What We Are Made of

When I sit around thinking of silver linings in History and indulging the all-too-human tendency to think that “everything happens for a reason” and “this is the best of all possible worlds” (and honestly, I do know it’s a mirage, like seeing a face in a random pattern on a cliff face) I tell myself the best thing about WWI is that it led to WWII which in turn put paid forever to the idea of eugenics as an open thing that you can just use to support your theory.

Not that eugenics is a wrong idea, precisely, at least not with non-human populations. Men have applied this idea to their domesticated animals since ever, though it turns out there isn’t that much genetic difference between wolves and dogs. But the difference there is has meant a co-evolution history for men and dogs for millennia.

And anyone who has kept livestock knows that yeah, you can reinforce good traits, provided you are totally heartless with culls. Something my grandmother never was, and some day I’ll talk of the collection of mutants we had among both chickens and cats. Not that cats were bred PRECISELY so that brings us to humans.

My grandmother’s cats weren’t bred because they were not confined. They were mostly barn cats and whatever litters of kittens people threw over her backyard wall. They’d be “feral” except they all had names, came when called and she fed them and petted them. But the mechanics of genetics were close to feral. This meant sometimes a litter of kittens grew up to take a sophisticated interest in dear old mum. Since there was usually only one female alpha (I suspect she ran off or killed the other females) this meant that we had litters of eyeless kittens, for instance. Okay, they usually didn’t live long, but we were into Egyptian-dynasty dysfunctional.

What does this have to do with humans, except that way back in the mists of history in the fertile crescent some of those bloody stupid matings were considered “sacred?” (If you want humans to act totally irrationally, tell them that the gods – or history, or progress – will it.)


What it has to do is that humans like unconfined, unaltered cats are sneaky and self willed. It’s hard to breed humans for the same reason it’s hard to control the breeding of feral cats. You might think you arranged things just so, and then… Next thing you know there is a Persian who got in in the mix of your perfectly healthy street cats.

Then there is the fact that I believe in humans. I believe in individuals. I believe variety in the genetic sense is literally strength.

We know that in the past there were only thirty some individuals left to carry on the species (we are that inbred, as humans, so please, stop squabbling about races, already.) Fortunately they appear to have been of very varied backgrounds (and no, I don’t want to think how people of very varied backgrounds, in a primitive culture, just happened to be the ones to survive some unnamed cataclysm and to be close enough to each other to breed. It makes my head hurt. I can give you three sf answers and one fantasy one, but I can’t give you any scientific/historical/logical answers.)

That is precisely the point. The more genetic variety, the better chance we have of surviving the next plague/asteroid-winter/whatever. And sometimes – often – harmful genes in humans are coupled with beneficial genes. (It should be noted here Mother Nature is a b*tch. She doesn’t care if you have the dread awfuls after you’ve had your kid, just that you be good to have that kid. And yes, what I mean by this is that there is no one at the controls there, and if your condition doesn’t manifest till after 30, then fine. There is some – not a lot, these things are hard to research – evidence that people with early onset Alzheimer’s are brighter and more attractive when young. Which means the gene will keep being passed on.)

What this means is that any culling done by humans (particularly culling done for bloody stupid pseudo-archetypal traces of a mythical race [No, really. There are Arians. They’re Indian, though, not blond, blue eyed perfect-bodied barbarians of the Germanic forests] which will probably eliminate all sorts of useful stuff to no purpose) in the end will turn out to be bad news.

Besides, as a person of a faith and a libertarian, I believe in the inherent value of each individual, value which might not be visible to mere human eyes.

So, when I think of the bloody mess of Europe’s long war (the one in the 20th century. They’ve had so many) I think that the only good thing to come of it was to make eugenics a not-respectable theory, at least not openly. (Though there is an awful lot of it in the covert areas of “the right people” and “the best” getting to rule us.)

Yeah, you have to get this deep in for me to say that while I agree with the general thrust of Kate’s essay yesterday, I disagree with the specifics about selection of human populations leading to certain traits.

This is not Kate’s fault, but she’s been in the US a shorter time, and I don’t think has done much reading in the history of the last 100 years or so. And I have clue zero how much she’s delved into the history of slavery as it connected to transport to the Americas.

First, American history:What has happened to America’s ethnic populations (not just black, it’s having the same influence on Latins) is not genetics, but politics. In the comments, mention was made of what happened to Germany under communism, and how East Germans, after just three generations (not really enough for a genetic cull) are a completely different breed from West Germans. (And towards the end of my life, I get to see how that emulsified.)

The Germans are particularly interesting, because – coming to industrialization late – they used to be considered the sloppy and slapdash part of Europe. I found this of all things reading an history of the culinary art in Europe, and the disparaging comments made on the German ability to organize, even in the eighteenth century when this thing was written, would give a cold shock to any 20th century and later human.

Then there is the selection process of black slaves to send to the Americas done in Africa. Contrary to the romanticism of Roots, most slave hunters were not white. Look, even the Portuguese, (which apparently had malaria in the eighteenth century, running rampant through the peninsula, to judge by the memoirs of the Napoleonic war soldiers both French and English, which in turn make me raise my eyebrows about climate change) were too subject to malarial fevers to penetrate very deeply into Africa. Most settlements until the twentieth century were coastal.

So most of the slave hunting was carried on by ancient networks of natives and Arab traders.

Now someone in the comments said that native Africans now have a myth about having sent us their laziest, most passive elements. Yeah, they would.

Uh. Ah. Or they could have sent us the trouble makers. Like Europe did. Like I suspect China did and does.

This actually DOES get us into the waters of natural selection, but not the way you’d expect.

For now let us say that a lot of the people shipped over were defeated tribes (not all of them un-war like) and those who were burdensome in their own families, often because they had sharp tongues or argued with the elders.

In other words, the Africans shipped over, except for more genetic variety and the fact that most of them as opposed to some of them came in chains were basically like the Irish and Scots that came over, either through starvation, losing wars, or being too fractious to fit in in their tribe.

And until Marxism intervened, black people in America were on their way up, despite having started really low and despite suffering more at the onset than most newcoming groups. (Not a lot more, though. I mean, a lot of other groups got treated as subhuman, Irish, Italians, etc.)

What happened to the African (mostly. I understand that the melting pot has melted and that the correct race for Americans with dark skin is “Caucasian” due to all the interbreeding that has gone on. I heard this from among other people real-stone-cold South African racists in the time when an abandoned baby was a critter who must be typed as to race before being taken care of. For instance, most Americans of somewhat African ancestry have blue eyed babies, which is one of the “marks” of Caucasians. [Which also means older son is, but younger son isn’t. Genetics are funny that way.])

We’re treading in un-researched waters here, by necessity, and partly because of the long war of the 20th century. And I have stuff to say about that.

And partly because humans are a mess. I mean, partly, yeah, we’re genetic beings. I’ve seen in my own kids things I couldn’t even guess were inheritable, habits and traits I don’t have but which my parents have/had. My kids have spent maybe a cumulative total one month with my parents, and they don’t have a common language. And yet my younger son and my dad might be the same man, separated by 60 some years. Not just looks, either, but interests, habits of mind and casual behavior.

Then there’s nurture. Cultures are not as plastic as the left likes to think, but they are incredibly plastic. What I mean is that shaping culture is kind of like breeding cats. You might try to breed for a trait and get others – eyeless kittens, instead of good mousing – the mistake of the left is NOT thinking you can change humans through culture, but thinking you can control the change and change it in the way you wish.

One of their biggest mistakes is to think that what you tell people is what they “get.” IOW the root of the whole self-esteem thing: if you tell people they’re good and worthy then they’ll work harder.

They think this because, being largely people who live by theory and are devoid of empathy, (a problem common to academics of every stripe) they don’t understand anyone is NOT like them.

If they felt better about themselves, they would be more daring and take more risks, and work harder. So everyone must be the same.

The problem is that most people aren’t. If you tell a kid he’s already perfect, with no effort, what happens is unfounded self esteem which keeps the kid from changing in the way needed to succeed.

In the same way, if you tell entire “ethnic” (and these are funnily defined. The only reason that “Latins” got caught in this was date of arrival. Fifty years earlier it would have been Italians and thirty years before that Irish) populations that they’re exploited, there’s nothing they can do, that racism against them is so ingrained even those who think they don’t have it, have it and that the world is out to get them, but the government will, in compensation, make them some small payment to keep them from dying off, you’ll get dysfunctional populations, sure they deserve compensation for every slight real and imaginary, and incapable of integrating/achieving anything on their own.

Because their “ethnic” identity is ALL they have, they’ll cling to the trapping of it, even when those trappings are imposed from outside, and even when they are contra productive.

As Stephen Green reminded me – and I knew, because it’s one of the areas older son tastes very well on, and the test is administered through music – musical talent is ALMOST fully covalent with mathematical talent. Absent the disdain of “acting white” and the poisonous self-hatred of western culture we could have hundreds of thousands of brilliant mathematicians and physicists coming out of the black communities in the US. That we don’t shows criminal neglect and willful poisoning of the well by those who think people are widgets defined by melanin content.

And now you say “but you’re saying there are genetic traits to populations.”

Yeah, granted, but it’s complicated, because of us being social apes. People can and do turn themselves inside out to “fit in” particularly since human populations have an habit of pounding to a pulp any individual who sticks out too far (metaphorically or physically.)

So, though there are genetic traits to various populations, there’s also culture. For instance, Portuguese wherever they go, often end up as grocers and more often as merchants. Culture or heredity?

Well, partly heredity in the sense that at least remotely there’s a lot of Phoenician in Portuguese, and those were merchants, mostly. Partly culture, because if your father was a merchant and if your cousin who immigrated is a grocer, you’re likely to know how to set up a grocery store, or have advice, at least.

Or take my family, which runs to doctors and engineers. My kids, completely cut off from it, and without help getting there, aspire to the same professions their ancestors have been following time out of mind. My (paternal) grandfather was the youngest of several brothers, at least one of whom ended up a doctor, and one an engineer. Grandad probably had the same problem younger son had when younger. It manifests in slower reading and an inability to concentrate on written stuff. At the time this meant he was “dumb” and so he was trained as a carpenter. HOWEVER his sons, a couple of them with no schooling supporting it, ended up working as engineers, and the grandchildren and great grandchildren have the usual medicine/engineering admixture. Since we had very little contact with grandad’s family (I think they were slightly embarrassed by him) this must be because something inborn pushes us that way. The incidences are way above statistical probability particularly since we’re spread out over the world.

OTOH it is possible when the culture is clamped down on hard, to change those inate tendencies into something else, completely different.

I think, for instance, that Africa itself has suffered from sending all its troublemakers off since the Neolithic. I think that the stagnation and tribalism of the continent before colonization was the result of this millennia old culling of troublemakers. (The point being that this kind of natural selection, at three generations per century or so, takes millennia.)

However note they still had enough troublemakers to ship over to the Americas.

Because the human tendencies reassert themselves, even when selected against. Culture and circumstances can twist it, but they’ll come back.

So when I think of the long wars of the twentieth century, and shrug and go “if they were going to give Europe to Germany, wouldn’t it have been easier to roll over in WWI?” I like to console myself that at least it made eugenics unviable as a government strategy.

However – and this is why I’m so glad that Kate wrote about it yesterday – the downside of THAT is that it made everything genetic about humans unthinkable.

This is a massive problem, and one that is about to ram up our nose (as a species) as we decode more of the human genome and start realizing what some of that stuff does.

Not being able to think/talk about such things as genetic selection in humans leaves us curiously vulnerable to bad ideas.

If you can’t discuss what is culture and what is race, and race is the ultimate uber-taboo subject, then younger people are going to assume the differences ARE due to genetics and race. This will actually resurrect a racism that only exists (mostly. It’s a very old human instinct and impossible to eradicate. And by this I don’t mean racism in the sense only whites can be racist, I mean “it’s different from me, ew” instinctive racism. When I was very young I was afraid of blond people. I’d never seen them) in the fevered imaginations of “studies” professors.

Worse than that, if you can decode and manipulate the human genome and people assume most differences/tendencies are genetic (because there are no rigorous studies of genetics and culture and the link between the two) we’re going to do some really stupid things to ourselves. No, I don’t mean we’re going to manipulate the genetics of humans. THAT’s a given. Rail as you will; make it illegal as you will, we are curious monkeys. If we can do it, we WILL even if it’s quite evil.

The question is “how will we do it?” and “How much genetic diversity will result” and “if you pull that lever will it destroy that cog we didn’t notice, but which is vital.” And also, ultimately “will we consider all humans widgets genetically determined?”

This is all very possible if we can’t talk or think about it.

Eugenics is an evil theory that treats humans as things. So is Marxism. They both have extensive histories of failure where it counts (bringing about a society that allows freedom and comfort to the majority of its citizens).

But if we can’t discuss race, we can’t discuss genetics, we can’t discuss culture, we can’t discuss what parts of us are nature and what are nurture, we’re just going to bring all those ideas back, stealthily, under other names, and now with the lure of the forbidden.

There are studies that must be done. There are things that must be discussed.

Let’s start from “no human being is a widget” and even if you come from a population group that has certain strengths/weaknesses, you are you, not “a member of the group.” (One of my black friends has less musical talent than I have, and guys, that takes TALENT to be that bad.) Let’s start from “no race is uniformly superior” – particularly when race is defined as “skin and eye color” or “language group.”

And let’s find out how this race/culture thing works. Not with an intent to manipulate, because that always ends in tears, but with the intent of appreciating the panoply of different talents and cultures in the human race.

To combat the bad ideas when they come. And to maybe bury once and for all the idea that humans – any humans of any race – can be made into “ideal” creatures be they homo sovieticus or the arian youth.

Study, not dogma.

Barring us going to the stars and evading the tinkerers, knowing enough about ourselves that it’s not black and white or clear cut enough to encourage megalomaniacs trying to create themselves a new people, is our only hope of surviving our own fatal tendency to mess with ourselves.

The barring of the idea of eugenics as a respectable political philosophy is the best thing to come out of the long war. The barring of any thought about human genetics and culture and the poison of multiculturalism are the worst.

525 responses to “What We Are Made of

  1. When you are feeling so optomistic to believe that we live in the best of all possible worlds, remember that the pessimist over there is afraid that you are right.

    • Meanwhile, the arbitrager is making book on both sides of the equation.

    • Eh. I am both, usually.

    • But we do live in the best of all possible worlds…
      So far, collectively, though there will always be things that fall by the wayside. Particularly given folks’ penchant for remembering the good and suppressing the bad.
      Some idealize that brief period immediately after WWII when America was leader of the world with no true opposition. In many ways true, but fearful diseases were still too common, racism was rampant (not just in the South and not just against blacks), technology compared to that of today was primitive.
      So, when one states “best of all possible worlds” we much append the caveat “so far.”

    • Do we live in the best of all possible worlds? Probably not.

      Do we live in the best of all probable worlds? Quite possibly, though it’s not certain, by a long shot.

      • It is the sad lot of we Odds that we are forever seeking to inhabit the best of all improbable worlds

    • Pessimist by natural temperament, optimist by grim determination. That means plan for the worst, and know in your heart-of-hearts it’s the most likely, but work for the best out of sheer mule-headed stubborn contrariness. *grin*

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Best of all worlds? No, I think we’d need more dragons and fewer mosquitoes.

      • Andrew Ward

        I dunno. Putting up Adhesive Dragon Strips sounds like a lot of work.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard


          Putting up Adhesive Dragon Strips is Dangerous For Your Health!

          The result is an annoyed dragon, who will get free and will come after the idiot who put the strips up.

          You will not be able to hide from the annoyed dragon, you will not be able to fool the dragon, you will not be able to move fast enough to escape the dragon and most importantly nobody who could win against a dragon will aid you after you’ve done something so foolish.

          Very Very Big Dragon Grin

      • And more chocolate.

  2. In the comments, mention was made of what happened to Germany under communism, and how East Germans, after just three generations (not really enough for a genetic cull) are a completely different breed from West Germans.

    Three generations is enough time to effect the prevailing zeitgeist and I expect that three generations of differences in diet has produced apparent physical changes. Consider the change in the height of the average Japanese person since WWII — which has been attributed to diet.

    • Oh, no doubt. When I grew up in Portugal, I was extremely tall (I topped off at 5’7″) and taller than most of my male teachers, by 12.
      Different diet. Pre-natal/childhood vitamins. Both girls and boys my kids’ generation are now taller than I. (Though few are as tall as my kids.)
      However it’s not enough for a genetic cull. I’m not sure 300 years are. There are a lot of recessives that will surface again. Note that the ONLY (maybe) culture to get rid of MOST of their troublemakers over time was China, which has been “civilized” for a long time and working at it even longer. And even there they have Odds, dissenters and rebels.

      • It was my understanding that China typically dealt with invasion by absorbing the invaders. That would tend to indicate a periodic influx of new genetic material to refresh the blood lines and stir the pot.

      • Not enough for a pure genetic cull, no. As I pointed out below, I believe it is closer to ten generations for African slave descendants however. While still not enough to cull out recessives (or even dominants, because it isn’t a systematic examination of all offspring and terminal culling of any undesireables, some will slip through the cracks) what it is, is enough to slide the mean average towards one end of the scale.
        Sure there are a lot of exceptions, we’re human after all, but if there is a ‘soft cull’ for certain traits, in ten generations the average is going to tend farther away from those traits.

        Now that being said, I think environment (culture) has as great if not greater effect in this case than inheritance (genetics).

        Inheritance does have an effect, but if the environment was changed, I think the shift back would be faster than could be explained by genetic drift.

    • The Other Sean

      Three generations is enough time to effect the prevailing zeitgeist and I expect that three generations of differences in diet has produced apparent physical changes. Consider the change in the height of the average Japanese person since WWII — which has been attributed to diet.

      During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, immigrants to America from southern and eastern Europe, for example, often had substantially different physical measurements between first and second generation. This is often attributed to improved diet in America vs. the countries emigrated from.

      • *silly off the wall grin*

        What? Don’t they realize what was REALLY happening?

        They were tank goldfish dropped into a pond– they got bigger because there was more room!

    • Consider the change in the height of the average Japanese person since WWII — which has been attributed to diet.

      It’s even more confusing, because the guys in their 30s who were working on the ship a decade back are all shorter than me (averaging less than 5 ft tall) while the teenage girls are mostly taller than I am, and a not-small number of the teenage boys were eye to eye with my six foot tall husband.

      So it might require three generations to get an expression of difference, unless there was some major food differences that were somehow noteworthy right after WWII but nobody mentioned in the 70s.

      • The grandchildren of children who were conceived during the World War II hunger in the Netherlands still show epigenetic traces of the hunger. It may take a while to work through the system.

        • My father has been visiting (and passing through) Vienna for over 20 years. When he started, all the old women were short and bow legged (from rickets and other malnutrition-related problems between 1914-1948). Now the old women look very much like older American women, although perhaps a touch shorter and often rounder.

      • You probably have two different food-related shifts occurring.

        The first is right at the end of the war. The country was a mess, and so the US brought in lots of supplies – including food stuffs – to help get the country and the population back on its feet. I don’t know what all was involved, but I would expect that there was a wide variety of food suddenly being provided that hadn’t been eaten earlier due to dietary preferences, etc…

        Then more recently, Japanese citizens have spent more time abroad and come back with a greater appreciation for certain foreign cuisines. This would again add additional food types to the typical Japanese diet.

        As an example of the latter, a couple of my white American friends spent some time in South Korea (independently of each other) a couple of decades ago. One of the things that they noted was that at the time, tomatoes weren’t very well liked in Korea. Red tomatoes were considered spoiled, and thus not fit for consumption. This left green tomatoes, and, well…

        Now that more South Koreans are traveling abroad, they’re being exposed to more foreign foods. And red tomatoes are no longer seen as a health risk. As a result, they’ve been added to the list of food items that can be easily obtained in South Korea.

      • unless there was some major food differences that were somehow noteworthy right after WWII but nobody mentioned in the 70s.

        The end of the depression and then the end of rationing? Possibly the improvement in preservation and transport of food stuffs that came through refrigeration and freezing and the development of the American Highway system? Also of note, since WWII there has been major changes in the whole pattern of eating in this country — including embracing various ethnic foods, cooking techniques and going to restaurants.

    • FlyingMike

      how East Germans, after just three generations (not really enough for a genetic cull) are a completely different breed from West Germans

      I’d note that the German speaking lands were only really united from a pile of loosely allied princelingdoms and city-states that would make today’s Balkans look homogenized into Germany in 1871. The differences imparted by hundreds of years of rule by Junkers, and especially the proximity of Prussia, likely would outweigh the 1872-1945 influence, given the Junker-like rule of the Red-Army/DDR period from 1946-1990.

      It’s most likely that last 45 years in the East were just a reversion to the local mean, while the West enjoyed a Prussia-free government for the first time since Bismark. Combine that with the free market and democratic institutions imposed by the occupying western allies plus the western consumer culture influences (remember, East Germany missed out on both the sexual revolution and the entire youth-culture shift), and the resulting divergence is not surprising.

  3. There is one thing of which i am very sure, and that is that nobody knows as much as he thinks she does. If there is a fundamental human trait it is that of hubris, something which manifests in all humans from the brightest to the dimmest.

    We do not understand either nature nor nurture well enough to imagine we can design an ideal human, the chaotic processes are complex beyond our capacity for understanding.

  4. The eugenics that will happen is parents making sure that their kids have every possible advantage and/or no “flaws”. Alongside this will be the SJW’s making sure that their kids have every possible disability because disabled people are better people. (This may finally get rid of the SJW’s when their kids kill them for doing that.)

    Fortunatly, everyone will have a different idea of what is an advantage, so we will have an explosion of possibilities.

    • UNLESS governments get involved.

      • I can see governments attempting to ban the practice, however I doubt that there are many governments of significant populations that would try to enforce eugenics. Of course, I could be wrong.

        • Can’t you really see, say, Europeans trying to eliminate “selfishness”? Or “greed”?

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Or aggression.

            Note, part of the back-story of RAH’s Beyond This Horizon was an attempt to genetically engineer people to make them non-aggressive.

            Of course, the society failed because the “aggressive people” fought back.

            Thankfully, the society failed because another society went a different route in genetic engineering and would have conquered them. [Smile]

            • I wrote — and got published — a story about a world in which anger had been way toned down.

              Unsurprisingly, corruption was rife.

          • I can see that they would like to. I am a bit doubtful that they would try to. I think that between the Nazi horrible example and the massive troubles from the Euro and the Muslims (who would not co-operate) they have too much on their plate to add another major problem.

            Again, I could be wrong and if I am and if the succeed, then Europe will shortly be a depopluated wasteland.

          • Miranda!
            (Firefly reference for anyone unfamiliar with that backstory.)

            • Which is kind of funny, considering that Whedon seems to be a SJW (or at the very least a useful idiot) from what I can tell.

              • Whedon occasionally places higher value on telling a good story than on telling a correct one.

                • That “occasionally” qualifier is the reason I’m able to recover from my Firefly cancellation angst. 🙂

                • Birthday girl

                  Mmm, I’m conflicted on Miranda … notice that the non-conformers weren’t just non-conformers, they were rabid cannibal rapist crazies … which is how the SJWs tend to view the Tea Party types, etc. …

                  • Well, that’s certainly a point to consider. Although they weren’t that until they were heavily drugged….

                  • I took the Miranda story as a straightforward cautionary tale against hubris and unintended consequences, but I can see your reading of the reavers as tea-party types.

                    I personally like the original explanation of reavers more:
                    “Reavers ain’t men. Or they forgot how to be. Now they’re just . . . nothing. They got out to the place of nothing. And that’s what they became.”

                    It’s a little bit heart of darkness, a little bit HPL, but to me it says that humans stripped of their essential humanity are just dangerous animals.

                    • My recollection of the Reavers story reminds me of the Rabbinic notion of the yetzer ha tov (will to good) and the yetzer ha ra (will to evil). In rabbinic legend, rabbis managed to lock up the will to evil in order to make the race peaceful and good. It also made them unproductive (think the “good Kirk” in the Star Trek episode “Wolf in the Fold”), and the yetzer ha ra had to be released again.
                      And if you don’t have the ability to make sure it’s the evil half that gets suppressed, you wind up with problems.

              • That’s the problem with leftism as a positional good. People understand the way the world really works at an instinctual level, and that comes out in their art, but they publicly profess the “correct” answer.

          • wanderingmuses

            Personally, I don’t see what’s wrong with selfishness or greed. Selfishness gives one a strong sense of self preservation in addition to the perceived downside. Greed is ambition by another name. Without greed/ambition no progress is made.

            Of course, YMMV. I’m definitely not near as smart as most of y’all lol. I do, however, enjoy the discussions in here immensely!

            I must admit, though, that I wish their had been a bit of eugenics around before my parents mated. They ended up with a pairing that had many genetic “flaws” on both sides. And they all seemed to dump themselves on me. I’ve been disabled most of my life. And no, trust me on this one, that is NOT an advantage. It’s mainly incredibly frustrating. Unfortunately, I’m starting to see later life effects of that pairing in my sisters as well. It makes them more understanding of me but my heart breaks for what I know they are going to have to go through.

            • wanderingmuses

              “their” instead of “there” Cheese and rice! I really need more caffeine before I post.

            • Selfishness is generally a trait detested in other people and rarely acknowledged in oneself.

              See: Liberals vs Conservatives when it come to giving one’s own money to charity. Look closely at the types of charities selected, as well. I suspect you will find proportionately more Liberal charitable donations going to the arts and political organizations (but I repeat myself.)

              • You’re right. Leftists, when they give, not only give less but prefer charities for the rich. Such as private schools their children are attending at the time.

            • I didn’t say I see anything wrong with those, either. BUT governments in Europe do. They’d like to remake man.

              • A lot of it has to do with how they define “selfishness.”

                They cheer the kind of selfishness that welcomes treats from the government, they deplore the kind of selfishness that casts gimlet eye upon the long-range costs and sustainability of such government largess.

              • An idiocy that they’ve been trying to implement for over 200 years.

            • Personally, I don’t see what’s wrong with selfishness or greed. Selfishness gives one a strong sense of self preservation in addition to the perceived downside.

              Correctly used, they’re deformities– they’re bad the same way that “too much” of a thing is bad, because it’s “too much.”

              The problem comes in with all the word games that have been going on have screwed it up so that “selfish” gets used for everything that can be interpreted as promoting a self interest, so long as the person making the accusation wants you to do something different. It’s like how “starting a fight” gets used to include not handing over your wallet when threatened with violence.

              And so responding to how the loudest folks actually use the phrase, your response is reasonable.

            • There is a famous commentary on Genesis 2:7: “Why did G-d create man with both a yetzer tov” [good impulse, altruistic impulse] “and a yetzer hara?” [literally “evil impulse”, but in context best translated as egoistic impulse]? “Because without the yetzer hara, no man would build a house, marry, or beget children”
              Interestingly, the rabbinical view is that children are born with only an egoistic impulse, (without which they would not be able to survive) and that the altruistic impulse is gradually acquired growing up.

        • Thing is, you can’t completely shut down selective births so long as you allow that prog sacred cow known as abortion. Sex-selective abortions are already common enough in some parts of the world despite attempts to block them. The general prog attitude toward abortion on demand makes it virtually impossible to get rid of abortions motivated by a desire to avoid some particular trait in the fetus. As the effects of our genes are better understood, and fetal genetic testing becomes better at determining what traits the baby might end up with later in life, expect to see more trait-selective abortions.

          And as I’ve noted in the past, if a genetic marker is ever discovered that encourages same sex attraction, expect a full-blown prog civil war to break out.

          • Heh – one almost wishes someone would pull a Piltdown Man scheme on gay genetics just to be able to watch the fireworks

            • There’s already a homosexual pro-life group inspired by the first claims to have found the gay gene.

          • A gay friend of mine once told me that he was pro-life because he figured that being gay was genetic and that if they discovered how to test for the gene it would be terrible. Then again he also had the mindset that the concept of an ‘unwanted’ child was stupid because there were gay people out there who wanted to have families and the only way for them to have children of their own was to adopt. He was one of those people where talking to him made you feel better about humanity as a whole.

      • William O. B'Livion

        Won’t matter.

        When the governments get involved they’ll outlaw/restrict it, but the Elites will go around that, which will cause the technology to continue to develop and over time creep down the socio-economic ladder (i.e. cost will drop).

        About the only thing you could reasonably be sure of outlawing is “trivial” modifications like eye/hair color and *possibly* sex selection.

    • Excuse me, but I have little room for humor here.

      There is already pressure on expectant parents. Tests on your child in utero shows it potentially has downs? Well, sorry, but we do have a remedy. You don’t want to force a child to live through that? Consider the burden it will be on yourself, your family and society.

      At what point, with national health care, does the insurance company say it will cover termination, but not full care. Peter Singer may be extreme, but he is not the only ‘ethicist’ suggesting we cull the population of genetic malfunctions. Singer is already advocating against his health care dollars going to support what he view as unworthy lives.

      • Oh yes, I know that one. I have a friend who was incensed when her doctor pushed abortion at her when her daughter was found to have Down’s. And she pushed back hard. This was several years ago, before the ACA, and they never believe us when we talk about the “slippery slope,” because they don’t recognize how far we’ve already gone down it.

        • I had abortion pushed on me because — they said — pre-eclampsia that severe would make Robert mentally retarded. (looks at kid bound to medschool this fall.) True story.

          • Just think how bright he’d be if you hadn’t had such severe pre-eclampsia.

          • Yippee! Med school at last! Congratulation to Robert, and to all who help raise him.

              • My daughter, after completing her Masters at a special school renowned for cranking out kids that are accepted at top med schools, was dissuaded from going into debt to finish by every single doc she had worked with, many of whom were retiring early. At least until 2016. Any guesses why? She now teaches skydiving on the weekends, and is an executive assistant at an electronics company. For the CEO.

                • I recommended he go to veterinary school, because many of the skills are the same. He would have had the skills to help people, while not being on a government list as a doctor.

                  • Given the relatively high cost of vet school (~80%+ that of med school, I believe), and the average low salaries earned by vets (average ~96K, median ~89K in 2014 – vs 188K average for physicians) that doesn’t seem to be a financially wise swap.

                    Now if he really *wants* to be a vet I’d say go for it, if he’s factored the costs. But if he really wants to be a physician, why sign up for schooling that takes as long, costs nearly as much, and leads to a different and lower paying career than the one you really wanted?

                    It doesn’t mean you should follow your goal no matter what – after all, it makes sense to re-evaluate your course along the way, especially if you’re at a point where you can still change your goals relatively easily.

                    But making a choice with significant long-term effects for relatively transitory short-term advantages may not be a good idea, either.

                    • Ah, but factor in the bureaucracy and the looming threat of more.

                    • The direction being pushed by the Obamacare advocates (their motto: We want single payer and we’ll tear down the current system to get there!”) means that the only material differences between being a veterinarian and a physician is that on the physician side, your patients will be better able to describe their symptoms (for a counter-view on this, see: T. Dalrymple) and on the veterinarian side the people paying for the treatments will be truly concerned for the health of the patient.

                • Oh, yes. I know why the doctors said that. I also know they were wrong. Yeah, the stupid system will be around a while, but Americans get around things.
                  More importantly, though, this is what the boy was born to do — like I was born to write. The debt is controlled by being a state school and possibly living at home while taking it, same as undergrad. The rest is in G-d’s hands. You do what you have to do, and you do the best you can.

          • William O. B'Livion

            You should introduce him to the dipshit that pushed it.

            • We’ve been thinking of finding if she’s still practicing and sending her a picture of Robert with the note “Just accepted to medschool.”

              • William O. B'Livion

                Google should tell you if she’s still practicing.

                And better would be “Looking for an internship, know any good doctors?”

          • wanderingmuses

            See I’m dealing with that right now. My daughter-in-law ended up very ill with what turned into full blown eclampsia about five months into her pregnancy. I was afraid they would encourage abortion. But, surprisingly, they did not. We’ve finally come to a day and age that can deal with incredible prematurity. Instead, they did an emergency c-section 10 weeks pre-due date. My beautiful new grandson, eight weeks later, is doing quite well. If we can just get the awful reflux he’s suffering from under control he can finally come home. That’s the only issue he’s had. No heart troubles. Brain tests are perfect. Lungs are definitely great. Boy, can that kid wail when he’s not happy! He’s technically, gestationally not even alive yet. He keeps getting termed minus two weeks. I’m confident he will go on to cure cancer or rule the world 😉

            • See, I didn’t take them seriously, and I was right. When Robert was “survivable” they didn’t do a C-section. Though they started inducing on the due date.
              And yeah, kids is huge and apparently his brain works fine. He has a little metabolic issue from starving in utero. But other than that…

          • My mom got rubella when pregnant with my eldest sister. She was “offered” abortion. She refused. Sister turned out to be in the lucky minority of no birth defects.

            Also, she’s awesome.

            • Many of these cranks are actually only concerned about one birth defect, a concern they conceal by directing attention to other, lesser types. Their true concern is that babies are being born.

          • Yup. I have cerebral palsy. (Very mild case, people often take years to notice.) The school doctor looked me over when I started school and pronounced me “not very badly retarded”.
            In fourth grade, my parents fought to have me given an IQ test and it turned out I was, after all, in the extreme end of the Bell curve.

      • In countries that have government healthcare parents are already expected to abort children diagnosed with congenital defects. In the US children with Down’s Syndrome and other significant defects who somehow sneak through the pre-natal screening process are left to die or “windowsilled” in special areas of hospitals. That has been going on for at least 27 years because that “treatment option” was offered to us for our daughter way back then. We didn’t take them up on it at the time and said daughter is now an engineer for one of the aerospace divisions of 3M. But coming soon to an Obamacare facility near you it will become mandatory, probably sooner rather than later. It always ends up mandatory on account of the fact there are too many non-compliant peasants out there.

        Way back when HillaryCare was first proposed there was a provision for newborns not to be “covered” for anything but routine services until they were 8 days old. Why? Because after a week the most serious defects are usually diagnosed. They will be resurrecting that provision as soon as they can.

        Eugenics have NOT been eliminated at all. We just call it something different.

        • I think that before they will succeed with mandating abortions in this country they will manage to mandate no ‘special’ interventions after birth.

          The whole thing leaves me feeling ill…physically and towards those of my fellow creatures who support such measures.

        • iirc, the first successful “wrongful birth” lawsuit in the US dates back to the ’70s. Filed on “behalf” of the kid by the parents, of course.

        • They should be reminded of their Kipling and the age old adage of mother and cubs.

        • What frightens me more than a little bit is that the genetic tracking for things like creativity and high intelligence track very closely to things like downs and who decides what is normal for whom. If people are culled who decides who gets culled. That path is how the NAZIs moved down the terrible road to monstrosity. Once you start killing for “convenience” the slippery path becomes very steep.

          • S. Stirling dealt with thisd in his Drake universe. David Weber deals with this with his Mesans in the Honorverse.

            • That’s supposedly far in the future. At my last job we shared our offices with part of company’s genetic testing unit. The gene lab was down the hall. We used the lab for our equipment ads:

          • There is a myth of the ‘perfect’ well-rounded brilliant child who excels at scholastics across the board and is socially and physically adept. And then there is the reality, more often than not brilliance comes accompanied by challenge.

          • In the Netherlands, the doctors stood boldly and foursquare against the first incursion: they refused to accept Nazi dictates that they were concerned not only with their patient but with society.

            Now they are killing people. Including conscious competent adults who had never asked for it.

      • A girl in my high school once mentioned how when her mother was pregnant the doctors suggested that she abort because the baby had traits that indicated Down’s. Needless to say the abortion never happened and that my classmate did not in fact have Down’s. It makes me wonder how often that mistake is made and parents get rid of what should have been a perfectly healthy baby out of fear.

        • I suspect the technology has changed, but back in the Eighties the most common test they used to check for Down’s carried a high potential risk of even greater fetal damage.

          • There’s now a test for sex and a few chromosomal anomalies that can be performed by drawing blood from the mother and locating traces of the baby’s blood in it. (Recently Encountered Information.)

            • Maternal Serum Screening.

              No idea how well it plays– or fails to play– with the known factor of prior children’s genetics still being in the mother’s system. (IIRC, this includes those children who did not reach birth.)

            • http://www.mdperinatal.com/Maternal-Serum-Quad-Screening
              Maternal serum quad screening detects approximately 70 to 80 percent of fetuses with Down syndrome and 60 percent of those with Trisomy 18, a chromosomal defect that causes severe birth defects and mental retardation. Maternal serum screening also detects greater than 90 percent of fetuses with open structural defects, such as neural tube defects or abdominal wall defects. In other words, if the fetus is affected with Down syndrome, we would expect maternal serum quad screening results to indicate an Increased Risk for Down syndrome 70 to 80 percent of the time. Both false positive and false negative results may occur. The false positive rate associated with this test is approximately 5 percent. However, the chance of getting a false positive result increases to approximately 22 percent in women over the age of 35.

              • *sad* Then it’s likely not to be helpful for me, given my extreme bad luck, if I’m still able to have children.

                • My doctor prefers actually looking with ultrasound to check for an exposed spine, anyways.

                  • With my youngest the ultrasound missed that he didn’t have a left diaphragm, his heart was on the wrong side, all his internal organs were in his chest cavity, and there was no lower lobe on his left lung although the lung and heart were probably hard to see because all his intestines were in his chest cavity.

                    The thing is, I KNOW the ultrasound technician saw severe problems, just by her reaction. She went from joking around to super serious in an instant and turned the monitor so I couldn’t see it. She said everything would be “fine” but she couldn’t tell me anything about what she was seeing because “a radiologist needs to look at the pictures” She took TONS of them. And said I would have to wait and see what was in the report. There was nothing in the report all was supposedly well. I didn’t believe it and told my doctor I didn’t believe it. He pish poshed me and said I was probably worried for nothing. But they were actually LOOKING for all these things because my next older child had a small hole in her diaphragm. Geneticists had said it wasn’t hereditary but they were wrong about that too.

                    The only explanation I ever got about why they “missed” all the issues was that the radiologist must have mixed up the files with someone else.

                    I have worried about that someone else ever since.

                    • I’m sorry to hear of your loss. Did his older sister survive?

                      I have worried about that someone else ever since.

                      Pretty sure that if he wasn’t just blame-shifting to hide that he hadn’t even looked, any doctor who got a pile of results like THAT would actually check that the patient information across the top and sides matched the patient he was talking to, and get the correct files. If he didn’t, the mother would– you probably know better than I do about the searching for a hint that something isn’t so.

                      Someone who’s quickly glancing at a result because he’s in a hurry and doesn’t see an obvious problem, not so much; if it was the same office as your daughter, they may have even looked at her scans instead of his.

                  • I know a woman who went in for her second ultrasound and was told the kid had spina bifada. Her reaction?

                    “But the LUNGS are all right!? There’s nothing wrong with the lungs?”

                    The first ultrasound had looked like one of two problems. One is that the diaphram is missing, which has about a 50% survival rate. The other, very rare, is that the lungs do not develop at all. As she quoted online while waiting for the second, “This defect is not usually compatible with life.”

                    • I am really, really glad this topic didn’t come up earlier in my pregnancy…..


                      Most important thing a body can do, and when stuff goes wrong, there’s nothing you can do about it.

                    • Foxfier,

                      Thank you for your reply, but we didn’t lose him. Should have said that I guess, probably sounds like you can’t live with all those issues. I forget that. When he was born, ( we would have had him c-section in a larger hospital if we had known all the issues and why we had the ultrasound) the doctors said he had a 20% chance to live through the surgery to put everything right and 0% chance of living a week afterward. The alternative was to let him starve to death. NOT AN OPTION.

                      But although he has had a lot of serious health issues secondary to his diaphragmatic hernia, he is 20 years old, a sophomore in college, and in France right now on his way to doing a summer internship doing business research in Istanbul, Turkey. His sister is an engineer in one of the aerospace divisions of 3M. There were no ultrasounds of her to confuse them because we had never had one with her. It wasn’t commonly done back in the day. Now they do them for everyone, and more than once. So since it wasn’t so common and it was done to look for a specific issue, there was no excuse at all for missing things.

                      But yeah, doctors don’t know everything. They certainly can’t predict the future. And I feel for anyone who is pressured into abortion based on tests.

                    • Honestly, I didn’t imagine he’d been able to make it either. But I’m very glad to hear it!

                    • Oh, GOOD! All the ‘was’ had me thinking he didn’t make it!

              • Thanks, I’d been meaning to track down the accuracy rates. The part I was sure of was that the test procedure itself shouldn’t be dangerous.

          • The one with First Child had an acknowledged 1% risk of inducing miscarriage. We declined.

            The expansion of genetic testing has made it so that our current OBGYN simply asks if we’re interested in genetic testing, and I smile and say we only want tests for things that can be treated. This one, I haven’t had to point out that death is not a valid treatment option.

            I know some people get a lot of good out of knowing the baby will be facing problems; I’m not one of them…..

        • Well, if the test is 99% accurate — the incident rate is one in a thousand, then of a million pregnant women, 1000 the baby will have it, 999,000, the baby won’t.

          990 of the babies with it will diagnosed with it.

          9,990 of the babies without it will be diagnosed with it.

        • IIRC at least one of the big pro-life talkers was a verified positive whose mother tried to abort…only problem with the girl (I think female….) is side-effects of the attempted abortion.

          The rate of false positives depends on the test, and who’s interpreting it; apparently most have some wiggle room for how paranoid you want to be.

    • Alongside this will be the SJW’s making sure that their kids have every possible disability because disabled people are better people.

      I don’t think so, unless they themselves already have that disability. (there are already cases of “selecting” for blind or deaf children when the parents are, for example)

      Evidence: look at how Sarah Palin was treated for not killing her genetically disabled child.

      • A doctor explicitly and publicly said it was wrong of her because other women might be encouraged to do likewise when the other women couldn’t cope.

        • There was a time in this nation when encouragement of other women to try was a good thing. We called it “being a good role model” and sometimes even “being heroic.”

          I can understand why it would be disapproved of under the current regime.

          • Now you’re discouraged from doing anything helpful and/or heroic because you might get hurt. Or sued. Or both.

            One of the deleted scenes from ‘The Incredibles’ noted this tendency in modern life.

        • Dis-gusting.

      • I was thinking it would be unlikely, but had to read your comment to figure out why.

        SJWs don’t want their children burdened with handicaps, they want to make people feel extra sorry for other people’s children, so they can have another excuse to take more of your money and grab that much more control of your life.

  5. Christopher M. Chupik

    Well, “Arians” were followers of the Arian heresy, and some of them were Germanic tribesmen, like the Vandals. 😉

    • St. Nicholas is patron saint of many, many things, but oddly enough, he is *not* the patron saint of Pugilists.

      Odd, considering his response to Arius.

      • It turns out that it’s a very late story. (Darn it.)

        If you go over to Roger Pearse’s blog, he has a lot of interesting St. Nicholas material linked. The St. Nicholas Center is making a lot of his projects more widely available, so that’s a good place to check, too. (He’s one of the great mensches of the patristics world, and he does it all in his spare time when not working as a UK computer contractor.)

        • I knew that, but it’s still the second most-known story about the saint, and there’s a lot of other evidence that, shall we say, he was certainly a bit of a brawler.

    • William O. B'Livion

      When in Rome do as the Vandals?

      • One of those random things…

        I’ve been paying attention to the upcoming video game Star Citizen recently, and the setting is decline-era Rome… IN SPACE!

        Complete with Rome (Earth), Constantinople (Terra), and an aggressive raider alien species called the “Vanduul”.


  6. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Race is a “funny thing”.

    Historically, you read about the “English Race”, the “French Race”, etc.

    Earlier than the “idea” of race was tribes.

    Your tribe was different than other tribes to the point of “your tribe” is Human and the other tribes weren’t Human.

    IMO Humans are (and always will be) tribal.

    It’s just that our idea of “who our tribe is” differs and we still (mostly) think of outsiders as Human as well. [Smile]

    Of course, we may also think of ourselves as members of several “tribes”.

    I’m a member of the “Odd” tribe.

    I’m a member of the Christian “tribe”.

    I’m a member of the American “tribe” and so on. [Smile]

    • I’m always intrigued when I read pre-WWI (and occasionally pre-WWII if the author was of a certain age) British authors talking about things like the “martial races,” and “natural [profession/vocation].” Swap culture where it says “race” and it tends to be a pretty good cultural study, especially when it is written by someone intent on somethign else (like, say, trying to build an irrigation system in the Punjab, or a railway through Rajastan).

    • In the book, Of Men and Monsters, after Earth had been invaded by giant, semi-sauropod-like (but making our most gigantic saurpods look small), humans took to living like rats in the walls of the aliens’ homes. They were highly tribal, and while they didn’t quite think that simply because someone was from another tribe was not human, they were offenses that would get a person declared inhuman, and once that was done, the time before their execution became a nightmare of abuses.

      At one point, the protagonist is captured by another tribe, and declared inhuman. This is a serious wake-up call for him, as he realizes how the ones he had participated in the abuses of must have felt.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Well, the tribes living closest to “Monster” territory do consider themselves “Mankind” with other tribes obviously not “True Men”.

        Oh IIRC the main character’s Tribe has decided he is “inhuman”.

        Oh, side note in that story the most advanced human survivors are called IIRC the Aaron people.

        I wondered if the Aaron people were meant to be Jewish. [Smile]

      • This is why Banishment used to be such a serious penalty.
        Only slightly less serious was being Outlawed – outside the protections of the law. “Any man’s hand may be turned against you.”

  7. Jeff Duntemann

    We may be tinkering with our genes already without realizing it. Assortative mating is a real thing: Nearly all of my very bright friends have married very bright spouses and are raising very bright children. Not even 70 years ago, my father caught hell for dating a woman living outside his neighborhood and “beneath his station.” That pattern played out very broadly among GIs returning from WWII, no loner scared boys but hardened men who chose their wives for their own reasons, parental traditions be damned. Concentrating the genes for intelligence sounds dangerous to me, but it may be inevitable. We don’t know yet what other traits are riding along (Asperger’s?) but they won’t all be good.

    Also, people who do not want children…aren’t having children. I’m guessing it won’t take long until people who don’t want children vanish from the gene pool. It took the Pill to separate sex from childbearing, and where that will end isn’t clear.

    • Ah — I meant to mention that, but as you see, I ran encyclopedic lengths already (the fault is not with our verbosity but with our lack of caffeine — that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)
      I married my husband across the ocean, after intense exchange of letters and phone calls. Even though we’d met (and not dated) four years before, our story was fairly unusual. Now? I have more friends who met their spouses on the net, in various interest groups which sort not only for intelligence but for “outlier”.
      Dave Freer says that there are always outliers in a primate group. But the thing is, I saw that in the village, that most of the very smart or quirky, married normal spouses, or didn’t marry. That meant over time the “mean” stayed the same.
      I’ve wondered for ten years about the consequences of the Odds (a condition often covalent with higher ranges of intelligence, but not always) marrying only each other till they speciate.
      This is something genuinely new, and one we can’t imagine. I’m not sure most of our kind can even survive absent high-tech (smart isn’t the same as survival-ready.) And I keep thinking “there used to at least four or five different human breeds. It coalesced into one. What happens if it goes the other way?”

      • I believe Charles Murray has recently looked at this phenomenon (IIRC, in Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010), although it has long been practiced. For example, successful upper-middle class African-American families in Philadelphia have long been observed to “encourage” in-group matings:

        Over the years, the black upper class has also founded numerous other organizations that allow them to socialize among each other, build their networks and get involved in their communities.
        One of the most notable is Jack and Jill of America, Inc., a mother’s club for African American women founded in Philadelphia, PA in 1938 by a group of middle and upper middle class mothers who wanted to bring their children together to experience a variety of educational, social and cultural opportunities, which, due to segregation and racism, were not otherwise readily available to African American children, regardless of the socio-economic status of their parents.[11] Today, there are around 218 chapters across the United States and the world. Roughly 30,000 parents and children participate through 9,500 mothers who hold membership.[11] Separated into age groups, children attend monthly activities extensively planned by the mothers of that age group, which may include philanthropic endeavors/community service, pool parties, ski weekends, theater, museums, lectures, college tours, etc. Membership is by invitation-only and, even then, not guaranteed due to the extensive candidate selection process, which may last a year or longer and may include a vote by existing members. Membership is limited to mothers of children between the ages of 2-19. Annual costs of membership, including dues and activity fees, may easily reach thousands of dollars.

        Or you can simply look at the prevalence of various selecting mechanisms employed by the larger society for generations, such as colleges attended (for quite a long period the various Ivy League colleges was recognizably “paired” with its Seven Sisters counterpart and young men and women expected to select mates from that pool; at an even greater level of granularity, fraternities and sororities matched.

        It is all an expression of tribalism, ensuring the kids draw mates from proper tribes.

      • “I’ve wondered for ten years about the consequences of the Odds (a condition often covalent with higher ranges of intelligence, but not always) marrying only each other till they speciate.”

        See rise in rates of autism spectrum disorder. Not all Odds are ASD, but many ASD types are Odds. (My older son is ASD—like his father. Not precisely a worrisome diagnosis for us.) They are noticing certain patterns already.

        • I suspect America is going to be a bit further ahead on this– because of our having lots of little and conflicting cultures, plus lots and lots of room, and Odds are the ones that are very likely to fall for someone who’s also odd, if not Odd. The grandma that was probably on the spectrum who married the guy who took an assignment on the far side of the country from his family– it’s possible and even encouraged, here, for people who feel like they don’t fit in to go somewhere else.

      • Randy Wilde

        And I keep thinking “there used to at least four or five different human breeds. It coalesced into one. What happens if it goes the other way?”

        Hope you’re a Morlock and not an Eloi?

      • Why am I reminded of one of my favorite Tool songs, “Forty-Six and Two”?
        [OK, we’re not talking two actual extra chromosomes here, but the lyrics deal metaphorically with a similar theme…]

    • I’m guessing it won’t take long until people who don’t want children vanish from the gene pool.

      To the extent that not wanting children is a genetic proclivity, yes. But I think some elements are cultural.

      I was sent to schools that heavily sold the over-population myth. We were inculcated with the belief that a responsible person would have no more than two children.

      Then, of course, we were presented with the picture of all the problems of parenthood and child rearing. We were assured that children are incredibly expensive and time consuming. That the heart aches and trails to be expected were many. Infants are exhausting and that living with toddlers was mind numbing.

      Also, with the push for women to join in the work force, particularly in the professions, it became desirable to both postpone and limit childbearing.

      • Cultures evolve, too.

        • And sometimes cultures devolve. Once in a while you can tell whether it is evolving or devolving.

          The Thousand Year Reich was considered by it’s adherents to be the pinnacle of human culture.

          • No such thing as devolving. There’s only evolution, which includes both survival and — not surviving. That’s how it works, after all.

        • And that form of evolution does not always favor survival.

          • Jesus turned to them and said, “Women of Jerusalem, do not shed your tears for me, but for yourselves and for your children! For the days are coming when men will say, ‘Lucky are the women who are childless—the bodies which have never borne, and the breasts which have never given nourishment.’ Then men will begin ‘to say to the mountains, Fall on us! and to the hills, Cover us!’ For if this is what men do when the wood is green, what will they do when it is seasoned?”

            Is it just me or does the enchanted forest seem really dry these days?

            • The Enchanted Forest trailer park is doing just fine, thank you very much! The elves will keep an eye on the tinder situation there just so long as you keep the HoeHoes and Ding Dongs supplied.

          • Where everyone survives, there is no evolution.

    • Thankfully, the Humans Are Screwy thing comes in here, too– besides there being a lot of different types of intelligent, there’s also the “keeper” phenomina that pops up with Absent Minded Professor types.
      It’s probably really just an expression of how people tend to marry someone they can admire, but if you have one person who is great at math and engineering, but can’t figure out how to balance a checkbook or make a doctor’s appointment, they tend to end up with someone who is good at that and happens to share some strong interests.

      Even in fairly normal couples you’ll find this kind of complementary role filling; my husband and I are roughly low-end normal for this group as far as intelligence goes– he is horrible with money for budget, but good at organizing and word/memorization. I have to be reminded which highway is which and mess up our children’s names in the fine old “yes-I-just-included-my-childhood-dog’s-name-before-yours” style, but can do comparison grocery shopping and “can we afford this sale? Will it fit in the freezer?” type budgeting on an almost instinctive level.
      He starts rattling off numbers and unless I am untired enough to translate them on the run, my eyes glaze; I start debating pro-and-con on a household project, and unless he can translate out the results his eyes glaze over. Both of us tend to do the “…just tell me what to do, alright?” on our weak points.

      I suspect that there will be a lot more of that, and it won’t game out as neatly as simply concentrating traits for intelligence, especially not with the frequently found tendency among Odds to be…ah… prickly about stuff that’s one of “their” strong points. My husband has suddenly taken a big interest in Catholic history, for example, and while it’s a complement to my interest in the theology, there’s been some friction when the two overlap. (as they do, strongly) If we weren’t already a strong pair, and didn’t have so many other points of complementation and contrast, it could be a big problem– and that’s just a hobby that’s related to something important, not a basic point of pride.

  8. Something to consider about the genetics of Europe-after WWI and WWII,a huge number of men had been killed,removing them and any of the “good” traits they had from the gene pool.

    • Yes, but there is an awful lot of recessives. I joke that the French killed every brave person starting with the French revolution and ending with WWI. But even there, this is not true. Again, you can kill everyone of a type and it will affect the population for a generation or two. But humans reproduce (relatively) slowly. We’re not fruit flies. Anyone who has raised cattle/livestock can tell you how traits you thought you’d eliminated surface again and again, unless you’re more ruthless with culls than any human population CAN be. (Like Arab cultures. Lack of curiosity is favored. So humans will hide curiosity and channel it elsewhere, like memorizing the Koran. but the trait is still there, in potentia.) Add in epigenetic traits, and you have a fine mess.

      • If you make brave people rarer, the greater the rewards of bravery?

        • Only if the culture values bravery. Cultures that lack something basic such as bravery often come up with some alternative to laud as a way of ignoring the fact that their culture is missing one of the basic requirements to its continued survival.

          • Bravery correlates to risk-taking; the fewer people taking risks the greater the rewards for success.

            • Sufficiently creative cultures can find ways to force conformity and punish risk takers. The goal of such a culture is to encourage stasis. That’s not really possible, and such a culture won’t last for long. But it has been attempted (reasonably successfully, I might add – until a less risk-averse culture dealt with them) in the past.

              • One of the I often say is that civilizations and species strive towards stasis. China and India achieved it for centuries. The Anglo-American culture that values change and achievement that got us to where we are today is exceedingly rare. And the “elites” are truly trying to stomp it out. I try to avoid both utopian and dystopian stories, but I believe most of them involve a never changing static society.

                I sometimes despair that this striving towards stasis may be real reason the Fermi Paradox exists.

          • Don’t have to value a trait to value the results– even in cultures that very strongly disapprove of a route to a result, the route will be used by those who think they won’t get caught. (Say, theft for getting rich.)

  9. Having come to the Diabetic Persuasion late in life I have noticed that for all our vanity what humans are made of seems largely determined by our intestinal flora (fauna? Never can keep those two straight when addressing the microbial sphere) and thus we humans are perhaps best viewed as transport mechanisms for intestinal biospheres.

    “It’s not Madness, ma’am,” replied Mr. Bumble, after a few moments of deep meditation. “It’s Meat.”

    “What?” exclaimed Mrs. Sowerberry.

    “Meat, ma’am, meat,” replied Bumble, with stern emphasis. “You’ve over-fed him, ma’am. You’ve raised a artificial soul and spirit in him, ma’am, unbecoming a person of his condition: as the board, Mrs. Sowerberry, who are practical philosophers, will tell you. What have paupers to do with soul or spirit? It’s quite enough that we let ’em have live bodies. If you had kept the boy on gruel, ma’am, this would never have happened.”

    “Dear, dear!” ejaculated Mrs. Sowerberry, piously raising her eyes to the kitchen ceiling: “this comes of being liberal!”

    • “we humans are perhaps best viewed as transport mechanisms for intestinal biospheres.”

      I’ve occasionally toyed with the idea that God is a space cockroach.

      For cockroaches, there is no problem of evil. They are hardy enough to withstand natural evil (it is well known that they will even survive nuclear war) and not intelligent enough to create moral evil. Clearly, they are the chosen species.

      But where does that leave *us*? Why did a space cockroach God create man? Obviously, our divine mission is to the spread the holy cockroach to the stars.

      I was amused to see that Bigelow Aerospace took a first step in The Divine Mission of Humanity when they included Madagascar hissing cockroaches as passengers for an early test flight of their inflatable space hotel…

  10. They think this because, being largely people who live by theory and are devoid of empathy, (a problem common to academics of every stripe) they don’t understand anyone is NOT like them.

    I think that part of the problem comes from a habitual misinterpretation of data. They see that people who are successful exhibit certain traits and accomplishments.

    At one point in time you could look at the country and notice that those who had completed high school generally achieved a decent standard of living for themselves and their family. So it was decided that to raise the quality of life throughout the country we would push everyone to complete high school. (Besides this also reduced the number seeking early employment allowing adults to demand better wages!) And then, seeing that not all were doing well meeting certain challenges, the system reduced the requirements — because what had become important was not the education itself, but the diploma. The Spouse calls it a kind of cargo cult.

    Post hoc ergo propter hoc…

    • seeing that not all were doing well meeting certain challenges, the system reduced the requirements

      To ensure more could clear the bar they lowered the bar, then to conceal what they had done they changed the units of measurement.

      And people wonder why coins have reeded edges.

    • Post hoc ergo propter hoc…

      One finds so many delightful illustrations of that fallacy, such as:

      There are also multiple Dilbert and XKCD examples when you Google “images for post hoc ergo propter hoc examples”.

    • Jeff Gauch

      It was noted that those who owned homes were more likely to be middle-class or higher, so the government set out to encourage home-ownership. If every politicians were required to pay $1,000 dollars to the US Treasury every time they committed a logical fallacy we could eliminate taxes and sill balance the budget.

      • You know they would just vote themselves a raise in per diem, one probably exceeding the annual fines.

        Sheesh. Next you’ll be suggesting they buy their own drinks.

  11. “And by this I don’t mean racism in the sense only whites can be racist, I mean “it’s different from me, ew” instinctive racism. ”

    They’ve found people who are immune to this.

    It’s a symptom of Williams Syndrome. Among other thing children with it have to be taught to stop and think that a person they don’t know may not mean them well.

    I suspect it’s going to be ineradicable.

  12. One notes that when they domesticated silver foxes, they culled ruthlessly for the trait “doesn’t mind hanging with humans.”

    The domesticated silver fox is distinctly more doggy in appearance than the wild variety.

    • Yep. And they had no clue this would happen. (Also, I want one.)

      • I totally want one too. They’re adorable. And they don’t know WHY the domesticated silver foxes changed appearance that way.

        Also, Sarah? Look up on youtube, ‘fox village’. The girly squees I made on seeing them I TOTALLY ADMIT TO.

        • Jeff Duntemann

          Well, yes, but be careful. I’ve researched and written about this, and Belaev’s fox are not completely domesticated, and can sometimes be snappy, especially if they were not socialized to humans from very young kits. That said, the same is sometimes true of dogs, especially pariah dogs who were not handled when puppies.

          • Heh, it’s a pipe dream for me anyway, since I live in Australia, and they have issues with foxes…and rabbits… and feral cats, dogs, pigs, cows, horses and camels…

            We looked up on the chances of importing them and so far, it’s ‘hell no.’

            • Feral CAMELS??????????????

              • We had them in the US for a time, too.

                Besides of course the original. (The camel, like the horse, was originally native to North America. It survived the advent of humans only by escaping to Asia while humans were going the other way.)

                • Joe Wooten

                  My great grandfather saw the feral camels in Far West Texas and New Mexico when he was a boy in the late 1870’s. Open season soon took care of them all after that.

                  • Gillette Wyoming’s high school mascot is a camel in honor of the camels that used to live thereabouts. So they made it as far north in the US as Wyoming.

              • Yep. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_feral_camel – and I’m told Australia also exports camels to the Middle East.

              • From Wikki:

                Australian feral camels are feral populations of two species of camel; mostly dromedaries (Camelus dromedarius) but also some bactrian camels (Camelus bactrianus). Imported into Australia from Arabia, India and Afghanistan Arabia, during the 19th century for transport and construction during the colonisation of the central and western parts of Australia, many were released into the wild after motorised transport replaced the camels’ role in the early 20th, forming a fast-growing feral population.

                By 2008, it was feared that this population numbered about one million, and was projected to double every 8–10 years. Serious degradation of the local environment also threatened native species. A culling program was introduced in response, and by 2013 the feral population was estimated to have been reduced to around 300,000.

                There had been an attempt in the American Southwest to utilize camels for the military…not successful. Camels can be onerey.

                • Surely in some alternate universe, President Davis’ Camel Corps broke the attack of the Yankee invaders…

                  • lonejanitor

                    Harry Turtledove’s American Empire books had camels in the Southwest, in at least one book. Think it was a Mormon Army, though, not Confederate.

                  • There were Jews in the Confederate states.

                • Feather Blade

                  There had been an attempt in the American Southwest to utilize camels for the military…not successful.

                  IIRC, it would have helped if they’d got the type that were optimized for rocky deserts, rather than the type that were optimized for sandy deserts.

                  But, nooooo, a camel’s a camel, innit?

                  • My understanding is that the Army’s horses, being territorial b8tches perpetrated a large number of micro-aggressions against the camels, spread gossip and accused them of harassment. As a result the Army had little choice but to stop its flirtation with camels and pledge renewed faithfulness to the horses.

                    As I was drinking at the time I learned of this it is possible my recollection has minor flaws.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Nah, not the horses. It was the mules who did that garbage. [Wink]

                    • ?!?? Those damned jackasses, always kicking up a fuss!

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Sarah, your Mules would have been in big trouble if they had gone against Army mules. [Wink]

                    • You know, I just realized that if Sarah were a nun, the group of friends mentioned in the Darkship saga would be “Three Mules By Sister Sarah”?

                    • Nah, couldn’t have been, because mules are too smart to get caught, unless they’re launching a frontal attack (or launching their rider, as happened to a gent I flew with. He was going to force a mule to cross a bridge. Only one of the two individuals involved ended up on the other side of the stream.)

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Is there such an animal as a non-Feral camel? From what I’ve heard there’s no such thing as a tame camel. [Wink]

              • They were still seeing them in Nevada when my dad was drafted.

                Officially, of course, the few that escaped the Army were long dead and never could have possibly reproduced.

                :totally straight face:

                • Christopher M. Chupik

                  The truth is out there.

                • The Other Sean

                  These camels promptly escaped to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still unacknowledged by the government, they survive as beasts of burden. If you have a heavy load to transport through a trackless desert, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the C-Team.

              • Yes, Australia has a fairly large number of them, I’m not sure if there are still any left in the American southwest or Mexico, but at one time we had feral camels also.

        • Jeff Duntemann

          Many have noticed that dogs resemble neotenic wolves in many ways, and the changes seen in Belaev’s fox seem to point toward neoteny as well. A dog may simply be the general expression of a neotenic canid, and it may be that any canid species ruthlessly selected for tameness takes on dog-like characteristics.

          • and humans resemble neotenic apes. If we do succeed in extending human life to double…

          • But neotenic appearance and behavior as a result of domestication by humans? I can see why that might be the case in pets, but for domesticated livestock, not so much. In the case of the foxes, they selected for ‘happy to hang out with humans’ not ‘cute’; I remember the scientists were surprised by the change of appearance, the barking, and tail wagging.

            • Well, your parents feed you and take care of you, and your farmers feed you and take care of you. Probably flips switches to make certain genes express and certain genes not express, and after a while, the wild genes get jettisoned.

            • Jeff Duntemann

              I have a novel theory as to why dogs bark:


              As for tail wagging, wolves do that and always have. Not sure about other canids. Vaguely recall hearing that Latrans does too.

              • I’ll have a look when I wake up again. My insomnia is running out at 4:30 am. ^^;

              • Read it, and good post!

                On the subject of Jared Diamond, did you get his Guns, Germs and Steel? He talks about the difference between the domestication of dogs and cats and herdbeasts and horses. Fascinating stuff!

                • Jeff Duntemann

                  Yes; superb book, and have read it at least twice. One serious disadvantage the aboriginal American peoples had was a lack of easily domesticable animals. Hard to build a civilization on guinea pigs.

                  • I had started reading it while I was in the hospital with pregnancy complications. Fascinating book; but I need to be back in the right mindset before I continue in order to give the book and its’ analysis the attention it deserves.

                • He has some good points.

                  But he should not have opened the book by dismissing innate racial differences out of hand as racist. That’s mere name-calling. The real problem with innate racial differences is that they are the hypothesis of exhaustion; you can conclude that two things have different specific heats (an innate difference) only by exposing them to otherwise identical conditions.

                  Then, having loftily dismissed the possibilities of whites being smarter than others, he then at one point enumerates why he thinks a certain group of hunters and gatherers are smarter than whites. That doesn’t bring on his “racism” meme.

                  • I think that’s ass-covering though. Can’t blame him for that one, in my opinion.

                  • Is not existence of “innate racial differences” the sine qua non of the identification of a “race”?

                    Acknowledging the existence of racial differences is not racist. Asserting that one set of racial characteristics is innately superior to a different amalgamation is possibly racist. Demanding that any individual classified as a member of racial category A must in all ways at all times conform to the statistical abstraction that comprises Race A is assuredly racist.

                    All Diamond does by his argument is demonstrate his inability to escape the dogmas of his times, something with which we all must struggle.

            • I think the implication is that the behavior is at least partially tied in with the appearance.

              It’s a really strange effect, if true, but we certainly don’t have the interactions of the genes mapped out yet.

              • It certainly seems to apply to domestic cats. Calico cats are less “sociable” than other coat color cats. Doesn’t matter the breed (or lack there of), a “friendly” calico is as rare as a boy calico. There’s so much anecdata that it’s moved from anecdote to “observed pattern” among vets.

                • I LOVE marmelade boys and next kitten would be one if we don’t get it by the usual means (it walks in in the middle of a snow storm being the usual.)

                • Speaking of calico males – saw an ad once, about 25-30 years ago:

                  Fertile calico male: $3000

                  Probably got it, too.

                • Reminds me of a thing I meant to add– defining terms can be important, too.

                  I am pretty sure I understand your point about friendly calicos– I can also hear my sister arguing, violently, because her notion of a “friendly” cat is roughly any one that will let a normal person pet it without drawing blood, rather than one that will actively seek out cuddles and interaction.

        • The quirks in appearance is one of the odd things about the domestication process. If you look at domestic animals versus their wild counterparts you tend to see similar traits across different species, especially in terms of coloration.

        • A couple of the cosplayers I follow were there a couple of weeks ago. They squee’d, too.

      • I had no idea there were domesticated foxes! Or Feral Camels.

        On cats, I have read those most house cats are only a generation or three from the feral population and this has kept them more naturally wild.

        When I was a kid I wanted an ocelot. But now as an adult I know that you can domesticate Cheetahs! Isn’t that amazing?

        • On cats, I have read those most house cats are only a generation or three from the feral population and this has kept them more naturally wild.

          For American populations, it’s probably less than that, because of the obsession with sterilizing all pets.

          It can be really fun to argue with folks about what counts as a “feral” cat. Technically, every house cat I’ve ever had was a feral– they were born in a barn, in fact, to a barn-cat mother. The person we get them from– usually my dad– gets them at the “walking around being clumbsy” stage of kittenhood where they’re just barely able to eat from a dish and the person they’re for gets them on to normal cat food. (…although a couple we had to bottle feed for a few weeks to make sure their tummy got full, and there have been several that were rescued with eyes still closed. Outdated human formula works pretty well.)

          Needless to say, I don’t hold much with the “it’s impossible to tame a feral cat” people, although I might point them at the three year old dragging around a cat that outweighs her as if he’s a teddy bear (or the two year old that we have to keep from sitting on them) and asking how feral he looks.

          Dad also sometimes re-tames abandoned ferals, which is harder– the type of folks who dump cats in the country are unlikely to be very nice in the first place.


          The version that I’m familiar with is that pigs are at most three generations from becoming feral, to the point where you can’t tell them from non-feral populations; cats…well, mom says that a cat is about three weeks from becoming feral, assuming they’re not maimed so they’d die first.

          • “The version that I’m familiar with is that pigs are at most three generations from becoming feral, to the point where you can’t tell them from non-feral populations;”

            That is what I have always heard, that in three generations pigs will not only tusks, but be hairy and lean like feral hogs. The black color and razorback qualities of Russian boars is hereditary however.

            • They WILL be feral hogs. Feral means a critter that was domesticated — that is, genetically changed by selective breeding — getting back to the wild. A wild hog would be one without such selective breeding in its ancestry.

              For instance, dingoes are feral; we can find the dog genes.

          • *laughs* I remember Vincent doing that as a toddler (dragging around a cat like a teddy bear). That cat was his cuddle toy. Patient girl. I miss her.

          • For American populations, it’s probably less than that, because of the obsession with sterilizing all pets.

            Pets get sterilized but there are ton of cats still roaming my neighborhood who are not sterilized. My cat wasn’t fixed when I got her, and neither were the neighborhood cats (she is now). I think what I read said the feral cats are more likely to breed because they haven’t been fixed or something like that so it keeps the numbers high…For the most part, nobody purposefully breeds their cats and yet they keep reproducing!

            mom says that a cat is about three weeks from becoming feral

            Now that I would believe. Considering my cat came home with a snake the other day.

            • I consider the “can go feral” a benefit– if something Goes Wrong, our cats will most likely handle it, and we might even find them again. Dogs are more likely to die.
              (No more than one in ten would last, I figure, and I’m ignoring extremes like toys and highly bred animals.)

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Well, I suspect that the hunting breeds are the mostly to survive.

                Mind you, some of them might go hungry for a while before they caught anything.

                I saw Lilly, my Beagle, “stalk” some squirrels in the back yard but the squirrels got a way.

                Of course, Lilly is well fed so she didn’t need to catch them. [Smile]

        • I talked to a girl from South Africa a few months back, her family had ‘domesticated’ cheetahs on their farm. According to her they were not all they were hyped up to be.

      • Well, make sure it “doesn’t mind hanging with cats.” We were always afraid the neighborhood fox (who disappeared years ago) was after the store cats.

    • When they tried for leaner domestic pigs, they really did get “leaner, meaner” pigs. Considering that most Durocs and other non-mini breeds are not known for their sweet and charming tempers to begin with . . . Co-located genes are a b-tch.

    • According to my research, the silver fox has long liked humans. in fact, its preferred prey seems to be the sex kitten. They have been known to hunt in cooperation with domestic cougars, seeking to cut their prey apart from their natural affinities.

  13. Then there’s nurture. Cultures are not as plastic as the left likes to think, but they are incredibly plastic. What I mean is that shaping culture is kind of like breeding cats.

    Hence the strange group of Catholics who play with spinning tops every December — even thou they don’t quite remember why.

    • And some who have a silver one, passed down in the family but aren’t quite sure why. Also, Christmas doughnuts are a thing, totes, and I look forward to the day when I’ll make the Christmas doughnuts for the kids and grandkids families, a week or so before Christmas, just like grandma did.
      We might also light some weird candles and have some very odd prayers which are TOTALLY a thing of advent. Also, shut up.

      • Roman Catholicism and Orthodox Judaism have a lot of commonalities.

        • They do. But not that many. Also some of us got sold a bill of goods under the heading of “religious education” by our grandmothers. Pfui.

        • Going to be more, too, at least on the Roman Catholic side– there are simply way too many Jewish customs that not only hit on important but under-emphasized theological points, but are fun.

      • I still remember finding out that St. Teresa of Avila was from a converso family. I was like, “So that’s why she was always getting investigated! I thought it was just the visions and the mystical writings!”

        Re: Christmas donuts — Actually, that’s a thing for lots of people, mostly because everybody loves fried food. Here’s French-Canadian Christmas donuts.

        • And Aebleskiver, which are Danish Christmas donuts. (And now you know what those pans sold on TV are for.)

          • They are not just for Christmas. And they’re supposed to be spherical. (I can totally get them spherical, and I’m not the Dane of the family.)

            1 cup self-rising flour
            1 cup milk
            1 egg
            1/4 cup oil
            1 teaspoon sugar
            flavoring (almond is traditional; vanilla or lemon also works)

            double or triple as necessary

            Heat iron* pan to medium-hot (you will need to do a test æbleskiver first), put a couple of drops of oil in. Fill divot 2/3 full; wait a bit. Use skewer to turn it partway while inside is still liquid; do another turn to complete the ball. Cook until outside is crisp and inside is cooked through and cakey. (It takes a bit of practice to figure out the appropriate temperature for your stove.) Serve with strawberry jam, butter, honey, and maybe powdered sugar. (The name means “apple pancake”, as the original variant had bits of apple inside. Use that information as you will.)

            *Iron, not aluminum. Aluminum has too much temperature fluctuation to work well. Lodge has an æbleskiver pan that isn’t too expensive.

        • Good bearsign is ALWAYS a religious experience.

    • And leaving candles burning from Friday sundown through the next day. “It’s a family thing, OK?” Hey, far be it from me to comment on quaint NM family customs, even among Presbyterians.

      • Yeah. It’s totally not a Jewish thing. And also, shut up.

        • All those folklorists, so eager to look for pagan survivals that they totally missed all the Jewish survivals. 🙂

          • In New Mexico, a lot of the churches have six-pointed stars as decoration. There was apparently a lot of Converso immigration.

            • There was a lot of immigrants who were secretly Jewish thinking that New Mexico was far enough to avoid persecution. Sure, you pretended to be Catholic for the neighbors. And you only told the kids when they were old enough to keep the secret. And cousin Bernardo doesn’t ever get told because he can’t keep any secret at all.

            • Everywhere. The isles. Brazil. BUT during the era of conquistadores Portugal had been absorbed by Spain (for 60 years) and they sent out the troublesome elements.

            • The six pointed star does actually have a Christian history, too– just like the five-pointed star. (Six Days of Creation; Five Wounds of Christ. Minimum, I’m sure there are more.)

              • Isn’t everything with a Jewish history (at least a B.C. Jewish history) also a de facto part of Christian history?

              • Oy vey, trust you goyim to confuse things!

                As all recall from the Haggadah songs after sedar, it goes:
                I know Thirteen: Thirteen Attributes of God *; Twelve Tribes; Eleven Stars; Ten Commandments; Nine Festivals; Eight Lights of Ḥanukkah; Seven Days of the Week; Six Days of Creation; Five Books of Moses; Four Mothers of Israel; Three Patriarchs; Two Tables of the Covenant; One God of the World.*

                Getting farther along toward “singing” that in a single breath each year is as much a ritual of growing up as the marking of height against that of the shortest auntie or the tallest uncle.


                • Feather Blade

                  And a partrige in a pear tree, to you, too.


                • Nit – the song refers to 8 days for the bris, not chanukah

                  • Clearly your household used a non-Union Haggadah!

                    You do realize that the bris — with its use of a drop of wine as anesthetic — is the primary reason so few Jewish men get tattoos? Studies have shown that most people get their first tattoo after doing a little drinking, and Jewish men learn early in life to avoid combining drinking alcohol and cosmetic surgeries.

                    • My family in very Catholic Portugal had a family bible which was a direct translation of the King James Bible. (It’s almost like someone rushed out in a daze “a Bible, we need a Bible, any Bible.” NAH….)

                • That should be “Six Books of the Mishna”, not “Days of Creation”.

                  looks up link› Ooh—this version looks like it’s deliberately trying to ignore the Talmud (and circumcision). Also, 9 is supposed to be “Months of Pregnancy”; I can’t guess why they changed that.

                  Oy vey, trust you goyim to confuse things!

                  As this discussion indicates, we don’t need any outside help: we can confuse things just fine all on our own. ☺

          • Ah, but Jewish influence indicates change. Many folklorists wanted to believe that folklore was the same from the Stone Age onward. That required dismissing change.

          • I suspect the inability of anyone to get pigs into NM prior to the arrival of Anglos and the railroad helped make “playing Christian” a lot easier for those people who were not supposed to be in the Spanish colonies. So what if the neighbors don’t eat ham? No one in town eats ham because hams can’t walk this far.

        • eh, it’s probably not a Jewish thing now. It takes on a life of its own.

          • Yes, it does. Like the spinny thing getting sold in every street corner in Portugal and Christmas doughnuts apparently infiltrating several cultures…

            • I have to admit, I had neither been aware of this as a Jewish thing nor heard of Christmas doughnuts, but they sound like an awesome idea….

              • I have never heard of Christmas donuts. I suspect this hasn’t really moved into the southern US so much?

                but we have donuts all the time so…

                • other than that, doughnuts didn’t exist in Portugal, when I was growing up. So I loved them here. (Oh, French toast is also a Christmas food. Go figure.)

              • First time I ever saw the “spinney thing” was when we visited our Messianic Jewish friends for New Year’s.

                That same night, I almost caused my wife to disown me when I said that the smoked salmon someone had brought “tastes like ham” (fortunately for me, no one else was close enough to hear).

                • Defaming the Sacred Lox! You are a very bad man Wayne! Thwaps with a dead trout.

                  • Older son used to be mad on lox, so we used to buy it regularly. ONLY fish he ever liked. So I presume it really doesn’t taste like fish. (I think I tasted it once and it wasn’t my cup of tea.)

                    • SIGH. My favorite better-than-fast fast food in Germany and Austria is lachs from Nordsee. It’s a fast food chain that is all fish, from pickled herring and rollmops (hangover cure among other things) to straight smoked salmon, smoked salmon sandwiches, some shellfish in season, carp in all varieties . . .

                  • Well, defaming it certainly didn’t stop me from eating it. I had to forcibly drag myself away from the plate. I LOVES me some Lox.

            • There are certain categories of items which quickly traverse cultural membranes. Those definitely include forms of alcohol and ways to gamble.

  14. Also, shut up.

  15. Wenda (sic)

    An American writer living in Paris supported himself by teaching a course on America. (Unforgivably, I don’t recall his name. Peter something.) The first question he asked of the class: How many of you have broken a bone? Sometimes none, at most one or two. Then he said, In America, all but one or two will have broken a bone. The risk-takers left. The risk-averse stayed. We’re rabble-rousers all.

    • One thing I didn’t mention is that Americans ARE an odd nation — because the selection for risk takers and trouble makers is so high — and if you come from abroad you see this, in an almost defiant attempt to NOT fit in. But it’s not as prevalent as it was in the seventies, say, because culture discourages it.

      • You can add that attempting settling and developing a life in a wilderness does its own selecting.

      • “One thing I didn’t mention is that Americans ARE an odd nation — because the selection for risk takers and trouble makers is so high — and if you come from abroad you see this, in an almost defiant attempt to NOT fit in.”

        I’m trying to figure out where I come in, on this one. Instinctively, I want to agree with you here, but… I’m not sure my instincts are right.

        Because, when I think of “risk-taking behavior”, I sure as hell don’t think of it being exclusively or even mostly American. Parkour, anyone? Base jumping? Wingsuits? All that stuff was first invented in Europe, or at least popularized over there before it became a mainstream “thing” here in the US.

        Are you sure you’re not looking at your background in Portugal, and extrapolating that across Europe? I can’t think of any particularly well-known risk-taking behavior I can connect with Portugal, so is it possible that the Portugese just express their inherent death wish in other ways? Like, line-fishing from open boats in the ocean? Daily life can contain enough risk that the adrenaline-junky percentage of the population just goes “Meh…” at doing more of the same when they get home from the day job.

        Or, are you talking more in terms of social/economic risk? I think there’s a definite case for Americans being more adventurous when it comes to risking failure in business and so forth, but I think that has a lot more to do with generous laws in favor of discharging debt in bankruptcy and easy formation of companies than it does with the influence of anything traceable to genetics. Of course, that’s going to turn into a chicken-or-egg thing, before you get too far into it…

        Honestly, I’d want to see some solid, quantifiable research numbers in this space before I could agree with you. I mean, it makes sense, to a degree… But, how long does it take for natural variation to replenish the stocks of risk-takers, in a population? One generation? Two?

        I can think of a couple of other causes for fewer broken legs in Europe, to be honest: More walking=denser bones, fewer breaks. More walking=better coordination to avoid the breaks in the first place… And, so on.

        I’m not sure we’ve got the causation tree looking right, in this case. It could just be a reflection of the fact that Europe is generally more of a “tamed landscape” than the Americas, and we have more opportunity to go “off-piste” to break stuff.

        • Because, when I think of “risk-taking behavior”, I sure as hell don’t think of it being exclusively or even mostly American. Parkour, anyone? Base jumping? Wingsuits? All that stuff was first invented in Europe, or at least popularized over there before it became a mainstream “thing” here in the US.

          Feels like a different kind of risk: The dangerous stunts you mention come with risks of dying (and in ways that fail the Obituary Test); the risks Sarah is talking about are consequences you have to live with afterward.

        • Because, when I think of “risk-taking behavior”, I sure as hell don’t think of it being exclusively or even mostly American. Parkour, anyone? Base jumping? Wingsuits? All that stuff was first invented in Europe, or at least popularized over there before it became a mainstream “thing” here in the US.

          Alternate possibility (just putting it out there, ’cause I don’t know): The culture in Europe so effectively stigmatizes risk-taking behavior that the ones who MUST take the risks become extreme versions, thereby becoming the forerunners.

          I can’t say, because I don’t know Europe, but I think of the things that youngsters do here with casual abandon – skateboarding, tree climbing, in some cases, shooting bottle rockets at each other. And this kind of thing is going away, because we’re starting to bubble wrap our children, too. And in the case of skateboarding, I doubt if their balance is any less than their European counterparts.

      • I wonder if the whole risk-aversion thing explains, in some part, the whole Tea Party/libertarian vs liberal divide. Liberals want everyone to take care of everyone else with no one getting ahead of anyone and everyone being “safe”. And if you have to legislate against letting children walk to school, eat sugary snacks, or hear things that might upset them, well that is just what you have to do to be fair and only and evil person would want anything different. Whereas libertarians tend to think everyone should be able to live their lives as they see fit and suffer whatever consequences ensue.

      • We’re the World Crazy Reserve.

        • Jerry Boyd

          You mean we can’t spend any?

          • Nah. It explains why periodically there’s a bunch of Americans going all over the globe. The world needs crazy, like bread needs yeast.

        • The Other Sean

          We’ve even stored away our most crazy in very special buildings just for them.

    • While I have never broken a bone, I have instructed my cousin, Guido, to break quite a few.

    • I certainly thought breaking a bone at some point was a normal part of growing up, though neither I nor my sisters pulled it off. (Despite climbing on cliffs.)

        • I had to get stitches.

          I must say that lying on the couch with ice on my bleeding knee was an EXCELLENT hiding place for hide and seek.

          • While I never broke a bone nor sprained nor tore any body parts, I did have stitches. Multiple times. Thrice in the head ere i was eight.

            Any conclusions any of you are tempted to draw are unawarranted.

            • Sigh – apparently WP does not love bitmaps, even of XKCD cartoons.

              Try this instead.

              • The Other Sean

                They’ve got the causal relationship messed up. We all know that peace causes wild bunnies! 🙂

              • Too busy shootin’ the ferals to war.

                Besides, we don’t need to. Australia will handle it for us. *evil cackle, gympie gympie tree*

                Oh, Aff told me that he watched someone walk facefirst into a giant spider… He spread his hand wide and said it was bigger than that.

                • I have read about rabbit stampedes in Australia. If you aren’t aware of such it is hard to think of bunnies as being such a horror…

                  There are a substantial number of wild bunnies in the central Atlantic states. An entire industry of live capture and transfer has grown up. It can be a bit hilarious, as when the neighbors transfers bunnies to the park down the way and the people there transfer their bunnies to the green area at the end of the block.

                  …. I used to wonder what the bunnies thought of this. (Hey, Alf, glad to see you back. How’s things going back at the other colony?)

                • I may not be able to go to sleep tonight, now (shudder).

        • Joe Wooten

          Youngest son just had knee surgery a week ago – tore his ACL, PCL, MCL, and meniscus – playing intramural indoor soccer at his college.

          Mom is having a ball tending to him, to his irritation….. 🙂

        • ow, ow, Ow!

      • I never broke a bone, but my brother did. I climbed trees and jumped out of the boat into a pile of leaves, so it’s not like I was being that carefull.

      • I never broke a serious bone growing up, cracked my skull, but that wasn’t really serious. Other than that just the usual broken nose, cracked ribs, and busted knuckles. I didn’t even manage to knock any teeth out growing up.

    • I didn’t break any bones, mostly through caution in my risk-taking* and a certain native grace. I did and do have the most lovely collection of bruises to show and some great stories, though.

      *Yes, that’s totally a thing. It’s called “planning.”

      • Yup. Well to some extent, as discovered this past weekend at Yellowstone.

        It is through no fault of my own that I never officially have had a broken bone. I was a climber, I am told, from the time I could move on my own accord. I find some of the stories I have been told of my feats as a toddler … um … as rather fantastic.

        I was climbing into my early adulthood. Look, trees are a lovely place to sit and read un-interrupted on a college campus.

        Still I didn’t like falling, particularly after falling out of a holly one time. (It took quite some time to pluck all the leaves off, and they stung.) So I learned to make a conscience attempt to avoid it.

        • I was a climber

          My parents actually moved houses in part because I was on the stairs all the time as a toddler and they were afraid I would break my neck.

          I also fell off a horse. Maybe I just have strong bones.

          • When I was about 15 years old, I looked back and realized that in the preceding 8 years or so, I had hardly ever gone more than one day completely free of bruises. Still, I never broke a bone, except that I suspect I may have broken a toe once. Either I was very lucky, or I have heavier bones than most people.

            • I didn’t know it was possible to have skin over your knees until I was 16

              • Only time I can remember taking the skin off my knees was when I used to run and skid on my knees on the hardwood floor, and my nearly-worn-through jeans decided to part just as they hit the floor, so I wound up with not-rug burn.

                • Speaking of rug burns, this is to my knowledge the best song about them …

                  I never have quite figured out how they’re getting the rug burns … (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

      • I waited until I was over 21 to start breaking things (the knee doesn’t count). I was running one break per year for a while, with the assistance of horses, curbs, mops, and other ephemera.

      • Also a matter of having a realistic notion of your limits– which incidentally means you know how to fall when you hit “oops.”

  16. Whether or not you like it, or think it a good idea, eugenics is taking place all around us. Is that an outrageous statement to make?

    Nope. Consider all the idiocy that goes into what we could call “The Mating Game” in popular culture. What, precisely, are we telling/conditioning young girls to look for in future husbands? What are we suggesting/programming young men to look for? And, I don’t mean in the individual sense of family, I’m talking about all the cultural signals we take in from “popular culture”.

    Yeah. Stop and think about that, for a few. Then, tell me that we’re not conducting a free-form eugenics experiment in real time.

    A friend of mine once commented that women have been breeding men for big dicks and making money for centuries, while men have been breeding women for big tits and no apparent brains. Ugly truths there, when you look at popular culture. I’m still not sure that she wasn’t right, either–She’s still single, being completely unable to tone her intelligence down, and being possessed of a unique and small-breasted attractiveness that doesn’t appeal to the majority. She’s pretty much given up on finding someone compatible, which is sad.

    So, yeah: Eugenics is going on all around us. It’s just an informal program, with the control mechanisms being hidden in the woodwork of culture. Stop and consider how weird it is that they sell skin-lightening creams in South Korea and in South Africa, and that light skin tone is a marker for attractiveness and success all through a swathe of Eurasia and Africa. How the hell did that happen? More importantly, why is this phenomena something that seems to have arisen separately and from within widely variant cultures? Good grief–I know an Indian girl who considers herself to be “damaged goods”, and who has given up on ever having a family, simply because she’s got a skin tone that’s much, much darker than normal for her caste. Her comment to me, once, was that she had to have a good career, because she’d never be able to marry well–And, that was something her parents had told her early on, and had run into trying to arrange a marriage for her. She’s too dark, you see–Despite being brilliant and having a body to die for. It’s too damn bad she’s not interested in anything outside her cultural context, too, because she could do damn well for herself by looking for a non-Indian who isn’t invested in the whole “caste” thing.

    What isn’t happening is eugenics with a positive aim, which is something that will eventually change. Right now, we need the variety we get from doing things the traditional way. In the future, human populations are going to have to adapt very quickly to new environments, which is almost certainly going to require us shifting over from a laissez-faire system to something a bit more Lamarckian. Consider the likelihood of success for a deep space habitat populated from varying groups in existence here on Earth today: Who’s likely to succeed in that environment vs. who is probably going to fail?

    Artificial environments are going to require extensive management and intervention at all levels. You’re going to have to have a very high-trust culture, and not every human population can do that. I can easily imagine a Japanese orbital station. I cannot even begin to consider one run by random Arabs, with the low trust and low compliance those cultures currently have.

    I think a good gauge for whether or not a particular current population group would be primed for success in living on an artificial environment would be to take a look at how well they manage their living spaces here and now. Do they have clean public spaces? Are things kept neatly, and do their houses have well-groomed yards? Do they cooperate willingly and effectively with their neighbors in emergencies? Or, are all these behavioral markers absent?

    I suspect that some of these things are at least partially coded genetically into population groups. How much, and which characteristics are influenced, I don’t know. But, I am fairly confident that in order to make these features commonplace in a given population that does not currently possess them, it’s going to take either an uneconomic amount of oppositional conditioning, or a huge cull of the population group in question to spread these characteristics widely enough to be effective.

    Human cultures that are successful in space are going to be unrecognizable in some respects to what we see as being “normal”. Consider a little thing like whether or not people in a given region bother to return carts to the return corrals at supermarkets, for example: That sort of social “thing” is going to be unthinking reflex to a child from an artificial environment, simply because they can’t afford not to. Every little detail of day-to-day life is going to have to reinforce detailed, checklist-oriented thinking, or the entire habitat is likely to fail because some “lowest common denominator” type forgot to properly shut down a system, or close a valve. We’re going to have to raise that “lowest common denominator” to the point where a pilot or open-ocean certified diver is, today. And, that’s going to have to be conditioned across these societies to a degree we’d find unthinkable today, in our milieu.

    Eugenics is probably going to be the only way we can affordably make these changes across populations, or a bunch of us aren’t getting off of Earth and surviving “out there”. Hell, to tell the truth, I stop and think about what will likely be required of these people, and I’m not sure I’d measure up, myself. I’m way too sloppy and prone to taking shortcuts, and those are things that will have to be stomped on with the vigor and enthusiasm we associate with fanatics enforcing religious conformism. We may have to even mobilize religion in order to make these changes work, in some population groups.

    • Stop and consider how weird it is that they sell skin-lightening creams in South Korea and in South Africa, and that light skin tone is a marker for attractiveness and success all through a swathe of Eurasia and Africa. How the hell did that happen? More importantly, why is this phenomena something that seems to have arisen separately and from within widely variant cultures?

      “I’m RICH — I don’t I have to go work in the fields like the peasants.”

      In North America it lasted until factory work took over, and tans were, “I’m RICH — I went to the Riviera in the dead of winter.”

      Now, of course, in North America tanning beds mean it’s pretty much cut free as an indicator.

      • I’m not sure it’s the “out of the sun means higher status” thing, at all.

        While I can’t say for sure, as an outsider, the whole thing feels a lot more to me like the American black prejudice against darker skin tones–There’s a definite caste/color line being drawn, and it’s not related to working outdoors. The same South Korean girl who goes in to have her epicanthic fold modified will be doing the tanning bed thing, while there are billboards up everywhere advertising lightening creams. It’s positively schizoid.

        I can’t say for sure it isn’t the “out of the sun” thing, but when I’m dealing with American blacks who look down on a really darkly complected peer, and up to someone who’s more “High yaller”, I have to wonder whether it stems from an unconscious adoption of racist belief, or something else. If you’ve ever sat invisibly by while a bunch of black girls are discussing the guys, and then realize how much of what they’re talking about is skin tone…? Wow. I never conceived of the idea that someone who was black would be saying something like “He’s too dark, for me… Can you imagine what our kids would look like?”. But, I heard pretty much those exact words.

        Hell, I don’t even look at skin tone when I’m looking at potential partners. It’s not a consideration, for me, but it damn sure is for a bunch of folks I’ve lived around. So, yeah–We’re doing informal eugenics, I’m afraid. Cultural signals are being sent, and acted upon.

        • I’m not sure it’s the “out of the sun means higher status” thing, at all.

          Well documented fact. Sunburnt and tanned vs pale was openly admitted to be a class marker.

          • As preserved in the term “redneck” — referring to the sunburned neck of the man behind a plow from can see to can’t see.

          • In whites, I’ll accept that it’s a “thing”. However…

            I defy anyone to take a look at the average African and tell me how much time they spend out in the sun, based on skin tone alone. There are some populations where you can’t detect the difference between “worker” and “non-worker” because of the variation in skin tones, and yet there’s still that same nutso idea that “lighter is better…”.

            The South Korean thing is a weird one, too–I’ve got a couple of cases I’ve witnessed where girls would apply the lightening creams at the tanning salons after they finished a session. I still can’t wrap my head around that one.

            I did get the nerve up to ask one, and was snootily informed that the skin tone that the lightening cream affected was not the same as the tanning one…

            So, yeah… I’m not sure what it is, but it’s something both separate and parallel to the worker=darker thing. And, I’ll freely admit, I Just. Don’t. Get. It.

            • My cousin’s wife is a louse (okay, Laotian, but she is a lot of fun to tease) and she lays in the sun, tanning. She lived with me for a while while they were building a house. She would come in and proudly show me her ‘tan.’ Danged if I could tell the difference in her skin tone between before and after she had been ‘tanning.’ But she sure claimed there was a difference.

            • I did get the nerve up to ask one, and was snootily informed that the skin tone that the lightening cream affected was not the same as the tanning one…

              *nod* It’s the kind of thing you’ve got to know what you’re looking at to spot, but it’s there. It’s like trying to explain the difference between “red,” “yellow,” “cafe latte,” “dusky” and “almond” skin, even before you get to the poetic conflation and Americans tending to run into a lot of mixed examples.

              My experience with black Americans is pretty much limited to the military, but there was a definite difference between the skin that saw sun and the skin that didn’t— although the poor Marine that was extremely dark and decided to tan on the beach after about a year without sun on his back, and fell asleep…. ouch. He didn’t know he COULD burn. Even after that, though, you could see the line where his uniform arms were rolled up to. (Still remember his name. LCPL White, of course. Black was a pale, skinny auburn-haired guy, and we had two Browns– one dirty blond, one cafe latte. Much fun was had with this.)

            • Actually, yeah, you can tell how much time they spend in the sun by skin tone. My husband is noticeably lighter after years of computer work than he was when we met, he darkens up somewhat in the summer doing outdoor work, then gets lighter again in the winter. If he takes off his wedding ring, his skin there is completely white–paper white, no pigment at all. You just need a baseline, and in a relatively mono-pigmented area, everyone has it. Doesn’t work as well in the USA because most everyone is mixed and you have to figure out what their base skin color is before you can judge how much darker they are from sun exposure.

              My guess would be that you haven’t lived with the population enough to tell, kind of like how my in-laws can pick out which village someone from their region came from at a glance but to me they all look like family.

        • While I can’t say for sure, as an outsider, the whole thing feels a lot more to me like the American black prejudice against darker skin tones–

          Impossible. The view was well-established before the Americas were discovered.

          • I don’t think that is what Kirk is saying. It is SIMILAR to the American black prejudice against darker skin tones, not a descendant of that prejudice.

        • I read an anthropology study (don’t recall the title) that suggested lighter skin is considered beautiful in all cultures because it suggested the individual has a lower parasite load and thus better general health. No, I don’t recall the evidence used, either. It was a book about beauty standards around the world, and I read it as a brain cleanser during grad-school finals one year.

          • That kinda makes sense, as well as a lighter complexion showing off that you’ve got no skin lesions or other issues that might be harder to spot on the darker complected?

            There’s something going on with this, past the “dark tan=outdoor worker” thing. It’s too damn prevalent, and is even used to put down others in identical life circumstances–Girl I knew who some time in the Peace Corps in (I think…) Ghana brought this up, as going on in between Ghanan girls who were working the same fields with her at the same time…

          • “read an anthropology study (don’t recall the title) that suggested lighter skin is considered beautiful in all cultures”

            Obviously they didn’t consider California surfer a ‘culture’.

      • Yeah, skin tone is a marker of economic status.

        iirc, breast size (and a curvy female body shape in general) is tied to fertility. So in the case of breast size, it’s not so much “selective breeding” as it is “these physical traits are more conducive to having offspring”.

        • Yes, although they prefer to focus on the “youth” aspect. Symmetry is also related to health and diet.

          Money isn’t genetic, and as for dick size… the to-do I hear about it is for a male audience, and by the time you find out what size it’s going to be, the bull’s already selected.

    • Kirk,
      Please understand I mean no disrespect; your comments are consistently informative and interesting, but they also are consistently long.

      Which prompts me to wonder: did somebody beat the pith out of you when you were a kid?

      • LOL… Nope. My family stopped off in Ireland on the way here, and apparently stole the Blarney Stone. We’re all extremely verbal, and prone to going into extreme detail on anything. In person, I can be even worse. In front of a class I’m teaching? Let us just leave it at saying that people would demonstrate peer pressure on anyone who actually responded to me asking if there were questions. As in, the guy raising his hand in the back would get dragged out the back door of the classroom and beaten if I didn’t keep an eye on things.

        You can usually tell when I’m writing for length, because it will be short. On boards like this, I usually don’t go back and do the three or so edits it takes me to get down to “pithy”. I haven’t got the time…

        Don’t feel bad, though–How would you like to have had to be one of my teachers? They’d ask for a “minimum of five pages, double-spaced”, and get fifty. I’m the reason my high school started specifying maximum length, I’m afraid.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          In discussion groups, I have to be “watched” (by myself and others) so that I don’t “take over” the discussion.

          It’s “fun” when there’s another person like me in the discussion group. [Wink]

          • As long as you’re not repeating yourself unnecessarily in a single submission, not seeing the problem.

            (of course, that just means that to some folks, we are the problem)

            Been bit too many times by people either claiming I didn’t give them relevant information, or them not giving ME relevant information…..

          • We are an entire forum of Odd logophiles and threadjackers and invertbrate punsters.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              And here if I want to make a long detailed statement, I don’t interrupt other people’s “long detailed statements”. [Wink]

            • *You* may be an invertebrate punster. I would prefer to be an inveterate one. Sniff.

            • Invertbrate punsters?!?

              I ought ta slug you.

              • That’s a slimy thing to do.

              • That could be considered a-salt in some jurisdictions, you know.

                • I understand it varies by jurisdiction it is rather frowned upon in England and penalties are especially harsh for committing a salt in Battersea.

                  • *golf clap* Well played, sir, well played.

                    • You are generous; I note in review that my editing polishing of the final product failed — I had meant to employ a contraction for in: a salt ‘n Battersea.

                      I must remember to check on availability of Joan Aiken’s marvelous series …

                      Whenever I imagine I’ve perpetrated a perfectly bad pun my innate humility reminds me of the perpetrators of the classic BBC program, My Word, which invariably ended with a pair of shaggy dogs stories culminating in puns which would have emptied Callahan’s.

            • I do too have a spine! The MRI proved it (It’s just a little off [and with spurring], so that it’s causing pressure on my sciatic nerve)!

        • *raises hand* You and me both*

          I actually started asking what would be the maximum page length, as opposed to minimum.

          • Aren’t the expressions on the instructor’s faces just precious, when you ask them that?

            I used to work for a guy that would assign papers on military subjects to people as informal punishments. He did that with me and my guys exactly once, and then abandoned that as a disciplinary mechanism. I don’t think he was quite expecting the pile of paper he got buried under…

      • The Other Sean

        I’ve heard that brevity is the soul of wit.

        • By that standard, I’m one dumb SOB… 🙂

          It takes me forever to pare down and edit my writing so that it both covers all the ground around an idea, and is expressed relatively compactly. And, when I’m done? Usually, the reading level comes in at an unpleasantly high number. I did a two-page paper for something while I was still on active duty, and I think I broke something in the program they used to calculate that stuff, because my paper wouldn’t process through the program correctly. As in, I was told I had to redo the damn thing, and I had to take a complaint to a fairly high level to get them to accept it and give me credit for it.

          • We dumb SOBs got to stick together.

          • See, I’m the other way around. I have to take a long time to unpack things that I want to say, so that people who don’t have the same internal file structure can understand what I’m trying to say.

            • I’ve got that problem in day-to-day speech. I can see solutions, sometimes, and be completely unable to get across enough information to make it clear to the person I’m dealing with that it will actually solve the problem. Or, how to get from Problem Point “A” to Solution Point “Z”.

              I would really, really like to be able to do like a mental PowerPoint presentation and dump that on people, sometimes. If they ever do come up with implant neural aids, I’m probably going to be first in line to get ’em put in, just for that.

            • “Speak in shorthand, and then smudge it”?

        • I’d say a fair number of us are halfway there.

        • Wit should be a spice, not the meal.

          I was going to make a joke, but I got to thinking how much of the damage in our current culture is rooted in or promoted and sustained by people conflating intellectually appealing amusement with all the other needful things, and suddenly don’t feel much like joking.

        • Or perhaps the sole.

      • No they didn’t. He’s completely dry!

    • anachronda

      “I think a good gauge for whether or not a particular current population group would be primed for success in living on an artificial environment would be to take a look at how well they manage their living spaces here and now. Do they have clean public spaces? Are things kept neatly, and do their houses have well-groomed yards?”

      Nonsense. The ones who do well will be the ones who save everything because you never know when it’ll come in handy. 😛

      • The pack rats will inherit the stars, then? 😛

        That may be true, but I’ll guarantee that it’ll be a long, slow process, as all their crap gets moved along with them. Trust me–I come from a family of scavenger/hoarder/pack-rat types, and the sheer magnitude of what accumulates is stunning.

        Of course, that could account for the prevalence of black holes–All those singularities are actually places where the pack-rats have gone too far, and slipped over past the density limits…

        • Trust me–I come from a family of scavenger/hoarder/pack-rat types, and the sheer magnitude of what accumulates is stunning.

          …are we kin?

          • If you go back far enough!

            • Mary, if you only knew the horrible implications of what you’re suggesting, from Shadowdancer’s point of view…

              It would be like looking back over your family tree, and realizing that you were descended from every lousy conniving, thieving Eurotrash bloodline possible, and not in any respectable way, either…

              Family tradition: We’re related to all the Great Houses of Europe. Family reality: We’re only able to trace that back through multiple generations of blackmail, rapine and bastardry. So, yeah: Descended from King Richard the Lion Hearted, but only through a really twisty and disreputable path, full of some authentically nasty people.

              There’s a reason I spent much of my childhood halfway hoping someone would come along and tell me that I was adopted, you know…

              • When I was in high school I saw the Enquirer headline “Are Your Family Members Secretly Space Aliens?” and my first thought was, “It would explain a whole lot”. My second thought, “Worst secret keepers, EVER!”

              • Fun fact: King Richard III’s milk-brother (ie, his mom was official breastfeeder for little Richard at the same time she was nursing her own kid) was Alexander of Neckam, famous theologian-monk.

                That’s a heckuva way for a smart mom of less than noble birth to move her kid up in the world and get him an education, eh?

                And for some reason, she never shows up as a character in any books about Queen Eleanor the mom.

                • Other fun fact: his mom’s name was Hodierna. So she wasn’t the first Odd in that family, either. 🙂

                  • Milk siblings is something still believed in Portugal (i.e. that if you nurse two babies together they partake some of the same qualities.) My mom nursed one of my girl cousins (who then went to Venezuela) so my brother has a milk-sister. I always resented that cousin’s brother who is more or less my age was born in Venezuela, so I couldn’t have a milk brother.

                    • Given what we know about “inheriting” immunities through mothers’ milk there is likely a sound basis for that belief.

                    • In Islam, it’s as valid as a blood relationship. Regulations about milk banks are severe.

                    • *waves the baby multivitamin supplement bottle around*
                      Yeah, those crazy folk notions… ‘scuse me, gotta go check the kids’ omega three gummies aren’t almost gone again, those are major for brain growth.


                      Seriously, though, I can see how a similar diet for the first year or two, plus similar treatment while nursing, would make it so similarities jumped out at you. I did a lot of singing to the Baron– for some values of “singing”– and he walks around making up nonsense songs.

              • According to my parents (and I never had any inclination to find out how), we have Spanish, Italian, and a touch of French in our bloodlines. My mother expressly recalls having some cousins who were tall and European-looking enough that she described them looking like Sean Connery.

          • How do you say “but I can use that!” in Latin, for the family motto?

        • Some of that may be based on surviving through the Depression. I knew my father kept all sorts of things that other people would throw out, because they might be useful somewhere else, but until he died, I had NO IDEA the kinds of things he would pack-rat into little cubby holes, or boxes, or whatever, including the broken screen door handle that he replaced a year or so before he died.

          OTOH, I found a tiny tupperware cup with a handful of antique Monopoly pieces, that are starting to be worth some money…

          • TINS: After my maternal grandfather died, my mother was trying to sort and clean out the things in the house. She found a very nice, sturdy, metal reinforced cardboard box . . . labeled “The ashes of [redacted].” Mom wigged out and called Aunt G. Aunt G. came rushing over, looked at the box, and started laughing so hard she had to sit down. You see, Uncle [redacted] had been scattered over his favorite fishing cove at Lake Travis. She’d been there. But the box was, of course, too good just to get rid of, and so Grandfather had “put it back” because you never know when cardboard boxes might become scarce . . . If he hadn’t been dead already, I think Mom would have killed Grandfather.

            • I recall finding my grandfather stored in my parents closet when sent there to retrieve something else. I think his ashes were eventually scattered up on the hill where he used to hunt all the time when my mom was a kid. But this was a year or so after he died, and they hadn’t got around to spreading them yet, he was still on the top shelf of the closet.

            • On the gripping hand, though, sometime back in the late 80s, I noticed (for the first time – no idea why) that there was a big stack of 50s magazines on a shelf above the stairs to the basement. I asked my mother WTH was up with that. She told me that, back then, people were advised to save magazines so that they could use them to cover the windows in the event of a nuclear attack. I can’t remember the reason, though, but it was probably to protect against radiation.

          • Oh, dear God, the stories I could tell…

            My grandmother on my mom’s side was a jewel of a human being, a true honest-to-God saint. The fact my father is still alive somewhere in this state is living proof of that fact, because if he’d pulled the crap on me that he pulled on Gagy, he’d have been buried in a crawlspace somewhere. Probably alive. At least, when he went in the hole…

            In any event, Grandmother was the family prototype for pack-rattery: When she passed, one of the many “WTF???!!!” moments came when we found a bunch of No. 10 coffee cans completely filled with neatly stacked, washed-out creamer cups from restaurants. To this day, we don’t know why she was saving those, other than a puzzled “Well, we did do a project with those once for the Garden Club, but that was back in the 1960s…” that one of her oldest friends gave us. Gagy passed on in the early 1980s.

            Everything else? LOL… The software here couldn’t handle the volume. I know this crap has got to be genetic, because my mom, my sister, and myself do the exact same thing, just in different ways. I’ve got several tons of books and papers I need to go through and organize, and if anything, I’m understating the volume.

            • After a friend died a few years ago I helped his widow clean out the garden shed. In it were a dozen large coffee cans filled with cigarette butts. Apparently he’d been saving cigarette butts for years.

              Ron died of brain cancer, so he might have had an excuse, though.

          • My grandmother was recently helping clean out a friends house who had died. She was a real hoarder, she not only kept boxes of burnt out light bulbs but had a box actually LABELLED “pieces of string, too small to use”!

    • A friend of mine once commented that women have been breeding men for big dicks and making money for centuries, …

      Maria Muldaur:

      • …while men have been breeding women for big tits and no apparent brains.

        Southside Johnny and Mr. Popeye:

        • OTOH (hand???) — what are we incentivizing with this …

          … sort of thing?

          • Again, emphasizing a curvy female form, which is a boon to fertility.

            Guys who liked curvy women tended to reproduce more than guys who didn’t like curvy women, because the curvy women were more fertile. Hence, males liking curvy women is an evolved trait.

          • Lower back surgeons…

          • entrepreneurial behavior. She quit a wage paying job to start her own business. It’s the American Way!

    • … women have been breeding men for big dicks and making money for centuries, while men have been breeding women for big tits and no apparent brains.

      It seems that in a society in which men wear trousers, “big dicks’ would be hard to select for, although I am sure there have been ways to shop the goods long before our current era.

      Glad you modified that as no “apparent” brains — evidence is that guys are attracted to women bright enough to get their jokes but not so bright as to make jokes about their men. (Alternatively, bright enough to know better than to make such jokes.)

      I think the biggest change has been the lack of consideration given to “the mother/the father of my children.” People actually used to take into account what kind of parent a prospective spouse might be — believe it or don’t!

      • People actually used to take into account what kind of parent a prospective spouse might be — believe it or don’t!

        Still do, just tend not to be on the market.

    • I don’t think what you’re describing is considered to be eugenics, because it falls within the natural order of selection. Eugenics is a deliberate and organized attempt to change the race as a whole.

    • In the future, human populations are going to have to adapt very quickly to new environments, which is almost certainly going to require us shifting over from a laissez-faire system to something a bit more Lamarckian.

      Why would we not do like we always have and adapt the environment to ourselves?

      Not in the “global warming”/”teraforming” sense, but like that. *points at the A/C*

  17. I was reading some Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries the other day, and there are a few that I keep checking the copyright dates on. Sayers was very perceptive about what was going on in the culture around her and managed to drop several hints in her books that were in between wars that sound really ominous to us now—and she wasn’t particularly laudatory about some of these things, though it wouldn’t be out of character for someone who hadn’t run into those horrors yet.

    In Gaudy Night, she has a character pushing eugenics, for example, and manages to make her a tiresome bore. She also has a person saying “What this country needs is an ‘Itler,” in much the same way as somebody being approving of Putin at this present time. She has people talking about euthanizing folk when they get old, but it’s always a sign of someone who is deliberately bored, not the protagonists (except in moments of frustration.)

    It’s a slice of culture that would be impossible before or after the world wars, but manages to work in between the two.

    • The Other Sean

      I had noticed that, in fact. The comments are very much in the milieu, and come from the type of people you’d expect them to. The eugenics remark came from an academic, and IIRC the ‘Itler remark from a working class man (maybe one of the coppers?). As to the protagonists, they do seem to find the attitudes/comments of such characters merely boring or declasse, rather than the outright appalled reaction one would expect after WW2.

      • Sayers comes in for a LOT of hatred from UK reviewers, and then there’s Ngaio Marsh’s nasty comments about a writer who really paved her way and made her money, since they were never direct competitors.

        Apparently it’s snobbish to have fun with aristocratic characters, it’s snobbish to put in quotes, and you’re bigoted if you have bigoted characters and don’t put up a giant sign saying, “Bigotry is bad.” But all those things are totally okay with the reviewers if you’re writing ten years later and your name is Ngaio Marsh, heh!

        For some reason, Allingham is under these people’s radar. My suspicious mind says that it’s because Allingham wasn’t also a well-known Christian writer.

        • Oh goodness. Agatha Christie had far more unconscious bigotry than Sayers has ever shown, and she’s lauded. Maybe they’re afraid to trash her. (Excellent writer, she is, but every so often you get a bucket of racism smack across the face.)

        • Thank you. For some reason Allingham has been coming to mind lately. I thought to look her up but I haven’t taken the time — until just now.

          I first discovered Allingham courtesy of Mystery when they ran some of the BBC productions of Campion starring Peter Davidson and Brian Glover. Which lead, of course to the actual books…

      • It was by one of the cleaning women.

      • The guys at the college– Peter’s former squadmate, the porter, was dealing with them? I can’t remember if they were under-porters or gardeners/maintenance guys.

    • Hah. Check out the Nazis in “Charlie Chan in Paris” sometime. It’s downright creepy. And then you find that it was filmed in 1934, for the 1935 season.

      • Hitler rose to power in 1933, and many in the arts fled. So we had a substantial number of refugees working in Hollywood and the studio heads were pretty uniformly Jewish.

  18. I am going to be thinking about the music=good math skills thing for a while. I know that playing an instrument helps develop cognitive skills, music theory is also full of math. So how much of it is learning and how much is natural skill? What if you took a singer with natural skill and taught them an instrument? Is rapping correlated in the same way?

    I would love to see a whole host of studies on this. Most of the studies I’ve seen deal with classical music, which makes sense as pop music is generally less complex. (speaking as someone who is currently learning the guitar, wow do things repeat!)

    • Just singing and understanding pitch means that your brain is doing a lot of calculations, just like throwing and hitting mean you’re doing ballistics. It’s not on the conscious level and that can cause its own problems, but those relevant neurons are getting a lot of firing done.

    • Supposedly the “aptitude” is strongly correlated. Our oldest had a test based mostly on music that indicated his primary intelligence is mathematical. At the time this was hard to see, because like me he transposes digits.
      Only he had me as a mother, and I told him what was going on, and he started working on work-arounds.
      Math? Oh, yes, sir. He took calc III for fun and would like to take more, for the heck of it.
      So, the test was right.

  19. . I mean, partly, yeah, we’re genetic beings. I’ve seen in my own kids things I couldn’t even guess were inheritable, habits and traits I don’t have but which my parents have/had.

    Part of the problem is we have no idea how little we know, or how the associations might work, or what root causes may be….

    Example that isn’t human based:
    My dad swears that calicos are better mousers, while tuxedo cats are better house cats, assuming they’ve got the same build and background.
    He’s been assured several times that it’s sheer nonsense.
    Problem is, dad’s kind of scientifically minded, and though he’s not willing to be “rude” enough to correct people who “just know” it’s nonsense with all the details. And his memory is good enough that he’s comparing probable ancestry for the last 30 years.
    Kind of out of the blue, but by chance did the alpha female you think removed competition happen to have the look of a Siamese?
    Our old calico Mama Cat ended up with that body/build look, and did the same thing, although dad managed to capture and trade enough toms between ranches that he only had to deal with one really bad nest result in the roughly ten years we were there. Her most likely ancestress had the same personality, and there’s a reason he took an interest.

    • I once got to work for one of the more influential American Cocker Spaniel breeders and she made the comment that parti-colored ones were the ones who seemed more likely to end up slightly imbalanced. The odd thing was that it seemed to be true and she’s a woman who knew her genetics when it came to dogs.

  20. OTOH it is possible when the culture is clamped down on hard, to change those inate tendencies into something else, completely different.

    *thinks of the most obnoxious women she knows, generally from them informing her that motherhood/being a wife was not acceptable as an option*
    *considers that a lot of their problem is them treating unrelated adults and equals as if they are the woman’s own, small children, and that they usually have few or no children, and definitely didn’t spend a lot of time raising them if they did*

    *starts to sweat bullets*

  21. “musical talent is ALMOST fully covalent with mathematical talent. Absent the disdain of “acting white” and the poisonous self-hatred of western culture we could have hundreds of thousands of brilliant mathematicians and physicists coming out of the black communities in the US.”

    I fail to see the evidence to support this claim. I mean there is Darius Rucker, but he is a rare outlier, there is very little evidence of musical talent in today’s black communities.

    • If the metric is 10+ generations, then you may be overlooking the development of swing, jazz, and rock as evidence of black music talent.

    • I had a black opera singer/computer programmer working at the call center right next to me. Most of the ladies at most of my workplaces and a lot of the guys have been wonderful singers. The few who weren’t were as shy and ashamed to sing as a Welsh guy who can’t get the hang of choral singing.

    • Wait…musical or lyrical talent?
      Because Jay-Z couldn’t do a song I actually liked if I was able to come up with the money to pay him for it, but he’s not a bad lyricist.
      Musically, there’s still a few bluesmen and such out there–it’s just that they’re run over by the mass-produced rap nonsense out there.

    • You also have to bear in mind that the disdain for “acting white” extends to the musical scene as well. Black music goes mainstream, whites start to emulate it, black musicians have to come up with something that isn’t “white,” they eventually find something new that becomes popular, which then becomes absorbed into the mainstream – people are people after all – once the general population hears about it. Lather, rinse, repeat.

      Say what you will about rap and hip-hop – and I’m certainly no fan – several of its traits have been absorbed into pop music, so a lot of people actually like it.

      • Avoidance of “Acting White” is a problem because it defines in opposition: by what one isn’t, not by what one is. It has the same sorts of consequence we see in adolescent males acting up by being “not girls” rather than being men.

        Just as adolescent boys need menschen to provide models of adult behaviour, African-American Black youth need Black adults to provide guidance.

        Those more cynical* than I will look at the neutering of Bill Cosby and wonder what agenda it serves.

        *I am sure there must be some.

        • It keeps Blacks on the plantation. SWJs want them as mascots. they don’t believe in moral agency for anyone but themselves.

  22. You mention three generations to the century, and yesterday somebody comment about six generations of descendants from Africans brought over as slaves. I think those numbers are considerably off. First, most African slaves were imported by around 1800 or shortly thereafter, so there is at least a good 200 years of American ancestry in those descendants of slavery. Secondly, historically children were born at much younger ages than today, 33 (the age needed for only 3 generations per century) was old for childbirth. Most women had already had a couple of kids by twenty, so I would say that 10+ generations on American soil is a more accurate estimate for descendants of imported African slaves.

    • I thought the same thing about the three generations per century, but it sounds right if, instead of counting the typical age of first pregnancy, you count the midpoint of the childbearing years. Slightly off from exactly three per century, but not enough to call it four.

  23. Interesting theory.
    It did seem that if one adhered to the “only troublemakers became slaves” theory, then the overly-intelligent, disruptively creative, and inconveniently pious would have been part of that slave population. Is that being considered?
    It may benefit to factor in the millions of Africans killed in the Belgian Congo under King Leopold, or famines and plagues when we count overall genetic attrition in Africa.
    It is likely that many beneficial genomes were lost, and that circumstances became less optimal for guiding more healthy behaviors into inheritibility (sp?).

    • Yes, of course I consider “troublemakers” a compliment in this context.
      BTW, it wasn’t just King Leopold. The Zulus trek to the tip of Africa and the tribal wars JUST before colonization left so many dead that some of the mounds of remains became hills.
      Africans, like us, are human. (Though King Leopold deserves a particular place in hell for his handling of the Congo.)

      • ” (Though King Leopold deserves a particular place in hell for his handling of the Congo.)”

        But he makes such nice scopes!

  24. hmmmm

  25. Here’s something that only dawned on me late last night, and which I really wish I’d thought of earlier in the day, yesterday.

    The thing is, we’re all forgetting something: Ain’t nobody out there ever really tried doing eugenics in any sort of real way. Ever. It’s all been “I want more people like me, and those other weird people over there are obviously not fit to reproduce…”. It’s all been highly subjective, prejudiced, and quite blind to things like actual performance and success.

    Compare most of the notorious eugenics programs that have so thoroughly tainted the idea to the way one of my friends who bred Border Collies managed his dogs. He could tell you precisely what his dogs were doing at what age, and what they were good at–Cattle, sheep, companion. The voluminous details he had in his memory were scary, and they went back to when he was in his twenties, about 40-plus years before I knew him, and God alone knows how many generations of Border Collies. If he had a problem with one of his lines, he knew precisely which of his other lines to cross back in, and what to look for in another line he might bring in from outside his breeding program. The man had literal volumes of stuff tracking his animals longitudinally from birth to training to working lives to elder years, and knew what to expect from each line when in their lives. He, in other words, was a performance-based breeder. And, one of his rules was that he didn’t really render a judgement on his dogs until well into their working lives, either. Sometimes an uncoordinated, klutzy puppy with no apparent talent for herding turned out to be a master at it, once the dog had a chance to grow up and come into its own.

    Show me anything like that in our history of human eugenics. It’s all been done by negative selection based on some very iffy, highly prejudiced subjective characteristics, ones which turned out to be completely erroneous. How many times have there been cases of people who were sterilized because they were “unlikely to succeed”, and it turns out that they not only succeeded, they positively thrived in daily life. Sooo… That being the case, I think the problem here is not the idea of eugenics itself, it’s the stupid way we’ve gone about implementing it. The chosen criteria have all been very subjective–“Aryan appearance” “Imbecility”, things like that. Nobody has done a long-term eugenics program based on life-long performance, that I’m aware of.

    Not that I’m arguing for it, either–I don’t know how the hell you’d keep things honest, or if there’s actually a need for such things, but as I just pointed out, nobody has really tried doing a real eugenics program, in any serious way, so our prejudice against the idea based on the stupidity of past programs isn’t really valid.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      Besides the problem you mentioned, another problem eugenics programs for humans is time.

      With dogs, a single breeder can study dozens of generations of dogs to see if the program is working or not and a given dog will grow to maturity within 5 years.

      With humans, a breeder would have to wait (guestimate) 18 years to see what the mature human is like and another 18 years to see what the children of that human would be like.

      Of course, if the breeder was breeding for longer lives, the breeder would have to wait even longer.

      So without something like gene engineering, the breeder of humans would have to have an extremely long lifespan or have a team working for several human generations.

      No human eugenics program has been in operation (that we know of) for several human generations.

      • No, we keep parking tanks on the eugenicists when we see what their first generation was up to…or burning down their palaces when they finally fail.

        • It’s one of those things, I suppose, that has been irretrievably tainted by the people who first put it into action.

          I’m not so sure, however, that it’s entirely a bad idea. The concept is akin to a gun–It’s inherently neutral. The uses that it has been put to, however?

          I like the idea of free-form humanity, letting things hang loose and seeing what’s going to happen. The thing is, I’m not so sure that this is a workable concept when applied to small, isolated populations living in extreme circumstances like space habitats. Those groups are going to have to be cohesive, cooperative, and conscientious–And a lot higher degree than your average person is today. When the survival of your entire society is dependent upon everyone doing the right thing at the right time, and in the right way, I believe that our current laissez-faire way of reproducing ourselves is just not going to work. When you can only support so many people, you absolutely cannot allow your society to waste its resources supporting people who cannot work well with others, and who do not pull their own weight. Our society can survive people who don’t put their carts back after shopping the supermarket; a society living in an artificial habitat is not going to be able to afford to tolerate people who are that socially retarded, because the selfish self-centered choices they make will kill others, and potentially the entire society. The worst that can happen when you leave your shopping cart out in the parking lot at random is someone may see their car damaged; do the same with something in a space-based artificial habitat, and people are going to die. You’re going to have to create a society of unthinking altruists who do the right thing because its the right thing to do, even if it is against self-interest.

          I don’t think there has been a human society or sub-society that has ever had to function in such narrowly straightened circumstances. Maybe sub crews? Those are analogues, but now imagine trying to raise families in those circumstances–The kids are going to have to grasp the gravity of everything they do, once they’re allowed out into the general environment. When little Bobby can asphyxiate the entire station by playing with the wrong valves, little Bobby is going to have to have an instinctive understanding of the gravity of what he’s doing actually is.

          I don’t think that this sort of society or people will just happen; there’s going to have to be some form of Lamarckian evolution, if only to weed out the people with self-centered personality traits that stem from biological origins.

          • It’s one of those things, I suppose, that has been irretrievably tainted by the people who first put it into action.

            It’s an inherent problem with the thing.

            To do selective breeding, you have to treat the population as resources and the offspring as results.

            As Granny Weatherwax observed, that’s treating people like things.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              No, that’s why it’s immoral.

              Kirk was talking about the “practical” problems of the earlier attempts. [Smile]

              • He further theorized it had been tainted by association– I agree with you that it’s immoral; he thinks it’s a neutral tool.

                We hold it’s like murder; he holds it’s like killing.

      • The time thing, and the utterly trivial goals of the programs have been a key reason that led to their downfall, and the generally justified opprobrium we’ve developed for these things.

        I don’t think that automatically implies that every such effort is automatically evil, or something to be avoided at all costs. I think that it might even be beneficial, especially to small, closed societies that are going to have to do something to avoid the perils of inbreeding, anyway.

        Let us say that we were to implement a program of germ cell collection in this society, and then take a step back every generation or two, and look at the history of the various individuals whose cell lines we have on file. Say too, that we want to be able to preserve and propagate those lines whose living embodiments just suffered bad luck, like the guy who threw his body into the works to preserve the habitat and died for it. Why wouldn’t we want to see that self-sacrificing impulse propagated?

        I could envision a board process, taking place a generation or so after someone lived, looking at the records: Did so-and-so make a good leader? Why? What traits did this individual display in life? Do we want more of him/her?

        I could foresee extensive biographical details being exchanged with germ cell lines, and the high probability that reproduction might eventually become decoupled from the individual, at least to a degree. You might find that an individual set of germ cells might well be utilized generations after its last living embodiment as an actual person, decoupling reproduction from time, as well.

        Done properly, a program of eugenics might be the only thing that keeps small space-habitat based populations healthy, in a genetic sense. I don’t think that unfettered, unguided reproduction is going to work in such circumstances, over the long haul.

    • As your own example illustrates, though, it’s not as manageable as would be required for eugenics to actually work in humans if “properly” attempted: He still had problems showing up in the dogs. With relatively simple goals, a strong starting pool and massive amounts of information, it’s still too complicated to get truly consistent results, just results you can deal with.

      Incidentally, there have been attempts to breed for specific traits. Famously, a king had tall men marry tall women so he could have tall guards. Didn’t work very well, even though that experiment should have been boosted because they were getting better than nothing food.

      With humans, even measuring the results would be an issue.

  26. The question is “how will we do it?” and “How much genetic diversity will result” and “if you pull that lever will it destroy that cog we didn’t notice, but which is vital.”

    RAH has already been mentioned. In Beyond This Horizon genetic engineering was a mature technology. There were a number of rules as to what was allowed and what was forbidden. There were also “control naturals”, people whose line had never been subject to gene engineering. Apparently, control naturals received a stipend of some sort in exchange for giving up the benefits of a superior genome.

    When improvements on the human genome become a routine thing, and we start really worrying about destroying some bit of code that turns out to be vital, what incentive will suffice to create a population that has kept all these bits in their DNA?