China Will Soon Be Genetically Engineering Smarter, Sexier People

No matter how irreligious Germany gets, it shares with many Western European countries a common cultural heritage of Christian natural law thinking, especially about human dignity. This makes Germany queasy about things such as in vitro fertilization, surrogate parenting, embryo research, and pre-implantation genetic diagnostics. Some of these new technologies are banned, others allowed, all are regulated. It’s all a bit stuffy and old-fashioned, like the basement of an ecumenical summer camp building, with its ping-pong tables, disintegrating board games, and lukewarm cola.

China doesn’t share this heritage, increasingly doesn’t have to listen to the West’s lectures, and has little squeamishness about designing smarter humans:

China is spending hundreds of billions of dollars annually in an effort to become a leader in biomedical research, building scores of laboratories and training thousands of scientists.

But the rush to the front ranks of science may come at a price: Some experts worry that medical researchers in China are stepping over ethical boundaries long accepted in the West.

Scientists around the world were shocked in April when a team led by Huang Junjiu, 34, at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, published the results of an experiment in editing the genes of human embryos.

The technology, called Crispr-Cas9, may one day be used to eradicate inheritable illnesses. But in theory, it also could be used to change such traits as eye color or intelligence, and to ensure that the changes are passed on to future generations….

“The consensus among the scientific community is, ‘not for now,’ ” said Huso Yi, the director of research at the Chinese University of Hong Kong Center for Bioethics.

Yet Chinese scientists seem in no mood to wait.

“I don’t think China wants to take a moratorium,” Mr. Yi said. “People are saying they can’t stop the train of mainland Chinese genetics because it’s going too fast.”

CRISPR is the stunning new gene-editing technique that makes editing animal and human genomes easy, precise, fast, and cheap. It may also allow us to resurrect extinct species.

Intelligence  is about 70-80% heritable, but is highly polygenic; we are only now beginning to isolate a few of the genes responsible for it. But research is rocketing forward so fast that it’s not out of the question to imagine genetic procedures to eliminate disease and boost intelligence within 20 years. When that happens, I am sure China will start doing it. After all, highly intelligent people are more orderly, more innovative, more law-abiding, and disproportionately responsible for economic growth and development. Once you set aside ethical quibbles, what's not to like?

If I had extra money lying around, I would invest it in (1) ultra-realistic Japanese sex dolls; and (2) Chinese genetic engineering. Those will be the growth industries of the next few decades.

Cousin Marriage is a Disaster for Developing Countries

In some Muslim countries, over 50% of marriages are arranged, and involve cousins:

Timthumb

A sophisticated recent study finds that this inbreeding is associated with truly staggering losses in IQ:

We found significant decline in child cognitive abilities due to inbreeding and high frequency of mental retardation among offspring from inbred families. The mean differences (95% C.I.) were reported for the VIQ, being −22.00 (−24.82, −19.17), PIQ −26.92 (−29.96, −23.87) and FSIQ −24.47 (−27.35, −21.59) for inbred as compared to non-inbred children (p>0.001). The higher risk of being mentally retarded was found to be more obvious among inbred categories corresponding to the degree of inbreeding and the same accounts least for non-inbred children (p<0.0001).

The risks of inbreeding have long been known:

Inbreeding (consanguineous marriages among humans) produces homozygous offspring, since the mating of pairs occurs between genetically closely related individuals…. Consanguinity has been associated with significant decline in mean values for height, weight and body mass index (BMI) and the subsequent depression on children growth, much influenced in proportion to their inbreeding coefficients with least variation for non-genetic factors [21]. Inbreeding is also thought to predispose offspring to neuropsychological disorders such as hereditary Parkinsonism [34]. Several studies have identified parental consanguinity as an important risk factor for mental retardation or ID [26][27][35], and it has been shown that inbreeding is correlated with reduced cognitive performance [36].

The study results, in graphical terms:

Journal.pone.0109585.g005_thumb[3]

The X axis is Full-Scale IQ. IQ scores of 75 and below are considered mentally disabled in Western countries, anything under 60 is profoundly disabled, generally requiring special education and lifelong assistance. (Which, of course, most developing countries can't afford.) There may be some confounding factors here, such as that higher-IQ, better-educated Muslims may be less traditional and more likely to avoid arranged cousin marriages, and higher-IQ wealthier Muslims may face less risk from malnutrition or pollution. But still, the well-known genetic danger of consanguinity is certainly explaining a lot of this unbelievably huge variance.

This is why IQ is so revealing. The debate on how to develop countries goes 'round and 'round, starting again every time the latest intervention (education, clean water, infrastructure) delivers less-than-overwhelming results. And the blame game goes back and forth, ad nauseam. But this study, and many more like it, point to an obvious factor which few squeamish PC Westerners are willing to discuss openly. Cousin marriage creates generation after generation of people with severe intellectual deficits. Eliminate it, and (after a few generations) you will unleash massive amounts of human capital that has been destroyed for centuries by the dead hand of tradition.

Credit Where It’s Due: German Law Protects Gays in the Workplace

WorkplaceDiscrimination

A few days ago I pointed out the weak provisions of the German non-discrimination law on housing discrimination. It's only fair, though, to point out that the same law does prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation (g). It's still very difficult to prove a case and win damages in Germany based on the AGG, but at least the principle is there.

The US Congress has tried to enact the same protections many times over in a bill called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, but failed. You need the House of Representatives and the Senate to pass the bill, and the President to sign it. So far, all three of those stars have not yet lined up in the right constellation, so the bill is not yet law. Many states have passed laws prohibiting discrimination against gays in the workplace, but 29 states still allow it.

I suspect a federal law might actually pass in the next 5-10 years. All you would need to do is get 10-15% of Republicans to vote for it and you would have it. (You would also need a Democratic President, of course.) I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think the change on this issue has been so dramatic in the last few years that getting 10-15% of Republicans is just possible.

Thomas Bernhard Taking No Prisoners

The blog 'The Philosophical Worldview Artist (Weltanschauungskunst für alle Weltanschauer) run by one Douglas Robertson (no idea who he is) publishes fine translations of German-language texts, including this typically scorching 1984 interview with Thomas Bernhard:

FLEISCHMANN: But surely with distance one ought to be able to write about the past more composedly.
BERNHARD: That’s the big cliché about contemplating the past, and it’s obviously totally false.  Old people can write books like that when they’re sitting paralyzed in their armchairs, but it’s not my mode, not yet; maybe the day after tomorrow I’ll still be excited; whenever I write anything, even something peaceful, I’m still basically excited.  In any case, excitation is a pleasant condition; when your blood is sluggish, excitation gets it moving, pulsing; it keeps you alive, and consequently keeps the stream of books flowing.  Without excitation there’s absolutely nothing; you might as well stay in bed.  Now for you, Miss Fleischmann  (laughs), being in bed  is of course only a way of passing the time when you’re excited—right?—and being in a book is every bit as much a pastime.  Writing a book is after all a kind of sexual act, but one that happens at a more leisurely pace than the literal act, which one engaged in when one was younger; it is, to be sure, much more pleasant to write a book than to go to bed with somebody.
 
FLEISCHMANN: Do you regard writing as a substitute for sexual fulfillment?
 
BERNHARD: “Sexual fulfillment” is just a catch-phrase, like, for example, “self-development.”  It’s unadulterated bullshit.  But of course I’ve already said what writing is.  I’d just be repeating myself if I said any more about it.
 
FLEISCHMANN: In this book Vienna is an institute for the annihilation of spirit; what does Vienna mean in your opinion?
 
BERNHARD: Well, as I’ve stated in the book, Vienna is essentially an art-mill, or the biggest art-mill in the world, into which everybody leaps of their own free will, and the current miller is the chancellor, who is in charge there, the cabinet ministers are the miller’s helpers, and all the singers, actors, stage-directors, fling themselves into the mill, and down below the flour comes out.  But this process can only be kept going for so long before the flour for some reason comes out all moldy and smelly.
 
FLEISCHMANN: And why do you think that it’s specifically in Vienna that artists are so [thoroughly] destroyed?
 
BERNHARD: Well, because here in Vienna is where the most spiteful people in the world are to be found; on the other hand you have this mill, the greatest [possible source of] amusement.  Is it not after all amusing to watch people, geniuses and people of good character, flinging themselves into it up at the top, and coming out all deformed down below?  Don’t you find it amusing?

Gay Marriage Now the Law in All 50 States

And on a similar note to the last post, the US Supreme Court just held (pdf) that the Constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process of law require gay marriage to be recognized in all 50 states. Leftward-drifting Catholic Republican Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion for a 5-4 split court, which ends:

The Court, in this decision, holds same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry in all States. It follows that the Court also must hold—and it now does hold—that there is no lawful basis for a State to refuse to recognize a lawful same-sex marriage performed in another State on the ground of its same-sex character.

* * *

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

Housing Discrimination There and Here

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court decided Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, a case about the Fair Housing Act, a law passed by Congress in 1968 to combat housing discrimination:

De jure residential segregation by race was declared unconstitutional almost a century ago, but its vestiges remain today, intertwined with the country’s economic and social life. Some segregated housing patterns can be traced to conditions that arose in the mid-20th century. Rapid urbanization, concomitant with the rise of suburban developments accessible by car, led many white families to leave the inner cities. This often left minority families concentrated in the center of the Nation’s cities. During this time, various practices were followed, sometimes with governmental support, to encourage and maintain the separation of the races…

In April 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, and the Nation faced a new urgency to resolve the social unrest in the inner cities. Congress responded by adopting the Kerner Commission’s recommendation and passing the Fair Housing Act. The statute addressed the denial of housing opportunities on the basis of “race, color, religion, or national origin.” Civil Rights Act of 1968….

The question before the court was whether the FHA can be used for claims of ‘disparate impact’ – that is policies that have the result of affecting minorities and whites differently, even though there is no proof that the policymakers’ intention was to discriminate on the basis of race. The specific case here involves a federal rent-subsidy plan (Section 8) for poor families. The plaintiffs claimed that Texas agencies were contributing to residential racial segregation by steering minority Section 8 recipients to areas that were already disproportionately minority. The Plaintiffs had no proof that this was being done intentionally, so sued under disparate impact. The Supreme Court held that since most other American anti-discrimination laws can be used in this way, so can the FHA:

Recognition of disparate impact liability under the FHA also plays a role in uncovering discriminatory intent: It permits plaintiffs to counteract unconscious prejudices and disguised animus that escape easy classification as disparate treatment. In this way disparate-impact liability may prevent segregated housing patterns that might otherwise result from covert and illicit stereotyping.

But disparate-impact liability has always been properly limited in key respects that avoid the serious constitutional questions that might arise under the FHA, for instance, if such liability were imposed based solely on a showing of a statistical disparity. Disparate-impact liability mandates the “removal of artificial, arbitrary, and unnecessary barriers,” not the displacement of valid governmental policies.  The FHA is not an instrument to force housing authorities to reorder their priorities. Rather, the FHA aims to ensure that those priorities can be achieved without arbitrarily creating discriminatory effects or perpetuating segregation.

So the United States already had a nationwide law prohibiting private housing discrimination in 1968, and has interpreted both it and similar laws to cover even discrimination that occurs unintentionally.

Let’s turn to Germany. German jurists will point out that the Article 3 of the German federal constitution (the Grundgesetz) prohibits racial discrimination on the part of the state, and that this provision can, in limited circumstances, be applied to transactions between private parties (the idea of so-called Drittwirkung). In practice, however, this possibility is practically irrelevant and is rarely-used. This is one reason the EU constantly prodded Germany to adopt a comprehensive, modern anti-discrimination law. Germany resisted until finally, in 2006, it adopted what’s known as the Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz (AGG) or Equal Treatment Law. It was originally known as the Anti-Discrimination Law, but the title had to be watered down.

So what are the housing-discrimination provisions of the AGG? Here’s a short website (g) from a law firm that explains things pretty well. The main provision outlaws discrimination by private landlords on the basis of “race, ethnic ancestry, sex, religion or worldview, disability, age, or sexual identity”. Gosh, that sounds mighty progressive, you might be saying.

But actually, there are quite a lot of exceptions! For instance, if you’re renting a portion of the residence you currently occupy, you aren’t bound by the AGG at all. Seems reasonable enough. But then we get to a rather bigger loophoole: the so-called ‘small landlord’ exception. This provides that the full terms of the AGG do not apply to any landlord who puts on the market fewer than 50 residences. If you own 49 rental properties and are thus a ‘small landlord’ (!!), you are not permitted to discriminate on the basis of race or ethnic ancestry, but you can discriminate on all the other grounds as much as you want. Only when you rent more than 50 residences does the AGG apply in full force.

But wait, there’s more! Turns out there’s a loophole even here: a landlord may refuse to rent to someone in order to preserve ‘socially stable residential population structures’ and to preserve ‘balanced cultural relations’, whatever that means. Ironically, this provision of the law sells itself as an anti-discrimination measure: to prevent large concentrations of foreigners in a certain area, a landlord can refuse to rent to foreigners who wish to come there and live. Of course, the landlord then has to subsidize the rent of the foreigners he discriminated against so they can pay four times higher rent to live in the white part of town. Oh wait, no he doesn’t.

Also, if you want to sue a landlord for damages, you must do so within a 2-month limitations period, which is awfully short. Plus, without access to landlords’ documents through court-ordered discovery, you may have a hard time proving your case.

The doomsayers predicted a wave of litigation after the AGG was passed, but it never happened. Critics call the AGG a paper tiger (g) and have routinely called for it to be strengthened.

Germans take almost-sensual pleasure (g) in denouncing the ‘pervasive racism’ of American society. But the American legal system offers far more powerful tools for combating racial discrimination than Germany does.* In Germany, legal innovations that have long been the law of the land in the USA are still fiercely opposed by all but the most left-wing parties.

 

* So do I support anti-discrimination laws? You betcha, as Sarah Palin might say. But sometimes, you might protest, I point to grim realities that might seem to justify discrimination. I also sometimes point out that many racial and gender stereotypes have a firm basis in empirical reality, as pointed out in The Unbearable Accuracy of Stereotypes, as well as many other places.

This apparent conflict can be resolved by paying close attention to the is / ought divide, something many people don't seem to understand. Discrimination is, in certain contexts, entirely rational. From a heuristic perspective of using shortcuts to efficiently interpret the world, you might well conclude that you're unlikely to seriously screw up by hiring an all-male aerospace engineering workforce, given that 88% of all aerospace-engineering students are male. Sure, there might be a few talented women you overlooked, but with such a hugely skewed population of job applicants, the chance that you failed to hire a woman who was drastically more talented than the man you hired is pretty small. And you saved yourself the time and effort of reading the 12% of the applications submitted by women. Further, unlike with some jobs such as marketing or public relations, diversity for its own sake is unlikely to be a major selling point. The rocket either flies or it doesn't.

So that's the way the world is. But laws and regulations are about the way it ought to be. Societies should strive to extend equal opportunities to everyone, even if this means — as it surely will — increased inefficiency. The injustice done to the female job applicants by not even considering them for engineering jobs is considered more socially harmful than the efficiency losses imposed by requiring employers to give a fair shot to all applicants, even if they come from social groups which are unlikely to generate promising candidates. That's the proper balance to strike for many reasons, including individual justice and overall social harmony.

A Concentration of Citroen DS Cars

Visiting Belgium last weekend I came across a 'concentration' (as it's known in French) of classic Citroen DS cars. They're beloved all over the world, including the USA. Why, even the Wall Street Journal loves them, which means this may be the only French thing ever praised in that reliably Francophobe rag:

The DS is not just any old car, as is obvious should you park one next to a ’55 Chevy Bel Air, which then appears to have been built by cave-dwellers. The DS was a front-mid-engine, front-wheel-drive car with rear wheels closer together than at the front, allowing its sleek, tapering bobtail. The rears are enclosed in prim fender spats and, above, the remarkable panoramic greenhouse and fiberglass roof, canted like a beret. Did we mention it was French?

So without further ado, some Belgian Cirtoens:

Beige Gold Citroen

Beige Gold Citroen
Beige Gold Citroen
Beige Gold Citroen

Beige Gold Citroen

 

Come on, You Can Do Better than This

I love my readers, I really do, and I enjoy the comments on this blog, which are often more interesting than the stuff I write.

But recently, in response to posts about immigration, the comments have basically been "Dude, that just can't be true" (translation: "I don't want to believe it because it doesn't harmonize with my pre-existing convictions"). But saying it just won't make it so. I'm posting these articles and studies because I think they shed light on important issues, and because they're not the sort of thing that gets a lot of play in the mainstream press.

If you disagree with their conclusions, don't just complain, prove you're right. I'd be happy to see well-researched studies and good reporting that challenges the conclusions of the things I've posted. Bring it on!

Country of Origin and Social Success in Denmark

One reason Danes may not wish to receive increased immigration from Islamic countries is that Danes are intolerant haters.

Another reason may be that these immigrants (.pdf) have much higher crime rates, higher use of social benefits, and lower employment than the Danish-origin population and even immigrants from non-Islamic countries. The following illustration shows that the group with the highest crime rates is second-generation immigrants from non-Western countries — significantly higher than the first generation:

Pages from educationalattainmentetcDenmark

Europe’s Anti-Immigrant Backlash Continues

The right-wing Danish People's Party experienced almost a doubling of its support, the New York Times reports

In an election that turned on economic uncertainty and fierce debates over immigration, Danish voters on Thursday ousted their center-left government in a clear swing to the right that unexpectedly elevated an anti-immigrant, anti-European Union party that had been on the margins of the country’s politics.

Polls had predicted a close race, but as the night wore on, the far-right Danish People’s Party emerged in second place over all, raising questions about the role it could play in a new government and the country’s path in the coming four years.

The outcome took even senior members of the Danish People’s Party by surprise. “It’s gone beyond my wildest expectations,” Peter Skaarup, a senior lawmaker with the party told The Local, a Danish news outlet. “I know we often fare better in these elections than the polls suggest since people often aren’t willing to admit that they vote for the Danish People’s Party, but it really does look fantastic so far.”

Denmark has consistently ranked among the world’s happiest nations, but the flow of immigrants ignited a backlash that has heightened nationalist sentiments, something that also unfolded with political upheaval in neighboring Finland — where the populist Finns Party joined the government — and to some extent in other European countries.

“Immigration has been a very key and decisive issue in this campaign,” Mr. Hansen said. Debate focused largely on the number of workers coming from places like Bulgaria and Romania, what sort of benefits they should receive, and whether Denmark should take in more of the migrants arriving at Europe’s southern borders, he added.

And this is in the happiest country on earth. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the culture of all Continental European nations is not welcoming to immigrants who don't look like original inhabitants. This has always been the case and always will, there is no way to change it. A policy which brings millions of low-skilled immigrants with different skin colors, languages, beliefs, and customs into any European country will spark a fierce backlash even in supposed citadels of tolerance such as Denmark and Sweden.

If you nevertheless support such a policy, you must also create a plan to deal with the backlash, otherwise you are just posturing.