The British scene reveals another reason why evolution could not gain wide support in pre-Origin years. Its supporters were often seen as radicals: not just because they embraced evolution, they frequently supported other radical causes, too — radical social causes, radical political causes, radical religious positions. Most people in polite society didn't want to be associated with such individuals.That went for Charles Darwin himself, as we'll see. If you were young, it could harm your career prospects to be known as one of those "transmutationists," as the English called evolutionists.Science is more professionalized now than it was in the 1830s and 1840s, when the process was really just beginning; but still today, a budding young scientist would be prudent not to publicly endorse, say …Yes? Prof., yes? — to publicly endorse … what?
… communism …Huh?
… or atheism …Seriously?
… or belief in alien abduction.For Heaven's sake!
If they [sic] became convinced of something like this, best keep it to yourself. Yes, I know, these things aren't supposed to matter, just an individual's scientific abilities and productivity as measured by commonly-accepted standards; but unfortunately these other things too often do matter. [Darwinian Revolution, Lecture Six: "Why Evolution Was Rejected Before Darwin," 23m42s et seq.]An endorsement of communism will get you shut out of a position in scientific academia? From what I read about the Academy, it would be a positive advantage. Stephen Jay Gould's book The Mismeasure of Man is required reading for many college courses, including some science courses; yet Gould was as near to being a communist as makes no difference.Does Prof. Gregory not know the kind of endorsements that would get a young researcher (or even a very old one) shut out of the Academy nowadays? Or does he know, but is too timid to mention such things out loud? Or does he know, and is willing to mention, but was warned off doing so by the managers at the Great Courses company, which is after all a commercial venture operating in the sphere of what is socially acceptable?Your guess is as good as mine.Gemütlichkeit in Hong Kong. August started in Hong Kong, at the tail end of the Derbs' Far East vacation.I expressed some personal feelings about Hong Kong in the very first of these diaries. Now, fifteen years later, that sentimental nostalgia has been much diluted by time and circumstance. I wouldn't go so far as to say that Hong Kong is now, in my mental atlas, just a place; but the electric shimmer of fond remembrance and bitter regret has faded to a mere background tint. A Hong Kong friend we were visiting with told me that Chungking Mansions is still in business. Did I want to take a look? No, I didn't.Visiting with friends was in fact most of what we did in Hong Kong. I have acquaintances there going back to the early 1970s, and a surprising number of Mrs Derbyshire's college classmates from northeast China now live in nearby mainland cities: Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Guangzhou.These bonds among Chinese college classmates who all graduated thirty-odd years ago are very strong. I don't know whether this is a generally Chinese thing, or a thing just of their time. When they started college in the late 1970s, higher education was just getting re-started after the Cultural Revolution (1966-76). Perhaps that made for an exceptionally strong sense of camaraderie.Whether it did or not, there was a major upside to being among those first post-Cultural-Revolution graduating classes. China in 1983 had a dire shortage of college-educated young people. Businesses, universities, state bureaucracies, the professions, all sucked them in gratefully. Now, thirty years on, a high proportion of these classmates from a small provincial college are seriously wealthy.They are all in touch through WeChat, China's main social-messaging app. Hearing that we'd be in Hong Kong, several came over to meet us at, of course, a restaurant banquet. It was all very gemütlich.The localist phenomenon. Grumbling about mainland Chinese incomers has been a popular Hong Kong pastime for decades.In the early 1960s, refugees from the Mao famine came flooding over the border into what was then the British colony, depressing wages and stressing the very rudimentary social services of the place.The border was more strictly controlled during the Cultural Revolution, but mainlanders got in anyway. Thousands of young mainlanders, disillusioned with all the chaos, or banished to poverty-stricken country areas in "rectification" campaigns against the Red Guards, came in by swimming the few miles of water between the two jurisdictions. In my sojourn there, 1971-73, Hong Kongers complained endlessly about how these daai-luk-jai (mainland kids) were useless for any kind of work. "All they know to do is just sit around arguing politics …"I'd supposed that the grumbling might have faded with the rise of the New China. Not at all: if anything, it's worse than ever. Mainlanders, people tell you, are arrogant and uncouth. The ones with money throw it around tastelessly, for show; the ones without bicker over the price of everything and leave (the taxi, the restaurant, the bar) without paying. They smoke too much; they spit; they let their toddlers crap on the sidewalk; etc., etc.(In regard to spitting, Hong Kongers seem to have been totally cured of the habit. Forty-five years ago, when I was busily memorizing all the Chinese characters my eye fell upon, the signs on the Star Ferry from Kowloon to Hong Kong island begged 請勿吐痰 — "Please don't spit" — to not much effect that I could see. The Star Ferry is still sailing — with some of the same boats, to judge by their physical condition — but the signs are long gone.)The current political expression of this attitude is localism, a desire among many young Hong Kongers for Singapore-style independence. One Hong Kong friend, who lives in the precincts of the Chinese University, gave me the following striking illustration of localist sentiment.
Remember how there used to be candlelight vigils and so on every year in commemoration of Six-Four [i.e. the massacre of protestors in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on June 4th, 1989]? Students now have stopped participating in that. "Nothing to do with us," they say. "That was a mainland affair. We're Hong Kongers."The localist phenomenon is now prominent enough that The Economist ran a full-page article about it in the August 27th issue.Localism is a no-hoper, of course. The control freaks in Beijing — especially the current Control Freak-in-Chief — will no way allow Hong Kong any more autonomy than the place currently has. The ChiComs in fact think it has too much and needs to be brought to heel, as you can see from the snarling of their paid trolls in the comment thread to that Economist article online.The malling of Hong Kong. The main thing I noticed about Hong Kong this visit is how over-malled it is.Elizabeth the First's England was so well-forested, it was said that a squirrel could go from coast to coast without ever touching the ground. I swear you could go from one side of Hong Kong to the other — well, of the built-up area — without ever leaving a mall.Every subway station, for example, comes with a mall attached. You get off your train, come out through the turnstile, and find yourself in a mall crammed with designer outlets.Where do they get all their business? Who buys all that designer junk? I asked a couple of Hong Kong friends, and got the same response from both: a snort, a roll of the eyes, and then: "Mainlanders, of course!"The art of the sub. Sub-editors, known around the office as "subs," are the folk who write headlines and picture captions for newspapers and magazines. It's work that offers much scope for creativity and wit. (Including wit of the lower sort, as witness the New York Post's headlines on ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner and his sexting adventures: "Weiner's Rise and Fall," "Obama Beats Weiner," "Weiner: I'll Stick It Out," "Huma Cuts Off Weiner," etc., etc.)So I wrote up my review of The Transylvanian Trilogy, as advertised in my May Diary, and shipped it off to The New Criterion for their September issue. Recall that this is a big social-historical-political novel in the nineteenth-century style, about the pre-WW1 Hungarian aristocracy of Transylvania.Concerning whom, I say in my review that:
Like the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy, Hungarian aristocrats in Transylvania held their estates in a backward, agricultural land whose people were mostly of different religion and ethnicity.Sending in the review, I didn't put a title on it. For one thing, I'm not much good at titles. For another, editors generally prefer to make up their own anyway.Okay, now see if you can guess the title some ingenious sub put on my review.Give up? Here it is. I'm still chuckling.The New Criterion — a tribute. And by the way, Congratulations! to The New Criterion as they embark on their thirty-fifth year of continuous publication. As the editors note in the preface to this September issue:
Serious cultural periodicals tend not to be long-lived … T.S. Eliot's Criterion, from which we take our name and whose critical ambitions we seek to emulate, had a run of seventeen years, from 1922 to 1939.I've been contributing to TNC for exactly half of its thirty-four years. A couple of years into that acquaintance I wrote an appreciation of the magazine. That was in the somewhat fevered days soon after 9/11; but reading it now, fifteen years later, I must say, if I were commissioned to write it today, it would come out much the same.Congratulations! again, TNC, and here's to the thirty-fifth year, and the next thirty-five to follow.And whichever sub thought up that title for my Transylvania piece, give him/her/xe a raise!Comrade Baron. In the annoying way these things happen, I did not know about Jaap Scholten's recent book Comrade Baron until I read a review of it in the August issue of Literary Review.Subtitled "A Journey through the Vanishing World of the Transylvanian Aristocracy," Comrade Baron is directly relevant to The Transylvanian Trilogy. From the blurb at Amazon.com:
In the darkness of the early morning of 3 March 1949, practically all of the Transylvanian aristocracy were arrested in their beds and loaded into lorries. Under the terror of Gheorghiu-Dej and later Ceauşescu the aristocracy led a double life: during the day they worked in quarries, steelworks and carpenters yards; in the evening they secretly gathered and maintained the rituals of an older world. To record this episode of recent history, Jaap Scholten travelled extensively in Romania and Hungary and sought out the few remaining aristocrats who survived communism and met the youngest generation of the once distinguished aristocracy to talk about the restitution of assets and about the future.However, by the time I spotted Scholten's book in Literary Review, the September issue of The New Criterion was already in the hands of the printers, being pressed into cuneiform blocks and sent to the ovens for baking — too late for me even to add a footnote. Grrr.Of course, if some kind editor would like to have a copy of Comrade Baron shipped to me in care of VDARE.com. I'll be glad to do a review to any required length at the usual word rates …Math Corner. The summer Olympics came and went. I can't claim any enthusiasm for the games as such, but I do smile quietly to myself thinking of all the Human Bio-Diversity (HBD) on flagrant display there. I also wonder, also quietly, what HBD-denialists — dogmatic nurturists — are thinking when they see, for example, an all-black set of finalists in the 100m sprint for the umpety-umpth Olympics in a row.For an almost equally flagrant display of HBD, here are a couple of different olympiads from recent months.First, the U.S.A. Math Olympiad for high-schoolers, this year held April 19th and 20th nationwide. Here's a picture of the 12 top scorers. Here are their names (not necessarily in the order pictured): Ankan Bhattacharya, Ruidi Cao, Hongyi Chen, Jacob Klegar, James Lin, Allen Liu, Junyao Peng, Kevin Ren, Mihir Singhal, Alec Sun, Kevin Sun, Yuan Yao.And then the international equivalent, which took place this year in Hong Kong, July 6th-16th. The six-member U.S. team took first place in the IMO for the second year running. Here they are: Ankan Bhattacharya, Michael Kural, Allen Liu, Junyao Peng, Ashwin Sah, and Yuan Yao.
*Finally, a brainteaser.Roll three normal dice. What is the probability of "getting a three"? That is, what's the chance that the numbers that came up made a three in some combination: (1, 1, 1), say, or (1, 2, 4), or (1, 3, 2), or (5, 3, 1)? As opposed to numbers that don't, like (1, 4, 1), (2, 2, 2), or (6, 5, 2)?This should be straightforward. There are 216 equal-probability results of the throw. So you just have to count how many of those possibilities will "get" you a three, then divide that number by 216.Yet for some reason it's hard to get the answer right. The 16th-century genius and gambler Girolamo Cardano, who wrote the first book-length study of probability theory (and who I covered in Chapter 4 of Unknown Quantity), got it wrong. He also got the wrong answers for getting a four, a five, and a six on a roll of three dice.Stephen Stigler, Professor of Statistics at the University of Chicago, gave this problem to his students two years running. He reports that only a third of them found the correct answer for "getting a three"; for "getting a four," less than a quarter of students got the right answer.I myself had a go at the probabilities for getting a one, a two, a three, a four, a five, or a six. I set up a spreadsheet with 216 lines, one for each equal-probability outcome of the throw. Then I eyeballed through, marking up each outcome that made the number I sought.I got the right answers for ones, threes, and fours, but not for twos, fives, or sixes (though I did better than Cardano).What's up with this?John Derbyshire [email him] writes an incredible amount on all sorts of subjects for all kinds of outlets. (This no longer includes National Review, whose editors had some kind of tantrum and fired him. ) He is the author of We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism and several other books. He's had two books published by VDARE.com: FROM THE DISSIDENT RIGHT (also available in Kindle) and From the Dissident Right II: Essays 2013. His writings are archived at JohnDerbyshire.com.Readers who wish to donate (tax deductible) funds specifically earmarked for John Derbyshire`s writings at VDARE.com can do so here.