Over at Econlog Bryan Caplan bets that India’s fertility will be sup-replacement within 20 years. My first inclination was to think that this was a totally easy call for Caplan to make. After all, much of southern India, and the northwest, is already sup-replacement. And then I realized that heterogeneity is a major issue. This is a big problem I see with political and social analysis. Large nations are social aggregations that are not always comparable to smaller nations (e.g., “Sweden has such incredible social metrics compared to the United States”; the appropriate analogy is the European Union as a whole).
Recently a “hot story” in the barbaric nation that is Pakistan is that a politician did not know how to recite a prayer properly. An important back story here is that Muslims generally pray in Arabic, but most Muslims are not Arabic language speakers (and in any case, colloquial Arabic is very different from “Classical Arabic” which is derived from the language of the Koran). So deviation from appropriate pronunciation is a major problem for Muslims as a practical matter. And, since the words one recites in ritual prayer are derived from the Koran they are the literal Word of God as transmitted to Muhammad via the angel Gabriel. Proper delivery is of the essence (and for your information, I can still bust out sura Fatiha, thank you very much).
But the major point illustrated by the incident is the importance of public piety in Pakistan. The father of the nation of Pakistan, Muhammed Ali Jinnah, was so Westernized that he had to have mullahs prep him on how to recite lines of the Koran during speeches. He was himself from a heretical Muslim sect (heretical in the eyes of the Sunni majority at least), the Ismailis, and married a woman of Zoroastrian background. Like much of the Pakistani elite today and upper class men of the British Empire during that period Jinnah had a soft spot for various liquors. Pakistan has come a long way from those days, re-branding itself as an extremist nation par excellence. The “moderates” may be the majority, but they are not moved to place themselves between the extremists and their victims.
And this brings me to the USA. How is it like Pakistan? We’ve also have come a long way since the Founding in terms of the respectable “orthodoxy” which we demand of our politicians. A new Pew survey on religion in Congress puts this into stark relief:
In the comments below a strange conversation grew out of the politicized nature of Pakistani identity, and its relationship to India the nation-state, and India the civilization. I assume that a typical reader, or more accurately commenter, on this weblog would be sanguine if they found out they were 10% chimpanzee. After all, it’s what’s between your ears that really matters, not who your ancestors were. I do understand that some readers have strong genealogical-nationalist interests in human population genetics, and that’s fine so long as you don’t presume that the rest of us share such priorities (this is a problem for some commenters, so please be aware that I get annoyed when you project this way, though it’s obviously not a banning offense).
But readers who come via search engines are a different case, and that’s why I’ve started to get worried about over-reading of PCA and such. Nevertheless, I do think PCA can answer the question of whether there is any real genetic discontinuity between Pakistanis and Indians. The answer is no. Page 19 of Reich et al. supplement 1 includes in the HGDP Pakistani populations in their plot of genetic variation of Indian groups. I’ve added some labels, but the top-line is rather clear. AP = Andhara Pradesh, UP = Uttar Pradesh, GUJ = Gujarat and RAJ = Rajasthan. I assume Ind. and Pak. abbreviations are self-evident.
Long time readers of this weblog will recognize Zachary Latif. Zachary and I have been having exchanges on various topics on and off since 2002 on the blogs. His early opinionated musings on cultural and historical topics were a definite prod for me to venture out more vigorously into this domain. As a Pakistani Baha’i educated and resident in the West he offered me a window into a very different perspective from what I’d ever encountered before. In particular he challenged me in 2002 when I blithely repeated conventional wisdom about the economic rise of India and the stagnation of Pakistan. He had numbers at his finger tips. I did not.
Since that time it is arguable that Pakistan has become more, not less, important to Americans. How is Pakistan doing? To look into this I decided to use Google Data Explorer, focusing on trend lines comparing the various South Asian nations.