"Gay girl in Damascus" has "esoteric" interests

By Razib Khan | June 12, 2011 11:11 pm

I’ve been vaguely following the “mystery” surrounding A Gay Girl in Damascus blog. Turns out that “she” is a “he”, a 40 year guy who lives in Georgia. But that’s not why I’m mentioning this. The article linked above is from The Washington Post, and the author notes:

Other links between Amina and MacMaster quickly surfaced. In 2006, both were active participants in a Yahoo message group for people interested in the esoteric subject of “alternate history,” debating what might have been if major historical events had different outcomes.

Now, as someone interested in alternate history dating to the late 1990s (yes, I’ve read Harry Turtledove, and I used to check the Uchronia site periodically) I accept that this topic is ‘esoteric.’ But perhaps if the writers and editors at The Washington Post had more ‘esoteric’ interests they wouldn’t make bizarre errors such as the one below (screenshot in case they fix the mistake):

Here is the entry for “Austro-Goths” in the Uncyclopedia:

The Austro-Goths settled the upper Danube, around modern-day Vienna and are thought to have been much influenced by early Iron Age electronica, such as Kraftwerk. They also submitted to the authority of Rome and seemed particularly keen to sample the misery that enslavement could bring.

It is thought that the Austro-Goths spoke a language largely similar to the Hissy-Goths but with a heavier accent and a less accusative tone. Militarily their tactics appear to have differed very little, centring on unenthusiastic shrugging and barely disguised loathing. They did not join the Hissy-Goth assault on Rome as they were grounded at the time. Nevertheless, they gave heavy backing to the attack by creating a Facebook support group.

What he went to study at Emory was almost surely the Ostrogoths. As someone with ‘esoteric’ interests I would have known this when I was eights years old, as a fascination with Attila the Hun as depicted in The Last Pagan led me to a series of books on the “Dark Ages” and the period of the 4th to 6th centuries (this did not turn me into an emo or goth, though it did make me aware of the fragility of civilization). I suspect that a typical person of the educated class a generation ago would have known that what sounded like “Austro-Goths” over the phone actually referred to “Ostrogoths,” because they would have had a passing familiarity with the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, in which the Gothic confederations had a starring role. But that’s not a mandatory part of the curriculum today, and unless you have “esoteric” interests the major events of Western history may be uncharted territory for you.

Note: I am aware that “Austro” and “Ostro” have the same root. You know that they don’t know that.

P.S.: This seems like a less frivolous version of the “Libertarian Girl” and “Hot Abercombie Chick” hoaxes.

Related: I think this is much more embarrassing than Malcolm Gladwell’s confusion surrounding “igon values”. I think it is totally expected than an educated person is unfamiliar with higher level scientific and mathematical terminology. Basic non-technical geography and history is a different matter.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: History
  • Miley Cyrax

    To anyone who has actually interacted in real life with attractive girls, it should be no surprise that any putative hot chick on the internet who appears to have decent writing/thinking abilities is a hoax. The intersection between the population of good-looking girls and smart girls is exceptionally thin (much less a good-looking and smart girl who devotes time to write on the internet!), despite the insistence of some feminists and hopeful/wishful nerdy/geeky guys.

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

    The intersection between the population of good-looking girls and smart girls is exceptionally thin

    this kind of sounds stupid. i mean, most people aren’t good looking. and most people aren’t smart. so the intersection is *by definition* thin. so the question is are smart girls less well represented among the good looking or vice versa? the data i’ve seen suggests that high IQ people are not uglier or less healthy, and generally on the contrary (probably because of correlated issues re: mutational load).

    granted, i think attractive women get a lot of attention on the internet (often famously unwanted). it’s always been like that. so there’s a strong incentive for some guys who want “free” traffic to do this sort of thing. and no offense to my fellow bloggers, but the combination of being smart and good looking probably is going to drive a lot of people into the type of high powered careers which will pull them away from ever blogging because of time constraints.

  • Miley Cyrax

    @ Razib
    “this kind of sounds stupid. i mean, most people aren’t good looking. and most people aren’t smart. so the intersection is *by definition* thin.”

    True, which is why I threw “exceptionally” in there, i.e. the probability of a girl being smart and good-looking is markedly lower than the probability of a girl being smart times the probability of a girl being good-looking.

    “the data i’ve seen suggests that high IQ people are not uglier or less healthy, and generally on the contrary (probably because of correlated issues re: mutational load).”

    Right, good-lookingness and high intelligence may be just manifestations of some underlying overall “fitness”. But ceteris paribus, good-looking girls tend to be dumber/less interesting, as they have less incentive to cultivate an intellect or a personality, for they receive tons of validation and attention regardless. Anecdotally, I can’t think of any girl I knew who was pretty growing up that turned out to be smart (the inverse though, was true, pretty girls when we were in middle school trended dumber over time), but I can think of a few reasonably smart girls who eventually figured out how to be decent looking (usually via improved make-up techniques).

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

    #3, are you american? the name you use on facebook doesn’t have any records within the USA, but there are hits abroad. just wondering about cross-cultural differences here (i suspect you’re using a fake facebook account, but i figured i’d ask).

    i don’t have any anecdote to respond with since i don’t keep in touch with people i grew up with, and have a low opinion of human intelligence and curiosity in general :-)

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

    p.s., unless you’re using a proxy the IP says you’re posting from the USA. so i suspect a fake name since it is hard not to have ANY online record.

  • Miley Cyrax

    Razib, yes, I’m American and yes, fake name on Facebook. Haha, nice detective work.

  • http://lithopanspermia.blogspot.com Hugo Schmidt

    Ah, so that’s what I should have been doing to get people to read my blog! Good grief…

  • Gav

    When I were a lad we had real sub-editors. Young folk nowadays don’t know anything.

  • Charles Nydorf

    I visualize her as looking beautiful in austrich feathers.

  • jb

    To anyone who has actually interacted in real life with attractive girls, it should be no surprise that any putative hot chick on the internet who appears to have decent writing/thinking abilities is a hoax.

    Sample size of one: My high school girlfriend was as hot as anyone could ask for, and extremely smart. She went on to get a Ph.D. in history, and when she realized she couldn’t make a living from that she become a lawyer. I still regret that I wasn’t able to land her!

  • amphiox

    The intersection between the population of good-looking girls and smart girls is exceptionally thin

    Exceptionally is a relative term. Exceptionally compared to what? The intersection of good-looking boys and smart boys?

    To anyone who has actually interacted in real life with attractive girls

    A very bold statement to make. Citations needed from people who are not you, to just that “to anyone”.

    True, which is why I threw “exceptionally” in there, i.e. the probability of a girl being smart and good-looking is markedly lower than the probability of a girl being smart times the probability of a girl being good-looking.

    An even bolder statement to make. Citations needed to actual real and reliable numbers regarding the probability of intelligence (define “smart” in an objective, non-relative way, please) and the probability of attractiveness (define “good-looking” in an objective, non-relative way, please), and the actual number of women with both attributes, quantitatively showing a difference between the actual number and the expected number (the product of those two probabilities). N will need to be well over 100 (preferably over 1000) for any assessment of “probability” to be reliable, as well.

    Anecdotally, I can’t think of any girl I knew who was pretty growing up that turned out to be smart

    Anecdotally, I can’t think of any woman growing up who was smart who wasn’t pretty. And the reason for this is very simple. I, personally, an attracted to intelligent women. Any woman who is demonstrably intelligent becomes, quite subconsciously and automatically, to me, attractive physically. And any woman who is demonstrably not intelligent (relatively) quite automatically becomes less attractive physically to me.

    Because “attractiveness” is not an objective, or independent, variable.

    Perhaps you should consider if a similar dynamic is working for you, in the opposite direction.

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

    Any woman who is demonstrably intelligent becomes, quite subconsciously and automatically, to me, attractive physically.

    oh, you’re so intelligentist!

    damn, i knew i should have deleted cyrax popping off. no one is talking about the “austro-goths.”

  • RafeK

    Miley I think your basing your estimates of intelligence and personality on signals less likely to be given by attractive women for reasons unrelated to intelligence or at least IQ. I see no statistical reason to believe that IQ is lower in attractive women as far as personality I am not even sure what you mean.

    As geeky young man I was frustrated by the sense that the girls I found physically attractive and the girls I found intellectual interesting were a mutual exclusive subsets so I think understand were that perception would arise from.

    That said I happen to have quite a few women in my extended family with IQs in the range of 2 to 4 sigmas above the mean and the most attractive ones rarely make that trait obvious except in their scholastic performance and in personal conversations. My mother scored 150 on the IQ in college and was validictorian of her high school I was honestly baffled about what she did what that IQ until I started having one on one political discussions with her quite recently. It turns out she is extremely sensitive to feeling like people are discluded from a conversation and so intentionally avoids in depth and intellectual topics in group settings.

    My little sisters standardized test scores indicate an IQ at least 2 sigmas of the mean but again it not very obvious in most interactions with her, her identity is much more wrapped up in her looks(she had done fair amount of modeling) then her IQ she rank orders people and chooses her associates based on attractiveness, social prestige and style over intellect.

    My hypothesis is that women who are attractive intuitively understand that this is there most powerful card socially and a high IQ doesn’t really help. Men see women smarter then them the way they see women taller then them, were as the inverse is true for Men. It follows that women would have less incentive to make their IQ a major focus of their personality unless their looks are not a strength.

    Even so I know quite a few very attractive geek girls, they seem more common in the city were people can sort into narrower cliques then in the small towns I grew up in.

  • Miley Cyrax

    @amphiox
    “An even bolder statement to make. Citations needed to actual real and reliable numbers regarding the probability of intelligence (define “smart” in an objective, non-relative way, please) and the probability of attractiveness (define “good-looking” in an objective, non-relative way, please), and the actual number of women with both attributes, quantitatively showing a difference between the actual number and the expected number (the product of those two probabilities). N will need to be well over 100 (preferably over 1000) for any assessment of “probability” to be reliable, as well.”

    Even if I put forth the time and effort to put together the perfect combination of citations, it would be a waste. People tend not to change their mind on anything even in the face of evidence. Or maybe I should provide a citation for this claim too?

    I’m just musing, not looking to establish a scientific theory.

    “Because “attractiveness” is not an objective… variable.”

    Perhaps not perfectly, but if you asked a group of men to rate a random girl’s physical attractiveness from 0-10 based on photograph, do you really think their ratings will be randomly scattered across that range?

    “Perhaps you should consider if a similar dynamic is working for you, in the opposite direction.”

    While we’re speculating on our subconsciouses , perhaps you should consider if you’ve found yourself out-competed in life for pretty girls, and thus rationalize it away by telling yourself beauty is subjective andthat you’re only attracted to smart girls.

    I like dealing with smart girls more than dumb girls (an understatement) and they’re easier for me to seduce as well, as I have a lot more things I can talk about with smart girls than I do with dumb girls. However, when I’ve visited to party I’ve definitely noticed the girls at USC and UCLA are better-looking than the ones at Stanford, BC and BU girls better-looking than Harvard’s, and PSU and Bucknell’s better-looking than Penn’s.

    @jb
    “Sample size of one: My high school girlfriend was as hot as anyone could ask for, and extremely smart. She went on to get a Ph.D. in history, and when she realized she couldn’t make a living from that she become a lawyer. I still regret that I wasn’t able to land her!”

    Don’t feel regret, I’m sure you’ll meet or have met girls that will make you just as happy as she did, although their resumes may not be as impressive. One of the girls I’ve been more or less “seeing” for almost a year now got a perfect or near-perfect SAT (can’t remember if she got 800s across the board or if it was just M+V). She’s decently hot; our hypothetical kids would be awesome, but… eh. Still too many fish in the sea.

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

    stop talking about this stuff people. not interested in this devolving into a game blog thread. i’ll just close the discussion otherwise.

  • http://bluetenlese.wordpress.com M. Möhling

    > screenshot in case they fix the mistake
    Still there as of now. The article’s author is one female Georgetown Government and English major (Does that qualify as typical–or even atypical–”person of the educated class?”) with a “fierce hatred of spicy food.” Not much good can come of that. Let her eat cake fish and jalapeños, maybe she smartens up long-term.

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

    with a “fierce hatred of spicy food.”

    what a heathen!

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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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