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In a flashback to the IQ by state hoax, the Times has published a list of IQs by country for most, but not all, European countries. The ranking is attributed to Richard Lynn, without references.

The IQ range of 107 (Germany) to 89 (Serbia) resembles real IQ by US state data.

Razib whispers: Beware of British newspapers!!!

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Although the scientific community has been dismissive of the threat of juvenile neurological disease posed by thimerosal (a mercury-based preservative used in vaccines), the theory linking mercury to autism has persisted in the popular mind. The US is in the middle of a vast–if late and unwilling–experiment in reducing thimerosal use, and the results are beginning to trickle in.

The latest issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons (Spring 2006) documents “Early Downward Trends in Neurodevelopmental Disorders Following Removal of Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines” [PDF]:

A two-phase study was undertaken to evaluate trends in diagnosis of new NDs entered into the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) and the California Department of Developmental Services (CDDS) databases on a reporting quarter basis, from 1994 through 2005. Significant increasing trends in newly diagnosed NDs were observed in both databases 1994 through mid-2002. Significant decreasing trends in newly diagnosed NDs were observed in both databases from mid-2002 through 2005. The results indicate that the trends in newly diagnosed NDs correspond directly to the expansion and subsequent contraction of the cumulative mercury dose to which children were exposed from TCVs through the U.S. immunization schedule.

If the trend continues downward, the tragedy of autism won’t quite be over. It will only get harder to develop and distribute vaccines, and virtually impossible to convince the public that they’re safe.

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ScienceNOW Daily News has an article on The Case of Mistaken IQ:

Health workers routinely assess autistics using a standard IQ test known as the Wechsler test. But this test requires that children understand oral commands, a trait that many autistic children have trouble with. Cognitive neuroscientist Laurent Mottron of the Hopital Riviere-des-Prairies, Montreal and colleagues noticed that autistic children did poorly on the verbal comprehension part of the Wechsler but exceedingly well on a part that tests non-verbal intelligence and reasoning.

So the researchers decided to test 30 autistic children and 30 autistic adults with a different IQ test called the Raven’s Progressive Matrices test, which is written rather than oral. Healthy children and adults performed similarly on both the Wechsler and the Raven test. But speaking autistics scored up to 30 percentile points higher on the Raven test than the Wechsler test, the researchers reported here 19 February at the annual meeting for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which publishes ScienceNOW). “Thirty percentile points could raise a retarded person to normal or a normal one to a superintelligent one,” says Mottron.

It sounds like a bit of factor analysis could have gotten them the same result. I didn’t find an actual reference, but here’s the AAAS press release about the symposium.

• Category: Science • Tags: IQ 
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Researchers have associated a variant of the IGF2R gene with lower IQ in males–by an average of 20 IQ points. From the Dallas Morning News article [registration required]:

The researchers studied about 300 children with an average age of 10. The children, all Caucasian, came from six counties in the Cleveland area. As a group, males – but not females – who had the variant gene had IQ scores about 20 points lower than males who didn’t. […]

Dr. Jirtle said his assertion that the IGF2R gene affects IQ is bolstered by experiments in mice. When he and his colleagues disabled a copy of the gene in lab mice – an experiment intended to mimic humans who inherit the variant copy of the gene – they noticed that the male mice were slow learners on a maze test. Electrical recordings of the mice’s brain tissue were also altered in a way that is consistent with slow learning.

Also, Dr. Jirtle said, what scientists already know about the protein produced from the IGF2R gene fits with a role in brain function. Research has suggested the protein regulates cell growth as well as the speed at which signals travel between nerve cells.

In 1998, scientists from England reported a connection between a portion of the IGF2R gene and IQ, but later retracted their work when they couldn’t replicate the results. Dr. Jirtle’s research concerns a different, but nearby, area of the same gene.

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QIMR Scientists Identify Genetic Links to Human Intelligence:

The QIMR group, led by Professor Nick Martin, has identified specific locations on Chromosomes 2 and 6 as being highly influential in determining IQ. To do this, they applied multipoint linkage analysis to data from 634 sibling pairs (including non-identical twins) from Australia and the Netherlands who were genetically scanned for the study.

Although earlier twin studies had revealed the existence of genes that dictated human intelligence, usual genetic association methods had not been effective in identifying them. Where association analysis may overlook closely spaced genes that act together to affect a trait, linkage analysis is more sensitive to such combined effects.

Traditional IQ tests are designed to assess abilities across different areas – memory, vocabulary, semantics, symbolic reasoning – collectively grouped into higher orders such as verbal and performance intelligence. The region on Chromosome 2 shows significant links to performance IQ, also overlapping a region associated with autism. The region on Chromosome 6 showed strong links with both full-scale and verbal IQ with a marginal overlap to an area implicated in reading disability and dyslexia.

During the study, where the non-identical twins and other sibling pairs had significant differences in IQ, they also had significant variation in these regions on Chromosomes 2 and 6.

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EurekAlert! summarizes a paper by Rushton and Jensen to appear in the June issue of Psychology, Public Policy and Law in ten handy points:

The Worldwide Pattern of IQ Scores. Race Differences Most Pronounced on Tests of (g).The Gene-Environment Architecture of IQ.Brain Size Differences.Trans-Racial Adoption Studies.Racial Admixture Studies.IQ Scores of Blacks and Whites Regress toward the mean.Race Differences in Other “Life-History” Traits.Race Differences and the Out-of-Africa theory of Human Origins.Do Culture-Only Theories Explain the Data? Update from Razib: Whole thing here (PDF).

Update from Alex: From Marginal Revolution via eric, comes a great supplimental reading in April 2005’s Journal of Law and Economics entitled Labor Market Discrimination and Racial Differences in Premarket Factors (free *.pdf here). Posted by jemima at 08:17 PM

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You probably need to be a philosophy geek to fully appreciate this one, but renowned British philosopher Anthony Flew has gone from atheist to Deist in the space of a year. His theism will be immortalized in a new edition of God and Philosophy.

The journal Philosophia Christi has an interview with Flew available on-line and also as a PDF. Flew’s reason for his change of heart is science’s alleged difficulty in explaining “the origin of life and the complexity of nature.”

I wonder why, if he was the sort to go for Intelligent Design, he’s become convinced only now. The interview doesn’t go into enough detail on that point, but Flew does outline his beliefs on divine revelation (possible but unlikely), the problem of evil (still unsolved), the possibility of an afterlife (he hopes not), the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection (insufficient, but better than your average miracle), and Islam (“the uniting and justifying ideology of Arab imperialism”). He’s considering

[…] the possibility of what my philosophical contemporaries in the heyday of Gilbert Ryle would have described as a knock-down falsification of Islam: something which is most certainly not possible in the case of Christianity. If I do eventually produce such a paper it will obviously have to be published anonymously. Posted by jemima at 04:43 PM

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I firmly believe that the best things in life are sugar, salt, and fat. Sugar is the gas that makes your body run, salt is an essential mineral without which you’d keel over, and fat…well, fat just tastes good. Salt gets a bad rap, though. We wince in horror when Emeril tosses a handful of it into his latest recipe, we scold people who eat it straight from the shaker (take my word for it on this one), and we feel potato chip guilt—because we know the lowly potato chip is nothing more than a vehicle for the administration of the forbidden mineral.

But I’ll never turn down a potato chip again, because salt is actually completely harmless for the majority of munchers. Earlier this year, JunkScience reported on the federal government’s ongoing and groundless Salt Assault. I just spotted the news in their 2004 Junk Science Awards, where the salt assault placed at #9.

Here’s the blurb:

In early 2004, a panel of the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine urged that the recommended daily allowance of sodium be drastically reduced by almost 40% and that the average American’s actual sodium consumption be slashed by more than 60% — even though 10 major studies conducted since 1995 have all concluded that lower sodium diets don’t produce health benefits and may pose risks for some. Why the extreme recommendation? Political correctness run amok. Read more…

The PC effect comes in because the munching minority who happen to be slightly more sensitive to dietary salt (and therefore more likely to suffer slight elevations of blood pressure) than the rest of us are (did you guess?) African-Americans.

But because the panel didn’t think that singling out African-Americans was an effective public health strategy, it decided to “overcompensate” and make the recommendation for the general population ¯ thereby shifting the burden to the food industry to reduce salt content in foods. African Americans, then, couldn’t help but eat less salt.

Setting aside for the moment my personal loss of potato chips caused by the decades-long salt superstition, I think the panel’s approach was counterproductive. Singling out African-Americans would be the more effective strategy. People are more likely to listen to a message that’s directed to them. I never really believed the salt hype, but if someone had told me that Luso-Americans (Portuguese Americans) in particular had an issue with salt, I would have been more likely to take them seriously.

I could go on, but I’m going to go make some malassadas (Portuguese fried dough) instead.

Posted by jemima at 03:48 PM

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I’ve spotted four different IQ stories in the last four days, divided neatly into two categories. In the first category are the medical reports: Low Birth Weight Affects IQ Into Teen Years and [anti-epileptic] drug warning on child’s IQ. (The drugs in question are those taken by pregnant epileptic women to prevent seizures.) Both reports accept IQ as a given, perhaps because the factors affecting it are purely environmental.

Then there’s the other side: in Illinois, an education professor says ‘there’s no such thing as IQ’ at a workshop sponsored by the Heart of Illinois Down Syndrome Association; further north, Smarter ways to measure intelligence than IQ, says University of Alberta researcher. The researcher is J. P. Das of the J. P. Das Developmental Disabilities Centre. If anyone knows of a good on-line summary of his PASS theory of intelligence, please leave a comment.

At first it surprised me that people dealing with such obvious mental disabilities would doubt the significance of IQ measurements. Now I wonder whether there’s a point on the IQ range beneath which it ceases to be a useful measure for them; other factors may come into play.

More on IQ outliers coming soon…

Posted by jemima at 08:18 PM

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From Hugh Hewitt’s quote of Robert Cartwright, computer scientist and typography expert at Rice University:

The typed text in the “Killian memos” is kerned (check out letter combinations like “fo” and “fe”), but the Composer text is clearly not. Kerning is a computationally complex task beyond the capacity of any mechanical typewriter–even one as expensive and elaborate as the IBM Selectric Composer. Moreover, the proportional spacing in the sample text is rather crude (look at the typesetting of “11” for example) which is the best that a mechanical typewriter–even one as complex as the Composer–can do.

CBS pdf of the May 19 memo.

Zoom in on the “fo”:


Is this the smoking kern? More on kerning:


Judge for yourself.

(btw, this is GC. I removed myself from the MT control panel because I wanted to take some time off from blogging, so I had to post under a co-blogger’s account. However, this scandal broke just then and I thought this was worth posting.)


Like CBS, the original document was tilted to the left. I did my best to correct for it and added some horizontal guides:


It does seem as if the f is excluding volume above the o, even taking the rotation of the original document into account.

Posted by jemima at 01:24 PM

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Harcourt is doing a “research study” on the Miller Analogies Test. (It sounds to me like they’re norming a new computerized version of the test.) If you’ve never taken the MAT, you can take it for free at test centers around the US [PDF].

Posted by jemima at 12:09 PM

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Along the lines of godless’s new saying, When IQ is called Nazism, only Nazis will talk about IQ, the AP reports that an Unabashed Racist Wins GOP Primary in Tennessee. “James L. Hart, a believer in the discredited, phony science of eugenics,” will be running against Democrat Rep. John Tanner for his US congressional seat. The website James Hart for Congress tells Hart’s side of the story.

Posted by jemima at 12:19 PM

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Creationism strikes me as the most innocent of the popular unscientific beliefs. Unlike, say, the current fact of human biodiversity, evolutionary events a million years old have no significant implications in politics or daily life. Thus creationists get to take a stand for their pet belief that costs them almost nothing in terms of cognitive dissonance. If creationists were opposed to the scientific mindset in general, they’d be refusing to get their children innoculated or sticking forks in electrical outlets. Instead, they have their own mirror-universe science–complete with museums.

See, for example, this recent puff piece on the ICR’s Museum of Creation and Earth History in Santee, California. There’s also a Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose, Texas, another one under construction in Petersburg, Kentucky, and even a mobile museum.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, what’s deconstruction?

Razib adds: Please see my comment in Haloscan…if we are going to lecture people on facing hard truths, I don’t think poo-pooing what are supposed to be easy truths sets a good example.

Jemima responds: Yes, there is some collateral damage caused by creationism (of whatever variety), but its impact on other human beings is minor compared to, say, deaths from malaria caused by misinformation about DDT. Nor is creationism as dangerous to the true believer himself as misinformation about vaccination. It’s not a hard truth in my book unless it has significant implications in the real world, and Homo erectus dancing on the head of a pin does not.

Razib responds to the response: Hm…I had several friends in high school ask me “why people aren’t evolving now.” Since evolution had never happened in the past (in their mind), it couldn’t happen in the present or future. This is nonsense in light of the reality of selection sweeps as well as the possibility of relaxed selection leading to a “mutational meltdown” (W.D. Hamilton worried about this, it’s not all quackery). Evolution is happening now. In theory many Creationists accept microevolution, but in practice their problems with macroevolution work their way down the chain.

Evolution is not just paleontology, it has relevance today! For example: imagine a scenario where an individual undergoes gene therapy where the source of the exogenous genetic material is non-human (I have a friend who is thinking about writing a book about this sort of thing in the future). Of course, the Religious Right and Luddite Left will cry abomination! But, if you understand evolution, you know that:

1) Tthe boundary between species is more fluid than commonly thought.
2) The eukaryotic cell (ergo, multicellular life) is the result of symbiogenesis between various prokaryotic unicellular organisms deep in our evolutionary past.

Creationists who live in a static universe of absolute “kinds” with extinction and creation only by godly fiat are going to be difficult to calm down by pointing out this reality. They simply don’t buy the science, the Good Book has all the answers.

Posted by jemima at 12:53 PM

• Category: Science 
The “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam.
Are elite university admissions based on meritocracy and diversity as claimed?
The sources of America’s immigration problems—and a possible solution