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East Asian Exception

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This Sunday I had the pleasure of meeting up with Hank Pellissier, who used to work for the IEET, a futurist/transhumanist institute, and is now a blogger-journalist and amateur researcher at the Brighter Brains blog.

2013-09-15 16-59-15 - meeting with Hank Pellissier

As one may glean from the title of that blog, his current area of major interest lies in IQ and how you can bolster (or deflate) it. His most recent book is 225 Ways to Elevate or Injure IQ, the product of four years of research consisting of trawling through and summarizing the existing academic literature on the topic. In the meetup, he expounded upon his work.

Much of it was commonsense, or otherwise of no surprise to people who take an active interest in the topic. Some it was also of doubtful validity, with correlations not always being substantiated by a solid case for causation. But some of it was also new, counter-intuitive, even surprising. Certainly all this material is well worth publicizing and pushing into the public debate because quite apart from the intrinsic individual benefits of higher IQ’s it also leads to more efficient economies, higher technological growth, lower crime rates, etc.

Here is a list of most of these 225 IQ factors from Pellisier’s website. Below is a rough classification and brief discussion of some of the most important and interesting points from his research.

Commonsense/Well-known Factors

The big ones are:

Nutrient deficiencies: The important ones are iodine, iron, and zinc. Causes can include poor/unvaried diets and infectious diseases, such as malaria and intestinal worms. Has a ~15-20 IQ point impact on national IQ.

Cousin marriages have a huge observable (negative) impact on IQ. I suspect Pellissier and hbdchick would have a lot to talk about. Causes a ~10 IQ drop… which is really significant when half the population is practicing it, as in much of the Muslim world.

Not mentioned, but significant nonetheless: Racial/ethnic average IQ ceilings. Probably not worth talking at length about, since there isn’t much to do for it and only serves to turn more “respectable” people off from the very concept of IQ and the goal of optimizing it for everyone to the maximum extent possible.

Other commonsense things Pellissier mentions: Good prenatal environement; breastfeeding, preferably on demand, not a set schedule (~4 points); environment free of toxic metals and poisons (lead, cadmium, pesticides, etc); social connections and support; environments with cognitive stimulation (music, chess, computer strategy games – not shooters, learning new languages esp. Mandarin); exercise; sleep well.

Avoid bad things: Concussions, on the basis of which Pellissier is a proponent of banning American football – one study claims 14 point IQ loss after 20 weeks. Binge drinking alcohol; marijuana; smoking and smoke exposure; khat. But magic mushrooms are an exception and are apparently good for repairing brain damage from severe trauma or PTSD! Avoid obesity. Some studies claim fluoride in drinking water is bad for IQ – others disagree.

Questionable Factors

Spanking/corporal punishment; exposure to violence as a child – although its likely and commonsensical that severe child abuse would reduce IQ, I suspect its more likely that the kids who are spanked and/or disciplined more will have lower IQ’s in the first place (more likely to misbehave) and lower IQ parents – aka less capacity for reasoned argument, and readier to resort to impulsive, physical measures – and since IQ is hereditary and all… Anyway, suffice to say, spanking was near universal in Europe before the 20th century, and that certainly didn’t stop it from producing many geniuses.

Diet – junk food, skipping breakfast, sugar, etc., all claimed to reduce IQ – or do lower IQ children (aka with lower IQ parents) have these poorer dietary habits in the first place? I’m sure it goes both ways

National wealth – An obvious one… but I don’t think it matters much at all really (except insofar as national wealth can enable some basic level of nutritional and educational provision… but you don’t need a whole lot of it to buy children books and feed them. Studies in Italy and the US seem to show that the level of educational spending has next to no effect on performance in standardized tests (rough proxy for IQ).

Cold Weather – Great example of necessity of being really careful about rushing to conclusions in these matters. Is it the cold that makes IQ – or is it having ancestors that evolved in colder climes? Kinda doubt you’d up your intelligence much by moving to Kolyma.

Researchers at California School of Professional Psychology claim that “persons in colder climates tend to have higher IQs.” The theory correlates with data from the 50 United States.

Acupuncture – One small study in China indicated a ~15 IQ point gain in half the patients after “six months of acupuncture and other treatments” (so ~7 points overall?). Seems a bit too high. While I can readily testify that acupuncture really does promote relaxation and alleviate stress, I’m skeptical regarding such wilder claims.

Parental Socio-Economic Status, mother’s educational level, etc. – A myriad of studies claiming this. There are, of course, strong correlations with child IQ. But significant independent causation is quite roundly debunked in Charles Murray’s and Richard Hernnstein’s The Bell Curve.

Just correlations, not causations, and explicitly identified as such – Religion (atheists cleverer); political beliefs (liberals cleverer); monogamous males (are cleverer; aka beta males, hehe); vegetarianism (vegan hipsters cleverer than average).

Interesting Factors

Small families – On first impression, I imagined this might be a correlation, not a causational issue. After all stupid/less educated women have more children in the first place, and IQ is ~75% hereditary. But… “After adjusting for mother’s IQ, the children IQ gap is still 10 points with one vs. five or more children” (Maximizing Intelligence by David J. Armor). The theory is that IQ will be depressed when parents have to spread their attentions over many children, as opposed to just one or two.

Girls mature faster – Total cerebral volume peaks at age 10.5 in girls and 14.5 in boys; language and motors skills also mature earlier. This – my note – is a possible explanation for why girls now outperform boys in schools, but continue to underperform them later in life. They just reach their peak earlier and quicker.

Meditation – Some studies claim a very substantial gain in IQ (~8 points) while also, of course, producing other positive effects like less stress.

Wheat! – As we are fans of the paleo diet lifestyle, this I found particularly interesting. This might go some way to explaining the East Asian Exception (aka poor East Asian countries tend to have far higher IQ’s than equally poor countries from, say, the Mediterranean, where diets are grain-based):

A 2011 study of 290 Japanese schoolchildren revealed that those who ate wheat everyday had IQs that were, on average, 4.0 points lower than non-wheat eaters (i.e., rice eaters). Why? Nutritionists believe a neurotoxin in the “staff of life” – wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) – is to blame. WGA passes through the blood-brain barrier and attaches itself to the myelin sheath, the protective coating on the neurons; it’s presence there injures the growth, health, and survival of brain cells.

WGA is highest in whole wheat, especially sprouted whole wheat, and it also lurks in barley and rye. Nutritionists note that all grains contain “natural food toxins” to protect themselves from being eaten by mammals, with the average person eating about 1.5 grams daily of plant poisons. The safest grain is white rice; it’s toxic substances are largely annihilated by cooking. Japanese children who ate white rice and avoided wheat had “significantly larger grey matter volumes in several regions, including left superior temporal gyrus” and their perceptual organizational index (POI) was markedly higher.

Cholesterol-lowering statins – Are apparently a big IQ depressant, as “25% of the body’s cholesterol is in the brain, where it insulates neurons in “myelin sheaths” to create strong neural connections, an essential step in concretizing memory and learning.” Do your best not to get to the stage where you have to take statins.

Playing brain games – E.g. this one: http://www.soakyourhead.com/dual-n-back.aspx

Supplements that increase IQ

The most interesting ones:

Piracetam/aniracetam – Nootropics. Combine with choline. I can personally vouch that they do most definitely and powerfully work. However, there hasn’t been much research on side effects, so I didn’t continue using them for long.

Cocunut oil – One of the best and most accessible natural brain supplelements out there. Claimed to be able to reverse Alzheimer’s.

Deprenyl – Prescription drug, anti-aging, improves sex drive. Can be imported from Mexico.

Modafinil – Prescription only. Fights ADHD, but French military gives it to their pilots for alertness.

Gingko biloba – Most studies say no effect; one study says very beneficial effects in older people. I tried it for a few weeks and saw no effect.

Huperzine-A – Another naturally derived nootropic; as with gingko biloba, more orientated towards preservation (not improvement) and older people.

Curcumin – As in turmeric spice. Said to combat Alzheimer’s.

Tea – In general, and esp. St. John’s Wort for older people.

Creatine – Enhances short-term memory. Verbal fluency increase seen only in vegetarians (not surprising as creatine is found in meat).

Omera-3 (DHA), Alpha Lipoic Acid – It’s basically good for everything.

Caffeine – Very accessible.

(Republished from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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Regular readers of this blog may remember my comments regarding Ron Unz’s theory that East Asians have high IQ’s independent of time/nutrition/urbanization whatever it is that causes the Flynn Effect. Here is his original article on his theory of the “East Asian Exception” and my two responses are here and here.

Anyway a new paper (well, July 2012) I think finally puts this theory to rest: The Flynn effect in Korea: large gains by Jan te Nijenhuis et al. Here is the abstract:

Secular gains in IQ test scores have been reported for many Western countries. This is the first study of secular IQ gains in South Korea, using various datasets. The first question is what the size of the Flynn effect in South Korea is. The gains per decade are 7.7 points for persons born between 1970 and 1990. These gains on broad intelligence batteries are much larger than the gains in Western countries of about 3 IQ points per decade. The second question is whether the Korean IQ gains are comparable to the Japanese IQ gains with a lag of a few decades. The gains in Japan of 7.7 IQ points per decade for those born approximately 1940 1965 are identical to the gains per decade for Koreans born 1970 1990. The third question is whether the Korean gains in height and education lag a few decades behind the Japanese gains. The Koreans reach the educational levels the Japanese reached 25 30 years before, and the gains in height for Koreans born 1970 1990 are very similar to gains in height for Japanese born 1940 1960, so three decades earlier. These findings combined strongly support the hypothesis of similar developmental patterns in the two countries.

So, similar processes (height is of course strongly associated with nutritional quality) leading to the same pattern of steady IQ gains that have been observed for all Western societies.

Incidentally, back during my discussion with Unz, I wrote: “Anyhow, I wish we could do tests on North Koreans. Their meat consumption is at less than 10kg a year and they have periodic famines. They are also directly comparable to South Koreans. They would conclusively prove your theory right or wrong!” The study authors concur on the benefits of testing the Norks:

Theoretically, it would be very interesting to do a study of secular score gains in IQ in North Korea. It appears that height has not increased in North Korea since the end of the Korean war. However, it may be that the quality and number of years of education has improved. This experiment of nature could throw some light on the question to what degree nutrition/hygiene and education influence score gains.

(Republished from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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India backs out of global education test for 15-year-olds.

Indians were put to test for the first time in the last assessment in 2009. On the global stage, they stood second last among 73 countries, only beating Kyrgyzstan on reading, math and science abilities… This time around, sources said India shied away from the assessment as government officials felt our children were not prepared for such a test.

“India didn’t sign up for the PISA 2012 assessment because when countries were asked to sign up for that assessment, India had only signed up for the PISA 2009 assessment, which it carried out with a year later delay in 2010,” said Juliet Evans, who handles communication and administration for the PISA Secretariat. Unlike India, several other countries like Costa Rica, Malaysia, Georgia and the UAE who had carried out the PISA evaluation in 2010 did sign up for the upcoming assessment.

Which of these Soviet leaders does this remind you of?

Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev are all travelling together in a railway carriage. Unexpectedly the train stops. Lenin suggests: “Perhaps, we should call a subbotnik, so that workers and peasants fix the problem.” Stalin puts his head out of the window and shouts, “If the train does not start moving, the driver will be shot!” But the train doesn’t start moving. Khrushchev then shouts, “Let’s take the rails behind the train and use them to construct the tracks in the front”. But it still doesn’t move. Brezhnev then says, “Comrades, Comrades, let’s draw the curtains, turn on the gramophone and pretend we’re moving!”

Anyhow, most countries will continue participating, including some new ones. I am especially looking forwards to seeing how Vietnam performs. It is about ten years behind China, and its genetic IQ level is probably about 5 points lower than China’s. As such, if its IQ comes out to be appreciable lower than 95 (my own estimate is 90-92) then it would be a further blow against Ron Unz’s theory of the East Asian Exception (to the Flynn Effect).

(Republished from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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In the discussion at the previous post, in which I took exception to Ron Unz’s theory of the East Asian Exception, he alerted me to so additional work on the matter he’d done as a Harvard freshman on Chinese IQ. You can read his summary of Social Darwinism and Rural China as well as Steve Sailer’s commentary on it.

Ron Unz’s Theory of Social Darwinism in Rural China

According to Ron Unz, Chinese peasants lived close to their Malthusian limits for millennia on end. That is correct. Furthermore, Chinese rural life was “remarkably sophisticated in its financial and business arrangements”, far more so even than in England. I do not have the comparative knowledge to offer informed commentary on this, though I would stop to note that such a system may not have been so much a generator of “selective pressure for those able to prosper” under complexity as a reflection of already high IQ’s. After all on most social, economic, and technological metrics China was far ahead of Europe until the 18th century or so (though there were important exceptions). Furthermore, “virtually all Chinese were on an equal legal footing”, with far fewer of the feudalistic or caste distinctions that proliferate in India and pre-Enlightenment Europe. This is also correct.

This environment included a number of mechanisms that promoted a highly eugenic development path for the Chinese population. Ron Unz says that only the relative affluent could afford their wives for their children. This is not quite correct, or should I say permanently correct, as this issue only heavily manifested itself during times of Malthusian stress, when families opted to kill baby daughters resulting in skewed sex ratios. Otherwise, we should note that Europeans within the Hajnal Line married late and that the poor sometimes didn’t marry at all, so this particular eugenic effect was if anything stronger in Europe.

However the biggest, and most specific to China, eugenic mechanism is argued to be the Chinese custom of fenjia 分家, lit. “family division.” So if, say, a wealthy Chinese family produced four surviving sons, each of them would inherit only a fourth of the family land. The brothers would be back to square one and would have to hustle for money again. A couple of the brothers might be successful and build up wealth again; another would fall into poverty, and the last one would fail to even find a wife and have children. The effect was that every generation, “a good fraction of the poor disappeared from the gene-pool.” As reproductive survivors would tend to be more intelligent and far-sighted, or so the argument goes, this selected for such traits within the Chinese population.

The system of meritocratic imperial exams, which enhanced the reproductive prospects of the very brightest who could pass them, was a further eugenic mechanism but one whose overall impact was “pretty small” compared with “the push from the bottom.”

Finally, Ron Unz compares his theory to Gregory Clark’s book Farewell to Alms, which argues for a eugenic mechanism in England in which the wealthy enjoyed greater reproductive success and, over the centuries, “civilized” the proles via genetic drift through downwards social mobility. As such, the traits of the aristocracy became inculcated in the English masses with all its attendant benefits, e.g. plummeting homicide rates. (This civilization doesn’t seem to have lasted very long however if yob culture and football hooligans are anything to go by). :) He notes that these eugenic mechanisms operated in China for far longer than they did in England.

He also compares the selection pressures facing the Chinese with those that produced the famed intelligence of the Ashkenazi Jew. Unlike the latter, the Chinese didn’t only have to be bright and business-savvy; as a peasant, he also had to maximize “physical endurance, robustness, diligence, discipline, energy-consumption.” As such, selection had a less one-sided skew in favor of intelligence.

My Critique

This is a nice and elegant theory. It has no obvious contradictions. He is planning to publish his analysis in a formal manner pretty soon. However, before he does so I hope that he will address some of the following counter-arguments and discrepancies.

Re-The (relatively) complex legal environment selected for intelligence. HOWEVER, the Chinese – as do East Asians in general – only perform significantly (hugely) better than whites on visuo-spatial intelligence. That is good for hunting mammoths in the prehistoric tundra and some aspects of mathematics, but not anywhere near as good for navigating complex legal codes in which verbal intelligence is key. However, Chinese verbal intelligence if anything lags the indigenous peoples of most developed European nations. According to 2009 PISA results, Chinese verbal (reading) IQ was 98, which was inferior to Germany’s 102, the US’ 101 (including Blacks and Hispanics), and Poland’s 100; and equal to that of Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Greece.

Here, ironically, Unz faces an additional dilemma: Either he has to reject his theory of the East Asian Exception (i.e. that the Flynn Effect barely applies to them), or he has to rethink his theory of Social Darwinism in rural China.

Re-The eugenic influence of fenjia. The model he sketches out is plausible enough on the surface. That said he has to account for several possible discrepancies.

Korea appears to have a max. potential IQ of about 107, while Japan is slightly lower. Did they have systems of land inheritance that also favored the development of IQ? I do not know. I hope Unz will investigate this matter. A potential problem, however, is that IF they did NOT have their own equivalents of fenjia, then it would be invalidated as a feasible explanation of why East Asian (including Chinese) IQ’s are so high.

Re-Comparison with George Clark’s theory. I don’t think this is a useful crutch to Ron Unz’s China theory at all. So supposedly England had this intensive genetic drift from the top to the bottom. However, today, UK natives (on PISA) score 101; in other IQ tests, the UK’s average is typically set to 100. These numbers are typically lower than those of the Germanic countries like Germany, the Netherlands, etc. – and equal to the IQ’s of the Nordics, the Western Slavs like the Poles and Czechs, (Celtic) Ireland, and (Celtic-Germanic) France.

Really my critiques boil down to a few main issues.

(1) We need more comparative data on IQ, land inheritance systems in the past, etc. I strongly suspect that for all but a few exceptions (e.g. Ashkenazi Jews) the traits developed in prehistoric times still predominate above all others. After all, pre-agrarian prehistory accounts for 90%+ of homo sapiens sapiens’ existence; and selection pressures back then were FAR stronger because of small population sizes. Noncompetitive tribes got wiped out by hostile tribes or the vagaries of climate with chilling frequency. In medieval times, noncompetitive genes were far likelier to linger on to some degree, firstly because welfare systems – crude and rudimentary as they were back then (e.g. poorhouses; alms, zakat, etc; grain reserves; etc) – were still a league ahead of what can possible exist in a tribal hunter-gatherer society; secondly, because violent as the ancient and medieval periods were, they were vastly more peaceful (and populations were bigger) than was the case in the prehistoric era.

(2) To what extent was fenjia unique to China? Was is common to the East Asian region, or not? If not, why then doesn’t Chinese IQ greatly exceed Korea’s? Did it exist in Vietnam? If it did, why then is Vietnamese IQ substantially lower than China’s? Etc. Also, explain why these mechanisms didn’t result in a particularly high verbal IQ; after all, to understand legal matters, that is really what we need, no?

(Republished from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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He writes:

These scores are indeed truly remarkable, and completely confirm the apparent pattern of Lynn’s IQ samples, in which desperately poor East Asians tend to score at or above the levels of the most successful and well-educated Western populations… But since the total population is at least well into the hundreds of millions, heavily rural as well as urban, the average PISA score of 520—corresponding to an IQ of 103—cannot be too dissimilar from the overall Chinese figure. And with China’s per capita GDP still only $3,700 and well over half the population still living in rural villages when the tests were conducted, these are absolutely astonishing results… Although opinions may certainly differ, I regard this new evidence as very strong support for my “East Asian Exception” hypothesis.

China isn’t anywhere near as backward as he portrays it.

(1) The urban-rural ratio was essentially 50/50 according to the 2010 Census. Furthermore, rural Chinese don’t really suffer from the absolute destitution common to peasants in Third World countries. They own their own land and it is almost impossible for them to lose it. Malnutrition is now close to non-existent. Slums are now very rare. According to a Gallup poll, Chinese now actually struggle less than Americans to buy food.

(2) Total Chinese meat consumption overtook US meat consumption in 1990, signifying a nutritionally adequate figure (as Americans eat a lot of and perhaps a bit too much meat anyway). Today Chinese meat consumption is half the US level. The PISA 2009 cohort would have been born in 1993, when Chinese nutrition had already essentially converged with the First World.

(3) He uses nominal GDP per capita which is quite meaningless. The PPP level of Chinese GDP per capita is $8,400 and that figure is probably underestimated.

Basically, if we adjust for the fact that in terms of basics (food, education, housing) China is now essentially equivalent to developed countries, it would make sense that its average IQ level is now only about 5 points from its potential maximum.

But really my fundamental problem with the “East Asia Exception” hypothesis is the huge paradox it exposes: Why was it Europe, and not China, that first underwent the Industrial Revolution? And the (initially unrelated) Scientific Revolution, for that matter? If as Ron Unz says the Flynn Effect barely applies to East Asian populations, then what you’d have had five centuries ago is 100mn Chinese, 20% of them urban – with an average IQ of maybe 95; and 100mn Europeans, only 5% of them urban – with an average IQ of 75. Sure Europe had various advantages (as chronicled by Jared Diamond, Kenneth Pomeranz, etc) but surely it couldn’t have trumped the effects of a 1 S.D. IQ advantage? That is why I believe the East Asia Exception to be historically implausible.

(Republished from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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As human capital is so important for prosperity, it behoves us to know China’s in detail to assess whether it will continue converging on developed countries. Until recently the best data we had were disparate IQ tests (on the basis of which Richard Lynn’s latest estimate is an IQ of 105.8 in his 2012 book Intelligence: A Unifying Construct for the Social Sciences) as well as PISA international standardized test scores from cities like Shanghai and Hong Kong. However, the problem was that they were hardly nationally representative due to the “cognitive clustering” effect. The Chinese did not allow the OECD to publish data for the rest of the country and this understandably raised further questions about the situation in its interior heartlands, although even in 2010 I was already able to report a PISA representative saying that “even in some of the very poor areas you get performance close to the OECD average.”

As regards Chinese intelligence

Happily (via commentator Jing) we learned that the PISA data for Zhejiang province and the China average had been released on the Chinese Internet. I collated this as well as data for Chinese-majority cities outside China in the table below, while also adding in their PISA-converted IQ scores, the scores of just natives (i.e. minus immigrants), percentage of the Han population, and nominal and PPP GDP per capita.

Reading Math Science Average (native) IQ (native IQ) %汉族 GDP/c (n) GDP/c (P)
China* 486 550 524 520 ~ 103.0 ~ 91.6% 5,430 8,442
China: Shanghai 556 600 575 577 589 111.6 113.4 99.0% 12,783 19,874
China: Zhejiang 525 598 567 563 ~ 109.5 ~ 99.2% 9,083 14,121
Hong Kong 533 555 549 546 557 106.9 108.6 93.6% 34,457 49,990
Macau 487 525 511 508 514 101.2 102.1 95.0% 65,550 77,607
Singapore 526 562 542 543 550 106.5 107.5 74.1% 46,241 61,103
Taiwan 495 543 520 519 534 102.9 105.1 98.0% 20,101 37,720

* Twelve provinces including Shanghai, Zhejiang, Beijing, Tianjin, Jiangsu totaling 621 schools, 21,003 students. Results have been released for Shanghai, and later on for Zhejiang (59 schools, 1,800 students – of which 80% were township-village schools) and for the 12-province average.

(1) Academic performance, and the IQ for which it is a good proxy, is very high for a developing nation. Presumably, this gap can largely be ascribed to the legacy of initial historical backwardness coupled with Maoist economics.

(2) The average PISA-converted IQ of the 12 provinces surveyed in PISA is 103.0. (I do not know if provincial results were appropriately weighed for population when calculating the 12-province average but probably not). We know the identities of five of the 12 tested provinces (Shanghai, Zhejiang, Beijing, Tianjin, Jiangsu). They are all very high-income and developed by Chinese standards. Furthermore, these five provinces – with the exception of Tianjin – all perform well above average according to stats from a Chinese online IQ testing website.

The provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang also have a reputation in China as gaokao powerhouses.

(3) The Chinese average as given by PISA therefore appears to have an upwards bias, as at least a third of the tested provinces – Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Beijing – are at the very top end of the Chinese IQ league charts. As such, the true IQ average for China is likely closer to 101-102.

(4) The very high score of Shanghai (111.6) is surely for the most part a reflection of its long status as a magnet of Chinese cognitive elites. This may well be true for Hong Kong (106.9) too although perhaps to a lesser extent. But the IQ of native Taiwanese is 105.1 even though the Han Chinese there are substantially interbred with lower-IQ aborigines. Singapore (107.5) too drew Chinese cognitive elites, and quite consciously too – their immigration policies were (are) de facto cognitively elitist – but on the other hand, this is counteracted by their large, lower-IQ Malay and Indian minorities. Regardless, one cannot escape the conclusion that with the (unexplained) exception of Macau, all developed Han majority regions have IQ’s in the 105-110 range. Likewise with other East Asians, such as native Koreans (106.6) and native Japanese (105.3). This means that there is a 5-10 point IQ gap between developed East Asian regions and the Chinese average.

(5) The biggest gaps between China and Chinese enclave regions are typically where we can reasonably hypothesize a “cognitive clustering” effect, so minus that the current gap is probably closer to 5 points. This means that China very likely still has the potential to raise its average IQ by c. 5 points via the Flynn Effect.

(6) A side-consequence is that this presents a serious challenge to Ron Unz’s theory of The East Asian Exception to Socio-Economic IQ Influences.

As regards Chinese intelligence in global perspective

Below is another table with a list of countries representing a typical sample of the developed countries that China is striving to become; and the emerging nations (BRIC’s and SE Asian) with which China is typically compared.

Reading Math Science Average (native) IQ (native IQ)
Korea 539 546 538 541 544 106.2 106.6
Japan 520 529 539 529 535 104.4 105.3
China 486 550 524 520 ~ 103.0 ~
Germany 497 513 520 510 533 101.5 105.0
United States 500 487 502 496 502 99.5 100.3
Russia 459 468 478 468 477 95.3 96.6
Thailand 421 419 425 422 422 88.3 88.3
Malaysia 414 404 422 413 ~ 87.0 ~
Brazil 412 386 405 401 399 85.2 84.9
Indonesia 402 371 383 385 378 82.8 81.7
India* 327 345 337 336 ~ 75.4 ~

* Average of Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh.

(1) Assuming that average Chinese IQ is now 101-102:

  • Means that it is approximately equivalent to the German IQ of 101.5 (with the typical East Asian bias towards better numerical and worse verbal scores).
  • As of today, this IQ level is still somewhat below those of other developed East Asian nations be they Korean, Japanese, or Han majority. It is also slightly below the results of Australians, Canadians, native Germans and white Americans; and approximately equal to the results of native Britons and French.
  • It is head and shoulders above other SE Asian “tigers” whose average IQ’s are in the high 80′s (Thailand, Malaysia) or low 80′s (Indonesia).
  • Relative to the BRIC’s, the Chinese average IQ is substantially ahead of Russia (95.3) and greatly ahead of Brazil (85.2). As for India, whose average IQ is 75.4 according to PISA results from two fairly rich provinces, there is simply no comparison whatsoever. As I have indeed pointed out on numerous occasions.

(2) Needless to say this is an extremely good result that practically ensures convergence to developed country levels within a reasonable time frame. This is especially true because as is almost always the case, there exists a positive feedback loop with greater development pushing average Chinese IQ to its genetic “ceiling” of approximately 105-108. That in turn will further raise the capacity of Chinese labor for skills absorption and even greater productivity.

Addendum 8/15: The commentator Jing graciously provided the list of all the 12 Chinese provinces that participated in the PISA 2009 study. They were: Tianjin, Shanghai, Beijing, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Jilin, Hubei, Hebei, Hainan, Sichuan, Yunnan, Ningxia.

This allowed me to make an interesting conclusion. No matter whether you weigh the provincial IQ scores above by population or not, the difference between the 12 provinces and China on average is only about 0.5 points in favor of the 12 provinces. This means that the PISA sample is actually pretty good – and that China’s PISA-derived IQ is in fact about 102.5 or so.

(Republished from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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In recent days Ron Unz’s article Race, IQ, and Wealth (The American Conservative) has been making the rounds in the HBDsphere. Broadly speaking it argues for the predominance of cultural and environmental factors as opposed to genetic in forming IQ. It is fairly long but it’s also one of the best statements of that position out there, and I highly suggest you go and read it in its entirety (as well as the good discussions it spawned at thanks to hbd* chick, Peter Frost, David Sanders, etc).

(Incidentally, part of the reason it is so good is that it avoids throwing round the racism card in addressing proponents of the genetic-determinist model of IQ, as do all too many mainstream commentators. That is really a kind of trolling, and by and by, will as such no longer be tolerated on this blog as it once was.)

To prove his case Ron Unz takes data from Lynn and Vanhanen, the two foremost compilers of global IQ data (along with Rinderman), and turns it against their own position that national IQ levels – barring a universal Flynn Effect – are essentially fixed: “… I would suggest that the heralded 300-page work by Lynn and Vanhanen constituted a game-ending own-goal against their IQ-determinist side, but that neither of the competing ideological teams ever noticed. … Given that Lynn and Vanhanen rank as titans of the racial-difference camp, perhaps their ideological opponents, who often come from less quantitative backgrounds, are reluctant even to open the pages of their books, fearful lest the vast quantity of data within prove that the racialist analysis is factually correct after all. Meanwhile, the pro-racialist elements may simply skim over the hundreds of pages of dry and detailed quantitative evidence and skip to the summary text, which claims that the data demonstrate IQ is genetically fixed and determines which nations will be rich and which will be poor.”

In support of his thesis Ron Unz cites the wide dispersion seen in IQ results for European populations, which are genetically close. Many East-Central European societies that scored low during the 1950′s-80′s have since come close to converging with results from Western Europe. Furthermore, South Europeans and East Europeans who migrated to the US in the 1920′s scored in the mid-80′s – a 1 S.D. discrepancy that is about as big as that which continually separates Blacks from whites. I.e., very significant. However, these folks all managed to integrate into American society and now have IQ’s higher than those of longer established (and more rural) groups such as the Germans and Dutch. In particular, he cites a test administered to 3,500 Irish schoolchildren in 1972, which showed an average IQ of just 87. That is almost 1 S.D. lower than the IQ of Irish-Americans, or for that matter, more recent PISA results which now show the Irish to be well within the European cognitive mainstream.

At this point I should perhaps mention that I my conversion to the “dark side” of genetic determinism is fairly recent and that as early as six months ago I would have agreed with Unz’s reasoning in its entirety – that national IQ’s are mainly a product of culture and development levels and such and have little to do with racial difference (see IQ and Industrialism, 2010). Now I still consider these factors play an important role, but NOT the dominant one. Ron Unz’s article serves as an excellent foil to explain why:

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(1) It is important to emphasize that Lynn and Vanhanen basically collate a wide variety of tests across space and time that are non-standardized. Some measure verbal ability (which Europeans are good at and generally hasn’t risen much); others measure spatial or mathematical abilities (which East Asians are better at than Europeans, and which was very much influenced by the Flynn Effect throughout the 20th century). Many of their tests suffer from small and/or biased samples – and I imagine this would be especially true of IQ tests conducted in East-Central Europe. That said, the results of these tests cannot be dismissed out of hand, because of their relative consistency.

(2) As regards US data on immigrants’ IQ from the 1920′s, we cannot also exclude the (artificial) effects of poor English language comprehension. Certainly we know that liberal arguments against the validity of IQ tests emphasizes that the tests in that period were linguistically rigged against immigrants and if that is true then it would make sense that their scores were “mismeasured”. Had I been subjected to a verbal IQ test in English in 1995, say, I would have come out as a clinical retard.

(3) That said, the low Irish results from 1972 are indeed puzzling and deserve a detailed response. THAT SAID, before rushing to ascribe to the difference in development levels, we must also take note that Ireland before the 1975 was a very high-emigration country.

Note that Ireland’s population was actually declining until 1960, despite births outnumbering deaths by almost 2:1. More than 1% of the Irish left their country every single year. The schoolchildren of 1972 would have presumably been born for the most part in the 1950′s, not far from the end-point of a (likely dysgenic) process that had been going on uninterruptedly since the Great Famine. While there is no way to know for sure, there is reason to suspect that on average emigrants had higher IQ’s than average, as the act of emigration requires initiative, fore-planning, future time orientation, and other factors usually associated with higher IQ’s. Operating for a century this would have surely had a dysgenic effect, but fortunately on its cessation, the population would get a chance to revert to its natural mean. Coupled with big infusions of Poles and other East Europeans during the 2000′s, and the undeniable but modest boost that great wealth can make to IQ, it is probably not that surprising that in the PISA tests the Irish have converged with the West European mainstream.

Note that according to my estimates derived from PISA/TIMMS and Rinderman’s, even today countries with ultra-high rates of emigration such as Moldova (86/92), Georgia (83/88), Armenia (96/93), and Kyrgyzstan (75/70) also have extremely low IQ results relative to where we would intuitively expect them to be. Armenians are the closest genetic relatives of Ashkenazi Jews, who are (in)famous for being well above average; furthermore, Armenians have typically been more educated than average, and quite a lot of Soviet chess Grandmasters were Armenian or part-Armenian. Moldovans are crudely East Slavs and Romanians, and “should” be somewhere in the low 90′s (although note that both Ukraine and especially Romania have had very substantial emigrations of their own). Georgians are crudely Greeks and Turks, and basically something like a fourth of them left – both during the Soviet era, and especially during the 1990′s. The Kyrgyz are a Turkic and Mongoloid-like people, and as with the Georgians, about a quarter of them have left for greener pastures. Though it should be noted that Kyrgyzstan has one of the highest rates of consanguineous marriage in the world (i.e. inbreeding) and that this is surely a huge additional depressant on their IQ.

In short, PISA data suggests that mass emigration – especially when ongoing for a long time – has a very significant dysgenic effect on IQ. I do not think it unreasonable to posit that this is the reason why 3,500 Irish schoolchildren scored an average of 87 in IQ tests held in 1972.

(4) While I agree with hbd* chick’s observation that the emigration had a significant dysgenic effect on Irish IQ (see above), unlike her I think that it has been almost entirely remedied by now. She argues that Irish PISA scores only managed to converge with those of France because of its flood of lower-IQ immigrants that brought the national average down. The data doesn’t back this up however. Ireland’s native PISA score in 2009 was 503 (national – 497), not really ALL that different from France’s 508 (497), the UK’s 508 (500), Poland’s 503 (501), etc.

(5) Extrapolating from these spatio-temporal discrepancies in IQ among West European populations, Ron Unz extends the exercise to Mexico and Hispanic immigration in general. He notes that among Mexican-Americans born in the US, the average IQ as derived from Wordsum improved from 85 (i.e. Third World) to 95 (i.e. basically just about enough to build a First World society). This is substantially higher than the average for Mexico today which is something like 88 (me) or 85 (Rinderman). This is of course highly encouraging.

Possible problems. First, what kind of Mexicans? There are huge disparities between the northern predominantly European states, which are basically something like Portugal, to the southern predominantly Amerindian states, which look more like India. Think of it like Italy Extreme (where IQ ranges from 103 in the northern states to low-90′s in the south). As I understand it, the older migrations was primarily from the former region; indeed, part of the Mexican-American population is indigenous, having been conquered in the 19th century. But it is a fact today that Hispanic migration is primarily from southern Mexico and Central America. Will they be as successful in converging to the American average like Europeans and the old Mexican-Americans?

Second, read David Sanders’ response at VDARE. Overall Hispanic scores have remained low, typically in the low 90′s (unfortunately, Sanders seems to conflate Mexican-Americans with Hispanics, which is not really accurate at all; but the main point stands). PISA confirmed those figures both in 2006 and 2009. Part of this stagnation is surely due to the continuing influx of poor Hispanics with bad English skills. Nonetheless, I am not sure it is possible that it is still the main reason today. After all, the US Hispanic population is now very big, at around 16.3% of the total population according to the last Census. As such the influence of new arrivals on the overall group average is now surely quite modest.

Main things to take home. First, if Hispanic average is low 90′s and Mexican-American average is 95, then Hispanic non-Mexican average is probably something like 90. Flynn magic and acclimatization to America may raise it to 95, while Mexican-Americans may eke out a few more points. Still, hard to see them catching up to the US White average of 103 anytime soon. Encouragingly, this is not the kind of awning difference that leads to quasi-caste societies like in South Africa, on the other hand, the differences will still be significant and not helped by the fact that Hispanic culture is quite different from mainstream US white culture.

(6) Also as noted by David Sanders you could just as easily use isolated test data to argue that being rich LOWERS your IQ. Because for every Greece and Ireland …

Country IQ at Point 1 IQ at Point 2 IQ Change Annual GDP Per Capita Increase Time Gap Between Tests (years)
East Germany 90 99 +9 $769 (using Czech figures) 11
Greece 88 95 +7 $6047 18
Ireland 87 98 +11 $1191 7

There is a France and an Israel.

Country IQ at Point 1 IQ at Point 2 IQ Change GDP Per Capita Increase Time Gap Between Tests (years)
Israel 97 90 -7 $5276 14
Poland 106 92 -14 $561 10
Portugal 101 88 -13 $1073 8
France 99.5 (average of two studies) 94 -5.5 $9630 17

Lynn and Vanhanen’s data is valid for general conclusions because at the large scale noise is smoothed out, but it is very dangerous to use it to illustrate individual examples. Even today, if you look at the geography of PISA test results in the US – a STANDARDIZED test to boot, unlike the IQ tests compiled by L. & V. – there will still be significant differences even in White results which range from about 96 in West Virginia to 106 in Massachusetts. This is perfectly natural and to be expected because of internal migration and cognitive clustering patterns that have lasted decades and centuries.

(7) “Among the higher performing white American groups are the Irish, the Greeks, the Yugoslavs, and the Italians, while Americans of Dutch extraction are near the bottom for whites, as are oldstock Americans who no longer identify with any European country but are presumably British in main ancestry. Meanwhile, German-Americans are generally at or slightly below the white American average.”

Several things we have to bear in mind: (a) Ultimately modest initial differences (especially once we account for linguistic issues in the 1920′s immigrant tests discussed above); (b) Intermarriage which has been very substantial and smooths out ethnic differences in the urban areas; (c) Unz’s own observation – with which I’m fully agreed as it seems to be universal! – that urban dwellers tend to perform better on IQ tests than rural dwellers all other things being equal (as Marx observed: “Idiocy of rural life”).

(8) I notice that Ron Unz steers clear of the elephant in the room as regards theories of IQ as predominantly a product of culture – US Blacks. Problem is, they are more urban than whites; so can’t use the reasoning in the previous point. And as discussed very extensively in The Bell Curve (Murray & Herrnstein), no, this is not because IQ tests are culturally biased or because Blacks just don’t care about them. US Black IQ’s be they derived from SATS or PISA or other tests pretty much all now consistently show them as being in the high-80′s. The Black White gap shrank slowly until the 1990 but since then progress has stalled or even reversed. The sad but logical conclusion is that their genetic IQ potential as a group is now more or less maxed out. It would be interesting to see how Ron Unz would try to explain this away.

Another element of Lynn’s and Vanhanen’s more recent work (e.g. The Global Curve) that has not been tackled is the remarkably consistent tendency for the exact same racial patterns to reproduce themselves all over the world in different countries and within radically different cultural milieus and across time that feature similar hierarchies in economic success, crime, IQ, etc: East Asians, then Whites, then South-East Asians, Indians, and/or Hispanics; then Blacks. It is hard, very hard indeed, to think of any theory that can account for this that doesn’t lean heavily on genetic determinism.

Despite all these caveats and criticisms, it need be borne in mind that only a pure ideologue would argue that IQ is solely genetically determined. Indeed, the Flynn Effect – mostly composed of better nutrition (we can deduce this partly because it is the poorest performers who tend to make the biggest gains, and that furthermore, the Flynn Effect petered out in White countries at just about the time that their average human heights reached a plateau) and various other things such as familiarity with standardized tests – is very significant, typically adding a massive 15-20 IQ points overall (compare US Blacks with scores in the high-80′s, adjust down to 85 to take into account 20% white admixture, then consider that the Ghanans, Nigerians, etc. among whom Flynn hasn’t had much chance to take root yet, score around 65-70). Also of huge significance is the geography of cognitive clustering which has been discussed here in the context of dysgenic emigration, as well as in the cases of some countries, the culturally-mediated factor of consanguineous marriage (which however takes a long time to fix even disregarding the cultural barriers to dismantling such systems).

***

In an addendum to the initial article, Ron Unz writes about The East Asian Exception to Socio-Economic IQ Influences. He notes that while (Flynn-adjusted) South and East European scores improved form the 88-94 range, this was much less true for the East Asian nations which started off with very high scores even in the 1950′s and 1960′s and only made very marginal improvements to the present day. Ironically, Unz’s explanation for this is primarily genetic and I DISAGREE with it.

The most plausible inference from these decades of accumulated data is that the IQs of East Asian peoples tend to be more robust and insulated against the negative impact of cultural or economic deprivation than those of European groups or various others—a truly remarkable finding. This might be due to cultural factors of some type, or perhaps certain aspects of East Asian spoken or written languages. But a fascinating possibility is that this IQ robustness may have a substantially genetic component. … Over one hundred years ago, The Changing Chinese by A.E. Ross, one of America’s greatest early sociologists, provided copious anecdotal evidence indicating greater Chinese resistance to illness and injury and perhaps even an ability to survive on more meager food rations. Certainly these sorts of traits might be expected to have undergone strong selection in a country such as China, whose huge population had lived many centuries at the absolute Malthusian edge of starvation.

Here I would note several things:

(a) While on paper East Asian GDP’s – especially outside Japan – were indeed quite a lot lower than those of Southern and Eastern Europe in the 1950′s and 1960′s, it does not necessarily follow that there was a huge corresponding difference in food availability. Asian agricultural technology was always advanced relative to their actual level of economic development, and their diets were probably better balanced than in the Mediterranean and almost certainly better balanced than in East-Central Europe.

(b) Sampling issues. This requires further investigation, but it is very important to be nationally representative given cognitive clustering. E.g., people are far brighter in Shanghai or Beijing than in Henan.

(c) “For consistency, all these results are drawn directly from Lynn/Vanhanen, and include their Flynn and other IQ adjustments up and down, several of which seemed rather large and arbitrary…” I.e., if the Flynn adjustments seem “rather large”, then logically the earlier IQ results should be lower than otherwise stated; and hence, the gain thanks to the Flynn Effect correspondingly larger.

(d) In a famous book on China by the American missionary Arthur H. Smith, titled “Chinese Characteristics” and published in the 1890′s, he expresses a low opinion of Chinese intellectual acumen at the time. In a chapter tellingly called “Intellectual Turbidity“, he notes that the great mass of Chinese are seemingly incapable of abstract logical reasoning, WHEREAS Chinese scholars – though understandably few in number, considering the country’s underdevelopment – can display impressive intellectual acumen. This makes total sense given what we now know of psychometrics and life in traditional societies. The masses have peasant-like mentalities and are illiterate and malnourished, which translates into very low IQ’s; the scholars, however, are fairly well nourished and literate and urban and high-IQ, and thus can communicate at Smith’s level. However, as there are so few of them, the characteristics of the dull peasant masses predominate at the average national level so the national IQ level is very low. Today however the Chinese IQ is well above 100 however you measure it. This is the Flynn Effect in action over a century, in China as everywhere else.

So, East Asians probably aren’t as much of an Exception as Ron Unz presents them as. Or not an exception at all. Arguably using them to try to prove that Lynn and Vanhanen scored a “game-ending own goal” is kind of an own goal to Unz’s own minimization of the genetic component of IQ.

***

In conclusion, I think the Flynn Effect DID act on East Asian societies, though it is plausible that it was not to such a high degree as in European societies for cultural, environmental, or genetic reasons. And as with Europeans they have now maxed out their potential (Japan, Korea, Taiwan) or come close to it (China). However US Blacks also seem to have maxed out their potential and at levels very significantly (1 S.D.) below those of both US Whites / Anglo-Germanic Europe and East Asians. Coupled with lots of other evidence this to me convincingly suggests a strong racial component to group average IQ differences.

Mexican-Americans and especially US Hispanics (who still have many immigrants among them) can still make very substantial gains but given the very big gap between them and US Whites, I am skeptical that they will be able to close it it in the future by themselves. That said intermarriage rates between native-born Hispanics and non-Hispanics are quite high so I expect them to gradually blend in with the US population over the next century. Perhaps a more critical difference from prior European immigrants apart from the lower IQ of Amerindian-stock Hispanic immigrants is that they come from or via a nation contiguous with the US. This lack of distance means that they will be better able to maintain their culture within the US, and the US will slowly become a more “Latinized” country although they will not ever feasibly come to exercise a dominant cultural influence.

(Republished from AKarlin.com by permission of author or representative)
 
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Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.