Why we shouldn’t fear the (Muslim) fanatic (in the Muslim world)

Harris, L. 2007. Why we fear ‘fanatic': The lesson of the red mosque. TCS Daily. July 12, 2007. Available online: http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=071207A (emailed in my Michael DeWitt of Spooky Action).

Joseph Goebbels was proud of being a fanatic. To him, fanaticism was a term of praise, and not abuse. The Hebrew Zealots looked with contempt on those who were unwilling either to die or to slaughter their own families. In the culture of the modern West, however, to call someone a fanatic is to insult, and not commend, him. Yet, as the incident at the Red Mosque makes clear, our own attitude toward fanaticism is simply an example of ethnocentricism. By refusing to use the word fanatic to describe Ghazi and his followers, we are approaching them through the standards and practices that are observed in our culture, but not in theirs.

Indeed. “Extremism in defense of liberty….

At the Boyd Conference, William Lind made the good point that the Arab world has been in a cycle of corruption-internal reform movement-revolutionary-corruption. By supporting corrupt states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, we interrupted this cycle, between the generation of the internal reform movement (primarily the Muslim Brothers) and the revolution which would bring on either their corruption… or possibly a way out of the cycle. Assuming the old governments of the Middle East have our, or their own people’s, best interest at heart is foolish.

As I’ve said before, Islam is the answer. The governments of the Muslim world are the problem.

Of course, not all of Lind’s points were so flattering or helpful

Of Fabrication and Testing

JR of Edgewise sends in “Counterinsurgents Should Consider A ‘Fabrication Cell‘” from SWJ Blog. Another idea, given to me by Isaac at the Boyd Conference, is that we should begin testing, in realistic environments, devices that can be used in counterinsurgency. Some devices to test would be obvious: everything from $100 laptops to anti-IED tools can be used to build connectivity and defense the military.

What else should be tested? What novel devices should we use in counterinsurgency?

MyCalls.net: A good wake-up call service

I was nervous about waking up on time for the Boyd conference (to go early and hitch a ride at Mark I needed to be up at 4 o’clock real time). Catholicgauze programmed his cell phone’s alarm for me, but I built in redundancy by also spending two bucks to get a wake-up call from mycalls.net. Sure enough, at 5 eastern CG’s phone started buzzing and MyCalls started ringing. Thanks, My Calls!

(Of course, my new pants ripped shortly thereafter. Heh.)

Japan helps reduce the cost of Information Connectivity

Props to Japan for being the first country in asia to adopt the OpenDocumentFormat. Part of globalization is work on building global public goods, that everyone can benefit from. The OpenDocument format is an example of such a good, because more people will be able to access government information and services without paying rents to Microsoft.

Good show!

Evolutionary Psychology and Behavioral Genetics

Dr. Miller’s and Dr. Kanazawa’s Ten politically incorrect truths about human nature is everywhere these days. I discussed it over coffee with Daniel Nexon (of The Duck), Sean Meade (of Interact) emailed it to me, and it has appeared both on Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog and South Dakota Politics. Like evolutionary psychology (of which this article is a manifestation), it is useful in that it helps smash the Standard Social Science Model, but incomplete in that it does not fully embrace social sciences.

The Standard Social Sciences Model (SSSM) is the overall research program of social sciences since World War II. It is most notable for ignoring biological factors, especailly at the group level, as causes of variation in human behavior. So ancient stone axes are described as “ceremonial” (the idea that weapons are for violence being seen as biological reductionism), and racial variations are not even mentioned as possible hypothesis when looking at racial gaps in intelligence or attention span. The SSSM essentially put half of all variables in taboo, hobbling social science to this day. The Evolutionary Psychologists, and the sociobiologists before them, have been tireless opponents of the SSSM, opening the door to real social scientific research for the first time in generations.

However, the exclusion of biological factors from social sciences for half a century did its work in limiting the utility of early biological explanations. The central tools of social science, regression and correlation in explaining variation, are underused by EP and SB because they were relatively new to social science at the time of the taboo began. More scientific approaches to biological factors have now appeared, and these generally go by the name of behavioral genetics. The Evolutionary Psychologists and Biopsychologists ultimately did not prevail, but took the damage that allowed more scientific approachesto flurish.

So back to the original article, Ten politically incorrect truths about human nature. Twenty years ago the authors would have been hounded out of academia, because they dare believe that biology influences behavior. Nowadays there specific claims are dismissed, because of weak operationalize and overbroad generalities.

That’s progress. That’s science. That’s the search for knowledge.

There is now real debate. Men like Edward O. Wilson and John Tooby are to thank for that.

Good.

Some links: The twin blogs, Gene Expression and gnxp, are amazing sources for the latest in behavioral genetics. I first learned of the EvolPsych/behavgen split from Steven Pinker. And at Dreaming 5GW, I examined two cases where dangerously presented half-truths are worse than no truth at all.

Update: Per a request from Sean, my uninformed impressions of the specific claims are below the fold:


Men like blond bombshells (and women want to look like them)

Men should be expected to be attracted, and women should be expected to try to emulate, any hard-to-fake sign of reproductive fitness. As skin color and intelligence are generally correlated with moderate climates, this would imply that the idela female type should be skewed towards signs of moderate climate. (In all populations, women’s skin tends to be lighter than men’s, for perhaps this reason). Blond hair is a particularly European mutation, however, so this specific claim seems unlikely as a human universal.

Humans are naturally polygamous.

Better to say men historically have higher variance in the number of reproductive partners they have than women. The last universal male ancestor was much closer to our time than the last universal female ancestor for just this reason.

Most women benefit form polygyny, while most men benefit from monogamy

Indeed. Monogamous societies are male guilds, where competition for females is limited for the bettermen of the average men. In the same way, the professions with the greatest “merit pay” relative to standard wage (academia, hollywood, professional sports) are worst for average workers but best for the best performing. See The Right Nation for more on this.

Most suicide bombers are Muslim

This is an objective fact, so within the claim itself there is no debate.

My own research indicates that genetic variation might have more to do with the particularly Arab (or perhaps more accurately, Semite) form of terrorism we see today. But I don’t know. This is a really open question, and there is a lot of money to be made in implementing an answer.

Having sons reduces the likelihood of divorce.

The claim and explanation both sound reasonable. No argument.

Beautiful people have more daughters.

Something similar is true of deer populations: daughters of highly reproductive males tend to be under-reproductive themselves. My guess is that beauty is an adaption that is particularly useful for females, and so it should skew toward females.

What Bill Gates and Paul McCartney have in common with criminals.

They have something else in common two: risk taking behavior and focus on abstract concepts. Many of the differences between males and females may come from two tendencies which emerge almost at birth: the male preference for systems and risk over people and stability.

The midlife crisis is a myth — sort of

Sounds reasonable. The authors present a specific test of their hypothesis, so it’s up to someone to tst it.

It’s natural for politicians to risk everything for an affair (but only if they’re male)

Solid discussion of inclusive fitness v. individual fitness.

Men sexually harass women because they are not sexist

Many behaviors are sex- (or at least gender-) dependent, and misapplication of these behaviors violates social norms. (Try to punch a mouthy woman or embrace a male aquaintence to see this for yourselves). The authors extend this logic to “harrassment.” Still, it goes without saying that many “harrasing” behaviors would be non-normative in a same-sex environment.

al Qaeda, Dead. (Iraq, to be left)

From Peter Zeihan’s article on Stratfor‘s Free Intelligence Report.

With all the talk about al Qaeda “leaders,” al Qaeda “factions” and militants with “links” to al Qaeda, it is useful to take a step back and clarify precisely what al Qaeda actually is. Al Qaeda is a small core group of people who share strategic and operational characteristics that set them apart from all other militants — Islamist or otherwise — the world over. All signs indicate this group is no longer functional and cannot be replicated. Whether or not Osama bin Laden is still alive, al Qaeda as it once was is dead.

..

Furthermore, al Qaeda has left no one truly capable of taking up its mantle. The training camps in the 1990s processed hundreds of would-be jihadists, but the quality of that training for the rank and file has been exaggerated. Most of it was a combination of poor conventional combat training and ideological indoctrination. Hence, most “veterans” of those camps have neither access to the core al Qaeda leadership nor the operational security or tactical training that would allow them to reconstitute a new elite core. They are no more members of the real “al Qaeda” than today’s skinheads are members of the real Nazi party.

By the only criterion that matters — successful attacks — al Qaeda has slipped from readjusting global priorities (9/11) to contributing to the change in government of a middling U.S. ally (the March 2003 Spain attacks) to affecting nothing (the 2005 London bombings). No attacks since can be meaningfully linked to al Qaeda’s control, or even its specific foreknown blessing. Al Qaeda had hoped for a conflagration of outrage that would sweep away the Middle East’s political order; it only managed to raise a few sparks here and there, and now it is a prisoner of its own security.

al Qaeda in Iraq can and should be brought down in order to destablize the Middle East to our liking. But there are few good reasons to stay in Iraq, and many good reasons to leave.

And for the remaining al Qaeda wannabees in Iraq? The locals will take care of them.