Guest Post: Lawrence Glarus: Guest Families

idioma_hakka

Have you ever wondered if there are other market dominant minorities out there?  Blogger Lawrence Glarus has found another out there:

Most people in China are Han. In fact, the Han are 92% of the PRC. This would, in the popular imagination, imply that they culturally similar. This isn’t necessarily wrong but, like any nation, there are thinner slices you can make. Out of this mix of cultures has emerged another crab.  China has produced a market dominant minority diaspora: the Hakka. The Hakka are a subgroup of the Han. They have their own Chinese dialectic though their identity is mostly connected to patrilineal descent. What are the minimum steps to create a market dominant minority?
1. Migration
2. Economic niche formation by cultural bans or scarcity of normal work.
3. Limited integration.

In the Hakka we meet all the requirements. The Hakka originated from Northern China. This is not particularly exceptional since all Han originated from Northern China. Like many groups, there were multiple waves of migration from their homelands somewhere in the North. There seem to be a number of theories of their origin but there were plenty of wars and political events in which COULD have displaced them. Suffice to say something or someone gave them a reason to move.

“Migration and the stigma of rootlessness. Dominant Han tradition worshipped the native place, and the Min and Yue Cantonese disdain the Hakka as rootless. Four mass migrations shaped Hakka identity. In the first the Hakkas left Henan and Shandong during the chaos of the Jurchen attacks between the Tang and Song dynasties (907-959 A.D.), and settled around Changting (Tingzhou) in the underpopulated highlands of the Fujian-Jiangxi border. In the second they moved into north-eastern Guangdong during the period of the Song-Yuan dynastic transition (1127-1279), settling around Meixian and the North River highlands. In the third many Hakkas claimed untended land on the south-east Guangdong coast during the early Qing (1644-1800). Others, like Chen Yi’s kin, moved up to the Hunan-Jiangxi border. By 1800 Hakkas had also settled permanently in Guangxi, Hainan, Taiwan and famine-depopulated Sichuan.36 The fourth migration came in the mid-19th century, after nearly a million died in the Hakka-Bendi land wars, and in the aftermath of the Taiping Rebellion (1850-64). Hakkas dispersed further away from Guangdong, into Sichuan, Hong Kong and overseas.”-The Secret History of the Hakkas: The Chinese Revolution as a Hakka Enterprise Mary S. Erbaugh

That is a rough history, but then again China is/was a rough place.  It might actually may not be THAT exceptional.

“The name Hakka was first used by Guangfu Chinese. Hakka was originally used to refer to the third person and was gradually accepted as the ethnic name. Now, many people are proud to call themselves Hakka. The four Hakka states are Meizhou, Ganzhou, Huizhou, and Tingzhou. Meizhou is often referred to as the capital of the global population of Hakka because it has the highest population of Hakka, and many Hakka emigrated from Meizhou. Ganzhou is considered the ancestral home of Hakka, and is known as the “Hakka cradle”.
Hakka is one of the seven major Chinese dialects. Hakka dialects were formed as early as the Southern Song Dynasty through the inheritance of many language tones from the five dynasties and Song dynasties. The Hakka area is divided into “pure” and “impure” Hakka counties. There are 48 pure Hakka counties and cities in regions bordering Guangdong, Fujian, and Jiangxi. Although the total population of Hakka has not been determined, it is estimated that there are about 50 million Hakka worldwide. Although the Hakka population is an important component of Han populations, the anthropologic characteristics of Hakka have not been reported.” -Physical characteristics of Chinese Hakka ZHENG

Hakka roughly translates to “Guest Families”, which in my opinion is a perfect name for a market dominant minority. A guest family is welcome, but they never really integrate. Even after at least 1000 years of living in South China the Hakka are still distinct (or at least have a distinct identity) from the other Northern Chinese peoples who got there first.  The Hakka, for example, typically didn’t bind their daughter’s feet.

The word “Hakka” is as blatant a brand of impoverished wandering as “Gypsy” or “Okie.” It was originally a hostile outside coinage, the Cantonese pronunciation of the characters for “guest family,” “settlers” (Mandarin pronunciation is kejia). “Guest” is often pejorative in Chinese. Jia is used in derisive names for minorities, but not for other Han except the even more benighted Danjia (Tanga, Tanka) boat people..Longsettled Han call themselves “locals,” “natives” bendi (punti), literally “rooted in the soil.” -The Secret History of the Hakkas: The Chinese Revolution as a Hakka Enterprise Mary S. Erbaugh

It is funny for Westerners to see this sort of behavior and attitudes in foreign nations.  Unlike our history, the dirty laundry of foreign (non-Western) cultures tends to not be aired.  There is nothing wrong with a little parochialism.  It is still a little hard to imagine a group being “guests” for a thousand years.  How many American’s even know the word “Okie” anymore?  To be fair it’s still fresh in the memories of the people of Oklahoma.

Hakkas are also called “newcomers” (xin ren) or “arrivals” (lai reri). They are often called “Cantonese,” especially in Taiwan, Hunan and Sichuan. Hakka dialect is also called “dirt Cantonese” (tu Guangdonghua); “newcomer talk” (xin min hua); or “rough border talk” (ma jie hua) (see Cui Rongchang, “Sichuan fangyan de biandiao xianxiang” -The Secret History of the Hakkas: The Chinese Revolution as a Hakka Enterprise Mary S. Erbaugh

It is certainly interesting that these people who focused on education would have a language called “rough border talk”.  It is probable that any successful Hakka would learn and speak Madarin (or whatever was the court dialect de jour) well though.  All the famous (at least famous outside China) Hakka we know of spoke other languages very well and did not seemingly utilize Hakka language in their public persona.  In fact, the Hakka seem to do much better in other people’s areas than in their own, where they have tended to be poor farmers.

“As Hakkas tend to be very clannish, strangers who found out that the other party is a Hakka will affectionately acknowledge each other as “zi-jia-ren” (自家人) meaning “all’s in the same (Hakka) family”.” -La Wik

China was very clannish up until the Communists took over. The Communists naturally wanted to break up the clan structures which were a threat to their power. In the modern day as the PRC has relaxed their grip Clans are re-emerging as power centers in China. The fact that the Hakka are clannish shouldn’t surprise us, but it should be noted that they see each other as a larger clan 50 million rather than the typical 50-500 of a regularly organized clan.

When the Hakka found themselves in an already populated area in South China they had only marginal land to work with. Rather than displacing the natives they found themselves adopting economically niche strategies.

“Hakka culture have been largely shaped by the new environment which they had to alter many aspects their culture to adapt, which helped influence their architecture and cuisine. When the Hakka expanded into areas with pre-existing populations in the South, there was often little agricultural land left for them to farm. As a result, many Hakka men turned towards careers in the military or in public service. Consequently, the Hakka culturally emphasized education.” -La Wik

snail_pit_tulou

This tradition seemingly continues till today. Given the history of China, there would have been plenty of opportunities to pursue education, military or public service.  While the Hakka are quite interesting in their own country they are even more interesting in other countries. Having a long tradition of military and publics service has made them prominent and influential in the diaspora.

“There is a Chinese saying, “有阳光的地方就有华人, 有华人的地方就有客家人”, which literally means “Wherever there is sunshine, there will be Chinese. Wherever there is Chinese, there will be Hakka.””-La Wik

lky-pm-lee-family-data

So if the Hakka focussed on education, military and civil service how good could they be at it?  Could there be a genetic or cultural propensity to enter the civil service that can overcome cultural barriers between cultures? Here is a short list of prominent Hakka that you may know of:

  1. Sun Yat-sen
  2. Lee Kuan Yew
  3. Deng Xiaoping

Okay, so that list wasn’t that long let’s get a list of Presidents of foreign countries who were Hakka. Years listed are years in power.

Name Years in Power Title Country/Current Flag
Liu Yongfu 1895  President of the Short Lived Republic of Formosa TaiwanTaiwan
Lee Teng-hui 1988–2000 President of the Republic of China TaiwanTaiwan
Tsai Ing-wen 2016– President of the Republic of China  TaiwanTaiwan
Lee Hsien Loong 2004- Prime Minister of Signapore  Singapore
Ne Win  1974-1981 President of Myanmar  Myanmar
San Yu  1981-1988  President of Myanmar  Myanmar
Khin Nyunt  2003–2004 President of Myanmar  Myanmar
Hendrick Chin A Sen 1980-1982 President of Suriname  Suriname
Thaksin Shinawatra  2001-2006 Prime Minister of Thailand  Thailand
Yingluck Shinawatra 2011-2014 Prime Minister of Thailand  Thailand
Gaston Tong Sang President 2006-2007, 2008-2011 French Polynesia  French Polynesia
Solomon Hochoy Last British Governor, 1960–1962; First non-white Governor in the whole of the British Empire, 1960; First Governor-General, 1962–1972, when Trinidad and Tobago obtained independence in 1962; First Chinese Head of State in a non-Asian country Trinidad and Tobago  Trinidad and Tobago

No Western country has had a Hakka Prime Minister or President but they do have a few Hakka politicians. Here are few. Firsts are noted.

Name Years in Power Title/Significance Country/Current Flag
Penny Wong  2007-2013 First Chinese and first Asian Cabinet Minister  Australia
Tsung Foo Hee  2002-2005 Mayor, Whitehorse, Victoria  Australia
Henry Tsang 1999-2009 Deputy Lord Mayor, Sydney  Australia
Nat Wei 2011  Baron Wei first British-born person of Chinese origin in the House of Lords  United Kingdom
André Thien Ah Koon  1986-2006,1983-2006,2014-2020 First and only Chinese elected to the French National Assembly and the first Chinese elected to a parliament in Europe, 1986-2006; Mayor, Tampon, Reunion Island, 1983-2006, 2014-2020; First Chinese Mayor of Reunion Island and France  France
Varina Tjon-A-Ten 2003-2006 First Chinese elected to the House of Representatives, 2003-2006  Netherlands
Roy Ho Ten Soeng 2000-2006; Mayor, Venhuizen, North Holland,  First immigrant Mayor of Netherlands; First Chinese Mayor of Netherlands and Europe  Netherlands
Yiaway Yeh 2012 First Chinese Mayor of Palo Alto, California  United States

It seems like wherever the Chinese go the Hakka are soon to find themselves in a position of power.  The Hakka have been very successful in this niche.  So we know that other market dominant minorities have a tendency to be not far behind a revolution, is that also true of the Hakka?

“The Hakkas have had a significant influence, disproportionate to their smaller total numbers, on the course of modern Chinese and overseas Chinese history, particularly as a source of revolutionary, political and military leaders.” -La Wik

Revolutionary Leader Born-Died Rebellion Ancestry
Hong Xiuquan 1812-1864 Leader, Taiping Rebellion Meixian, Guangdong
Zheng Shiliang 1863-1901  Huizhou Uprising Huiyang, Guangdong
Deng Zhiyu 1878-1925 Huizhou Uprising Boluo, Guangdong
Hsieh Liang-mu 1884-1931 Huanghuagang Uprising Meixian, Guangdong
Zeng Sheng 1910-1995 Column guerilla force, Hong Kong Huiyang, Guangdong

Check out this page on Wikipedia.  I listed revolutionary leaders but if you take a look at the page there are quite a number of plain members, military leader, and politicians coming out of the Hakka.  They are especially prevalent in the Communist Party of China and the Taiping Rebellion.  Keep in mind the size of the Hakka relative to the size of China.  Nowadays at best their total population including diaspora is 4% of the population of China.

“The Paradox of Hakka Obscurity and High Political Position The Hakka are an impoverished and stigmatized subgroup of Han Chinese whose settlements are scattered from Jiangxi to Sichuan. Socialist revolution meshed well with the Hakka tradition of militant dissent, so that their 3 per cent of the mainland population has been three times more likely than other Han to hold high position. Six of the nine Soviet guerrilla bases were in Hakka territory, while the route of the Long March moved from Hakka village to Hakka village. (Compare Maps 1, 2, 3 and 4.)1 In 1984, half the Standing Committee of the Politburo were Hakka, and the People’s Republic and Singapore both had Hakka leaders, Deng Xiaoping and Lee Kwan Yew, joined by Taiwan’s President Lee Teng-Hui in 1988.” -The Secret History of the Hakkas: The Chinese Revolution as a Hakka Enterprise Mary S. Erbaugh

soviet-bases
-The Secret History of the Hakkas: The Chinese Revolution as a Hakka Enterprise Mary S. Erbaugh
Hakka Language Areas.PNG
-The Secret History of the Hakkas: The Chinese Revolution as a Hakka Enterprise Mary S. Erbaugh

There seems to be a cultural/phenotypic niche for the market dominant minority.  The Hakka are an interesting case study in how completely different genetic populations can produce similar political/cultural results.  Obviously, the Hakka are not identical to other diasporas, but the parallels are worth a thorough investigation.

If you liked Lawrence’s post, take a moment to enjoy his work on Degenerate Trucks (complex adaptive systems) or his Notes on the neural systems of sponges. If you’re looking for your regular dose of EvX, then you should also check out Lawrence’s blog, where I’m the guest.

Weight, Taste, and Politics: A Theory of Republican Over-Indulgence

So I was thinking about taste (flavor) and disgust (emotion.)

As I mentioned about a month ago, 25% of people are “supertasters,” that is, better at tasting than the other 75% of people. Supertasters experience flavors more intensely than ordinary tasters, resulting in a preference for “bland” food (food with too much flavor is “overwhelming” to them.) They also have a more difficult time getting used to new foods.

One of my work acquaintances of many years –we’ll call her Echo–is obese, constantly on a diet, and constantly eats sweets. She knows she should eat vegetables and tries to do so, but finds them bitter and unpleasant, and so the general outcome is as you expect: she doesn’t eat them.

Since I find most vegetables quite tasty, I find this attitude very strange–but I am willing to admit that I may be the one with unusual attitudes toward food.

Echo is also quite conservative.

This got me thinking about vegetarians vs. people who think vegetarians are crazy. Why (aside from novelty of the idea) should vegetarians be liberals? Why aren’t vegetarians just people who happen to really like vegetables?

What if there were something in preference for vegetables themselves that correlated with political ideology?

Certainly we can theorize that “supertaster” => “vegetables taste bitter” => “dislike of vegetables” => “thinks vegetarians are crazy.” (Some supertasters might think meat tastes bad, but anecdotal evidence doesn’t support this; see also Wikipedia, where supertasting is clearly associated with responses to plants:

Any evolutionary advantage to supertasting is unclear. In some environments, heightened taste response, particularly to bitterness, would represent an important advantage in avoiding potentially toxic plant alkaloids. In other environments, increased response to bitterness may have limited the range of palatable foods. …

Although individual food preference for supertasters cannot be typified, documented examples for either lessened preference or consumption include:

Mushrooms? Echo was just complaining about mushrooms.

Let’s talk about disgust. Disgust is an important reaction to things that might infect or poison you, triggering reactions from scrunching up your face to vomiting (ie, expelling the poison.) We process disgust in our amygdalas, and some people appear to have bigger or smaller amygdalas than others, with the result that the folks with more amygdalas feel more disgust.

Humans also route a variety of social situations through their amygdalas, resulting in the feeling of “disgust” in response to things that are not rotten food, like other people’s sexual behaviors, criminals, or particularly unattractive people. People with larger amygdalas also tend to find more human behaviors disgusting, and this disgust correlates with social conservatism.

To what extent are “taste” and “disgust” independent of each other? I don’t know; perhaps they are intimately linked into a single feedback system, where disgust and taste sensitivity cause each other, or perhaps they are relatively independent, so that a few unlucky people are both super-sensitive to taste and easily disgusted.

People who find other people’s behavior disgusting and off-putting may also be people who find flavors overwhelming, prefer bland or sweet foods over bitter ones, think vegetables are icky, vegetarians are crazy, and struggle to stay on diets.

What’s that, you say, I’ve just constructed a just-so story?

Well, this is the part where I go looking for evidence. It turns out that obesity and political orientation do correlate:

Michael Shin and William McCarthy, researchers from UCLA, have found an association between counties with higher levels of support for the 2012 Republican presidential candidate and higher levels of obesity in those counties.

Shin and McCarthy's map of obesity vs. political orientation
Shin and McCarthy’s map of obesity vs. political orientation

Looks like the Mormons and Southern blacks are outliers.

(I don’t really like maps like this for displaying data; I would much prefer a simple graph showing orientation on one axis and obesity on the other, with each county as a datapoint.)

(Unsurprisingly, the first 49 hits I got when searching for correlations between political orientation and obesity were almost all about what other people think of fat people, not what fat people think. This is probably because researchers tend to be skinny people who want to fight “fat phobia” but aren’t actually interested in the opinions of fat people.)

The 15 most caffeinated cities, from I love Coffee
The 15 most caffeinated cities, from I love Coffee–note that Phoenix is #7, not #1.

Disgust also correlates with political belief, but we already knew that.

A not entirely scientific survey also indicates that liberals seem to like vegetables better than conservatives:

  • Liberals are 28 percent more likely than conservatives to eat fresh fruit daily, and 17 percent more likely to eat toast or a bagel in the morning, while conservatives are 20 percent more likely to skip breakfast.
  • Ten percent of liberals surveyed indicated they are vegetarians, compared with 3 percent of conservatives.
  • Liberals are 28 percent more likely than conservatives to enjoy beer, with 60 percent of liberals indicating they like beer.

(See above where Wikipedia noted that supertasters dislike beer.) I will also note that coffee, which supertasters tend to dislike because it is too bitter, is very popular in the ultra-liberal cities of Portland and Seattle, whereas heavily sweetened iced tea is practically the official beverage of the South.

The only remaining question is if supertasters are conservative. That may take some research.

Update: I have not found, to my disappointment, a simple study that just looks at correlation between ideology and supertasting (or nontasting.) However, I have found a couple of useful items.

In Verbal priming and taste sensitivity make moral transgressions gross, Herz writes:

Standard tests of disgust sensitivity, a questionnaire developed for this research assessing different types of moral transgressions (nonvisceral, implied-visceral, visceral) with the terms “angry” and “grossed-out,” and a taste sensitivity test of 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP) were administered to 102 participants. [PROP is commonly used to test for “supertasters.”] Results confirmed past findings that the more sensitive to PROP a participant was the more disgusted they were by visceral, but not moral, disgust elicitors. Importantly, the findings newly revealed that taste sensitivity had no bearing on evaluations of moral transgressions, regardless of their visceral nature, when “angry” was the emotion primed. However, when “grossed-out” was primed for evaluating moral violations, the more intense PROP tasted to a participant the more “grossed-out” they were by all transgressions. Women were generally more disgust sensitive and morally condemning than men, … The present findings support the proposition that moral and visceral disgust do not share a common oral origin, but show that linguistic priming can transform a moral transgression into a viscerally repulsive event and that susceptibility to this priming varies as a function of an individual’s sensitivity to the origins of visceral disgust—bitter taste. [bold mine.]

In other words, supertasters are more easily disgusted, and with verbal priming will transfer that disgust to moral transgressions. (And easily disgusted people tend to be conservatives.)

The Effect of Calorie Information on Consumers’ Food Choice: Sources of Observed Gender Heterogeneity, by Heiman and Lowengart, states:

While previous studies found that inherited taste-blindness to bitter compounds such
as PROP may be a risk factor for obesity, this literature has been hotly disputed
(Keller et al. 2010).

(Always remember, of course, that a great many social-science studies ultimately do not replicate.)

I’ll let you know if I find anything else.

Anthropology Friday: In the Shadow of Man, (5/5)

Today we are finishing our discussion of Jane Goodall’s In the Shadow of Man, featuring the adventures of a family (or several families) of chimpanzees from The Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania.

Eastern chimpanzee female twins 'Golden & Glitter' aged 14 years with their babies 'Gosama' aged 3 months and 'Glama' aged 1 year (Pan troglodytes schweinfurtheii). Gombe National Park, Tanzania. September 2012.
Eastern chimpanzee female twins ‘Golden & Glitter’ aged 14 years with their babies ‘Gosama’ aged 3 months and ‘Glama’ aged 1 year, from Jane’s Blog.

Melissa has a baby:

“As Melissa came down the slope toward our camp she moved on three limbs, supporting the newborn with one hand. Every so often she stopped and seemed to disentangle something from the undergrowth. When she got closer we saw that this was the placenta, still attached to the baby by the umbilical cord. …

“She seemed dazed, her eyes not quite focused, her movements slow and uncertain. When one of the mature males arrived, Melissa, usually so quick to greet another chimp, so anxious to ingratiate herself with her superiors, ignored him completely. … She continued to sit, the baby cuddled between her thighs, her feet crossed under his tiny rump, her arm behind his head. …. The baby’s head fell back on her knees, and Melissa, looking down, stared long at the tiny face.”

Fifi the chimpanzee, image from Jane Goodall's website
Fifi the chimpanzee, image from Jane Goodall’s website

Fifi’s fascination with her little brother, Flint:

“Flo sat down and began to tickle Flint’s neck with small nibbling movements of her worn teeth, and Fifi once again sat close and reached out to make a few grooming movements on Flint’s back. Flo ignored this. Earlier, though, when Flint was not yet two months old, Flo had usually pushed Fifi’s hand away each time she had tried to touch Flint…

“When Flint was three months old… he began to respond when Fifi approached by reaching out to her. Fifi became more and more preoccupied with him. She began to make repeated attempts to pull him away from his mother. …

“When Flint was thirteen weeks old we saw Fifi succeed in pulling him away from his mother. Flo was grooming Figan when Fifi, with infinite caution and many quick glances toward her mother’s face, began to pull at Flint’s foot. Inch by inch she drew the infant toward her–and all at once he was in her arms. Fifi lay on her back and cuddled Flint to her tummy with her arms and legs. She lay very still. …

Flo the chimpanzee, image from Jane Goodall's website
Flo the chimpanzee, image from Jane Goodall’s website

“Flo for the first few moments appeared to take no notice at all. But when Flint, who had possibly never lost contact with his mother’s body, reached around and held his arms toward her, pouting his lips and uttering a soft hoo of distress, Flo instantly gathered him to her breast and bent to kiss his head with her lips. …

“After this, not a day passed without Fifi pulling her infant brother away from Flo. …

“When Flint was very small his two elder brothers, although they sometimes stared at him, paid him little attention.”

Pom and Passion:

“Babies less than five months of age are normally protected by their mothers from all contact with other chimpanzees, except their own siblings. … It was, however, very different for Pom, one of the first female infants born into our group. Her mother, Passion, actually laid the baby on the ground the very first day of her life and allowed two young females to touch and even groom her as she lay there. But then, in all respects, Passion was a somewhat unnatural mother.

“She was no youngster, this Passion… I know she lost one infant before Pom’s birth in 1965. If her treatment of Pom was anything to go by, I suspect Passion had lost other infant, too, for Pom had to fight for her survival right from the start. When she was a mere two months old, she began to ride on her mother’s back–three or four months earlier than other infants. It started when Pom hurt her foot badly. She could not grip properly, and Passion, rather than constantly support her infant with one hand as most mothers wold have done, probably pushed Pom up onto her back. The very first day that Pom adopted this new riding position, Passion hurried for about thirty yards in order to greet a group of adult males, seeming quite without concern for her infant, Pom, clinging frantically, managed to stay aboard–though much older infants, when they tart riding on their mothers’ back, usually slide down if their mothers make sudden movements. …

“Flo, it will be remembered, was very solicitous when Flint was finding his feet, gathering him up if he fell and often supporting him with one hand as he wobbled along. …. Passion was positively callous. One day, precious to which Pom had never been seen to totter on her own more than a two yards, Passion suddenly got up and walked away from her infant. Pom, struggling to follow and falling continually, whimpered louder each time, and finally her mother returned and shoved the infant onto her back. This happened repeatedly. As Pom learned to walk better, Passion did not even bother to return when the infant cried–she just waited for her to catch up by herself.

“… It was not really surprising that, during her second year, when most infants wander about happily quite far away from their mothers, Pom usually sat or played very close to Passion. For months on end she actually held tightly on to Passion with one hand during her games with Flint and Goblin and the other infants. Obviously she was terrified of being left behind.

EvX: Passion, aside from being a terrible mother, was a cannibal. According to Wikipedia:

She, along with her daughter Pom, captured, killed, and ate several newborns at Gombe.[78]

Passion only had three children who made it to adulthood. Of these, two had no surviving children–Pom had one child who died, and then Pom disappeared; Pax lost his testicles in a conflict between other chimps and his mother, and never reproduced. The Wikipedia doesn’t record whether the third child had any children, but compared to Flo, Wilkie, and even Frodo, Passion was clearly not successful. (Though her cannibalism may have ultimately benefited other, more distantly related chimps in her family.)

Childhood:
“Like Human children, chimpanzee children are dependent on their mothers for several years. …

“Just then Flint, six months older than Goblin, came bouncing up and the two children began to play, both showing their lower teeth in the chimpanzee’s playful smile. Flo was reclining nearby grooming Figan; Goblin’s mother, Melissa, was a little farther away, also grooming. It was so peaceful…. All at once a series of pant-hoots announced the arrival of more chimpanzees, and there was instant commotion in the group. Flint pulled away from the game and hurried to jump onto Flo’s back as she moved for safety halfway up a palm tree. I saw Mike with his hair on end beginning to hoot; I knew he was about to display. So did the other chimpanzees of his group–all were alert, prepared to dash out of the way or to join in the displaying. All, that is, save Goblin. He seemed totally unconcerned and, incredibly, began to totter toward Mike. Melissa, squeaking with fear, was hurrying toward her son, but she was too late. Mike began his charge, and as he passed Goblin seized him up as though he were a branch and dragged him along the ground.

“An then the normally fearful, cautious Melissa, frantic for her child, hurled herself at Mike. It was unprecedented behavior, and she got severely beaten up for her interference, but she did succeed in rescuing Goblin–the infant lay, pressed close to the ground and screaming, where the dominant male had dropped him. Even before Mike had ceased his attack on Melissa the old male Huxley had seized Goblin from the ground. I felt sure he too was going to display with the infant, but he remained quite still, holding the child and staring down at him almost, it seemed in bewilderment. Then as Melissa, screaming and bleeding, escaped from Mike, Huxley set the infant on the ground. As his mother hurried up to him Goblin leaped into her arms…

“Normally, small infants are shown almost unlimited tolerance from all other members of the community; it almost seem as though the adult male may lose many of his social inhibitions during his charging display.”

EvX: At another time, when Goblin got lost in some confusion, Mike rescued him and stayed with him until Melissa returned–Mike wasn’t normally aggressive toward the small children in his troop.

Teenagers:

“Although I never saw a juvenile son who was frightened of his mother, as Miff [female] was of Marina, nevertheless the male juvenile normally shows a good deal of respect for his mother.
One day I came across Figan with the freshly killed body of a colobus monkey. He climbed a tree with the tail of the monkey in one hand and the body slung over his shoulder He was closely pursued by Fifi. When he reached a comfortable branch he sat and began eating, and Fifi, who was about three years old at the time, begged persistently. Several times Figan gave he small fragments of meat.
A few minutes later I saw Flo climbing toward Figan. Instantly he slung the carcass over his shoulder and climbed to a higher branch. Flo remained in a low fork, gazing around, not once looking at her son. He relaxed and began feeding again, though constantly he glanced somewhat apprehensively toward his mother. The old female sat there for a full ten minutes. Then, with only a preliminary fleeting glance at Figan, she very slowly climbed slightly higher, looking oh so nonchalant, and sat on the net branch up. …

“When he reached a very high position in the tree Flo could keep up her pretence no longer–without warning she rushed toward him. Figan with a scream leaped down into the foliage and vanished from sight…

“For the most part, these adolescent males, even when they were ten or eleven years old, continued to how respect for their old mothers. If we offered a banana the son usually stood back and waited for his mother to take the fruit. …

“On many occasions a mother will hurry to try to help her adolescent son. Once when Mr. Worzle attacked Faben, who was then about twelve, Flo, with hair on end and Flint clinging to her, rushed toward the scene of strife. As she approached, Faben’s frightened screams turned instantly to angry waa barks and he began to display, standing upright and swaggering from foot to foot. Then mother and son, side by side, charged along the track toward old Mr. Worzle… Mr. Worzle turned and fled. …

“As the adolescent male grows older, he is increasingly likely to hurry to his mother’s aid when she is threatened. …

“In his dealings with the higher-ranking males the adolescent must be cautions, because now, more than when he was a mere juvenile, an act of insubordination tends to bring severe retribution. …”

EvX: Jane notes that the chimps show sign of trying to avoid incest, though they likely have no way of avoiding father/daughter couplings, half-sibling couplings, and similar such cases.

Pestilence rides a white horse:

“Olly’s new baby was four weeks old when he suddenly became ill. … One morning Olly walked slowly into camp supporting him with one hand. Each time she made a sudden moved, he uttered a loud squawk as though in pain, and he was gripping badly. First one hand or foot and then another slipped from Olly’s hair and dangled down. …

“Next morning it was obvious that the baby was very ill. All his four limbs hung limply down and he screamed almost every time his mother took a step. … Olly only moved a few yards at a time, and then, as though worried by the screams of her infant, sat down to cradle him close. When he quieted, she moved again, but he instantly began to call out so that once more she sat to comfort him. After traveling about a hundred yards, which took her just over half an hour, Olly climbed into a tree. Again she carefully arranged her baby’s limp arms and legs on her lap as she sat down. … The baby stopped screaming and, apart from occasionally grooming his head briefly, Olly paid him no further attention.

“When we had been there some fifteen minutes it began to pour, a blinding deluge that almost obscured the chimps from my sight. During the storm, which went on for thirty minutes, the baby must either have died or lost consciousness…

“Olly climbed down the tree with her infant carelessly in one hand, and when she reached the ground she flung the limp body over her shoulder. It was as though she knew he was dead….

“The following day Olly arrived in camp, followed by Gilka, with the corpse of her infant slung over her shoulder. When she sat down the body sometimes dropped heavily to the ground. Occasionally Olly pushed it into her groin as she sat; when she stood she held it by an arm or even a leg. …

“Finally Olly wandered away from camp and she and Gilka, with me following went some way up the opposite mountain slope. Olly seemed dazed; she looked neither left nor right but plodded up the narrow trail through the forest., the body slung over her neck, until she reached a place halfway up the mountainside. Then she sat down.

“The dead infant slumped to the ground beside her, and other than to glance down briefly, Olly ignored it. She just sat staring into space…

“Now, at last, came Gilka’s opportunity to play with her sibling… Carefully she groomed it, and then she even tried to play, pulling one dead hand into the ticklish spot between her collarbone and neck… We had been so glad for Gilka’s sake when old Olly had given birth again–but it looked as if Gilka was always to be ill-fated. … Only then did Olly’s lethargy leave her for a moment. She snatched the body away, and then once more let it fall to the ground. …

“The following afternoon Olly and Gilka arrived in camp without the body. …

“Had we known at the time that Olly’s infant was without doubt the first victim of the terrible paralytic disease that struck our chimpanzee community, I wouldn’t have have followed the family–for at this time my own baby was on the way …

“When we realized that the disease was probably polio, we panicked, for Hugo and I and our research assistant Alice Ford had not received a full course of polio vaccine. … The Pfizer Laboratories in Naiobi generously supplied us with the oral vaccine, and we offered it to the chimps in bananas. …

“I think those few moths were the darkest I have ever lived through: every time a chimp stopped visiting the feeding area, we started to wonder whether we would ever see him again, or worse, if he would reappear hideously crippled. Fifteen chimpanzees in our group were afflicted, of whom six lost their lives… Gilka lost partial use of one hand and Melsa was affected in her neck and shoulders. … Pepe and Faben both appeared after short absences trailing one useless arm. One adolescent male returned, after a long absence, shuffling along in a squatting position and with both arms paralyzed. He could only eat the bits and pieces he was able to reach with his lips, and he was nothing but a skeleton covered with dull, staring hair. We had to shoot him. And thew ere other victims–like fat, bustling J.B., of whom we had all become so fond–who just disappeared, and we could only conjecture about their lonely deaths.

EvX: Old Mr. McGregor also died, the account of which is the saddest part of the book.

“We did not allow any of the chimps to see his dead body, and for a long time it looked as if Humphrey did not realize he would not meet his old friend again. For six months he kept returning to the place where Gregor had spent the last days of his life and would sit on one tree or another staring around, waiting, listening. During this time he seldom joined the other chimps when they left together for a distant valley; he sometimes went a short way with such a group, but within a few hours he usually came back again and sat staring over the valley, waiting, surely to see old Gregor again, listening for the deep, almost braying voice, so similar to his own, that was silenced forever.”

Let us conclude on a more upbeat note (I think I will just skip who killed whom in the Gombe war; you can look it up yourself if you want to know):

David Greybeard and Jane Goodall hold hands, from Jane's blog
David Greybeard and Jane Goodall hold hands, from Jane’s blog

“One day, as I sat near [David Greybeard] at the bank of a tiny trickle of crystal-clear water, I saw a ripe red palm nut lying on the ground. I picked it up and held it out to him on my open palm. He turned his head away. When I moved my hand closer he looked at it, then at me, and then he took the fruit, and at the same time held my hand firmly and gently with his own. As I sat motionless he released my hand, looked down at the nut, and dropped it to the ground.

“At that moment there was no need of any scientific knowledge to understand his communication of reassurance. … It was a reward far beyond my greatest hopes.”

I’m Bloody Tired of the Classism Inherent in the Election

Is the darn thing over yet?

No?

Damn.

American politics are deeply, fundamentally classist.

Those who want to sound high-class (or are) adopt the rhetoric of the liberals. The working class go Republican.

You know what? Screw it, I don’t even want to pull up data on this. If you don’t believe me, go stick your head back in the sand and believe whatever you want. Tell yourself that you despise conservatives because they are Bad People and not because they are Low Class and not Good People Like You. And conservatives can tell themselves that they hate liberals because liberals are Bad People who Hate Americans.

In reality, of course, most people are good people (except for the one who work in HR, who should all be shot–NAHRALT, of course.)

When people hear that I write about “politics” they tend to assume that this means that I enjoy reading/debating about electoral politics. The truth is that I basically hate electoral politics.

Most of what passes for “political debate” is really just tribal signalling. Tribal signaling need not be wise, thoughtful, or factually correct; it need only signal “my tribe is better than your tribe.” I might be able to stand this kind of inanity if I felt comfortably a member of one of the big tribes and basically hated (or had no friends in) the other tribe. Of course, I have to have friends from across the economic system.

Working class and prole whites are convinced that elite whites hate them. Elite whites are convinced that prole whites hate just about everyone. And blacks, Muslims, etc., are probably pretty concerned about proles hating them, too. Family members are voting for the people they think are on their side against those bad people on the other side. Friends are voting for different people whom they think are on their side against those bad people on the other side.

Almost no one I’ve talked to is voting for a particular side because they’ve undertaken a careful study of the particular issues under discussion and decided that one of the candidates has the best policies. How many Democratic voters agree with Hillary’s stance on the Iraq War? How many Republicans agree with Trump’s opinion on the same?

The most vocal Trump supporter I know was talking about how we need to do more for immigrant children coming from Latin America just last year, and has told me that they don’t actually want to see anyone deported. They just hate liberals, and they are voting for Trump to stick it to the liberals.

No matter how I vote, someone gets fucked.

The West has no Idea how to Handle Islam

ETA: more terrorist attacks have happened since I wrote this. I give up on covering them all.

Most of the world’s ethnic groups divide up pretty neatly–if not into countries, then into distinct groups spread across several different countries. Alliances between countries are normally formally announced, so that you know that if you attack, Japan circa 1942, you’re likely to be counter-attacked by Germany. You don’t have to worry, though, about being attacked by China, or random Chinese people living in your own country, because China isn’t Japan, doesn’t have an alliance with Japan, and the Chinese people don’t particularly care what you do to Japan so long as you don’t do it to them. (In fact, the Chinese were pretty pissed at Japan by that point.)

As long as two countries don’t have an alliance, you can normally attack one without worrying about the other.

Islamic identity seems to function somewhat differently (at least in some cases.)

Americans are used to thinking of religion as a set of beliefs, eg, “God made the world in 6 days,” or “Enlightened people move on to a higher plane of existence,” or “You shouldn’t turn on the lights on Saturday.” Religion therefore falls under our philosophical notion of freedom of conscience, enshrined in the First Amendment.

But throughout much of the world, religion functions much more like ethnicity than like belief. Yes, technically people from different religions believe different things, but as a practical matter, the belief that “We are people who follow the true religion and they are people who follow the false religion,” is more important than the specific details of the religions involved.

If you don’t believe me, just ask yourself what were the theological underpinnings of the conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland?

It’s a near meaningless question. Knowing that the Catholics have a Pope and the Protestants don’t because centuries ago because King Henry VIII wanted a divorce tells you nothing useful. You just need to know that Catholics and Protestants see themselves as different groups.

Judaism is the only religion Westerners have much experience with and are used to thinking of as operating like an ethnic group. Most Westerners I’ve discussed the subject with seem vaguely confused about what exactly Judaism is, but they understand pretty well that if you start massacring Jews in your country, you should expect a visit from the Israeli air force.

But Jews are a relatively small group, with only one official country which has clearly articulated alliances with others, so there is not too much confusion on the point.

Recent random terrorist attacks in the West have included a Pakistani couple who opened fire at a Christmas party in an Bernardino, CA; a Moroccan Tunisian man who drove a truck into a crowd of French folks celebrating Bastile Day; and an Afghan teenager who attacked a train full of Germans with an axe.

The US is not at war with Pakistan*, France with Morocco, nor Germany with Afghanistan. Random American, French, and German citizens abroad do not, to my knowledge, make politically motivated mass-attacks on their host countries.

*Or is the US? I know Obama has authorized drone strikes on targets within Pakistan, among other countries. It was easy under Bush II to keep track of America’s military engagements, because they were big, declared, and obvious. Under Obama, we are not exactly at war with Pakistan, but we do sometimes kill people who happen to be living in Pakistan, like Osama Bin Laden. It’s confusing.

At any rate, according to Wikipedia, the Farooks were motivated by the desire to be jihadis and allegiance to ISIL, not Pakistan. Riaz Ahmadzai, the 17 year old Afghan, also appears to have acted on behalf of ISIL (though probably not on ISIL’s instruction,) not Afghanistan’s. Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, the Tunisian armed with a 19-ton truck, also committed his attack on behalf of ISIL, not Tunisia. Fun fact: “A UN report from May 2015 shows that 25,000 “foreign terrorist fighters” from 100 countries have joined “Islamist” groups, many of them working for ISIL or al-Qaeda.[393]

Picture 4

The US, France, Germany, Russia, India, and probably the majority of the world are, in fact, at war with ISIL, which makes it kind of incredible that it still exists–the rest of the world has forgotten how to conduct wars.

You might think that ISIL draws its supporters from the ranks of the super-devout, but the opposite is most likely true:

“I always thought the people most likely to join a terrorist group were the people praying five times a day with a beard and being very pious and going to a radical mosque,” says Usmani, who is Muslim and was born in Pakistan. He came to the U.S. to do his PhD at Florida Institute of Technology.

But what he found is that they are more likely to go from secular to radicalized. They are often educated online — among the 5,000+ YouTube videos from supposed Muslim “scholars.” Technology has enabled an explosion of content that is far from true Islam.*

Now, this is a rotten pickle. It’s bad enough to worry about about Japanese-Americans when you are at war with Japan; it’s another thing entirely to have to worry about anyone whose parents were vaguely Buddhist.

I am particularly saddened by all of this for personal reasons. This isn’t the world I asked for; I certainly don’t want this conflict.

I assume the solution is to actually defeat ISIL instead of pussy-footing around so that it stops being a problem. But look how well that went the last time we tried to take over a country in the Middle East and replace its government with a more favorable regime.

 

*Phrases like “true Islam” annoy me because as far as I know, there is no Islamic “Pope” who gets to decide what is and isn’t “true Islam.” Nevertheless, it remains a constant in my experience that really devout people (of whatever religion) tend to believe more in principles like “love everyone because we are all God’s children,” than moderate religious folks.

 

Why Geneticists get touchy about Epigenetics

Disclaimer: I am not a geneticist. For those of you who are new here, this is basically a genetics fan blog. I am trying to learn about genetics, and you know what?

Genetics is complicated.

I fully admit that here’s a lot of stuff that I don’t know yet, nor fully understand.

Luckily for me, there are a few genetics basics that are easy enough to understand that even a middle school student can master them:

  1. “Evolution” is the theory that species change over time due to some individuals within them being better at getting food, reproducing, etc., than other individuals, and thereby passing on their superior traits to their children.
  2. “Genes,” (or “DNA,”) are the biological code for all life, and the physical mechanism by which traits are passed down from parent to child.
  3. “Mendel squares” work for modeling the inheritance of simple traits
  4. More complicated trait are modeled with more complicated math
  5. Lamarckism doesn’t work.

Lamarck was a naturalist who, in the days before genes were discovered, theorized that creatures could pass on “acquired” characteristics. For example, an animal with a relatively normal neck in an area with tall trees might stretch its neck in order to reach the tastiest leaves, and then pass on this longer-neck to its children, who would also stretch their necks and then pass on the trait to their children, until you get giraffes.

A fellow with similar ideas, Lysenko, was a Soviet Scientist who thought he could make strains of cold-tolerant wheat simply by exposing wheat kernels to the cold.

We have the luxury of thinking that Lysenko’s ideas sound silly. The Soviet peasants had to actually try to grow his wheat, and scientists who pointed out that this was nonsense got sent to the gulag.

The problem with Lamarckism is that it doesn’t work. You can’t make wheat grow in Antarctica by sticking it in your freezer for a few months and animals don’t have taller babies just because you stretch their necks.

So what does this have to do with epigenetics?

Pop science articles talk about epigenetics as if it were Lamarckism. Through the magic of epigenetic markers, acquired traits can supposedly be passed down to one’s children and grandchildren, infinitely.

Actual epigenetics, as scientists actually study it, is a real and interesting field. But the effects of epigenetic changes are not so large and permanent as to substantially change most of the way we model genetic inheritance.

Why?

Epigenetics is, in essence, part of how you learn. Suppose you play a disturbing noise every time a mouse smells cherries. Pretty soon, the mouse would learn to associate “fear” and “cherry smell,” and according to Wikipedia, this gets encoded at the epigenetic level. Great, the mouse has learned to be afraid of cherries.

If these epigenetic traits get passed on to the mouse’s children–I am not convinced this is possible but let’s assume it is–then those children can inherit their mother’s fear of cherries.

This is pretty neat, but people take it too far when they assume that as a result, the mouse’s fear will persist over many generations, and that you have essentially just bred a new, cherry-fearing strain of mice.

You, see, you learn new things all the time. So do mice. Your epigenetics therefore keep changing throughout your life. The older you are, the more your epigenetics have changed since you were born. This is why even identical twins differ in small ways from each other. Sooner or later, the young mice will figure out that there isn’t actually any reason to be afraid of cherries, and they’ll stop being afraid.

If people were actually the multi-generational heirs of their ancestors’ trauma, pretty much everyone in the world would be affected, because we all have at least one ancestor who endured some kind of horrors in their life. The entire continent of Europe should be a PTSD basket case due to WWI, WWII, and the Depression.

Thankfully, this is not what we see.

Epigenetics has some real and very interesting effects, but it’s not Lamarckism 2.0.

Anthropology Friday: In the Shadow of Man, (4/5)

jane-van-lawick-goodall-in-the-shadow-of-man-book-coverHello! Today we are continuing with our discussion of Jane Goodall’s In the Shadow of Man, featuring the adventures of a family (or several families) of chimpanzees from The Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania. Today’s focus is on social structure.

Social status:

“I began to suspect that Goliath might be the highest-ranking male chimpanzee in the area–and later I found that this was in reality the case. If William and Goliath started to move toward the same banana at the same time, it was William who gave way and Goliath who took the fruit. If Goliath met another adult male along a narrow forest track, he continued–the other stepped aside. Goliath was nearly always the first to be greeted when a newcomer climbed into a fig tree to join a feeding group of chimpanzees. One day I actually saw him driving another chimp from her nest to take it for himself. …

William, with his long scarred upper lip and drooping lower lip, was one of the more subordinate males in his relationships with other chimpanzees. If another adult male made signs of aggression toward him, William was quick to approach with gestures of appeasement and submission, reaching out to lay his hands on the other, crouching with soft panting grunts in front of the higher-ranking individuals. … When I offered him a banana in my hand for the first time, he stared at it for several moments, gently shook a branch in his frustration, and then sat uttering soft whimpering sounds until I relented and put the fruit on the ground. …

Flo the chimpanzee, image from Jane Goodall's website
Flo the chimpanzee, image from Jane Goodall’s website

“Even in those days, Flo looked very old. … We soon found out that her character by no means matched her appearance: she was aggressive, tough as nails, and easily the most dominant of all the females at that time.

“Flo’s personality will become more vivid if I contrast it with that of another old female, Olly … was remarkably different. Flo for the most part was relaxed in her relations with the adult males; often I saw her grooming in a close group with with two or three males out in the forest, and in camp she showed no hesitation in joining David or Goliath to beg for a share of cardboard or bananas. Olly, on the other hand, was tense and nervous in her relations with others of her kind. She was particularly apprehensive when in close proximity to adult males, and her hoarse, frenzied pant-grunts rose to near hysteria if high-ranking Goliath approached her. …

“Olly tended to avoid large groups of chimps and often wandered around with only her two year old daughter Gilka for company.

EvX: Gilka eventually became so lonely and isolated that she made friends with a baboon:

“One day when Gilka was again waiting while Olly fished for termites, I heard a baboon bark further down the valley. At the sound Gilka’s whole attitude underwent and immediate change. [from her previously depresesed state.] …

“A moment later I saw Gilka move out from the trees, and at almost the same time a small baboon detached itself from the troop and cantered toward her. … the two ran up to each other, and for a moment I saw their faces very close together. Each had one arm around the other. The next moment they were playing, wrestling, and patting each other. Goblina went around behind Gilka and, reaching forward, seemed to tickle the chimpanzee in the ribs. Gilka, leaning back, pushed at Goblina’s hands, her mouth open in a wide smile. …

“I watched Gilka and Goblina playing for ten minutes, and all the time they were amazingly gentle. Then the baboon troop started to move on and Goblina scampered after it.”

EvX: Olly may have been avoiding other chimps because she was lower status, and being around people of higher status than oneself is often unpleasant.

“Often, too, Olly and Flo traveled about together in the forests, and all four children were playmates of long standing. For the most part, the relationship between Olly and Flo was peaceful enough, but if there was a single banana lying on the ground between them the relative social status of each was made clear: Flo had only to put a few of her moth-eaten hairs on end for Olly to retreat, pant-grunting and grinning in submission. …

Fifi the chimpanzee, image from Jane Goodall's website
Fifi the chimpanzee, image from Jane Goodall’s website

“The adult females of the chimpanzee community are almost always submissive to the adult males, and and to many of the older adolescent males. But they have their own dominance hierarchy, of which Flo was for many years supreme. … Flo was exceptionally aggressive toward her own sex, and she would tolerate no insubordination from young adolescent males. Much of her confidence no doubt resulted from the fact that he was so often accompanied by her two eldest sons,and with the aggressive Fifi as well, the family was formidable indeed.”

EvX: Flo and Olly once they teamed up and literally beat the shit out of a strange female who had ventured into their territory. Perhaps not coincidentally, Flo was the most sexually popular female in the group.

As Jane observed the chimps over the decades, most of them received names that started with the same letter as their mothers. (It is usually difficult to know which chimp was an infant’s father.) So Flo is the matriarch of the “F-family.” According to Wikipedia:

The F-family has produced at least four alpha males for the community, and the matriarch, Flo, played a particularly important role in acknowledging Dr Goodall’s acceptance as a human observer by the community. The G-family has produced at least one alpha male, and also the birth of several twins, which are rare among chimpanzees. There are other families as well which include the T-family and S-family (which has produced one alpha male).

In other words, Flo’s children and grandchildren did very well for themselves. If you were a male chimp in the Gombe, you would want to mate with Flo.

Frodo the chimpanzee, image also from Jane's website
Frodo the chimpanzee, image also from Jane’s website

The Wikipedia also tells us about the lives of some of the chimps born after the book ends, such as Frodo, Flo’s grandson:

Frodo (June 30, 1976 – November 10, 2013) was Fifi’s second oldest son.[39] His father was the relatively low-ranking male Sherry. Even from a young age, Frodo was large and aggressive. He learned to throw rocks as a juvenile, sometimes throwing them at and hitting and bruising his human observers.[40] As an adult, he was one of the largest chimpanzees ever observed in the community, at about 113 pounds (51 kg) and remained aggressive.[37][39] He also became an excellent hunter of red colobus monkeys, and was also able to intimidate other chimpanzees into sharing their kills with him if he was unsuccessful.[22][41] His large size and aggressive nature allowed him to attain high status…

As alpha male, Frodo maintained his position largely through intimidation.[22][37][41] He rarely groomed other males, and often demanded that other males groom him.[22][37][41] Frodo maintained his alpha position until becoming ill himself in 2002.[22][33][41][42] He was then defeated by a coalition of several males and spent most of the next two years on his own recovering from his wounds and illness.[22][33][41][42]

Frodo’s aggression was not limited to Colobus monkeys and other chimpanzees. In May 2002, he killed a 14-month-old human baby that the niece of a member of the research team had carried into his territory.[43] … In 1988, he attacked cartoonist Gary Larson, leaving him bruised and scratched.[43] In 1989, he attacked Goodall, beating her head to the point of nearly breaking her neck.[43]

Frodo fathered at least eight infants, second most of any group male (Wilkie fathered ten).

Perhaps if Frodo’s father had been high-status, he could have solidified his position via grooming and social coalition rather than violence, and thus perhaps avoided being violently deposed.

The entry on Wilkie notes his very different approach to dominance:

In 1989 Wilkie defeated Goblin and attained the alpha position.[53] Wilkie, attained this position despite being one of the smallest males in the community, at 37 kilograms (82 lb).[85] According to researchers at the University of Minnesota‘s Jane Goodall Institute Center for Primate Studies, Wilkie attained his position primarily by becoming popular by obsessively grooming other males.[79][85] Unlike most males, Wilkie also groomed females.[85] Wilkie also made effective use of charging displays.[79]

Mike’s rise:

“Mike‘s rise to the number-one spot in the chimpanzee hierarchy was both interesting and spectacular. In 1963, Mike had ranked almost bottom in the adult male dominance hierarchy. He… had been threatened and actually attacked by almost every other adult male. …

“A group of five adult males, including to-ranking Goliath, David Graybeard, and the huge Rodolf, were grooming each other. The session had been going on for some twenty minutes. Mike was sitting about thirty yards apart from them, frequently staring toward the group, occasionally idly grooming himself.

“All at once, Mike calmly walked over to our tent and picked up an empty kerosene can by the handle. Then he picked up a second can and, walking upright, returned to the place where he had been sitting. … After a few minutes he began to rock from side to side. … his hair slowly began to stand erect, and then, softly at first, he began a series of pant-hoots. … suddenly he was off, charging toward the group of males, hitting the two cans ahead of him. The cans, along with Mike’s crescendo of hooting, made the most appaling racket: no wonder the erstwhile peaceful males rushed out of the way. …

“Mike set off again, but he made straight for Goliath–and even he hastened out of the way like the others. Then mike stopped and sat, all his hair on end, breathing hard. …

“Rodolf was the first of the males to approach Mike, uttering soft pant-grunts of submission, crouching low and pressing his lips to Mike’s thigh. Next he began to groom Mike. … Finally David Greybeard went over to Mike, laid one hand on his groin, and joined in the grooming. Only Goliath kept away, sitting alone and staring toward Mike.”

EvX: So Mike becomes dominant.

“… it was fully another year before Mike seemed to feel quite secure in his position. He continued to display very frequently and vigorously, and lower-ranking chimps had increasing reason to fear him, since often he would attack a female or youngster viciously at the slightest provocation.”

The observance of human customs:

“Christmas that year at the Gombe Stream was a day to remember. I bought an extra large supply of bananas and put them around a small tree I had decorated with silver paper and absorbent cotton. Goliath and William arrived together on Christmas morning and gave loud screams of excitement when they saw the huge pile of fruit. They flung their arms around one another and Goliath kept patting William on his wide open screaming mouth while William laid one arm over Goliath’s back. Finally they calmed down and began their feast, still uttering small squeaks and grunts of pleasure.”

Friendship:

“Firm friendships, like that between Goliath and David Graybeard, seem to be particularly prevalent among male chimpanzees. Mike and the irascible, testy old J.B. traveled about in the same group very frequently. … The only two adult females we know of who enjoyed this kind of friendship were almost certainly sisters.”

EvX: J.B. uses his relationship with newly ascended Mike to raise his own social status and get more bananas.

Illness and Death:

“Shortly after Christmas, I had to leave the Gombe stream myself for another term at Cambridge. My last two weeks were sad, for William fell ill. … When he climbed down in the morning I saw that every few moments his body shook with violent spasms of shivering. … One morning, two days before I had to leave, William stole a blanket from Dominic’s tent. [Dominic was the camp cook.] He had been sitting chewing on it for a while when David Greybeard arrived and, after eating some bananas, joined William at the blanket. For half an hour or so the two sat peacefully side by side, each sucking noisily and contentedly on different corners. Then William, like the clown he so often appeared to be, put part of the blanket right over his head and made groping movements with his hands as he tried to touch David from within the strange darkness he had created. … Presently the two wandered off into the forest together, leaving me with the echo of a dry, hacking cough and the blanket lying on the ground. I never saw William again. …

To be continued…

 

 

LoL at “anti-racists” who move to all white neighborhoods “for the schools”

“Blacks are great!” they proclaim. “I just don’t want my kids to ever interact with one.”

Today we’re talking about school myths:

1. The schools are failing.

“The schools are failing” is a political talking point, a scare tactic designed to drum up votes. It bears little relation to reality.

If you are reading this, then chances are someone taught you to read, and that person was probably a public school teacher.

People come from all over the world to study at American universities; few Americans scatter abroad to study at other countries’ universities.

Our economy has, for the past century or so, been among the most advanced in the world. We’ve created or contributed significantly to the development of cars, airplanes, atomic bombs, computers, vaccines, etc. Oh, and we PUT A MAN ON THE MOON.

And everyone who worked on space program (immigrants excluded) started attending US schools back around 1910-1940. (I suspect our schools have gotten better since then.)

People make a big deal out of US students not scoring #1 in the world in international-comparison tests. What of it? There are lots of countries with smart people in them, and we can’t all be first.

But even granting this, the reports of American under-performance are massively overstated. Let’s compare the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) reading scores for the US and 64 other countries (graph thanks to Steve Sailer, who spent two days combing through PISA data to make it):

121910_ss001cCounting only countries that are actually countries (ie not Shanghai,) the US comes in #14. We scored better than 24 European countries, and significantly better than all of the Muslim, Latin American, and “other” countries in the data set.

“Above average among first world countries,” is a perfectly respectable place for a first world school system.

But you may have noticed the red bars in our graph. Yes, the US data is broken down by race, because the US is a significantly more diverse country than, say, Finland. Or Japan.

Asian Americans outscore Asians in Korea, Japan, Singapore, and Hong Kong. (and Taipei and Macao.) The only people on earth who are scoring better than our Asians are Shanghai’s Asians.

European Americans outscore Japan and every European country but Finland.

Latino Americans outscore every single Latino country in the dataset.

No African countries are represented in the dataset (though I hear Trinidad is half black,) probably due to the severe poverty of African countries. Nevertheless, just as African Americans outscore Trinidadians, I am confident that they would also outscore continental Africans were they concluded–there’s a pretty clear correlation here between development level and PISA scores.

121910_ss002In other words, whenever someone says, “American schools are failing,” what they really mean is “American blacks and Hispanics score worse than Europeans.”

Can we do better for our blacks and Hispanics? Perhaps, but any set of reforms that start out based on the notion that “the schools are failing” is highly unlikely to solve the problem of “blacks score worse than whites.”

2. We don’t spend enough on education.
derugy-column-chart1

(With thanks to reason.com for the charts.)
3. But we’d do even better if we spent more.
derugy-column-chart2

4. Inner-city schools are underfunded.
Picture 13

From the National Center for Education Statistics report, Disparities in Public School District Spending, way back in the dark days of 1995.

“Actual” in this graph means what it sounds like: the actual amount of money districts spent per student.

“Multivariate Cost- and Need-Adjusted” controls for factors like the number of ESL and special ed. students in a district, (who are counted as multiple students because they cost more to educate;) local cost-of-educating differences, (eg, land for building a school on is more expensive in urban districts than rural ones;) and SES, (so that poor blacks are compared to equally poor whites.)

The authors summarize their findings:

More money is spent in districts with the highest percentages of minority students compared to districts with the lowest percentages of minority students ($4,514 versus $3,920). Although minority students in poverty are often viewed as those least served by current systems of public education funding, these findings suggest that while inequalities may remain for students in poverty, they do not appear to be driven by minority status. …

The distribution of public education resources is substantially more nearly equal than wealth measured by housing values, and somewhat less varied than wealth measured by household income.

State public education allocation systems are the primary equalizing factors of education resources, with some additional equalization resulting from the various federal funding programs. …

When socioeconomic status is measured by cost-adjusted median household income, however, and all other factors are held constant, the expenditures per student between the highest and lowest income groups differ by only $186 ($4,382 versus $4,196). …

Controlling for other school district characteristics, only school districts in the category with the fewest children in poverty spend substantially more per student.

But this is all very abstract. Let’s get a little more specific, with the Kansas City, Missouri (yes there is a “Kansas City” in Missouri,) inner-city school district:

To improve the education of black students and encourage desegregation, a federal judge invited the Kansas City, Missouri, School District to come up with a cost-is-no-object educational plan and ordered local and state taxpayers to find the money to pay for it.

Kansas City spent as much as $11,700 per pupil–more money per pupil, on a cost of living adjusted basis, than any other of the 280 largest districts in the country. The money bought higher teachers’ salaries, 15 new schools, and such amenities as an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an underwater viewing room, television and animation studios, a robotics lab, a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary, a zoo, a model United Nations with simultaneous translation capability, and field trips to Mexico and Senegal. The student-teacher ratio was 12 or 13 to 1, the lowest of any major school district in the country.

The results were dismal. Test scores did not rise; the black-white gap did not diminish; and there was less, not greater, integration.

The project ran from roughly 1985 through 1997. The article gives more details on everything they tried:

Once Clark decided for the plaintiffs, he didn’t ask them to do things on the cheap. When it came time to fill in the plan’s specifics, he invited them to “dream”(15)–to use their imaginations, push the envelope, try anything that would both achieve integration and raise student scores. The idea was that Kansas City would be a demonstration project in which the best and most modern educational thinking would for once be combined with the judicial will and the financial resources to do the job right. No longer would children go to schools with broken toilets, leaky roofs, tattered books, and inadequate curricula. The schools would use the most modern teaching techniques; have the best facilities and the most motivated teachers; and, on top of everything else, be thoroughly integrated, too. Kansas City would show what could be done if a school district had both the money and the will. …

By the time he recused himself from the case in March 1997, Clark had approved dozens of increases, bringing the total cost of the plan to over $2 billion–$1.5 billion from the state and $600 million from the school district (largely from increased property taxes).

With that money, the district built 15 new schools and renovated 54 others. Included were nearly five dozen magnet schools, which concentrated on such things as computer science, foreign languages, environmental science, and classical Greek athletics. Those schools featured such amenities as an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an underwater viewing room; a robotics lab; professional quality recording, television, and animation studios; theaters; a planetarium; an arboretum, a zoo, and a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary; a two-floor library, art gallery, and film studio; a mock court with a judge’s chamber and jury deliberation room; and a model United Nations with simultaneous translation capability.

To entice white students to come to Kansas City, the district had set aside $900,000 for advertising, including TV ads, brochures, and videocassettes. If a suburban student needed a ride, Kansas City had a special $6.4 million transportation budget for busing. If the student didn’t live on a bus route, the district would send a taxi. Once the students got to Kansas City, they could take courses in garment design, ceramics, and Suzuki violin. The computer magnet at Central High had 900 interconnected computers, one for every student in the school. In the performing arts school, students studied ballet, drama, and theater production. …

For students in the classical Greek athletic program, there were weight rooms, racquetball courts, and a six-lane indoor running track better than those found in many colleges. The high school fencing team, coached by the former Soviet Olympic fencing coach, took field trips to Senegal and Mexico.(18)

The ratio of students to instructional staff was 12 or 13 to 1, the lowest of any major school district in the country.(19) There was $25,000 worth of beads, blocks, cubes, weights, balls, flags, and other manipulatives in every Montessori-style elementary school classroom. Younger children took midday naps listening to everything from chamber music to “Songs of the Humpback Whale.” For working parents the district provided all-day kindergarten for youngsters and before- and after-school programs for older students.

Now you know why my parents thought it was a great idea to send me to a ghetto school. One year was more than enough.

It was more than the district could handle. District expenditures took quantum leaps from $125 million in fiscal year 1985 to $233 million in FY88 to $432 million in FY92.(21) There were too much largesse, too many resources, and too little security. A woman in the Finance Department went to jail for writing checks to her own account. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment and supplies were lost to “rampant theft” every year.(22)

Perhaps the worst problem for what one school board president called the district’s “modestly qualified” administrators was the sheer volume of paperwork.(24) When the judge started building schools and inviting school principals to order whatever they wanted, purchase orders flooded into the central administrative office at the rate of 12,000 a month. Clerks were overwhelmed, devastated, and too ashamed to admit they couldn’t handle the crush. The system just collapsed.(25)

In other words, ghetto districts with falling-apart schools get that way because they have incompetent ghetto administrators who take the money for themselves instead of investing it in school maintenance. Giving them more money does not suddenly make them realize that stealing from little kids is immoral; it just means they steal more money.

And the honest ones among them were too dumb to run a school district to start with.

To outsiders, it appeared that the KCMSD had gone on a spending binge. At $400 million, Kansas City’s school budget was two to three times the size of those of similar districts elsewhere in the country. The Springfield, Missouri, school district, for instance, had 25,000 students, making it two-thirds as big as the KCMSD. Yet Springfield’s budget ($101 million) was only one-quarter to one-third the size of Kansas City’s ($432 million at its peak).(27)

Everything cost more in Kansas City.(28) Whereas nearby districts were routinely building 500-student elementary schools for around $3 million, in Kansas City comparably sized schools cost $5 million to $6 million. Whereas the nearby Blue Valley district built a 1,600-student high school at a cost of $20.5 million, including furniture and equipment, in Kansas City the 1,200-student Central High cost $33 million (it came with a field house larger than those of many colleges, ubiquitous computers, and an Olympic-sized swimming pool).(29) …

With some 600 employees for a district of 36,000 students, the KCMSD had a central administration that was three to five times larger than the administrations of other comparably sized public school districts. It was also 150 times larger than the administration of the city’s Catholic school system, in which four people–one superintendent, two assistant superintendents, and a part-time marketing manager–ran a school district of 14,000 students.(32) The KCMSD was so top-heavy that a 1991 audit discovered that 54 percent of the district’s budget never made it to the classroom; rather, it was used for food service, transportation, and, most of all, central administration.(33)

…44 percent of the entire state budget for elementary and secondary education was going to just the 9 percent of the state’s students who lived in Kansas City and St. Louis.(34)

So how did the schools do? Did test scores go up?

But despite a $900,000 television advertising budget and a $6.4 million special budget for door-to-door transportation of suburban students, the district did not attract the 5,000 to 10,000 white suburban students the designers of the desegregation plan had envisioned. The largest number it ever enrolled was 1,500, and most white students returned to their old suburban schools or to local private schools after one year … By the 1996-97 school year, only 387 suburban students were still attending school in the KCMSD.(71) … the cost of attracting those suburban students was half a million dollars per year per child.

Genuine question: Why even bother trying to attract white students? Why not just focus on making a great, outstanding school for the black kids? There is nothing special about sitting next to a white kid in class that makes black kids suddenly get better test scores. We don’t exude magic education rays. The best you can hope for is either 1. The districts’ test scores go up because they now have more high-scoring white students, which seems rather beside the point if your goal is to help black kids get better test scores, or 2. The white students help the black kids with their schoolwork, in which case the district is exploiting children as unpaid teachers.

And having been one of those kids exploited as unpaid teachers, my opinion of that is best expressed in all caps cursing. Children are not teachers; making one kid teach their peers results in their peers hating them and increased bullying and violence toward the kid.

Don’t make little kids do your job for you just because you can’t.

Continuing on:

Year after year the test scores would come out, the achievement levels would be no higher than before, and the black-white gap (one-half a standard deviation on a standard bell curve) would be no smaller.(81) Although the initial gap was small, by the 12th grade, blacks’ scores on standardized tests were about three years behind those of whites (10.1 vs. 13.1).(82) At Central High School, which tended to attract suburban white computer hackers, white males were five years ahead of black males on standardized tests.(83) … 

The average black student’s reading skills increased by only 1.1 grade equivalents in four years of high school.(89) At Central High, complained Clark, black males were actually scoring no higher on standardized tests when they graduated as seniors than they had when they enrolled as freshmen four years before.(90)

In perhaps the biggest surprise, Armor’s studies found that black elementary students who go to magnet schools (which have the highest percentages of whites) score no better on standardized tests than do blacks who go to all-black nonmagnet schools.(97) In short, Armor found that, contrary to the notion on which the whole desegregation plan was founded–that going to school with middle-class whites would increase blacks’ achievement–the Kansas City experiment showed that “integration has no effect.”(98) …

Finally, the district had discovered that it was easier to meet the court’s 60/40 integration ratio by letting black students drop out than by convincing white students to move in. As a result, nothing was done in the early days of the desegregation plan about the district’s appalling high school dropout rate, which averaged about 56 percent in the early 1990s (when desegregation pressures were most intense) and went as high as 71 percent at some schools (for black males it was higher still).(109)…

Although Kansas City did increase teacher pay a total of 40 percent to an average of about $37,000 (maximum was $49,008 per year for Ph.D.s with 20 years experience), test scores for the district were consistently below state and national averages.(121) Parochial school teachers, in contrast, earned an average of $24,423, but their students’ test scores were consistently above state and national averages.(122)

In fact, the supposedly straightforward correspondence between student achievement and money spent, which educators had been insisting on for decades, didn’t seem to exist in the KCMSD. At the peak of spending in 1991-92, Kansas City was shelling out over $11,700 per student per year.(123) For the 1996-97 school year, the district’s cost per student was $9,407, an amount larger, on a cost-of-living-adjusted basis, than any of the country’s 280 largest school districts spent.(124) Missouri’s average cost per pupil, in contrast, was about $5,132 (excluding transportation and construction), and the per pupil cost in the Kansas City parochial system was a mere $2,884.(125)

Oh, does anyone remember that time Zuckerberg gave the Newark School District 100 million dollars in 2010, and it completely disappeared and did absolutely nothing?

As for the district schools forced — or incentivized — to compete with charters, those involved with the Newark effort point to green shoots of change. Graduation rates are up. More higher- rated teachers are staying than lower- performing ones. Still, on state tests of third- to eighth-graders, math and reading proficiency went down in all six grades between 2011 and 2014.

5. The teachers are incompetent.

This seems to be the conservatives’ favorite response to cases like Newark and Kansas City. Oh, if only we could just fire all of the teachers and replace them with different teachers, then test scores would go up! And we need some kind of standardized, “Common Core” taught in all of the schools so that incompetent teachers can’t get away with not teaching their students!

I find this attitude really hostile to teachers, the vast majority of whom are genuinely hard working and dedicated folks. I’ve attended plenty of schools, had a wide variety of teachers, and all of them did a perfectly good job of teaching. (I did have a couple I didn’t like personally, but I still learned from them.) Student performance has a lot more to do with the students than with the teachers:

In summary: teacher quality probably explains 10% of the variation in same-year test scores. A +1 SD better teacher might cause a +0.1 SD year-on-year improvement in test scores. This decays quickly with time and is probably disappears entirely after four or five years, though there may also be small lingering effects.

If teacher quality explains 10% of the variation, then student quality (and random chance) explain 90% of the variation.

Some kids, when you hand them a standardized test, take one look at it and say, “NOPE.” Young boys, in particular, do not seem well suited to sitting still for long hours every day doing worksheets, reading books, or taking tests. Young girls, by contrast, are much better at simply being still and concentrating.

This is not the teachers’ fault.

Some kids get substantially more help at home than other kids. Homework help, tutoring help, breakfast, lead levels in their environment, etc. Regardless of what these things do to long-term outcomes, they certainly make a short-term difference on standardized tests in fourth grade.

This is not the teachers’ fault.

And some kids are just plain smarter or harder working than other kids.

This is also not the teachers’ fault.

I’m sure there are bad teachers; there may be significant impediments to firing them. But they are not some sort of massive, nation-wide problem that requires us to pour millions of dollars into dictating the curriculum, (which, ironically, prevents them from teaching “above grade level” material to students who would benefit from it,) and scrutinizing their every move like some sort of educational panopticon.

Remember, teachers back in 1910-1930 managed to educate their students well enough that they sent a man to the moon.

What about these findings of long-term financial gains from having a superior kindergarten teacher, or having three great teachers in a row vs. having three terrible teachers in a row?

I’m going with data is confounded all to hell.

Well-off parents buy outrageously expensive houses in all-white districts in order to send their kids to schools with other whites (and Asians.) “For the test scores,” of course. Since teacher quality is determined by test scores, which is in turn determined by the intelligence of the other kids in the class (or at least how much they’ve crammed for the test,) all this is telling us is that slightly dumb rich kids do well financially later in life because they come from well-off families.

The only kids who are enduring three of the worst teachers in a row are the absolute poorest kid whose parents either don’t give a shit about their educations or have zero ability to get them transferred to a different school or classroom. And after three years of bad teachers, I bet I’d stop bothering to fill out the standardized tests, either, and would just spend the time doodling dragons all over the paper. That kids with zero educational support and extremely impoverished backgrounds end up doing badly in life really shouldn’t surprise us.

But because we are talking about having three particularly good or bad teachers in a row, only 1/125 students fall into either category. The vast majority of students–over 99%–get a variety of different teachers, and most teachers are decent.

Could bad teachers be concentrated in ghetto school districts? Perhaps they are–though remember, these districts are still paying their teachers more than the average Catholic school, so I doubt teacher pay is really the problem. And I’ve yet to hear anyone espouse an explanation for why ghetto schools supposedly attract bad teachers besides “bad pay.”

To be clear: we’ve denigrated and cast all teachers under suspicion and greatly interfered with their ability to run their classrooms all because teachers in the ghettos can’t raise their students’ test scores.

If a particular teacher is a real problem, let the parents of the students in that teacher’s class present their troubles to the school board and let the board make a determination.

6. SAT scores are just a product of your parents’ income.

SAT scores by race and parental income
SAT scores by race and parental income

Sorry the graph is small. The Y axis is SAT scores and the X axis is parental income.

The top line, dark orange, is Asian math scores. Dark blue = white math. Light blue = white verbal. Dark red = Mexican math. Black = black math. Light orange = Asian verbal. Pink = Mexican verbal. Grey = black verbal.

The richest black kids in the country have worse math scores than the poorest whites and Asians. The richest Mexicans have math scores on par with the poorest Asians and only slightly above working class whites. On verbal scores, blacks at all income levels score worse than their similarly-monied peers for whom English is most likely a second language.

And as we’ve already seen district funding doesn’t actually vary that much with parental income. Rich people do indeed pay for more tutoring and better teachers for their kids, but this is heavily confounded by the fact that smart people tend to go to college, get degrees, go into high-paying professions, and then have kids who are also pretty smart, while dumb people drop out of highschool, get shitty jobs, make very little money, and end up with kids who are similarly dumb.

7. More education will jump-start the economy and solve all woes.

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