The Far East rightly gets a lot of credit for being interesting. It also gets saddled with a lot of hocus-pocus nonsense from people who invest the region with mystical and supernatural powers.
Let me give you three for-instances from an otherwise Seriously Smart Guy, Geoffrey Miller:
For-Instance 1: In comments that forecast the future of evolutionary psychology lying to the East, Miller says (quoted from Human Nature Review in a forwarded e-mail), among other things, "We realize that the U.S. is morphing into a fascist-fundamentalist plutocracy that will never seriously support Darwinian research."
I can see that. But he also says that "Asians" have:
"sophisticated views of sex: in contrast to sex-negative European monotheism, many Asian cultures are more sex-positive, more urbane, and more sophisticated (consider the Kama Sutra, Tantric Buddhism, Hindu temple carvings, Thai sex tourism, geisha culture, etc.)"
Oh? OK, Mr. Anecdote, if they're so positive and sophisticated, why did the Global Study of Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors (fittingly enough, carried out by Pfizer) find that people in the West - mostly - find their sex lives more satisfying than people in the East?
For-Instance 2: Miller assumes aggressive growth for India and China and forecasts both will surpass the gross domestic products of the United States and Europe by 2050, a prediction he uses to state that China will become the world's most prosperous country.
Maybe Miller thinks GDP is a better measure of a country's prosperity than per-capita, or median, or mean (for Christ's sake), income, but I do not.
I'd certainly rather live in Bermuda than Sierra Leone, for example, even though Bermuda checks in at No. 167 on the CIA World Factbook's GDP list and Sierra Leone stands at No. 159. Hell, Afghanistan, North Korea and Russia all have Bermuda beat, and its per-capita GDP is the highest on Earth!
The latter measure is misleading, too. Would you prefer the United Arab Emirates or Japan? Well, UAE soars above Japan, so by Miller's reckoning, it must have an edge.
For-Instance 3: Miller says China will soon be the world's most "progressive" country. He doesn't back that up, except to say that "China is an officially atheistic state; most other
advanced Asian countries are fairly secular, with very low rates of creationist monotheism. ... Daoism and Buddhism embrace perpetual change as the cosmic norm."
If by "progressive" Miller means to say "amenable to evolutionary science" then maybe. But I take progressive as having implications that reach far beyond the realm of the privileged. China may be headed toward Miller's vision of a "prosperous and progressive" future, but for whom?
Miller's predictions above and at the recent Human Behavior and Evolution Society conference could sound reasonable at first blush, but I fear this otherwise worthy member of the resistance has given up far too early on the rest of us.