Posts Tagged: Politics

May 10

Language of the Priestly Castes

A nice quote from Andrew Stuttaford

A characteristic of many priestly castes is the use of esoteric language as a device both to befuddle their audience and to secure their own superior status as interpreters and custodians of the holy writ.

May 10

The politics of human heredity in the USSR, 1920-1940

The politics of human heredity in the USSR, 1920-1940

Adams MB.
Department of History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104-6310.


After the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, Iurii Filipchenko (in Petrograd) and Nikolai Koltsov (in Moscow) created centers of genetic research where eugenics prospered as a socially relevant part of the new “experimental” biology. The Russian Eugenics Society, established in 1920, was dominated by research-oriented professionals. However, Bolshevik activists in the movement tried to translate eugenics into social policies (among them, sterilization) and in 1929, Marxist geneticist Alexander Serebrovsky was stimulated by the forthcoming Five-Year Plan to urge a massive eugenic program of human artificial insemination. With the advent of Stalinism, such attempts to “biologize” social phenomena became ideologically untenable and the society was abolished in 1930. Three years later, however, a number of eugenicists reassembled in the world’s first institute of medical genetics, created by Bolshevik physician Solomon Levit after this return from a postdoctoral year in Texas with H.J. Muller. Muller himself moved to the Soviet Union in 1933, where he agitated for eugenics and wrote Stalin in 1936 to urge an artificial insemination program. Shortly thereafter, Muller left Russia, several of his colleagues were shot, and the Institute of Medical Genetics was disbanded. During the next three decades, Lysenkoists regularly invoked the Soviet eugenic legacy to claim that genetics itself was fascist.


May 10

Eugenics and American social history, 1880-1950

Eugenics and American social history, 1880-1950

Allen GE.
Department of Biology, Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130.


Eugenics, the attempt to improve the human species socially through better breeding was a widespread and popular movement in the United States and Europe between 1910 and 1940. Eugenics was an attempt to use science (the newly discovered Mendelian laws of heredity) to solve social problems (crime, alcoholism, prostitution, rebelliousness), using trained experts. Eugenics gained much support from progressive reform thinkers, who sought to plan social development using expert knowledge in both the social and natural sciences. In eugenics, progressive reformers saw the opportunity to attack social problems efficiently by treating the cause (bad heredity) rather than the effect. Much of the impetus for social and economic reform came from class conflict in the period 1880-1930, resulting from industrialization, unemployment, working conditions, periodic depressions, and unionization. In response, the industrialist class adopted firmer measures of economic control (abandonment of laissez-faire principles), the principles of government regulation (interstate commerce, labor), and the cult of industrial efficiency. Eugenics was only one aspect of progressive reform, but as a scientific claim to explain the cause of social problems, it was a particularly powerful weapon in the arsenal of class conflict at the time.


May 10

The Grass They Feed On

A nice quote from Razib Khan

[I]n the ancient world there was little motive for peasants to move, as there was little difference in quality of life from locale to locale. In a world where productivity gains were marginal and zero-sum economic psychology dominated the motive existed for the rent-seeking elites to move onto greener pastures, not the productive peasantry who were the green pastures no matter where they were resident.

May 10

Paternalism is the problem

A nice quote from Will Wilkinson

Paternalist policy is often justified on the grounds that members of a certain category of people are less than fully-equipped to act wisely on their own behalf. But usually it has turned out that this seemed so — that members of a certain category are less than fully-equipped to act wisely on their own behalf – only because this is an effect paternalism. In short, paternalism makes itself seem necessary.

May 10

Don’t Forget: DNA Evidence Can Be Fabricated!

A link a friend sent me made me want to remind people that: DNA evidence can be fabricated!

From The New York Times

Scientists in Israel have demonstrated that it is possible to fabricate DNA evidence, undermining the credibility of what has been considered the gold standard of proof in criminal cases.

The scientists fabricated blood and saliva samples containing DNA from a person other than the donor of the blood and saliva. They also showed that if they had access to a DNA profile in a database, they could construct a sample of DNA to match that profile without obtaining any tissue from that person.

“You can just engineer a crime scene,” said Dan Frumkin, lead author of the paper, which has been published online by the journal Forensic Science International: Genetics. “Any biology undergraduate could perform this.”
“DNA is a lot easier to plant at a crime scene than fingerprints,” she said. “We’re creating a criminal justice system that is increasingly relying on this technology.”

For those interested, the actual paper which this article is based on: "Authentication of forensic DNA samples", by Dan Frumkin, Adam Wasserstrom, Ariane Davidson, and Arnon Grafit.

(Of course, many people saw DNA evidence fabrication in the realm of possibility before this paper came out. But this paper gives people an example to point to.)

I should note though that one of the author’s of the paper (Dan Frumkin) has founded a company which claims to have developed a test which can detect fabricated DNA evidence using the techniques he describes.

Of course, one might wonder if there are any techniques for fabricating DNA evidence that this (or any other test) cannot detect? There could be a tactical advantage to being able to fabricate DNA evidence, in an undetectable manner, for some people. It’s just speculation on my part, but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, of course.

Feb 10

Why Civilisations Can’t Climb Hills: a political history of statelessness in Southeast Asia

An interesting presentation by James C. Scott.

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Feb 10

Harrison Bergeron (1995)


Feb 10

Bilderberg Group: Wasn’t this just a conspiracy theory?

There was an article back in November 22nd, 2009 that talked about the first president of the EU — Herman Van Rompuy — wanting a new Euro tax. In the article there is mention of the Bilderberg Group as such…

Within days of taking office in January, the former Belgian prime minister will put his weight behind controversial proposals already floated by the commission’s head, José Manuel Barroso, for a new “Euro tax”.

He will add credence to Mr Barroso’s plans, to be formally tabled in the New Year, by arguing for a Euro-version of a “Tobin Tax” – a levy on financial transactions already floated by Gordon Brown as a solution to the international banking crisis. It would result in a stream of income direct to Brussels coffers, funding budgets that critics say are already rife with waste and overspending.

Mr Van Rompuy, 62, who was appointed to the newly-created £320,000-a-year post at last week’s special EU summit, set out his stall on direct Euro-taxes during a private speech at a recent meeting of the Bilderberg group of top politicians, bankers and businessmen. The group officially meets in secret, but when selected details of his remarks leaked out, his office was forced to issue a public statement on his behalf.

“The financing of the welfare state, irrespective of the social reform we implement, will require new resources,” he said. “The possibility of financial levies at European level needs to be seriously reviewed.”

(Emphasis mine.)


If you believe the some of the conspiracy theories out there, it would look like people aren’t even really trying to keep secrets about it anymore.

Jan 10

One Third Of Women In U.S. Military Get Raped

According to the NPR

In 2003, a survey of female veterans found that 30 percent said they were raped in the military. A 2004 study of veterans who were seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder found that 71 percent of the women said they were sexually assaulted or raped while serving. And a 1995 study of female veterans of the Gulf and earlier wars, found that 90 percent had been sexually harassed.

This really isn’t surprising. (And note that I don’t say that as a justification for rape. Rape is immoral. It is just as I said, it isn’t surprising.) For one, this is one of the classic reasons why people have traditionally argued against women being in the military: that women shouldn’t be in the military because they will get raped.

A little speculation though… I think the type of cognition that one develops that allows them to kill and murder, and worse (as one would need to wage war) also will tend to allow them to rape. That you cannot have the former without the later.