The Long View 2006-03-01: Disaster Hype to Darwin Awards

I didn't start following Greg Cochran's blog seriously until after John had died. As such, I can only guess what he might have thought of Greg. Too gauche, probably. Nonetheless, much like John and Steve Sailer, John and Greg Cochran have some interesting overlaps. Like the way higher education is making us dumber, in the long run.


Disaster Hype to Darwin Awards

 

It is superfluous to quote The Onion, but keep this story in mind the next time the news media report an approaching weather front as if it were an approaching asteroid:

Rotation Of The Earth Plunges Entire North American Continent Into Darkness...

Businesses have shut their doors, banks are closed across the nation, all major stock exchanges have suspended trading, and manufacturing in many sectors has ceased.

Some television stations have halted broadcasting altogether, for reasons not immediately understood.

After a while, you stop paying attention. That could be a bad thing, especially if the next time the story is about an asteroid.

* * *

Television is nontoxic, or so we must judge from this report:

Does television rot children's brains? A new study by two economists from the University of Chicago taps into a trove of data from the 1960's to argue that when it comes to academic test scores, parents can let children watch TV without fear of future harm.

...The result showed "very little difference and if anything, a slight positive advantage" in test scores for children who grew up watching TV early on, compared to those who did not, said [co-author] Mr. Shapiro. In nonwhite households and those where English was a second language or the mother had less than a high school education, TV's positive effect was more marked.

...[Co-author] Mr. Gentzkow...noted that he was not predisposed to a "television is good" argument; he even conducted an earlier study that found that television lowered voter turnout. ..[Co-author] Shapiro noted: "If you look at the top five children's programs in the 1950's and the equivalent list from 2003, the content is not as different as you might have thought."

I still have doubts about anime, though.

* * *

Also looking on the sunny side, we have Spengler at Asia Times making The case for complacency in Iraq

Tehran's policy all along has been to support US efforts on behalf of constitutional government in Iraq to bring that country's Shi'ite majority into power by peaceful means ...In fact, the worst outcome from the vantage point of Washington's interest would be a stable constitutional government in Iraq...America's military already has repositioned to the periphery of cities; there will not be another siege of Fallujah...The result will be a low-intensity civil war that can persist more or less indefinitely...But there is not a speck of evidence that Washington has done anything but stumble into a position that is as advantageous for US interests as it is miserable for the Iraqis.

As the emperor said, "Too many notes."

I am beginning to suspect that the attack on the Golden Mosque will be remembered as the Bomb that Won the War: the responsible Shia leadership refused to be provoked, while the insurgency and the Jihad became politically radioactive. The only remaining question is how much influence the pro-Iranian Shia factions will have. Not much, I suspect, but we will see.

* * *

Mark Steyn notes the internal contradictions of multiculturalism:

Sir Iqbal Sacranie [is] a Muslim of such exemplary "moderation" [that] he's been knighted by the Queen. Sir Iqbal, head of the Muslim Council of Britain, was on the BBC the other day and expressed the view that homosexuality was "immoral," "not acceptable," "spreads disease" and "damaged the very foundations of society." A gay group complained and Sir Iqbal was investigated by Scotland Yard's "community safety unit" which deals with "hate crimes" and "homophobia."

[I]ndependently but simultaneously, the magazine of GALHA (the Gay And Lesbian Humanist Association) called Islam a "barmy doctrine" growing "like a canker" and deeply "homophobic." In return, the London Race Hate Crime Forum asked Scotland Yard to investigate GALHA for "Islamophobia."

Steyn argues that this is not a case of two irresistible forces in deadlock. Rather, the cultural left will lose the struggle in fairly short order because it does not reproduce itself. Meanwhile, writing in Foreign Affairs, Phillip Longman of the New America Foundation makes much the same argument in a piece called The Return of Patriarchy:

Societies that are today the most secular and the most generous with their underfunded welfare states will be the most prone to religious revivals and a rebirth of the patriarchal family. The absolute population of Europe and Japan may fall dramatically, but the remaining population will, by a process similar to survival of the fittest, be adapted to a new environment in which no one can rely on government to replace the family, and in which a patriarchal God commands family members to suppress their individualism and submit to father.

There is something to be said for the thesis that the cultural left will simply win a Darwin Award, but demographic historical determinism is no better than any other kind of determinism (which is not to say that deterministic models of history never have their uses). We should be suspicious of the idea that people have a lot of kids because God tells them to. Children sometimes appear simply because a couple married young and the father happened to have a job with good medical benefits. Conversely, I suspect that no institution has had a stronger sterilizing effect on the professional classes, at least in the US, than the student loan. Ideology is almost irrelevant.

Be this as it may, we should note that arguments like those of Steyn and Longman are close to becoming the consensus.

Copyright © 2006 by John J. Reilly

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