Assorted links

by on November 3, 2013 at 1:14 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. That was then, this is now.  Advances in plastic surgery.

2. On resolving the Mpemba paradox.

3. How much of the Flynn effect is a retesting gain?

4. Germany now allows “indeterminate gender” at birth as a valid category.

5. The culture that is Norway.

6. Miles Kimball on Mormonism.

Patrick McNeely November 3, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Mormons are Republicans because of what happened in the 19th century? Good one.

mike November 3, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Steve Sailer’s outsider explanation makes more sense to me, but if the Church is as structured and authoritarian as Kimball says then maybe. However, he undermines his own explanation by giving the example of Mitt Romney’s more feminist and gay-friendly “Stake”/diocese. And what about Harry Reid? If Mormons vote Republican because their Church tells them to and they do whatever their Church tells them to do, why are there still so many (25% or so) who in fact vote Democrat? Even in Kimball’s formulation, there are so many examples of non-explicit but still Republican oriented Church teachings like “work hard, don’t take charity, don’t do drugs, get married young and have lots of kids”. The explanation that people raised Mormon just turn out Republican makes a lot more sense than the idea that Mormons vote Republican because of some ancient bargain.

BC November 3, 2013 at 5:44 pm

I didn’t read Kimball as saying that the Mormon Church tells/told all its members to vote Republican. They allowed the Republican-leaning church leaders to speak their mind, while the Democratic-leaning leaders were told to avoid talking about politics. Kimball writes, “Because Mormon Republicanism grew out of the sincere beliefs..[of] the Republican half of the church leadership…[and] the Democratic half of the church leadership was silenced,…Mormon Republicanism has a theologically organic quality to it that wouldn’t have been there *if the church had just told everyone directly that they were supposed to vote Republican*.” (Emphasis added.)

So, for some period time (not sure if it’s still ongoing), Republicans were given a monopoly over political advocacy within the Church. That could explain why some Mormons still vote Democrat — not everyone would be convinced of a political viewpoint just because equal time is not given to the other side. At the same time, Republican monopoly over political speech within the Church could certainly give Republican views an advantage in influencing the members.

Patrick McNeely November 3, 2013 at 6:32 pm

But the Republican viewpoint of the 19th century has little to do with the Republican viewpoint today. The rest of the country has shown a profound lack of loyalty to the party of their grandfather’s father. Why would Mormons alone think there is an ideological continuity in the Republican viewpoint across more than a century? Perhaps Miles is right and it speaks to their tragic insularity, but the tone of his post does not convey that.

I suppose someone could claim there are subtle ideological threads which tie the Republican party of today to the one of 150 years ago, but more realistically and objectively, the Democrats are the party of Reconstruction today.

AD November 3, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Utah voted heavily Democratic from 1932 until 1952. Patrick’s observation is spot on. Church politicking in 1890 does NOT explain Mormons’ support for Republican politicians in modern times (although, there are more and more Mormons voting for Democrats these days). What does is that it’s socially conservative and so is the Republican party.

Millian November 3, 2013 at 4:22 pm

The historic Irish and Italian Democrat strength was because what happened in the middle of the 19th century; that only ended in the 80s. But one can go even further; Utah hasn’t voted all that differently to its Mountain West neighbours.

Patrick McNeely November 3, 2013 at 5:13 pm

That whole Abolition thing and Reconstruction thing in the 19th century influenced which party certain groups in the South voted for for a long time, but most everyone has gotten over that history. It makes sense that Mormons used to be Republicans for historical reasons and that they are Republicans now for different reasons and that they are deluded into thinking there is a connection between that happy, 50%-likely-to-happen coincidence. If the Democrats of today happened to have been the party of Abolition and Reconstruction a lot of people would think there was meaning in that, but a counter-counterfactual demonstrates otherwise.

Ed November 3, 2013 at 9:50 pm

One constant in electoral politics worldwide, that seems fascinating to me, is how visible minorities will block vote in order to increase their influence. Its almost as if its coordinated. The party that benefits from the block voting seems to be less important than that the minority votes overwhelmingly for one particular party.

The obvious counterpart to the Mormons voting 75% for the Republicans are Jews voting over 75% for the Democrats. And then you have the existence of (sometimes quite prominent) Mormon Democrats and Jewish Republicans. I have no idea what mechanism produces something like this but it does seem to be fairly common.

Corvu November 3, 2013 at 10:18 pm

Although the brevity of your response makes it snarky, I concur on this point. The author neglects the political role reversal of the Democratic and Republical parties about the time of FDR’s presidency. Late 19th century Republican party was the progressive party of tolerance and acceptance of all.

However, reading the author’s full statement – I believe this is a quibble. It is not important. He has missed a minor point – and the blunder does not damage his overall observations. He describes the Mormon culture well – and it is a unique culture in the American scene. Family oriented, strong proscriptive pressure, very strong cultural ties – etc. I think the only other subculture I have seen in the US with similar qualities are perhaps the Amish and Mennonites – who do not share the same cultural focus on economic success. But they do present a monolithic cultural front to the “outside world”. The Mormons more consciously live among, and abide with, those who are “outsiders’.

As for those Mormons who vote Democratic, have you never heard of “jack” Mormons? Once a Mormon, always a Mormon – you just get the nick “jack” appended.

Peter November 3, 2013 at 3:29 pm

One of the first countries to allow the use of an indeterminate gender on birth certificates was that hotbed of liberal enlightenment, Pakistan.

Arjun November 4, 2013 at 1:47 am

This actually makes more sense then it might seem at first. South and South-East Asia has generally been influenced a lot historically by cultures that recognized the spectrum of sexuality and gender. I recall that some cultures in SEA recognized around five genders. Breaking the gender binary that dominates European cultures is more deeply rooted in Asian traditionalist cultures than it does in European liberalism.

Adrian Ratnapala November 3, 2013 at 3:47 pm

#2. Well I had never heard of the Mpemba paradox before, but now I am interested. Sadly, I didn’t understand the abstract of the paper; and a couldn’t quite be bothered reading the rest.

Is it even true? Does warm water really freeze faster than cold water?

david November 3, 2013 at 7:59 pm

Non-rigorously speaking, yes. However, the experiment is notoriously difficult to carry out rigorously.

Jamie_NYC November 3, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Yes, it is true, but it was named after one Mpemba almost out of pity: the phenomenon was observed a long time ago, then, relatively recently, some boy from a third world country re-discovered it for himself. And, the word ‘albeit’ doesn’t mean what the authors of the paper think it means.

Not sure what was the purpose of the link to the article on Mormonism. What does a lapsed Mormon think about it? Mostly, it’s great!

david November 4, 2013 at 8:52 am

Mpemba has the claim to its rediscovery and co-publication under modern thermodynamics.

Dude November 3, 2013 at 3:59 pm

I like the “indeterminate gender” decision. It allows for more individual freedom, drives some of my friends _crazy_, and is a bit of job security for us software developers.

FC November 3, 2013 at 5:55 pm

“individual freedom”

Yeah, I distinctly recall being asked my gender when I was a newborn.

Peldrigal November 3, 2013 at 6:53 pm

That’s the whole point: since it can’t be asked to you as a newborn, a gender is not forced on you if you are born with none, both or uncertain. That is freedom.

Captain Beefheart November 3, 2013 at 7:03 pm

The term “gender” was adopted by feminists to intentionally replace the word “sex”. Nothing wrong with that except that now we are arguing silly semantics in places where semantics should not matter. Gender might be indeterminate but “sex” is. Newborns have a sex and that is what most people are interested in. If gender is indeterminate, maybe it’s time we got rid of that now meaningless word.

Nikki November 3, 2013 at 8:47 pm

No, sex sometimes isn’t either. Here, an HBO documentary for you: About 14 minutes into the film they get to this particular subject.

Captain Beefheart November 3, 2013 at 9:05 pm

I understand, but the point is that we are talking about different issues. Those claiming this is about “freedom” aren’t claiming that lack of a biological sex is freedom. They are on a transexual equality mission. They want to conflate sex and gender when it is in their argument’s interest and only distinguish between the two when they are backed into a logical corner.

Oreg November 4, 2013 at 11:58 am

The German regulation is not about a dissonance between physical and psychological gender—it is about people of physically indeterminable sex, either because they have sexual organs of both the male and the female variety, or neither.

Z November 3, 2013 at 8:11 pm

You should check “indeterminate sanity” if you really think biology is just a matter of opinion.

Dude November 3, 2013 at 11:00 pm

It appears your comment was in reply to mine.

I certainly don’t think biology is simply a matter of opinion, nor did I state as much. The fact that someone can choose X as their gender on their passport, because they feel they don’t belong in either the M or F categories does seem, to me, to be liberating for those people.

Not being one who would choose X myself, so I can only assume as much.

Z November 4, 2013 at 6:56 am

Biology is not a matter of choice. Humans come in one of two sexes, male and female. This is not a matter open to debate as we can easily test for sex. Indulging these people in this way is simply madness. There are people who think they are the spawn of space aliens. They call themselves “starseeds.”There are people who believe they are animals trapped in a human form. They call themselves “otherkins.” There are people convinced they are amputees and contract with doctors to have a limb lopped off so they can “belong.”

It is one thing for you to make a fool of yourself. It is quite another for you to impose your insanity on the rest of us.

Cliff November 4, 2013 at 9:14 am

So what happens when the test reveals a chromosomal abnormality, or a chromosomal female with male sex organs, etc.? Just slap a M/F on them and call it a day?

Dude November 4, 2013 at 10:13 am

Sorry, but this sentence you wrote is not true.

“This is not a matter open to debate as we can easily test for sex.”

You appear to have a very simple model of biology. There have been some incredibly interesting discoveries in the past few decades on the subject of sex and especially in the study of epigenesis.

The differences in brain structure due to hormones and the body’s response to hormones in utero is a big (and fascinating) subject. Other interesting phenomena are things like chimerism and mosaicism.

Enjoy the reading.

Z November 4, 2013 at 10:56 am

Sorry “Dude”, but you are delusional. You do not get to choose your sex anymore than you can alter your DNA.

Z November 4, 2013 at 11:02 am

Cliff, a male born with some female bits is a male born with some female bits. Defects and mutations are exactly that. A car build with a defective transmission is not suddenly a horse a buggy. Further, the subjects of these stories are claiming that despite their DNA, they are of the other sex. That’s no different than claiming you are invisible or that you hear voices.

Oreg November 4, 2013 at 12:04 pm

“a male born with some female bits”

Well, how do you define “male” in this context? There are people who are born with both a penis and a vagina. What method do you propose to decide which sex such a person belongs to?

Marie November 5, 2013 at 10:51 am

Well, traditionally if you were “a male born with some female bits” the doctors would lop off the male parts and your family would tell you that you were a girl because it’s surgically easier to subtract than add. It occasionally happened after a botched circumcision too.

Seriously, it’s great you think it’s simple because it means all your parts grew in as intended, but don’t think that happens for everyone. Lots of stuff can and does go haywire and just being born looking like a standard set doesn’t mean anything. Some times puberty hits and -bam- unexpected primary and secondary sexual characteristics just sprout and everyone is very, very confused.

BC November 3, 2013 at 6:11 pm

#6: What struck me most about Kimball’s description of Mormonism is how many features reflect its 19th Century American origins: (1) meritocracy and incentivization: “promotions in rank (of missionaries) no doubt devised by one of the many middle-aged businessmen…[serving] as a ‘Mission President’”; (2) business culture: “Mission Presidents…also devise many other motivational strategies akin to those in the world of sales….measure of success:…convert baptisms”; (3) theology “fully consistent” with 19th century understanding of science; and (4) unbridled ambition: principle of “Eternal Progression”, the idea of perpetual improvement and advancement with “no clear limits” even, apparently, becoming a God.

(Of course, the unofficial “White Horse Prophecy” that Mormon elders would be called upon to save the US Constitution is also uniquely American.)

RM November 3, 2013 at 6:28 pm

#1. This holds for wide segments of the population, including politicians and professors, but except lower-income White women who smoke.

mike November 3, 2013 at 7:09 pm

I would say that the phenomenon is really more representative of the narcissism of Boomers, who refuse to admit how old they are and will never accept the kind of “we’re old” roles such as Jack Lemmon’s “Grumpy Old Men”. Believe me, you could easily do the exact same photo lineup if you picked photos of today’s Boomer celebs at their oldest-looking and wrinkliest and compared them to cherry-picked and photoshopped pics of those yesteryear celebs trying to portray them as young-looking.

RM November 3, 2013 at 9:24 pm

I was not offering an explanation, but it is partially the result of massive government programs such as to set standards for clean air and water and (if you would like to discount government’s role in those two) to discourage smoking.

Much of the gains in public health we see today can be traced to the progressive era, led by Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt. (And don’t say that it can be traced back to sewers, because then we can keep on going back forever).

Alexei Sadeski November 4, 2013 at 2:50 am

Pretty sure antibiotics and vaccinations have had far more impact.

Marian Kechlibar November 4, 2013 at 6:15 am

I wouldn’t like to guess whether antibiotics, vaccinations or clean water are the king, when it comes to mortality reduction.

Clean drinking water is a big deal. Especially for small children. In places where the water sources are unsafe, diarrhoea is not a nuisance, but a prolific killer. A lot of deaths Nazi/Soviet concentration camps were from diarrhoea.

dirk November 3, 2013 at 7:41 pm

6. “In addition, they are motivated to work hard by a system of promotions in rank no doubt devised by one of the many middle-aged businessmen who take three years off from a regular job to serve as a “Mission President”—the head of a group of 150 or so young missionaries in a particular region… The Mission Presidents, who, as I mentioned, often have business experience, also devise many other motivational strategies akin to those in the world of sales. ”

Holy shit. I’m putting THAT on my resume to explain these past three years.

Sunday November 3, 2013 at 8:13 pm

After reading 6, it’s understandable why so many Christians have not considered Mormons to be Christians. Their beliefs are further removed from Christianity than Islam. The idea that God was once like a mere man and that a man can become like God is repulsive to Christians, Jews and Muslims.

Mormonism sounds sophisticated but it also sounds as crazy as Scientology to the ears of someone raised Christian.

The most interesting takeaway is this: “Another factor that helps keep many highly- educated Mormons from drifting away is the sheer intellectual interest of a complex doctrine, history and set of holy books. I found Mormon doctrine, history and scripture fascinating for many years.” If I may be crass, it’s interesting that intellectuals find complexity fascinating for its own sake. One culture war is between those who are seduced by simplicity vs. those who are seduced by complexity.

Ed November 3, 2013 at 9:55 pm

Its not a matter of individual Christians finding it hard to accept Mormons as Christians. Mormons aren’t Christians. All Christian denominations agree with this and require Mormons converting to Christianity to be baptized. And Mormons don’t recognize the validity of any Christian sacraments. Catholics recognize the validity of some sacraments performed in Protestant churches and vice versa. Mormonism and Christianity are completely separate religions. Its interesting how this is downplayed.

Ryan November 3, 2013 at 10:26 pm

The “are Mormons Christian” debate is all semantics. Mormons think of themselves as Christians because they believe in Christ. This isn’t good enough for some (though one wonders how useful the word “Christian” is if it excludes believers in Christ!). Mainstream Christians have defined “Christianity” to exclude Mormons, primarily due to the Nicene Creed. A more reasonable convention would be to say that Mormons (and some other groups) are not Nicene Christians.

Sunday November 3, 2013 at 11:07 pm

The Nicene Creed debate had nothing to do with any man potentially becoming like God or God having once been like a man. Mormonism is a wall-to-wall rewrite of what Christianity means. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it is a more foreign theology to Christians than Islam, which comes closer to being a Nicene Creed quibble than does Mormonism, a theology in which every man can become like God, not just Jesus and the Holy Ghost.

Kimball writes: “‘As Man is, God once was; as God is, Man may become.’ –
This is an absolutely central doctrine in Mormonism. ”

Normally that “absolutely central doctrine” is downplayed by Mormons because it is theologically incompatible with Christians of any stripe. As Mormons become more mainstream and their beliefs become more known to the public, this incompatibility will become more obvious. Mormons and Christians should agree to disagree, not pretend they are more or less the same religion, because they are not.

AD November 3, 2013 at 11:58 pm

I don’t think it’s downplayed in Mormonism. Yes, they focus on family values in their public ads (which makes sense, “milk before the meat”), but the doctrine of becoming like God is openly taught in their churches and included in their publicly available manuals for new members.

Dan Weber November 4, 2013 at 12:33 pm

I agree it’s semantics, but if the definition of Christian is “thinks Christ existed, but was not the son of God” then the definition also includes (generally) Jews and Muslims.

Usems November 4, 2013 at 12:58 pm

If you define Christian as believing that Jesus is the son of God, Savior of the world, only path to heaven, etc., then Mormons are Christians. If you define Christian as believing doctrines not directly related to the role of Jesus Christ but are generally accepted by other Christian denominations (how is life after death, Nicene creed, etc.), then they aren’t. It is semantics in the sense of how you define the word Christian.

freethinker November 5, 2013 at 4:52 am

“it’s interesting that intellectuals find complexity fascinating for its own sake. One culture war is between those who are seduced by simplicity vs. those who are seduced by complexity. ” What about the trinity doctrine accepted by most christians: is it an example of complexity for its own sake?

Evan November 3, 2013 at 9:56 pm

Significant portions of the introduction of the article on the Mpemba Effect seem to have been lifted from the Wikipedia article here:

Chinese scholarship in action?

david November 4, 2013 at 8:57 am

The Wikipedia article has the paper in its External Links, so it’s plausible that the same author wrote both, or that the Wikipedia editor copied the opening. In any case, the paper correctly cites the sources, including the Aristotle quote.

draypresct November 4, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Armstrong and Woodley applied a linear correlation to their (apparently subjective) categorical scale variable, which assumes that the difference between a cognitive scaffolding of 1 v. 2 is equivalent to the difference between 3 v. 4. They also used a very small data set.

As a result of these facts, a great deal of the correlation is driven by their sole level 4 test; the RPM. Without this data point, their p-value goes from roughly 0.02 to 0.14 and the correlation drops from 0.6 to 0.44.

This is an intriguing idea that deserves a more rigorous investigation. Perhaps the authors could avoid the use of their subjective scale and investigate the re-test effect on each IQ measure? This would provide more direct evidence on their hypothesis that the Flynn effect is a measure of retesting.

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