the "black tax" of translating every image of success and accomplishment from a white face to a black one. Nor does he have to make the psychological abstraction of a white Christ to a neutral one if he is a Christian (think there would have been as much racism [or as much Christianity!] in America had Christ been black? Oh, please.)
Straddling two worlds (black and white) is HUGELY expensive energetically, the equivilent of constantly trying to express yourself in Spanish, while in competition with native speakers who pretend not to understand you're at an advantage, and constantly pat themselves on the back for how wonderful it is that they learned to speak Spanish while you stumble.
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In my opinion, all of the energy he expended trying to work out his racial identity could have been invested in his personal journey, or his career journey. I've never met a single white person who agonizes about their racial identity as much as the average black person does, and I've spoken with countless whites on the subject.
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Basically, then, I think that I can extrapolate my basic rules: a given black person, given the same innate capacity, would on average do about 10% better had he been born white. I submit that without the slightest evidence that black people are treated differently by the political process than in any other arena, and the grotesque paucity of racial diversity in the White House, among Presidential candidates, or the Senate, that thinking he has some kind of an advantage is naive at best. I don't think that anyone holding that opinion knows many black people.

Kukulkan said...

Ethiopian infidel:

You postulate that the economically disadvantaged have more children to compensate for increased rates of incarceration, murder, and AIDS. Do you have any data to support your implied conclusion that incarceration or being HIV positive interferes with procreation? Clearly the fact that HIV is spread indicates that those with HIV are still managing to effectively engage in sexual activity. Just as clearly, economically disadvantaged women are managing to get pregnant even if the economically disadvantaged men are incarcerated. One problem with this is that it results in more mothers living without a husband.

I'd rather focus on starvation, which you limit to the 3d world. Why isn't starvation a significant factor in the U.S.? Because the people of the U.S. don't want to see children suffer. This means, however, that we have removed a real evolutionary force by ensuring children have access to food.

Let's look at it a different way. In any ecosystem -- including the U.S. -- there will be winners and losers. Three factors are paramount in determining if a person in the U.S. -- or any ecosystem -- is a winner or loser: (1) nature or the natural abilities of the individual; (2) nurture or the learned behaviors of the individual; and (3) the environment. The federal government cannot/should not attempt to meddle with nature or nurture. However, the federal government can and should try to ensure that the environment is agnostic by creating a "level" playing field (and yes, in order to define a level playing field, society needs to choose what traits it values). Whether the playing field is "level" or not, is irrelevant to evolution, because evolution doesn't understand "fair" or "level." The playing field, whatever it is, will drive evolution. In the case of the U.S., we can and do identify losers as people who are tax consumers. Moreover, from my perspective (I have injected myself into the argument), the federal goverment has concluded that these tax consumers are losers because of some unfairness in the playing field (as opposed to evolutionary losers). This assumes, incorrectly, that in the presence of a level playing field all people can succeed. This sentiment is poppycock -- evolution demands losers. Certainly some of these losers are victims of "unfairness" (e.g., racial bias). However, some are legitimate "losers." The federal government, however, cannot tell the difference between victims of unfairness and genuine "losers" and therefore grants blanket advantages to all tax consumers. Now the playing field is skewed to favor tax consumers. Some portion of the population will then adapt to take advantage of the tax consumer bias and that group will grow until they consume too much of the surplus of the payers.

We need to be honest with ourselves and determine what traits we want to encourage and then design a playing field meant to encourage those traits. What we're doing now is creating a playing field with no appreciation for how the playing field itself shapes our future.

Mike Ralls said...

>1) You think white people don't get book deals?<

I think most Freshmen Senators do not get $1.9 million advances from publishers (Quick, name a single other Freshman senator from 2004 - any come to mind?). I do not consider Obama's career in the Senate to have accomplished anything more than what an average Junior Freshman would have accomplished. I've read "Hope" and found it to be a workman like piece of non-fiction, a nice enough read but not great.

Josh Jasper said...

I repeat - if we want people who're what we consider smarter, give more education to young people who're not getting it, raise them in a stable environment, and keep them healthy.

This will, I'm 100% certain, result more in people we'd consider smarter. That's the goal, right? So why focus on genetics and race and breeding? We *know* most data in that area is tainted by bad studies written by racists. Or at least we should know.

If people are ignoring the easiest way to get to the goal, I have to assume they're more interested in making a point about race and breeding rather than getting to the goal.

Kukulkan said...

Josh Jasper:

"if we want people who're what we consider smarter, give more education to young people who're not getting it, raise them in a stable environment, and keep them healthy."

I wholeheartedly agree that raising healthy children in a stable environment with ready access to education is beneficial.

So, how does society ensure that young people are raised in a stable environment? I previously cited a census finding that more women now give birth without a husband living with her. This is not a stable environment.

How does society ensure that a child is healthy?

How does society ensure that young disadvantaged children are getting the same quality of education as privileged children? I live in the Los Angeles area, and let me tell you, the quality of education plays a huge role in how effective education is. We can take all the children born to tax consuming parents and put them in head start programs and it will be a colossal waste of time and money unless the head start programs are good. I can also tell you that the quality of education provided in a community is an accurate reflection of that community's respect for education. Communities that value education have good educational programs. Communities that don't value education have crappy educational programs. Tax consuming adults typically live in communities that do not value education.

I'd say that if we want people who are considered smarter, we should encourage stable, healthy families who value education to have more children. But then, I believe that parents are the most important factor in a child's life.

Anonymous said...

Josh:
Education does not in my view make people smarter or dumber. I have met plenty of people who were not highly educated and who I considered quite smart. I spent the majority of my working career in research labs and worked with many not very smart Ph Ds. A smart carpenter will find a better way to fix a problem in your home. A dumb engineer will design a poorer test instrument.

Marty S

Steven Barnes said...

Most freshman Senators don't get book deals. Fair. Did other freshman black Senators get book deals? Or do black Senators get book deals disproportunate to their representation in the Senate?
1) if no, then the question reverts back to what makes him unique, NOT his race.
2) if yes, then we still have another issue: considering the fantastically low percentage of black Senators, one could easily suspect that there are massive barriers...and that therefore anyone black who makes it past those barriers has extraordinary qualities.

In other words, if he is one of a very tiny group who has made it that far, it is the attributes that placed him IN that group that people are reacting to, and not the fact of his skin color, which by all measures REDUCES his likelihood of being elected.

Put it this way: a one-armed heavyweight boxing would likely get a ton of attention. But anyone who thinks that having only one arm is an "advantage" completely misses the fact that he would have to be extraordinary to get in the Top 10. Once there, yes, there are some "advantages"--but NOTHING compared to the disadvantages. No sane person would say "if you want to be a champion boxer, cut off your arm." And in my opinion, it is just as ridiculous to suggest that "if you wanted to increase your chances of being elected President, be born black." I can't imagine anyone saying that who isn't in the "a white man doesn't stand a chance in this country" camp. I've met a few of those, and they are simultaneously hysterically funny, sad, and terrifying.
##
I simply do not accept the idea that there were any advantages for Obama that were not seriously outweighed by the disadvantages. And that there are only two explanations someone would say it:
1) They are unaware of the disadvantages of being black--the lifelong cost.
2) They are aware, but it is politically expedient to lie.
##
The only other thing I can figure is for someone to think that, although in precious few arenas of life in America there is any advantage to being black, in this one arena--where for the entire history of America there has never even been a serious CANDIDATE who wasn't white, suddenly it is an advantage. Without any precedent at all that is pure crystal-ball gazing at best. Suddenly, for this one man, this one time, dark skin is an advantage. Campaigning in front of all-white audiences, it is an advantage. In racially-torn states, it is an advantage. Despite the fact that Obama does about as much as he reasonably can to point away from his race and toward the future he wants people to dream of, his race is an advantage.

My guess is that WAY fewer than 10% of YOUR speed-dial or address book is people of color. If both Sharpton and Jackson--who came closest before Obama--were woefully underqualified (I agree) then why do YOU think no black person has ever run who has been qualified for the job?
My answer will be the social barriers which rise high, so that only the mightiest jumpers can get over them. It is mighty difficult to measure the results of whites versus blacks in this sense, because the results in the political arena are HUGELY based on the subjective impressions of whites. Saying "what if" he'd been white without acknowledging these things is a loaded, loaded argument.

Steven Barnes said...

Oh...and a "Hillary wouldn't be where she is if she were a man" argument would be, in my mind, FAR easier to make. But mildly odious.

Hmmm...and how about "John McCaine wouldn't be where he is if he weren't old and/or white." That one would be fun. But odious as well.

Ken said...

since i started doing the kind of yoga i'm doing these days (kriyas + meditation + samyama + hatha + spiritual autolysis), i've been getting into a flow state when i'm:

programming, working on spiritual autolysis, sometimes at work (not in a meeting though), driving, practicing martial arts (long b4 all this yoga), watching a movie, or reading a book that i can really get into.

nowadays, so many things are sort of effortless. I hope that time will help me include everything i do as a part of the spiritual process.

Anonymous said...

Gibbon's 'tendency of luxury to destroy fertility in the female'is inevitable. Or wrong. Whatever.

But it's a pity no Saudi Sheik loaned Stephen Hawking his guest harem. Or did one?

Mike Ralls said...

> 1) if no, then the question reverts back to what makes him unique, NOT his race.<

Again, you are assuming that it is a binary condition. I'm saying it can be X, Y, _and_ Z. With the role that Z plays varying based on society views at different times and places. It does not have to be either all of one nor all the other, but it could be a combination of factors.

I think you've probably dealt with too many people who only see it as one or the other.

>...and that therefore anyone black who makes it past those barriers has extraordinary qualities.<

I'd agree that there is a high chance of that being true, given the small sample size.

>And in my opinion, it is just as ridiculous to suggest that "if you wanted to increase your chances of being elected President, be born black.<

In my opinion that is a ridiculous statement as well which is why I have never said anything to the kind. That statement is also not the same as, "To what degree is Obama where he is right now because he is black?"

I say this in all respect; I think the primal voice in you head that says "mytribemytribemytribemytribe" sometimes causes you to have difficulty separating the state of the individual from the state of the group.

> But anyone who thinks that having only one arm is an "advantage" completely misses the fact that he would have to be extraordinary to get in the Top 10. Once there, yes, there are some "advantages"--but NOTHING compared to the disadvantages.<

Statement: Obama, due the path of his life and to spending his early years and young adulthood in Hawaii and Indonesia, has suffered less disadvantages due to being black than the average black person. Do you disagree with that statement?

If you don't disagree with it then to a large degree we are just talking percentages.

> then why do YOU think no black person has ever run who has been qualified for the job?<

Oh that's easy, Slavery (and the aftereffects thereof, including racism of whites) and Jim Crow (and the aftereffects thereof, including racism of whites).

As I said, running for President is a race you need a LIFETIME of experience to build up on (and luck), and for most of American history blacks were shackled. Even once those shackles were removed most of them were far behind in the race that they wouldn't have very good odds of catching up.

If we were arbitrarily to chose a date when blacks had most of their shackles removed, I'd chose 1967 (Loving). Which means that it's mainly from those blacks born after 1967 that a future president is likely to appear. In that regard Obama is a bit of an outliers, but its possible that spending his early years out of the continental US gives him an advantage over blacks who were born and raised in the continental US. Also, that's just probabilities and contingent events are, well, contingent.

Because the sample size (people running for President) is so small there are statistical issues. For example, Jews are not as numerous as blacks, but they were also never held back the way that blacks were, and there has been only one serious Jewish candidate for President and he never got very far. I don't think any great deal of insight can be gained on the state of Blacks and Jews in American, again because the sample size is so small.

> Hmmm...and how about "John McCaine wouldn't be where he is if he weren't old and/or white."<

I would not have a problem with that statement - for one thing if John McCain was 47 years old he'd have a whopping one year of national experience (in Congress) if he got elected at the same age as our John McCain. There is no way he would be a serious candidate for President in that case. As I've said before, any one individual becoming President is such an unlikely event that any serious change to that person is likely to result in their -alt version not becoming President.

Steven Barnes said...

The statement we are discussing (basically, "if Obama were not X, he would not be Y" is a binary statement in and of itself. That explains why I'm tending to phrase things that way. I do not find the public comments about this to be nuanced...but perhaps I made a mistake lumping you in with those.
##
Do I think Obama has dealt with less racism than the average American black? Yes, and not just because he was raised in Hawaii and Indonesia (although that helps) or his father was African (which shifts perspective, and therefore interpretation on his part) but because he's brilliant and, I think, centered enough to see through it. Two black people could be followed through a store by racist security guards, but only one is "bothered" or has to "deal" with it, right?
##
Did either political party ever run a Jew for president? I'm not aware of that happening. The question of Jews, while less numerous, in my mind can be answered by clustering them into a group called non-"white Christian male heterosexuals" and then noticing that every President or national Candidate (from a major party) has been a WCMH. The question: are non-WCMH's at a disadvantage running for president can best be answered by taking a look at the big picture. Looking too closely, and you can exclude any given human being from anything, on the subjective: "well, maybe he wasn't very good."
#
In my mind, this is the same kind of reasoning you run into trying to get people to see the thing about black sexuality. There are countless reasons why any individual movie might tank. Only when I can prove that, across decades and thousands of films this particular statistical anomaly has held true, does an image form. This STILL doesn't mean that some of those films that failed might not be simply lousy...just that it gets increasingly unlikely.
#
I think the same thing is true about being Jewish. About 2.4% of the American population is Jewish. If we've had 43 Presidents, and there have been an average (?) of two major candidates for each, then it would make sense to expect a Jew or two in there somewhere. On the other hand, statistical wonkiness could make that anything from zero to ten. It's only when you bundle that with Asians, blacks, Native Americans, women, gays, etc. do you get the picture I'm painting--that privilege has been insanely massive.
##
I could accept that his negritude might have been a positive influence if you show me stats showing black political candidates outperforming their white counterparts in some statistically significant way. Otherwise, I'd have to look for something else, and his being black is as much of an advantage as his being a junior senator. He is remarkable (in my mind) because of the reaction he is triggering DESPITE these things, not because of them.

Ethiopian Infidel said...

Kulkulkan,

"You postulate that the economically disadvantaged have more children to compensate for increased rates of incarceration, murder, and AIDS. Do you have any data to support your implied conclusion that incarceration or being HIV positive interferes with procreation? Clearly the fact that HIV is spread indicates that those with HIV are still managing to effectively engage in sexual activity."

While I don't have statistics at hand, it's commonly acknowledged that the American poor, and Blacks in particularly egregious numbers, suffer elevated incarceration rates, AIDS incidence and overall mortality compared the the middle class and affluent. I'd consider it self-evident that a significant percentage of indigent mortality stems from prison and crime-related violence and AIDS-related illness, the latter or which may (I speculate) be more virulent among the poor due to bad nutrition, chronic stress, often non-existent healthcare and female diss-empowerment (which in the Third World, manifests itself in decreased condom use). Additionally, long prison terms and recidivism physically removes males from access to females.

Mike Ralls said...

>The statement we are discussing (basically, "if Obama were not X, he would not be Y" is a binary statement in and of itself.<

And see, I think that is phrased wrong, and the better way would be, "If Obama were not X, he would be more likely to not be Y." It's about probabilities, and it is unlikely that any individual, no matter how skilled, will become President. Even for the best and the most well positioned, it's like winning The World Series of Poker, some of its skill and ability and resources to get into the game, but even the most skilled can't count on winning the grand prize - luck will always play a role when you have so many people going after a spot that can only go to one.

>Did either political party ever run a Jew for president?<

Well, currently neither political party has ever run a Black for President either, but Obama is still a serious candidate and same-same with Joseph Lieberman (to a lesser degree) in early 2004. That was the only time a Jewish-American could have been considered a serious candidate for President, IMO, and that was what I was referring to.

> are non-WCMH's at a disadvantage running for president can best be answered by taking a look at the big picture<

See, in my mind that is not the issue I was trying to discuss. In my mind the answer is such an obvious "Yes - mainly because the President is a life-long quest and non-WCMH were at severe disadvantage for much of the 20th century" that it is not really interesting to discuss.

It's only when looking at the INDIVIDUALS, as INDIVIDUALS, that I think the questions arise.

> Americans, women, gays, etc. do you get the picture I'm painting--that privilege has been insanely massive.<

And I don't dispute that.

>I could accept that his negritude might have been a positive influence if you show me stats showing black political candidates outperforming their white counterparts in some statistically significant way."

What you are essentially saying is, "If being X did not help X's as a group, then there can be no case of being X helping a single X." Is that your position?

Steven Barnes said...

"What you are essentially saying is, "If being X did not help X's as a group, then there can be no case of being X helping a single X." Is that your position?"
##
No, I'm saying that that would be evidence. Without that, it's a speculation which is, in my mind, contrary to 400 years of history. While it MAY be true, I find it unlikely as heck.
However, just for fun, try this one:
"If you change Obama's race, he wouldn't be where he is: AND THE EXACT SAME THING CAN BE SAID OF EVERY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE IN U.S. HISTORY."
##
Now that, I like.

Mike Ralls said...

> "If you change Obama's race, he wouldn't be where he is: AND THE EXACT SAME THING CAN BE SAID OF EVERY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE IN U.S. HISTORY."
##
Now that, I like.<

I have no problem with that statement.

trembling-aspen said...

The thing that brings me into a natural (effortless to get there) flow state is organizing. Weird, huh? I love it. I've been there from writing too, but not nearly as fully, completely.

Sometimes I wonder if I should get some kind of organizing job instead of working at becoming a full time writer. I wonder if it would be more satisfying overall.

Delilah

Steve Perry said...

Flow? Marital arts. Martial arts. Writing. Guitar. Pretty much anything upon which I can focus properly. If you can be in the moment, it's all flow.

That's the trick, of course.

As to the black-versus-white argument, even Dorothy's Scarecrow can see the answer to that one. Rising to the heights of fame, fortune, or politics is harder when you have to start below ground level. Obama isn't where he is primarily because he is black, but in spite of it -- it's his head and heart that have gotten him where he is, not his skin, save as how that might have given him muscles from having to hoe a harder row.

I've been a Hillary supporter for a long time, but of late, her campaign seems to have been run by Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest & Associates. Some of what has been coming out of her mouth is most disappointing. Sad.

Even though Rocky can't bowl for sour owl poot, he's looking like the candidate on the D side. Gonna be smart young guy against crafty old guy, and at least there will be a philosophical difference for a choice --a new broom, or another four years of rapine and pillage ...

Josh Jasper said...

Kukulkan


I wholeheartedly agree that raising healthy children in a stable environment with ready access to education is beneficial.

So, how does society ensure that young people are raised in a stable environment? I previously cited a census finding that more women now give birth without a husband living with her. This is not a stable environment.

How does society ensure that a child is healthy?


Health insurance, safe schools, and an end to the War On (some) Drugs would be a start.

This way you get actual physical health, mental health, and fathers who're more likely to be present.


How does society ensure that young disadvantaged children are getting the same quality of education as privileged children?


I'd settle for an acceptable minimal standard. Equality can't be mandated.

Josh Jasper said...

Marty S -


Education does not in my view make people smarter or dumber. I have met plenty of people who were not highly educated and who I considered quite smart. I spent the majority of my working career in research labs and worked with many not very smart Ph Ds. A smart carpenter will find a better way to fix a problem in your home. A dumb engineer will design a poorer test instrument.


The plural of annedote is not data.

Actual statistics prove that the more educated a general polulace is, the higher the GDP and standard of living.

In countries where the level of education has gone up over time, there's been an increase in GDP and standard of living. The same goes for immigrant groups in the US.

It's almost certainly a causal relationship. The more people we educate, the more likely that educated smart people are going to show up. A genius who can't read is of no use to us anymore. A genius who can is all of a sudden 100% more useful. Educating people to reasonable standards, and giving people who really are smarter than the average a chance at an advanced education benefits everyone.

Contra -wise, keeping education in the hands of people who had the good fortune to be born rich does not increase the number of educated smart people, even percentage wise.

Anonymous said...

Josh: I am with you that the country should strive to allow each child to achieve their maximum potential by giving each child the best education they can absorb. However, everyone is born with different potential and so some will achieving more than others.
At three years of age my nephew asked my sister if 1/8 of 12 was 1 1/2. Maybe this is simply nurture but you will have hard time convincing me we can get all three year olds to do this kind of calculation.

Marty S

Nancy Lebovitz said...

I'll try challenging preconceptions about birth rate and status from a different angle--these ideas are from _Sex and Destiny_ by Germaine Greer, an odd but interesting book. I don't swear that any of this is true, just that it's somewhat plausible.

She says that human societies are like candles-- burning at the top and drawing wax up from below. The idea is that the highest status groups never have enough children to replace themselves. By implication, either they recruit from below, or they're completely supplanted from outside.

If you believe this, then being at the top in a modern society is genetic doom. If all you care about is reproductive success, you should probably convince your descendants to be content at a level or three below the top.

This makes sense if you assume that people have children to fill the same niches their parents hold, and it's expensive to raise a child to fill a top niche.

There will always be enough potentially impressive people to form an elite. The human race will do just fine even if *your* favorite elite evaporates.

Josh Jasper said...

Josh: I am with you that the country should strive to allow each child to achieve their maximum potential by giving each child the best education they can absorb. However, everyone is born with different potential and so some will achieving more than others.
At three years of age my nephew asked my sister if 1/8 of 12 was 1 1/2. Maybe this is simply nurture but you will have hard time convincing me we can get all three year olds to do this kind of calculation.


Of course not. But the desire to try to "breed" for this on a mass scale based on race, is a totally different issue.

I'll re state my case again. If the end result desired is to have more capable smart people available to help the populace as a whole, the easiest way to achieve that is by raising our currently low standard of education.

If your nephew was born into a situation where education was limited, and there was no chance of college, that brilliant mind would probably not be as honed and polished as if it were able to get educated.

Imagine how many kids like your nephew are born into poverty. This is why an education program is far more effective than some tenuous eugenics theory.

Anonymous said...

Josh:
Nowhere have I suggested that intelligence is at all linked to race. In fact I doubt that their are significant differences. My stance is that smart successful people of all races seem to have a tendency towards having fewer children, and that a smart person observing this
1) Might feel this is not in the long run good for the species,

2) Might reasonably feel an obligation to have more children themselves, just like some people feel an obligation to be green.

Marty S

Josh Jasper said...

My stance is that smart successful people of all races seem to have a tendency towards having fewer children, and that a smart person observing this
1) Might feel this is not in the long run good for the species,


OK, so the end goal is the good of the species? Now we're getting somewhere. What does "good" look like? I'll take more compassionate over smarter every day. I'd say that the greater good of the species is best served, not by smarter, but by better cooperation and compassion.

HH The Dalai Lama recently spoke on a possible genetic factor for compassion. How about we breed for that instead?


2) Might reasonably feel an obligation to have more children themselves, just like some people feel an obligation to be green.


I'll challenge the word obligation. It's more greed than obligation, IMO. The goal is to perpetuate one's own personal lineage, not to make the world a better place. The hubris is that everyone thinks that more people like them are what "better" would look like.

Anonymous said...

Josh:
The discussion started around the intelligence trait and implied there was something wrong or evil about the view of the individual who considered himself smart and therefore he should have more kids. I would have made the same statements about any positive trait, compassion, creativity, health etc., that can be shown to have a strong genetic link. Basically if you believe in the process of evolution, which I do, the more good genes of any kind that are perpetuated and the fewer bad genes, the better off the species is.

Marty S

Josh Jasper said...

Basically if you believe in the process of evolution, which I do, the more good genes of any kind that are perpetuated and the fewer bad genes, the better off the species is.

I tend not to equate small variances in IQ with "bad genes". Downs syndrome, certainly, but beyond that, I don't think it's good or bad. Nor do I see breeding for it as useful in the long or short run.

Anonymous said...

"However, given two children of tall parents both of whom grow to be 6'11 if one set of parents see the NBA in their child's future and starts teaching him basketball at a young age and the other family sees a future scientist and buys him science kits thats nurture."

...and if a third such couple with such a child starts teaching him both* ("Son, ever wondered why the ball goes in an arc instead of a straight line...?"), and a fourth sees a future menial laborer ("Son, why waste time on books and hoops...?")...


* if Brian May could both be a superstar guitarist and earn a non-honorary doctorate in astronomy...