Admissions of illiberalism

By Razib Khan | December 8, 2010 12:01 am

abayaRecently I was having a twitter conversation with Kevin Zelnio and Eric Michael Johnson about the fact that I define myself as “right-wing.” Kevin kind of implied that I was poseur in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. I don’t wear my political beliefs on my sleeve too much in this space because 1) I find talking about politics kind of boring (though data analysis less so) 2) My own views are somewhat idiosyncratic, as I am socially liberal on many “hot button” issues 3) Science is more interesting than politics, and we can have a real conversation about it. If I started offering my stupid uninformed opinions on politics I’d have to open up the floor to my liberal readers to offer their stupid uninformed opinions on politics. There’s a lot of that on the web, so I don’t see where that’s in anyone’s interest.

But I am sincere. I don’t consider myself liberal, and that has to do with particular socially conservative tendencies which I have. Robin Hanson might call me a “farmer,” and I’m also accurately described as having a bourgeois sensibility. More concretely I have little sympathy with liberal diversity talk, and oppose multiculturalism. I’m not a neoconservative or liberal internationalist who believers in eternal war and imperialism to homogenize the values of all humans, but, I do believe in nation-states with distinctive cultural values which unify them.

The nation-states of the West have Western values, which are a contingent product of their particular histories. I believe in the perpetuation of those values. The geometric aspect of Florence’s Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore make it a relatively conceivable mosque at some point in the future, but I don’t want the Duomo of Florence to become a mosque. It’s an aesthetic preference, and culturally biased, but I’m at peace with this. It is a fundamentally illiberal attitude, and I am not particularly shy about it, even with family members who are nominally affiliated with “Team Islam.” It isn’t as if Islamic architecture is under threat, there are 57 nations which are members of an organization of states affiliated with that religion.


Since I’m not a neocon I obviously don’t have much truck with the “War on Terror,” and am moderately skeptical of our close relations with Israel (and honestly, Saudi Arabia and Egypt as well). But, I also do not share the reflexive defense which Western Left-liberals exhibit toward the large Muslim minorities which now reside in Europe. Consider the real evidence of discrimination against Muslims which Ed Yong reported a few weeks back. I grant the reality of this, but one of the dimensions that is important to note is that blacks who are not Muslim are viewed more favorably. I believe that Islam-critics, from the unhinged neocon Right to the ultra-secularist New Atheist fringe are correct in many of their critiques of the nature of the Muslim subcultures of the West, and the barbarism of Islamic culture more generally. The word “barbaric” makes many people wince, and it’s not really acceptable in “polite” company (the company which I generally keep), but I don’t have a good word handy. I don’t believe that we should invade Saudi Arabia so that women can drive and not need to wear the abaya. I find it barbaric, and personally objectionable, but it does not rise to the level of something like slavery or genocide.

Among many liberals these sorts of assertions are ludicrous on their face. You can’t generalize about a whole religion like that. I think this is hypocrisy, as American Left-liberals regularly generalize about white Protestants (or quasi-Protestants, like Mormons). Not only that, they express snobbish disdain for the genuine kernels of truth which lay the seed for the paranoia on the xenophobic Right. Reality is complex, but when there are truths to be faced which are not congenial to the narrative of White Male Oppressor, the truth becomes very simple and stark.

Generalizations which shed a negative light on White European civilization are acceptable (if debatable) in polite Left-liberal society. For example, it is common to assert that Western civilization in the years before 1000 A.D. was barbarous, boorish, and primitive. This is a fashionable assertion as an inversion of the narrative of superiority which once reigned supreme. Of course, it ignores the real exceptions such as the Carolingian Renaissance, or Ireland before the Vikings. It invariably pretends as if the Byzantines did not exist.

But let’s look at the views of Muslims in Western Europe toward homosexuals:
fig321

As you can see, Western European Muslims are much more conservative than the general population. Or, more accurately they’re much more reactionary and culturally alien. The reality is that the status quo in Western Europe is toward acceptance of homosexuality without the sort of debates we have in the United States. Interestingly you can’t even calculate a real ratio for British Muslims to the general public, not one British Muslim surveyed would admit to homosexuality being morally acceptable. When it comes to white European attitudes toward Muslims some of it clearly boils down toward racism, but the fact is that most Turks are no more colored than many Southern Europeans, and Britain’s Punjabi Sikh population of working class origin is the source of less tension than Britain’s Punjabi Pakistani Muslim population. There are complex feedback loops at work. Muslim immigrants bring a lot of geopolitical baggage because of the nature of the Muslim world. But, we can’t pretend as if the Islamic world also doesn’t have its own particular suite of values which makes it distinctive.

European Muslims are generally much more liberal, all things equal, than the majority of the world’s Muslims. Consider what’s happening in Pakistan right now, Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi ‘has price on her head’:

Though he is guilty of nothing, this Pakistani labourer is on the run – with his five children.

His wife, Asia Bibi, has been sentenced to death for blaspheming against Islam. That is enough to make the entire family a target.

They stay hidden by day, so we met them after dark.

Mr Masih told us they move constantly, trying to stay one step ahead of the anonymous callers who have been menacing them.

“I ask who they are, but they refuse to tell me,” he said.

In the village they tried to put a noose around my neck, so that they could kill me”

“They say ‘we’ll deal with you if we get our hands on you’. Now everyone knows about us, so I am hiding my kids here and there. I don’t allow them to go out. Anyone can harm them,” he added.

Ashiq Masih says his daughters still cry for their mother and ask if she will be home in time for Christmas.

He insists that Asia Bibi is innocent and will be freed, but he worries about what will happen next.

“When she comes out, how she can live safely?” he asks.

“No one will let her live. The mullahs are saying they will kill her when she comes out.”

Asia Bibi, an illiterate farm worker from rural Punjab, is the first woman sentenced to hang under Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law.

The background to this is one of class and caste. Pakistan’s Christians tend to be lower caste converts who are economically subservient to Muslim landowners, and held in contempt by Muslims of similar socioeconomic station because naturally they’re the lowest of the low, being poor and non-Muslim. Accusations of blasphemy generally seem to bubble up out of interpersonal disputes, and are used as leverage by the accusatory party. Christians are not the only target of persecution. The Sunni majority and Shia minority have been engaging in a low-grade civil war for a while now. Sikhs in some parts of Pakistan are given the choice between forced conversion and expulsion. Basically, pogroms. A dead young Hindu had his coffin labelled ‘kafir’.

Not all Muslim nations are Pakistan. It is in some ways an extreme case, but, it is also not inconsequential. ~10% of the world’s Muslim lives in Pakistan, and the Pakistani British community is large and robust. Earlier in the decade I had some expectations that Western Muslims in the Diaspora could shape the culture of Muslim majority nation-states, but the West has little cultural credibility in the first place, and if there’s influence I’d suspect it goes the other way now.

ladenHow about Muslim nations like Indonesia? It has a robust moderate majority, and Muslims can, and do, convert to other religions in Indonesia. Most Indonesian Muslims do not have recognizable Arab or Turco-Persian names. But a new report Pew Global Attitude Project really shocked me. True, the majority of Indonesians do not have a favorable view of Osama bin Laden, but 23% do! This is a glass 3/4 full, 1/4 empty, case I suppose. But 1/4 empty is way too empty for my taste.

But I am aware and admit that American imperialism and our reflexive support for Israel leaves a bad taste in the mouths of many Muslims. So being in “favor” of bin Laden may be like asserting that Barack Obama is Muslim, more an expression of identity, suspicion, or solidarity, than a well thought out attitude. On a positive note, the direction of opinions about bin Laden seem heartening from an American perspective:
osama2

islam7But there are some more negative notes. The vast majority of Muslims in various populous nations believe that their religion’s involvement in politics is a positive development. To some extent the separation between religion and culture and politics is artificial. But, there are differences of degree. The Anglican Church is the established religion of England, but it clearly has a less powerful impact on the choices of individuals in England than Sunni Islam does in Egypt. Despite recent religious conflicts it is notable that Indonesia does have a relatively dominant moderate-to-liberal Muslim tradition among the core Javanese ethnicity (though not among some ethic groups on the nation’s periphery), so perhaps these Muslims do not have theocratic ambitions. But Egypt, Nigeria, and Pakistan, have all been riven by the politicization of religion. And yet the public still supports the positive role of Islam in politics. Interestingly Lebanon and Turkey have large minorities who dissent, though clearly for different historical reasons.

mus8When we go into the real heart of the barbaric craziness we start to see some relieving variance. Pakistan’s Muslims reinforce the perception that that nation has become an expression of something out of a neconservative’s fever dream. To be clear, here’s the question: do people favor or oppose making segregation of men and women in the workplace the law. This isn’t voluntary, or company by-company. These are people who support enforcement of segregation between the sexes in the workplace through state fiat. And thank God we have Turkey and Lebanon! Only 10% support gender segregation by law there. Interestingly Indonesia isn’t that illiberal on this issue either. I think this supports my contention that their perception that Islam has a positive role in politics and the minority support for bin Laden both reflect something different than the same opinions in Pakistan would.

Now let’s explore the stereotype that Muslims are bloodthirsty when it comes to punishment, to the point that they’d make a Texan white with shock:

mus9

Thank God for Turkey and Lebanon! Again, one should be careful about taking some of these statistics too literally. 30 percent of Indonesians accept the death penalty for apostasy, but these are likely in overwhelmingly conservative Muslim groups like the Achenese. In Java since the 1960s hundreds of thousands of nominal Muslims have freely converted to Christianity and Balinese Hinduism. To me the difference between Jordan and Lebanon is particularly striking, as these are two Levantine Arab nations (the surveys by the way were asked of Muslims only). Before we conclude Turkey is a paragon of liberalism, do recall that Christian clerics are still being murdered by vigilantes even in that nation, so objectionable do some Muslims find their activity in a society which has very few non-Muslim minorities.

And predictably, Diasporic communities are considerably more liberal. Only 36 percent of British Muslims age 16-24 believe that apostates should be killed! So the crazy that is Pakistan can be nicely moderated with some civilized influence.

I want to contribute data myself. So I looked in the WVS. There’s a question which asks if religion is important. Very. Some. Not so much. Not at all. And then a question which asks if an atheist politician is fit for office. Again, four rankings. I recoded them as 3, 2, 1, and 0, and weighted by percentage. Below is the scatterplot I generated.

mu6

The correspondence is pretty close. 75% of the variance in Y can be explained by X, though I wouldn’t take it too seriously, as I recoded a categorical variable. But I’m more interested in the trends, and deviations from the trend. Note that the Polish and Mexicans are 1) more religious than Ukrainians and Serbians, 2) more tolerant of atheist politicians. In Poland you had Aleksander Kwaśniewski, who was president and an atheist from 1995 on. In Mexico you have a long tradition of anti-clericalism going back to the 19th century, and being enacted as the national norm by the Mexican Revolution in the early 20th century (at one point priests were disenfranchised). That norm is only relaxing on the past few decades, with the rise to power of the Center-Right National Action Party.

Many of the ex-Communist nations, such as Romania and Serbia, seem to have started to exhibit a lot of religious-nationalism. In contrast, the Czech Republic has not. It goes to show that the pre-existent culture persisted through the Communist generations, and resurfaced. Though to be fair it does not seem that concrete religious customs and traditions necessarily were maintained with great rigor. Rather, the idea that to be an ethnic Romanian was to be an Orthodox Christian, and to be Serbian was to be an Orthodox Christian, immediately took hold after the collapse of atheistic Communism.

Going back to my discussion with Kevin and Eric, I reject multiculturalism and diversity-talk. In a positive sense I embrace Eurocentrism. I do not have an internationalist utopian Leftist vision whereby I believe my values should be enforced in all places at all times. There are minimal levels of human rights which I believe are necessary in the international order. Slavery should be unacceptable to the international community. But there are a wide range of practices which I find abhorrent, distasteful, and shocking, which are organic features of many societies and cultures. To be fair, many non-Westerners view Westerners in the same manner. More trivially, Americans may view the French as bizarre dirty perverts, while French may perceive Americans to be fat self-aggrandizing cowboys. There are grains of truth in these stereotypes.

Generalizations about cultures can be useful. For example, it seems likely that Britain will continue to have many more problems with their Muslim population than any other European nation. This is because nearly half of British Muslims are Pakistani, while the substantial number of the remainder are Bangladeshi, and so culturally similar if not as extreme. This is simply amongst the least assimilable segment of Muslims to liberal Western values. In contrast French Muslims are disproportionately from Algeria, which is amongst the more secular of Muslim nations (and France is historically more aggressive about integration than Britain). Sweden has a much larger Muslim population than Norway, but Norway has a larger contingent of Pakistanis. Swedish Iranians for example, who often fled from the Shah, tend to be very secular.

In polite society such generalizations can not be mooted. You have to leave it to neoconservatives and right-wingers. Right-wingers like me! I do not want to live in a society with too many Muslims. I was born in a Muslim nation, and am happy I am a citizen of a Western nation. As someone who was technically born a Muslim and am a rather transparent in my atheism I am moderately concerned about the crazy adherence to barbaric apostasy laws within Islam, which even Harvard Muslim chaplains may not necessarily repudiate.

Here’s Robert Wright, a conventional liberal, Islamophobia and Homophobia:

So could bridging work with Islamophobia? Could getting to know Muslims have the healing effect that knowing gay people has had?

The good news is that bridging does seem to work across religious divides. Putnam and Campbell did surveys with the same pool of people over consecutive years and found, for example, that gaining evangelical friends leads to a warmer assessment of evangelicals (by seven degrees on a “feeling thermometer” per friend gained, if you must know).

And what about Muslims? Did Christians warm to Islam as they got to know Muslims — and did Muslims return the favor?

That’s the bad news. The population of Muslims is so small, and so concentrated in distinct regions, that there weren’t enough such encounters to yield statistically significant data. And, as Putnam and Campbell note, this is a recipe for prejudice. Being a small and geographically concentrated group makes it hard for many people to know you, so not much bridging naturally happens. That would explain why Buddhists and Mormons, along with Muslims, get low feeling-thermometer ratings in America.

So could getting to know more Muslims heal your negative attitudes toward them? Well, it depends on the kind of Muslim. Some Muslims are normal people who happen to believe a few different supernatural tenets, abstain from beer, etc. Other Muslims are different from you and I. They’re embedded in a different culture with radically different values and outlooks. The data on the number of Muslims and attitudes toward them are mixed. Some European nations with many Muslims (Germany) are much more negative than the United States, while some with fewer than the United States (Poland) are more negative as well. Britain is around the same negativity, but has proportionally a much larger Muslim community. France, with a Muslim community that is both the largest, and arguably the most integrated, in all of Europe, is somewhere between Germany and Britain.

Also, gayness is a relatively demarcated identity rooted in a fact of private behavior. Aside from better fashion sense gay men tend to share similar values to straight men. Many Muslims are conventional assimilated people, but others are not. The larger a Muslim community becomes I would argue the greater the possibility for involution and the emergence of a coherent and separate subculture.

I have hierarchies and personal values, and am not entirely open. With all the preceding I think it is clear that I do not esteem Islamic civilization as it has come to develop. There are aspects of East Asian civilization which I find to be alien and not worthy of emulation, but in general I am more positively disposed toward it. I generally put Hindu Indians between between Muslims and East Asians, primarily because one has to wonder about a society which could produce organized religiously motivated killings on such a grand scale in this day and age (Hindu apologists I’ve talked to argue that they learned this from the Muslims). Such judgments are not “objective” as such. They’re personal reflections of my values. They indicate a certain lack of openness.

There are other examples I could give. I am not a libertarian, but I am much more sympathetic to the role of prices and markets in efficiently allocating resources than a typical Left-liberal. My attitudes toward gender roles is relatively conservative (I support legal equality, but accept sex differences is real on a range of traits). I obviously have little sympathy for identity politics.

Of course my friend John Emerson might point out that I’m describing a particular social sort of Left-liberal. Not social democrats who might focus more on economic issues. But it does seem that in Europe social democratic and Left-liberal parties have the same stance on accommodation with other cultures that American Left-liberals do. Labor and Socialist parties draw upon the immigrant vote, while the right-wing parties defend the native culture.

So that’s that. Most of you already knew I’m no liberal. Those of you who are shocked should get over it. Back to science and other stuff…..

Image credit: Justin Hall

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  • Katharine

    I think there’s kind of multiple trends within liberalism on this subject, really; you have the folks who are all ‘oh, let’s play nice nice with religions, let’s forget about their barbarism’ (am I to understand that the fact that you don’t want to live in a nation with too many Muslims is partially a result of the fact that Islam was the religion which was most pervasive in your childhood? Given the data I understand not wanting to live around too many Muslims – I don’t want to live in a nation with too many religious people, period, and find all religions pretty horrific, though given world demographics there won’t be such a nation for a long time) and then there’s people like me who are ‘wait a second, look at the views of these people. Bad idea.’ We’re not all Let’s Forget Their Problems.

    Me, I just view all religious folks with a degree of suspicion once I learn they’re religious. It doesn’t matter which religion they are. Religion fosters illiberalism and insanity.

    Many of the ex-Communist nations, such as Romania and Serbia, seem to have started to exhibit a lot of religious-nationalism. In contrast, the Czech Republic has not. It goes to show that the pre-existent culture persisted through the Communist generations, and resurfaced. Though to be fair it does not seem that concrete religious customs and traditions necessarily were maintained with great rigor. Rather, the idea that to be an ethnic Romanian was to be an Orthodox Christian, and to be Serbian was to be an Orthodox Christian, immediately took hold after the collapse of atheistic Communism.

    I can say at least as regards the Romanians you’re right (my friend in Bucharest tells me about this often; there is significant informal church-state non-separation there, and they teach religion in schools, and they removed teaching of evolution from the curriculum there for some absurd reason), but there appears to be a diminishing of this idea among the younger generation, since the world has now inserted its tendrils more solidly in Romania especially after the fall of Communism. It will grow as older generations die.

    There are other examples I could give. I am not a libertarian, but I am much more sympathetic to the role of prices and markets in efficiently allocating resources than a typical Left-liberal. My attitudes toward gender roles is relatively conservative (I support legal equality, but accept sex differences is real on a range of traits). I obviously have little sympathy for identity politics.

    There’s a range of attitudes among we left-liberals, too. I generally find the more educated, the less one attaches their economic opinions to their politics. I support a system in which there is both social support and competition.

    As regards your views on identity politics and gender roles:
    1) I take it you have not been the target of racism, institutionalized or otherwise, within the United States?
    2) Which sex differences are you talking about, and must it necessarily follow that a ‘gender role’ is made and determined by those? From my knowledge of the literature on sex differences, it appears that most of the results in those which imply a difference are mostly because of long-institutionalized sexism that warps little kids’ brains. In both sexes. There was an example once of a study in one country – I think it was Saudi Arabia – that essentially equalized performance in math (and I think the female children may have even done better) once they removed a significant number of environmental influences. Also, are your views on this perhaps the result of an overall bias toward the conservative?

  • Katharine

    I think you mentioned once that you share your domicile in [redacted] with your significant other, and that your significant other is female.

    How do you think about these ‘gender roles’ when you think about her? Would you subject her to their oppressiveness anyway despite the fact that she is a person you probably care significantly about and want to be successful and happy and want to be able to go wherever she wants to go in life, whether she’s a doctor or lawyer or engineer or anything else? Do you think of her as an exception? Do the thoughts produced by it give you cognitive dissonance? Or do you think something else.

  • Chris

    It’s nice to see a blogger on Discover that is not an unabashed Liberal (finally).

    In terms of the data, it’s rather unnerving to see so many people in support of Al Qaeda and Bin Laden. I share your “right wing” sentiments as well. The longer we keep being the world police of “Democracy”, the more negative our image will be across the world. I’m also curious as to where Great Britain would sit on that scatter plot – I would assume they’re somewhere close to Germany and Spain.

  • Teapot

    You sound eminently liberal to me. Social liberalism, economic liberalism and a criticism of socially illiberal cultures. That’s about as liberal as you can get isn’t it?

    I think the problem is that you seem to be using the strange re-definition of the word liberal that often seems to be used by USers nowadays, where “liberal” is used to refer to what we (UK) would call “loony left”.

  • Ikram

    A whole post about “why I am not a Liberal” that is really only about Islam. Maybe one day you can explore a second dimension?

    Individuals can self-identify how they wish. But you claiming to be a conservative based on a dislike of Islam (and Muslims?) is like me claiming to be Hindu because I oppose cruelty to animals.

    I’m with Kevin Zelnio.

  • Mark

    Katharine,

    Do you believe that homosexuality in men is innate, the result of environmental conditioning, or some combination thereof? Because if you believe that homosexuality in men is at least partially innate, then you are implicitly agreeing that there is at least one innate sex difference out there, since sexual attraction to men is not uniformly distributed between men and women, but very much skewed in favor of women: over 95% of women are predominantly sexually attracted to men, whereas around 5% of men are.

    If sexual attraction to men is innate, what of the other sex differences that correlate so strongly with it among both men and women? As a gay man who travels in circles full of other gay men, I can tell you a very large number of gay men present very stereotypically female traits from early childhood which persist regardless of socialization to the contrary. Speaking personally, I remember as a boy being fascinated by my grandmother’s makeup and jewelry, putting on her heels, identifying more with girls than with boys, avoiding team sports and roughhousing, etc… Also, while I did well in school in all subjects, I always excelled in literature and writing relative to math and science. This is anecdotal, but anyone who spends a significant amount of time with gay men knows that they have far less interest in traditionally male pursuits such as team sports and far more interest in traditionally female pursuits like beautification relative to other men. Gay men, like women, typically perform better on tests of verbal ability than on tests of visual-spatial reasoning (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070507113352.htm) and the history of human achievement is in accordance with this finding. (I.e., many more gay men have made their names as writers than as mathematicians.)

    Anyway, my point is that if these predispositions among a minority of men, which persist despite active socialization to the contrary, are innate, why would we expect them to not be innate when they appear among a majority of women?

    Also, regarding traditional gender roles, many people find them sensible, not oppressive. (I admit this as someone who does not conform to them.) Is there any evidence that on the whole, women in societies that promote such roles are less happy than women in societies that are more liberated? GSS survey data show no difference in happiness levels between women who grew up post-second wave feminism relative to their less liberated mothers.

    http://inductivist.blogspot.com/2009/05/family-trends-and-happiness.html

    Women in Muslim countries with typical gender roles report being as happy as men:

    http://inductivist.blogspot.com/2009/11/muslim-women-are-as-happy-as-their-men.html

    And to use a random (but fun!) example, the Amish are pretty much as traditional as you can get when it comes to gender, and Amish women consistently report higher levels of satisfaction with their lives than normal American women. (My interactions with the Amish of Lancaster County suggests to me that this is not a front.)

    “Hurst and McConnell’s in-depth survey of Ohio Amish women led the authors to state that ‘The women generally voiced deep satisfaction with their roles. All believed strongly that men and women are meant to have different roles to play in life, largely because of perceived differences between the sexes.’ … Though feminists may have problems with what they perceive as the Amish woman’s position, others have noted that Amish women seem to have achieved a degree of contentment that many modern feminists continue to pursue, with less satisfactory results (Conundrum, Olshan/Schmidt).”

    http://amishamerica.com/do-amish-women-have-rights/

    Also, I should get points for mentioning cross-dressing and the Amish in the same comment.

  • Don

    Gawd, or (Dawg, your preference), this raving liberal can’t find much difference between himself and Razib except the latter’s greater knowledge of culture and quantitative genetics.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    am I to understand that the fact that you don’t want to live in a nation with too many Muslims is partially a result of the fact that Islam was the religion which was most pervasive in your childhood?

    religion wasn’t that pervasive fwiw. still, really find it totally insufferable when i’m subject to it.

    Me, I just view all religious folks with a degree of suspicion once I learn they’re religious

    i discriminate. again, another reason i’m not liberal. discrimination is OK. quakers, i don’t mind. episcopalian are silly, but not scary. if all muslims were as liberal as a small minority i wouldn’t care too. i’m pretty jeffersonian at this point.


    1) I take it you have not been the target of racism, institutionalized or otherwise, within the United States?

    not institutional, but i was called a sand nigger by rednecks a fair amount. got jumped by cowboys once at a dance. i experience racism a fair amount as a kid, though i’m too self-important for that to have affected me to too much.

    Which sex differences are you talking about, and must it necessarily follow that a ‘gender role’ is made and determined by those?

    on average i believe men and women will take different roles in life, and where people shakeout is going to be do to personal disposition. i don’t expect men to women to have the same distribution all things equal in many domains. that’s my null. not yours.

    Or do you think something else.

    watch the mind-reading! i know you so i’ll let this pass, but don’t impute attitudes to me which i didn’t express! in any case, when i was a 20 i held to very hardcore egalitarian attitudes about relations between the sexes, and this caused me difficulty personally. it turned out that there was a difference between what people avowed and how they behaved. as i have grown older and had relationships i have had to acknowledge that men and women are different, on average, and that has helped me a lot in interacting with women.

    the other person you refer is on the same page btw.

    can you pass along links to the literature you’re talking about? you can send them via my contact box, i think if u put too many it’ll get stuck in spam. i already know your real identity so don’t worry about anonymity in email.

    tx.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    . But you claiming to be a conservative based on a dislike of Islam (and Muslims?)

    stop being disingenuous. there are litmus tests. of course, because i’m not a neocon many right-wingers would not consider me right-wing. but i don’t interact much with non-libertarian conservatives in my day to day life, so the issue doesn’t come up.

  • jimmy

    I found your post to be refreshing, candid, if somewhat meandering. Such is stream-of-consciousness, I guess.

    It’s interesting that Katharine doesn’t want to live around too many religious people because religion is horrific. I can say that I don’t want to live around too many atheists because absolute belief and certainty in one’s values and mores is pretty horrific, too.

    One can easily point to the last century to see tens of millions killed by atheists like Pol Pot, Stalin, and Mao Tsetung in the name of supposedly higher-minded humanist ideals. At the same time, millions are killed in ethnic and religious strife, like Hutus/Tutsis, Serbia/Croatia, etc. So who is worse, Katherine?

    Cognitive dissonance works with all viewpoints. Left-liberals seem to be more susceptible to ignoring any fact that doesn’t corroborate their world view because they are so absolutist in their thinking. They consider these facts as outliers and aberrations.

    I agree with Razib about gender politics. I want my wife and daughter to have all the opportunity that a man does. At the same time, I acknowledge the real mental, physical, and emotional differences between men and women. Consequently, I want men to be firefighters and policemen. I don’t want to be injured or die because a woman is not physically up to the task. OTOH, I want women to be in the social sciences field because they are more emotionally equipped to deal with people.

    The real issue with gender politics is that women are not respected in the fields/roles in which they predominate – fathers vs. mothers, doctors vs. nurses, principals vs. teachers, executives vs. managers, etc. That is a societal issue that needs to be corrected. Shoehorning sexes into incompatible roles does not solve the problem. Instead, it breeds resentment and worsens morale.

  • Scott

    meh…This post mostly deals with a specific aspect of culture that only partailly applies when one uses the word “liberal”. I agree with other commenters who suggest that you’re not really the right-winger you consider yourself to be in this regard. I consider myself to be ultra-liberal, but share nearly all of the views that you describe in this post.

    Our differences might become more apparent if you start talking about the role of centralized goverenment and the free market, topics that you barely touch upon in this post.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    OTOH, I want women to be in the social sciences field because they are more emotionally equipped to deal with people.

    ah, i guess that explains why economics is filled with such ‘feelers’? though seriously, you’re talking about psychotherapy, not social science. also, i generally don’t prefer demarcated roles. i’d let things shake out naturally.

  • Chris

    “stop being disingenuous. there are litmus tests. of course, because i’m not a neocon many right-wingers would not consider me right-wing. but i don’t interact much with non-libertarian conservatives in my day to day life, so the issue doesn’t come up.”

    To reinforce that point, there’s many moderate/liberal Republicans out there (a silent majority perhaps). Just because recent national elections (and consequently the make up of Congress) were highly partisan and polarizing doesn’t mean that the majority of Americans are radical to either end of the political spectrum (we really need more independent candidate in my opinion). For example, I grew up in NY where Republicans tend to support abortion, gay marriage, and many government social programs supported by Democrats. Most Republicans in the Northeast tend to have moderate views, it’s generally only in the deep south that you find the ultra (socially) conservative, neo-con religious types.

    I’d also like to address Katharine’s comment on religion breeding insanity. While this is true for a very small minority (Islamic Jihadists for example), it’s not the case in the overall perspective. I’m not religious, but I sure know a lot of them and they’re far from insane. Sure, they attribute a lot of things to God, but their behavior is generally no different from anyone else. Religion is an emotional thing, people do it to feel better about things – a coping tool. Most people realize that the Bible is not a source of fact, otherwise many countries would be theocracies (and people wouldn’t believe in modern medicine) – thankfully our founding fathers realized this when they wrote the Constitution, yet they often mentioned God/Creator in founding documents.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan
  • Katharine

    It’s interesting that Katharine doesn’t want to live around too many religious people because religion is horrific. I can say that I don’t want to live around too many atheists because absolute belief and certainty in one’s values and mores is pretty horrific, too.

    One can easily point to the last century to see tens of millions killed by atheists like Pol Pot, Stalin, and Mao Tsetung in the name of supposedly higher-minded humanist ideals. At the same time, millions are killed in ethnic and religious strife, like Hutus/Tutsis, Serbia/Croatia, etc. So who is worse, Katherine?

    We’re mostly not Pol Pots, Stalins, or Mao Tse-tungs. The great thing about atheism is that it doesn’t have the code that Christianity does; thing is you can’t really blame Pol Pot, Stalin, or Mao Tse-tung’s actions on their atheism. You can blame it on their political beliefs, which were authoritarian.

    Also I’m not sure they were entirely humanist if they were authoritarians.

    Also, this idea of absolute certainty in one’s beliefs – I can speak for myself, at least, in that my values and beliefs are what they are from the evaluation of the evidence out there and that they aren’t what they are because some old illiterate shepherd with no scientific acumen said ‘hurr durr do this mkay?’ I’d say religion’s got the monopoly on that sort of style of thought. It’s codified and rigid and the religious say ‘Oh well I KNOW (insert their imaginary friend’s name here) exists’ when quite frankly there’s no evidence corroborating it. Some Orthodox Jews think people don’t die until they’ve stopped breathing and their heart’s stopped beating even if they’re braindead, despite the fact that the brain controls these functions and that one could theoretically keep a person alive forever by this utterly flawed logic via the use of a ventilator and heart-lung machine.

    Left-liberals seem to be more susceptible to ignoring any fact that doesn’t corroborate their world view because they are so absolutist in their thinking. They consider these facts as outliers and aberrations.

    I could say much the same of the right. A good number of them like ignoring things about evolution, climate change, and other topics. A lot of them are religious and overly concerned with money (in this case, money tied to things that tend to screw up the Earth), and the evidence behind evolution and anthropogenic global warming essentially leaves many of them in the dust.

    when i was a 20 i held to very hardcore egalitarian attitudes about relations between the sexes, and this caused me difficulty personally. it turned out that there was a difference between what people avowed and how they behaved.

    I’m not so sure this is so much a function of gender so much as a function of social mores surrounding it and the relative intelligence of the people doing the behaving.

    I agree with Razib about gender politics. I want my wife and daughter to have all the opportunity that a man does. At the same time, I acknowledge the real mental, physical, and emotional differences between men and women. Consequently, I want men to be firefighters and policemen. I don’t want to be injured or die because a woman is not physically up to the task. OTOH, I want women to be in the social sciences field because they are more emotionally equipped to deal with people.

    Physical differences I get. We wimminfolk have considerably less upper body muscle strength, lots more lower body muscle strength, and more pain tolerance. No issue on that.

    But this kind of stuff, especially with respect to mental and emotional differences, denies the range of abilities present in people of both sexes. Some men are considerably more emotional than many women. Some women are considerably less emotional than some men. I am totally useless when it comes to emotional stuff; I would make a terrible therapist. I’m a huge introvert, too. Some men would make better therapists than some women (one of my gen eds was a psychology class, taught by a dude who had history as a therapist). Some women would make better soldiers than some men (seriously, would you put a fat-rolling 400 pound dude on the battlefield if you had a 130-pound woman who was a triathlete that could do a better job?).

    Would you stand in front of Nobel Prize in Physiology laureate Elizabeth Blackburn, who did research on the function of telomerase, and tell her because she has a vagina she should have done something more ‘emotional’? If you would, I’d say you’ve got some serious problems.

    This sort of generalization is a really bad idea.

  • Chris

    I had no idea Zimmer’s father is a Republican politician up this way – small world.

  • Katharine

    The real issue with gender politics is that women are not respected in the fields/roles in which they predominate – fathers vs. mothers, doctors vs. nurses, principals vs. teachers, executives vs. managers, etc. That is a societal issue that needs to be corrected. Shoehorning sexes into incompatible roles does not solve the problem. Instead, it breeds resentment and worsens morale.

    What, you don’t like female doctors, principals, or executives? A lot of women actually are quite good at these things.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Some men are considerably more emotional than many women. Some women are considerably less emotional than some men.

    you really don’t think i’d be so retarded to deny this right? you’re talking to jimmy?

  • Katharine

    Do you believe that homosexuality in men is innate, the result of environmental conditioning, or some combination thereof? Because if you believe that homosexuality in men is at least partially innate, then you are implicitly agreeing that there is at least one innate sex difference out there, since sexual attraction to men is not uniformly distributed between men and women, but very much skewed in favor of women: over 95% of women are predominantly sexually attracted to men, whereas around 5% of men are.

    I believe that homosexuality in both sexes is innate. The way you’ve worded the question and the way you say you’d interpret it discounts the fact that homosexuality also occurs in women.

  • Katharine

    you really don’t think i’d be so retarded to deny this right? you’re talking to jimmy?

    I was talking to jimmy.

  • Katharine

    If sexual attraction to men is innate, what of the other sex differences that correlate so strongly with it among both men and women? As a gay man who travels in circles full of other gay men, I can tell you a very large number of gay men present very stereotypically female traits from early childhood which persist regardless of socialization to the contrary. Speaking personally, I remember as a boy being fascinated by my grandmother’s makeup and jewelry, putting on her heels, identifying more with girls than with boys, avoiding team sports and roughhousing, etc… Also, while I did well in school in all subjects, I always excelled in literature and writing relative to math and science. This is anecdotal, but anyone who spends a significant amount of time with gay men knows that they have far less interest in traditionally male pursuits such as team sports and far more interest in traditionally female pursuits like beautification relative to other men. Gay men, like women, typically perform better on tests of verbal ability than on tests of visual-spatial reasoning (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070507113352.htm) and the history of human achievement is in accordance with this finding. (I.e., many more gay men have made their names as writers than as mathematicians.)

    Well, then I’m just all sorts of anomalous, aren’t I: a white heterosexual girl who doesn’t care much for beautification (by which I mean effort spent beyond being hygienic and wearing clothes that look professional and have a sense of style and not like an unkempt wreck – I don’t give a crud about makeup or hair or clothing styles), doesn’t care much for literature and prefers math and science and indeed does far better at math and science than at literature. I have performed far better on tests of visual-spatial reasoning and logico-mathematical reasoning than verbal reasoning, and have scored highly in both areas. Team sports I mostly avoided because they didn’t take up enough brain for me – my dad stuck me on a softball team as a young child for a few summers, and not only am I the kind of kid who just never had the physical stamina to do sports (no matter how much I’ve weighed I’ve always been crap at sports), I spent most of the time on the field thinking about things much more interesting than who was hitting a four-inch ball and where it was going. I hated traditionally girly crap even more, too – I found it insipid and certainly not fun at all.

    I’m a biology student going into neuroscience and genetics because I want to answer questions about the brain and intelligence. (And if biology did not exist, I’d probably be going into physics.)

    Also, regarding traditional gender roles, many people find them sensible, not oppressive. (I admit this as someone who does not conform to them.) Is there any evidence that on the whole, women in societies that promote such roles are less happy than women in societies that are more liberated? GSS survey data show no difference in happiness levels between women who grew up post-second wave feminism relative to their less liberated mothers.

    http://inductivist.blogspot.com/2009/05/family-trends-and-happiness.html

    Women in Muslim countries with typical gender roles report being as happy as men:

    http://inductivist.blogspot.com/2009/11/muslim-women-are-as-happy-as-their-men.html

    And to use a random (but fun!) example, the Amish are pretty much as traditional as you can get when it comes to gender, and Amish women consistently report higher levels of satisfaction with their lives than normal American women. (My interactions with the Amish of Lancaster County suggests to me that this is not a front.)

    “Hurst and McConnell’s in-depth survey of Ohio Amish women led the authors to state that ‘The women generally voiced deep satisfaction with their roles. All believed strongly that men and women are meant to have different roles to play in life, largely because of perceived differences between the sexes.’ … Though feminists may have problems with what they perceive as the Amish woman’s position, others have noted that Amish women seem to have achieved a degree of contentment that many modern feminists continue to pursue, with less satisfactory results (Conundrum, Olshan/Schmidt).”

    Because conservative Muslim and Amish and other women who like these sorts of backwards ideas about gender have different ideas of what’d make them happy and different beliefs about women, so they seem to like the oppression and think it is ‘proper’ whereas liberals like me find the oppression repulsive? (I do consider religious conservative women to be somewhat brainwashed.)

  • http://www.scholars-stage.blogspot.com T. Greer

    Razib-

    I am curious if you are familiar with James Bowman’s work, Honor: A History. In his opening chapters Mr. Bowman takes some time to discuss Islam – as he sees it, many of his fellow conservatives have been decrying the wrong thing. It is not Islam itself that that is such a problem (Quranic doctorine hardly being more barbaric than that found in the Old Testament), but that Middle East is still dominanted by “primitive honor cultures.” Arab imams and talking heads are the most influential – as long as they see the world through the lens of a primitive honor system the rest of the religion will be dragged along with them.

  • Katharine

    I seem to remember that as intelligence goes up, adherence to ‘gender roles’ goes waaaay down.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    t. greer, very difficult to separate religion from culture. i don’t know if i’d point to honor itself, though obviously that’s part of it, though most generally when it comes to women’s rights. the big problem for islam at this point is globalization is i think making middle eastern, especially arab, islam more dominant because of its higher status and historical influence. that’s a problem because these societies are crazy (though totally rational from their own perspective).

    a test will be if the minangkabau remain matrilineal in 25 years.

  • Katharine
  • Katharine
  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    curious about the ‘brain warp’ part katherine. the neuroscience. is there neuroanatomy on this?

    btw, in case you don’t know, apparently women were ghettoized into the sciences in fascist italy. they were considered less prestigious than disciplines would could allow you to bloviate, like law and rhetoric, which were reserved for men.

  • RK

    I dunno, this type of paleoconservatism-lite seems pretty common among people interested in population genetics, cultural interaction, and similar topics. (Bucking the stereotype, by the way, that paleocons are interested in culture while neocons are interested in social science.) It’s also not that uncommon among some European left-wingers. Regardless, it’s a set of positions that’s more comfortable on the European political spectrum than on the American, at least since the nineteen the and early 20th centuries.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    (Bucking the stereotype, by the way, that paleocons are interested in culture while neocons are interested in social science.)

    i think that old stereotype of neocons is out of date. ever since they moved on from domestic to foreign policy focus.

  • Kapitano

    A lot of interesting data, arranged to knock down a strawman – the liberal who reflexively defends any muslims against any criticism, merited or not.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #32, if you put words into my mouth like that again, i’ll ban you. what i implied is not defense, but neglect.

  • Gio

    I have some bias on surveys and I gues would be better the church’s attendance than “how much religion is important”, but, it’s interesting to note that only two west rich countries (Usa and Italy) consider religion important.

    “The reality is that the status quo in Western Europe is toward acceptance of homosexuality without the sort of debates we have in the United States”

    This in not correct, it’s not true for Italy for example and not for the Vatican but for cultural reasons.

    “the fact is that most Turks are no more colored than many Southern Europeans”

    Yes, but the turkish features are very different from the SE, sometime it’s more simple to infer a russian’s ancestry from a turk, it depends on the region.

  • Miles

    Add one more super-liberal who agrees with a lot of what you say, Razib. Multiculturalism has always struck me as a kind of PC segregation, “Live and let live” as a gentleman’s agreement not to denounce ignorance and evil.

    I quite enjoy variety when it comes to most aspects of culture – food, clothing, rituals, holidays, stories. It’s the ideology (the metaphysics, the epistemology, and the tribal identity) that must be challenged and argued against. Religion and racism and nativism are often the proximate causes of authoritarianism and oppression, but are they the ultimate cause?

    The median Muslim income is a magnitude less than the Christian one. If those income differences were reversed, which group would be more barbaric? The poorer one probably, regardless of religion. Religion is like the particulate in a supercooled liquid that is used as a kernel for ice to grow – the less particulate you have the more room you have to operate, but the ultimate cause of ice is still the cold.

    I think one thing that separates me from moderate conservatives is that I think poverty and economic inequality are ultimately the only cancers eating away at societal health and making progressive taxes and redistribution a poisonous cure we can’t survive without. I think you can increase growth by sacrificing equitable distribution but at unacceptable moral and practical costs.

    If only there was a way to quantify oppression so we could plot the correlation between oppression and income for separate religions, countries, and the international community. That could be some really cool data.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan


    This in not correct, it’s not true for Italy for example and not for the Vatican but for cultural reasons.

    i was being stupid and simply excised spain & italy from my definition of ‘western’ europe ;-)

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    The median Muslim income is a magnitude less than the Christian one.

    the wealthiest muslim countries are in the arabian peninsula. the relationship is more complex than you think. also, me thinks you confuse european for christian. go to africa or papua, and you’ll meet plenty of christians.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan


    If only there was a way to quantify oppression so we could plot the correlation between oppression and income for separate religions, countries, and the international community.

    interesting. the WVS might an interesting measure of attitudes.

  • Miles

    I’m a liberal who believes in liberal values like equal rights under the law and equal opportunities, but not equal treatment. By all means discriminate against the idiots and sociopaths.

  • omar

    Katharine, What point are you making with that Saudi Arabia reference?

    Razib, The real damage from the kind of liberalism you are disassociating yourself from (and btw, I agree with respondents who think you are classically liberal) is not in the West, it is abroad. (of course the really egregious effects of right wing jingoism are also felt far away from home these days). “Westoxicated” third world liberals swallow this so-called liberalism whole, mix it with their own notions of golden ages past and their own extravagant ressentiment. The result is a cocktail of dangerous anti-science, anti-development and romantic notions that are used to perpetuate poverty and abysmal social inequality. “Orientalism” (the book, not the tendency is supposedly identified) has been an unmitigated disaster for third world countries whose intellectuals are predominantly Western trained (the impact is much less on countries like China that can use the notion for propaganda purposes without actually swallowing the worst excesses of the book’s Western admirers)…

  • http://primatediariesinexile.blogspot.com EMJ

    I think you’re overlooking something rather crucial: dictatorship and economic stagnation. Consider what Joshua Holland had to say on the question of women’s rights in the Middle East (http://www.alternet.org/reproductivejustice/79024):

    I’ve seen no empirical data to suggest that an Islamic majority itself correlates with the subordination of women better than other co-variables like economic development, women’s ability to serve in government, a political culture that values the rule of law or access to higher education.

    Do you have empirical data to answer him? I don’t think many people would attribute similar views towards women in the Democratic Republic of Congo to the fact that the country is 70% Christian. There are quite obviously other confounding factors.

    A 2007 Gallup Study of Muslims in London found that Muslims experience greater discrimination and a lower likelihood to find opportunities to work in areas where they excel. According to the study (http://www.gallup.com/se/File/128162/londonbrieffull041307.pdf):

    The relative lag in perceived opportunity suggests possible “brain waste” among London’s Muslims, a situation defined by the World Bank as one “where the skilled and the educated leave their home country, but then make little use of their skills and education in the host country.” This type of waste can cost developed economies billions.

    In contrast to your implicit view that Islam and the West are incompatible the study finds that Muslims have favorable views of London and a desire to integrate more fully. The steps towards doing that fall on both Muslim citizens and the general public.

    London Muslims generally agree with the British public about what it takes for minorities to integrate into society. Majorities of both groups agree mastering the national language, getting a better education, finding a job, participating in politics, volunteering to serve the public, and celebrating national holidays are necessary for successful integration. Regarding the celebration of national holidays and volunteering, Muslims were slightly more likely than the general public to agree that such activities are necessary to be part of British society.

    The multiculturalism that you so decry may be the very thing that ends the “Us vs. Them” mentality that exists on both sides.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Razib, The real damage from the kind of liberalism you are disassociating yourself from (and btw, I agree with respondents who think you are classically liberal) is not in the West,

    you may be right. re: classical liberalism, perhaps. but i am not so individualist in how i view human flourishing at this point, so perhaps not. operationally i am very classically liberal, but in some fundamental ways i no longer trust the core logic of classical liberalism. personally classical liberalism works well for me, but i don’t think i’m a typical person.

  • Mark

    “Well, then I’m just all sorts of anomalous, aren’t I: a white heterosexual girl who doesn’t care much for beautification (by which I mean effort spent beyond being hygienic and wearing clothes that look professional and have a sense of style and not like an unkempt wreck – I don’t give a crud about makeup or hair or clothing styles), doesn’t care much for literature and prefers math and science and indeed does far better at math and science than at literature. I have performed far better on tests of visual-spatial reasoning and logico-mathematical reasoning than verbal reasoning, and have scored highly in both areas.”

    Yes, you are anomalous. What is your point? I described myself as an example of socialization failing to overcome nature, but I don’t see much of a point in your description of yourself. We all know anomalies exist, and that their existence doesn’t disprove the general trend.

    “I believe that homosexuality in both sexes is innate. The way you’ve worded the question and the way you say you’d interpret it discounts the fact that homosexuality also occurs in women.”

    No, it doesn’t. It discounts the idea that homosexuality among men and women have the same cause, which they don’t. If they did, they would present similarly. Gay men and gay women would cluster together on psychometric traits. Instead, we see gay men clustering with straight women and gay women clustering with straight men.

    “Because conservative Muslim and Amish and other women who like these sorts of backwards ideas about gender have different ideas of what’d make them happy and different beliefs about women, so they seem to like the oppression and think it is ‘proper’ whereas liberals like me find the oppression repulsive? (I do consider religious conservative women to be somewhat brainwashed.)”

    If someone says she’s happy, the simplest explanation for why she said that is because she’s happy. The fact that you personally can’t imagine being happy in that life doesn’t mean she is brainwashed.

  • omar

    Not that I think there is any causative connection, but Spain and Italy are also two Western European nations that were wholly or partly (Sicily) under Muslim rule for a while..(I dont know how to put an emoticon here, but please insert a smiley face here; I am not implying an actual connection)..

  • AKHTER

    Nothing ,but hatred for Muslims and Islam on your mind!

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    I think you’re overlooking something rather crucial: dictatorship and economic stagnation.

    focus on economic stagnation. if you have a cursory knowledge of muslim regimes in the middle east, you know that dictatorships tend to give women relative freedom vis-a-vis more populist democratic regimes. iraq under the baathists was known for promoting female professionals. iraq after the liberation, not so much. syria under the baathists today is similar. the same applies to the monarchy of jordan, kuwait, and morocco, who have imposed laws for gender equality from on high, sometimes (in the case of morocco) facing resistance from larger numbers of ‘traditionalist’ women.

    The multiculturalism that you so decry may be the very thing that ends the “Us vs. Them” mentality that exists on both sides.

    it often creates a new “us.” the hispanic identity in the USA is an example of this, the nixon administration created the category, and the identity emerged after the fact. similarly, many historians argue that self-conscious “hindu” identity came in response to muslim and european subordination and reification. soviet and russian ethnologists also did the same across inner asia, creating unitary cultures de novo by classing disparate tribes together for purposes of better organizing the bureaucratic state.

    in any case, you conveniently ignore your earlier admonishment to look at confounds. the western nation which has most well integrated muslims in the USA. is it less or more multiculturalist than britain in terms of ideology?

    (i’d be curious what canadian readers would say though, i don’t know enough about that extra north american country)

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Mennower, there are other things on my mind ;-)

  • http://washparkprophet.blogspot.com ohwilleke

    Razib, I hate to break this to you, but your claim that you are “right-wing” because you reject a strong version of academic identity politics and feminism, is about as supportable as it would be to call yourself “black” on an American census form because you have skin that is darker than a Caucasian.

    You can self-identify any way you want, and this has to be honored for a lot of purposes, but the category is socially constructed, not individually constructed, and you don’t fit in the socially constructed category. In the colloquial sense, “black” means having significant genetic admixture from Africa, and in the colloquial sense “right-wing” describes a very specific set of cultural and political views that you don’t share to a sufficiently high degree to be a fit.

    You may have some politically and culturally conservative views. But, your method of analysis is all wrong for someone who is truly “right-wing.” Liberalism and conservatism is not fundamentally a particular list of positions on issues. For example, American conservatives once uniformly accepted the death penalty for serious property crimes and saw interracial marriage as blasphemous, now this is a vanishingly rare minority view among American conservatives. Instead, liberalism and conservatism are fundamentally attitudes that act as a lens through which cultural practices and political stances are viewed and a way of thinking about and analysing issues.

    You trust science. You care a great deal about data. You care about the rational argument that proves an idea. You are an atheist. You don’t resort to authority that hasn’t proven itself credible based on evidence and methodology and past performance. You have neither disdain for due process nor a paranoid fear that government is inherently out to get you.

    You say you reject multi-culturalism, but you can distinguish far more different cultures than most avowed multi-culturalists, and you don’t feel a moral imperative to eradicate those cultures in favor of your own. You aren’t even particularly threatened by them despite the fact that their actions and attitudes are often, in your view barbaric. You don’t even have a strong instictive hate of gays.

    You acknowledge gender differences and superiority of one gender or the other at particular tasks, but you don’t have a view based on some higher authority that men are innately superior to women, or have greater worth.

    I don’t think that it is possible to be “right-wing” in the colloquial sense while maintaining the degree of neutrality that you do towards a variety of cultures in the world of which you are not a member. To be genuinely “right-wing” one must be rooted much more deeply in a monocultural God and country worldview that accepts positions not because they are proven with facts or with rational arguments, but because they are the answers we receive from authority and tradition. You have to believe that values are something that you find in scripture or what everyone knows as a matter of natural law, not surveys. You have to be in the business of providing answers, not looking for them with an open mind.

    I also think you are using the term “neo-conservative” rather differently than its common meaning. If there is any part of the political right to which you have an affinity, it is to neo-conservatives. The core of plain old “conservatives” in the United States, are hellfire and brimstone Christians, who embrace a culture of honor, see women as inherently subordinate to men, favor few limitations on law enforcement and the military, distrust science and academic theories, and make their primary cultural distinction between “us” and “them” and see insuring that “we” beat “them” as the primary goal of politics domestic and foreign. It has been pretty stable since the Second Great Awakening in the first half of the 19th century.

    Neoconservatism is a product of the last half a century in which people who were not culturally members of the right-wing (particularly American Jews and Asian-Americans) embraced many of the policies favored by true conservatives on issues of foreign policy and economics, but from a far more intellectually rigorous perspective that accepted the basic validity of the scientific method and reason, and acknowledged the complexity of the real world, but sought to simplify an agenda for how to deal with it through an embrace of power politics, naked national self-interest, and acceptance of economic hierarchy in society as natural. It largely disavowed altruism as a valid political motivation.

    Neoconservatism is a tiny minority tribe within the larger world of the political right, although a quite powerful one. Culturally, it is most comfortable with “mainstream” elite cultural sensibilities. It may acknowledge cultural difference and be “race conscious”, but does so in a utilitarian way, not an overtly racist one.

  • omar

    EMJ, “I’ve seen no empirical data to suggest that an Islamic majority itself correlates with the subordination of women better than other co-variables like economic development, women’s ability to serve in government, a political culture that values the rule of law or access to higher education”
    Those covariable may themselves “correlate” with being an orthodox Sunni/Wahabi majority country.
    I have never understood the argument that such and such practice is due to “culture” and not religion. Isnt religion an important part OF culture?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Neoconservatism is a product of the last half a century in which people who were not culturally members of the right-wing (particularly American Jews and Asian-Americans) embraced many of the policies favored by true conservatives on issues of foreign policy and economics, but from a far more intellectually rigorous perspective that accepted the basic validity of the scientific method and reason, and acknowledged the complexity of the real world, but sought to simplify an agenda for how to deal with it through an embrace of power politics, naked national self-interest, and acceptance of economic hierarchy in society as natural. It largely disavowed altruism as a valid political motivation.

    your view of neoconservatives is out of date. i’m not politically naive, i’m the type of person who has read Neo-conservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea. i think the domestic policy neocons had some good critiques of the excesses of welfare statism, but i have little in common with the excessively foreign policy focused post-welfare reform neocons. even before 9/11 kristol et al. were banging the drum for a ramp up for hostilities with china and other weird stuff.

  • http://changelog.ca/ Charles Iliya Krempeaux

    @Razib said,
    as i have grown older and had relationships i have had to acknowledge that men and women are different, on average, and that has helped me a lot in interacting with women.

    That should be the comment of the week :-)

    @Teapot said,
    You sound eminently liberal to me. Social liberalism, economic liberalism and a criticism of socially illiberal cultures. That’s about as liberal as you can get isn’t it?

    I think the problem is that you seem to be using the strange re-definition of the word liberal that often seems to be used by USers nowadays, where “liberal” is used to refer to what we (UK) would call “loony left”.

    Most people in the U.S. and Canada won’t understand you if you use “liberal” in that way. That original (or “real”) meaning of the word “liberal” is called “classical liberalism” over here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_liberalism
    In some contexts people also use the word “libertarian” to mean the same thing (or something very similar).

    I do know Europeans who called themselves “liberals” when they were still in Europe, but call themselves “libertarians” over here.

    @Katharine said,
    Physical differences I get. We wimminfolk have considerably less upper body muscle strength, lots more lower body muscle strength, and more pain tolerance. No issue on that.

    But this kind of stuff, especially with respect to mental and emotional differences, denies the range of abilities present in people of both sexes. Some men are considerably more emotional than many women. Some women are considerably less emotional than some men. I am totally useless when it comes to emotional stuff; I would make a terrible therapist. I’m a huge introvert, too. Some men would make better therapists than some women (one of my gen eds was a psychology class, taught by a dude who had history as a therapist). Some women would make better soldiers than some men (seriously, would you put a fat-rolling 400 pound dude on the battlefield if you had a 130-pound woman who was a triathlete that could do a better job?).

    Perhaps I’m misunderstanding you, but why are you talking about individual examples, when other seems to be talking about averages and medians?

    @Razib said,
    (i’d be curious what canadian readers would say though, i don’t know enough about that extra north american country)

    As far as I know, in the Vancouver area there isn’t a perceived “Muslim problem”. There has been some (mostly) visceral reactions due to the large Indian (mostly Punjabi and Sikh, with some Muslims and Hindus) and Chinese (including people form Hong Kong) immigrations though.

    As a side note, and I have nothing to back this up other than a claim by an RCMP member I know… the city Delta, which is majority Indian, has the lowest crime rate around. (Apparently, other cops joke a lot about the Delta police basically “doing nothing”.) Which is why I feel justified in calling it “(mostly) visceral” (although I do not claim it is completely visceral).

    There’s a significant Iranian population (although not huge in absolute terms) in North Vancouver and (to a lesser degree) West Vancouver. Most dress as westerners (which was true even in Iran before the Iranian revolution AFAIK). And AFAICT most seem to have western-like view on things like drinking and pre-marital sex. (But this is true even of 2nd and 3rd generation Indians over here.)

    Indians and Iranians are the only groups of any significant size in the Vancouver area that have significant Muslim percentages that I have any experience with, and for the most part, although there is some balkanization, things seem “OK”.

  • RK

    The usual line on Canada among the European right and American restrictionists is to point to its skills-based immigration system. (A lot of European rightists actually advocate for “Canadian-style immigration,” despite the fact that the immigration rate in Canada is quite high.)

    EMJ, it’s not surprising that there’s widespread agreement on what integration (especially economic integration) requires: it’s an empirical question that’s not that hard for either immigrants or natives to observe. But it’s pretty clear that on broader cultural questions, British Muslims tend to have views that differ sharply from natives or other similarly-placed immigrants (though obviously rigorous regressions are impossible here). Over half believe the Sept. 11 attacks weren’t carried out by Arabs, nearly a third believe converting to another religion should be punishable by death, 37% want the introduction of Islamic law (persumably beyond specifying its use in contracts, since that’s already permitted), and so on. Moreover, native intolerance doesn’t fully explain tensions and violence between Muslims and other immigrant groups. Take a look at the sociological and polling data: it’s shocking how sharply levels of dysfunction among British Muslims differ from other British immigrants or Muslims in other European countries, which often have a more robust anti-immigrant Right.

    Beyond that, there are the fuzzier cultural factors Razib mentioned. Americans today sometimes find it difficult to wrap their heads around these, since the American self-conception is less identified with specific cities — cities that can be transformed within a few decades. More to the point, many Americans are descended from the very people who did the transforming. But the Know Nothings who saw Irish immigration destroy the Boston they knew before their very eyes would have understood contemporary European anti-immigrationists just fine.

  • Matt B.

    “More concretely I have little sympathy with liberal diversity talk, and oppose multiculturalism.”

    “I do not have an internationalist utopian Leftist vision whereby I believe my values should be enforced in all places at all times.”

    Razib, you seem to think liberals are tolerant of other cultures and yet also want to impose their values on people of other cultures. Anyone that actually holds to both of those is suffering cognitive dissonance, and therefore can’t be properly sorted. (I think the PC crowd is that sort of person, and not really liberal.)

    Conservatives tend more toward forcing their values on others, e.g. fundamentalist Christians trying to make abortion and contraception illegal (for non-Christians) because of their religious tenets.Whereas a liberal will say, “If you dont like abortion, don’t have one.”

    As for economics, let regulation take care of what capitalism won’t. I find that well within the definition of liberal.

  • omar

    Razib, you may not be a neocon, but the rest of Ohwilleke’s analysis rings true. You are not a “real conservative”…maybe you are closer to some small tiny miniscule group like “secular right”, but that is not what we mean by conservative, just as classically liberal is no longer what we mean by “liberal”.
    And “we” get to decide ;)

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    “we” should have a quorum. plenty of the “we” have told me i’m a conservative. in fact, i think your co-blogger ruchira implied i was at certain points too. i’m not too hung up on labels obviously.

    Razib, you seem to think liberals are tolerant of other cultures and yet also want to impose their values on people of other cultures.

    it’s not a total dichotomy though. you can weight it. standards you’d hold people who are ‘cultural christian’ (e.g., FLDS) are not applied to those who are ‘people of color.’ though on the margin there’s always cases where people assert the importance of universality.

  • dan

    “Well, then I’m just all sorts of anomalous, aren’t I…”

    so you’re a nerd? uh, that’s not too rare

  • http://changelog.ca/ Charles Iliya Krempeaux

    @Matt B said,
    Conservatives tend more toward forcing their values on others, e.g. fundamentalist Christians trying to make abortion and contraception illegal (for non-Christians) because of their religious tenets.Whereas a liberal will say, “If you dont like abortion, don’t have one.”

    As for economics, let regulation take care of what capitalism won’t. I find that well within the definition of liberal.

    There’s a certain irony in berating conservatives for (potentially) using force against others on social issues, while in the next paragraph promoting (potentially) using force against others (in the form of “regulation”) on economic issues.

  • Ray

    Razib, I think the heart of the motivation for those who don’t think you’re conservative is as follows: It seems (at least to me, but I suspect this plays into what others are saying) that the most important definition of political categories is how you vote, especially in national elections. Anyway, if we are to believe this, we would expect a “real” conservative would have voted for a Republican in at least one of the past three presidential elections. So I suppose the “you’re not a real conservative” comments stem from incredulity that someone as well informed as you would have done such a thing. Certainly nothing in your post indicates this and I have a hard time believing it myself — I don’t think Bush’s policies or those advocated by the current Republican national officeholders even serve the goals you seem to agree with them on.

    Anyway, feel free not to answer, but I would be curious to know how you voted in recent elections, and I think it would clear up a lot of the confusion about what you mean by “conservative”.

  • chris w

    Razib, right-wing parties like the Danish Peoples’ Party and the Sweden Democrats don’t significantly diverge from the mainstream social democratic parties on economics. They seem to combine immigration restriction and stricter law and order measures with support for a social safety net. It’s been typical for the right in Europe to advocate a “Third Way” stance on economic since prior to WWII. They aren’t free-marketers, which makes sense, as free markets don’t necessarily reinforce the national culture.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Anyway, feel free not to answer, but I would be curious to know how you voted in recent elections, and I think it would clear up a lot of the confusion about what you mean by “conservative”.

    i vote repub. on the congressional level usually. i voted for kerry in 2004, but liberatarian in 2008 for pez. honestly i forget if i voted for bush or the libertarian in 2000. i think if i ‘forgot’ perhaps it was bush and i’m embarrassed. i did not vote for gore, i know that. i vote in a state with a lot of ballot measures and i tend to pay closer attention to that than various parties.

    it is interesting encountering ‘broad church’ liberals and ‘narrow church’ leftists. the latter always tell me i’m right-wing, and the former always claim i can’t be right-wing ;-) at least none of the commenters here have explained to me i’m ‘ignorant’ and that’s why i oppose multiculturalism, since i obviously don’t know as much about other cultures as i should!

  • RK

    Conservatives tend more toward forcing their values on others, e.g. fundamentalist Christians trying to make abortion and contraception illegal (for non-Christians) because of their religious tenets.Whereas a liberal will say, “If you dont like abortion, don’t have one.”

    I’m always surprised how often the basic contours of the abortion debate need to be sketched out in these cases. The conservative response to the above, of course, is that abortion does affect others, namely, the aborted fetuses. The (professed) belief that fetuses and embryos count as “others” is essentially what defines the modern intellectual pro-life movement. Since pro-choicers don’t accept that premise, the debate is irresolvable; a frequent characteristic of modern moral debates, as Alasdair MacIntyre pointed out.

    Of course, plenty of conservatives do reject the principle that the government should only be concerned with “other-regarding” actions. (Heck, I suspect most Americans reject that principle: despite efforts by many liberal feminists to show that prostititution necessarily involves harm to the women involved, most Americans who choose not to impose a regimen of perfect intellectual consistency on themselves probably oppose prostitution for the more straightforward reason that it’s degrading and wrong.) But abortion is one of the worst possible examples.

  • dave

    Fascinating to see Razib open up the discussion like this. I assume since he indulged himself a bit he’s letting us commenters do as well.

    It’s an odd thing to read these definitions of what a “real” conservative is — all in order to convince Razib he’s not one. I know many people personally who broadly share Razib’s stated beliefs, and they all describe themselves more or less as conservatives. The left-liberals here who argue that Razib cannot be a conservative because, for example, he prefers science and data-backed reasoning to appeals to authority is … silly. That’s a cartoon fantasy of the “other” meant to make left-liberals feel better about themselves, not a serious attempt to understand political differences in America.

    I do have a slight problem with the term “neoconservative”. I’m just not sure what it really describes anymore. Obviously there was the original example of northeast Jewish intellectual left-liberals who recoiled from their younger leftist ideology. And as Razib noted, this rejection of left-liberal economic and social policy and embrace of market economics and more traditional social mores then transitioned into a neoconservatism that supported more muscular foreign policy. And this happened to a broader set of people than just the Kristol family.

    My problem is I just don’t know anyone who identifies as a neoconservative. The word has such negative associations these days that extremely few people self-identify as a neoconservative. I’m just not sure what it describes anymore. Perhaps it was a word of it’s time, but now it has become primarily a pejorative which makes it much less useful for understanding the world.

    And, lastly, I noticed some commenters have equated skepticism towards global warming/climate change and skepticism towards evolution as equally ignorant, backwards, and anti-science. I find such a statement remarkable. Does Katherine really believe the body of evidence in favor of climate change/AGW (and particularly the proposed solutions by the climate change industry – ie carbon tax, cap and trade, etc) is remotely close to the evidence in favor of evolution? Really?

    I myself am a secular conservative who assumes evolution as a bedrock,background fact of life. Yet I find the evidence for climate change modest at best and I find the evidence supporting the proposed solutions even weaker — weaker than most ideas about public policy actually due to the long term effects, weakness of the computer models, and the religious zeal displayed by the climate-change advocates.

    Attempts to place evolution and AGW/climate change on a similar level of intellectual rigor and validity just aren’t credible. Whenever I see someone try to steal a base like that I see more religious fervor than analytical rigor. I think we are all susceptible to religious zeal, even those who self-identify as secular and believe themselves to be immune.

  • omar

    Even though I am one of the commentators who suggested that Razib is a closet liberal, I do agree with Dave about the evidence-based canard. Both liberals and conservatives think they base their views on evidence and sound reasoning. Both are frequently mistaken. And while I do not consider myself a climate change skeptic, I would agree that it is not the equivalent of evolution in terms of scientific rigor. There seems to be good evidence that the planet is warming. I am not an expert, but experts seem to believe that carbon emissions do have a significant role in that warming (and I tend to trust experts a little more than visibly ignorant people or blatantly biased non-experts with clear economic and political motivations to oppose them), but all of this does not add up to a scientific theory in the same category as evolution.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    since this thread seems to have lost steam, i’m closin’ it.

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Gene Expression

This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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