Disestablishmentarianism

I hereby advocate the Disestablishment of the Church of England, that is I support revoking the Church of England’s status as the official State Church in England. There are several reasons for this. First, the United States has enjoyed centuries of religious vibrancy as a result of its refusal to establish churches. Though radicals here and there have tried, the free market in religious ideals have kept faiths strong, vibrant, and focused on both God and their adherents.

England has not been so lucky. The State Church (COE) has not been so lucky. In England, not only are there more Catholics attending mass than Anglicans, but there are more Muslims attending Friday prayers than Anglicans attending Sunday service. The State Church has provoked a quasi-schismatic blacklash so bad, that the “loyal” Anglicans are outnumbered worldwide by the Copts!

The antidisestablishmentarians want to keep COE as the State Church, because it prevents the Anglican church in England from signing onto the Jerusalem Declaration (a theological matter). It is absurd for a modern democracy to interfere with a religion as much as the United Kingdom does through its COE.

The Church of England was founded on the state-oppression of religion. Disestablishing the Church of England would be as much of a victory for religious freedom as if Communist China disestablishments the COE’s twin across the centuries, the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. While the CPCA prevents the free development of religion in China, the COE would do the same across the world.

Religious freedom is an important right. The greatest oppressor of religion in the world today is Communist China. The United Kingdom can set a good example by ending its own oppression, disestablishing the Church of England, and setting the Anglican Communion free.

On the Improvement of Certain Segments of the Population

Really great news about a therapeutic technology will assist those who have problems in living normal lives live a bit more freely:

Tongue Drive System Helps Severely Disabled Have More Independence | Scientific Blogging
A new assistive technology developed by engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology could help individuals with severe disabilities lead more independent lives.

The novel system allows individuals with disabilities to operate a computer, control a powered wheelchair and interact with their environments simply by moving their tongues. The tongue-operated assistive technology, called the Tongue Drive system, was described on June 29 at the 2008 Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. An article about this system is also scheduled to appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development. This research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

Of course, some people will be against this new technology. The fact that those disabled who choose to have the treatment can do more with their lives naturally put those who choose not to at a disadvantage. This “new source of inequality within society” is the argument that some use against gene therapy, so I imagine it will soon be applied against other forms of therapy, as well.

The Housing Market

Mother of tdaxp has long insisted that the Great Depression worked a great deed that is often not appreciated: it broke up many of the landed estates that had developed by the 1930s, making land cheap and allowing a new generation of farmers to till the land.  Thus, one of the effects of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s American midwest was a great transfer of wealth from the richer to the poorer.

We’re seeing some of the same dynamics as a result of the Subprime Crisis, and two friends of tdaxp are cashing in!

Now employed at a leading logistics firm, they recently purchased a house.  I took greta pleasure in helping them mow and fertilize their yard, and we took a trip to Pier 1 to buy a chair to help furnish the main room.  The house is all-together beautiful, though it stood empty for a year.

We brought some food and a dining set as a housewarming gift.  No longer apartment-bound, they gave us a very nice low-table that been been gifted around our circle of friends.

Still, a house is not all fun and games.  The recent hailstorm killed a number of plants, and as like a shotgun to some of the shutters.  A lot of work lays ahead.

To end the day we ate Mongolian and (American) Chinese food, topped off Tsingtao Beer and Mountain Dew.

On the Improvement of the Population

Two related stories, Slashdot‘s “Where To Draw the Line With Embryo Selection?” and Scientific Blogging‘s “Analyzing The Homicide Trend In Young Men” together evoke questions about the future of eugenics (improvement in the genetics of a population) and dysgenics (degradation of the genetics of a population) in the future.

Clearly we’re rapidly approaching adoption of relatively painless choice-based selection when it comes to the future generation. If parents really are concerned their kid will be unacceptably lazy, unacceptably dull, unacceptably slow, etc., they will be able to ‘load the dice’ by selecting embryos that offer the best hope in the desired dimensions. If we ban the procedure in the west, there’s no reason to think it won’t become a booming industry in China, in India, in Thailand, in Mexico, or in other countries already popular for medical tourism.

However, it’s likely there will be government controls anyway. Consider the thugs who commit crimes and cause other troubles. There’s nothing theoretically to stop them from selecting children that are more vicious, more hostile, and more anti-social than would otherwise be the case. To stop this, the government will ban these procedures. Though the underclass is as free as the rest of the population to seek medical tourism abroad, what did Voltaire say about freedom? Something like, In France, the law prevents both the rich and the poor from sleeping under a bridge at night!.

So we probably will have a de facto eugenics policy, where those who look to improve their kids are able to afford to do so, while those not able to are not able to afford the procedure.

Voting Behavior

The 5th Gradient of War, 5GW, relies on altering the observations of an enemy. This is often taken to mean that 5GW means secrecy, but it can involve manipulating perceptions in a way that changes behavior without a change of “heart” (which would be the role of 4GW). Two recent articles present possibilities for the 5GWarrior. First, Aherring’s “Where You Vote and How You Vote: Proto-5GW Thinking in a Study of the Context of Voting” explicitly ties changing perceptions into 5GW. The post is doubly exciting because I had previously worked on original research where we demonstrated something similar. Secondly, Razib’s “Heritability of voting includes the remarkable line: 53% of the variance in turnout behavior can be accounted for by additive genetic effects .

The second link is most interesting in the context of xGW. If some future 5GWarrior would attack the genetic code of some population to change the behaviors they engage in, would that be one of the already discussed gradients of warfare, or something else?

Not Just Physiology

My good friend Lexington Green of Chicago Boyz sent me (by mail!) a copy of “When We Were Nicer” by Steven Mithen, which originally appeared in the 24 January 2008 edition of London Review of Books (pages 24-25). Mithen uses the article to review On Deep History and the Brain, by Daniel Lord Smail. As this is a review of a review of a book that I have not read, I apologize if some ambiguity pops up here.

I won’t go into the whole article, but it appears that Mithen & Smail are trying to import the Behaviorist Revolution into Anthropology, a 95 years after it began and about 75 years after it fell out of style. Mithen and Smail reject the plain meaning of written documentation, great ideas, and the power of human culture. As Mithen writes in his first paragraph:

Are you enjoying your morning coffee as you read this? Or your evening glass of wine? Did you enjoy watching the match last night? Have you read any good books lately? Oh and by the way, how is your sex life? According to Daniel Lord Smail activities like these are the true drivers of history. Forget great men with great ideas; them march of progress or the ‘sees of change’: the essense of historical processes is the manipulation f human chemistry by the substances we consume, and the activites we engage in willingly or which are imposed on us against our will.

Along the way, Mithen and Smail also attack “the crude evolutionary psychology that has become popular in recent years: that of Leda Cosmides, John Tooby, Steven Pinker and their acoyltes, who argue that we are still biologically fixed Stone Age minds constituted by mental models evolved to solve problems of Pleistocene environments.”

Their concerns are echoes of those of John B. Watson and the other behaviorists. The Behaviorist Revolution was kicked off by Watson’s manifesto, “Psychology as the Behaviorst Sees It,” but was rapidly expanded in other works. The Behaviorists rejected the idea of “mental state,” reducing psychology to applied psychology: the body responded to certain stimulus with certain responses, while attempting to satisfy basic drives. They rejected introspection, the idea that someone’s self reports were a valid means of psychological inquiry. They rejected the study into innate behaiors, believing that (at least among mammals) all behaviors — including language — were learned through patterns of stimuli and responses.

In psychology, there are very few behaviorists. The reduction of psychology to physiology rapidly ran into the problem that even mice thought more than the behaviorists predicted. The best of the behaviorist ideas were repackaged by B.F. Skinner as behavioralism (called by Skinner radical behaviorism). While behavioralism has been further refined into cognitive models of psychology (such as the OODA loop), even behavioralism provides us enough ammunition to shoot down physiological reductionism.

Take the idea that, say, the motive for suicide bombing is sex, rather than the “great idea” of God’s Holy Word. At first glance, the physiological case is appealing. The Muslim suicide bomber believes that paradise will be filled with virgins, and so gladly enters it. But if the reason is physiology, why don’t all Muslim men detonate themselves? Why are there female suicide bombers? Watson and the behaviorists had no answer for this sort of question, which is why they quickly fell from grace. Behavioralists like Skinner, by contrast, would grant that we observe ourselves, we criticize ourselves, and we grow from this. Even more, cognitivists like John Boyd would argue that our physiological drives from our orientation, along with our prior learning, and that this orientation itself interacts with conscious decision, where our knowledge of great ideas matters even more.

But the physiologists are left with sex, random acts of violence, and an inability to make meaningful predictions.

Ironically, the physiologists fail not only be acknowledging the complexity of conscious thought: they also don’t acknowledge the complexity of unconscious thought! The criticism of Tooby & Cosmides echoes Watson’s criticism of those who studied instincts in the human race: instincts elevate a species above physiology, by creating the ability to rapidly see patterns and engage in behavior with no obvious pay-off. The otter with his dam, the bird with her nest, the man with his art create things not out of physiological drive but because they want to, without even knowing why.

There’s a lot to be said about the role of biology in culture. But rejecting everything but physiology is as foolish as rejecting physiology itself.

I think Frontline is stalking me

So two weeks ago Frontline’s special, “Young and Restless in China,” featured the gated community in Beijing I’ve stayed in for three years running.  (The power line they are talking about was visible from the kitchen window, and I walked on the path they interviewed the activist on).

And now last weeks’ Frontline World, “Jesus in China,” features shot of a wedding in Beijing at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception…  where Lady of tdaxp and I were married.  They even show a couple standing under a flowery arch that is the same flowery arch we stood under!

If the next Frontline episode is in Nebraska or South Dakota, then I’ll definitely know that something is up!

Bobby Jindal Signs Chemical Castration Bill

Amazingly good news. And timely too, if you consider my recent posts “Clearing the Ghetto” and “Better Behavior through Chemistry.” Bobby Jindal has signed a bill allowing for the chemical castration of certain criminals. While the bill itself is aimed at reducing sexually-driven crimes with high recidivism, an obvious implication of the bill is improved genetic health of the population. Preventing criminals from breeding is an important part of preventing crime, because criminal behavior is heritable.

Jindal Signs Chemical Castration Bill » Outside The Beltway | OTB
Lousiana Governor Bobby Jindal yesterday signed the “Sex Offender Chemical Castration Bill” hours after the Supreme Court overturned that state’s law allowing capital punishment for child rapists. It “provides that on a first conviction of aggravated rape, forcible rape, second degree sexual battery, aggravated incest, molestation of a juvenile when the victim is under the age of 13, or an aggravated crime against nature, the court may sentence the offender to undergo chemical castration. On a second conviction of the above listed crimes, the court is required to sentence the offender to undergo chemical castration.”

Ben Domenech thinks Jindal is sending a suggestive message to the Supreme Court. But, of course, the law had passed through the legislative process before the Court’s 5-4 ruling, so it’s merely a politically happy coincidence.

America deserves to be remain a great nation, and part of this of course is increasing our population. But increasing the quality of our population, improving our human capital, is important too. Weeding out criminals and sexuals predators is part of that process.

While we should always focus on eugenics and healing people, preventing harm and fighting dysgenics is important, too. Men can breed well into very old age, long after they are released from prison. Chemical castration can stop that.