What if group ancestry matters?

Elam Bend emails in a fascinating review of A Farewell to Alms. The review is by Nicholas Wade, he who wrote Before the Dawn, so you know it’s worth your time. Farewell is derived from a study of England’s population, which concludes that the contemporary English are descendants from the upper class of the Middle Ages. Further, Farewell argues that agricultural societies generally are biased to the well off, that that they feature downward-mobility, such that descendants of the incompetent can fill the ranks of the (genetically extinguished) ranks of the (starved and infertile) lower classes. Perhaps, Farewell proposes, the reason that the Industrial Revolution started in Europe was that natural selection had produced a generation or two of Europeans fit for revolutionizing industry.

The converse of this is that areas without this harsh selective environment — say, those inhabited by comparatively well-fed hunter-gatherers — would not so select their populations. Thus, the reason that some places (unspoken, but think Africa) have less culture, less wealth, less security, less safety, less happiness, and less peace than other places (unspoken, but think Europe) might be evolution.

I cannot comment on this, Farewell‘s most controversial claim. The issue is complex and there’s good-but-circumstantial evidence both for and against. But it’s clear that one day Farewell‘s claim will be testable.

Only the foolish should have views on human equality that rely on facts alone.

The Generations of War without the Jargon

Since the emergence of the modern warfare, four “generations of warfare” have been identified. The first generation, or 1GW, emphasizes concentration-of-soldiers. The most famous 1GW was the Napoleonic Wars, where the commander who could throw the most soldiers at the decisive point would in the war. The second generation, or 2GW, emphasizes concentration-of-force. The most famous 2GW was the western front of World War I, where the force that could concentrate the most artillery and explosive power at one point could win the day. Both 1GW and 2GW are made possible by reducing your fog of war, so that you know where your soldiers (1GW) or artillery (2GW) should go.

The third generation, or 3GW, emphasizes maneuver. The most famous 3GW was the German Blitz against France in 1940, where the force that could break through and carry the commander’s intent would win the day. The fourth generation, or 4GW, emphasis networks. The most famous 4GW were the Communist insurgencies in Asia, where the force that could alienate the population from the other side through unconventional means would prevail in the end. Both 3GW and 4GW are made possible by maximizing your enemy’s fog of war, so he is unable to properly command his troops (3GW) or rely on his population (4GW).

The fifth generation of modern warfare, or 5GW, is more speculative. It is assumed that as each generation of modern warfare “goes deeper” into the enemy’s social thinking (from where he concentrates soldiers, to where he prepares for an artillery barrage, to how he springs back from a blitz that seems to come from everywhere, to what he does when faced with insurgents who kill the tax collector), 5GW will go deeper yet. As each higher generation of war looks less like “traditional” war than the generation before it, it has been argued that 5GW will not even appear to be a “war” at all…

Let Them Lose

Every Sunni Arab member of Iraq’s cabinet has now quit. This same community also boycotted the national Iraqi elections and currently hosts al-Ba’ath and al-Qa’eda terrorists.

If a community can ever speak in one voice, the Iraqi Sunni Arabs are so speaking now: No to democracy! No to peace! No to Iraq!.

This isn’t surprising. Iraqi’s Sunni Arabs make-up about 15% of the population (maybe less), but are accusted to living on wealth and power stolen from the other 85% of Iraqis. Violently unwilling to give way to a democratic government, they have and they still fight democratization with boycotts, violence, and terror.

Denying the Sunni Arabs their anti-democratic victory would only be fair for Iraq, it would help transform the greater Sunni Arab world, demonstrating yet again the bankruptcy of anti-freedom, anti-western ideologies. Since the beginning of decolonization, the Sunni Arab world has fallen farther and farther behind

Ultimately, the Iraq War is not about “justice” or “revenge” but about feedback: irrefutable evidence of weakness combined with the fact that the post-1945 strategies of the Sunni Arabs (fascism, terrorism, disconnectedness, etc) do not work.

Refusing to save Iraq’s Sunni Arabs from themselves, allowing Iraq to disintegrate in such a way that the Sunni Arabs are left only with the barren desert — is the surest, the easiest, and the best way forward.

Cognitive Development, Part V: Reasoning and Problem Solving

When the book does error, it errors toward optimism. The authors site Flavell (1999)’s statement that average performance on formal operations tests have improved over the past 25 years. It is likely that these results run with broader measures of intelligence, which have stagnated since the mid seventies and begun reversing in recent years (Sundey, Barlaug, & Torjussen, 2004). This has social implications. The advantages of intelligence compound over time (Bullock & Ziegler, 1999; see also Bloom, 2000), which conversely means that the stagnation and retreat of intelligence will compound, too.

What hope there is comes from the ability of children to operate under the correct environment. While unable to devise correct scientific experiments, for instance, they are able to select a correct one from a list of a few options (Bullock & Ziegler, 1999). And while humans are terrible logical reasoners (Nisbett & Ross, 1980), an environment where they believe they are operating competitively as opposed to logically provides much better results (Ceci, 1996). Changing the child’s environment allows one to subvert how the child thinks, going around whatever is limiting the child’s thinking in order to maximize results.

This relates to expertise. With expertise, people are able to transcend the need to deliberatively solve problem through superior memorization (Anderson, 1980). Flavell, Miller, & Miller summarize this as “the ability to solve many problems in [their area of expertise] without having to think at all” (161). Children can reason analogically by age two (Freeman, McKie, & Bauer, 1994), and analogical reasoning is the basis of expertise (Weisberg, 1993). As mentioned above, schools should focus on building expertise through practice and memorization instead of the declarative understanding and comprehension too much of the school curriculum is based on.

The above paragraphs are critical, and rightly so. Their largest context is the focus on verbal reasoning, over domain expertise, which is the hallmark of America’s disastrous primary and secondary educational system. Verbal reasoning is useful for some fields, such as doctorates of philosophy and law and masters of business administration. However, the vast majority of Americans will not be in a field where verbal debate and verbalized good reasons count for much. They will be in jobs will they will need to analogically reason to perform some action or behavior (be it technical, mathematical, or otherwise).
Whether their purpose is to churn out students with a rational moral identity (Moshman, 2005), rational moral personhood, or just plain competence, it’s clear out public schools are not doing their job.

Cognitive Development, a tdaxp series
1. Introduction
2. Infant Perception
3. Infant Cognition
4. Representation and Concepts
5. Reasoning and Problem Solving
6. Social Cognition
7. Memory
8. Language
9. Questions and Problems
10. Bibliography