Wheel in the Sky

I noticed some idiot claiming that, in 1700, China and India were ” more  sophisticated scientifically than europe”.  Nonsense, of course. Hellenistic science was more advanced than that of India and China in 1700 ! Although it makes me wonder the extent to which they’re teaching false history of science and technology in schools today-  there’s apparently demand to blot out white guys from the story, which wouldn’t leave much.

Europe,  back then,  could be ridiculously sophisticated, at the highest levels.  There had been no simple, accurate way of determining longitude – important in navigation, but also in mapmaking.  For ships the best solution was  Harrison’s marine chronometer (insensitive to temperature variations), but before that,  astronomers used the Galilean moons of Jupiter as a natural clock in the sky – observing when the moons entered or exited the shadow of Jupiter.  Comparing this with predicted times in astronomical tables, you could determine the local time, and from that your longitude. Not the most practical method on shipboard, but quite useful on land.

Before this technique, estimates of longitude were crappy, and maps showed it.  Afterwards, maps stop looking like something drawn by a sozzled ten-year-old :

In the course of playing with this technique, the Danish astronomer  Ole Rømer noted some discrepancies in the timing of those eclipses – they were farther apart when Earth and Jupiter were moving away from each other,  closer together when the two planets were approaching each other.  From which he deduced that light had a finite speed, and calculated the approximate value.





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108 Responses to Wheel in the Sky

  1. Anonymous says:

    Then there’s the time when the Jesuits competed with Chinese astronomers on who could best predict the next solar eclipse and other celestial events, back in the seventeenth century. Using the best Western methods, the Jesuits nailed it, to the humiliation of the mandarins. In one of the face-offs, the Chinese were off by more than a week.

    It backfired on the Jebbies. Pulling off such an upset meant that the Chinese court astronomers would’ve lost face to the big-noses. So they did what any bureaucracy would do: slander the upstarts as being disloyal to the regime and carrying other malign influences. So the Catholic Faith was outlawed in China.

    Why be right when being right benefits the out-group and harms your in-group?

    • J says:

      Your story above is too neat. The Jesuits duly impressed the Chinese and Matteo Ricci was elevated to the powerful post of Court Astronomer, timing ritual ceremonies and the agricultural calendar. The Jesuits were expelled from China, from Japan, eventually even from Spanish America too, because their political intrigues, that is, their active interference in government. There is no doubt that the Celestial Empire was far behind the West in science as well in most intellectual endeavors. They had no consistent explanation for the creation and were stunned by well developed Western theology.

      • Lior says:

        Your both mistaken it was the Chinese Rites controversy that made the Qing expell the Jesuits (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Rites_controversy)
        “After 1710, however, the Jesuits began to decline in China. The main reason was the
        Chinese Rites controversy between the Roman Catholic Church and the Qing emperors circa
        1704-1775. The Popes Clement PP. XI and Clement PP. XIV successively decreed that Chinese Catholics had to abandon the Confucian rites of ancestor worship since it was a religious rite that contradicted the Catholic faith. The Qing emperor could not tolerate this decree and after this diplomatic failure, the Qing authority began to expel the Jesuits. Meanwhile, the Jesuits had also gradually lost their position in Europe. Portugal and France, for
        example, banned Jesuit activities in 1759 and 1764, respectively. The Jesuits finally ended
        their China missions after the dissolution of the order by the Pope in 1773 (Brockey 2007). ”
        see here:https://chichengma.weebly.com/uploads/9/4/2/0/9420741/jesuits_manuscript.pdf
        Praticularly figure 1 for number of Jesuits in china over time.

    • Misdreavus says:

      Your story is bullshit, dude. I’ve read about the Rites Controversy in China. The Jesuits weren’t expelled because they embarrassed the Chinese.

      • dried peanuts says:

        I believe Voltaire deals with this hilariously in the curious OT epilogue to L’Age de Louis XIV. He blames the Franciscans; says the Jesuits were in tight with the Emperor, but the Franciscans would not stop preaching against Chinese religious notions, and also won the inter-service rivalry war back in Rome.

  2. Candide III says:

    Hellenistic science was more advanced than that of India and China in 1700 !

    In fact, Indian mathematics and astronomy got a big transfusion from Alexandria as scholars kept emigrating there in the first centuries AD. E.g. one could make a case that Indians refined their zero from the one used, among others, by Ptolemy, with sexagesimal numbers.

    • gcochran9 says:

      That would be interesting, but I don’t believe it.

      • Candide III says:

        Lucio Russo gives the example of Paulisa Siddhanta, which is known to have Greek sources even if not perhaps written by Paul of Alexandria himself. Other Greek astrological writings, i.a. on making horoscopes, were also known in India. Greek horoscopes appeared after the virtual end of Hellenistic astronomy proper with Hipparchos. Hipparchos and his Alexandrian predecessors have never made a horoscope, while much of Ptolemy’s writing is astrological or otherwise magical, representing the decline of scientific worldview in the Roman period.

  3. Frau Katze says:

    Why should I care what someone on Twitter called “Imhotep”, with a few hundred followers, thinks?

    Or are you expecting your readers to research Imhotep? You often don’t leave a link for unclear reasons.

    But the quoted string appears only in this blog entry and a tweet by Imhotep. I’ll try to embed it. I rarely use Twitter.

    You should read the materialist accounts (institutional, geopolitical etc..) of the great divergence scholarly controversy. I should remind you that circa 1700 china and India were more sophisticated scientifically than europe.— Imhotep (@pp0196) July 6, 2018


    • Anonymous says:

      Why wouldn’t he drop a link to the twitter thread? Probably because, as you inferred, nobody cares what some idiot on twitter with a few hundred followers thinks.

      I think you miss the point. The purpose of posts like this (I think) isn’t to highlight the fact that there’s some random idiot on twitter with stupid beliefs. The point is to highlight the (somewhat worrying) fact that these kinds of beliefs are not only stupid but common among the “educated” class in the developed world. Hell, that Imhotep guy probably DID learn, in school, that “circa 1700 china and India were more sophisticated scientifically than europe”. Which frankly is even more worrying — and I think that’s also the point.

      (Actually, probably the real point of this post, and most of the posts on this blog, is for Cochran to show off to his readers what a big-brainy boy he is. Of course, there can be more than one motive…)

      • gcochran9 says:

        At this point, beng big-brainy is already established. Bt I’m interested in the ‘great divergence’ argument, along with the history of science and technology, and the current descent into madness.

    • shadow on the wall says:

      Why should I care what someone on Twitter called “Imhotep”, with a few hundred followers, thinks?

      You are implying that you would take it more seriously if Barack Obama said it?


      • reziac says:

        I think it’s a fair bet that a significant fraction (perhaps a majority) of those following Barack Obama…. are bots.

        Less explainable, other than by some autofollow util, is why that account is following 612,195.

        • Anonymous says:

          Smart guess re: autofollowing. I think you’re right. I’ve even seen him follow an edgy right-wing podcast where one of the hosts drops hard-r N bombs. Made zero sense to me.

          Makes me wonder if Obama (cultural figure) has nothing to do with Obama (human being). Maybe the bot followers set up an illusion that anybody gives a fuck what he thinks, and fake follows give the illusion that he gives a fuck what “influencers” and other hacks think.

          I wonder who even runs the account.

          • Анисимов Дмитрий says:

            Of course, the Jewish Reptiloids do!

          • shadow on the wall says:

            Smart guess re: autofollowing. I think you’re right. I’ve even seen him follow an edgy right-wing podcast where one of the hosts drops hard-r N bombs. Made zero sense to me.

            I see, Taylor Swift is your gal. Followed by 84,6 million, following no one. Going her own way, ZFG. This is the correct way to use twitter.

        • shadow on the wall says:

          Everyone knows all humans died during the 2012 Mayan apocalypse, and were replaced by bots. We are all bots.

  4. Eponymous says:

    Some variation of this is a fairly common claim, though I usually see it as “technology” rather than “science”. Of course, if one accepts this view, Europe’s period of world domination becomes quite mysterious. And indeed explaining it is a central problem in academic history (and economic history), i.e. the Great Divergence. (But of course you’re familiar with that).

    So out of curiosity, two questions: just when did Europe get ahead of everyone else (I know you said the Hellenistic Greeks, but surely they were behind in 800 AD?), and why?

    And come to think of it, why did the Hellenistic Greeks stop making progress?

    • jamesbellinger says:

      Breakup of the empire? If you lose part of the technical or intellectual infrastructure, it might be hard to recover it. Imagine that there was a world-wide interruption (war, or SJW dominance–yes, I know the latter infests mostly the West) such that nobody studied higher math for a generation. The books and journals might still be around, but it would be very hard to figure them out again. If the textbooks turned rare too, it would be nearly impossible.

  5. jbbigf says:

    “they were farther apart when Earth and Jupiter were moving away from each other, closer together when the two planets were approaching each other.”

    Not quite. It had to do with the distance, not the velocity.

    • jbbigf says:

      My mistake, you are right. I thought it was the 18-minute difference of the Earth’s orbit, but it was much smaller differences due to velocity.

  6. The Chines had gunpowder early, but never figured out firearms. Hmm. There was an iron industry in northern China in the 11th C, but not much came of it.

    Europe was not the only region with lots of ore and resources, so that convenient explanation won’t hold either. Northern Europe was in fact covered with lots of trees, which are hard to clear out until you’ve got iron tools going quite well, and even then it ain’t easy, After a massive head start in technology before the Common Era, China and India made some gradual improvements in shipbuilding. Telescopes, stockbreeding, timekeeping, transportation – not so much.

    I think some of this ridiculousness is our own fault, as the Enlightenment tried to put forward the idea that there was no science in the Dark and even Middle Ages because of the Church, and taught that Europe hadn’t really done much until they themselves came upon the scene to advance us all.

    • shadow on the wall says:

      The Chines had gunpowder early, but never figured out firearms. Hmm.

      Someone on the internet never figured out to check whether some factoid he heard somewhere from someone is actually true. Hmm.


      • Fair. I had actually read it in a book, with footnotes, but your information tops mine.

        • shadow on the wall says:

          Wow. The world is coming to end – someone on the internets just admitted mistake. Congratulations 😉

          Now, you can understand why people believe things that are not true.
          Now you understand why people who heard facts that sound true, facts they really want to be true, readily accept them as true without any fact checking.
          As much as you wanted to believe in peace loving Chinese people who always abhorred war and no use for tools of murder, the original Twitter poster wanted to believe in genius Chinese people who invented everything first.

          • Not quite it. I don’t believe in peace-loving Chinese people who refused tools of war but inefficient ones who couldn’t quite get off the dime. Seven of the ten most deadly wars in history were in Asia. I rather resent the idea that this mistake should now reveal to me the error of all humanity as the scales fall from my eyes. I rechecked the rest of my comment (and threw away the book that left out the Chinese fire-lances), but the rest of my information holds. I was in error, but I don’t intend to recheck every internet comment for the rest of my days. I should be more cautious, but let’s not read more into it.

    • Candide III says:

      I think some of this ridiculousness is our own fault, as the Enlightenment tried to put forward the idea that there was no science in the Dark and even Middle Ages because of the Church, and taught that Europe hadn’t really done much until they themselves came upon the scene to advance us all.

      Indeed. They also put the spotlight on Newton and a few other figures to such an extent that they look like towering geniuses who suddenly appeared in the wilderness, when in reality there were a lot of forgotten people who did much of the preparatory work that enabled them to make the final steps. The spotlight has been highly selective, too, e.g. the extent of Newton’s theological and numerological obsessions has been concealed by his official biographer and much of his writing wasn’t published until late in the XX century.

    • saintonge235 says:

      Not just the “Enlightenmet.” The Protestants, in their war with Catholicism, put forth the idea that the Catholic Church was doing the science suppressing, but Protestants did no such thing.

      All horseshit.

  7. Gringo says:

    I noticed some idiot claiming that, in 1700, China and India were ” more sophisticated scientifically than europe”.

    As Isaac Newton, arguably the greatest scientific mind the world has produced, published Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica in 1687, the person making that claim clearly merits being called an idiot.

    Regarding AVI’s point that Enlightenment tried to push the idea that previously there had been no science in Europe because of the Church, recall that Copernicus was a cleric and the nephew of a Bishop.

    • Dude says:

      Also, the Galileo story is 87% bullshit.

      • Jason says:

        It was more about Galileo being a cock, than heliocentrism.

        • The Big Red Scary says:

          Look how stupid our 15th century ancestors: they thought the earth was the center of the universe. Look how much wiser were our 17th century ancestors: they thought their local star was the center of the universe…

          • Jim says:

            Both the classical Greeks and 17th century astronomers were well aware of the fact that the fixed stars are vastly more distant than the sun or the planets. It was commonplace to suppose them to be distant suns.

  8. NumberOneCustomer says:

    I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow

  9. Cpluskx says:

    Still, people like Charles Murray exaggerate this by saying %97 of inventors were European etc. (People understand this way) Dumb people read this and turn to far right. I (Yugoslavian origin) actually don’t think Europeans contributed to civilization more than Middle Easterners if you start from 3200 BC and think about Ashkenazi etc. or looking at Minoan, Mycenaean ancestry.

    • magusjanus says:

      Ashkenazi contributed approximately zero to industrial/technical/scientific development until the 19th (really 20th) century. A couple rare exceptions here and there, but the “mostly” zero statement is basically true.

      I’ve noticed this bizarre meme of late of people trying to project 20th/21st century Ashkenazi achievements back onto history and particularly the rise of the West. It’s really weird and insane, so it’ll probably be taught in schools as within a decade.

    • Maciano says:

      Did you read Murray’s book, because then you wouldn’t write this comment? Murray’s method was to show the most appreciated innovations, scientific contributions and art according in world heritage literature. If there were many among other older cultures he would have mentioned them. It’s clear that Europeans, especially NW Europeans, Ashkenazi Jews, Greeks and Italians, invented most of the modern world. Compared to other cultures, it’s so overwhelming, it makes many contemporary Europeans almost uncomfortable.

      You should go to random small towin of a lesser celebrated NW Euro country like Belgium. They all have local heroes who have invented small to big things. Think of the saxophone (Adolphe Sax of Dinant) or the physicist Simon Stevin of Bruges. Pick a random city from NW Europe, go to Wikipedia, and I guarantee you, you’ll find a few prominent people. This is not the case in ME, Turkey, Levant or wherever else; not in similar achievement levels.

      I think this is quite interesting fact and uncovering why this is so, is very important for the future of the world.

      • Cpluskx says:

        ”I think this is quite interesting fact and uncovering why this is so, is very important for the future of the world.”

        They had avg iq of 100 that’s the main reason.

        ‘This is not the case in ME”

        Middle East was the most advanced place / or -on par- on Earth from Neolithic to 1400 AD.

        • david says:

          But Egypt, turkey, and persia were very white at least from Alexander until Islams big conquests and possibly indo european before that

        • Jim says:

          Indo-European speakers were certainly a big deal in Anatolia and Iran but as for Egypt that certainly wasn’t true. Some of the names of the Hyksos chieftains are Aryan but most are Aramaic or Hurrian. Anyway the Hyksos probably didn’t have much genetic impact on the Egyptian population.

          The powerful kingdom of Mitanni was ruled by an Aryan aristocracy but the bulk of the Mitanni population were Hurrian. Even in Anatolia although the elite were Indo-European, Hurrians and other non-Indo-Europeans may have been the largest part of the general population. Aryan names do sometimes show up in the Levant but most of the individuals called Hittites in the KJ version of the bible actually had Hurrian names.

          • Jim says:

            The Egyptians records state that the Philistines came from Crete. Genetic evidence from the area does show evidence of a European component in their ancestry.

  10. Dude says:

    You should see what the high schools have to say about Ghana, Mali, and Songhai.

  11. Gord marsden says:

    Reference high school curriculumss that teach all cultures are equal. Or the indigenous people were stewards of the land and managed the forests . No regards to them being Stone Age

  12. dearieme says:

    Can anyone tell me how the early Moslems determined the orientation for their prayers?

    (I’m not inviting a discussion on whether they prayed towards Petra or Mecca, just – whichever it was – how did they get the direction right?)

    • Labayu says:

      Section 2.2 “History of Qibla Computations” here: https://geomete.com/abdali/papers/qibla.pdf

      • dearieme says:

        Good grief! Thank you. Spherical trig is one of those topics of instruction that, I find, has disappeared by virtue of my never using it.

        “Already in the early ninth century observations were conducted in order to measure the coordinates of Mecca and Baghdad as accurately as possible”: there’s the nub. Do we know how they established their longitudes? (If the answer is elsewhere in that paper, apols.)

  13. Jack Black says:

    What are your thoughts on the supposed ancient source maps of Antarctica and such?

  14. Ilya says:

    I believe it was mentioned in Ricardo Duchesne’s “The Uniqueness of Western Civilization” that after the Jesuits humiliated the Chinese astronomers, some Celestial commented that it “was better to have poor astronomy than foreigners in China.”

    Into the 17th Century the Chinese thought that the earth was flat and that madness was caused by the wind (ancient Greeks knew that the origin of madness was corporeal), but by all means believe the Marxists when they say that everything the West has achieved was ultimately stolen from the Chinese.

  15. Smithie says:

    On a related note, I’ve always found the claim that the Chinese invented the wheelbarrow somewhat bizarre. How could there possibly be a good archaeological record for such a beat-up, humble and utilitarian object?

    I suppose it could be true, but it strikes me as essentially baseless, and perhaps politically motivated. I mean, you’re telling me the Ancient Greeks didn’t use them? That wheels existed in Europe for thousands of years, and they had to borrow the idea from the Chinese? I don’t believe it!

    • Анисимов Дмитрий says:

      Wheels, carts and chariots existed for millenia in Middle East… But then, culture of camels came and wheels went into disuse. “I don’t believe it” is a bad argument.

      • dearieme says:

        Were wheels really not used in the era of Roman roads?

        • Анисимов Дмитрий says:

          Of course they were… I’m talking about post-Roman times (7th century Arab conquest and later). Camel culture wasn’t as strong as the time (camels were domesticated later, i think).

          • dearieme says:

            WKPD, he say:

            Current data from copper smelting sites of the Aravah Valley enable us to pinpoint the introduction of domestic camels to the southern Levant more precisely based on stratigraphic contexts associated with an extensive suite of radiocarbon dates. The data indicate that this event occurred not earlier than the last third of the 10th century [BC] and most probably during this time. The coincidence of this event with a major reorganization of the copper industry of the region—attributed to the results of the campaign of Pharaoh Shoshenq I—raises the possibility that the two were connected, and that camels were introduced as part of the efforts to improve efficiency by facilitating trade.

      • Smithie says:

        Seems like it would be a useful thing to have, if you were using concrete, or building a grand structure, or even a mound. Doesn’t seem like it is something that would be buried with a king, or mentioned in bardic literature.

        Of course, that is not a faultless argument, And perhaps they were not very useful until air-filled tires were invented. Still, if time travel were possible, I would make a friendly bet.

    • Harold says:

      The Chinese wheelbarrows weren’t the same as our wheelbarrows. Our wheelbarrows have the wheel at the front, and the user has to support the weight of the carried load as they push it; Chinese wheelbarrows had the wheel in the middle and the weight over the axle and the users only had to keep it balanced. Basically a one-wheeled cart, good for narrow walking paths.

      It might be an under-utilised idea: a lightweight bicycle wheel and handles with a pack on each side, might be usable on more terrain than a bicycle, and less unwieldy when it had to be lifted or hauled, while being less tiring than carrying a large pack.

  16. Peripatetic Commenter says:

    All I know is the Chinese never invented Peanut Butter, it was dem kangs!

  17. Анисимов Дмитрий says:

    I wonder if someone overlaid medieval maps over modern ones… of ever converted them into data so we could draw it in any projections. But this in culture of consumption of content would be too much to ask?

  18. L.O. Peril says:

    Greg, you often talk about how nobody knows anything and how you read books and newspapers and remember what you read so you know stuff.

    Sometimes you’re saying this to mock people you think are dumb and clueless. But have you noticed having a better memory than other smart people you respect?

    Chomsky would often deflect questions about how smart he was or whatever but one time he said he had noticed one thing: he had a memory that other people he knew–meaning Cambridge professors–didn’t have. He said he realized this because he had encountered someone on his level once or twice, and he mentioned an Israeli mathematician friend he knew where he could call him up after not speaking for a long time and pick right back up in the middle of a conversation they were having about some problem in logic they’d been discussing a decade ago. But he had discovered over the course of his career that was extremely unusual, even among the intellectuals he spent most of his time with.

    His secretary/assistant/library/assistant/whatever also said this. That Chomsky sometimes would ask her for a reference and she couldn’t find it and he would just tell her something like, “Check the files from the second week of October, 1962” and there it would be.

    I’ve seen him do this in person where it would fluster his interlocutor. Not going off of notes or anything prepared, but responding to a question from the audience.

    “Well, have you read the declassified documents from George Kennan on this issue?”

    “Yeah, I think so.”

    “Well what did Kennan say about this in the memo from February in 1956?”

    “Umm, well…”

    “Well, what Kennan said–and I’m virtually quoting here, although I don’t have it in front of me–is that…”

    And he would speak in paragraphs that really were “virtually quoting” pages of some obscure George Keannan memo from 1956 or whatever.

    • gcochran9 says:

      “But have you noticed having a better memory than other smart people you respect?”

      Oh yes.

      • Toddy Cat says:

        Chomsky had such a good memory, he could even remember stuff that didn’t happen.

      • The Z Blog says:

        I think some people have a stronger meta-memory than others, which can work as a multiplier of their intelligence. For some, their memory is a well ordered set of pointers to where information exists. It’s meta-data, rather than data itself. For most people, their memory is just a list of data, loosely organized by subject. Mixed in may be some meta-data, but otherwise it is a closed container.

        I suspect sociopaths and politicians have a strong meta-data layer.

        • Анисимов Дмитрий says:

          Aaah, those demonic sociopaths with their innate perks…
          Isn’t it like that sociopaths lack conscience/guilt?

    • sthomson1971 says:

      There wouldn’t have been a Kennan memo in 1956, because he retired in 1953. I’m no Cochran or Chomsky, but I have a pretty good memory that way. But it’s much better for stuff I read 30 years ago than stuff I read last week.

    • david says:

      I experience this too. I remember conversations from a decade ago with someone who doesnt even remember the encounter. I remember where i was if it was a phone call. If i was learning a new language, i remember the first time i heard a particular word, who said it, where we were and the context. Its a really strange phenomena when you notice other people telling stories that evolve over time. Either most people are liars or memory warps retroactively, often to the convenient benefit of the storyteller!

  19. Harold says:

    If anyone has a commute or other time for listening to a podcast this episode of the Futility Closet podcast on Harrison and longitude is good as a reminder of the sheer endeavour of Europeans in making the modern world.


    • David Chamberlin says:

      Good book on the subject here https://www.amazon.com/Longitude-Genius-Greatest-Scientific-Problem/dp/B005LYERBI/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_14_t_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=BA6V2754M7DARNEP6J3D

      John Harrison was a genius and this book is recommended reading. I have always had an interest in the subject that led to the need for solving the longitude problem and that is the construction of ocean worthy boats. The craft of constructing a wooden heavy seas worthy sailing ship that could move quickly, relatively speaking, and carry cargo was an amazing feat that was not even approached anywhere else in the world. Few people realize today what an amazing technology this was not just for it’s place in time but even today in our tech intensive world.

      • David Chamberlin says:

        I keep wondering about high IQ in Han Chinese and the Japanese, higher than that of Europe and why they didn’t have a similar explosion in inventiveness that Europe had. It doesn’t make much sense. I have studied the science of psychometrics enough to realize it tells us some things clearly but it gets very confused sometimes in some areas. Where psychometrics gets distorted in it’s results in when it compares the same genetic population through time as it increases it’s education level. It has been called the Flynn effect, a population scores better on IQ tests when the general population increases it’s standard education up to the 10th grade level. Well duh, if your grandfather had a third grade education than he probably scored as a near retard on a standard written IQ test. Reading level completely distorts IQ scores. Chinese and Japanese have an entirely different means of writing than the western phonetic writing system and they have to distort any comparison of IQ that is a written test. So if we can’t trust IQ tests in the same population when they increase education level how in the world are we supposed to trust IQ tests between cultures that have entirely different means of writing. Just asking.

        • R. says:

          o if we can’t trust IQ tests in the same population when they increase education level how in the world are we supposed to trust IQ tests between cultures that have entirely different means of writing. Just asking.

          Don’t they also score better on culture-blind tests such as Raven’s matrices?

          Also, their lower performance in invention is attributed to a more collectivist mindset. Allegedly, they have some gene variant that makes them suffer more if the rest disapproves.

        • Анисимов Дмитрий says:

          It might be that they stuck with that complicated writing system, which greatly hampered social mobility and made printing impractical. Europe invented printing later but it had explosive effect, because number of characters was minor
          Compare, say, in Japan, the literacy language was even not Japanese — but Kanbun, a variant of Classic Chinese…

          Us having lower spatial IQs led us to firmly setting in phonetic writing as early as we got it, in Sinophere phonetic systems where they existed were considered a niche for dummies. Sometimes the worse is better xD

          Also, you are misunderstandin Flynn Effect. It value is highly depedant on specific test. “Education”-styled IQ tests show almost zero gains whereas “videogame”-styled show largest gains.

        • jb says:

          I don’t see what the problem is. An explosion of knowledge like what happened in Europe is likely to only happen once. The Chinese and Japanese were smart enough, and given enough time it might have happened there, but other factors (cultural probably) worked against it, and it ended up happening in Europe first. Even if East Asians really are are smarter it wouldn’t be a huge shock for things to happen that way.

          (I can’t of course rule out the possibility that Europeans had some special quality that Ease Asians lacked, but that conclusion hardly seems inescapable).

          • David Chamberlin says:

            You could very well be right. Maybe the IQ scores aren’t as important as another factor, reward for inventiveness. China and Japan were closed societies that kept it that way. Europe on the other hand was a chaotic place where entrepreneurship was highly rewarded while in the east the nail that stuck up was hammered down.

            • J says:

              It may be so, although “hammering down the stuck up nail” has its Western equivalent (“Tall poppies get cut down first”). On the other hand, Chinese government had an egalitarian exam system and actively searched for intelligent persons to promote them to the official class. I have the impression that Eastern Asia was no less chaotic than the West. European societies are better organized and more stable.

              • Jim says:

                The basic reason for the exam system wasn’t a devotion to “egalitarianism” but the fact that officials chosen in this way were very loyal to the imperial system and generally had no connection with powerful families or wealthy aristocrats who were potential rivals to the Emperor. This system could elevate someone from a fairly modest position in society to a position of significant power. But this power was completely dependent on the continuing approval of the Emperor. These individuals had no power base independent of the Emperor as might have been the case if the official class had been drawn from the aristocracy.

        • Lot says:

          “why they didn’t have a similar explosion in inventiveness that Europe had.”

          We don’t have high quality evidence on average Han IQ like we do with South Koreans and Japanese. I’d guess Han IQ is almost exactly the same as Japanese, but I also wouldn’t be shocked if we find out it is a bit lower and closer to the Western Euro average.
          China was bumping around its malthusian limits a lot more than Europe, so even if their genotypical intelligence was a 1/3 SD higher than Europeans, poor nutrition and excessive child labor could have knocked their actual IQs lower.
          Lower IQ SDs mean fewer geniuses
          China’s prosperous periods also corresponded with centralization and brain drain toward a single imperial court. Has China ever had a period with many rich, secure, independent/autonomous states?

          • David Chamberlin says:

            “Lower IQ SDs means fewer geniuses.”
            I like this educated guess and i think it probable. But alas we are just speculating about germs before the invention of the microscope. We cannot yet look at the DNA and predict IQ accurately. We can do that with height so we can expect that someday we will be able to this with IQ, but it is still think it a long long way off because human intelligence is insanely complex. I hope I’m wrong.

            If the high IQ asians have been pushed harder longer by cold cruel evolution to be smarter but came from less diverse populations than they could have higher IQs but a lower standard deviation translating to what you speculate, less true geniuses. There is another metric to look at that hints at this. The Han Chinese are a proud people, as well they should be, but it bugs the shit out of them that they don’t have very many Nobel prize winners. Those pesty Ashkenazi Jews, all 11 million of them, are recipients of one third of the Nobel prizes.

            • David Chamberlin says:

              correction; one fifth of the Nobel prizes

            • David Chamberlin says:

              I have a hypothesis thrown out here that I want to pull apart further. It states that greater genetic diversity should create a larger standard deviation in intelligence. Yes and no. Yes if greater genetic diversity results in more factors influencing intelligence. No if our crude tools that measure genetic intelligence don’t know what those factors are and measures something different like comparing a very diverse African to a relatively speaking very homogeneous Han Chinese.

        • david says:

          Sorry if Im repeating myself. I believe testosterone level plays a roll in agreeableness. High IQ with low T is probably comparable to being a good accountant but uninterested in risky inventions. Nikola Tesla flew from eastern europe to america to compete with Edison on alternating current. Competitiveness correlates with testosterone. Asians typically score low in T, high in IQ.

          • JerryC says:

            Tesla was one of Edison’s employees when he was transferred to America.

          • David Chamberlin says:

            High IQ Asians descended from rice farmers while high IQ Europeans descended from another group of farmers that farmed very differently. Rice farming works best as a cooperative venture of a larger group than European farming method. So evolution pushed harder on the rice farmers to be one of the group rather than an individual. One hard working male could successfully run a European farm while rice farming required more than one male, hence the evolution of lower testosterone levels in Asians. Blind tests confirm Asians are fundamentally different in their need to be one of a larger group.

            Cochran has emphasized that evolution needs to push for a number of generations to have an effect and in this case, different agricultural methods, the push was for hundreds of generations.

            Europeans, especially northern Europeans, lived in far colder winters than the other large group of high IQ people, the rice farmers, so their disease burden was far lower. Other things being equal more northern European children would reach adulthood than in any other farming community anywhere else in the world. The younger sons were pushed off the farm in northern Europe and having no choice had attempt to survive in the growing metropolitan areas. It should not be surprising that in places like England the nation was slowly transformed during the dark ages from a nation of peasants to a nation of shopkeepers.

            But his kind of talk is censored damn near everywhere but West Hunter.

            • Errol says:

              Humans have independently domesticated two different rice species. African rice was domesticated from wild African rice, Oryza barthii, while Asian rice (Oryza sativa), was domesticated from wild Asian rice, Oryza rufipogon.

              Oryza barthii still grows wild in Africa, in a wide variety of open habitats. The Sahara was formerly wetter, with massive paleolakes in what is now the Western Sahara. As the climate dried, the wild rice retreated and probably became increasingly domesticated as it relied on humans for irrigation. Rice growing in deeper, more permanent water became floating rice.

              It is believed to have been domesticated 2000–3000 years ago in the inland delta of the Upper Niger River, in what is now Mali. It then spread through West Africa.

              Wild rice seedheads shatter, scattering the rice grains to seed the next generation. Domestic rice does not shatter, making the grains easy for humans to gather. A mutation that caused rice not to shatter would probably have been the beginning of domestication.

              Ibn Battuta recorded rice couscous in the area of present-day Mali in 1350.

              In the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Portuguese sailed to the Southern Rivers area in West Africa and wrote that the land was rich in rice. “[T]hey said they found the country covered by vast crops, with many cotton trees and large fields planted in rice … the country looked to them as having the aspect of a pond (i.e., a marais)”. The Portuguese accounts speak of the Falupo Jola, Landuma, Biafada, and Bainik growing rice. André Álvares de Almada wrote about the dike systems used for rice cultivation, from which modern West African rice dike systems are descended.

              African rice was brought to the Americas with the transatlantic slave trade, arriving in Brazil probably by the 1550s and in the U.S. in 1784. The seed was carried as provisions on slave ships, and the technology and skills needed to grow it were brought by enslaved rice farmers. Newly imported African slaves were marketed (and sometimes even trained) for their rice-growing skills, as the high price of rice made it a major cash crop. The tolerance of African rice for brackish water meant it could be grown on coastal deltas, as it was in West Africa.

      • Harold says:

        Thanks. Apparently there is a TV drama based on it too. I would rather read about it, myself, but these are the sorts of things more TV dramas should be made about.

  20. Анисимов Дмитрий says:

    Greg. The SJWs do wish to push false, idiotic narratives but it doesn’t justify going in opposite direction. And it can backfire to you and alienate your allies in Asia.
    I am Russian. And I do see attempts in anglosphere to deny and erase early USSR achievements in the cosmic race. LIke in “The Americans sent a man to the Moon, the Russians made Chernobyl disaster”. Yes USSR were land of genetic denialists with deficit of toilet paper and their own chief space constructor Korolyov had his health wrecked in prison, but their early advances in space race is a fact; and I’m afraid you having similar attitude to China and India in this post as well.

    • david says:

      Dont forget about your real contribution: chess championships

    • gcochran9 says:

      I know about Russian accomplishments in science and technology, possibly better than you. What I said about Europe vs China and India, is as far as I know, correct. The general trend is to minimize, downplay,Europe’s edge.

      I don’t do that.

      • Woof says:

        Nice to see you can still say the facts as you see them. Up hear in Canada the truth is no longer a defense in our Kafkaesque “human rights” tribunals. Hurt feelings trump evidence, facts or centuries of observed reality. I dread the day when I won’t be able to access the crime-think of this blog because reading it will be construed as violating the rights of some obscure victim group. It’s even worse in Europe.

  21. Greying Wanderer says:

    great divergence

    my guess, innovation = intelligence + “wildness” (of some form) and civilization selects for tameness

    in which case golden ages would occur some time after an infusion of barbarians (in a way that increased the frequency of wildness genes but didn’t drop the average IQ too much) followed by stagnation a few centuries later as tameness took over again

    if correct then maintaining a constant level of innovation would require artificially maintaining a minimum level of wildness (easiest way might be to use SF as sperm donors instead of medical students)


    some examples of what i mean by “in a way that doesn’t drop the average IQ too much”

    1) could be a large invasion of high IQ barbs even if it crashed the original civilization (but with long gap till regained enough surplus to fund the innovation)

    2) small invasion by low IQ barbs into a high IQ civilization as long as they were absorbed into the ruling class and didn’t crash the civ

    3) small number of high IQ barbs getting absorbed into a medium IQ civ e.g. barb mercenary charioteers replacing the local elite through a military coup.

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