Category: Politics

A stylish Syrian epistemological nihilism

By Razib Khan | June 18, 2013 3:18 am

To know is to not know

Over ten years ago I began writing on the internet about sundry things. Mostly science. But sometimes policy, politics, and history. I still do so on occasion veer away from science (see some of the books I’ve reviewed and read to get a sampling of my interests). After the travesty of Iraq I vowed that I would never take for granted that those who speak with authority truly have the grounds to speak with such authority. This is one reason I occasionally post factual corrections about presuppositions in pieces in The New York Times. Presumably most of the reporters at that journal are well educated, but for whatever reason they are often not broadly and deeply knowledgeable in the fields they cover, and rely on transparent and superficial “cliff notes.” For example, consider how frequently the mainstream media asserts that Iran is an Arab nation. The unintelligent or ignorant may feel that this is a trivial correction (this regularly crops up in comments when the correction is made!), but Persian antipathy and resentment of Arabs has long been a sublimated tension in regional geopolitics(for their part Arabs occasionally make veiled allusions to the Persian past by referring to modern Iranians as Zoroastrian “fire-worshippers,” terminology which Saddam Hussein used explicitly). Ignoring the details of reality is informational malpractice, but one which reporters regularly slip into for whatever reason.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Politics
MORE ABOUT: Politics

Do liberals oppose genetically modified organisms more than conservatives?

By Razib Khan | June 11, 2013 12:03 am

Credit: Puma

There has been recent talk about GMOs and political orientation recently. Keith Kloor has pointers to the appropriate places. The general impression on all sides seems to be that elite voices against genetically modified organisms are on the Left. To my knowledge this is correct, especially in the United States. But is this true more broadly? We can use the General Social Survey to explore this further. It has a series of questions relating to genetically modified organisms. All except one were asked in 2006 (the exception was 2010).

For replication here are the variables:

Row: EATGM POLINFGM BIZINFGM MEDAGRGM MEDINFGM GMMED GMPOL GMBIZ POLINFNK

Column: POLVIEWS(r:1-3″Liberal”;4″Moderate”;5-7″Conservative”)

There results are presented below (rows add up to 100% for each question).

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Politics

Conservative atheists not rare in South Korea?

By Razib Khan | December 18, 2012 1:30 am

In a few days South Korea will have a new president, and this is very important because of how large North Korea looms in geopolitics. An interesting aspect of this race for Americans is that the candidate of the conservative party, Park Geun-Hye, may be an atheist, running against a Roman Catholic liberal. I say may be because there are some confusions over Park Geun-Hye’s religious identity. Her parents were Buddhist, she was baptized as a young woman as a Roman Catholic, and seems to have drawn without much discrimination from a variety of religious teachings to inform her world-view. It wouldn’t be shocking if Park Geun-Hye was an atheist. According to the World Values Survey ~25% of South Koreans are convinced atheists.

I was curious if atheists in South Korea leaned to the Left or the Right, and from what I can tell there’s no strong correlation. This may surprise Americans, but the historical experience of the two nations is very different. Until recently South Korea has had weak institutional religions, and a substantial portion of what we might term “progressives” were Christians, in particular Roman Catholics. Below are the results for the USA, Great Britain, Sweden, and South Korea for the World Values Survey using religious identification and political self positioning. Percentages and sample sizes are included.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Politics, Religion
MORE ABOUT: South Korea

The G.O.P. as the white Christian party

By Razib Khan | December 15, 2012 3:13 pm

A few weeks ago I reiterated that the most parsimonious explanation for why Asian Americans have been shifting to the Democratic party over the past generation (George H. W. Bush won Asian Americans according to the 1992 exit polls) is a matter of identity politics (reiterated, because I noticed this years ago in the survey data). In short, since the 1950s a normative expectation that America was defined by its historic white Protestant majority has receded. The proportion of “Others,” non-whites, non-Christians, etc., has grown to the point that for all practical purposes these groups have found a secure home in the Democratic party, and the Democratic party has been able to benefit electorally from this support (this would not be the case in 1950, because not enough Americans were non-white or non-Christian). Naturally then the Republican party has become the locus of organization for white Christians, and more specifically white Protestants.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Politics
MORE ABOUT: Politics

Are you “Driftless”?

By Razib Khan | November 25, 2012 11:22 pm

GeoCurrents on the political anomaly of the “Driftless” zone of the upper Mississippi (via GLPiggy). The anomaly has to do with the fact that this area is very white, very rural, and not in the orbit of a larger cosmopolitan urban area (e.g., “Greater Boston,” which extends into New Hampshire). The post goes into much greater detail, but concludes with a request for more information. This is the area where local knowledge might be helpful.

I went poking around old county level presidential election maps, and I can’t see the Driftless blue-zone being a shadow or ghost of any past pattern. But, I did stumble upon again the 1856 presidential election map by county…can there be a better illustration of the “Greater Yankeedom” (the red are Republican voting counties, the first year that the Republicans were a substantial national party):

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Politics
MORE ABOUT: Politics

Going short and going long in terms of blog traffic

By Razib Khan | November 25, 2012 11:59 am

Arnold Kling took a break from blogging, but is coming back. But under an explicit set of personal guidelines. About This Blog:

I decided to go with my own blog, rather than return to EconLog, because I want to have total control over the blog content. I want to model a very particular style of discourse, as indicated by the tag line “taking the most charitable view of those who disagree.” In June, I wrote

Suppose we look at writing on issues where people tend to hold strong opinions that fit with their ideology. Such writing can

(a) attempt to open the minds of people on the opposite side as the author
(b) attempt to open minds of people on the same side as the author
(c) attempt to close minds of people on the same side as the author

So, think about it. Wouldn’t you classify most op-eds and blog posts as (c)? Isn’t that sort of pathetic?

My goal is to avoid (c). I will try to keep the posts here free of put-downs, snark, cheap shots, straw-man arguments, and taking the least charitable interpretation of what others say. So, if what you most enjoyed about my past blogging efforts were the put-downs, be prepared for disappointment with this incarnation.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Politics
MORE ABOUT: Arnold Kling, Politics

Prop 37 vs. Obama (by county)

By Razib Khan | November 22, 2012 11:12 pm

Following up my request a reader crunched the numbers (here is his data table) to show the association between supporting supporting Proposition 37 and voting for Barack Obama by county in California:

From what I know this issue really polarized people in highly educated liberal enclaves in the state of California. Many of my Left non-scientist friends supported the measure because of an anti-corporate animus. But, another issue that sometimes came up was transparency and fair play, in a “teach the controversy” fashion. My own contention is on the scientific point there is no controversy.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Politics
MORE ABOUT: Politics

San Francisco supported Proposition 37!

By Razib Khan | November 20, 2012 12:15 am

A few weeks ago I alluded to the controversy around proposition 37. This was the GMO labeling law proposal. Many life scientists in California opposed this law. One aspect of this issue is that it is an area where the Left may be stated to be “anti-science.” This is why this was highlighted in Science Left Behind. But there’s a problem with this narrative: the survey data for it is weak. There are broad suggestive patterns…but the reality is that the strongest predictor of skepticism of genetically modified organisms is lower socioeconomic status. The GSS has a variable, EATGM. Here are the results by ideology:

Liberal Moderate Conservative
Don’t care whether or not food has been genetically modified 15 16 17
Willing to eat but would prefer unmodified foods 55 53 52
Will not eat genetically modified food 30 30 31

 

I would caution that the sample size is small. But, if you dig deeper into the survey data you can find evidence that conservatives are more unalloyed in their support of biotech.

And yet with all this said, today I noticed that the California proposition 37 results are rather stark in their geographic distribution. The measure failed statewide, but 2/3 of the people in San Francisco and Santa Cruz counties supported it, as did 60% of the people in Marin (interestingly, only a little over 50% supported it in San Mateo and Santa Clara). I couldn’t find a tabular list with the results by county, but there are interactive maps. If someone was industrious (and had more time than I do) they would go and collect the data from the maps, and do a loess of “support proposition 37” vs. “support Obama.”

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Agriculture, Politics
MORE ABOUT: Proposition 37

Nate Silver will tax your crap!

By Razib Khan | November 5, 2012 1:22 am

I am currently reading Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise. The review will go live concurrently with Jim Manzi’s Uncontrolled, which I finished weeks ago. The two works are qualitatively different, but fundamentally they’re both concerned with epistemology. I do have to admit that halfway through  The Signal and the Noise I long for Manzi’s density and economy of prose. As someone on the margins of the LessWrong community I’m already familiar with many of the arguments that Silver forwards, so perhaps this evaluation is not fair.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Politics
MORE ABOUT: Politics

The unpredictability of cultural norms

By Razib Khan | October 18, 2012 12:28 am

I do pay for The New York Times, but as you may know I get frustrated with the lack of context for international stories. Most Americans are not particularly informed about world affairs, so fact without frame can confuse. For example today a story came into my feed, Uruguay Senate Approves First-Trimester Abortions. Naturally the article alludes to Latin America’s Roman Catholicism, but I also happen to know that aside from Cuba Uruguay has long been Latin America’s most secular nation. The chart from the left is from Uruguay’s household survey. I don’t know Spanish, but even to me it’s clear that 17.2 percent of Uruguay’s population identifies as atheist or agnostic, about three times the similar number in the United States (being generous). Fully 42 percent of the nation’s population is non-Christian, with 40 percent disavowing any religion.

This is all relevant because most readers of The New York Times are going to see Uruguay, a Latin American country where the Catholic religion is the dominant confession, and make some inferences of the weakening of the power of the church. But in Uruguay the church has been weak for 100 years! So why has Uruguay had strict abortion laws like its more religious neighbors? Because it is a small nation surrounded by influential neighbors, who no doubt effect its mores and norms. It reminds us of the power of cultural inertia and peer effects.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Politics

Which states vote Democratic?

By Razib Khan | September 1, 2012 11:24 pm

In the comments below there was a question as to political party consistency over the decades in terms of voting by state. A quick correct impression is that the Democratic South shifted toward Republican, while New England went the opposite direction. In contrast much of the Midwest remained Republican over the whole period. How does this comport with the quantitative data?

I went about this in a relatively straightforward manner. First, I computed the national average Democratic vote in presidential years since 1912 (excluding Alaska, Hawaii, and D.C.) using the states as input values (so this would differ from the popular vote percentages, as low population states would have the same weight as high population states). Second, I then converted the state results into standard deviation units. Then, I computed the standard deviation of these values. So, for example, Mississippi tended to have larger positive values in the first half of the 20th century (voted more Democratic than the nation as a whole), but shifted toward negative in the later 20th century (less Democratic than the nation as a whole). Because of this shift Mississippi had a high standard deviation over the years, since its national position was highly dispersed over time. In contrast, New Mexico was much closer to the national mean over time.

Here’s the rank ordered list:

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Politics
MORE ABOUT: Politics

Quantifying the great flip

By Razib Khan | August 30, 2012 1:13 am

The two maps above show the Democratic and Republican counties in blue and red respectively. Carter in the 1976 presidential election, and Obama in 2008. A few days ago it was brought to my attention that Matt Yglesias was curious about how Maine become a Democratic leaning state in the past generation. How is a deep question I’ll leave to political scientists, but how about the patterns of voting Democratic over elections by state for the past 100 years? That’s not too hard to find, there’s state-level election data online. So I just calculated the correlations between past elections and Democratic results, and Obama’s performance in 2008. If you’re a junkie of political science I assume you’ve seen something like this….

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Politics
MORE ABOUT: Politics

Minding the trend: Bain Capital

By Razib Khan | July 16, 2012 9:19 am

Long time readers know that I like to use analytics like Google Trends to put up short posts. Why? I was prompted by the fact that the mainstream often likes to write meandering “trend” pieces which are basically spiffed-up versions of the type of think-pieces essays you’d pen in 10th grade. Basically the modus operandi is to start with a novel or counter-intuitive proposition, and then assemble a number of individuals or data points supporting your theses. For example, It’s Hip to Be Round, which argued 3 summers ago that male New York New York hipsters were now sporting potbellies fashionably. The problem with these sorts of pieces is that it’s not 10th grade in the pre-internet era, where you have a fine number of resources and time. Using above system you can construct a trend piece around any thesis. Just dive through the Google stack, or ask enough people and just cull the ones willing to be quoted. The modern trend piece in fact is a perfect exemplar of the sort of non-fiction which someone with a deconstructive mindset might argue is actually form of fiction. Trend pieces which reflect genuine social truths are then rather like historical novels, narrative elaborations upon factual events or dynamics.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Politics

Barack Hussein Obama: Yankee & Cavalier

By Razib Khan | March 9, 2012 12:46 pm

I’ve mentioned before that though Barack H. Obama’s most salient ethnic identity is that of a black American, in many ways he far more resembles his “Yankee” maternal family (who raised him). By Yankee, I mean that I presumed that they were from the Yankee component of the Kansas population, with names like Emerson in the family lineage. Later the family settled in parts of Greater New England, the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii. Religiously they seem to have veered into conventional New England liberal denominations such as Unitarianism. And interestingly as an adult Barack H. Obama chose a black nationalist church which had an explicit connection with a liberal Protestant denomination with dominant roots in New England, the United Church of Christ. All this is not to say that there is a “Yankee conspiracy” on Obama’s maternal side. Rather, people have “folkways,” and are often unconsciously attracted to cultural forms and locales which have an air of familiarity.

But interestingly a regularly correspondent has uncovered that Obama’s maternal lineage, or more specifically his maternal grandfather’s paternal lineage, is more Yankee in cultural identity than genetics:

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Politics
MORE ABOUT: Barack Obama

Half of white liberals want less immigration

By Razib Khan | March 6, 2012 6:00 am

As I have mentioned elsewhere my espousal of conservatism at Moving Secularism Forward went well. Interestingly several people came up to me afterward and admitted a sympathy for the “conservative” position on immigration (i.e., restrictionism). The rationales were both environmentalist (population control types) and law & order. Just out of curiosity I wanted to see any possible changes in attitudes toward immigration for non-Hispanic whites by ideology and education since 2004, when the issue has become more polarized.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Politics, Uncategorized
MORE ABOUT: Immigration

Secular liberals the tip of the Islamist spear

By Razib Khan | January 31, 2012 11:53 pm

I have long been on the record as a skeptic of the of the proposition that democratization in the Arab world will usher in liberalism. To a great extent I think that my skepticism has been vindicated, though these are early times yet. But looking at the events as they are playing out in Egypt and Tunisia reminds me of the rock-paper-scissors games.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Politics
MORE ABOUT: liberalism

Social conservatives have a lower I.Q.? (probably)

By Razib Khan | January 28, 2012 1:29 pm

In light of my previous posts on GRE scores and educational interests (by the way, Education Realist points out that the low GRE verbal scores are only marginally affected by international students) I was amused to see this write-up at LiveScience, Low IQ & Conservative Beliefs Linked to Prejudice. Naturally over at Jezebel there is a respectful treatment of this research. This is rather like the fact that people who would otherwise be skeptical of the predictive power of I.Q. tests become convinced of their precision of measurement when it comes to assessing whether a criminal facing the death penalty is mentally retarded or not! (also see this thread over at DailyKos). You can see some of the conservative response too.

The paper itself is Bright Minds and Dark Attitudes: Lower Cognitive Ability Predicts Greater Prejudice Through Right-Wing Ideology and Low Intergroup Contact:

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture, Politics

Barack H. Obama, a liminal black Christian

By Razib Khan | January 18, 2012 8:17 pm

 

It is well known that President Obama has a religion issue. The big looming one has to do with whether he is Muslim or not. My own position that he’s as Muslim as I am. With that out of the way, is Barack H. Obama a Christian? To borrow a turn of phrase from Hillary Clinton, I accept him at his word that he is a Christian. But not everyone does. Some people, such as my friend Eliezer Yudkowsky, Steve Sailer, and Ann Althouse, believe that he is not particularly religious, and his avowal of Christian faith and identification is a matter of political necessity.

Obama has said some things which have raised eyebrows. For example, that evolution is more grounded in his experience than angels. Or his lack of certainty about the afterlife. Finally, there is Obama’s tendency toward universalism, which is a major bone of contention in many quarters.

 

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture, Politics, Religion

Is Barack H. Obama whiter than Mitt Romney?

By Razib Khan | January 17, 2012 2:09 am

For some reason The New York Times has given the execrable Lee Siegel space to write on its website. Ruminating on Mitt Romney’s candidacy Siegel puts up a post with the title What’s Race Got to Do With It?, and states:

In this way, Mr. Romney’s Mormonism may end up being a critical advantage. Evangelicals might wring their hands over the prospect of a Mormon president, but there is no stronger bastion of pre-civil-rights-America whiteness than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Yes, since 1978 the church has allowed blacks to become priests. But Mormonism is still imagined by its adherents as a religion founded by whites, for whites, rooted in a millenarian vision of an America destined to fulfill a white God’s plans for earth.

There is something to this. The ancient leadership of the present day Mormon church grew up in a very different America, and they sometimes reflect that America in their pronouncements. For example, despite the fact that plenty of Mormons are in interracial marriages (I know this from my Facebook friends), there is still some literature floating around in the Mormon church discouraging the practice. Now, granted most Americans’ revealed preferences indicate that they aren’t too into interracial marriage personally, but the social norm is strongly against expressing disapproval in the abstract against the practice.

All that being said, one needs to be careful about overemphasizing the whiteness of Mormons. First, remember that most Mormon males are missionaries abroad at some point in their life, so it isn’t as if they are unfamiliar with societies where non-whites are the majority. And, it is probable that around half of Mormons in the world today are not white (the claims vary on this issue). But it is also notable that Mormons in the USA today are far less white than they were just a generation ago. To illustrate this point I’ve replicated some religious data from the Pew survey. I’ve highlighted in blue some historical mainline/liberal Protestant denominations, and in red some of their evangelical/conservative counterparts.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Anthroplogy, Politics, Religion

Elsevier-funded NY Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney Wants to Deny Americans Access to Taxpayer Funded Research

By Razib Khan | January 6, 2012 9:44 am

I basically repeated the title from Michael Eisen, who has the details over at his weblog. A minor side point, if I blog on a paper you can’t get access to, contact me and I’m sure I can fix that situation. In any case, the point here is that apparently Congress, thanks to the prodding of representative Carolyn Maloney, is attempting to end the practice whereby NIH funded research becomes “open” after 12 months. Here’s what Michael suggests you do:

So I urge you to call/write/email/tweet Representative Maloney today, and tell her you support taxpayer access to biomedical research results. Ask her why she wants cancer patients to pay Elsevier $25 to access articles they’ve already paid for. And demand that she withdraw H.R. 3699.

Representative Maloney:

Twitter: @RepMaloney @CarolynBMaloney

Phone: 202-225-7944

FAX: 202-225-4709

Email: Use this form

You can also write your own representative. If you don’t have a blog, or this issue isn’t part of your purview as a blogger, please “share” Michael’s post on Facebook, twitter, etc.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Politics
MORE ABOUT: Politics
NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

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!
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT

RSS Razib’s Pinboard

Edifying books

Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »