Thursday, April 29, 2010

The roots of racism are in our brains, based on empathy

The roots of racial prejudice lie deep within the brain, research has suggested. A study found that when we watch someone from our own race do something our brain simulates the action mentally as a form of empathy, known as 'mirroring'. But when we see someone of a different race do the same thing we make much less effort to empathise.

Researchers asked a group of white men to watch film clips of white, black and Asian men picking up a glass of water and drinking.

While the men watched the videos the scientists hooked them up to machines that monitored whether their brains mimicked the action. The men's brains lit up most when watching someone of their own race.

All the viewers were white but the researchers believe the results would still have been similar with any other group.

Writing in the Journal Experimental Social Psychology, Dr Michael Inzlicht said he believed people are born with a tendency to group others on how like themselves they are.

Dr Inzlicht said the research did not necessarily mean prejudice was innate, adding that discrimination about race, religion or hair colour was 'probably learnt'.

[Inzlicht is a great one for making unwarranted inferences and drawing strange conclusions. His own findings often don't seem to suit him but they are certainly interesting on this occasion. They could just show that people are more interested in people of their own race but, although not too surprising, that does seem worth stating]


A non-dogmatic feminist on female IQ

Richard Lynn, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Ulster, is a brave man. In a letter to The Times responding to a lament by Susan Greenfield about the dearth of women in science, the professor came to a stinging conclusion. It’s the stupid genes, stupid.

Women are simply not as clever as men, he wrote. Besides, they have different types of intelligence — men are stronger on reasoning and maths, while women have more verbal intelligence. Thus men are over-represented in the physical sciences and women can make successful newspaper columnists. Gee thanks, Prof.

To judge by the deluge of furious responses from Times readers, women are just a little peeved at the professor’s verdict. Amid the vitriol, however, no one paused to ponder this question: are we more stupid than men? What if the professor is right?

The liberators of women believed that once the patriarchy was overthrown, the differences between men and women would disappear. Gender was a cultural construct. My generation of women, the lucky inheritors of our mothers’ battle, grew up believing that there was no limit to what we could achieve. Yet in this post-patriarchal world, gender still looms large. Men and women are different. Some of these differences may be explicable as lingering legacies of the patriarchy, but not all of them.

Men may be from Mars, but does that mean that their brains are, as Professor Lynn implies, better?

We are at the early stage of unpicking the mysteries of the mind. We can play God, creating matter where there was none before. We can manufacture antimatter, and split the atom down to fundamental particles. But we can not yet quantify the impact of culture on grey matter. We have not untangled nature from nurture.

One of Professor Lynn’s contentions is that men have a greater range of intelligence — there are more men with very high IQs and more with very low. We women muddle along in mediocrity.

In The Strangest Man, Graham Farmelo’s book about the mathematical genius who first posited the existence of antimatter, Paul Dirac emerges as a man of extreme intelligence, and no social skills. His principal guide in theoretical physics was a quest for beauty — the more beautiful the maths, the nearer the truth. It takes a certain type of brain to see the beauty in maths.

Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, of the University of Cambridge, says that there is a link between the scientific brain and autism in men. He argues that men possess brains that are better at systematising and analysing. Women’s brains are more about empathy and social skills. In the Baron-Cohen view of the world, scientific genius dances with autism. The “extreme male brain” produces both extraordinary talent and absurdly poor social skills.

There is a convincing counter-argument, however, that embedded cultural stereotypes, rather than genes, are hampering women in science. The lack of female winners of Nobel prizes actually supports the nurture argument. Neither Rosalind Franklin nor Jocelyn Bell won Nobels for their respective work on DNA and radio pulsars in space: two of the most important scientific developments of the past century, yet the female contribution was overlooked and belittled...

Some of those cultural influences have not gone away. Little girls are still swathed in pink and encouraged to embrace their inner princess. They are taught early that prettiness is the apogee of female ambition. As Mattel’s Barbie famously said, when prodded: “Math is hard!”

My own view, but I fear it is based largely on faith rather than hard evidence, is that Professor Lynn is profoundly and utterly wrong. One day science, rather than faith, may give us an answer.

And herein lies the real challenge for women. At present, it is easy to rebut the likes of Professor Lynn. His studies are based on IQ evidence, and IQ data is controversial at best. But what happens in the unlikely event that someone proves, definitively, that women’s brains are, on balance, not very good at science? Or that scientific genius is a very male preserve?

When Galileo threatened the fabric of the religious orthodoxy with his observations of the heavens, which proved Copernicus’s theory about the Earth orbiting the Sun, he ran up against the might of the Catholic Church. He invited his inquisitors to look through the telescope — yet they refused.

The new cultural orthodoxy is liberalism. Yet we liberals are remarkably illiberal when faced with dissent from our cosy, equality-driven view of the world. The American academic Lawrence Summers was forced to grovel publicly over remarks that innate ability, rather than discrimination, accounted for the dearth of female scientists.

One day, a scientist may come to us, and say: here is the telescope, there is the evidence. Look. Yesterday’s feminists would have argued that the telescope was made by a man, pointed by a man at man-filtered evidence. But times have changed, and a new generation of feminists must not allow dogma to trump fact. If nature and nurture are untangled, and the results are anathema to our feminist sensibilities, we must at least have sufficient courage to peer into the telescope.

SOURCE. (The lady cannot see the telescope. There is already plenty of evidence of differences between male and female brains)

The Strategic Foundations of the US-Israel Alliance

By Caroline B. Glick

Why a strong Israel is essential for US national security

Israel's status as the US's most vital ally in the Middle East has been so widely recognized for so long that over the years, Israeli and American leaders alike have felt it unnecessary to explain what it is about the alliance that makes it so important for the US.

Today, as the Obama administration is openly distancing the US from Israel while giving the impression that Israel is a strategic impediment to the administration's attempts to strengthen its relations with the Arab world, recalling why Israel is the US's most important ally in the Middle East has become a matter of some urgency.

Much is made of the fact that Israel is a democracy. But we seldom consider why the fact that Israel is a representative democracy matters. The fact that Israel is a democracy means that its alliance with America reflects the will of the Israeli people. As such, it remains constant regardless of who is power in Jerusalem.

All of the US's other alliances in the Middle East are with authoritarian regimes whose people do not share the pro-American views of their leaders. The death of leaders or other political developments are liable to bring about rapid and dramatic changes in their relations with the US.

For instance, until 1979, Iran was one of the US's closest strategic allies in the region. Owing to the gap between the Iranian people and their leadership, the Islamic revolution put an end to the US-Iran alliance.

Egypt flipped from a bitter foe to an ally of the US when Gamal Abdel Nasser died in 1969. Octogenarian President Hosni Mubarak's encroaching death is liable to cause a similar shift in the opposite direction.

Instability in the Hashemite kingdom in Jordan and the Saudi regime could transform those countries from allies to adversaries.

Only Israel, where the government reflects the will of the people is a reliable, permanent US ally.

America reaps the benefits of its alliance with Israel every day. As the US suffers from chronic intelligence gaps, Israel remains the US's most reliable source for accurate intelligence on the US's enemies in the region.

Israel is the US's only ally in the Middle East that always fights its own battles. Indeed, Israel has never asked the US for direct military assistance in time of war. Since the US and Israel share the same regional foes, when Israel is called upon to fight its enemies, its successes redound to the US's benefit.

Here it bears recalling Israel's June 1982 destruction of Syria's Soviet-made anti-aircraft batteries and the Syrian air force. Those stunning Israeli achievements were the first clear demonstration of the absolute superiority of US military technology over Soviet military technology. Many have argued that it was this Israeli demonstration of Soviet technological inferiority that convinced the Reagan administration it was possible to win the Cold War.

In both military and non-military spheres, Israeli technological achievements - often developed with US support - are shared with America. The benefits the US has gained from Israeli technological advances in everything from medical equipment to microchips to pilotless aircraft are without peer worldwide.

Beyond the daily benefits the US enjoys from its close ties with Israel, the US has three fundamental, permanent, vital national security interests in the Middle East. A strong Israel is a prerequisite for securing all of these interests.

America's three permanent strategic interests in the Middle East are as follows:

1 - Ensuring the smooth flow of affordable petroleum products from the region to global consumers through the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal.

2 - Preventing the most radical regimes, sub-state and non-state actors from acquiring the means to cause catastrophic harm.

3 - Maintaining the US's capacity to project its power to the region.

A strong Israel is the best guarantor of all of these interests. Indeed, the stronger Israel is, the more secure these vital American interests are. Three permanent and unique aspects to Israel's regional position dictate this state of affairs.

1 - As the first target of the most radical regimes and radical sub-state actors in the region, Israel has a permanent, existential interest in preventing these regimes and sub-state actors from acquiring the means to cause catastrophic harm.

Israel's 1981 airstrike that destroyed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor prevented Iraq from acquiring nuclear weapons. Despite US condemnation at the time, the US later acknowledged that the strike was a necessary precondition to the success of Operation Desert Storm ten years later. Richard Cheney - who served as secretary of defense during Operation Desert Storm - has stated that if Iraq had been a nuclear power in 1991, the US would have been hard pressed to eject Saddam Hussein's Iraqi army from Kuwait and so block his regime from asserting control over oil supplies in the Persian Gulf.

2 - Israel is a non-expansionist state and its neighbors know it. In its 62 year history, Israel has only controlled territory vital for its national security and territory that was legally allotted to it in the 1922 League of Nations Mandate which has never been abrogated or superseded.

Israel's strength, which it has used only in self-defense, is inherently non-threatening. Far from destabilizing the region, a strong Israel stabilizes the Middle East by deterring the most radical actors from attacking.

In 1970, Israel blocked Syria's bid to use the PLO to overthrow the Hashemite regime in Jordan. Israel's threat to attack Syria not only saved the Hashemites then, it has deterred Syria from attempting to overthrow the Jordanian regime ever since.

Similarly, Israel's neighbors understand that its purported nuclear arsenal is a weapon of national survival and hence they view it as non-threatening. This is the reason Israel's alleged nuclear arsenal has never spurred a regional nuclear arms race.

In stark contrast, if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, a regional nuclear arms race will ensue immediately.

Although they will never admit it, Israel's non-radical neighbors feel more secure when Israel is strong. On the other hand, the region's most radical regimes and non-state actors will always seek to emasculate Israel.

3-- Since as the Jewish state Israel is the regional bogeyman, no Arab state will agree to form a permanent alliance with it. Hence, Israel will never be in a position to join forces with another nation against a third nation.

In contrast, the Egyptian-Syrian United Arab Republic of the 1960s was formed to attack Israel. Today, the Syrian-Iranian alliance is an inherently aggressive alliance against Israel and the non-radical Arab states in the region. Recognizing the stabilizing force of a strong Israel, the moderate states of the region prefer for Israel to remain strong.

From the US's perspective, far from impairing its alliance-making capabilities in the region, by providing military assistance to Israel, America isn't just strengthening the most stabilizing force in the region. It is showing all states and non-state actors in the greater Middle East it is trustworthy.

On the other hand, every time the US seeks to attenuate its ties with Israel, it is viewed as an untrustworthy ally by the nations of the Middle East. US hostility towards Israel causes Israel's neighbors to hedge their bets by distancing themselves from the US lest America abandon them to their neighboring adversaries.

A strong Israel empowers the relatively moderate actors in the region to stand up to the radical actors in the region because they trust Israel to keep the radicals in check. Today's regional balance of power in which the moderates have the upper hand over the radicals is predicated on a strong Israel.

On the other hand, when Israel is weakened the radical forces are emboldened to threaten the status quo. Regional stability is thrown asunder. Wars become more likely. Attacks on oil resources increase. The most radical sub-state actors and regimes are emboldened.

To the extent that the two-state solution assumes that Israel must contract itself to within the indefensible 1949 ceasefire lines, and allow a hostile Palestinian state allied with terrorist organizations to take power in the areas it vacates, the two-state solution is predicated on making Israel weak and empowering radicals. In light of this, the two-state solution as presently constituted is antithetical to America's most vital strategic interests in the Middle East.

When we bear in mind the foundations for the US's alliance with Israel, it is obvious that US support for Israel over the years has been the most cost-effective national security investment in post-World War II US history.


Buckley and Reagan, Fighting the Good Fight

Wherever he was — in New Guinea; in Gstaad, Switzerland; or at his home in Stamford, Connecticut — Bill Buckley kept his eye on the state of the conservative movement, including and most especially the political fortunes of Ronald Reagan. The two conservatives had first met in January 1961, when Reagan, then the host of the popular television program GE Theater, was to introduce Buckley to an assembly of mostly doctors and their wives at a Los Angeles high school. However, it was discovered that the microphone was dead, and the control room at the rear of the hall was locked. As the audience grew increasingly restless at the delay of the program, Reagan decided to take remedial action.

The future president walked to the side of the hall and looked through the window at the ledge running the length of the building some two stories above traffic. He slipped out the window and with his back to the wall sidestepped carefully on the parapet toward the control-room window. Reaching it, he broke the glass with his elbow and disappeared into the control room. “In a minute there was light in the upstairs room,” Buckley later wrote, “and then we could hear the crackling of the newly animated microphone.”

For Buckley, Reagan’s movements that night were a “nifty allegory of his approach to foreign policy” — the calm appraisal of a situation, the willingness to take risks, and then the decisive moment “leading to lights and sound — and music, the music of the spheres.”

The Yale University graduate and the Eureka College alumnus had much in common: Each was tall (Reagan 6′1″, Buckley 6′2″), handsome, ambitious, a gifted speaker with a ready wit, an inveterate reader with an abiding interest in ideas, and a star in his profession. Each was a committed conservative — Reagan the zealous convert from liberalism, Buckley the cradle conservative. Each had a strong libertarian streak and viewed government as almost always the problem, not the solution. (One of the earliest and most important influences on Buckley was the libertarian author and social critic Albert Jay Nock.) Each was a fierce anti-Communist who believed that you could only trust the Communists to be Communists — although Reagan would come to believe that you could trust some Communists if you carefully verified their actions. A close friendship developed, reinforced by Nancy Reagan’s warm approval of Bill Buckley and his wife, Pat, who knew many of the same socially prominent New Yorkers she did.

There was a significant intellectual difference between the two conservatives: Buckley’s innate skepticism — deepened by the influence of former Soviet spy Whittaker Chambers and National Review senior editor James Burnham — about the possibility of altering the course of history contrasted with Reagan’s sunny belief that, in the words of Thomas Paine, “We have it in our power to begin the world over again.”

When Reagan ran for governor of California in 1966, NR enthusiastically endorsed his candidacy. By the early 1970s, Buckley was convinced that “Reagan was capable of becoming President.” Following Agnew’s exit in disgrace in 1973, the magazine dubbed Reagan the leader of conservatism. But after 20 often frustrating years of building a conservative alternative to the liberal establishment, Buckley could not help wondering what there was to lead.

In a November 1975 interview, a saturnine Buckley said: “As of this moment [the movement] is going nowhere.” At the 20th-anniversary dinner of National Review, Buckley described in detail the leftward tilt of Western civilization, led by American capitalists “fleeing into the protective arms of the government at the least hint of commercial difficulty.” He suggested that survival might well depend upon something like Albert Jay Nock’s “Remnant” — what Nock described as an elite group of writers and thinkers who would one day build a new and free society on the ruins of the modern welfare state

Still, Buckley would not submit to despair, because from the right angle it could be seen that “Communism is theoretically and empirically discredited.” All over the world, he said, “enslaved people continue to dream about freedom.” Inroads against poverty were successful “in almost exact correspondence to the vitality of the private sector.” And most significant of all, “there are no signs at all that God is dead. He appears to have survived even Vatican II.”

In these remarks we see the three major ideas that guided Bill Buckley from the beginning of his career: a contempt for Communism, a firm belief in private enterprise, and an abiding faith in God. As at previous anniversary dinners, Buckley pledged that he and the magazine would continue to persevere. “We have stood together for one-tenth the life span of this Republic,” he said, “and we must resolve to stand with it, and its ideals, forever.”

In the same interview in which Buckley said that the conservative movement was “going nowhere,” he added, “That would change if Reagan were to decide to challenge Mr. Ford in the primary.” Some conservatives, including leaders of the New Right and NR publisher William Rusher (but not Buckley), were pushing the idea of starting a third, conservative party. Reagan disavowed any interest in the idea. Conservatives lustily cheered Reagan at the 1975 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) when he asked, “Is it a third party that we need, or is it a new and revitalized second party, raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all the issues troubling the people?”

Reagan hesitated and then decided to do as Buckley had suggested: challenge incumbent president Gerald Ford for the 1976 Republican presidential nomination. A turning point for Reagan had been Ford’s refusal to meet with famed Russian dissident and author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. For Reagan and Buckley there was no greater anti-Communist than the man who wrote One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and The Gulag Archipelago. “The public acclaim by Solzhenitsyn of the kind of thing we were doing,” Buckley said, “was an enormous stroke in the ideological heavens, and his Gulag book simply broke the back of the intellectual pro-Communist Left.”

Buckley shared the movement’s elation when Reagan sought his party’s nomination — he had been encouraging Reagan to seek the presidency since at least 1973, and he backed the bid in his column, although he played no formal role in the campaign. He felt sharp disappointment when Ford won the nomination in a heartbreakingly close vote at the national convention — 1,187 delegates to 1,070. Reagan thanked his advisers and workers, many of whom were weeping, and reminded them that although “we lost . . . the cause goes on.” And he added a couple of lines from an old Scottish ballad, “I’ll lay me down and bleed awhile; though I am wounded, I am not slain. I shall rise and fight again.”



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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