Must The State Affix The Imprimatur Of Marriage To All Constitutionally Protected Coupling Arrangements And Ensuing Sexual Behaviors? by Alice Travis

April 27th, 2015

If States license same sex marriages the Fourteenth Amendment may mandate the issuance of categories of marriage licenses akin to types of state diplomas.

At issue in the cases DeBoer v. Snyder, Obergefell v. Hodges, Tanco v. Haslam, Bourke v. Beshear is “the constitutionality of state marriage definitions.” The United States Supreme Court has agreed to decide (1) whether the Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and (2) whether the Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?

The question is not whether persons of homosexual orientations have a right to marry same sex partners when licensed by the State to do so and thus are entitled to ensuing benefits as provided by law, but whether such persons have a constitutional right to ‘marry’ a person of the same gender when doing so requires the State to redefine the institution of marriage. At its core the first question to be decided by the Court asks, does the United States Constitution require States to recognize variations on hetero-normative (male-female) sexual orientation mandating redefinition of marriage by the State to permit persons who espouse non heterosexual orientations (male-male and female-female) to obtain licenses to ‘marry’ each other.

To mandate that States redefine the institution of marriage to accommodate same sex marriage, the United States Supreme Court must conclude that propagation of the species in an orderly manner is not necessarily a rational and legitimate interest of the State in defining and licensing marriage. Such determination would find the State’s reservation of the institution of marriage as a vehicle for the orderly possible propagation of the species within the unit itself by licensing exclusively the union of a male and a female person therein is unconstitutional as an impermissible infringement on the fundamental right of an individual to ‘marry’ a person of choice.

However, restrictions on marrying persons of choice always have existed and found to be within the purview of the State. Polygamy laws and bigamy laws restrict married persons from marrying additional persons. Age restrictions exist, often with different cutoffs by gender. Incest laws prohibit certain marital unions. Persons determined incompetent by the State cannot consent to marriage and the State has the power to annul unions entered into by such persons. Prisoners may be allowed to marry but may be denied conjugal visits in a restriction of marriage rights. Reasonable restrictions on marital unions have been imposed by the State and found to be constitutional when a legitimate vested interest of the State has been identified.

Because the propagation of the species has depended upon male-female sexual interaction, over millennia societies have recognized and sanctioned such unions in a variety of forms which fall under the rubric of ‘marriage.’ Over the past half century the United States Supreme Court has held that private homosexual sexual activity between consenting adults (excepting incest) is not the State’s business. Marriage, however, remains the only institution by which society gives explicit permission for those in the marital union to engage in sexual relations with each other. The Supreme Court’s determination that ‘consummation’ of the union is not necessary for a valid marriage removed the physical union of male and female genitalia from the requirements for a valid marriage rendering coitus optional but not mandatory. Though this determination was made in the context of heterosexual marriage, it is argued by supporters of same-sex marriage that this decision removed the necessity of one party possessing operative female genitalia (woman) and one party possessing operative male genitalia (man) from the definition of a marital union, mandating States to license a marriage between persons of the same gender.

The answer to the first question before the high Court may center on whether the constitution mandates States to issue any marriage licenses at all. Some states recognize common law marriage. This recognition is an acknowledgment that marriage is at its core a contractual arrangement between individuals. Thus the State’s interest in licensing marriages stems from an understanding by the People that granting individuals licenses to marry serves a public purpose. The license is not marriage; it simply declares that there is no impediment to the impending marriage and that the named parties are free to proceed. The issue is whether a State constitutionally can conclude that if the parties seeking a license to marry are of the same gender, is this a fatal impediment prohibiting the grant of the license to marry within the territory of the State.

Love relations and sexual relations between same sex individuals who enter into unions and co-habitations which as a matter of universal, non discriminatory human biology and physiology cannot theoretically result in the propagation of the human species would appear to be outside the vested interest of the State with no discernible public interest served by licensing such unions. If, however, the United States Supreme Court finds that the Fourteenth Amendment mandates States to license same sex marriages, such licensing shall redefine marriage and effectively dissolve it as an institution inherently concerned with orderly propagation of the species. The resulting marriage union would be an ordinary contractual construct equivalent to any other partnership agreement cognizable under law. Ultimately marriage rights may depend upon the skill and prowess of the attorney who drafted the marriage agreement. This may well discriminate against those who cannot afford good lawyers.

Traditionally, marriage has been defined as a legal contractual or common law arrangement whereby male and female enter into a close, personal and intimate relationship and as a result of the intimacy sanctioned by society as appropriate therein, there exists at least theoretically the biological possibility of new life being born of the union.

Should the Supreme Court sever the theoretical biological capability of the marriage union to result in propagation of the species (by mandating redefinition of marriage to include same sex unions) this could prejudice the rights of heterosexuals who depend upon the traditional definition of marriage to legitimize their cohabitations and intimate sexual relations with members of the opposite gender which may result in pregnancy of the female. Women who engage in sexual relations with their husbands maintain their public virtue and reputation. Women impregnated by their spouses are not subjected to shame and ridicule and ostracism in society. Redefining marriage to accommodate same-sex marriage may deprive those in heterosexual marriages of the unique legal protections afforded them by the State in return for marrying and potentially propagating the species in orderly fashion within the marital union.

The male-female marital union definition is not the rearing of children in a family unit; the definition is not the determination of inheritance rights and estate distributions; the definition is not people in love cohabitating. The definition of a marital union as an institution historically recognized, sanctioned and licensed by the State is the joining together of persons as marriage partners who theoretically possess the biological capability to propagate the species. If this core understanding (“deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition” Washington v. Glucksberg, 521 U.S. 702-721 (1997)) is removed from the definition of the institution of marriage, there is no remaining institution of marriage as historically defined. The word marriage survives, but its definition as a legitimate concern of the State becomes unclear, and the special Federal and State benefits associated with the marital union may not survive.

Traditionally, the husband and male spouse is presumed under law to be the father of any child born of the wife and female spouse. A child born to a spouse in a same sex marriage is presumed by law not to be a product of the marital union. This is a profound legal distinction and it could well be unconstitutional for marriage laws to confer support and estate distribution obligations on married heterosexuals which are not conferred on homosexuals in same sex marriages. If the theoretical biological capability of making new people is determined by the Supreme Court to be of no consequence to the legal definition and understanding of the marriage union on what basis can a female spouse (wife) demand that her male spouse (husband) support the offspring born of their marital union? The female spouse may have the same rights to child support afforded women whose offspring are born outside of marriage, but the rights would not stem from the nature of the marital union itself which by definition no longer would concern propagation of the species.

Pregnancy is never a consequence of sexual relations in same sex marriage.
No spouse in a same sex marriage who elects to have a child by natural means can do so without committing adultery.

100 percent of births to persons in same sex marriages are out-of-wedlock.
No spouse in a same sex marriage who elects to have a child by natural or artificial means can do so without proliferating out-of-wedlock-births.

These two facts alone establish that while male-female unions and same-sex unions both may be labeled marriage, they are fundamentally different institutions with divergent and conflicting impacts on the vested interests of the State in encouraging orderly propagation of the species within marriage and discouraging out-of-wedlock births.

The Constitution may require the State to offer (i) heterosexual male-female marriage licenses, (ii) homosexual male-male marriage licenses and (iii) homosexual female-female marriage licenses if it elects to redefine marriage to encompass same sex couples. A marriage union is the only institution in society which the State licenses as a vehicle for orderly propagation of the species. Exempting same sex couples and not heterosexual couples from the societal norm that propagation of the species within the marital union serves valid vested interests of the State “rejects the long established precept that the incidents, benefits, and obligations of marriage are uniform for all married couples within each State.”

1963: When 24 percent of black infants and 3.1 percent of white infants were born outside marriage Daniel Patrick Moynihan, later U.S. Senator from New York, issued a report entitled The Negro Family: The Case For National Action. Moynihan warned of calamities associated with the growing number of out-of-wedlock births. By 2010 the rate increased to 73 percent for black mothers and to 29 percent for white mothers based on reports by federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2012.

2003: “[I]f poor single mothers were married to the actual fathers of their children, two-thirds would immediately be lifted out of poverty:” Heritage Foundation Center for Data Analysis Report No. CDA03-06, May 20.

2013: The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey reported that states with higher percentages of out-of-wedlock births in 2011 tended to have a higher incidences of poverty. The State of Utah was reported as having the nation’s lowest out-of-wedlock birth rate in 2011 at 14.7 percent (poverty rate 11.6 %). New Hampshire followed at 20 percent (poverty rate10.3 %). The District of Columbia had the nation’s highest out-of-wedlock birth rate at 50.8 percent (poverty rate: 22.7 %). The rate for Louisiana was 48.7 percent(poverty rate 18.5 %). Mississippi’s rate was reported at 48.1 percent (poverty rate16.1%) and New Mexico’s percentage was found to be 47.6 percent (poverty rate16.1).

Does a State’s Denial of a Marriage License to Two Persons of the Same Sex ‘Degrade’ and ‘Demean’ Same Sex Couples ?

In United States v. Windsor, the United States Supreme Court by a majority of 5-4 held that the Defense of Marriage Act’s (DOMA) defining a marriage as a union of a male and a female person was unconstitutional as a usurpation of the State’s right to define marriage and in violation of the Fifth Amendment stating “the Fifth Amendment itself withdraws from Government the power to degrade or demean in the way this law does.” (emphasis added)

Justice Scalia dissenting:
When the Court declared a constitutional right to homosexual sodomy, we were assured that the case had nothing, nothing at all to do with “whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter.” [Lawrence, 539 U. S. at 578.] Now we are told that DOMA is invalid because it “demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects,”—with an accompanying citation of Lawrence. (internal citations omitted)
“T]he majority [opinion] says that the supporters of this Act [DOMA] acted with malice—with the “purpose” “to disparage and to injure” same-sex couples. It says that the motivation for DOMA was to “demean,”.; to “impose inequality,”; to “impose . . . a stigma,”; to deny people “equal dignity,”; to brand gay people as “unworthy,” and to “humiliat[e]” their children….: (internal citations omitted)

Chief Justice Roberts also dissenting:
“The majority extensively chronicles DOMA’s departure from the normal allocation of responsibility between State and Federal Governments, emphasizing that DOMA “rejects the long-established precept that the incidents, benefits, and obligations of marriage are uniform for all married couples within each State.” Thus, while “[t]he State’s power in defining the marital relation is of central relevance” to the majority’s decision to strike down DOMA here, that power will come into play on the other side of the board in future cases about the constitutionality of state marriage definitions.” (internal citations omitted; emphasis added)

Proponents of same sex marriage argue that the legal issue concerns solely marriage equality, and that any rejection of this argument is animus plain and simple. In U.S. v. Windsor, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government’s disparate treatment of same sex couples under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violated the Fifth Amendment. But if the issue were simply marriage equality then the definition of marriage would need not be disturbed. When the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution ended slavery and declared freedom to be a birthright, the definition of freedom was not disturbed. The Amendment simply declared that race and previous conditions of servitude did not and could not strip people male or female in gender of the inalienable right to be free. Correspondingly, the overturning of laws prohibiting miscegenation did not require a redefinition of the institution of marriage. Laws prohibiting miscegenation were found by the Supreme Court to be unconstitutional because of such determinations as marriage is a fundamental right involving personal choices and is a liberty protected against unwarranted State usurpation and disregard by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. But it is significant that these holdings were premised on a traditional hetero-normative view of marriage as a union between male and female persons.

In United States v. Windsor, the Court held that DOMA in limiting marriage to male female unions was unconstitutional because it trampled on “sexual and moral choices protected by the Constitution. Constitutionally afforded “sexual and moral choices” however cannot be limited to individuals who identify as homosexuals, but must be extended to the heterosexual, the bisexual and the asexual. Within these general categories of sexual orientation are sub groups including pedophiles, and zoophiles, who may seek further redefinitions of marriage to accommodate their sexual orientations and proclivities. Prohibitions against polygamy, bigamy, incest and bestiality may not survive along side a determination that sexual orientation is a protected constitutional right.

Illustratively, a bisexual individual could argue that his or her sexual orientation mandates that States grant marriage licenses for three person marriages or permit two concurrent marriages to persons of different sexes. This argument could have merit if sexual orientation is a protected constitutional right mandating that States redefine marriage to accommodate varied and non normative sexual orientations.

*Alice Travis is a veteran broadcast journalist and the author of Cognitive Evolution: the Biological Imprint of Applied Intelligence. This essay is a vehicle for open conversation with no intent to disparage or demean protected lifestyle choices of fellow human beings.


June 26th, 2013

“Cultural mind sets which fail to recognize that intelligence has no knowledge of geographical labels, ethnic descriptions or racial identifications move increasingly toward the periphery of mankind.” [Cognitive Evolution]

While the United States Supreme Court in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin vacated the judgment and remanded the case for determination of whether the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decided the issue under the Constitutionally mandatory strict scrutiny guidelines, a concurring Opinion of Justice Clarence Thomas and the dissenting Opinion of Justice Ruth Ginsburg elevate the case to near landmark status. The issue preserved is the constitutionality of benign racial engineering in higher public education by state actors.


Justice Clarence Thomas:

“I write separately to explain that I would overrule Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U. S. 306 (2003), and hold that a State’s use of race in higher education admissions decisions is categorically prohibited by the Equal Protection Clause.”

“Slaveholders argued that slavery was a ‘positive good’ that civilized blacks and elevated them in every dimension of life.”

“There is no principled distinction between the University’s assertion that diversity yields educational benefits and the segregationists’ assertion that segregation yielded those same benefits.”

“[T]he University would have us believe that its discrimination is likewise benign. I think the lesson of history is clear enough: Racial discrimination is never benign….While it does not, for constitutional purposes, matter whether the University’s racial discrimination is benign, I note that racial engineering does in fact have insidious consequences.”


Justice Ruth Ginsburg:

“Actions designed to burden groups long denied full citizenship stature are not sensibly ranked with measures taken to hasten the day when entrenched discrimination and its after effects have been extirpated.” Gratz v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244, 301 (Ginsburg, J. dissenting).

“[I]f universities cannot explicitly include race as a factor, many may resort to camouflage to maintain their minority enrollment.” Gratz, 539 U.S.,at 304 (Ginsburg, J., dissenting).

“Among constitutionally permissible options, I remain convinced, those that candidly disclose their consideration of race [are] preferable to those that conceal it…. Accordingly, I would not return this case for a second look.”

As the thorough opinions below show, the University’s admissions policy flexibly considers race only as a factor of a factor of a factor of a factor in the calculus; followed a year long review through which the University reached the reasonable, good-faith judgment that supposedly race-neutral initiatives were insufficient to achieve, in appropriate measure, the educational benefits of student body diversity….”

The ultimate resolution of the matter will have far reaching cerebral consequences for millions of impacted Homo sapiens.

Whatever side of the political spectrum one may fancy, Justice Thomas’s Opinion makes a profound observation: “The worst forms of racial discrimination in this Nation have always been accompanied by straight-faced representations that discrimination helped minorities”:

Slaveholders argued that slavery was a positive good that civilized blacks and elevated them in every dimension of life…(Slavery,. . . has done more to elevate a degraded race in the scale of humanity; to tame the savage; to civilize the barbarous; to soften the ferocious; to enlighten the ignorant, and to spread the blessings of [C]hristianity among the heathen, than all the missionaries that philanthropy and religion have ever sent forth);…(They are elevated from the condition in which God first created them, by being made our slaves).

The book Cognitive Evolution recounts and addresses the true narrative of a former American slave. The woman’s story was originally told in Genovese’s The World The Slaves Made. When discussing her life under slavery the former slave ( then a legally free woman) exhibited the cognitive state of a perfectly acculturated slave. She recalled that her slave master told her about Christianity and life everlasting in heaven. But she confided in the interviewer that she wasn’t so sure she believed in all that. What did she long for? She pined for the good old days of slavery, concluding “that would be heaven enough for me.”

The Court’s narrowly tailored Opinion in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin did not require decision on whether there were any actual cognitive benefits for those admitted under the University’s subject racial engineering initiative. In his concurring Opinion Mr. Justice Thomas cited data for subsequent examination of the issue concluding:

“There can be no doubt that the University’s discrimination injures white and Asian applicants who are denied admission because of their race. But I believe the injury to those admitted under the University’s discriminatory admissions program is even more harmful. Blacks and Hispanics admitted to the University as a result of racial discrimination are, on average, far less prepared than their white and Asian classmates….”

“Tellingly, neither the University nor any of the 73 amici briefs in support of racial discrimination has presented a shred of evidence that black and Hispanic students are able to close this substantial gap during their time at the University….The University and its dozens of amici are deafeningly silent on this point.”

The book Cognitive Evolution at great length investigates how the esteemed Frederick Douglass escaped the cognitive snarls of slavery. The answer is basic. He learned to read like the white boys with whom he played. He overheard his slave master berate his slave mistress for teaching him to read the bible. The master explained, Reading unfits a child to be a slave.

The Iceman Cometh by Alice Travis

August 8th, 2011

I never knew his first name. I never heard anyone call him anything other than Mr. Jackson. Two or three times a week we knew that he was coming because he told us as he arrived. One could hear him a city block away lyrically resounding, “Ice Maaaaa…n!” “Ice Maaaaa…n.” That cry set everything in motion. Usually my grandmother would instruct that either my little brother or I run outside and order a $.25 cent ‘bit’ or a $.50 cent ‘bit’ for our icebox, depending upon what she had to spend…or what we needed. No details were ever shared.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a great deal about Mr. Jackson. I don’t know what happened to him after everyone on the block purchased a refrigerator. Initially, I did not know why my mind kept traveling back to Mr. Jackson’s era more than 60 years ago. Now I know, and the revelation has economic lessons for unemployment today. Certainly we do not need icemen. But that is not the point. The lesson is: Mr. Jackson was an entrepreneur. He provided a service well, turned a ‘profit,’ sheltered and fed his family. And, he was creative. Ice melted quickly under the hot New Orleans, Louisiana sun. So Mr. Jackson built a shelter in the shade for his ice blocks. He then used a wheelbarrow covered with burlap to move a few blocks quickly before they melted. The ice was dripping by the time it was inserted in the icebox, but by and large the blocks were intact. No one felt cheated and people were grateful and willing to pay for the delivery service so that they did not have to make trips to an ice warehouse located an unmanageable distance away. Mr. Jackson was also an employer. He hired a teenager to assist him. Maybe the young man was his son.

Fast forward to today. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the unemployment rate for those aged 16 to 19 in May 2011 was more than 24 percent. In May of 2000 the rate was less than 13 percent. Interestingly, between 1948 and 1951 (60 years ago) male black American teens had lower average rates of unemployment than white teenagers. Since the era of Iceman Jackson, black teenagers, however, have steadily lost ground. All teenagers seeking work today are competing with older workers and college graduates for entry-level positions. Those groups with measurably marketable skills and whose members demonstrate a strong work ethic fare better. Those groups which seek jobs as reparations for their plight must demonstrate new behaviors or the race for jobs will be over even before their members have lined up at the starting gate.

America now stripped of its AAA credit rating by Standard & Poor’s must cut spending if only to stave off a further downgrade of credit worthiness. Even if Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are momentarily spared, more than 3 trillion dollars in spending must be cut from the federal budget over the next 10 years. This will have a direct and invasive effect on state budgets and government jobs at all levels. For those who since the early 1950s and 1960s have come to see the federal government as a messiah, the awakening will be rude and the impact brutal. We are seeing signs already. Violent “flash mobs” of teenagers appear out of nowhere in Philadelphia and Chicago. There are reports of senseless beatings of strangers by young adults in Wisconsin. Educators in Atlanta admit to cheating on standardized tests because of their belief that the children entrusted to their care are unable to pass No Child Left Behind tests on merit. These are ominous clouds, pre-hurricane warnings.

Society will survive and law and order will prevail. And it is within the realm of possibilities that some extremists will propose draconian measures requiring, for example, that offenders be corralled in their own neighborhoods behind concrete barriers and chain linked fences. This would be a pretty ugly America.

In Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh, the down-and-outers who lived at Harry Hope’s saloon and rooming house hotel existed in a stupefied state sustained by alcohol and dreams of a better tomorrow. But of course tomorrow never comes.

Is there hope in today’s unstable economic climate? Yes. It lives in the legacy of Iceman Jackson’s belief in the dignity of work and the freedom that flows from noble entrepreneurship. Mr. Jackson was a black man. Mr. Jackson was a white man. Mr. Jackson was everyman who knows what it means to be a free man.

Modern Finance Engineering & Social Engineering are cut from the same Defective Cloth Patterns By Alice Travis

September 23rd, 2008

Imprudent financial policies have led to the crisis on Wall Street. For the moment in supporting unprecedented solutions, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson says in effect he’s playing the hand dealt by his predecessors. And as for his role in essentially advocating nationalizing financial institutions, Federal Reserve Chairman Benjamin Bernanke is quoted as saying there are no ideologues in a financial crisis just as there are no atheists in a foxhole.


For decades, seasoned financial titans argued against the most egregious social engineering pork while erecting “lego” financial houses structurally outfitted from the same genre of ‘engineering’ blueprints. As recently as 2005, Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan acknowledged,  “Where once more-marginal applicants would simply have been denied credit, lenders are now able to quite efficiently judge the risk posed by individual applicants and to price that risk appropriately. These improvements have led to rapid growth in subprime mortgage lending.”


Certainly in theory, there is nothing inherently dangerous in the growth of subprime mortgage lending in a capitalistic economic system. Had that been the sole goal, the goal was met. The ultimate objective however was to creatively create new wealth while simultaneously slightly altering selected wealth distribution patterns pursuant to government mandate. Instead, the subprime mortgage industry spiraled out if its orbit and became the unrestrained buying and selling of serviced ‘risk’ packages predicated on debt obligations that were unlikely to be honored which in turn were collateralized by overvalued properties. The buying and selling of risks when there is virtually no chance that the debt obligation on which the risk is calculated can be serviced and liquidated is illusory wealth, like a large glittering fake diamond.


Viewing the financial upheaval from a cerebral biological perspective can be instructive and fascinating. Significantly, the chaos in the financial markets is a demonstration of the thought processes that produced it. At the core of the sub prime mortgage crisis is the absolute separation of the mortgagor from the mortgagee. People who initiated mortgages were relieved of the worry of whether the loan ever would be repaid. Others packaged the risk of non payment and sold it to third, fourth, fifth and sixth parties, through the use of securitized bonds. And as the risks were increasingly spread there literally reached a point where those buying and selling shares, simultaneously encouraging the lending of new money to produce ever increasing available shares, never for a moment associated any of this trading to have any relevance to a real family living in a mortgaged house on Main Street, USA. At the end of the day, as we have witnessed, the last man standing was holding worthless paper, and the dreams of home ownership for the affected were dissolved as sugar does in water.


Clinical psychologists have observed this detachment syndrome in people, young professionals who have relegated their essential memory function to externals such as laptops and electronic schedulers, depriving the brain of meaningful sorting experience. In the most severe cases up and coming executives have literally forgotten not only the location of their next appointment but even why it has been scheduled. In the most extreme instances this has led to total psychological and physical collapse, and no one saw the implosions coming.


Neither was the implosion in the financial markets detected despite all the indicators of trouble brewing. Financial giants appear genuinely shocked that without massive government intervention Wall Street is on the verge of collapse. Investment banks Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley now require subsidiary commercial banks to remain fiscally functional, let alone competitive.

Princeton University’s Uwe E. Reinhardt, the James Madison Professor of Political Economy and a professor in the Wilson School, writing as a columnist in the Daily Princetonian had this to say about the roots of the current crisis,

“The bankers’ instincts told them that, through a modern financial engineering feat called “securitization,” the risk inherent in dodgy mortgages can be so vaporized and diffused that the risks somehow evaporate altogether. With the aid of computers, the bank’s financial engineers manufactured synthetic securities called Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs) whose promised cash flows were backed up (“collateralized”) by the contractual cash flows of other financial securities, among them – you guessed it  – zillions of dodgy mom-and-pop mortgage contracts that had been purchased by the big banks from local banks, the original lenders. For handsome fees, CDOs based on dodgy mortgages could be “securitized” in this way into yet other CDOs, which, in turn, were securitized for a fee once again until, in the end, no one could trace any more the risk in a dodgy mortgage to the final CDO. In the minds of the bankers and of the rating agencies they pay to rate those CDOs, the risk thus vanished.”


While the direst of sagas may be postponed for a decade or even two, this panic shall revisit us unless we understand what actually has happened and what now must be done. This statement does not encroach upon the terrain of esteemed economists, who will dissect economic theories, crunch numbers, and turn out thousands of power point charts. No, this prediction is predicated on a continually evolving realization that our institutions reflect our biology, and that this globally threatening crisis is essentially the result of layers of flawed thinking calling for the resurrection of belief in the old fashioned understandings of how the brain actually and effectively solves problems, even when aided by external memory.


The most cogent comments with long term significance, regarding the financial crisis have been those which recognize that the model of the investment bank is itself flawed. This fundamental realization, if heeded will lead to needed restructuring. Indeed, we are at a cerebral crossroad when private financial institutions “too big to fail” can only be sustained by government bailout in a premier capitalistic system. This is uncharted territory; but it is essential that those charged with creating new models of financial engineering recognize the fundamental flaw in most of our social engineering projects, the failures of which do not collapse the nation’s economic system but which teach valuable lessons.

The theory of Cognitive Evolution holds that we demonstrate what we know. For example, “Most of the social engineering blueprints for educating the cognitively less able over the past four decades have failed to demonstrate improvement because they have assumed that learning can take place without the acknowledgement of a deficiency, that is a confrontation with ignorance, and that learning is painless. Models of success illustrate quite the opposite.” In social engineering these models are few and far between. The 2008 SAT and ACT scores for major racial and ethnic groups announce that for some populations measured competence is at a 20 year low point, establishing that the adopted social engineering model for academic progress among the disadvantaged is patently defective.

On Wall Street, the current crisis is different from that of the Depression era. We had not attempted the kind of finance engineering that we now know is flawed.  “Learning requires a change from the state of not knowing to the state of knowing. The journey is fraught with anxiety, and unpredictability. The chance of failure increases, and self doubt is inevitable.” “At the end of the learning experience being and behavior have been altered.” “To remain as we are mandates that we do not learn. To learn demands that we change.”


Alice Travis is an information theorist. She is the author of Cognitive Evolution: the Biological Imprint of Applied Intelligence and may be contacted through



Turok & Watson Duel Brain Politics of Genius by Alice Travis

May 21st, 2008

Who is correct?
Neil Turok, Chair of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge University, is equally well described as an education activist in the knowledge economy. “It’s so important to allow brilliant people in Africa to thrive, and somehow this very obvious fact has been missed,” explained Turok following his selection as one of three 2008 TED Prize  recipients. He garnered a $100,000.00 prize to propel fulfillment of his one wish to change the world, celebrating an African Einstein in our lifetimes.”

Turok is a native of South Africa. His parents were anti-apartheid activists.  In 2003 he founded the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in Muizenberg. In pursuit of Turok’s wish, fifteen new post graduate educational centers will open in partnership with the University of Cape Town, the University of the Western Cape and the University of Stellenbosch. Courses will be taught in association with the Faculty of Mathematics of Cambridge, the Division of Physical Sciences at the University of Oxford, and the University of Paris-Sud.  Turok’s aim for the centers is to “unlock and nurture scientific talent.”

The venture has the attention of the best and the brightest. Turok’s close Cambridge University colleague, cosmological physicist Stephen Hawking, NASA’s Michael Griffin, David Gross Nobel Prize for Physics 2004, and George Smoot Nobel Prize for Physics 2006 were in attendance when his Next Einstein from Africa program was launched in Cape Town South Africa on May 12, 2008. A former professor of physics at Princeton University, Turok is clear that the Institute does not seek “ivory tower academics”, but math and science graduates who can become “independent problem-solvers, creative thinkers, innovators and excellent teachers.” The ultimate objective of the effort, according to Dr. Turok is the establishment of a “powerful network working towards African educational and economic self-sufficiency,” including producing “the African Bill Gates, Sergey Brins and Larry Pages of the future,” as in Microsoft and Google.

Turok’s Next Einstein from Africa project is a radical cognitive departure from the sentiment expressed in October 2007 by Nobel Laureate geneticist James Watson, another Cambridge man, who with his Cavendish Laboratories partner Francis Crick unlocked the structure of Deoxyribonucleic acid. At the time, since repudiated, Dr. Watson told The Times in London that he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really.” He stated “There is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so.” James Watson said he did trust that everyone is equal, but “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true.”  He cautioned that one should not discriminate on the basis of color, for “there are many people of color who are very talented, but don’t promote them when they haven’t succeeded at the lower level.” Watson predicted that a gene responsible for creating differences in human intelligence could be found within a decade.

Chaos followed. The destabilization caused by Watson’s utterances led to his early retirement as Director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. His book tour was cancelled and choruses heard around the world condemned the comments. Dr. Watson himself was forced to retreat from the public eye saying he can’t imagine why he made those statements, because he doesn’t believe them to be true.

Cognitive Dissonance in the Knowledge Economy

As the pendulum swings, public response has been telling. While there was vociferous outrage over James Watson’s views as expressed to The Times, few editorials have lined up in support of the realism of Neil Turok’s quest for the African Einstein. To be fair, the bar has been set quite high. Nevertheless, Turok’s aim squarely brings to the discussion forum the issue of universal Homo sapien cognitive capacity. Both Turok and Watson suggest that within our lifetimes in the next decade or so, scientific discoveries and technological measures will provide support for their divergent predictions. Who is correct?

Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen in IQ and the Wealth of Nations state that the reason some nations are rich and some are poor is the disparate innate intelligence of their populations. While provocative, the authors fail to explain material anomalies such as Bahamas, and nations formerly within the Soviet Block. The economic successes and failures of those and other nations support significant additional influence factors discarded by Lynn and Vanhanen.

The subject of universal Homo sapien cognitive capacity has become such an explosive and thorny topic that even psychologist Arthur Jensen who started the public debate in a 1969 issue of the Harvard Educational Review states that following increasing difficulty in getting his new work published, he no longer addresses racial implications of his research. The consensus seems to be that silence is golden. When close to the vest held observations are telegraphed such as those made by James Watson to The Times, pandemonium results. Granted, Dr. Watson’s status as a prominent Nobel Laureate should have dictated to him that his pronouncements would not be viewed as agonizing personal musings but as scientifically proven dicta. This raises the question of what does science say.  The short answer is very little.

Reams of data exist. Most of the data have been interpreted to mean that measured IQ differences exist globally among racial and ethnic groups and that these differences are reflected in standardized achievement test scores and other social indicia. This was echoed by geneticist James Watson. The position was memorialized by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray in The Bell Curve and their recommendation that society brace itself for the ramifications of such a reality. Mathematician physicist Neil Turok obviously shares a different perspective, and believes that little in Africa supports the travails of brilliant minds.  He laments that projects aimed at eradicating poverty are given priority. Turok calculates that the cost of supporting the fifteen new AIMS centers in Africa during the next five years will be about $150 million. This is less than one percent of the aid given annually to Africa. His conviction is, in the knowledge economy, “The people who will make Africa rich are the brightest people because they will generate wealth.”

Obviously, a critical mass of educated citizens will be required to make the continent competitive. It has been noted for decades that many tribal systems have not provided for the development of a managerial class. This involves issues related to the selection of wives capable of the required cognitive and social nurturing of offspring. And, there is the general lack of free public primary education.

Where we are is an extremely fascinating point in witnessing the evolving effects of planned cerebral intervention. Within a decade the impact of Neil Turok’s AIMS program and its offshoots will be measurable. Great success will be identified by some diehards as further evidence of a bimodal cognitive distribution on the continent. This theory, however, has already been significantly discredited. But even modest to moderate success will be meaningful, if the world begins to look to African minds for global solutions, viewed by most today as an oxymoron.

While no one can excuse James Watson’s intemperate public comments about the genetic quality of African minds, many live in similar glass houses. It is significant that the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories under his leadership grew to become one of the most respected molecular biology research institutions in the world. He is not alone in thinking his, now withdrawn, utterances to The Times. And there is plenty of guilt to go around. For the past forty years much of the significant cognitive research and compilations of data have been conducted by followers of Jensenism, Eugenics and others whose stated intent often has been to confirm immutable cognitive differences among racial and ethic groups. When the studies are disseminated the usual outcries of racism follow. Volumes are written, courses are taught, and discussion panels are convened to refute the validity of the latest findings.  What is arguably missing are serious new research efforts to analyze and explain hard data. What is the brain science behind the numbers? Where are the research voices of black sub Saharan African scholars? Black American and Black European scholars? Identification of miniscule errors in the compilation of data is not the needed scientific research. Suggestions that the motivations of the researchers are less than pure are useless babble. The gigantic, enormous, foreboding elephant is still in the room.

The Neil Turok James Watson Duel will play out in the science and technology advances of this decade. Much not grasped today will be known definitively tomorrow. And when brain images immortalize differences, those who have squandered the research opportunities of the decade shall be driven from center stage amidst the worst human relations nightmare the world has ever witnessed.
Alice Travis is an information theorist.    She is the author of Cognitive Evolution: the Biological Imprint of Applied Intelligence.


SLAVES, FOUNDERS AND PATRIOTS Tuesday April 22, 2008 By Alice Travis

April 22nd, 2008

Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice’s comments to the Washington Times on Senator Obama’s race speech included several not commonly heard observations which bear reflection.

While acknowledging that many blacks call themselves African-American, Dr. Rice said that they should not be viewed as immigrants. According to a transcript of the interview released by the State Department, Dr. Rice explained, “We don’t mimic the immigrant story. Where this conversation has got to go is that black Americans and white Americans founded this country together and I think we’ve always wanted the same thing.”

The Secretary’s statements reminded me of a conversation which took place much more than a quarter of a century ago. In 1974 I interviewed Eugene D. Genovese whose tome Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made had just been released.  I’m not certain about my AM New York co-host; but, at the time I shied away from most book reviews. I’d discovered that objective reading of important books resulted in livelier television discussions. I found the book to be profound and years later frequently referred to it when reflecting on issues of race. I never agreed with the book’s critics who labeled it as racist propaganda because Genovese did not paint a portrait of a homogenous army of perpetually angry slave militants. The very condition of being owned by another is by definition descriptive of the heinous, cruel, brutal and morally intolerable institution of slavery.

Genovese introduced the world that the slaves made with this explanation: “American slavery subordinated one race to another and thereby rendered its fundamental class relationship more complex and ambiguous…But slavery as a system of class rule predated racism and racial subordination in world history….”

Secretary Rice’s comment on blacks as the nation’s co-founders acknowledges that though most blacks have ancestors who were slaves during a period of our history, their labor and its fruits along with the worlds they created for physical and psychological survival were enormously instrumental in creating and defining the distinctive American character and American culture which have emerged in our regional and national institutions.

She also quite emphatically underscored that patriotism in blacks predated the death of jim crow. This in and of itself is testimony to the incredible cerebral journey from the condition of slavery to the clear and unmistakable understanding among black Americans that they have blood and sweat equity in this nation.

In March of 2007 during the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony honoring the Tuskegee Airmen, President George W. Bush shared a personal history which pointedly addressed the issue of patriotism and race:

I have a strong interest in World War II airmen. I was raised by one. He flew with a group of brave young men who endured difficult times in the defense of our country. Yet for all they sacrificed and all they lost, in a way, they were very fortunate, because they never had the burden of having their every mission, their every success, their every failure viewed through the color of their skin. Nobody told them they were a credit to their race. Nobody refused to return their salutes. Nobody expected them to bear the daily humiliations while wearing the uniform of their country.

It was different for the men in this room. When America entered World War II, it might have been easy for them to do little for our country. After all, the country didn’t do much for them. Even the Nazis asked why African American men would fight for a country that treated them so unfairly. Yet the Tuskegee airmen were eager to join up.

I …offer a gesture to help atone for all the unreturned salutes and unforgivable indignities. And so, on behalf of the office I hold, and a country that honors you, I salute you for the service to the United States of America.

I listened carefully as the widow of one of the soldiers and her friend of sixty odd years, too a widow, later recounted the ground swell of pride and patriotism that burst forth from the gathering as the remaining Tuskegee Airmen returned the President’s salute. The thunderous applause was apolitical. The women are democrats.

The widowed friend spoke of her husband, a black man, who also served his county in Europe during WWII. She recalled that after 9/11 she had flown the flag that draped his coffin. She also remembered well the sight of the flag that draped her brother’s coffin. He gave his life on Okinawa. Deep in the recesses of her mind, this 86 year old woman stores memory of the indignity her mother suffered at a segregated jim crow Gold Star Mothers tribute sixty years before. This is the vileness of which President Bush and Secretary Rice spoke. In all of its heinousness, it did not sever the yoke of patriotism or founder’s birthright.

Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s intonation “God damn America,” for whatever perceived greater good, has sent shock waves throughout America. The apologists ought to step aside. There is a community of American mothers—black and white, red, yellow and brown who have heard the bugle play taps, who have seen the flag cornered, who have witnessed the coffin lowered. In Arlington, at The Tomb of the Unknowns, guarded every minute of every day since 1937, lie the remains of American soldiers whose races and identities are “known but to God.”

Alice Travis is an information theorist. She is the author of Cognitive Evolution: The Biological Imprint of Applied Intelligence.     


Hello world!

October 13th, 2007

Release Date : 02/5/2008 10:00 AM


Cognitive Evolution Author Alice Travis Links Ebonics to Black/White Racial Achievement Gap            

  Recommends Mastery of Standard English Requirement for High School Diplomas         

New York, NY., /Corporate Wire / –The newly released genetic psychology book, “Cognitive Evolution: The Biological Imprint of Applied Intelligence” [Universal Publishers ISBN: 1-58112-981-5 ISBN 13: 978-1-58112-981-6] addresses the persistent black/white racial achievement gap in American schools. The treatise proposes that States mandate English as a Second Language Courses for all dialect and foreign language speaking children entering public school systems, including speakers of Ebonics or Black English. The book holds that speakers of Black English in the United States are being educated in Standard English which is de facto a foreign language for students whose mother tongue is Ebonics.

(Library of Congress data)

Author Alice Travis states, “Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that immigrants who have mastered their native languages in standard form are advantaged in learning Standard English. Dialect speakers are severely disadvantaged in acquiring fluency in English because of a lack of familiarity with formal grammatical constructs. The traditional pedagogical approach to teaching Standard English to speakers of Ebonics has been to apply different rules to students academically handicapped by Black English as their first language. Many school districts treat Ebonics as a sacrosanct cultural trait while requiring students who speak other foreign languages to enroll in English as a Second Language courses. Such classes are not mandatory for Black English speakers, widening the racial achievement gap as students move through elementary and secondary grades.”

Ms. Travis, an information theorist, [Biography: Marquis Who’s Who America/World] reports that, “ Ebonics immersion depresses measured academic achievement at all socioeconomic levels. Black middle class youngsters are not immune.”[See e.g. Black Picket Fences: Privilege and Peril among the Black Middle Class by Mary Pattillo-McCoy University of Chicago Press] “The critical role of English language fluency in USA education is evidenced by the college and university requirement that non-native applicants demonstrate proficiency in tests such as TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language),”observes Ms. Travis.

“Cognitive Evolution” predicts that the black/ white racial achievement gap will narrow significantly as school systems mandate Standard English mastery as a requirement for High School graduation, concurrent with English as a Second Language Courses K-12 offered to Ebonics dialect speakers.