Review: Genes, Peoples, and Languages


I read it mostly becus i cudnt find his more critically acclaimed book online (


The book is written in low-level nonfiction, i.e. very few academic sources cited. Lots of claims that require sources. While this is okay in the area the author is an expert, it fails hard in the later chapters. It is only worth reading for the parts about population genetics and linguistics.



Therefore, it is also worth gathering information froin any dis-

cipline that can provide even a partial answer to our problems.

Within genetics itself, we want to collect as much information about

as many genes as pOSSible, which would allow us to use the “law of

large numbers» in the calculation of probabilities: random events are

important in evolution, but despite their capriciousness, their behav-

ior can be accounted for through a large number of observations.

Jacques Bemoulli, in his A~ coTtjectandi of 1713, wrote, “Even the

stupidest of men, by some instinct of nature, is convinced on his own

that with more observations his risk of failure is diminished.


Predating Hume’s similar comments in his Enquiry.



Any attempt at reconstructing human evolution presents the

same problems we encounter in historical research. Experimental

science allows us to test any hypothesis, no matter how unlikely, but

history cannot be repeated at will-even if it sometimes gives the

appearance of repeating itself. Nevertheless, historical and anthro-

polOgical analogies are often useful. When these offer independent

confirmation or supplementary evidence, they allow us to eliminate

or support a hypothesis. Multidisciplinary research provides, in a

way, a sort of replication of an event, which is generally possible

only in experimental science.


Exploring related diSCiplines can lead to rich discoveries. It was

with this intent that I have searched for, and often found, support

from fields such as linguistics, archeology, and demography. Just as

this approach yields positive results, it is also a source of great intel-

lectual satisfaction. The researcher sees the fundamental unity of

the sciences and their procedures.


Good thinking. The consilience of science is a kind of independent test.



Heterozygote Advantage

During the nineteenth century, the concept of racial purity

received much attention. The perfection of races or breeds is still

an important goal for animal breeders. Dog and cat shows establish,

often arbitrarily, an ideal of esthetic perfection, which trainers wish

to attain with their animals. This is frequently a counterproductive

effort. Breeders know that by seeking genetic purity through

repeated crossings between closely related animals-inbreeding-

they dangerously reduce the animals’ resistance to disease. The

revers&-outcrossing-is more desirable since racial mixing in all

species generally increases disease resistance and overall viability.

This phenomenon is known as “hybrid vigor.” When considering

the hybridization of a single gene, one speaks of heterozygote

advantage. A heterozygote is an individual who receives different

forms of a gene from father and mother.


The classic example of heterozygous advantage is sickle cell ane-

mia, which affects mostly, but not exclusively, Africans. Consider a

parallel example, common in people of southern European origin: a

gene responsible for a genetic disease called thalassemia, a severe

anemia that usually kills before reproductive age is reached. The

gene shows up in two slightly different forms, or alleles: normal N,

and abnormal T (causing thalassemia). There are three possible

genetic types:


NN: individuals who receive the normal gene N from both parents are

“normal” homozygote •.

NT: those who get a normal allele N from one parent and a thal-

assemia gene T from the other are heterozygote.. Like normal

homozygotes, they do not have the disease (but can be identified

through simple laboratory blood tests).

TT: persons who receive a thalassemia allele from both parents are

homozygote. for 1; the abnormal gene, and have the disease.


In some European populations, for instance in the Italian

province of Ferrara, located between Venice and Bologna, one of

approximately one hundred children is born with thalassemia.

Nearly all those afflicted die young. Heterozygotes are 18 percent of

the population and the rest, 81 percent, are normal homozygotes.


The important question is: why do so many people have the dis-

ease, since they inevitably die before they reach adulthood? They

are obviously at a selective disadvantage, and the disease should

disappear through natural selection. The reality is, however, more

complicated; the province of Ferrara has also beell affected for many

centuries by a highly lethal infectious disease, malaria. It so happens

that heterozygotes for thalassemia are resistant to it, although normal

homozygotes frequently succumb to the infections. The incidence of

malaria in the Ferrara region was so high ,until World War II, that

about one out of ten normal homozygotes died from it, while het-

erozygotes almost always survived it. Given these numbers and a few

calculations we might see that an equal proportion of N genes and of

T genes disappears at every generation, the first because of malaria

“and the second because of thalassemia. Therefore, until there is

malaria of sufficient strength, thalassemia remains at a stable fre-

quency in the population. The thalassemia allele gives the population

some protection from malaria: in fact, it saves 8.1 percent of the N

homozygotes who would otherwise die because of malaria, at the cost

of a smaller number of deaths (1 percent) because of thalassemia.


Useful account of situation to antiracist people since it comes from an antiracist.



The second explanation is that Europeans are the result of

genetic admixture, most probably resulting from migrations from

the two neighbOring continents, Africa and Asia. A calculation of

its genetic consequences fits exactly the data, as shown by Bowcock

et al. (1991). If we sought to determine the exact composition of

this mix, it appears that Europeans are about two-thirds Asian and

one-third Aflican. When would this mixture have occurred? The

data suggest a rather early date, on the order of 30,000 years. How

can we further test such an .explanation? It is a challenge that the

forthcoming data on new DNA markers may well answer.


One is reminded by Rushton’s r-T theory tables, showing that whites are closer to asians but almost always lie in the middle when it comes to all kinds of things.


Rushton’s table can be found here:


Going with his 85, 100, 106 values for IQ, if europeans are 2/3rds asian and 1/3 african, they shud be at IQ 2/3*106≈71.02, 1/3*85≈28.05, i.e. 99.07. But then again, there seems no reason to prefer the value 85 for africans, since this is the value from the US, where blacks have some 20-25% european genes.


But it does fit the value remarkably well.



Principal components analysis had been invented in the thirties,

but had been applied only a few times, because of the staggering

amount of arithmetical work it reqUires. Before the invention of

computers, very few scientists were sufficiently determined to carry

out such an enormous number of computations. To use a concise

description velY unfair to the non-mathematical reader, it simplifies

the “data matrix.,” formed by the frequencies of the various alleles

of many genes, observed in many populations, by calculating the

eigenvectors of a few of its leading eigenvalues. It is difficult to

explain it to non-mathematicians, other than by saying that it

reduces the number of dimensions with which one can represent

the data, with a minimum loss of information.


This is correct, except that it wasnt invented in the 1930’s. It was invented by Spearman or Pearson earlier. Wikigives the data 1901. Perhaps the 1930’s is when they realized that PCA is useful for population genetics and basically any science where one is looking for hidden patterns in the data.



In more recent times growth rates increased considerably: in

the last century alone, the world population grew from 1.6 to almost

6 billion, nearly 250 times the average rate during the Paleolithic.

We know that if the current pattern continues, the global popula-

tion could reach a very dangerous point in the coming decades.

Nature controls an excess of human bhths in three ways: epidemics,

famine, and war. All of these brakes seem to be at work today:

AIDS, an epidemic we still cannot control, is raging; extreme mal-

nutrition affects more than a billion people; and an unprecedented

number of civil and religiOUS wars is shaking the world. So far,

atomic bombs have not been used in these conflicts, but nothing

should prevent us frolll worrying that a Russian sciimtist or engi-

neer, reduced to unemployment and hunge.; Or a group of religiOUS

extremists working for a fundamentalist government, could place

the hUlllan species at dsk of a global Hiroshima.


AIDS doesnt kill very many people. It’s a very slow killer and doesn’t spread easily (bodily fluids only).


We dont have nearly enuf nuclear bombs to kill everything “global hiroshima”.


It is also wrong about the civil wars. In fact violence is declining, not rising. The media is misleading people with theor focus on bad news. Cf.



It is not easy to distinguish between relative contributions. The

similarity between two friends or between two individuals with a

more intimate relationship, .like a husband and wife who have lived

together for a very long period of time, are partly the expreSSion of

what the two have learned from each other and what may have

attracted them in the first place. These forces are often vel)’ strong,

and we sought to examine them by surveying a group of students

about similarities between husbands and wives, parents and chil-

dren, and between frie~ds. We asked about forty questions, and

queried the students about themselves and their parents, as well as

the parents about the students and themselves. On average, the

correlations (the similarities) between husbands and wives (the stu-

dents’ parents) were the greatest, followed by those between par-

ents and children, and finally between friends. The characteristics

studied addressed social activities, habits, leisure activities, super-

stitions, beliefs, and so on.


The first one is easily testable. If people grow more similar to each other as they age, then it cant be genetics alone. If they dont, then genetics+assortative mating is most likely the explanation.



It is always possible that some part of the Similarity between

parents and children has a genetic basis. The distinction between

biological and cultural transmission is not always an obvious one.

For example, it was long believed that the similarity between the

IQ of parents and children was entirely genetic in origin. The

famous British psycholOgist Sir Cyril Burt, undoubtedly carried

away by enthusiasm, even stooped so low as to publish false data to

“proven a genetic basis for IQ. It is thanks to the American psychol-

ogist Leon Kamin that Burt’s fraud was discovered.


Burts results are in agreement with modern data, making it unlikely that it was fraud. See also:


Probably not fraudulent, but more careless than any scientist shud be. The data shud obviously have been published freely, not burned!


See also: Rushton, J.P. (2002). “New Evidence on Sir Cyril Burt: His 1964 Speech to the Association of Educational Psychologists“, Intelligence, 30, 555-567.



At the beginning of work on IQ, the French government asked

Alfred Binet to develop a method for identifying children with

mental handicaps in order to provide them with special schooling at

an early age. But it was primarily American psychologists who tried

to change Binet’s IQ scores into a measure of “pure” intelligence–

independent of the culture or social milieu in which the tests were

conducted. This misplaced enthusiasm led to several serious social

mistakes, of which not all have been corrected. The study of

adopted children was decisive in showing that cultural transmission

exerts a strong influence on the determination of IQ. American

studies in 1980 and 1981 established that only one-third of the vari-

ation in IQ among individuals was due to biological heredity.

Another third can be explained by cultural transmission, while the

last third appears mostly due to other unspecified, mostly random

differences in personal life experience. This is a far cry from the 80

or 90 percent genetic contribution suggested by Burt and his many

American colleagues. Similarly, Arthur jensen’s statement that the

low IQ average of African Amelicans relative to Whites is genetic

was contradicted by studies of Black children adopted by Whites in

England and the United States.


It is interesting how mislead Sforza can be here. Since the analysis of intelligence depends on the exact same mathematical tools he used himself! Factor Analysis!


He ofc cites no sources for these claims. If they are true at all, they are without a doubt child samples. The heritability of intelligence is known to increase with age, so if one wants to prove that intelligence isnt highly heritable and is susceptible to shared environment, all one has to do is rely on child samples. The younger the better. Not very interesting tho.



Theories about the role IQ plays in social stratification have

also been disproved. Some researchers have claimed, without real

evidence, that the difference in IQ observed between high and

low social classes was genetic, because people with a high IQ

automatically became part of the high soCial classes. A French

study on adoptions again showed that the difference was primarily

sociocultural and not genetic.


Historically, it is ironic that it is IQ researches who are accused of bad science! It was the strict environmentalists who kept using the useless research designs that cud not spot the difference between genes and environment.



There is probably still very widespread prejudice in America

concerning the low IQ of Black Americans: the majority is likely to

be still convinced that it is the result of a real genetic difference and

not of a strong social handicap that cannot be reversed in a short

time. Contrast the enthusiastic acceptance of the book The Bell

Curve and its racist message with the response to the information

that the average Japanese IQ is greater than that of White Ameri-

cans by 11 pOints, almost as much as the average difference between

White Americans and Black Americans. Then, the response was: it

is clear that American high schools are very bad.


I just read the bell curve. There is no mention that the Japanese average an IQ of 111. The usual figures are given which are around 105.



Adoption studies provide the best guarantee against the confu-

sion of biological and cultural transmissions, but these studies are dif-

ficult and costly, largely because there are so few subjects. The most

ambitious studies use ~dentical twins who have been raised sepa-

rately. But these studies are hampered by small samples and because

the very early environments of twins, pairs, and their rearing is not

always independent. But other methods exist that help limit confu-

sion between cultural and biological inheritance. For example, in the

case of religiOUS or political similarities between parents and chil-

dren, we used published research data comparing identical twins,

fraternal twins, and regular siblings. Fraternal twins should not

resemble each other more than regular siblings if biolOgical heredity

were the only important factor. In the case of religiOUS or political

creeds, the similarity between fraternal pairs was almost the same as

for identical twins, indicating that genetics plays no (or only a vel)’

small part) in this trait. Family background does have a major effect.

The purely or predominantly maternal transmission of some religiOUS

characteristics would be difficult to explain in a strictly biological way.

Maternal transmission exists for biolOgical characteristics deter-

mined by the mitochondrial genome. However, it would be very sur-

prising if tl,ese cytoplasmic organelles, which supply the cell’s energy,

had any effect on individual religiOUS beliefs.


The problems of these crude studies are easy to overcome when we get cheaper genome sequencing. The reason is this: When we say that siblings have 50% gene variation in common, this is only an average. In reality it varies. This variation per genetic theory will produce stronger and weaker correlations. So it shud be rather easy to settle the matter for good with such analysis.


Im fairly certain i got the idea from: but i cant find the post.