Bill Richardson Least Objectionable Candidate From Either Party in Zogby Poll

It appears that my views of the candidates are shared by a majority when Zogby conducted a poll on acceptance of each candidate. People were asked which candidate they would definitely not vote for. Bill Richardson did best in terms of least number saying they would not vote for him, followed by Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Chris Dodd. (Richardson, Obama, and Dodd are the three candidates I’ve been most interested in.) Clinton has the most negatives on this list, which does differ from my ranking. I started out following the campaign with an “anybody but Clinton” attitude which has been replaced by “anybody but Edwards, but preferably not Clinton.”

On the Republican side, not surprisingly Ron Paul is the least acceptable. Mike Huckabee is most acceptable, leaving both parties with long shots as most acceptable candidate.

Intelligence, Race, and Forbidden Knowledge

By coincidence I happen to be in the midst of watching the three part PBS documentary of Jered Diamond’s Guns, Germs, & Steel from a couple of years ago. The documentary poses one idea on why different societies have done better while James Watson happened to create controversy this week by offering a different answer (which he has now retracted). In the first episode of his documentary, Diamond reported his view that the people he met on the island of Papua New Guinea were as intelligent as people he’s met anywhere in the world and tried to answer the question of why Europeans have become more affluent and technologically advanced. Diamond’s conclusion was that it came down to the luck of the draw, depending upon geography and what resources were present. In contrast Watson initially claimed that African and Caribbean workers are less intelligent.

The racist overtones of this have been widely discussed. Looking at this from a scientific viewpoint I immediately rejected his claim as we do not have a way to even measure this reliably. Even if intelligence tests were to show a higher average score for more affluent white Europeans or Americans it could not be assumed to be measuring anything inherent about the race as opposed to environment. Intelligence tests are also a limited measure of a person’s abilities and other factors need to be considered.

Another problem with Watson’s initial claim is that, even if his assumption was true, averages regarding a race are irrelevant with regards to the individual. Even if there was an average lower intelligence, and even if this test of intelligence really meant anything, this would not mean that all Africans and Caribbeans are less intelligent than all whites or that their societies could not be successful.

Reviewing the comments to this article via Memeorandum did raise yet another question at Preemetive Karma should it ever be possible to compare intelligence between races in a meaningful manner:

What if scientists actually did find intelligence differences in the races? Should the science be suppressed in the interest of building an egalitarian society? Isn’t that sort of like imprisoning Galileo for challenging the flat-earth believers? Or is it a way to make the world safer for everyone? Here’s my answer: human nature being what it is, the stakes involved are too great to allow something like that to be known. It can only lead to oppression and misery. We’re all better off if we focus on equality of opportunity and work to stamp out corruption in the world. In such an environment, people all around the world do a pretty good job of finding happiness and creating a good life for themselves and their children.

If I happened to develop a real measure which could compare intelligence I do not think I would want to open this Pandora’s box personally and begin a study to compare races. However, should someone actually do this I could not justify any attempts to suppress the knowledge. Suppression of knowledge is just too dangerous, and once this course of action is justified it is impossible to guarantee that it will always be done for the good motivations seen here. Instead of trying to suppress such knowledge it would be preferable to attempt to reduce the harm that misuse of such knowledge could result in. If one race was less intelligent this would justify neither discrimination towards the race as a whole or making assumptions about the comparative intelligence of any particular individuals regardless of race.

Rowling Outs Dumbledore

As if the religious right didn’t hate the Harry Potter books enough, J, K. Rowling has given them yet another reason to condemn the series. In response to a question about whether the Hogwarts Headmaster ever found true love, Rowling revealed that he is gay:

“Dumbledore is gay,” the author responded to gasps and applause.

She then explained that Dumbledore was smitten with rival Gellert Grindelwald, whom he defeated long ago in a battle between good and bad wizards. “Falling in love can blind us to an extent,” Rowling said of Dumbledore’s feelings, adding that Dumbledore was “horribly, terribly let down.”

Dumbledore’s love, she observed, was his “great tragedy.”

“Oh, my god,” Rowling concluded with a laugh, “the fan fiction.”

Potter readers on fan sites and elsewhere on the Internet have speculated on the sexuality of Dumbledore, noting that he has no close relationship with women and a mysterious, troubled past. And explicit scenes with Dumbledore already have appeared in fan fiction.

Rowling told the audience that while working on the planned sixth Potter film, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” she spotted a reference in the script to a girl who once was of interest to Dumbledore. A note was duly passed to director David Yates, revealing the truth about her character.

Rowling, finishing a brief “Open Book Tour” of the United States, her first tour here since 2000, also said that she regarded her Potter books as a “prolonged argument for tolerance” and urged her fans to “question authority.”