Quote notes (#11)

John Bohannon on a civilization doomed by dishonesty:

“People [in the West] don’t like to talk about IQ, because it undermines their notion of equality,” [Douglas] Detterman says. “We think every person is equal to every other, and we like to take credit for our own accomplishments. You are where you are because you worked hard.” …  Even if we accept that intelligence is heritable, any effort to improve or even understand the inheritance process strikes us as distasteful, even ghoulish, suggesting the rise of designer superbabies. And given the fallout that sometimes results when academics talk about intelligence as a quantifiable concept … IQ research is not a popular subject these days at Western universities.

But in his lab at BGI, 21-year-old Zhao [Bowen] has no such squeamishness. He waves it away as “irrational,” making a comparison with height: “Some people are tall and some are short,” he says. Three years into the project, a team of four geneticists is crunching an initial batch of 2,000 DNA samples from high-IQ subjects, searching for where their genomes differ from the norm. Soon Zhao plans to get thousands more through Renmin—his former high school—as well as from other sources around the world. He believes that intelligence has a genetic recipe and that given enough samples—and enough time—his team will find it.

There’s nothing really new for those who’ve been following the story, but it’s well done (and the Satanism angle adds color). World War as a global crusade against hate facts is just about the only Cathedral play left at this point.

July 28, 2013admin 20 Comments »
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20 Responses to this entry

  • Scharlach Says:

    It will be interesting to see how the Cathedral tries to enfold these facts into their various orthodox Narratives. To us, the facts strike a death-blow to the Narratives. But how might the Left absorb the facts? Twist them to seem like they fit perfectly well? Or might we see a return to Old Leftism, a la H.G. Wells and Margaret Sanger?


    admin Reply:

    To begin answering that, or even speculating about it systematically, we first need a clear understanding of the core Leftist commitment. If it is rationalistic, central, public planning, then your scenario makes sense. If it’s egalitarianism, their problem is more intractable. Even if radical genomic innovation eventually promises things the Left should like — at the limit, the dissolution of heredity into bio-engineering — it’s hard to imagine a realistic development path that doesn’t massively widen inequalities. Self-modification in detail is destined to be a frontier, advanced by pioneers (who will win or lose enormous stakes). Those are not circumstances that promote egalitarian uniformity.


    spandrell Reply:

    What does it say about us that we still don’t have a clear understanding of the core Leftist commitment?


    admin Reply:

    In our defense, there’s a lot of noise. Strip away the fashion statements, career pragmatism, and other types of conformist signaling, and you’ve already had to dig down through a lot of confusing debris.

    Handle Reply:

    I feel I understand it pretty well, at least the species exhibited by my Progressive American friends.

    The leftist commitment is to the absolution or exculpation of the ‘under-privileged’ – the ‘liberation from their oppressed condition’ one way or another. They are never to blame for their problems.

    This takes two forms. The primary form is aggressive – the true source of any negative valence attribute is deemed to arise always, directly or as legacy, from the a ”root cause’ of the evil, greedy hate of the Oppressor-Archetype. The Old-White-Hetero-Male Crony-Capitalist Conservative Christian, etc, etc.

    The secondary form is a fall-back, when the cause of some phenomenon loses some sort of leftist-social-plausibility and is accepted as natural, genetic, or environmental in origin. You see this with Crime a lot – the defendant’s not really culpable because of his genes, or his brain, or his childhood – so we should let him go or give him ‘treatment’ instead of punishment, which would be ‘unjust’. Leftists seems to use and like these sorts of free-will / agency-denying arguments much more than Rightists, always looking for the excuses.

    The environmental one is the best because it can perform double-duty, blaming the Archetypes of the past for their pollution, extolling the accomplishments of past Leftists for stopping it, and leaving room for both future optimism and big government projects to ‘clean it all up’. The best example is Drum’s latest crusade against lead-poisoning which is what’s making all the black school-kids duller with amazingly equal social statistics no matter where you look.

    But the ability to flow from primary (oppressor-based) to the secondary (nature-based) fall-back is seamless and immediate and no one even looks back with embarrassment.

    The only way we’ll get rightist policies if when the Left thinks what they’re doing is just ‘cleaning up’ after the evil Right’s errors. “We didn’t want to have to drop a firewall between generations, take all the black babies away and raise them in giant, ultra-disciplined, cognitive-ability-segmented military academies in Montana where they could be indoctrinated with as much Mormonism and nice bourgeois values and behavior-patterns as they can absorb. But we had to clean up after all that hateful-racist social-pollution that the Right’s been emitting since, you know, forever.”

    Contemplationist Reply:

    Why not use Moldbug’s material in concocting an answer? Leftism is a collection of memes selected for disorder and entropy forever. Particular memes may be suppressed or selected out.

    Lesser Bull Reply:

    I don’t know, of course, but my guess is that you’re better off looking for the ur-Lefitist myth rather than the ur-Leftistt idea.

    One possibility of that myth is something like the Noble Savage. Living in harmony with nature, without posessions or property, just eating the lotus and screwing like a bunny. If you had to put it in terms of ideas, then, the key idea here is a denial of original sin. Generalizing more broadly, the key idea is a denial of reality where reality means limitations, friction, opportunity cost, and the perverse obstinacy of things.

    Somewhere along the line, designing men tricked us all and created institutions and habits that made us liive unhappily, with poverty and inequality and rules. These designing men justified their oppression by reference to ‘reality’ which allegedly was intractable. But this would be unacceptable! So it must be untrue.

    This myth ties together several elements of Leftism. It has the environmentalist component, the hatred of insttitutions and rules (which is why the Left is so destructive and entropic), the dislike for inequality and ownership, and it even explains the confidence in central planning and environmental influences–because if schemers could somehow forcibly disrupt utopia and warp all our mentalities, a small group of counter-schemers is justified in getting us back.

    It occurs to me that this Leftist myth is suspiciously Christian (a fall from Eden) and Gnostic (with the state of nature replacing the one and society replacing the demiurge).

    The myth is also suspiciously similar to a modern childhood. You live a cossetted existence and then, boom, you have a mortgage and your poetry degree is for shite and there is all this complicated superstructure that supposedly explains all of it, a lot of absttract guff about capitalism or something, or else you find yourself in a financial firm committing acts of incredible rapacity just to get ahead, and surely its not because you never developed any moral fiber, no, it must be the system that forces idealistic you to act badly. If so, then the real leftist ratchet is that in conditions of prosperity people will tend to raise their kids more sheltered, and have less kids, which causes them to invest in them even more. The underclass aren’t real leftists, they’re just barbarians, and if they persist in being icky once all the outside causes of their condition are removed, the left will happily eliminate them.

    Apologies if this is all incredibly obvious. I sometimes use your combox for thinking out loud.

    Bill Reply:

    The left is capable of intense cognitive dissonance. Maybe every human being is, but I have experienced bizarre behavior from leftist academics, apropos:

    In a dark room, you can hear the soft buzz of a projector fan, the wall is lit by a Powerpoint showing crisp images of 18th century French engravings. A paper presentation in the graduate art history seminar is happening. The presenter, a very good looking woman who is very smart and pleasant but also a hardcore leftist, was giving an art historical talk on images created contemporaneously with the operation of a particular woman’s insane asylum in Paris. This early version of a mental home was in operation in the decades leading up to the French Revolution.

    The first three-quarters of the paper was about how unfair it was that woman could be committed to the institution by a letter from a male relative, we are shown a letter and read a translation from the French. We are also told about how unfair it was that there was a public parade of new inmates through the streets of Paris on a horse drawn wagon, we are shown an engraving of the parade. It is a bunch of woman in big dresses inside of a cage placed on the horse drawn wagon, it has square sides and a half-circle top like the canvas covered wagons from Western movies, their little hands stick out from the bars. We are really impressed upon about how unfair the letter and the parade are.

    The last quarter of the paper is the “exciting” part. The French Revolution happens! She was positively glowing about this historical event. Especially regarding how it would end the miserable humiliations of the woman committed to the institution. No more letters, no more parades, harrah!

    However, what the revolutionaries did after they seized the Paris mental home was to assess the women, divide them into sane and insane, and then kill the insane ones in the courtyard of the building that housed them. We are shown an engraving of this image, in the foreground the ladies kneel in dirt, still in the dresses, but sans their heads. Despite this, our very sweet, extremely charming art history graduate student persisted in thinking the revolution was a great event heralding emancipation from the bonds of oppressive male patriarchy.

    During the presentation of the grisly execution image the students have a brief discussion about the placement of a church in the background of the image. They wondered, thoughtfully, if the artist had depicted the proper facade. Silly me, I thought the point of the image of woman lined up, hands bound, heads missing was the execution. Obviously, I was wrong, it was the angle of the church in the background!

    During the question period I pointed out that: the women were: 1.) Before revolution = alive but potentially humiliated, or arguably saved from self-destructive mental illness, and 2.) After revolution = the weakest were murdered.

    These points did not get through to our gracile presenter, and what’s more the rest of the class became angry that I would raise this unfortunate point. A Spanish guy from Colombia argued with me about oppression. He is also very smart and likable. He posts on Facebook about how the USA is racist. (When I argue with him I misspell his country Colombia, as Columbia. Subtle, but he does get angry so it’s worth it.)

    These two likable people, who are really smart, they could probably beat me in Tetris or in Scrabble, but they could not see that the murder of the insane woman in the Paris mental home called into question any of their ideas.


    Handle Reply:

    An excellent illustration Bill. I’ve seen my share, but this is typical ‘Who? Whom?’ thinking where there are good guys who, the subjects of endless apologetics, who will never be condemned for their good-intentioned ‘excesses’ and bad guys who are the cause of every malady and never achieved anything except off the back of some oppressed identity group.

    Here’s Orwell, from his indispensable Politics and the English Language

    Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, “I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so.” Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:

    “While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.”

    Orwell was making the point about the deceptive tactic of using euphemistic terminology to avoid conjuring the intolerably brutal images which would arise from a frank statement of your argument – but I highlight it only as a good example of the fact that these sorts of defenses and absolutions are always forthcoming and ubiquitous, so long as it’s coming from the right side with the correct motives.


    Bill Reply:

    Thanks Handle, I made a pdf of the Orwell and sent it to my Kindle.

    Here are some less organized thoughts:

    There are obviously shitty people on the right too, but at this moment in time the left is pure lunacy. My guess is that the left’s increasingly bizarro position has to do with the growing gap between reality and their thoughts regarding what humans are, alternatively: completely malleable, equal, and noble. Reality in this case as revealed by genetics, neuroscience, and the cataloging of news stories from around the world absent some central censor authority via the internet has to be building up a case of cognitive dissonance with the pressure of tectonic plates pre-earth quake. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone in power, who operates from a left position, does something completely insane soon as the rube goldberg machine they maintain in their mind becomes increasingly arrhythmic, like a bad heart beat, or a bicycle wheel with a kink in it, they will predictably make an unpredictable move towards chaos.

    Posted on July 28th, 2013 at 3:53 am Reply | Quote
  • spandrell Says:

    I’d like to define the Left as the movement which moves inexorably towards the leftist singularity. (via Jim)

    Meaning the core sentiment of the Left is entropy production such as to maximize the upward mobility of any given leftist individual. Given common human cognitive biases, the most cost-effective way is harnessing envy, i.e. pushing for equality by any memes you can come up with. Particular societies have their own way of maximizing entropy; Muslims go fundamentalist, old Christians go messianic, Japanese go Kamikaze.

    Progressivism is strongest because it is the less particularist: the human brain likes equality per se. So egalitarianism is entropy producing in any culture.


    admin Reply:

    That’s certainly what they do, but it surely isn’t what they think they’re doing. In fact, their narratives tend to stress progress out of disorder, transcending competition, conflict, selfishness, and diverse opinion, in the direction of a superior collective order (or ‘immanent eschaton’). Perhaps the tangles here are connected to the fact that entropy is descent to equilibrium, and equilibrium can be conceived — mistakenly — as ideal order. Entropy and non-discrimination are closely linked concepts (and practices).


    asdf Reply:

    Does it matter what they “think they’re doing”? Most people and most actions couldn’t be defended by some argument from first principles. It’s just monkey brain impulses shrouded in rationalization.

    “Meaning the core sentiment of the Left is entropy production such as to maximize the upward mobility of any given leftist individual.”


    Sometimes they don’t understand whether action XYZ is good for them. Just as an investor sometimes picks a bad stock. However, they are not in the stock market for charity and neither is the leftist in politics for charity.


    admin Reply:

    I agree with the conclusions you and Spandrell come to. Even if one wanted to cash this out in terms of beliefs (rather than systematic consequences of behavior), any thought of arguing with axiomatic commitments is futile. It still seems a little hasty to say, ‘what the Left is really about is the minimization of free energy’, but that’s probably pointless squeamishness on my part.

    Posted on July 29th, 2013 at 3:59 am Reply | Quote
  • John Hannon Says:

    Reading the whole article it becomes apparent that genetic IQ improvement is unlikely to become a practical proposition for maybe another decade or so, by which time our monkey brains may well have been out-evolved by auto-advancing AI systems. Hence a more workable route towards improved human IQ might be brain-computer interfacing.


    admin Reply:



    spandrell Reply:

    No way we’re getting Skynet in a decade.


    admin Reply:

    Not without a world war, anyway.

    Posted on July 29th, 2013 at 11:20 am Reply | Quote
  • Peter A. Taylor Says:

    @Lesser Bull:
    I was thinking that the two major religions in the modern West were the two crucifixion myths: Jesus and Spartacus.

    But I think what’s really going on with leftist thought is not deductive reasoning, but abduction (troubleshooting logic). Start with the conclusion (e.g. my lawnmower won’t start), and work backwards to find candidate premises that could lead to the known result (gas or spark?). The desired conclusion in this case is leftist moral superiority over everyone else. The particular premises that lead to this (e.g. Republicans are racist, misogynist, greedy, etc.) are not important, and can shift at a moment’s notice. American nationalism goes from good to bad the moment the American leftists perceive a need to distance themselves from their nationalistic German and Italian peers, circa 1940.

    But people on the right can be sanctimonious, too, so we can’t use sanctimony as a defining characteristic of “left”.


    Lesser Bull Reply:

    that explanation covers the Left Singularity phenomenon, where everyone has to frenetically demonstrate that they are leftier than thou or be axed.


    Posted on July 29th, 2013 at 11:52 pm Reply | Quote

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