Are “Whites” Real?

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From Haak et al.

I may have given the impression the other day that a “race” exists if and only if it shows up as a singel color (or almost a single color) on Haak’s graph. Certainly mon-=color groups satisfy the requirements for genetic distinctiveness, but mon-chronicity is not a requirement.

Homogeneity is more important than mono-chronicity.

For starters, the number of colors in certain parts of Haak’s graph pobably hhas more to do with the number of ancient skeletons that have been analyzed htan net common ancetry–as you can see from the left side of the graph, scientists have analyzed the genomes of numerous ancient European skeletons (all of which show continuity with modern European people,) but they’ve analyzed rather few ancient sub-Saharan skeletons. This isnt’ ebcause they dislike ancient sub-Saharan skeletons or anything, but because the DNA content breaks down very quickly in the Sub-Saharan environment. Many of the groups here identified as mono-chromatic or nearly mono-chromatic may begin showing up as multi-chromatic as our powers of analysis continue to develop and we learn more about ancient human migrations.

But back to homogeneity. Let’s take a look at the Japanese. (One of the Yellow/Red groups on the right side of the graph.) The Japanese genome, like most east-Asian peoples’, composed of two distinct colors. And in this case, we even have names for these two groups, the Jomon and Yayoi people (not to be confused with the Yanomami or Yamnaya.) (Maybe we should institute a system where all cultures are given a set of coordinates based on physical location and era. EG, the Jomon would be J-35N,139E-12,000BC. Okay, maybe that’s not an improvement for ordinary conversaton, though when I’m trying to look up a group like the Evens, it would be.)

But this does not mean that the “Japanese” possess a great deal of ethnic diversity. The Japanese people are fairly homogenous–notice that the border between red and yellow is very smooth. Almost every Japanese person has the exact same % of Jomon and Yayoi ancestry as every other Japanese person.

This is because the merger of the Jomon and Yayoi cultures happened a long time ago, and the modern Japanese are descended from a single, homogenous population. The Japanese are a single people.

By contrast, take a look at the Evens, a Siberian group, (E-62°N,153°E-Today.) There is no homogeneity in the Evens’ genomes; they are a very mixed group in which different individuals have vastly different genetic heritages. The Evens may exist as a cultural, ethic, or linguistic group, but genetically they are a bunch of different things. The Turks, likewise, have a very choppy profile, though in this case the anomaly is easy to figure out: some “Turks” are Greek. The Ojibwa, Nama, and Yukagir are all jagged–these are groups with a great deal of recent mixing, in which many individuals are not closely related to other group members or share much DNA with them at all.

Zooming back out, let’s take a general look at the European cultures. From Greece through Spain, southern France through Ukraine, we see a smooth, three-color pattern. The blue is perhaps most concentrated in Lithuania, the orange in the Basque, and the teal in Greeks. There is a bit of purple in the south and red in the north east. But overall, the pattern is found, with consistency and evenness, throughout Europe, and not found outside of Europe.

Yes, the borders of Europe are fuzzy–Turkey, the Caucasus, and a variety of steppe-peoples are obviously related to some of the same guys as Europeans. But these do not show the same pattern as the Europeans, and beyond these border zones, the resemblance disappears entirely.

 

So, yes, we may speak of the Orange/Blue/Teal people, and call the “Whites” or “Europeans” if we so desire. They are a real genetic grouping, just like the “Japanese” and the “East Asians” and the Onge.

 

Digit Ratios and Mutational Load

“Mutational load” is the idea that organisms contain some number of deleterious mutations. Some mutations will kill you outright, like the one for Tay-Sachs disease; some mutations greatly reduce your fitness but aren’t immediately lethal, like the inability to sweat; and some mutations are potentially problematic but mostly just kind of annoying, like colorblindness.

Random mutations happen all the time as a result of genetic transcription. The obviously bad ones tend to get weeded out of the population pretty quickly, but the ones with only a mild effect on fitness can stick around for a pretty long time. Under harshly Malthusian conditions where organisms compete for limited resources and danger and disease lurk at every turn, deleterious mutations will tend to get weeded out pretty quickly, but increase the food and decrease the danger/diseases, and a far larger % of your population will reproduce, including people who would previously have died.

One of the areas where mutational load seems to play a significant role is in IQ. I commented on a study n the subject back in “Is Genius Fragile?” While obviously a great variety of things go into determining one’s IQ, like whether you were in a good mood when you took the test and if your parents dropped you on your head as an infant, this particular study found that the major difference between extremely-high-IQ kids and normal-to-low-IQ people was that the normal-to-low people had a higher frequency of rare, slightly deleterious mutations. The lower the IQ, the more of these mutations.

Each mutation obviously has only a small effect–you could have several and still come out pretty smart. But to be one of the super smart kids, you had to basically be one of the lucky folks who escaped almost all of them.

IQ is interesting in another way: it is more variable in men than women. People make a big deal out of the greater preponderance of men than women at the very high end of the IQ distribution (especially math ability;) this is, we are frequently told, due to the pernicious evil effects of the patriarchy’s black-magic mind-control rays convincing women that they are bad at math. Strangely, however, we are never told that the opposite effect–the fact that the ranks of the intellectually retarded are also disproportionately male–is also due to the magical effects of the patriarchy.

BTW, if you think it is a problem that the evil patriarchy is preventing girls from getting math PhDs, but have no problem with boys being over-represented among the retarded, you are a horrible person.

No, it’s not the patriarchy. It’s the Y chromosome.

You see, because random unpleasant shit happens, like snake bites and random mutations, nature has built us with a fair amount of redundancy. If something happens to one of your eyes, you’ve still got the other. If something happens to one of your hands, you’ve got an extra. Etc. This is true on the genetic level, too, which is why you can survive even with small, fitness-reducing mutations.

But men have slightly less genetic redundancy than women, because they have an X and Y chromosome instead of two Xes. If a woman has a wonky mutation on one of her Xs, the other X may have a mutation that makes up for it. If a man has a wonky mutation on his X, his Y chromosome may have nothing to counteract it (and likewise, if there’s a wonky one on his Y, his X may have nothing to counteract it.)

Some mutations are good, some are bad, and some are neutral. Height is fairly neutral. The average man is taller than the average woman, but the spread from tallest men to shortest men is bigger than the spread from tallest women to shortest women. All women tend to cluster closer to the female average than men; there are both more “short men” and “tall men” than “short women” and “tall women.”

Likewise with IQ; there are both more male geniuses and retarded than female geniuses and retarded, most likely as a result of men having lower genetic redundancy to counteract the effects of mutational load.

On to digit ratios!

SlateStarCodex recently posted the results of the SSC/Less Wrong survey, which included digit ratios.

(To measure your digit ratios:

1. Place your right hand firmly on the plate of a photocopier or scanner with fingers straight. Close cover of place a sheet of paper over your hand to prevent glare from overhead lights. Ensure that the bottom crease and finger tip can be clearly seen in the photocopy.

2. Use a ruler or calipers to measure the distance from the middle of the bottom crease to the tip of the finger to the nearest hundredth of a centimeter.

3. Once you have the measures for both your ring and index finger, then divide the length of your index finger by the length of your ring finger. The result is 2D:4D (2nd digit divided by 4th digit).

If possible, please give three digits – for example, 0.915. Some people may have digit ratios slightly greater than 1, which is okay.)

Inspired, the husband and I decided to measure ours, too. Since we didn’t have a photocopier on hand, and were lazy, we just used a common tape measure. We measured both hands and checked each other’s work, but both of our hands came out identical.

I got a ratio of 0.971, he got 0.957.

(Note that the closer the ratio is to 1, the closer your fingers are to being the same length. The further the ratio is from one, the further apart your finger lengths are.)

Scott notes that the average male digit ratio in his survey was 0.972; the average female digit ratio was 0.975.

According to Wikipedia, a study of 136 males and 137 females at the University of Alberta found:[17]

  • Males: mean 0.947, standard deviation 0.029.
  • Females: mean 0.965, standard deviation 0.026.

People have taken to calling lower digit ratios (further from one) more “masculine,” and higher digit ratios (closer to one) more “feminine.” Which leads to the question of why all of these Rationalist math-nerds, whose community is definitely majority male and whose field is regarded as a stereotypically “Male” thing, should all have such overwhelmingly girly hands.

My first thought was that math nerds are effeminate. Which they are, for certain definitions of effeminate. But mathy women tend to be kind of masculine, which isn’t what this data shows. My second thought was that femininity/masculinity may be additive rather than subtractive–that is, having an extra unit of “masculinity” doesn’t necessarily mean someone must therefore lack a unit of “femininity” in a directly linear fashion. Some people could be very low in both femininity and masculinity, or high in both.

My third thought was that maybe measuring digit ratios is too complicated by measurement error and bias and random noise due to things like “how do your fingers crease?” and “did you actually use a copy machine?” A LOT of social science research doesn’t replicate at all.

My fourth thought was that a large difference between one’s finger lengths sounds a lot like physical asymmetry–which is caused (among other things) by mutational load.

Symmetry has long been recognized as one of the things people look for in a mate. Asymmetric faces (and bodies) are deemed less attractive than symmetric ones. Symmetry is a sign of good health, good lifetime nutrition, few parasites, and low mutational load. Asymmetry is a sign of things gone wrong.

Men display more of the effects of mutational load due to their Y chromosomes, so we’d expect to see a wider range of male digit ratios than female ones–which is indeed what the Alberta study found. Really dumb men probably have very different digit lengths, while really smart men trend toward even fingers. Women, because of their two X chromosomes, are probably just less likely to have really uneven fingers (just as they are less likely to be really dumb.)

The Slate Star Codex and Less Wrong cohorts, on the other end of the spectrum, are very smart people in whom we would expect to see lower mutational load.

The latest study I read on autism found that sufferers have a higher mutational load than the background population; while such an explanation is less fun than “autistics are secret math geniuses,” it is sensible. At any rate, if so, we should find a correlation between autism and divergent digit ratios, which the SSC/LW survey did. (Why autistics tend to be male should be immediately obvious.)

Likewise, if homosexuality is caused by some kind of genetic or parasitic agent, we would expect it to correlate with digit divergence. According to the Wikipedia, lesbians have more divergent digits than heterosexual women, but the jury is still out on gay men.

Interestingly, Wikipedia reports that the Han Chinese (who score very well on IQ tests,) have very even fingers, and that the Jamaicans (who do not do so well on IQ tests,) have very divergent ratios. (However, like much of this digit ratio research, I regard this as speculative.)

Of course, like height, there my also be an androgenic effect, such that men are supposed to (for whatever reasons) have slightly different digit ratios than women. After all, even the SSC/LW sample had more divergent ratios for the men than the women, even though the whole SSC/LW population probably has about equal mutational loads (having been pre-selected for high IQ, which = low mutational load.)

 

When Defector-Punishers meet Cooperator-Punishers in the Streets of Paris

ETA: I’ve got to find a new source for the video.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma is a game theory experiment that explores the conditions under which people cooperate or defect against each other. I assume you are already familiar with the details.

In a single game of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, defection or cooperation depends a lot on the folks involved’s individual personalities, but in multi-iteration games (games where people play multiple times against each other,) cooperators generally punish defectors, which eventually leads to mutual cooperation–the best outcome.

One of the implications of this finding is that people will cooperate more with people they’ve had (and will have) repeated interactions with than with strangers. I learned this the hard way when I went from playing board games with my highschool friends to playing with a group of strangers, and promptly got defected on in a plan to split the profits from Broadway and Park Place. The whole business sounds silly in retrospect, but believe me, if I had ever encountered this person again, I would have defected–hard–against them.

Punishing defectors leads to a stable system of mutual, beneficial cooperation.

But in when experimenters took the multi-iteration prisoner’s dilemma abroad, they discovered an unexpected (to them) behavior: cooperation-punishing. These are people who defect against cooperators, leading to mutual defection. Mutual defection is also stable, but shitty.

Cynically, we might say that this is less about “punishment” as that the cooperation-punishers smelled a sucker and decided to benefit themselves. They may also have been unable to realize that their opponent would probably change their behavior in response to the initial defection due to insufficient ability to model other people’s thought processes, and so simply continued doing the thing that had worked once, even once it stopped working. (IE, they were dumb.) As a practical matter, though, we can refer to this as “punishing cooperators,” since that is the result.

Societies with smart people should converge on mutual cooperation; societies with dumb people converge on mutual defection.

What happen when these two styles meet, and people from societies where defectors-get-punished meet people from societies where cooperators-get-punished?

In an actual prisoner’s dilemma experiment, it is of course obvious whether you cooperated or not, but let’s think about this in the much fuzzier terms of normal human human interactions, where there is far more debate and uncertainty about intentions (and effects.) If, in the normal course of your daily life, most people cooperate and defectors are defected against, and then suddenly someone starts defecting against you, your first response may be to soul-searchingly examine whether you did something to cause the defection. For example, suppose you are part of a social group that normally eats dinner at each other’s houses once a week, and suddenly one week, someone doesn’t invite you to their gathering. A reasonable response would be to ask yourself, “Did I do something to piss them off?”

Many of the most liberal people I know seem completely incapable of figuring out, on an instinctual level, whether or not they are being taken advantage. They get hurt and say something like, “I don’t want to abandon my faith in humanity,” or they try to “examine their privilege” even harder. It is painful to watch; sometimes I just want to yell, “It is okay to hate people who have hurt you!”

There’s a saying that a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged. What’s the word for a person who’s been mugged and is still a liberal?

Last weekend, my housemate and I were mugged at gunpoint while walking home from Dupont Circle. T

… when a reporter asked whether I was surprised that this happened in Georgetown, I immediately answered: “Not at all.” It was so clear to me that we live in the most privileged neighborhood within a city that has historically been, and continues to be, harshly unequal. …

What has been most startling to me, even more so than the incident itself, have been the reactions I’ve gotten. I kept hearing “thugs,” “criminals” and “bad people.” While I understand why one might jump to that conclusion, I don’t think this is fair.

Not once did I consider our attackers to be “bad people.” I trust that they weren’t trying to hurt me. In fact, if they knew me, I bet they’d think I was okay.

One of my friends was homeless for 20 years and never mugged anyone. I know people who have been reduced to shoplifting food because they did not have any, but still never pulled a gun on anyone, broke into their house, threatened someone, or stole from them.

Poverty does not make good people rob others at gunpoint. This is bullshit, and an insult to all of the people who have endured poverty without hurting others.

I have not been able to write about the Paris Attacks and their fallout since they happened, mostly because I try not to write posts that look like this: DJGGGYWEEERRRRRRRRK!!!111!!

But I came upon this graph today, of French attitudes toward Muslims before and after the Charlie Hebdo attacks:

From Pew Research Center, "Ratings of Muslims rise in France..."
From Pew Research Center, “Ratings of Muslims rise in France after Charlie Hebdo…”

I regret that I do not have more recent data from France, but I do have some from America:

From Pew Research Center, "Ratings of Muslims rise in France..."
From Pew Research Center, “Ratings of Muslims rise in France after Charlie Hebdo Attack…”

Take a look at those conservatives!

Forget about “It’s better to be feared than loved.” Apparently being feared makes you loved.

To be fair, I have noticed a habit among certain people to delicately start a sentence, “Now, I like Muslims, but…” or “I like blacks, but…” which may be driving some of this. Anti-racism has become such a dominant value that even conservatives cannot express the pain and horror they felt from 9-11 without first throwing out an anti-racist disclaimer (not that it works, of course. They are always guilty of racism, no matter what they say.)

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, did anyone feel the need to stand around, declaring, “I’m not anti-Japanese, but…” ?

The mere idea of having a single blanket encapsulation of 1.6 billion people–1/5th of the world’s population–is idiotic. I reject the question. I have no opinion of Nigerians that applies equally to Bosnians, nor of Kazakhs that applies to Indonesians. Likewise, I have no opinion of Christians that covers Haitians, Norwegians, and Ugandans; Mormons and Eastern Orthodox; no single coherent opinion of Hindus, Buddhists, or Jews. But I have very strong opinions about the people I consider my enemies.

According to Newsweek (8-26-14):

One in six French citizens sympathises with the Islamist militant group ISIS, also known as Islamic State, a poll released this week found.

The poll of European attitudes towards the group, carried out by ICM for Russian news agency Rossiya Segodnya, revealed that 16% of French citizens have a positive opinion of ISIS. This percentage increases among younger respondents, spiking at 27% for those aged 18-24. …

Newsweek’s France Correspondent, Anne-Elizabeth Moutet, was unsurprised by the news. “This is the ideology of young French Muslims from immigrant backgrounds,” she said, “unemployed to the tune of 40%, who’ve been deluged by satellite TV and internet propaganda.” She pointed to a correlation between support for ISIS and rising anti-Semitism in France, adding that “these are the same people who torch synagogues”.

In lieu of the video that was supposed to be here, let’s just say that I think ISIS is pretty darn evil.

 

Cathedral Roundup #5: Harvard Jumps the Placemat

harvard

Freshmen students at Harvard University recently sat down for dinner in their cathedral cafeteria:

annen1

Yes, that is actually what Harvard’s freshman dining hall looks like. No, they didn’t conquer a church. Harvardians will tell you that the rest of the campus isn’t as ostentatious, but honestly, it is.

Anyway, so they walked into their sumptuous food-cathedral and found that Harvard had helpfully laid out placemats for them:

Placemat-Set:

(If you heard any of these arguments over Christmas Dinner and didn’t know where they came from, now you do.)

Oh, Harvard. Harvard, Harvard, Harvard.

Stop being such bloody hypocrites. Why don’t you invite the homeless beggars of Harvard Square and the many poor residents of the ghetto neighborhood you border into your absurdly expensive cafeterias for a warm, holiday celebration in the midst of all this December darkness?

Of course, Harvard carefully keeps those people out of its cathedrals. Beggars aren’t good for the image.

Why is Harvard wedging itself between students and their families? Seriously, the holidays can be a rough time for a lot of people, students included. They’re in this transition zone, where they’re basically living like adults, but on their parents’ dime. There’s a good chance the parents still treat them like children, and a good chance the students think themselves more mature than they really are. Negotiating this is tricky, and the very last thing Harvard should do is make things worse by encouraging students to get into political fights with their relatives.

It is none of Harvard’s business what students’ uncle think, and it is certainly not the students’ jobs to proselytize their professors’ beliefs to their parents.

Hey, Harvard, you know how everyone hates it when Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses knock on their doors?

You’re using your students to do the exact same thing, only the people you’re calling racists are the folks paying their tuition bills of over $45,000 per year (add room and board, textbooks, etc., and the cost skyrockets to almost $70,000 per year.)

Just let those numbers sink in for a moment, then remember that these are the students–and professors–who complain about the “privileges” of whites who live in trailer parks.

The Harvard Republicans released a counter placemat:

GOP-Placemat

Okay, so maybe they should rename themselves the “Harvard Neutrals,” but considering that Yale students started protesting, became too emotionally traumatized to eat, and got a professor fired over something equally mild, I suppose this counts for “bold” in the Ivy League today.

Yale, you reaped exactly what you sowed.

Since I do not have any student protesters to worry about, I can give a more thorough response to the original placemat:

1. Yale:

I’m not paying $70,000 a year so you can lie to my face.

Do you really think whites get this same, “safe” environment? Please find me a case of white student protesters at Yale accusing a black professor of racism, yelling and cursing in his face, and the administration pressuring the black prof into resigning?

No semantics games. You said “the same,” so I’m holding you to that. Prove that they’re the same, or shut up and pass the gravy.

2. Islamaphobia: Not one single incident of violence in all this time from all of those people? There isn’t a single group on the entire planet that refrains entirely from violence.

Also, unlike guerrillas in South America, ISIS has specifically stated its intention to infiltrate the refugees and target the West — but you know what, maybe you shouldn’t play ISIS videos at Christmas dinner with your loved ones.

Regardless, the US government exists to serve the interests of Americans. The US government has zero moral obligation to non-Americans.

3. Black murders:

CIAaBpkWgAEfTbi

Picture 4

4. House Masters: Wow, Harvard students are admitting that they can’t find some actual slavery and racism to protest, so they made up fake grievances about a name they understand perfectly well has nothing to do with slavery?

Once you graduate and get a job, you’ll come to understand, very quickly, that there are, in fact, people with authority over you. They’re called your boss, and you’d better do what they say or you’ll end up homeless.

Harvard’s placemat was inspired by Showing up for Racial Justice’s creation:

Showing_Up_for_Racial_Justice_SURJ_Holiday_Placemat

Thanksgiving also saw folks making use of the holiday get together to spread the message: As Investors Business Daily noted,

On Tuesday, @TheDemocrats tweeted “It’s the holiday season, which means lots of time with your Republican uncle. Give him the facts this weekend.” Included was “The Democrat’s Guide To Talking Politics With Your Republican Uncle,” in case Democrats out there “need help setting your Republican relatives straight this holiday season.” The guide is supposedly useful for sorting out “the most common myths” and has “the perfect response for each of them.”

@TheDemocrats helpfully links us to Your Republican Uncle, exactly as claimed:

The holiday season is filled with food, traveling, and lively discussions with Republican relatives about politics sometimes laced with statements that are just not true. Here are the most common myths spouted by your family members who spend too much time listening to Rush Limbaugh and the perfect response to each of them.

The Your Republican Uncle website has been thoroughly responded to already, of course, but dear god it’s smarmy.

And last year, Obama helpfully encouraged us to utilize Christmas to shill for health insurance, like an unpaid Amway representative.

131218_lowry_pajamaboy

And if that’s not fun enough, there’s always racist uncle bingo!

Picture 12

Courtesy The Daily Dot, “5 Thanksgiving tips for talking to your racist family members about Ferguson:

“White people have to understand that any amount of suffering they’ve encountered in their own lives is most likely dwarfed by the weekly, sometimes daily amount that people of other skin colors continue to face in America. “

Really?

Actually, the interesting thing is just how non-suicidal blacks seem to be.

Not only is telling people that their personal misery is dwarfed by other people’s misery a completely asinine way to comport yourself at any family gathering, there’s a good chance you’re wrong. There’s a good chance someone in you family has a terminal illness, is grieving the death of a loved one, or is struggling with severe poverty. Multiply this over all of the families of everyone who read the original article, and that’s a lot of people.

Frankly, I don’t know where this whole “OMG Thanksgiving/Christmas is so terrible cuz my uncles!” meme got started–it used to be racist grandmas, but maybe people love their grandmas too much to use them as scapegoats too often. Personally, I’m just glad my relatives are still alive. I can save my political agenda for people who actually want to hear it.

If you have any question about how to comport yourself during the holidays, here’s a handy guide:

placemat

Created by Moe Lane.

 

 

Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata

My favorite song. I always think of Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther when I hear it. Can you not see Werther and Lotte in the garden at night?

Someday I will learn to play it.

——-

I don’t expect a lot of visitors today, since it’s Christmas, so I thought I’d make a tally of the most popular search terms that lead people to this blog in the past month (most searches are encrypted so that I don’t see them, but a few make it through.) I’ve condensed similar searches into general categories; I assume that whatever people are searching for a lot, they’d like to see more of.

13 searches for megafauna (Considering I have only one post on megafauna, I guess I need more.)

12 neanderthal native / south american DNA (I did not expect this to be so popular. I guess it’s an interesting question, and there isn’t a whole lot of information on it yet, in part because doing genetic research on Native Americans is probably kind of tricky.)

7 interesting searches for really specific things that aren’t on this blog

6 why do white people tan / general queries about tanning

5 on female disgust of male sexuality/men

3 queries about San / Pygmies / African DNA

3 autism somalia

3 bullies / bullying

3 white womens tears

2 melanin / melatonin aggression

2 slatestarcodex

2 motorcycles / bikers

2 sentinelese / onge

2 male sexuality

 

6 Interesting questions:

who has neanderthal DNA (pretty much everyone outside of Africa and possibly a lot of people in Africa.)

do orangutans get get acne? (I wonder that, too.)

who has better hygiene liberals or conservatives (Mexicans shampoo more than Americans, but among whites, I’d guess that liberals use more soap but also behave in ways that expose them to more germs. Conservatives probably use less soap, but also avoid germs.)

could a human chimera be transgender (Technically, they’d be intersex.)

why do liberals care about environment (I don’t know.)

why do we do self flogging in anxiety even though we know it is not correct (probably because your ancestors were people whose worrying lead them to be conscientious and careful at work and avoid fighting with people in their community, which helped them succeed in life and have more children.)

are all aspies losers (Oh come on, what kind of answer do you expect? A statistical breakdown of the relatives success rates of people called “aspie” at some point in their lives?)

 

And some lonely searches:

southern african rock art

evolutionary or genetic theory of state formation

iron eyes cody transracial

longevity in african americans

biracial women in the 50s

man arrested 70 times before 30

neighbor one man leaves their garbage out social norms

gender equality in hunter gatherers

schizophrenia high IQ 120

y chromosome math

how did western expansion lead to civil war

people constantly lie

i don’t understand women

is humor masculine?

white atheists ethnic identity

things that hurt the soul

dangers of apartheid

“red tribe” patriotism confederacy

epigenetics and prisoners

october 2015 women combat draft

rupert murdoch liar

conservatives suck

false empathy

getting sick build up immune system

marx and memetics

 

Well, to everyone who’s read, linked, or dropped in to say hello, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year.

Little-Crab-Christmas-Applique-Machine-Embroidery-Digitized-Design-Pattern-280x280

 

Is Race a Social Construct?

People mean a lot of things when they say “social construct.” Mostly they mean “made up.”

Luckily for us, Google is very helpful:

I may be abusing the word "luckily"

Dear Google and the NY Times: Not only is that not the biological definition of race, it’s not even the biological definition of SPECIES. This is not what laymen mean when they speak of race, not what racists mean when they speak of race, not what blacks or whites or Hindus mean, and definitely not anyone who actually studies human biology and genetics.

The simple folk definition of “race” is “a group of people who look kinda similar and come from the same large area of the world.” This, of course, absolutely exists. Most people in the world look a lot like their neighbors, especially if they live in their ancestral homeland and their country hasn’t been invaded lately.

Now, the exact details of how you racially classify people–are Hindus Caucasian? How about North Africans and Iranians? What about mixed-race people?–are socially constructed. This mean that a word like “black” may mean something different in Russian than it does in the Dominican Republic than it does in the US.

This does not change the underlying reality–the humans referred to as “black” still possess the quality of looking similar to other people from their ancestral part of the world. Reality does not disappear just because people sometimes disagree on exactly how to use words to define it.

The scientific, biological definition of race gets a little more complicated, since it matters whether we are talking abut chromosomal races, fungal races, or humans. A couple of definitions:

Geographical race
A distinct population that is isolated in a particular area from other populations of a species,[9] and consistently distinguishable from the others,[9] e.g. morphology (or even only genetically[4]). Geographic races are allopatric.[7]
Physiological race
A group of individuals that do not necessarily differ in morphology from other members of the species, but have identifiably different physiology or behaviour.[10] A physiological race may be an ecotype, part of a species that is adapted to a different local habitat, defined even by a specific food source.[11]

Notice that neither of these include, “possessing a gene or cluster of genes common to everyone in the race but to no one outside of it.”

But if you don’t like the Wikipedia, here’s what Biology Reference has to say:

The biological definition of race is a geographically isolated breeding population that shares certain characteristics in higher frequencies than other populations of that species, but has not become reproductively isolated from other populations of the same species. (A population is a group of organisms that inhabit the same region and interbreed.) Human racial groups compose a number of breeding units that in the past remained geographically and perhaps temporally isolated, yet could interbreed and produce viable offspring within the species Homo sapiens sapiens.

The Biology-Online Dictionary has some more definitions.
These races are real things, even if biologists disagree about exactly which race a mushroom should belong to.
The reality on the ground:
There are few truly isolated groups in the world, though the Onge (and most likely the Sentinelese) actually fit the NY Times’s wacky definition of a “race” due to thousands of years of isolation on tiny islands in the middle of nowhere:
Click for full size
From Haak et al.
The Onge are the peach stripe between the olive brown section and the purple section.
Major groups in this dataset, running from left to right (excluding the ancient skeletons at the far left):
Light Green: Brazilian rainforest dwellers who may be most closely related to Melanesians
Light Pink: Aztecs and their relatives
Brown: Canadian Indians
Rose: North-East Africans
Dusty Blue: Bantus
Light Blue: Pygmies
Magenta: Tanzanian hunter-gatherers
Orange/Blue/Teal: Europeans
Orange/Purple/Teal: Middle Easterners
Olive Brown: Inuit (Eskimo)
Peach: Onge
Purple: PNG/Australia (Melanesians and Aborigines)
Light Green/Teal: India
Yellow/Red: East Asia
Yellow: Taiwan
Red: Siberia
Some of these groups have very mixed ancestries; people from eastern Canada or the middle of Eurasia, for example. Others are quite distinct–there is no doubt that the Eskimo and Pygmies are genetically distinct, physically distinct, geographically distinct, behave differently, and do not generally marry each other.
We may argue about whether Turks should be considered “Europeans” or “Middle Easterners,” or perhaps say that all orange people should be grouped together, or all teal or blue, but here geography does its job: Europeans look genetically like other Europeans; Indians look genetically like other Indians; Middle Easterners look like each other (except for Bedouins,) etc.
We may also argue about how many races we want to distinguish–people usually determine races based on whichever people are around, but obviously the world is more complicated than this. Americans generally think of “African Americans” as part of a broader race that includes all Africans, but we have distinguished here between 5 different groups, some of which are quite distinct–the ancestors of today’s Pygmies and Bantus, for example, split apart about 100,000 years ago, whereas the ancestors of today’s Bantu’s and Koreans split about 70,000 years ago (as far as we know.) Most African Americans are genetically Bantu (with a bit of European admixture,) not Pygmy. We might in a folk-sense refer to both of these groups as “Africans” or “black,” but genetically (and behaviorally) they are distinct.
Of course, you do not have to call them “races.” Most people studying human genetics use terms like “population,” “ethnic group,” “ethny,” or “clade” instead, but the practical meaning is the same.
But the idea that groups that are genetically, physically, behaviorally, or geographically distinct or distinguishable from each other do not exist is pure nonsense.

SJWs come out in favor of rape, violence against women

honestly, why the fuck do I even check FB anymore?
honestly, why the fuck do I even check FB anymore?

FromDarkMatter’s FB page: “DarkMatter is a non-binary trans south asian artist collaboration composed of alok vaid-menon and janani balasubramanian.”

They’re also, apparently, in favor of raping white women.

 

Oh, btw, while there is someone named EvolutionistX on Twitter, they’re not me.

Did you know that we live in a democracy, and we let people in and let them vote?

So I was thinking yesterday about the idea of a country as a thing that people own.

Suppose we decide to run the US like a corporation. We issue about 320 million shares of stock; each share entitles you to vote for the CEO and entitles you to 1/320th of the government’s profits. (Why shouldn’t the government have profits? If Harvard can run a profit off its investments, why not the gov’t?)

  1. Can people sell their shares?

Why not? It’s certainly more entertaining if they can. We could see the emergence of a market where shares of the government are bought and sold–initially very cheaply, as about 40% of people realize they don’t vote, anyway, and try to sell off their stock for quick cash. It could take quite a while for the initial glut to clear, with some people (millionaires, stock investors,) buying up large numbers of votes.

There’d be a lot of angsty hand-wringing during the process about the inevitable result that a lot of white rich dudes would be buying up the votes from poor blacks and Hispanics. But eventually the market would clear, and life would go on.

Eventually we’d get mutual funds where people could invest in part of a vote (or multiple votes.) I’d expect the prices on these to go up shortly before an election, leading to some interesting activity in stock futures (and now you could short the election, hahah.)

2. Who is allowed to buy a vote? Can anyone do it, or do you have to be a citizen?

Maybe “citizenship” simply means you own a vote. I guess everyone could vote on it.

3. Stock shares can be inherited, but new stock is not issued.

Issuing new stock dilutes the value of the old stock. This is supply and demand. Suppose there are ten votes for sale, at $10 million dollars each. You buy one. Then the government issues new stock, and 30 more votes go on the market. Assuming our market works linearly, your vote is now worth $2.5 million dollars.

Thoughts?

Kabloona, religion, and the far reaches of the world

From the beginning of Kabloona:

In the spring of 1938 I stood one afternoon before the house of the Oblate Fathers in the Rue de l’Assomption in Paris. The day was fine, the street deserted and still, the house-front blank with that anonymity characteristic the world over of the city dwellings of priestly communities. I was about to embark upon a long trek into what was for me the unknown. If those within were willing to help me, my first step would be taken without stumbling. If not… well, I should go forward somehow. …

There I stood, then, with my finger on the bell at the door of the Oblate Fathers. It is the particular mission of the Oblate Fathers to evangelize the most distant and disinherited peoples of the earth. For generations, Christian priests have gone out of this house to the confines of the world–to central Africa, to the Brazilian jungles, to the Arctic. Here in this house you would not have guessed it. Not a footfall sounded, not a map hung on a wall. Someone, a shadow, had opened a door and vanished, shutting the door behind me. I stood alone in an old-fashioned reception room, waiting in the company of three green chairs and, on the wall, the enlarged photograph of a dead bishop.

A man came in: obviously a religious, and one look at his face and bearing told me that he was a chief. He signed to me to it down, and we sat in two of the three straight-backed chairs. Without a preliminary word, I blurted out the purpose of my visit, which was to go live with the Eskimos. Not those of Greenland, who, I gathered, were domesticated under governmental tutelage; nor those of Alaska, who carved souvenirs for tourists; but the Canadian Eskimos, those of the Central Arctic who, because they inhabited regions so emote and difficult to reach, still lived their primitive life of thousands of years ago, knowing of the white men only an occasional solitary missionary. I knew that their islands in the Glacial Ocean formed part of the immense diocese of that Oblate father who was celebrated in Canada as the “The Bishop of the Wind”; that the bishop toured his diocese in his own airplane’ and what I wanted was to be flown in by the bishop. Could the Oblate Fathers help me to realize my wish?

The man had not stirred. A proposal that had seemed to me, as I made it, monstrous, childish in its effrontery, seemed to him entirely normal. You have only to write the bishop,” he said in a curiously depersonalized voice, “He will reply.” As if the Arctic lay round the corner! This was my first lesson in humility, and I had been taught it even before leaving Paris. In a single word this religious, for whom neither time nor space existed, had reduced my vainglorious project to the dimensions of a Sunday picnic. But the bishop did not know me, I had ventured to say; the recommendation of the House would perhaps be necessary…. With a wave of the hand my objection was dismissed. “Not at all. It will be much better if you write direct. Here is the address. Good afternoon.” And silently this imperturbable servant of Christ had left me, shutting himself back into that eternity out of which he  had for an instant emerged.

It was in April that I wrote, addressing my letter to the bishop’s episcopal seat at Fort Smith, on the sixtieth parallel. At the end of May came the bishop’ reply. His Grace would be pleased to fly me in, provided there was space’ “for,” he wrote, “the plane is small and there will be another passenger. Meet me at McMurray, in northern Alberta, at the beginning of July.” …

I had left Paris on June 11, 1938.* It was on the 9th of July that I took off from Fort McMurray with Bishop Breynat, his chaplain, and Bisson, his pilot. … As the plane rose above the tree-tops Bisson made a sign with his hand; we fell back, and I, looking behind, saw the chaplain purple with tenseness and the bishop quietly absorbed in his breviary. …

In this wise I saw Goldfields born and die again, where the bishop left, by way of a gift, a haunch of beef. I saw Fond-du-Lac spring into existence and then vanish, where, on a little knoll, Brother Cadoret knelt, and the Indians with him, to kiss the bishop’s ring. It was there that an Indian had ventured to speak to the bishop.

“You go to see the Great Seated One,”–the Pope–he said. “Take him this, and when you have seen him, pray for Higine.” He had put three dollars into the bishop’s hand; and as we sat again in the plan and the earth darkened and the lakes below us shone like metal in the darkening earth, the bishop still held in his hand the three dollars, forgetting in his emotions to put them into his purse. …

We had flown fifteen hundred miles when I saw one night, shining in the Arctic sun, a pool bigger than any I had seen before. This was the sea, the Glacial Ocean. Again the pilot dived, again a little cluster of huts sprang up; and exactly at midnight on the 14th of July, I was set down in Coppermine. Father Delalande took us to his mission house, and without a word the old bishop climbed the wooden ladder into the attic and went to bed Next day he was off. He had done what he could for me in dropping me here at the last outpost of civilization.

*The Nazis occupied Paris on June 14th, 1940.

From Josephine and Frederick’s account of their attempt to drive from Lubumbashi to Kinshasa–a distance of about a thousand miles, or 1,500 km–in the DRC:

In the dark we were greeted by the priests in the mission. Before we could even say something they said “Il faut rien dire, on comprend!” – “No need to talk, we understand”. They were friendly and gave us a bucket of water to wash in. We could park the car in their garden. We closed our tent at midnight. The adrenaline was still rushing trough our veins. …

The mission is at the same time a (boarding) school. … The priests (Brothers actually) are nice guys. There are 4 of them, young and smart. All of them have studied in Lubumbashi or Kinshasa. After they finished the seminary they were sent to a mission. They cannot choose which one. We could hear the sadness in their voices when they told their stories.

They sampled the “world” when studying, they have a degree (one of them had a masters in engineering) and then they are sent to a mission. They know they will probably never have the chance again to live in a city. At the mission they take care of the kids, teach, etc.. A noble and rewarding job. But they carry all this knowledge that they cannot put in practice here. They have no computers, no tools, no electricity, no budget, …

The priest-engineer was setting up a project to generate clean energy from a river. He had a recycling project. A radio project. An irrigation project, … He had to run all these projects without any funds, without material. So many ideas, so little chances. …

Thus far the missions were havens of peace and quiet. Were things were functional (sometimes) and clean (sometimes). Not so at the home of Frère Louis. He lived like the Congolese lived… in a rundown building without any comfort. He had a bathroom that hadn’t seen a brush in ages,.. . It struck us as a bit odd, but later we would understand that Frère Louis is one of these rare people that does not care about himself, but only about the others. We would meet Frère Louis later on this trip and everything would become clear then.

He was well organized though. He was the only one in town with transportation … He uses this truck to get supplies from Lubumbashi to all of the project he is running in the area. The big wheels, the portle axles and the huge winch make it a capable bundybasher. …

While we were there several people came to visit. Among them was a friendly older lady. She had beautiful (homemade) clothes. She was responsible for the orphanage that was run by Frère Louis. …

“That night we talked for hours with Frère Louis. Our little adventures here dissapear in the nothing compared to everything he went trough. He had been in DRC for over 40 years, he stayed during all the wars. He had to abandon everything and run for his live three times as teams were sent out to kill him. But he always returned. Many books could be filled with his adventures.

He is also responsible for most of the bridges Katanga. He build hundreds of bridges himself. He has a small working budget from Franciscans, but he funds most of it all by himself. He has put every last penny in the Congolese people. That is why his house in Luena was so rundown.

There is much more, but I have quoted too much already. You can read it all on Frederick and Josephine’s thread.

According to the Orthodox Church in America website:

Several centuries later, two monks, Hourg and Barsanuphii, journeyed east to Kazan, capital of the Tartars, learned the Tartar language, and established a monastic community for the conversion of the Mongol peoples. St Stephen of Perm (1340-96), another monk, would in turn journey beyond Kazan, across the Ural Mountain, into the forests of Siberia to labor among the pagan Zyrians. There Stephen devised a Zyrian alphabet, translated the Gospel, and subsequently converted an entire people. This model of monastic evangelization became the pattern for other Russian Orthodox missionaries as they trekked ever eastward, eventually establishing a network of missions across Siberia and along the entire Pacific Rim: in China (1686), Alaska (1794), Japan (1861), and Korea (1898). The eight Orthodox monks who arrived in Alaska in 1794 were simply part of this centuries-old missionary heritage of the Russian Orthodox Church.

From the Wikipedia, on the history of the Orthodox Church in America:

Russian traders settled in Alaska during the 18th century. In 1740, a Divine Liturgy was celebrated on board a Russian ship off the Alaskan coast. In 1794, the Russian Orthodox Church sent missionaries—among them Saint Herman of Alaska – to establish a formal mission in Alaska. Their missionary endeavors contributed to the conversion of many Alaskan natives to the Orthodox faith. A diocese was established, whose first bishop was Saint Innocent of Alaska. The headquarters of this North American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church was moved from Alaska to California around the mid-19th century.

Abbot Nazarius of Valaamo Monastery blesses missionaries leaving for America, at the direction of the Empress Catherine the Great.
Abbot Nazarius of Valaamo Monastery blesses missionaries leaving for America, at the direction of the Empress Catherine the Great. source

On Saint Herman:

Saint Herman of Alaska
Saint Herman of Alaska

The Shelikhov-Golikov Company appealed to the Most Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church to provide a priest for the natives [of Alaska]. Catherine the Great decided instead to send an entire mission to America. She entrusted the task of recruiting missionaries to Metropolitan Gabriel of St. Petersburg, who sent ten monks from Valaam, including Herman.[14] The missionaries arrived on Kodiak on September 24, 1794.[15]

Herman and the other missionaries encountered a harsh reality at Kodiak that did not correspond to Shelikhov’s rosy descriptions. The native Kodiak population, called “Americans” by the Russian settlers, were subject to harsh treatment by the Russian-American Company, … The monks themselves were not given the supplies that Shelikhov promised them,[17] and had to till the ground with wooden implements.[18] Despite these difficulties, the monks managed to baptize over 7,000 natives in the Kodiak region, and set about building a church and monastery. Herman was assigned in the bakery and acted as the mission’s steward (ekonom).[19]

… After over a decade spent in Alaska, Herman became the head of the mission in 1807, although he was not ordained to the priesthood. The local population loved and respected him, and he even had good relations with Baranov.[22] Herman ran the mission school, where he taught church subjects such as singing and catechism alongside reading and writing. He also taught agriculture on Spruce Island.[23]

Herman moved to Spruce Island around 1811 to 1817.[25] The island is separated from Kodiak by a mile-wide strait, making it ideal for eremetic life. Herman named his hermitage “New Valaam.” He wore simple clothes and slept on a bench covered with a deerskin. When asked how he could bear to be alone in the forest, he replied, “I am not alone. God is here, as God is everywhere.”[26]

Despite his solitary life, he soon gained a following. He received many visitors—especially native Aleuts—on Sundays and church feasts. Soon his hermitage had next to it a chapel and guesthouse, and then a school for orphans.[7] Herman had a few disciples, including the Creole orphan Gerasim Ivanovich Zyrianov, a young Aleut woman named Sofia Vlasova, and others. Entire families moved in order to be closer to the Elder, who helped to sort out their disputes.[27] Herman had a deep love for the native Aleuts: he stood up for them against the excesses of the Russian-American Company, and once during an epidemic he was the only Russian to visit them, working tirelessly to care for the sick and console the dying.[7][28] Herman spent the rest of his life on Spruce Island, where he died on November 15, 1836.[29]

In 1812, Russian’s most southerly colony in the New World became Fort Ross, California:

The reconstructed Russian Orthodox chapel at Fort Ross, CA, photo by Introvert
The reconstructed Russian Orthodox chapel at Fort Ross, CA, photo by Introvert

From the Wikipedia Page on Russian colonization of the NW:

In 1920 a one-hundred pound bronze church bell was unearthed[by whom?] in an orange grove near Mission San Fernando Rey de España in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California. It has an inscription in the Russian language (translated here): “In the Year 1796, in the month of January, this bell was cast on the Island of Kodiak by the blessing of Juvenaly of Alaska, during the sojourn of Alexander Andreyevich Baranov.” How this Russian OrthodoxKodiak church artifact from Kodiak Island in Alaska arrived at a Roman Catholic Mission Church in Southern California remains unknown.

Saint Peter the Aleut
Saint Peter the Aleut

Unfortunately, the Catholics and Orthodox didn’t always get along so well in California, as in the case of Saint Peter the Aleut, tortured and murdered by the Spaniards in 1815.

Even the Jews have their missions:

Non-Jews Help Jump-Start New Chabad Center in Alaska: A warm welcome in wintry Wasilla from the entire community

When Rabbi Mendy and Chaya Greenberg moved into their new home on a quiet dirt road in Wasilla, Alaska, one week before the High Holidays, they received a different kind of welcome.

A crew of local residents—almost all of them not Jewish—descended upon their house to unpack boxes, sweep, clean and arrange furniture. In fact, with just hours left before the onset of Shabbat, they even purchased and set up a brand-new dining-room table around which the couple would celebrate the holy day.

Who is this group of helpful denizens, and why have they raised thousands of dollars and volunteered countless hours for a Jewish group?

The answer lies with Ruthann Crosby-Cleeves, a local chaplain who leads “ChessedAlaska,” an organization dedicated to teaching the Seven Noahide Laws—the universal values of the Torah—to non-Jewish people.

And in Nepal:

On the sixth day since a massive earthquake crumbled buildings and shook mountains in the impoverished country of Nepal—before recent warnings of a new earthquake to come forced everyone back indoors—the focus of Chabad’s efforts have been concentrated on providing sustained humanitarian aid to thousands of people who have lost everything in the rubble. …

The delegation brought hygiene supplies, hot meals, fresh water and fruit.

“Tiny babies are thirsty for water, their eyes empty and dead, their small faces wizened like those of old people,” continues Lifshitz. “Wherever we went, people fell on our necks, begging for some food, for more water. We promised them that we would not forget them. We will be back tomorrow, and then again, the day after tomorrow. We will be there for the as long as they need us.”

Just before she left to return to the Chabad House, Lifshitz recalls that a woman with a pinched, wrinkled face approached her. “All she wanted was a hug,” she says. “We hugged for a very long time. Her tears remained on my shoulder long after we parted ways. How much strength did I get from that single hug…”

Rabbi Kotlarsky distributing food after the Nepal Earthquake, 2015 (photo courtesy Chabad.)
Rabbi Kotlarsky distributing food after the Nepal Earthquake, 2015 (photo courtesy Chabad.)

Why is Star Wars more popular than God?

I’m not a Star Wars fan.

I don’t hate it; I don’t love it. I’m normally quite agnostic on the subject.

I don’t begrudge people having favorite movies; I have favorite movies. I don’t begrudge them sharing their favorites with their kids (though it will be quite a few years before my kids appreciate any of the movies that I like,) nor do I look askance at movie-themed products (those Frozen-middle grade novels strike me as a cute idea.)

But when I see moms dressing their infants in Darth Vader onesies, I think society has gotten really, really weird.

Target is filled with mountain of Star Wars crap, much of it regular products with a Star Wars logo slapped on. Fuzzy infant socks with a tiny picture of Yoda’s head on the side; beer holders and bouncy balls and ugly sweaters.

I’m not judging the sweaters; they’re advertised as “ugly sweaters.” (Why would anyone purposefully spend money on an “ugly sweater”?)

I can’t get to the diaper section without feeling like my soul is being crushed beneath the mountains of useless crap produced solely so we can buy it, wrap it up, and exchange it for someone else’s box of worthless crap in imitation of ritual.

And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint:30 And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom.31 And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.32 And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?

33 And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he sware unto him: and he sold his birthright unto Jacob.

34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright.

At least you can eat lentils. How much have we sacrificed for this pile of crap?

70% of American adults claim to be “Christians;” that drops to only 56% among “Young Millenials” (folks 19-25 years old.) But parents are disproportionately religious, which probably explains why, according to le Wik, “62 percent of children say religion is important to them, 26 percent say it’s somewhat important, and 13 percent say it’s not important.”

Interestingly, on a related note:

From Faith in the Family: How belief passes from one generation to the next
From Faith in the Family: How belief passes from one generation to the next

According to Vern Bengston’s research, Jews and Mormons are particularly good at passing on their religious beliefs to their children. He credits this to these religions’ intergenerational focus and household rituals. Part of it is probably also the fact that these religions are still focused on having children, and religion is pointless without children. If you’re looking for a religion to raise your kids in and have no particular preference of your own, Mormonism or Judaism might be the ticket.

Bengston also finds that a major influence on a child’s likelihood of adopting their parents’ religion is how good the relationship is between them and their parents, particularly their father:

From Faith and the Family: How religious belief passes from one generation to the next
From Faith and the Family: How belief passes from one generation to the next

If your dad’s a jerk, you’re likely to reject his beliefs. (Does this mean divorce is driving the increase in atheism?)

At any rate, no matter how you slice it, over half of parents–and children–claim to be Christian.

What percent of people are Star Wars fans?

One amusing study found that 4.8% of Alaskans “liked” Star Wars on Facebook. Alaskans appear to be the biggest Star Wars fans, followed by WA, OR, and Utah. Star Wars has the lowest % of likes down in the Deep South. In other words, English and German-descended folks like Star Wars.

I always groan a little when someone produces a map of ethnicity without realizing it.
(I always groan a little when someone produces a map of ethnicity without realizing it:

The "Americans" are mostly Scottish/Irish
Note the very high quantity of English in Utah and Maine, vs their relative absence in the Deep South [highly black] and MA/RI/Conn/NJ [Irish, Italians.])
A Facebook Poll asked people to list their favorite books; while Harry Potter came in first, 7.2% of people listed the Bible.

Obviously this is not a good way of comparing affection for Star Wars to affection to the Bible, but having interacted with people, 7% feels rather close to the actual percentage of real Christians.

There’s always a chicken and egg dynamic to marketing and advertising. How much of the crush of Star Wars merchandise is driven by actual demand, and how much is everyone just buying Star Wars crap because there happens to be an enormous pile of it?

There’s another thing that makes me uncomfortable: this notion that Star Wars somehow reflects my culture. Or as an acquaintance claimed this morning, “The Big Bang Theory.” For the sake of this post, dear readers, I have ventured into the nether reaches of YouTube and watched The Big Bang Theory highlight reels (I can’t seem to find any full episodes; probably a copyright thing.)

The Big Bang Theory is not my culture. (You may have noticed a distinct lack of Batman jokes on this blog.) Neither is Star Wars. Yes, some nerds like Star Wars, but we are not the people who motivated Target to stock enormous piles of Star Wars merchandise. I have nothing personal against these franchises, but I recoil against the claim that they have anything to do with my culture.

At any rate, no one is stopping you from buying a Veggie Tales DVD (Amazon has a ton of Veggie Tales free for instant streaming if you have Prime membership; there are also a bunch on Netflix,) or Queen Esther action figure, Bible Heroes trading cards or Anarchy in the Monarchy card game–no, wait, the last one is just funny, not religious.

I’ve never understood why, but the average “Christian” parent won’t buy any of that. Perhaps their kids just don’t want religious toys (though I would have loved ’em.) Perhaps my Christian friend was telling the honest truth when they said, “No one likes a Jesus freak.” Maybe most “Christians” are less devout than I am (which is really saying something, since I’m an atheist.) Maybe the folks who decide which products will be carried at major stores aren’t interested in religiously-oriented items, and everyone else just goes along, sheep-like, with whatever they see. I don’t really know.

But if you care about passing on your faith, consider abandoning the materialistic deluge and spend some quality time with your kids instead. Even if you don’t care about faith, I still recommend that. If you don’t have kids, substitute the loved ones you have. They’re worth a lot more than a Yoda-shaped mug.