Tag Archives: language

What Language to Learn: South-East Asia

The boys at ComingAnarchy might enjoy this one…

I am close to wrapping up my tour of South East Asia, having visited Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia. In all three countries Chinese strikes me as more useful than England. This was especially surprising in Thailand and Malaysia, which are noted tourist areas… I can get almost nowhere in English, but I find a large fraction of the folks I meet can communicate with me in Chinese. I find that conversations stress my Chinese vocabulary much less often than while actually in China, though, so it seems that most people who speak it have picked it up as a second language.

Socially-constructed races and the SSSM

Races are large groups, the members of whom are more closely related to each other than to outsiders. Races can be thought of as large-scale families. While race mixing can and does occur, the historical norm appears to have been for in-breeding within races. (It is through this inbreeding that genetic drift can ultimately lead to trouble.) Where there has been race-mixing in the past, it tends to be the males of one race interbreeding with females of another. Thus the United States has a “black” population that tends to be maternally African but often with distantly British paternity, and Mexico has a “mestizo” population that tends to be maternally American Indian and Iberan.

Some doubt the factual reality of race. That is, some claim that racial differences are only skin deep, and that the mere fact that one person has darker or whiter skin (facial features, bone structure, enzyme collection, etc) says nothing about ultimate ancestry. These skeptics would say that only a very small number of traits very among human groups in the first place, and that if one’s ancestral home is nearer the equator, then it makes sense that one’s ancestors evolved darker skin to avoid the sun’s harmful rays.

A problem exists if we claim that race only effects skin: race as a variable explains variation. Fatality rates from a host of diseases, intelligence, and other factors are better predicted if we take race into account than if we don’t. If race is not real below the skin, that means something besides biology is causing this variation. The race-skeptics answer that race is “socially constructed,” that society has decided that people should be fit into this-or-that racial category based on skin color. In other words, if we would ignore race, it would go away.

However, there is another way that race can be “socially constructed”: perhaps culture can cause genetic evolution. Indeed, it appears this has happened. gnxp notes an article from the Proceeds of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) entitled “ Linguistic tone is related to the population frequency of the adaptive haplogroups of two brain size genes, ASPM and Microcephalin.” The article notes how the long-standing view that humans are language-neutral — an infant from any population can learn any language equally well — appears to be false. Children whose parents come from populations that historically have a tonal language (Latvian, Chinese, etc). have a different sort of gene than children whose parents come from a tone-neutral language (English, Spanish, etc)…

As Scientific American writes, the genes that very between tonal and non-tonal populations affect brain size during embryonic development. Unlike subject-verb order, use of passive tense, round vowels, etc, “tone seemed to be inextricably tied to the variations of [the genes].”

Therefore, language may be socially constructed in that society determines which language genes — which type of linguistic intelligence — thrives in a population because of the population’s culture. This implies that other traits — which provide some advantage in a culture — may be selected for in some cultures but not other. Personality, temperment, skin color, disease resistance, general and multiple intelligences, etc. — can all be selected by culture, not just by natural environment, solar radition, etc.

Why does this matter? And why is it even controversial?

Western civilization and American ideology reject the notion that biological differences can result in differences in worth. Paul teaches “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28). Whether one’s reality is biologically determined (as in sex), culturally determined (as in wealth), or the result of biological-cultural interaction (nationality), all are equal. Likewise, the Declaration of Independence‘ preambles beginning, that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,” is absurd if one reads to to say that equal rights are the result of equal inheritance.

However, starting in the 1940s, Academia was seized by the post-Christian, post-American Left. Without the arbitrary faith in equal moral worth that comes from the Christian and American traditions, the Left had to maintain that the facts showed that all humans were born equally capable in all ways. Otherwise, without faith in equal worth, the logical conclusion was Aristotle’s: some men are born to be kings, some are born to be slaves. The Left constructed the Standard Social Sciences Model to justify claims of equal worth by claiming that everyone had equal inheritance.

But the Standard Social Sciences Model is now falling apart. Every week brings new studies which show how genetics influece important traits, such as intelligence. And increasingly, we see papers like the langauge one which implies that cultures shape the biology of their host-nations. Contemporary genetics veto the possibility of equal inheritances, and increasingly the existence of races is seen to be more and more likely.

The SSSM is bankrupt. And with it, the logic of the left. Either a mechanism is found to uphold human equality in the absense of equal inheritances, or the doctrine of equal worth must be abandoned.