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America vs. The World

The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart. — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Jefferson: Closet Muslim?

Remember Keith Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress? I wrote about him a few weeks ago because some people were outraged after hearing he wanted to take his oath of office on a copy of the Koran rather than the Bible.

Well, that turned out to be a bunch of hooey. No one in Congress uses any sort of book when they take their oath — everyone just raises their right hand and swears in unison. People are free to have all the unofficial swearing in ceremonies they like, however, involving the Bible, Bhagavad Gita, Book of Mormon, can swear on a stack of Fantastic Fours if you want.

So yes, after the official ceremony, Ellison is having a private swearing-in with Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Ellison is one smart cookie, though. He's using Thomas Jefferson's personal copy of the Koran, on loan from the Library of Congress.

How un-American of Ellison. And Mr. Jefferson.


Anonymous tet said...

When I heard this, my respect for the man jumped by about a factor of ten. Pretty damn clever.


Blogger Buck B. said...

I'm just impressed that TJ had his own Koran. How pimp is that?

Anonymous tet said...

I think that people really underestimate the sophistication of the late-18th Century intellectuals. From reading their works, it is obvious that many of the founders were considerably more educated in history, philosophy and political science than I.

Remember, people haven't had a significant increase in intelligence since at least the end of the last Ice Age, as far as anyone can tell.

Buck, have you ever read Washington's collected letters? I would suggest them to virtually anyone interested in the history of the time.

The Federalist Papers, of course, were the 1780s version of blogging, with articles espousing points, counter-points in opposing journals. I think that I would have been most comfortable within the Enlightenment of any previous historical period. (I'd want to have my vaccinations before I went, however.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Couple comments for Tet

1) Indeed, there hasn't been a significant (if any) increase in intelligence at least since the beginning of agriculture. There hasn't been an evolutionary presence for such. In fact, the most recent evolutionary pressures are for decrease.

2) Yes, 18th century intellectuals were impressive. They has some big advantages over us, especially time. Absent TV, phones and other modern distractions, there is lots of reading and thinking a person can do if one is so inclined.

Anonymous tet said...

What do you think the evolutionary pressures for lower intelligence are?


Anonymous P. Pirx said...

Check out the current demographics of first world countries, which parts of the population breed below replacement rate and which above. Extrapolate and draw conclusions.

Anonymous tet said...

Oh, so you're saying that immigrant populations have below average intelligences, since that's where the high birth rate lies.


If you could extrapolate from this, one would then find that the population of the United States should be one of the dumbest on Earth, since most of the population is descended from immigrants.

If that is true, how can you explain the powerful status of America?

Or are you just referring to Islamics (mostly African) in Europe or Latinos in America? That certainly smacks of eugenics.

I don't think that the birthrate difference in Europe and America has anthing to do with intelligence whatsoever.

I think it is much more likely that it is tied to the availability of abortion in America and the rise of feminism and general affluence here and in Europe. When children are seen as a detriment, rather than an asset, populations decline.

Immigrant populations with none of the above will obviously have a higher birth rate.


Anonymous P. Pirx said...

Response to Tet

I did not say a single word about immigrants. I've (to put it very mildly) a very dim opinion of people who try to attribute to me things I didn't say. Now, I won't go as far as to raise accusations of intentional distortion since, as the saying goes, "Don't attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity". But, whether it is malice or stupidity, there is little reason for continued conversation. So long.

Anonymous tet said...

Bah! You asked us, using demographics, to show which portions of the populations of first world countries were breeding above and below the replacement rate.

The answer, easily determinable from census figures, in all cases:

Immigrants and racial minorities--above

Native white people--below

Don't ask ME to examine a statement that you have rigged to be weaselly racist and then call *me* stupid or malicious, you bastard.

I don't give a rat's ass whether *you're* a eugenicist or a racist, but at least have the cojones to *admit* it, rather than doing the "wink-wink, nudge-nudge" route.

Demographics *are* race, religion, place of birth and financial status.


Blogger Chance-86 said...

You all totally walked away from the most interesting political point of the entire least in my *humble* opinion: How the availability of "abortion on demand" has changed, and will continue to change the demographics of our country and our world.
Because my parents are of the 'baby boomer' generation, I grew up hearing the fears and then debates about when Medicare and Social Security will finally go bankrupt. The interesting tidbit that has always been absent from the equation is that we have spent the last 30 years aborting the consumers and workforce that would have supported the retiring boomers. Our laws, that largely reflected the lifestyles and desires of the boomers, actually created this problem.

Oh yeah, and I TOTALLY have to comment on the point that one of things that dumbs-down our society is the electronic babysitting that we, even as adults, use to keep our minds in a state of occupation instead of actually thinking, learning, and god-forbid, reading.

Anonymous P. Pirx said...

to Chance

I agree with you that modern demographic developments pose some serious (I would even say "severe, in some places") problems. But, in my opinion, "abortion on demand" is a bit of a red herring here. Two demographic observations which are known for a long time are that birthrates are inversely correlated with affluence and that rural families tend to have more children than urban ones. That's not a modern thing. We've records of the Emperor Augustus exhorting the Roman nobility to have more children (to little effect, as I recall). Later on, in the 18th Century, we have Adam Smith wwriting in the "Wealth of Nations" about (I'm quoting from memory here, so the wording may be inexact, but the content is correct) the "Highlands woman who gives birth to dozen children or more, of whom perhaps two or three survive, while the society lady in London will rarely be bothered with more than one". And in more modern (but not quite modern) times we've the big drop in the French birthrate beginning in the late 19th century. This one had profound repercussions. But I digress.

The point being, whenever affluence rose and people moved from the countryside to cities, birth rates dropped, even if officially there were no birth control means available. Where there is a demand, a supply will be found. So, as I see it, would "Roe versus Wade" never have happened, the situation nowadays would've been pretty much the same. In fact, most people don't recall (modern population having rather short attention span and not much memory) that already way before Roe versus Wade there was a steady process of more and more states legalizing abortion and this process would've reached its logical conclusion just the same without any intervention from the Supreme Court. As I said, where there is a demand, a supply will be found.

The two key factors are affluence and urban life. As much as we like to bitch about poverty, we live in the most affluent times in history. Heck, just as an illustration of how affluent we're, obesity is rapidly becoming one of the major health problem of the poor. Do you realize what it means? The poor, throughout history, suffered from many afflictions but obesity was never one of them (they would like it to be, but had no chance of getting to that situation:-)) And as for urban life, the last two generations are the first time in history that the majority of the population (in the First World) lives in cities. Vast majority, often. Throughout recorded history, even in highly developed countries, some 80% of the population was rural.

So, these are unstoppable forces. They're not to be controlled and/or channeled by this or other legislation. Social mores or religion may have some more success, for a while, but not indefinitely either.

We live in a nonlinear system. Our life styles shape the world around us and this world, in turn, shapes our lifestyles. That's life

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Jeff Goldstein is a wanker.