mara hvistendahl responds to dawkins

mara hvistendahl has responded to richard dawkins who said that her book on the “missing girls” in india and china is critical of science. she says that it is not. further she says:

“[B]eginning in the 1960s a separate group of scientists proposed pushing along research into sex selection — not simply using existing techniques, but actively funding new work — for a reason that had nothing to do with avoiding disease or improving maternal health.

“These scientists were interested in sex selection’s significance in the developing world, where studies had shown many couples wanted at least one son. The idea there was not simply to help parents achieve the family composition of their dreams; it was to stop couples in countries like South Korea, India, and Taiwan from continuing to have girls until they got a boy. To quote from just two of the papers and books mentioning this approach at the time:

“‘A type of research which would have a great effect on population control would be that related to the discovery of methods for sex determination. It has been suggested that if one could predetermine that the first offspring would be a male, it would have a great effect on the size of the family.’ – William D. McElroy, BioScience, 1969

“‘[I]f a simple method could be found to guarantee that first-born children were males, then population control problems in many areas would be somewhat eased.’ – Paul Ehrlich, The Population Bomb, 1968….

“While Western science is not to blame for the disappearance of tens of millions of females from the global population, some Westerners did play a role in bringing sex selection to Asia. It is this role I hope we can discuss.”

first of all, no — westerners did not play a role in “bringing sex selection to Asia.” sure these guys had a role in bringing prenatal sex selection to asia, but asians already did PLENTY of sex selection long before the white man took any hand in it as i showed in my post yesterday. and that sex selection was probably based on INFANTICIDE — and one could make the argument that quite a lot of suffering has been avoided by eliminating a good deal of that.

and, secondly, “it is this role [of westerners] I hope we can discuss.” i’m not sure what there is to discuss, but ok.

what? is not population control — particularly in asia where there are waaaaay too many people that they can barely even feed everybody — not a problem? should we not help asians with their population problem? i think we should. we’ve all got to share this planet and if they’ve got population problems, we’ve got population problems.

there is clearly also a problem with having too many men in a society, but the asians need to work that one out for themselves. politically. they need to, i dunno, have a quota system per district and/or a lottery system (short stick? sorry, you’ll just have to be happy with a girl child). or monetary incentives to have girls! there’s a good one. everybody likes monetary incentives! encourage people to have more girls by handing out cash or free education or dowry funds or whatever.

how’s that for a plan?

previously: mara hvistendahl is a…

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mara hvistendahl is a…

…person who is really wrong about the gender imbalance issue in china and india.

in her recently published book, she apparently blames westerners for all the missing girls. from the guardian:

“Much of the literature on sex selection has suggested that cultural patterns explain the phenomenon. But Hvistendahl lays the blame squarely on western governments and businesses that have exported technology and pro-abortion practices without considering the consequences. Amniocentesis and ultrasound scans have had largely positive applications in the west, where they have been used to detect foetal abnormalities. But exported to Asia and eastern Europe they have been intricately linked to an explosion of sex selection and a mushrooming of female abortions.

“Hvistendahl claims western governments actively promoted abortion and sex selection in the developing world, encouraging the liberalisation of abortion laws and subsidising sales of ultrasounds as a form of population control.

‘It took millions of dollars in funding from US organisations for sex determination and abortion to catch on in the developing world,’ she writes.”

yes, yes — it was the evil westerners. again.

never mind that she’s totally wrong.

coincidentally, emmanuel todd brought up this very topic in his book that i just posted about yesterday [pgs. 48-49]:

“Female infanticide

“Undoubtedly the best indication of the fiercely agnatic character of the Indian family is the existence of a virulent tradition of female infanticide, more marked in north India even than in China. Recent Indian censuses consistently reveal a striking imbalance between the sexes: and excess of males denotes a massacre of female babies. A special supplement to the 1971 census was devoted to the sex ratio which, while normal in south India, frequently falls below 9 women to 10 men in north India (8.8 in Uttar Pradesh, near Delhi). In one group of villages in the Kangra district (Punjab) where a census was held in 1855, there were among children aged 4 to 14 only 393 girls for 1,000 boys.

1855. that’s just a few years before ultrasounds and amniocentesis tests were exported to the east by us evil westerners.

for a change, i’m in agreement with richard dawkins: Sex selection and the shortage of women: is science to blame?

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more on solving the “polygamy problem”


“A major trait distinguishes the African family models as a whole from their European, American and Asiatic equivalents: widespread polygyny, which is only one central element of a whole system. The numbers of men and women in any community being roughly the same, a proportion of polygamous marriages of 30 per cent or more of all unions implies the existence of peculiar demographic mechanisms. One of these is a wide age difference between husband and wife. Women marry much younger than men and on average have more years of married life: the excess of ‘female married years’ is what makes general polygamy possible. To create a demographic balance, remarriage has to be frequent. Often it is not a question of remarriage but simply of inheritance, a widow being automatically transferred as wife to the man designated by the rules of succession. This implies a certain weakness or even the non-existence of prohibitions on marriages between affines; a man can inherit wives from his brother and from his father, although naturally his own mother is excluded. This practice, which is fairly frequent in Africa, flagrantly contravenes bothe the Christian and the Muslim teaching on incest.” [The Explanation of Ideology, pg. 192]

so, i think i may have been on the right track re. solving the “polygamy problem” (i.e. that if some men hoard all the women, other men will be cheated out of a chance to get a wife/wives). the trick must be to recirculate the women as much as possible. i suggested divorce as a possible strategy. in african societies, some men just inherit wives from male family members.

perhaps other men are still left out, tho. maybe women just circulate around the “alpha male” circles. getting your hands on some captive, slave women (as suggested by greying wanderer) is probably another solution.

previously: solving the “polygamy problem”?

update 06/22: see also side-effects of polygamy in three african societies

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solving the “polygamy problem”?

it’s been pointed out — right here in the hbd-o-sphere! — that polygamy isn’t necessarily all that great for guys — specifically the ones that don’t manage to obtain a wife (’cause some other guys have married them all).

but i think that, at least in the muslim world in the middle ages, they may have gotten around that problem through divorce. divorce was, apparently, waaaay more common in the middle east during the medieval period than it is today. i’m thinking that such a system of, basically, continual wife (or husband depending on your pov) swapping might solve the “polygamy problem.”

here, from “Marriage, Money and Divorce in Medieval Islamic Society” [pgs. 2 & 5]:

“The pre-modern Middle East was another traditional society that had consistently high rates of divorce over long periods of time. Despite some current misgivings over the imminent disintegration of the Muslim family as a result of frequent divorces, the fact is that divorce rates were higher in Ottoman or medieval Muslim societies than they are today….

“The incidence of divorce in Mamluk society was remarkably high. The diary of the notary Shihab al-Din Ibn Tawq gives ample testimony to the pervasiveness of divorce in late fifteenth-centry Damascus, and the work of the contemporary Egyptian scholar Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sakhawi (d. 902/1497) does the same for Cairo. In his mammoth centennial biographical dictionary, containing 12,000 entries for notable men and women, al-Sakhawi recorded information on the marital history of about 500 women. This sample, the largest we have for any period of medieval Islam … shows a pattern of repeated divorces and remarriages by Mamluk women. At least a third of all the women mentioned by al-Sakhawi married more than once, with many marrying three times or more. The reason for the high rates of remarriage was mainly the frequency of divorce; according to al-Sakhawi’s records, three out of ten marriages in fifteenth-century Cairo ended in divorce.”

and on polygamous marriages [pg. 86]:

“Among the many unstable marriages in fifteenth-century Cairo, polygamous marriages stand out as particularly so. A married man would often choose to conceal a second marriage from the public eye in order to avoid trouble with his first wife. [heh. (~_^)] But when his first wife did find out, the man would often have to choose between the two. ‘Aziza bt. ‘Ali al-Zayyadi (d. 879/1475), the daughter of a Cairene scholar, married the Meccan scholar ‘Afif al-Din al-Iji when he visited Cairo. This marriage was kept secret from his first wife and paternal cousin, Habibat Allah bt. ‘Abd al-Rahman, who remained in Mecca. But when the Cairene wife accompanied her husband to Mecca, ‘Afif al-Din was forced to divorce her after pressure from the first wife. In other cases it was the second wife who gained the upper hand. Najm al-Din Ibn Hijji preferred not to consummate his marriage with his young bride and relative, Fatima bt. ‘Abd al-Rahman Ibn al-Baizi (d. 899/1494), because he had married a second and more mature woman. Al-Sakhawi tells us that his second wife ‘took hold of his heart,’ and convinced him to divorce his cousin.”

maybe, if you keep enough women circulating in the “women-you-can-marry-pool,” you can get around the problem in polygamy that some men are cheated out of getting wives. you might get stuck with a second-hand wife (or two) — and maybe you don’t get her for keeps — but maybe you do get a chance to reproduce.

or, maybe, the alpha males just kept swapping all the wives between themselves. dunno.

as an aside, here’s some info from the same book on divorce rates in other, traditional societies [pg. 2]:

“[H]istorical examples of past societies in which divorce rates have been consistently high[:] Two major examples are pre-modern Japan and Islamic Southeast Asia. In nineteenth-century Japan at least one in eight marriages ended in divorce. In West Java and the Malay Peninsula divorce rates were even higer reaching 70 percent in some villages, as late as the middle of the twentieth century…. In direct opposition to developments in the West, modernity brought with it greater stability in marriage and a sharp decline in divorce rates.”

update 06/22: see also more on solving the “polygamy problem” and side-effects of polygamy in three african societies

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does this make you feel suicidal?


via ncbi rofl:


“In a sample of 18 European nations, suicide rates were positively associated with the proportion of low notes in the national anthems and, albeit less strongly, with students’ ratings of how gloomy and how sad the anthems sounded, supporting a hypothesis proposed by Rihmer.

“‘For most of the 20th Century, Hungary had the highest suicide rate in the world and, also, among immigrants to the United States, Hungarians had the highest suicide rates (Lester, 1994). Hungary is also known for the ‘suicide song’ — ‘Gloomy Sunday‘ — which was written by a Hungarian (Rezso Seress) in 1933 and which was banned from radio stations since it seemed to induce people to commit suicide (Stack, Krysinska, & Lester, 2007–2008). Rihmer (1997) noted that the Hungarian national anthem was very sad and, in an informal study of suicide rates in European nations, declared that higher national suicide rates were associated with more low notes in national anthems….

“Male and female suicides rates were weakly associated with the ratings of gloomy (Pearson rs = .30 and .42, respectively, one-tailed ps = .11 and .04), with the ratings of sad (rs = .23 and .40, respectively, ps = .18 and .05), and with the proportion of low notes (r = .63 and .54, respectively, ps = .003 and .01). The proportion of low notes was associated with the ratings of gloomy and sad (rs = .52 and .44, ps = .02 and .04, respectively). Thus, Rihmer’s suggestion was supported by the present analysis….”

cheery lyrics to the hungarian national anthem, too:


O Lord, bless the nation of Hungary
With your grace and bounty
Extend over it your guarding arm
During strife with its enemies
Long torn by ill fate
Bring upon it a time of relief
This nation has suffered for all sins
Of the past and of the future!

You brought our ancestors up
Over the Carpathians’ holy peaks
By You was won a beautiful homeland
For Bendeguz’s sons
And wherever flow the rivers of
The Tisza and the Danube
Árpád our hero’s descendants
Will root and bloom.

For us on the plains of the Kuns
You ripened the wheat
In the grape fields of Tokaj
You dripped sweet nectar
Our flag you often planted
On the wild Turk’s earthworks
And under Mátyás’ grave army whimpered
Vienna’s “proud fort.”

Ah, but for our sins
Anger gathered in Your bosom
And You struck with Your lightning
From Your thundering clouds
Now the plundering Mongols’ arrows
You swarmed over us
Then the Turks’ slave yoke
We took upon our shoulders.

How often came from the mouths
Of Osman’s barbarian nation
Over the corpses of our defeated army
A victory song!
How often did your own son agress
My homeland, upon your breast,
And you became because of your own sons
Your own sons’ funeral urn!

The fugitive hid, and towards him
The sword reached into his cave
Looking everywhere he could not find
His home in his homeland
Climbs the mountain, descends the valley
Sadness and despair his companions
Sea of blood beneath his feet
Ocean of flame above.

Castle stood, now a heap of stones
Happiness and joy fluttered,
Groans of death, weeping
Now sound in their place.
And Ah! Freedom does not bloom
From the blood of the dead,
Torturous slavery’s tears fall
From the burning eyes of the orphans!

Pity, O Lord, the Hungarians
Who are tossed by waves of danger
Extend over it your guarding arm
On the sea of its misery
Long torn by ill fate
Bring upon it a time of relief
They who have suffered for all sins
Of the past and of the future!

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india and china’s missing girls

we’ve all read about this before i’m sure, but here’s a story about some recent research (published in the lancet) on female feticide/infanticide in india:

Rise of ‘missing girls’ in India and China

“New data from the most populated countries, China and India, indicate that the practice of aborting female fetuses and murdering girls after birth is still widespread, despite efforts in both countries to curb this extreme gender bias.

“In China, the 2010 census reveals there are now 118 boys for every 100 girls, a skewed sex ratio that is higher than a decade ago. The sex imbalance has left millions of bachelors unable to find brides, mainly in rural areas.

“In India, a new study reported in the Lancet journal indicates that 3 million to 6 million females were aborted during the past 10 years, mainly to couples whose firstborn was a girl and mainly among the more well-off families.

“With increasing wealth has come greater access to mobile ultrasound units that can determine the sex of the unborn….”

i was surprised that it’s wealthier people that are aborting girls more, but then it does make sense since they are the ones who can afford an ultrasound, etc., etc.

the researchers point out this irony in the lancet article: “Recent increases in literacy and Indian per-person income might have thus contributed to increased selective abortion of girls.”

aaaah, progress! so much for modernization leading, inevitably, to modern, western-like societies.

and, don’t forget (from the csm): “Yet such abortions can be found in many places, including among some immigrant groups in the United States.”


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the lady of andalusia

the dama de baza (google translation), fourth century b.c., likely a version of tanit | astarte, fertility goddess …

… and she’s still being worshipped in andalusia today …

“The principal characteristic of the local popular form of Catholicism is devotion to the Virgin Mary; Andalusia is sometimes known as la tierra de María Santísima (‘the land of Most Holy Mary’).” [wikipedia]


previously: lovesick in south dakota

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al-hatfields vs. al-mccoys

Nearly 4000 Muslims Attack Christian Homes in Egypt, Torch Church

“…This incident was triggered by a relationship between 40-year-old Copt Ashraf Iskander and a Muslim woman. Yesterday a ‘reconciliation’ meeting was arranged between the relevant Coptic and Muslim families and together with the Muslim elders it was decided that Ashraf Iskander would have to leave the village because Muslims torched his house.

The father of the Muslim woman was killed by his cousin because he did not kill his daughter to preserve the family’s honor, which led the woman’s brother to avenge the death of his father by killing the cousin. The village Muslims blamed the Christians….”

in many middle eastern|arab|south asian societies, the father’s brother’s son — the ibn ‘amm — has the first right to marry his paternal female cousin (i.e. his father’s brother’s daughter):

In many cases there is not only a preference but a right to marry the father’s brother’s daughter, wherein if the girl’s family wishes to marry her to anyone else they must first get the permission of the father’s brother’s son.

“Raphael Patai reports that in central Arabia, no relaxation of a man’s right to the father’s brother daughter (FBD) seems to have taken place in the past hundred years before his 1962 work. Here the girl is not forced to marry her ibn ‘amm but she cannot marry another unless he gives consent. The force of the custom is seen in one case from Jordan when the father arranged for the marriage of his daughter to an outsider without obtaining the consent of her ibn ‘amm. When the marriage procession progressed with the bride toward the house of the bridegroom, the ibn ‘amm rushed forward, snatched away the girl, and forced her into his own house. This was regarded by all as a lawful marriage. In Iraq, the right of the cousin has also traditionally been followed, and a girl breaking the rule without the consent of the ibn ‘amm could have ended up murdered by him….”

and my impression is she still can be.

previously: cousin marriage conundrum addendum

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