Tuesday, 28 February 2012

08:58 –Today is the last day of Barbara’s four-day weekend. She’s picking up her sister and parents and heading for some big outlet mall somewhere.

Sunday we ran out of the Scotch Blue masking tape we use to seal chemical bottles. Barbara also needed a new gas grill, so yesterday we headed over to Home Depot to pick those up. While we were there, I browsed the plumbing section in search of Root Kill (99+% copper sulfate pentahydrate) and Crystal Drain Opener (essentially 100% sodium hydroxide). I bought three 2-pound (0.91 kilo) bottles of the copper(II) sulfate, but the drain opener was new and “improved”. Instead of nice white 100% sodium hydroxide crystals, it was an unspecified percentage of sodium hydroxide with other components that weren’t named. I unscrewed the lid on a bottle to look at it and it was a lavender powder. Yuck.

I also needed 97 g of calcium acetate monohydrate to make up the fertilizer concentrate part C for the biology kits. I thought I had that in stock, but I didn’t. So I just made some up by reacting calcium hydroxide with acetic acid. I guess it’s kind of wasteful to use ACS reagent grade acetic acid and calcium hydroxide to make up a fertilizer, but needs must. The result was interesting. I expected a clear, colorless solution of calcium acetate, with the excess calcium hydroxide present as a fine particulate. What I got was a yellowish-brown cloudy solution. Oh, well. I filtered it. It is, after all, fertilizer, so its appearance isn’t really important. What I ended up with was a clear pale yellow solution.


12:25 –Jerry Coyne’s blog is one of my daily reads. He is unabashedly atheist and politically liberal. He is also intellectually honest beyond question. Here’s his latest: Are there human races?

My answer is the same as it’s always been: of course there are. There are clear differences in phenotypes, as well as the underlying differences in genotypes. Denying that human races exist is like denying that dog breeds exist. But many scientists, including biologists, do deny the existence of human races, basing that belief on political considerations rather than scientific ones. The idea that races might exist and that very real differences among them might exist is simply anathema to the politically-liberal mind.

Interestingly, no one seriously questions that very real differences exist between the sexes. Men are, on average, larger, stronger, faster, and more aggressive than women. Women are, on average, hardier than men. That’s why, for example, between 105 and 108 baby boys are born for every 100 baby girls. There is also little doubt that men and women think differently. And, even after eliminating social and cultural factors, there’s little doubt that the intelligence of women tends to cluster closer to the mean. That is, a very intelligent person is considerably more likely to be male than female, and an extraordinarily intelligent person is overwhelmingly more likely to be male. Conversely, males are also over-represented at the extremes of stupidity. Or, to put it another way, the standard deviation in IQ among women is significantly smaller than it is among men. Despite those differences, the mean IQ of statistical populations of men and women is identical to within one percent.

Perhaps the hesitance to acknowledge differences among the races is supported by the fact that no one agrees on just what constitutes a human race or how many of them there are. Some authors have argued in favor of only three or four races, while others argue in favor of dozens. There can never be a true number, because the number is determined by how one chooses to define a race. How large must the differences be? Since humans are on a continuum, supporting the idea of a relatively large number of human races minimizes the differences among them. But one thing really is pretty certain: the differences between the sexes make the differences among the races pale into insignificance. Human males of whatever race have more in common with each other than they do with a woman who is part of their nominal racial group.

The problem with the liberal position denying the existence of races is that it results in shoehorning different people into the same mold. Once one recognizes that differences do exist, one can adjust one’s expectations accordingly. From the fact that blacks are over-represented in the NBA, it does not follow that the NBA is a racist anti-white organization. Nor does it follow from the fact that whites and particularly Asians are over-represented and blacks under-represented in high school AP classes and university STEM programs that these organizations discriminate against blacks. It’s long past time that we abandoned the inherently-racist position that equal opportunity implies equal outcomes. Some people are simply better at some things than other people are. It’s time to recognize that fact.

22 thoughts on “Tuesday, 28 February 2012”

  1. RBT, I hate to inform you, but merely making those statements and asking those questions is ipso facto proof that you are a racist. Prepare to be visited by the Education Police for transport to a re-education camp.

    (The US Dept of Education has a SWAT team. What could be their ultimate raison d’etre if not rounding up recidivists?)

  2. Anathema! Ye will have brought Apocalypse down upon all our heads, sir. with such blatant allegations!

    The main trouble here is that it HAS been so politicized and on one side you will have people who agree with the above and then use that to be total racist assholes. On the other extreme you have the usual suspects who will stand there and brazenly deny there are any differences at all, and if you disagree with them, well then, you are…yes, you guessed it, a total racist asshole. And in the middle we have the Great Unwashed and Ignorant, who will swing between those two poles or who will remain remarkably indifferent.

    Up here, in one of the three whitest states in the country (they take turns every year as to which is the whitest), we have the usual suspects of the latter persuasion who see a racist under every bed and fret constantly over it, even though we have about three African-Americans in the state, and the handful of actually black human beings here are usually from African countries like Somalia, or the Caribbean. Ditto for Latinos. Many of them will straight out tell you that it is too fucking cold up here and snowy and they don’t like that. You certainly won’t find any skiing at Sugarbush and Jay Peak. Other than that, the most exotic ethnic group around here are Franco-Americans, who have mostly assimilated, but their Quebecois cousins a few miles north dress really weird and eat strange things, like poutine, and they can’t make a hamburger to save themselves. Oh yeah, we have some Irish around here, too, like Mrs. OFD. Really wild stuff.

    But the usual suspects go about their usual braying like jackasses about racism, sexism, and all the terrible violence and bullying in the schools, and how we need to celebrate and worship the Goddesses Diversity and Democracy at all costs, etc., etc.

    Are there, in fact, racists up here? Sure there are; the buggers are everywhere. Hell, back in the 20s and 30s there were KKK activities in this state, MA, and CT. As recently as the 80s there was a KKK chapter in Worcester, MA among a bunch of WPD officers.

    And I’m sure things work differently where the races are more evenly distributed, but yeah, I tend to go along with what I was taught back in school; there are basically three or four. Although when I look at the breakdowns of British and European tribes in the Dark Ages and Neolithic periods it gets mind-boggling, a lot of them, with their languages, extinct now. Who the F were the Picts and where did they go? For example… Do I have some of their DNA?

    Speaking of which, techies, has anyone here checked out those DNA test kits you can do and send in your spit or whatever and find out if your ancestor was Genghis Khan or Mata Hari (the latter a Frisian, if you care to check it…)?

  3. Coyne is an AGW evangelist, isn’t he? Or is it PZM? (Or both?) Since you think AGW is bad science how can he be intellectually honest? If one or both of them were creationists would they still be intellectually honest?

    Yes, there are races, but because they are so hard to define the concept is only of limited use, IMHO.

  4. A couple of small anecdotes, one from a black stand-up comic, I forget which one; he was laughing about black folks bitching about white people in this country and he said hell, they ain’t real white people over HERE; the REAL white people are in Switzerland! That’s where you find your real white people!

    And Stanley Crouch, great jazz critic in NYC; he said Louis Farakhan and Pat Buchanan could get on a plane and fly across the Atlantic and tear each other to shreds all the way over, but then they would land at Shannon Airport in Ireland and as they got off the plane and came down the steps some Irish guy would elbow another one and exclaim “Hey, look! Two Yanks gettin’ off the plane!”

  5. Re: the DNA testing. My first cousin on my dad’s side has been managing hospitals all of his life. He had his DNA tested, and said we were overwhelmingly of Viking descent. That was over a decade ago, and he indicated that back then, they had not yet collected enough information to define us any further. That includes the fact that our common great grandmother on that side (our fathers’ paternal grandmother) was Lakota Sioux. She changed her name when she left the reservation to Jane Brown. So far, we have not found anything that verifies her birth on the reservation, because nobody knows what her birth name was. Just a note in the family bible that she was born on the reservation. It does not take long to lose information about previous generations.

    Most of my relatives came from what is now southern Germany. Unfortunately, because of name changes forced on US immigrants, I did not succeed in finding out anything about them while I was in Germany. Their citizenship papers/birth/death certificates (we have located most of them) simply list “Place of birth: Germany”. Not very helpful.

  6. Yeah, the genealogical data is harder to find and evaluate the further one gets from the UK and its far-flung former colonies; there are extremely accurate family records going back to the era of the Vikings landing on various British isles. A lot of the Brit aristocracy easily traces back beyond William to Normandy.

    Europe gets harder, and eastern Europe terribly so. My English families and cousins kept records at home and in the churches mainly, and that tradition was kept up over here, esp. in Nova Anglia and the other colonies.

    I am just curious, as is Mrs. OFD, and wondered if anyone here had actually done anything with this.

  7. From above:
    ” Nor does it follow from the fact that whites and particularly Asians are over-represented and blacks under-represented in high school AP classes and university STEM programs that these organizations discriminate against blacks.”

    The PC liberals are now disavowing the No Child Left Behind program due to its failure in accomplishing it goals. The great hope was that it would close the gap between the whites and the blacks in educational accomplishments; however, after sufficient time, this is not the case and the gap has only been minimally diminshed and I think that they see no further closure. IM(not so)HO, they want now to jettison the program as to de-emphazise it failure to provide equivalent outcomes.

    I see the gap as having a root cause of cultural and environmental conditions as opposed to some genetic inferiority. My daughter is a elementary school teacher in a school which is 99% Hispanic and where the parents are overwhelmingly ESL. I have been assisting her in her classroom recently and the gap is not subtle. Geographically, she lives in the same school district in which she is employed. However, her children attend a school on the “other side of the tracks” (as they said several generations ago), and her children are doing above average as measured against the so called “privileged” population on their side of the tracks. When I speak of the environmental factors, my grandchildren have parents and grandparents with college degrees and who are, or have been, career professionals. Whereby on the other side, the parents most likely are not even high school equivalent and I doubt if there is one college educated parent at the school at which she teaches. Did I say that interpreters are available for her parent – teacher conferences? Actually, when the parents do dishes in fast fooderies and mow lawns, what value of having a college education to the pass on to the children? Don’t bother asking me about their home accommodations; however, in the neighborhood surrounding her school, not one garage is used for cars.

  8. Done anything with what?

    I took an anthropology unit 10 years ago called Race and Human Genetic Variation taught by Sir David Attenborough’s son. The conclusion I came to that the concept of race is useful to some extent but not as much as used to be thought.

    I read Coyne’s article and just about fell off my chair when I read this:

    The sad history of biologically based racism has been documented in many places, including Steve Gould’s book The Mismeasure of Man (yes, I know it’s flawed).

    I wouldn’t expect Coyne, PZ or any of the other atheist pit bulls to say anything nice about Gould. Yes, he was flawed, in the same way that Dawkins, Coyne, Myers, Thompson and even Ruse are somewhat flawed. But I still think very highly of him.

    Tattersall is a first rate scientist and anything he has to say can’t be dismissed out of and.

  9. I posted many moons ago about a discount on “23andme.com”, the spit in a tube Google backed site. I did sign up for that. It confirmed I am white euro-trash LOL!

    Seriously, it did confirm some genetic traits and blood type. I’ve always had “photic sensitivity”. I sneeze when going from a dimly lit environment out into the bright sun. Two of my kids also have this. 23andme predicts I have “slightly higher odds” of having this.

  10. Well, seeing as how we had the hottest summer on record last year, I would not race to conclusions just yet. The transmitter of the radio project was off-air quite a number of days, as ambient temps in the shack rose to over 110F, and temps inside the transmitter cabinet went to shut-down temps of 122F. But Europe and Russia HAVE had one of the coldest winters in recent history. I have pics of the grandkids ice-skating on the stream out back of the house, which only froze around the edges while I was there.

    Has to do with the El Niño/La Niña complex, which apparently is out-of-sync with prior cycles. Keep your eye on that.

  11. Goofed up turning some Aldi baguettes (imported straight from France) into garlic bread, and managed to smoke up the house. Turned on the air-conditioner fan (heat is hot water radiator, so no fan circulation during heating season) but it is taking a while to clear the smoke particles. Which means I need to bite the bullet and tackle the electronic air filter, which died sometime after my mom passed on, but while I was in Germany. It could take smoke particles out within minutes. I used to love taking on problems like that, but now I consider them a pain. Not sure why. Have to get out the multi-meter and find out whether it is power supply or some open circuit in the maze of wires and grids that is the filter itself.

    By the way, if you are near an Aldi, the ones around me are selling partially-cooked French baguettes in the stores. These are exactly the same item we had always available in the Aldi Berlin stores, and are very good. It is bread in the French/German style, heavier, fuller, tastier — and best of all, they will grow mold. If you really like that spongy, smashable stuff that never grows mold and passes for bread here in the US, then you might not like this import, but it sure is a relief and a treat for me. In my store, it is not in the 2 regular bread locations, but across the aisle from the produce, nestled with some other imported stuff. In airtight plastic containers bearing the US Aldi bread brand “L’oven” but marked clearly as made in France. Yum!

  12. I don’t understand how bread can *not* grow mold. If I buy fresh whole grain or whole meal bread (I never buy white bread) I can guarantee that it will be growing mold within 3-4 days, unless I put it in the freezer and take out slices when necessary.

  13. I don’t doubt that there is variation in climate trends, that a hot summer can pop up in some places but not in others, but the trend I’ve seen in the northern hemisphere and experienced in Adelaide and Canberra is that it’s a bit cooler. 3-4 years ago we had a stinking hot summer, but most of the summers since then have been quite mild.

    (BTW, I’m not an AGW denier, just a skeptic.)

  14. Just as anecdotal something-or-other, I’m about a hundred miles NNW of Greg. Summer was more-or-less a non-event, although the grass in the paddocks was about bamboo-size, and you could have hidden a herd of buffalo in there. Or elephants. Or whales. It was easily the wettest year in about half-a-century. I can remember it being about this wet, back in the 1950’s, when I was about tadpole-size. My brother the farmer grazier had a mob of sheep in the home-paddock, just to try and knock back the fire risk. He took them out, but knew he was four short. It took him a fortnight to find them, even though he was working with sheepdogs. In the last year, my brother, who lives further in on the property than I do, has been flooded-in several times. They had a truck hauling wool-bales out, and it got bogged to the axles in one of the paddocks – got about six inches off the beaten track. Left an awesome hole. This in an area where 23″ per annum is on the top end of average annual rainfall.

  15. As Don says, it’s been raining fairly solidly here for about five days:

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-02-29/big-wet-moves-across-nsw/3860892

    I’ve seen harder rain in concentrated spells but this has been going on solid and slow-to-medium just about all the time. A couple of years ago at Christmas I wasn’t even sure how I’d drive from Canberra to Adelaide. The main highway running E-W across southern New South Wales was broken by floods in several places, which ended up adding 3-4 hours to my journey. I practically ran the car out of petrol a couple of times driving around these breaks.

  16. Coyne is an AGW evangelist, isn’t he? Or is it PZM? (Or both?) Since you think AGW is bad science how can he be intellectually honest? If one or both of them were creationists would they still be intellectually honest?

    I wouldn’t call Coyne an AGW “evangelist”. He believes it’s good science, but I suspect he does so on the same basis that many other scientists do: with regard to science that is outside their own fields, scientists tend to assume that scientists in that other field are intellectually honest. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that’s true when it comes to “climate science”. I’ve spoken to many scientists who formerly supported the AGW “consensus” but changed their minds when they really looked at things. Now, like me, many former supporters are convinced that global warming or AGW or climate change or whatever they’re calling it now has been grossly misrepresented and that many or most climate “scientists” have engaged in at the least questionable conduct if not outright scientific misconduct.

    I wouldn’t expect Coyne, PZ or any of the other atheist pit bulls to say anything nice about Gould. Yes, he was flawed, in the same way that Dawkins, Coyne, Myers, Thompson and even Ruse are somewhat flawed. But I still think very highly of him.

    Actually, Coyne and Myers are strong supporters of Gould. When Coyne said “flawed”, he was being generous, as he makes clear in an earlier article on Gould. In Mismeasure, Gould engaged in outright misrepresentation and fraud in support of a political rather than scientific objective, which he later admitted to (but only when faced with the evidence). Gould was personally abrasive, and I never liked the guy, not least because of his non-overlapping magisteria garbage, which Coyne and Myers also have big problems with.

    I don’t understand how bread can *not* grow mold. If I buy fresh whole grain or whole meal bread (I never buy white bread) I can guarantee that it will be growing mold within 3-4 days, unless I put it in the freezer and take out slices when necessary.

    Bread sold in supermarkets in the US is treated with preservatives that are extremely effective in prevent mold growth. I actually tried to force mold to grow on a slice of white supermarket bread. I kept it in ideal conditions for mold growth for an extended time, and not a trace of mold grew. I’d guess that, if stored normally, US supermarket bread would not grow any visible mold for at least weeks if not months. In fact, if a loaf of US supermarket bread had been put in King Tut’s tomb, it probably wouldn’t have had any mold on it when Carter opened the tomb.

  17. I think Jimmy Carter can’t do the most of anyone I’ve seen.

    Bill
    Who runs unintended science experiments with bread, all the time. I’ve done some pretty impressive work on slime molds in the vegetable crisper in the fridge, as well.

  18. “this has been going on solid and slow-to-medium just about all the time”

    That about sums it up. In a week, two days sunny, two days cloudy, and three days with about half-an-inch or even an inch upwards per – all distributed evenly. Good weather otherwise, but after the thirtieth month, and you’re used to the same rain in a month as you’re getting in a week, it gets old. I don’t like feeling the ground quake like jelly when I’m used to it being firm underfoot, let alone that it’s even too wet to grow mushrooms; and you’d never find them in the bamboo-like grass if they did. And the burrs and thistles are getting higher than the trees – or at least the bushes. And the woody-weed bushes are really getting up there. Just damn!

  19. I just got home from work. Of course, it was raining (hard) when I left but only softly at home 10 km away.

    Every time I left the office today it was raining. Actually, there’s not much water on the ground and the gutters aren’t that full at the moment. But still, it’s near constant.

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