Dr Kanazawa.
November 6, 2006 6:44 PM   Subscribe

I find my interest piqued by some of Dr Satoshi Kanazawa's ideas. Especially regarding The conformist culture of Asia. But also: The Myth of Racial Discrimination in Pay in the United States[pdf]. He works hard thinking.
posted by econous (27 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
He has great article titles. Also worth noting he's the co-author of this book which looks great.
posted by Hogshead at 7:14 PM on November 6, 2006

Although the conformity factor was only a small percentage of the issues presented in link 2, the read is quite interesting, although harsh. The choice of words seems rough and abrasive, observing no semblance of Political Correctness in its endless hammering of those of asian backgrounds.

The third link (warning! PDF) I found to be more useful. It tries to honestly address pay differences by race, but inadvertantly highlights the importance of education in general and one's verbal IQ in particular. Minorities are statistically less likely to learn how to express themselves eloquently and don't get the respect granted by being so capable. They then organize as a societal sub-set that values the group dynamic higher than the individual. The losses accrued by the first part then easily get skewed as the result of the minority grouping instead of as the cause.
posted by mystyk at 7:21 PM on November 6, 2006

Oh, and don't forget this gem from link 2:
"Physicists don't have to deal with "certaintyists" or "three-dimensionalists" the way we must deal with creationists because they keep the civilians ignorant about the true nature of their theories. Any effort to educate them would only have deleterious consequences. It seems to me that evolutionary psychologists can learn lessons from physicists. Keep them ignorant (the civilians, not the physicists). Let them be taught creationism and "intelligent design" in schools along with evolution. The smart few will realize that there is something wrong with creationism and naturally opt for evolution. They belong with us. Who cares about the rest?"
posted by mystyk at 7:31 PM on November 6, 2006

Some of this was posted here earlier, I believe. I can not find the previous discussion, however.

It seems the doctor overstates a great many of his positions. This may be a rhetorical flourish, but it seems to both devalue any science he's conducting, and distort what might be otherwise interesting (if troubling) positions into straw-men.

I'll give one example:

It is true, as Miller points out, that English is universally taught as a second language in all Asian nations. But that does not mean that Asian students learn it. In fact, Asians are notoriously poor at acquiring foreign languages, particularly English, compared to the relative ease with which Europeans speak English. Their low verbal intelligence may explain their difficulty.

Actually, Kanazawa points out just a paragraph earlier that for "East Asians in Asia, the mean verbal IQ is 101.4." This isn't as good as the 108.6 visualization IQ for the same group, but it's hardly evidence that, "Asians are notoriously poor at acquiring foreign languages."

I could go on, but it hardly seems worthwhile.
posted by Richard Daly at 8:20 PM on November 6, 2006

Definitely an interesting read. He's quite the pragmatist:

But our enemies are not fundamentalist Christians; they are instead our university colleagues in Women's and Cultural Studies Departments.
posted by unmake at 9:10 PM on November 6, 2006

Without practice (with fluent speakers), eloquent language skills are notoriously difficult to cultivate.

That said, in my experience, within the scientific (biology) community, non-English as-a-first-language Europeans are far better English speakers than Asians. Biological scientists from the Indian subcontinent tend to be more fluent, but tend to have a heavier accent than other Asians who may not have as wide a vocabulary & grammatical ability.

Of course, there are exceptions - especially mainland Chinese researchers who spend time in Europe before coming to Canada. Apparently, there are programs that people can apply (and compete for) that include intensive language skills training and only the best language learners get funding to go overseas.

Between China, Japan, Taiwan, and Vietnam, I find that Japanese biological researchers have the hardest time learning English and speaking it well. I wonder if it's because they've adopted (and corrupted) English into their popular culture and tend to rely on the corrupted English rather than recognize the difference between the Queen's/American/Canadian English?
posted by porpoise at 9:10 PM on November 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Richard Daly's comment about Satoshi Kanazawa is spot-on. Kanazawa is a terrible statistician and the fact that his papers were published by the Journal of Theoretical Biology just demonstrates how clueless many of the people working in the field of evolutionary psychology are. Andrew Gelman, a statistics professor at Columbia University, has two very interesting and educational posts on his website where goes through the statistical errors that Kanazawa made in his articles entitled Engineers have more sons, nurses have more daughters and Beautiful parents have more daughters.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 9:42 PM on November 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Thanks for that JFB. I read through the conformism paper and it looked like a rant more than anything else. Especially that bit about how he bases everything on Nobel prize winners!
posted by dhruva at 10:45 PM on November 6, 2006

the hardest time learning English and speaking it well

I reckon English is one of the hardest languages to learn and speak well as a second language, especially if you start learning it at an older age. This would apply to anybody, irrespective of whether they were Japanese or not.
posted by dhruva at 10:50 PM on November 6, 2006

Virtually all European languages are very closely related, so of course Europeans find it easier to learn to speak to each other. Most Indian languages are also (more distantly) related to European languages, not to mention the fact that English is one of the two official tongues of the government of India.

So why the hell would anyone conclude that East Asians struggle to learn English because they are "verbally" stupid? English is totally unlike their own language, and they are not heavily exposed to it as part of their wider culture.
posted by mr. strange at 12:29 AM on November 7, 2006

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Evolutionary Psychology is just intelligent design backwards. Post-hoc justifications for preconceived notions.
posted by srboisvert at 1:45 AM on November 7, 2006

Second Jasper Friendly Bear above.

The 2nd link is ridiculous on its face. The relationship between Nobel laurates per capita and country could be supposed to be due to many factors. To claim the only obvious explanation is native talent is moronic.

Econous if you're in the field I suspect you to be, better stats is usually required. (Stay calm, be brave, and look for better papers.)
posted by ~ at 5:09 AM on November 7, 2006

Yeah seconding Mr Strange- since most Asians grow up with a native tongue completely different from English it seems foolish to compare their relative fluency in acquiring the language. Also to compare Asian Nobel prize winners against Europeans without giving a thought to whether an award that is given in Europe may favour American/Europeans seems to be a bit of a stretch. Also the comparison that more Nobel awards are given to Asians in science as compared to literature could again be argued as showing the cultural bias of the European award as literature appreciation is even more subjective and culture based than scientific recognition.

However I did chuckle at the 'What are Christian Fundamentalists going to do to us? Refuse to pump our gas? Spit in our Big Mac?'. Marks for polemicism? 9. Marks for convincing scientific case? 4.
posted by Gratishades at 5:15 AM on November 7, 2006

An entertaining writer but a jerk and a sloppy thinker (both qualities on parade in his feminist-bashing). I would like to know how much truth there is in this:
The communist government of PRC has a policy of not letting their brightest students leave the country for fear of the brain drain and of forcing them to study home at Chinese universities. Then it sends the second-rate students to American universities and the third-rate students to British universities, both with falsified transcripts and exam results to make them look first-rate. Here at LSE where I teach, we receive a large number of these third-rate Chinese students dressed up as first-rate. (About 5-10% of all undergraduate and graduate students at LSE are from PRC.) Virtually every Chinese applicant to LSE boasts "the highest exam scores in their province." Apparently it has not occurred to the LSE admissions office that there could not possibly be that many provinces in China. Naturally, most of these PRC students do very poorly and fail out of the program, and, when they do, many confess to having purchased or otherwise fabricated their exam scores and transcripts before they applied for LSE.
It makes sense, but I don't trust anything this guy says.
posted by languagehat at 5:18 AM on November 7, 2006

~: Not in the field, but thanks for the encouragement, that was kind. I liked his use of deliberately provocative language. Thought I would post it here for you all to enjoy.
posted by econous at 6:44 AM on November 7, 2006

So... does that mean Americans should be learning Japanese with ease? I know a few people that have taken some years in Japanese and they still can't speak it worth a damn.
posted by Talanvor at 7:53 AM on November 7, 2006

I'm guessing this two-day old article is what piqued econous' interest: Africans are poor and at ill-health because they are stupid
posted by prost at 8:31 AM on November 7, 2006

His third link is actually what I do for a living. That is, compare how protected groups (minorities women) are paid for the same work while factoring in things like tenure, experience, age etc. I can assure you that minorities, especially blacks are paid less for the same work. While it is not as prevalent as many would expect, it does happen. Typically when we find it in a company it is rather glaring. Most often a company simply wants the best person for the job. But every once in a while there is obvious systemic discrimination with no explanation other than race. More common is that woman are not paid equally for the same work. Especially in banks. One explanation/excuse is that women ask for less money coming into the job. And while it makes sense for the company to give no more than what the candidate asks... technically and legally this is still discrimination.

What he seems to be saying in the third link is that if blacks are not paid at the same rate as nonblacks it is because they are not as smart as the rest of the workforce.... regardless of education. I didn't have the patience to wade through his statistics, so I don't know if it is bunk or not.
posted by hatchetjack at 8:32 AM on November 7, 2006

Wow, thanks for that link, prost. Now I really dislike the guy:

Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist, is now accused of reviving the politics of eugenics by publishing the research which concludes that low IQ levels, rather than poverty and disease, are the reason why life expectancy is low and infant mortality high.

posted by languagehat at 9:18 AM on November 7, 2006

porpoise: Between China, Japan, Taiwan, and Vietnam, I find that Japanese biological researchers have the hardest time learning English and speaking it well. I wonder if it's because they've adopted (and corrupted) English into their popular culture and tend to rely on the corrupted English rather than recognize the difference between the Queen's/American/Canadian English?

It's partly because English in Japan is generally taught using katakana (syllabic script), by teachers who don't speak much English themselves. Because there's a large difference between English phonemes and Japanese ones, you can't really learn to pronounce English correctly using katakana. The limitations of the character set (not being able to write stand-alone consonants except n, not being able to express double consonants without introducing a glottal stop, etc.) continually enforce the Japanese accent. The same is true in reverse -- English speakers who rely on romanization rather than native Japanese characters usually end up with a heavy English accent, because their syllables aren't properly spaced. In a perfect world, beginning J-E and E-J texts would stop using the native character set to describe pronunciation after the first few chapters, but most books I've seen let the student keep his or her katakana/romaji crutch for months, if not years.

Here's an article in which somebody talks about the "katakana problem", and here's the abstract for a paper on it.
posted by vorfeed at 9:33 AM on November 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

Minorities are statistically less likely to learn how to express themselves eloquently and don't get the respect granted by being so capable.

Looking at the African-American minority, it's interesting that they have produced what I suspect is the world's first generation of millionaires whose wealth is based entirely upon their eloquence: rap singers. In fact, they have, over the course of a few years, created an entirely new art form based solely on speech, eloquence, and making words do thing they have never done before.
posted by Faze at 9:43 AM on November 7, 2006

Huh, thanks vorfeed!
posted by porpoise at 1:01 PM on November 7, 2006

An interesting discussion, peppered with fascinating links. MeFi at its best.
posted by punilux at 2:21 PM on November 7, 2006

Are people here actually interested in Kanazawa's arguments and writings or are they interested in the idea of someone like Kanazawa writing obviously unscientific, blatantly racist editorials? I'm having difficulty telling which and it's scaring me.
posted by kensanway at 3:16 PM on November 7, 2006

I would say the statistics and research speak for themselves kensanway.
posted by econous at 4:08 PM on November 7, 2006

I would say the statistics and research speak for themselves kensanway.

So, not very well then.
posted by longdaysjourney at 2:27 PM on November 9, 2006

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