Clear Language, Clear Mind

October 24, 2017

Evolution and imperfect mediators

  • Skoyles, J. R. (1999). Human evolution expanded brains to increase expertise capacity, not IQ. Psycoloquy, 10(002). Chicago

Skoyles is arguing a rather implausible claim:

Why do modern humans have larger brains than earlier people such as Homo erectus? As large brains cause problems in childbirth, infancy and locomotion, the advantage they offer must be substantial. This advantage might be associated with increased IQ, but there is a problem: evidence from MRI volumetric surveys, microcephaly and hemispherectomy shows that there exist individuals with psychometrically normal IQ but Homo-erectus-sized brains. Why did evolution increase brain size (with its associated costs) when humans (as these individuals demonstrate) can have normal IQ without bigger brains? I propose that the advantage may be related to increased capacity for an aspect of intelligent behaviour not measured by IQ tests but critical to the survival of our simple hunter-gatherers ancestors: the capacity to develop expertise.

His argument:

2. First, we should note that brain expansion beyond that of Homo erectus size causes neonatal, obstetric and female locomotor handicaps (reviewed below). Thus, whatever selected for increased brain size must have offered a very strong compensating benefit. Second, clinical evidence indicates that modern people can have brains no larger than Homo erectus yet exhibit normal IQ scores. Thus, the compensating benefit offered by large brains is unlikely to be intelligence as measured by IQ: Why should evolution have increased brain size with all its associated problems for something that Homo erectus sized brains could have without expansion?

Do you see the fallacy? It is a subtle variant of a failure to think in statistical terms. Whenever I see these kinds of arguments, I immediately try some analogous traits. A very common practice in analytic philosophy (for those that don’t know, I did spent a bunch of years doing that kind of thing).

If we condense the argument, it becomes a little clearer:

Brain expansion causes problems. Thus, whatever selected for increased brain size must have offered compensating benefits. People can have below average size brains yet exhibit normal intelligence. Thus, the compensating benefit offered by large brains is unlikely to be intelligence. Why should evolution have increased brain size with its associated problems for something smaller sized brains could have without expansion?

I merely edited out the unnecessary parts. Now try substituting some other trait, say fighting ability and some mediator of it.

Muscle size increases causes problems. Thus, whatever selected for increased muscle size must have offered compensating benefits. People can have below average size muscles yet exhibit normal fighting ability. Thus, the compensating benefit offered by large muscles is unlikely to be fighting ability. Why should evolution have increased muscle size with its associated problems for something smaller sized muscles could have without increase?

See the issue? This argument works for any imperfect physical underpinning of a trait, which is to say, basically all of them. Longer legs didn’t evolve for running well for some people with short legs run well. Bigger/stronger hears didn’t evolve for better cardio, because some people smaller/weaker hearts have good cardio. Longer arms didn’t evolve for fighting because some short armed people fight well. Darker skin didn’t evolve as a protection against sun exposure for some relative light skinned people don’t get skin cancer or sunburns. Larger eyes didn’t evolve for seeing better for some people with smaller eyes see well. Bigger ears… Bigger noses… Stronger hands… …

September 1, 2017

Battle of the sexes: island survival edition

Filed under: Evolutionary Psychology — Tags: , , , , — Emil O. W. Kirkegaard @ 09:43

I don’t know of any scientific studies, but there’s been a bunch of shows where they put teams of women and men on islands and had them try to survive etc. The results were quite predictable, though I want to note that the producers could have biased things by picking particularly incompetent women and competent men. Given the left-wing bias in the media, seems unlikely they would have done such a thing. In fact, they probably did it the other way around to minimize any outcome gaps.

I didn’t find any more formal review of these, so here’s my attempted at a more curated list. I have downloaded copies of these videos in case for when Youtube deletes them as being too accurate of reality insensitive.

A lot of these are not in English. It seems that every country tried these on their own and had to learn the result that way. Most of them have subs.

Commentaries by others, mostly redpill-y people:

  • https://www.reddit.com/r/TheRedPill/comments/1xaupa/what_happens_when_you_drop_a_bunch_of_women_on_an/
  • http://www.returnofkings.com/32053/this-accidental-experiment-shows-the-superiority-of-patriarchy

Dutch Expedition Robinson (Survivor)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqfAt7TshLw

Survivor UK

Maybe also has another name. Unclear.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAWfK5LEGIg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2L5Gqgnkkec

More?

I’m pretty sure I’ve seen more of these, but I didn’t immediately find them again when writing this post.

February 19, 2017

Trivers-Willard in humans?

In evolutionary biology, there is a hypothesis about sex ratios: Trivers-Williard hypothesis. It has been noted that males have higher dispersion in their fertility than females have, a finding that is also true in humans (one, two, three). If resources are related to fertility — which they are in many species and used to be in humans — and the species has parental investment in offspring (many don’t), then one could boost one’s number of grandchildren by having more males if one has a lot of resources, and more females if one is poor.

It’s one of those hypothesis that has a nice theoretical theme going for it, and so psychologists are prone seek out evidence for it. How about this paper?

Trivers–Willard at birth and one year: evidence from US natality data 1983–2001

Trivers & Willard (TW) hypothesized that evolution would favour deviations from the population sex ratio in response to parental condition: parents in good condition would have more sons and parents in poor condition would have more daughters. We analyse the universe of US linked births and infant deaths to white mothers 1983–2001, covering 48 million births and 310 000 deaths. We find that (i) married, better educated and younger mothers bore more sons and (ii) infant deaths were more male if the mother was unmarried and young. Our findings highlight the potential role of offspring sex ratio as an indicator of maternal status, and the role of infant mortality in shaping a TW pattern in the breeding population.

What did they find?

The coefficient indicates that married mothers were 0.2% (1.022/(0.513×1000)) more likely to give birth to a son than unmarried mothers. The other direct measure of the economic circumstances of the mother is her education level. We find that lower education was associated with a more female sex ratio. For instance, relative to a mother with some college, a mother without a high school degree was approximately 0.6% (3.064/(0.513×1000)) less likely to bear a boy. We find that mothers in the age group of 15–19 were more likely to give birth to sons and mothers older than 35 were more likely to give birth to daughters (compared with mothers in the age group of 20–34). Biologically, younger women may be in better condition, an observation that would bring this finding in line with the TW hypothesis. The negative gradient is also consistent with the observation (noted by TW) that sons are a more risky parental investment.

The first two fit with TW, but the effect sizes are tiny. The age pattern does not fit. Older women have a lot more resources than younger women, so should have a lot more boys, which in fact they don’t. What’s wrong? Simple alternative hypothesis: male fetuses are more vulnerable, in particular because they only have 1 X chromosome. Many genetic disorders are due to mutations on the X-chromosome and if they are recessive (you need 100% bad copies to get an effect), then male fetuses are a lot more prone to these disorders than females. Medical geneticists are very familiar with this. Other errors are due to other fuck-ups that also affect male fetuses more, and the rate of these fuck-ups increase with the mother’s age, giving rise to the age pattern seen.

Smarter, more educated etc. people have better genes, including having fewer X-linked genetic variants. So male fetuses of such people are less likely to die off before birth (spontaneous abortion). Estimates of the rate of spontaneous abortion for humans are not easy to get because most of them occur in the early stages where women don’t know they are pregnant, but a value of around 50% would not be surprising. So there’s a lot of room for bad male fetuses to die off selectively in a way that looks like TW.

With that said, Noah points me to a study of billionaires which finds large effects for the sex ratio, like 60% boys in billionaires. It could be a more extreme version of the above, but that would imply that more than 60% of conceptions are male, and that this imbalance happens to get down to about 51% in most people due to sex-linked spontaneous abortions. That doesn’t sound so likely. But note that the effect is only there in male billionaires, not female ones. That seems like a big clue.

February 18, 2017

Cold winter theory in non-human animals

Disclaimer: I did not read Rushton’s seminal book on the topic. I was only first recently able to obtain a complete electronic copy (i.e. not abridged version). I did in fact only skim this literature. I don’t have time to work on this, but I’d like others to do so, hence I put the labor of my initial approach for others to build upon.

A colleague writes to me that (edited):

Last week during skiing holidays I saw a popular scientific program on animal intelligence in the evening, and they presented something like the Lynn-Miller-Rushton cold winter theory! Birds (chickadees) living in Alaska have bigger brains and are more intelligent than birds living in Kansas! This is an independent very valuable support for the cold winter theory on intelligence. I found some of the original studies:

Roth, T. C. & Pravosudov, V. V. (2009). Hippocampal volumes and neuron numbers increase along a gradient of environmental harshness: A large-scale comparison. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 276(1656), 401–405. http://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2008.1184
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2664346/

Roth, T. C., LaDage, L. D., & Pravosudov, V. V. (2010). Learning capabilities enhanced in harsh environments: A common garden approach. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 277(1697), 3187–3193.
http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2010/05/29/rspb.2010.0630

Roth, T. C., Gallagher, C. M., LaDage, L. D., & Pravosudov, V. V. (2012). Variation in brain regions associated with fear and learning in contrasting climates. Brain, Behavior and Evolution, 79(3), 181–190.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3343761/

Pravosudov, V. V., Roth, T. C., LaDage, L. D., & Freas, C. A. (2015). Environmental influences on spatial memory and the hippocampus in food-caching chickadees. Comparative Cognition & Behavior Reviews, 10, 25–43.
http://comparative-cognition-and-behavior-reviews.org/2015/vol10_pravosudov_roth_ladage_freas/

A list of the papers of Timothy C. Roth:
https://www.fandm.edu/timothy-roth

The area is called behavioral ecology. Some years ago I quickly skimmed some of this literature with an eye for comparing it with the human racial evolutionary models. Human populations were not the only ones who were faced with the cold climate of the north. While one can find studies that fit with Rushton etc.’s thinking, one can also find the reverse. Northern does not always mean smarter, larger brain, more behaviorally complex or less aggressive in non-human animals. Among turtles, the evidence shows that the northern ones are towards r, southern ones towards K (measured in egg size and count). Here’s a bunch of other studies I was able to quickly find covering a variety of animals:

  • Sol, D., Lefebvre, L., & Rodríguez-Teijeiro, J. D. (2005). Brain size, innovative propensity and migratory behaviour in temperate Palaearctic birds. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 272(1571), 1433–1441. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2005.3099
  • Barrickman, N. L., Bastian, M. L., Isler, K., & van Schaik, C. P. (2008). Life history costs and benefits of encephalization: a comparative test using data from long-term studies of primates in the wild. Journal of Human Evolution, 54(5), 568–590. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2007.08.012
  • Sol, D., Székely, T., Liker, A., & Lefebvre, L. (2007). Big-brained birds survive better in nature. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 274(1611), 763–769. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2006.3765
  • Sol, D., Garcia, N., Iwaniuk, A., Davis, K., Meade, A., Boyle, W. A., & Székely, T. (2010). Evolutionary Divergence in Brain Size between Migratory and Resident Birds. PLOS ONE, 5(3), e9617. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0009617
  • Schuck-Paim, C., Alonso, W. J., & Ottoni, E. B. (2008). Cognition in an Ever-Changing World: Climatic Variability Is Associated with Brain Size in Neotropical Parrots. Brain, Behavior and Evolution, 71(3), 200–215. https://doi.org/10.1159/000119710
  • Morrison, C., & Hero, J.-M. (2003). Geographic variation in life-history characteristics of amphibians: a review. Journal of Animal Ecology, 72(2), 270–279. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2656.2003.00696.x
  • Jiang, A., Zhong, M. J., Xie, M., Lou, S. L., Jin, L., Robert, J., & Liao, W. B. (2015). Seasonality and Age is Positively Related to Brain Size in Andrew’s Toad (Bufo andrewsi). Evolutionary Biology, 42(3), 339–348. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11692-015-9329-4
  • Gillooly, J. F., & McCoy, M. W. (2014). Brain size varies with temperature in vertebrates. PeerJ, 2, e301. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.301
  • Moore, I. T., Perfito, N., Wada, H., Sperry, T. S., & Wingfield, J. C. (2002). Latitudinal variation in plasma testosterone levels in birds of the genus Zonotrichia. General and comparative endocrinology, 129(1), 13-19.
  • Garamszegi, L. Z., Hirschenhauser, K., Bókony, V., Eens, M., Hurtrez-Boussès, S., Møller, A. P., … & Wingfield, J. C. (2008). Latitudinal distribution, migration, and testosterone levels in birds. The American Naturalist, 172(4), 533-546.
  • Leggett, W. C., & Carscadden, J. E. (1978). Latitudinal variation in reproductive characteristics of American shad (Alosa sapidissima): evidence for population specific life history strategies in fish. Journal of the Fisheries Board of Canada, 35(11), 1469-1478.
  • Iverson, J. B., Balgooyen, C. P., Byrd, K. K., & Lyddan, K. K. (1993). Latitudinal variation in egg and clutch size in turtles. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 71(12), 2448-2461.
  • Chalfoun, A. D., & Martin, T. E. (2007). Latitudinal variation in avian incubation attentiveness and a test of the food limitation hypothesis. Animal Behaviour, 73(4), 579-585.
  • Heibo, E., Magnhagen, C., & Vøllestad, L. A. (2005). Latitudinal variation in life‐history traits in Eurasian perch. Ecology, 86(12), 3377-3386.

There are many more. To locate them, use search queries like ‘latitude “brain size” bird‘. Or look up the publication lists of the prominent researchers such as Daniel Sol.

Integrating this will require someone to read a lot of varied material and find some overall patterns in the mess. Basically a job for someone biologisty and generalisty, someone like Woodley.

Some comments

With regards to birds, brain size and ecology, there is a problem. Birds living in the high latitudes must either adapt a migrating behavioral pattern or learn how to survive in the winter. Most birds take the first route, but some don’t. However, to fly long distances, it helps to be lean, so there is strong selection against extra weight such as a larger brain. For this reason, bivariate latitude x brain size comparisons might show the opposite pattern than expected. One must account for the solution to the, well, cold winter problem. Some amphibians have an analogous tactic: hibernation. Many insects have yet another analogous solution: they only live in the summer (single year life spans). As far as I understand, fish do not have issues with the water temperature in the winter, so they don’t face the problem. Except for possibly hibernation (which sometimes does require planning ability e.g. in squirrels), these strategies would not seem to select so strongly for intelligence, and so one would not expect the higher latitude species to smarter, less aggressive and so on.

In general, therefore, it seems best to focus on animals that tackle the cold winter problem head-on instead of avoiding it somehow (migrate, hibernate, or single-year lifespans). Among birds, the smartest birds are of the Corvidae family — in particular crows, ravens and magpies — and they generally don’t migrate in the winter. Of the non-Corvidae, I think the smartest birds are some of the parrot species. These also often don’t migrate. (See also bird intelligence.)

So, if I were to look for these relationships/integrate the findings, I would select families/orders (or whatever) of animals that:

  1. are widely distributed around the Earth, so that we have natural variation to exploit.
  2. that don’t side-step the cold winter problem in some way. If they do, then this must be taken into account.
  3. that have a large number of species and sub-species. Small n science is bad science.
  4. that haven’t been artificially selected by humans.

Then I would look for reviews and studies of intelligence/cognition, brain size, tool use, latitude, climate harshness, climate variability, (ecological) temperature in these. One can enter some animal family or common term (e.g. ‘bird’) as a search term to avoid the human IQ literature.

It’s a bit tricky to choose suitable families. E.g. hooved animals — cows, horses, pigs — have often been bred by humans, so they don’t work well for testing models (the variation is not natural). They also have too little natural variation, in some cases because we killed most of them already. But deer may work okay.

Carnivores would have worked well, but like the hooved animals, we either enslaved them (wolves -> dogs, cats) or killed them (other wolves, tigers). There some wild medium-sized cat species (Felidae) left — cougars, lynx –, so maybe one could try those. Since they are wild and have claws and teeth, they aren’t so easy to work with.

Would non-human monkeys work? Yeah, maybe. There are in fact already two great studies — Fernandes et al 2014, Navarrete et al 2016 — on primate brain size, cognitive ability tool use etc. Apparently, neither of them actually looked at the ecological correlations?! I smell gold. The dataset for Navarrette is public!

Humans are too slow to migrate effectively, so they are essentially forced to make do in the winter if they are to live in colder regions. So it’s not surprising that we see fairly robust patterns for humans (Beals et al 1984). The Inuit are of course the main exception, as these seem to have IQs in the low 90s despite living far north. Perhaps this is related to small effective population size which slows down evolution for multiple reasons.

Without any integration, what the non-human literature is good for is showing that the proposed model for humans (cold winter theory) is sometimes found for some animal families/orders, and that biologists have no particular trouble with positing these models for non-human animals. As such, there should be no particular scientific resistance to positing them for humans too.

August 26, 2016

Comments on Marty Nemko’s “12 Predictions for 2050”

A reader asked me to comment on the predictions/musings by Marty Nemko at his blog. I had never heard of him before, but he’s some kind of coach, radio host and columnist popular in the Bay Area.

The decline in good jobs. My optimistic side predicts that improved education and gene editing to improve intelligence will result in many innovative businesses that require many employees, just like electricity, the automobile, TV, computer, and Internet created millions of jobs. My pessimistic side predicts that ever more jobs will be automated, forcing most people to live on a lot less. The silver lining in that may be that more people will enjoy the pleasures that cost little: creative activity, relationships, voluntarism. On the other hand, work is so central to one’s sense of value, not to mention survival, that the decline in good jobs could incite not just isolated firebombings, but wars.

With regards to jobs, I think:

It’s hard to say how it will impact society. My guess is that it will continue what it has been doing, namely increase taxes so that the non-working fraction can live off the working fraction. The working fraction will get even smaller (also due to population aging). Human labor will move to areas that are hard to automate or which result in uncanny valley effects.

Increases in cognitive ability thru genetic engineering are about 20 years out in the future because that’s the time it takes to grow up or so, and we already have the technology to increase cognitive ability thru embryo selection. On the bright side, automation makes things cheaper meaning that lower incomes can buy comparatively more things. Business as usual.

Stubbornly ineffective education.  I’ve often written that despite the U.S. spending #1 per capita on education, it flounders near the achievement bottom among the world’s developed nations. By mid-century, we’ll finally accept that we’ve been just nibbling at the problem: that making kids sit through longer school days with the same teachers, no matter how high their expectations, will not begin to prepare most kids for the highly-advanced technical world they’ll need to be hirable in. By mid-century, I believe that most kids will take SuperCourses: touchable holographic representations of the world’s most transformational teachers guiding highly immersive, gamified, individualized classes. A live person will be in the classroom to provide the human touch, tutoring, and classroom discipline.

Education doesn’t work the way he thinks it does. PISA scores are mainly just the cognitive ability of the population. The US is lowish because it has many dull people. The demographics are changing in that direction with the mass immigration of Mexicans and Latin Americans.

On the other hand, personalized education will continue the way it has been doing. Online interactive courses will be the mainstream, but they won’t change much in inequality or mean performance. The reason most children or adults don’t learn more isn’t primarily the fault of the education system, it’s their own limitations in cognitive ability and in academic interest. It’s hard to blame them for the latter because most of the stuff one is supposed to learn in school is useless or nearly so. The Internet is here and anyone bright and interested enough can pursue whatever interest they have.

The gender war. I predict women will continue their gains in the gender war. Having largely taken control over society’s mind molders (the schools and media,) the belief will solidify that man is the inferior sex and thus the two sexes will be more polarized than ever. One result will be that the rate of heterosexual romantic cohabitation will decline while lesbian cohabitation will increase. I believe the trend to marginalize men to highly technical, very time-consuming, and/or dangerous occupations will continue.

Women take more education, more also more useless educations. From an individual perspective, they may be winning in the sense that they game the system more effectively (signaling better), but on the other hand: who is wasting time in school learning irrelevant or nonsensical things? The wage gap is still going strong because it’s not caused by differences in degrees. It’s mainly related to which sectors one works in/risk differences, how technical the job is and how much one works. I wouldn’t call this marginalizing (I work in a highly technical, very time-consuming job and I like it that way!). The cohabitation rate will presumably decline, but that’s because housing gets cheaper and so more people can afford to live alone.

Terrorism.  That will fade as its shock value decreases. The West will finally learn the lesson of the millennia from King Cyrus through Churchill in the Dardanelles through our recent debacles in Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, that its attempts to influence the Middle East will almost certainly fail. So except for providing medical research findings, humanitarian donations of food. water, medicine, etc., the West will largely stay out of Middle Eastern countries’ affairs. That will be made easier as the West reduces its dependence of oil, Middle Eastern and otherwise.

Terrorism is an ineffective method of politics. In general, terrorism will decline as other forms of violence do. Terrorism in Western countries will increase but it’s just because we are letting terrorism prone people move in.

Energy. While the evidence for the cost-benefit of attempting to cool the planet will remain unclear, we’ll err on the side of caution—even at great cost and inconvenience to humankind (Think gridlock) and we’ll move to far greater use of clean energy. But physics limitations will preclude solar and wind from being more than a minor contributor to the energy mix. Safe, compact nuclear energy will dominate—powering our homes, cars, and  businesses.

The optimistic prediction is that nuclear will get larger, but it’s hard to say. Nuclear is having a renaissance but mostly due to building in East Asia, and the Fukushima accident caused a lot of bad press, (and economic cost, but not human cost) which may reverse or slow this trend. Many western countries are wasting money trying to power their countries on solar and wind, and while these technologies can work in some places fairly well, they cannot work well for many countries without huge investments. Worse, some are even dismantling their working nuclear for political reasons (Germany, Sweden, USA).

Gene editing. Companies such as 23andMe in collaboration with universities and government will have identified gene clusters powerfully associated with major physical and mental diseases and will also give parents the option of enhancing average functioning to superior functioning: whether resistance to cancer, high intelligence, or abiding altruism.

Not so much editing, embryo selection. :) CRISPR is mostly useful for fixing stray errors (e.g. Huntington’s), not complex traits. Unless it can be done at a massive scale, direct editing will be useless for things like mental illness.

Medicine. We’ll know which preventatives make enough difference to be worth doing. Is vigorous versus moderate exercise worth it? How about veganism? Mindfulnessmeditation? The answers will be clear. And cures will be individualized. One-size-fits-all treatments will be replaced by customized ones based on the person’s genome and biochemical assays.

The answers won’t be clear because causal density/complexity is too high and science too inefficient or biased. Medicine is particularly bad as a science. There are powers trying to fix this, but it will take a long time. Doctors are very conservative and there are monetary interests from big pharma to keep it the way it is.

Transportation. At long last, we’ll get around in flying cars. That provides the freedom of the car without traffic jams—there will be thousands of percent more traffic lanes. Flying cars will be nuclear-solar hybrids. Of course, taxis, trucks, buses, trains, and planes will be driverless.

There will be no mass scale flying cars. Flying cars would be a safety hazard as well as being inefficient means of transportation. I wrote about the topic in Danish recently, but what will happen is this:

  • Services like Uber will push for driverless taxis: autotaxis.
  • Autotaxis will quickly become cheaper than the human driven ones and take over the market.
  • Autotaxis are also more efficient because they can coordinate routes automatically together with the other autotaxis.
  • The cheaper autotaxis become, the less people need to have their own cars. There will be a massive decrease in the number of cars people own. Transport will be a service one pays a monthly fee for, not something one owns equipment for.

Recreation. Most homes will have an immersion room: The walls are screens and a person can choose an environment (jungle, outer space, ancient Rome, whatever) and interact with holograms that feel like people and objects—they’ll befriend, have sex with, fight with, negotiate deals with, etc.  People will still have pets but they’ll have to fight animal rights organizations that will argue that pet ownership is speciesist and mass incarceration.

This seems inefficient to me. I think ordinary virtual reality is a more likely scenario.

January 5, 2015

Review: Race (John Baker)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/875481.Race

http://gen.lib.rus.ec/book/index.php?md5=5624936a816b96dd3e6a4af6808ee69b

I had seen references to this book in a number of places which got me curious. I am somewhat hesitant to read older books since I know much of what they discuss is dated and has been superseded by newer science. Sometimes, however, science (or the science culture) has gone wrong so one may actually learn more reading an older book than a newer one. Since fewer people read older books, one can sometimes find relevant but forgotten facts in them. Lastly, they can provide much needed historical information about the development of thinking about some idea or of some field. All of these remarks are arguably relevant to the race/population genetics controversy.

Still, I did not read the book immediately altho I had a PDF of it. I ended up starting to read it more or less at random due to a short talk I had with John Fuerst about it (we are writing together on racial admixture, intelligence and socioeconomic outcomes in the Americas and also wrote a paper on immigrant performance in Denmark).

So, the book really is dated. It spends hundreds of pages on arcane fysical anthropology which requires one to master human anatomy. Most readers don’t master this discipline, so these parts of the book are virtually un-understandable. However, they do provide one with the distinct impression of how one did fysical anthropology in old times. Lots of observations of cranium, other bones, noses, eyes+lids, teeth, lips, buttocks, etc., and then try to find clusters in these data manually. No wonder they did not reach that high agreement. The data are too scarce to find clusters and humans not sufficiently good at cluster analysis at the intuitive level. Still, they did notice some patterns that are surely correct, such as the division between various African populations, Ainu vs. Japanese, that Europeans are Asians are closer related, that Afghans etc. belong to the European supercluster etc. Clearly, these pre-genetic ideas were not all totally wrong headed. Here’s the table of Races+Subraces from the end of the book. They seem reasonably in line with modern evidence.

table

Some quotes:

The story of 7 ‘kinds’ of mosquitoes.

[Dobzhansky’s definition = ‘Species in sexual cross-fertilizing organisms can be defined as groups of populations which are reproductively isolated to the extent that the exchange of genes between them is absent or so slow that the genetic differences are not diminished or swamped.’]

Strict application of Dobzhansky’s definition results in certain very similar animals being assigned to different species. The malarial mosquitoes and their relatives provide a remarkable example of this. The facts are not only extreme­ly interesting from the purely scientific point of view, but also of great practical importance in the maintenance of public health in malarious districts. It was discovered in 1920 that one kind of the genus Anopheles, called elutus, could be distinguished from the well-known malarial mosquito, A. maculipennis, by certain minute differences in the adult, and by the fact that its its eggs looked different; but for our detailed knowledge of this subject we are mainly indebted to one Falleroni, a retired inspector of public health in Italy, who began in 1924 to breed Anopheles mosquitoes as a hobby. He noticed that several different kinds of eggs could be distinguished, that the same female always laid eggs having the same appearance, and that adult females derived from those eggs produced eggs of the same type. He realized that although the adults all appeared similar, there were in fact several different kinds, which he could recognize by the markings on their eggs. Falleroni named several different kinds after his friends, and the names he gave are the accepted ones today in scientific nomenclature.

It was not until 1931 that the matter came to the attention of L. W. Hackett, who, with A. Missiroli, did more than anyone else to unravel the details of this curious story.(449,447.448] The facts are these. There are in Europe six different kinds of Anopheles that cannot be distinguished with certainty from one another in the adult state, however carefully they are examined under the microscope by experts; a seventh kind, elutus, can be distinguished by minor differences if its age is known. The larvae of two of the kinds can be distinguished from one another by minute differences (in the type of palmate hair on the second segment, taken in conjunction with the number of branches of hair no. 2 on the fourth and fifth segments). Other supposed differences between the kinds, apart from those in the eggs, have been shown to be unreal.

In nature the seven kinds are not known to interbreed, and it is therefore necessary, under Dobzhansky’s definition, to regard them all as separate species.

The mates of six of the seven species have the habit of ‘swarming’ when ready to copulate. They join in groups of many individuals, humming, high in the air; suddenly the swarm bursts asunder and rejoins. The females recognize the swarms of males of their own species, and are attracted towards them. Each female dashes in, seizes a male, and flies off, copulating.

With the exceptions mentioned, the only visible differences between the species occur at the egg-stage. The eggs of six of the seven species are shown in Fig. 8 (p. 76).

6 anopheles

It will be noticed that each egg is roughly sausage-shaped, with an air-filled float at each side, which supports it in the water in which it is laid. The eggs of the different species are seen to differ in the length and position of the floats. The surface of the rest of the egg is covered all over with microscopic finger-shaped papillae, standing up like the pile of a carpet. It is these papillae that are responsible for the distinctive patterns seen on the eggs of the different species. Where the papillae are long and their tips rough, light is reflected to give a whitish appearance; where they are short and smooth, light passes through to reveal the underlying surface of the egg, which is black. The biological significance of these apparently trivial differences is unknown.

From the point of view of the ethnic problem the most interesting fact is this. Although the visible differences between the species are trivial and confined or almost confined to the egg-stage, it is evident that the nervous and sensory systems are different, for each species has its own habits. The males of one species (atroparvus) do not swarm. It has already been mentioned that the females recognize the males of their own species. Some of the species lay their eggs in fresh water, others in brackish. The females of some species suck the blood of cattle, and are harmless to man; those of other species suck the blood of man, and in injecting their saliva transmit malaria to him.

Examples could be quoted of other species that are distinguishable from one another by morphological differences no greater than those that separate the species of Anopheles; but the races of a single species—indeed, the subraces of a single race—are often distinguished from one another, in their typical forms, by obvious differences, affecting many parts of the body. It is not the case that species are necessarily very distinct, and races very similar. [p. 74ff]

Nature is very odd indeed! More on Wiki.

Some very strange examples of abnormalities of this sort have been recorded by reputable authorities. Buffon quotes two examples of an ‘amour violent’ between a dog and a sow. In one case the dog was a large spaniel on the property of the Comte de Feuillee, in Burgundy. Many persons witnessed ‘the mutual ardour of these two animals; the dog even made prodigious and oft-repeated efforts to copulate with the sow, but the unsuitability of their reproductive organs prevented their union.’ Another example, still more remarkable, occurred on Buffon’s own property. A miller kept a mare and a bull in the same stable. These two animals developed such a passion for one another that on all occasions when the mare was on heat, over a period of several years, the bull copulated with her three or four times a day, whenever he was free to do so. The act was witnessed by all the inhabitants of the place. [p. 92]

Of smelly Japanese:

There is, naturally enough, a correlation between the development of the axillary organ and the smelliness of the secretion of this gland (and probably this applies also to the a glands of the genito-anal region). Briefly, the Europids and Negrids are smelly, the Mongolids scarcely or not at all. so far as the axillary secretion is concerned. Adachi. who has devoted more study to this subject than anyone else, has summed up his findings in a single, short sentence: ‘The Mongolids are essentially an odourless or very slightly smelly race with dry ear-wax.’(5] Since most of the Japanese are free or almost free from axillary smell, they are very sensitive to its presence, of which they seem to have a horror. About 10% of Japanese have smelly axillae. This is attributed to remote Ainuid ancestry, since the Ainu are invariably smelly, like most other Europids, and a tendency to smelliness is known to be inherited among the Japanese. 151 The existence of the odour is regarded among Japanese as a disease, osmidrosis axillae which warrants (or used to warrant) exemption from military service. Certain doctors specialize in its treatment, and sufferers are accustomed to enter hospital. [p. 173]

Japan always take these things to a new level.

Measurements of adult stature, made on several thousand pairs of persons, show a rather close correspondence with these figures, namely, 0 507, 0-322, 0-543, and 0-287 respectively.(172) It will be noticed that the correlations are all somewhat higher than one would expect; that is to say, the members of each pair are, on average, rather more nearly of the same height than the simple theory would suggest. This is attributed in the main to the tendency towards assortative mating, the reality of which had already been recognized by Karl Pearson and Miss Lee in their paper published in 1903. [p. 462]

I didn’t know assortative mating was recognized so far back. This may be a good source to understand the historical development of understanding of assortative mating.

The reference is: Pearson, K. &  Lee,  A.,  1903.  ‘On  the  laws  of  inheritance  in  man.  I.  Inheritance  of  physical characters.’  Biometrika,  2, 357—462.

Definition of intelligence?

What has been said on p. 496 may now be rewritten in the form of a short definition of intelligence, in the straightforward, everyday sense of that word. It is the ability to perceive, comprehend, and reason, combined with the capacity to choose worth-while subjects for study, eagerness to acquire, use, transmit, and (if possible) add to knowledge and understanding, and the faculty for sustained effort towards these ends (cf. p. 438). One might say briefly that a person is intelligent in so far as his cognitive ability and personality tend towards productiveness through mental activity. [p. 495ff]

Baker prefers a broader definition of “intelligence” which includes certain non-cognitive parts. He uses “cognitive ability” like many people do now a days use “general cognitive ability”.

And now surely at the end of the book, the evil master-racist privileged white male John Baker tells us what to do with the information we just learned in the book:

Here, on reaching the end of the book, 1 must repeat some words that I wrote years ago when drafting the Introduction (p. 6), for there is nothing in the whole work that would tend to contradict or weaken them:
Every ethnic taxon of man includes many persons capable of living responsible and useful lives in the communities to which they belong, while even in those taxa that are best known for their contributions to the world’s store of intellectual wealth, there are many so mentally deficient that they would be inadequate members of any society. It follows that no one can claim superiority simply because he or she belongs to a particular ethnic taxon. [p. 534]

So, clearly according to our anti-racist heroes, Baker tells us to revel in our (sorry Jayman if you are reading!) European master ancestry, right?

edited: removed joke because public image -_-

November 26, 2014

Review: The Roma: A Balkan Underclass (Jelena Cvorovic)

Filed under: Differential psychology/psychometrics,Evolutionary Psychology,Sociology — Tags: , — Emil O. W. Kirkegaard @ 22:22

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23621169-the-roma

Richard Lynn is so nice to periodically send me books for free. He is working on establishing his publisher, of course, and so needs media coverage.

In this case, he sent me a new book on the Roma by Jelena Cvorovic who was also present at the London conference on intelligence in the spring 2014. She has previously published a number of papers on the Roma from her field studies. Of most interest to differential psychologists (such as me), is that they obtain very low scores on g tests not generally seen outside SS Africa. In the book, she reviews much of the literature on the Roma, covering their history, migration in Europe, religious beliefs and other strange cultural beliefs. For instance, did you know that many Roma consider themselves ‘Egyptians’? Very odd! Her review also covers the more traditional stuff like medical problems, sociological conditions, crime rates and the like. Generally, they do very poorly, probably only on par with the very worst performing immigrant groups in Scandinavia (Somalia, Lebanese, Syrians and similar). Perhaps they are part of the reason why people from Serbia do so poorly in Denmark. Perhaps they are mostly Roma? There are no records of more specific ethnicities in Denmark for immigrant groups to my knowledge. Similar puzzles concern immigrants coded as “stateless” which are presumably mostly from Palestine, immigrants from Israel (perhaps mostly Muslims?) and reversely immigrants from South Africa (perhaps mostly Europeans?).

Another interesting part of the book concerns the next last chapter covering the Roma kings. I had never heard of these, but apparently there are or were a few very rich Romas. They built elaborate castles for their money which one can now see in various places in Eastern Europe. After they lost their income (which was due to black market trading during communism and similar activities), they seem to have reverted to the normal Roma pattern of unemployment, fast life style, crime and state benefits. This provides another illustration of the idea that if a group of persons for some reason acquire wealth, it will not generally boost their g or other capabilities, and their wealth will go away again once the particular circumstance that gave rise to it disappears. Other examples of this pattern are the story of Nauru and people who get rich from sports but are not very clever (e.g. African American athletes such as Mike Tyson). Oil States have also not seen any massive increase in g due to their oil riches nor are people who win lotteries known to suddenly acquire higher g. Clearly, there cannot be a strong causal link from income to g.

In general, this book was better than expected and definitely worth a read for those interesting in psychologically informed history.

August 25, 2014

Review: Is there anything good about men? (Roy F. Baumeister)

Filed under: Evolutionary Psychology — Tags: — Emil O. W. Kirkegaard @ 15:52

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8765372-is-there-anything-good-about-men

http://gen.lib.rus.ec/book/index.php?md5=B21C5698CE12510CDEDBE940259BDF6F

If you read the original essay, there is not much to recommend about the book. It taught me very little, has no data tables, no plots, no figures. Numbers are only mentioned in the text and sources are only given in the back of the book. There were a few interesting works mentioned, but basically the book is just a longer and more repetitive version of the essay.

Hard to say whether to give this 2 or 3 stars. Generally the author has truth on his side. Perhaps 3 then.

July 17, 2014

Bouchard’s new review paper on Genes, Evolution, Intelligence is excellent!

Seriously. Read it.

Behavior Genetics (Impact Factor: 2.61). 03/2014; DOI: 10.1007/s10519-014-9646-x

Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT I argue that the g factor meets the fundamental criteria of a scientific construct more fully than any other conception of intelligence. I briefly discuss the evidence regarding the relationship of brain size to intelligence. A review of a large body of evidence demonstrates that there is a g factor in a wide range of species and that, in the species studied, it relates to brain size and is heritable. These findings suggest that many species have evolved a general-purpose mechanism (a general biological intelligence) for dealing with the environments in which they evolved. In spite of numerous studies with considerable statistical power, we know of very few genes that influence g and the effects are very small. Nevertheless, g appears to be highly polygenic. Given the complexity of the human brain, it is not surprising that that one of its primary faculties-intelligence-is best explained by the near infinitesimal model of quantitative genetics.

Genes, Evolution and Intelligence

May 17, 2014

A troublesome inheritance (Nicholas Wade)

This book is very popsci and can be read in 1 day for any reasonably fast reader. It doesnt contain much new information to anyone who has read a few books on the topic. As can be seen below, it has a lot of nonsense/errors since clearly the author is not used to this area of science. It is not recommended except as a light introduction to people with political problems with these facts.

http://gen.lib.rus.ec/book/index.php?md5=7a48b9a42d89294ca1ade9f76e26a63c

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18667960-a-troublesome-inheritance?from_search=true

 

But  a  drawback  o f  the  system  is  its  occasional  drift  toward
extreme  conservatism.  Researchers  get  attached  to  the  view  of their
field  they  grew  up  with  and,  as  they  grow  older,  they  may  gain  the
influence  to thwart change.  For  50  years  after it was  first proposed,
leading geophysicists  strenuously resisted the idea that the continents
have  drifted  across  the  face  of  the  globe.  “Knowledge  advances,
funeral  by funeral,”  the economist Paul  Samuelson  once  observed.

 

Wrong quote origin. http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Max_Planck

>A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

 

Academics, who are obsessed with intelligence, fear the discovery
of  a  gene  that  will  prove  one  major  race  is  more  intelligent  than
another.  But  that  is  unlikely  to  happen  anytime  soon.  Although
intelligence has a genetic basis, no genetic variants that enhance intel­
ligence  have  yet  been  found.  The  reason,  almost  certainly,  is  that
there  are  a  great  many  such  genes,  each  of  which  has  too  small  an
effect  to  be  detectable  with  present  methods.8  If  researchers  should
one  day  find  a  gene  that  enhances  intelligence  in  East  Asians,  say,
they can  hardly argue on that  basis that East Asians are more  intelli­
gent than other races, because hundreds of similar genes remain to be
discovered  in  Europeans  and  Africans.
Even  if  all  the  intelligence-enhancing  variants  in  each  race  had
been identified, no one would try to compute intelligence on the basis
of genetic  information:  it would  be  far easier  just to  apply  an  intelli­
gence test.  But IQ  tests already  exist, for what  they may  be  worth.

 

We have found a number of SNPs already. And we have already begun counting them in racial groups. See e.g.: http://openpsych.net/OBG/2014/05/opposite-selection-pressures-on-stature-and-intelligence-across-human-populations/

 

 

It s social behavior that is of relevance for understanding pivotal—
and otherwise imperfectly explained— events in history and econom­
ics.  Although  the  emotional  and  intellectual  differences  between  the
world’s peoples  as  individuals are slight enough,  even a  small  shift in
social  behavior  can  generate  a  very  different  kind  of society.  Tribal
societies, for instance, are organized on the basis of kinship and differ
from  modern  states  chiefly  in  that  people’s  radius  of trust  does  not
extend too far beyond the family and tribe.  But in this small variation
is  rooted  the  vast  difference  in  political  and  economic  structures
between tribal and modern societies. Variations in another genetically
based behavior, the readiness to punish those who violate social rules,
may explain why  some societies  are  more conformist than others.

 

See: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3026168-the-expanding-circle

 

 

The  lure  of  Galton’s  eugenics  was  his  belief  that  society  would
be  better  off  if  the  intellectually  eminent  could  be  encouraged  to
have  more  children.  W hat  scholar  could  disagree  with  that?  More
of  a  good  thing  must  surely  be  better.  In  fact  it  is  far  from  certain
that  this  would  be  a  desirable  outcome.  Intellectuals  as  a  class  are
notoriously  prone  to  fine-sounding  theoretical  schemes  that  lead
to  catastrophe,  such  as  Social  Darwinism,  Marxism  or  indeed
eugenics.
By  analogy  with  animal  breeding,  people  could  no  doubt  be
bred,  if it were ethically acceptable, so  as to  enhance  specific desired
traits.  But  it  is  impossible  to  know  what  traits would  benefit  society
as a whole. The eugenics program, however reasonable it might seem,
was  basically incoherent.

 

Obviously wrong.

 

 

The  principal  organizer  of  the  new  eugenics  movement  was
Charles  Davenport.  He  earned  a  doctorate  in  biology  from  Harvard
and  taught  zoology  at  Harvard,  the  University  of  Chicago,  and  the
Brooklyn  Institute  of  Arts  and  Sciences  Biological  Laboratory  at
Cold  Spring  Harbor  on  Long  Island.  Davenport’s  views  on  eugenics
were  motivated  by  disdain  for  races  other  than  his  own:  “Can  we
build a  wall high  enough around this country so as to keep  out these
cheaper  races,  or will  it  be  a  feeble  dam  .  .  .  leaving it to  our  descen­
dants to abandon  the country to the  blacks,  browns  and  yellows and
seek  an  asylum in New  Zealand?”  he wrote.9

 

Well, about that… In this century europeans will be <50% in the US. I wonder if the sociologists will then stop talking about minority, as if that somehow makes a difference.

 

 

One  of  the  most  dramatic  experiments  on  the  genetic  control  of
aggression was performed by the Soviet scientist Dmitriy Belyaev. From
the same population of Siberian gray rats he developed two strains, one
highly sociable  and  the  other  brimming with  aggression.  For  the tame
rats, the parents of each generation were chosen simply by the criterion
of how well they tolerated  human presence.  For the  ferocious  rats, the
criterion  was  how adversely they reacted  to people.  After many gener­
ations of breeding,  the  first strain was  now so tame that when visitors
entered  the  room  where  the  rats  were  caged,  the  animals  would  press
their  snouts  through  the  bars to  be  petted.  The  other  strain  could  not
have  been  more  different.  The  rats  would  hurl  themselves  screaming
toward  the  intruder,  thudding  ferociously  against  the  bars  of  their
cage.12

 

Didnt know this one. The ref is:

N icholas  Wade,  “N ice  R a ts,  N asty  R a ts:  Maybe  I t ’s  All  in  the  G en es,”
N ew  York  Tim es, Ju ly  2 5 ,  2 0 0 6 ,  www.nytimes.com/2006/07/25/health/
25 ra ts.h tm l?p a g ew a n ted = a ll& _ r=0  (accessed  Sept.  2 5 ,  2 0 1 3 )

 

 

Rodents and humans use many of the same genes and  brain regions
to control  aggression.  Experiments with  mice  have  shown that a  large
number of genes are involved in the trait, and the same is certainly true
of  people.  Comparisons  of  identical  twins  raised  together  and  sepa­
rately  show  that  aggression  is  heritable.  Genes  account  for  between
3 7%  and 72%  of the heritability, the variation  of the trait in a  popula­
tion, according to various studies.  But very few of the genes that under­
lie  aggression  have  yet  been  identified,  in  part  because  when  many
genes control  a  behavior,  each  has  so  small  an  effect  that  it  is  hard  to
detect.  Most  research  has  focused  on  genes  that  promote  aggression
rather than those at the other end of the  behavioral  spectrum.

 

This sentence is nonsensical.

 

 

Standing  in  sharp  contrast  to  the  economists’  working  assumption
that  people  the  world  over  are  interchangeable  units  is  the  idea  that
national  disparities  in  wealth  arise  from  differences  in  intelligence.
The possibility should  not be  dismissed  out of hand:  where  individu­
als are concerned,  IQ  scores do correlate,  on average,  with economic
success, so  it is not unreasonable to inquire if the same  might  be true
of countries.

 

Marked sentence is nonsensical.

 

 

Turning to economic indicators, they find that national  IQ scores
have an extremely high correlation  (83%)  with economic growth  per
capita  and  also  associate  strongly  with  the  rate  of economic  growth
between  1950  and  1 9 9 0  (64%  correlation).44

 

More conceptual confusion.

 

 

And  indeed  with  Lynn  and  Vanhanen’s correlations,  it  is  hard to
know  which  way  the  arrow  of  causality  may  be  pointing,  whether
higher  IQ  makes  a  nation  wealthier  or  whether  a  wealthier  nation
enables  its  citizens  to  do  better  on  IQ  tests.  The  writer  Roy  Unz  has
pointed out from  Lynn and Vanhanen’s own data examples  in  which
IQ  scores  increase  10  or more points  in  a generation  when  a  popula­
tion  becomes  richer,  showing  clearly  that  wealth  can  raise  IQ
scores  significantly.  East  German  children  averaged  90  in  1 9 6 7  but
99  in  1984.  In  West  Germany,  which  has  essentially the  same  popu­
lation,  averages  range  from  99  to  107.  This  17  point  range  in  the
German  population,  from  90  to  107,  was  evidently  caused  by  the
alleviation  of poverty,  not genetics.

 

Ron Unz, the cherry picker. http://conservativetimes.org/?p=11790

 

 

East  Asia  is  a  vast counterexample to the  Lynn/Vanhanen  thesis.
The  populations  of China, Japan  and Korea  have consistently  higher
IQs  than  those  of Europe  and  the  United  States,  but  their  societies,
despite  their  many  virtues,  are  not  obviously  more  successful  than
those of Europe and  its outposts. Intelligence can’t hurt, but it doesn’t
seem  a  clear  arbiter  of  a  population’s  economic  success.  W hat  is  it
then  that determines  the  wealth  or poverty of nations?

 

No. But it does disprove the claim that IQs are just GDPs. The oil states have low IQs and had that both before and after they got rich on oil, and will have in the future when they run out of oil again. Money cannot buy u intelligence (yet).

 

 

From  about  9 0 0  a d   to  1700  a d ,  Ashkenazim  were  concentrated
in  a  few  professions,  notably  moneylending  and  later  ta x  farming
(give  the prince  his  money  up  front,  then  extract the  taxes  due  from
his  subjects).  Because  of  the  strong  heritability  of  intelligence,  the
Utah team calculates that 20 generations, a mere 5 0 0 years, would be
sufficient for Ashkenazim to have developed an  extra  16 points of IQ
above that of Europeans. The Utah team assumes that the heritability
of  intelligence  is  0 .8 ,  meaning  that  8 0 %  of the  variance,  the  spread
between high and low values in a population, is due to genetics. If the
parents of each generation have an  IQ of just  1  point above the mean,
then  average  IQ  increases  by  0 .8 %  per  generation.  If  the  average
human  generation  time  in  the  Middle Ages was  2 5  years,  then  in  20
human  generations,  or  5 0 0  years,  Ashkenazi  IQ  would  increase  by
2 0  x  0.8  =  16  IQ  points.

 

More conceptual confusion. One cannot use % on IQs becus IQs are not ratio scale and hence division makes no sense. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levels_of_measurement#Comparison

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