The link between Muscle and Authority

No surprise here for students of Authoritarianism (which includes the philosophical position that “Might Is Right”) but note the highlighted sentence in this passage:

Multiple studies conducted from the US, East India, Bolivia and the Central African Republic show that physically strong men have a greater sense of entitlement, a shorter fuse on anger, and are more likely to turn aggressive when angry. The effects are quite substantial, often two to four times larger than the known effect of testosterone on aggression.

What this tells us is that Bullying (the basis of most Authoritarian politics, not just “right-wing”) cannot be blamed on hormones. It is clearly more influenced by culture and THAT we can do something about…

What IS missing from all reports of this research I’ve seen to date (the online source of the actual paper is behind a pay wall) is any reference to the inverse relationship between Authoritarianism (including, of course, the physical aggression the paper has studied) and intellect. Which is a shame because most bullies and authoritarians quite like the idea of being painted as physically strong (as evidenced by headlines we’re already seeing like “Now I know Why Labour Supporters are nancies“) but are less keen on trumpeting their intellectual inferiority…

Marijuana Improves Mental Sharpness In Middle-Aged Men: Study – Toke of the Town

the prohibitionists are going to be so pissed off at this

and just to rub it in, a couple of days later we learn that moderate alchohol consumption also improves creativity.

Makes yer think there might have been a point to getting pissed…

Climate-change scepticism must be ‘treated’, says enviro-sociologist • The Register

this idiot is an example of the problem rather than solution. I happen to be a firm believer in climate change and the need for action myself. But the idea that you can bully the sceptics into conformity by charging them with irrationality is as scientifically and politically illiterate as most other authoritarian arguments.

The plain truth is that the entire edifice of science is constructed on intellectually strong but pathetically insecure foundations. Until we have an audited peer review system, there is no honest argument against rejection of almost any hypothesis purely on the basis that you are not satisfied that the evidence has been properly gathered, analysed and fairly summarised.

When we choose to believe a particular scientific theory at the moment, it remains an act of faith that the entire system has been conducted with appropriate integrity.

That being said, some such acts of faith are more rational than others. My own faith, for example, in the plausibility of the Theory of Evolution rests on the irrationality of the conspiracy theory required to cast doubt upon it. i.e. we would have to believe that several million scientists have collaborated, over a period of a hundred and fifty years, to fabricate the evidence and misrepresent the findings which flow from that evidence. It is, frankly, much easier to believe that the majority of relevant research has been entirely honest.

But that cannot be so glibly stated on either side of the Climate arguments. Personally, I tend to favour the credibility and motives of those who tell us that the Climate is warming and that we can and should do something about it. But I recognise that my preference, in the absence of an immutable audit trail, is no more than faith in the benign intentions of those researchers.

Flying like a bird | part 14/14 – YouTube

Inspirational. Even if it’s NOT real…

The web is currently divided between sceptics and believers. The sceptics are whingeing that it’s physically impossible. That’s because they’re assuming it’s human-powered flight. It isn’t. And no-one is pretending that it is. It’s servo assisted with battery-powered engines and controlled by Wii interfaces. All entirely plausible, subject only to the amount of battery power he needs and can carry – which would explain why he can only manage a couple of hundred metres – though that is about 3 times as far as the Wright Brothers first flight.

Clever stuff and the result of an engineering graduate’s 8 month R&D project. The whole 15 part story is on youtube. Well worth watching. This is the final part – the successful flight that made it all worthwhile.

I’d say he’s scored an A there…

If, that is, it’s real. And this story has become more interesting to me because it’s hotly disputed and yet impossible to either verify or refute. A classic Trusted Surveillance case study. It wouldn’t be an issue if he had a fully documented audit trail open to examination if disputed.

On the Up side, the project is plausible, as confirmed by the interview with Prof Bert Otten. I’ve been able to check him out and he really is a Professor of Neuromechanics at the University of Groningen.

On the Down side, Jarno Smeets is a pseudonym (hardly something I’m going to complain about) but one without any previous history. Like it was invented purely for the purpose of this project.

On the Up side, if it is a fake, I’d give him an A for that. The sheer amount of effort that has gone into it, fake or not, makes it, at the very least, a work of art.

On the Down side, if it was real, why on earth would he be so reluctant to repeat it, in front of the world’s cameras?

That last, for me at the moment, is the most significant fact. I can’t believe that anyone who had done that for real would be so reticent about repeating the feat. Indeed, failing to respond to the obvious demand would be bordering on the psychotic – given the huge appearance fees he could probably command, not to mention the obvious range of product endorsements he could subsequently select from. He would quickly and easily become a multi millionaire, which would in turn, fund his other no doubt equally ambitious projects. What kind of nutter would reject such an opportunity?

But even that’s not a clincher. He’s Dutch and the Scandinavians are notoriously prone to anti-commercialism. Think Linus Torvalds, ferinstance, who created Linux for free. Yes he has done well for himself as a result of the reputation that earned him. But that’s the point. He earned it. That could be the motivation of Mr Smeets…

Women really are worse at parking says Driving Standards Agency | Mail Online

I have to say this is fascinating and pretty convincing. It definitely says something about gender based driving skills.

But it doesn’t tally with my personal experience. 3 of the most important women in my life are amongst the best drivers I know, all having driven big trucks for a living. One also spent time as a commercial bus driver and the other two led truck based expeditions the full length of Africa. You don’t survive long driving trucks if you can’t park pretty competently and I remain jealous of my wife’s ability to reverse using her wing mirrors alone. I can’t…

Scientists stumped by mysterious foam causing hog farms to explode | Mail Online

tragic though this obviously is for the ham, we may have inadvertently discovered a novel way to farm the methane created by the pig slurry, and that could be worth its weight in oil…

Culture–gene coevolution of individualism–collectivism and the serotonin transporter gene

It’s rare I leap to defend Christianity, but such a defence is at the heart of my critique of this novel research, or rather its conclusions.

Whilst it is no great surprise to find a genetic marker that predisposes populations towards either collectivism or individualism, I don’t buy the pathogen based explanation. At least not yet. Seems to me equally likely that non conformists might simply have been killed off at a higher rate that conformists and that would have led to a similar excess of the relevant genetic marker. The pathogen excess might have played its part by “justifying” coerced conformity on the grounds of disease protection but the lethal abilities of the authoritarian deserve full examination too.

In the past century we’ve seen just how effective and lethal the authoritarians can be. And we know that the Asian societies have had such authoritarianism embedded in them for just as long as all the western societies. Take society back a couple of thousand years and we were all living in extremely hierarchical authoritarian societies. Any keen student of political history will be aware that the notion of individual liberty is, historically, a very recent phenomenon which emerged in the enlightened thoughts of western philosophers and produced the wave of 18th century revolutions in Europe and America. ONLY.

The major obvious difference is religion. One major advantage (from the point of view of an Anarchist like me) of Christianity is that, initially at least, (and still today in its purest forms), it sanctified individualism and subverted the ruling/owning class. And secular or not, western society is built on mainly Christian inspired tenets.

I would argue, therefore, that it’s possible that, up to, say 1500 years ago, we wouldn’t have found the differences in the Serotonin Transporter gene. But that the spread of individualism nurtured by Christianity permitted the individuals to survive and breed, thus increasing the prevalence of the individualist version of the gene.

And like all good hypotheses, mine is testable. If my conjecture is sound, then my prediction is that we’ll find the same prevalence of the relevant genes in the Islamic community as in the Asian community, because their religion has pointedly not nurtured individualism like Christianity.

Culture–gene coevolution of individualism–collectivism and the serotonin transporter gene.