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R. A. Fisher on Race and Human Genetic Variation

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Youngronaldfisher2In New Creationists a philosopher at Duke recounts his experience when he attempted to explore the implications of group differences in ethics. He stated:

After reading some recent work on the biology of group differences last summer, it occurred to me that as an ethics professor, I should write something about the moral upshot: if there are such differences, what are the consequences for how we should treat one another? Should we support policies that attempt to equalize opportunities only if they produce equal outcomes?

My conclusion was modest: if there are biological differences between groups, and if, as Lee Jussim has argued, some stereotypes turn out to be accurate in part because of correct generalizations about biological differences, these facts should not undermine our commitment to treating one another as moral equals, or to increasing opportunity for all, regardless of group membership.

But I had committed a sin in the eyes of the two referees who read and commented on my paper. I simply acknowledged the possibility of group differences while arguing that whether or not they exist, they should not matter. For having done that, the two journal referees used expletives and exclamation points to give the most venomous and dismissive feedback I have ever encountered. (Needless to say, the paper was not accepted for publication after such hostile comments.)

 

This is obviously a touchy subject to many reasons. But, the extremely vehement reactions on this topic reveal an aspect of how ideas are policed in our society. Because I have a particular reputation I am privy to viewpoints from many people that they would be terrified to share with others. For example, many young geneticists seem to view the idea that “race is a myth” to be a noble lie.

There are legitimate issues in regards to phylogenetic classification systems. But, the key that many geneticists have noticed is that the lay public makes incorrect inferences from the assertion that “race is a myth.” For example, many people are confused as to why human populations exhibit structure, and one can generate phylogenetic trees. That’s because people translate the idea that race does not exist to one where human population structure is arbitrary and trivial. The conclusion obviously does not follow, depending on your definition of race. But I think one can see how the educated public is coming to these conclusions.

Here’s an article from the year 2000 in Do Races Differ? Not Really, Genes Show:

Scientists have long suspected that the racial categories recognized by society are not reflected on the genetic level. But the more closely that researchers examine the human genome — the complement of genetic material encased in the heart of almost every cell of the body — the more most of them are convinced that the standard labels used to distinguish people by “race” have little or no biological meaning.

They say that while it may seem easy to tell at a glance whether a person is Caucasian, African or Asian, the ease dissolves when one probes beneath surface characteristics and scans the genome for DNA hallmarks of “race.”

On the one hand there is an aspect of this article which is almost quaint. Note the references to 80,000 genes and such. But the general spirit captures the modern Zeitgeist well, and it is not dated at all. The idea of race implicit in this piece, and commonly held by the general public, is typological. That is, races are like Platonic ideal forms, and genes and traits are used to explore these ideal forms.

This is false. Races are not like ideal forms. That’s in part because modern human populations are by and large the consequence of massive admixture events between deeply diverged lineages. But, that does not negate the reality that population structure is a robust phenomenon, and, that its consequences are not trivial. My hunch is that some of the eye rolling that I’ve seen when younger geneticists refer to the idea that race is a myth has to do with the fact that population structure is such a big deal for genome-wide associations.

One of the implications of the above passage is that visual inspection allows for a clearer differentiation between individuals from different populations than genetics. This is false. As it happens the groups referred to above are among the most differentiated, as they don’t share common ancestors for ~40,000 years (South Asians on the other hand share ancestry with both “Caucasians” and “Asians” over the last 40,000 years), and are positioned at the extremities of the Afro-Eurasian world island. Genomics actually gives a clearer and more precise picture of population genetic differences.

The problem, if there is one, is that these population genetic differences are not necessarily good fits if one assumes a Platonic model of racial categorization. I think this explains the irritation and frustration with people who are confused as to the ancestral quantification results from firms like 23andMe. The results are true, and robust, reflections of genetic variation. But population groups are reifications, attempting to squeeze human digestible insight from systematic variation at hundreds of thousands of markers whose pattern of differences are a consequence of tens of thousands of years of population history.

Which brings me to the UNESCO statement on the Race Concept. Published around 1950 in a few versions these statements were signals that there was a change in the winds after World War II. Much of today’s conventional wisdom is prefigured in these statements. But if you read the 1952 version much of it is pretty moderate and I think it would be seen as “problematic” by many thinkers today. There are many familiar names (and some not familiar to me) in terms of scientists consulted. E.g., H. J. Muller, Theodosius Dobzhanksy and Ernst Mayr. But for me R. A. Fisher’s comments stood out. I knew he was a dissenter from the statement, but I’m going to cut and paste the whole section from him because I think it’s pretty interesting (and many might agree with him):

In so far as the Statement condemns any defamation of races and emphasizes the appalling nature of the recent abuse of racial theory, it has my full and unqualified approval. I wholeheartedly agree, also, with its explicit and implicit finding that anthropology and racial studies afford no justification for the assumption that members of any particular race are not entitled the enjoyment of all fundamental rights, or for any form of racial discrimination. And I am very glad that, after all the horrors that have been perpetrated, these principles should have been enunciated clearly and publicized widely by an organization of such standing and by distinguished men as the authors of this Statement.

But the Statement also purports to be an authoritative body of scientific doctrines, and this is quite a different matter. Without touching upon the content of these doctrines, and quite apart from whether or not they meet with my approval, I must register my fundamental opposition to the advancing of scientific theses as such, and protest against it.

I recall the National Socialists’ notorious attempts to establish certain doctrines as the only correct conclusions to be drawn from research on race, and their suppression of any contrary opinion; as well as the Soviet Government’s similar claim on behalf of Lysenko’s theory of heredity, and its condemnation of Mendel’s teaching. The present Statement likewise puts forward certain scientific doctrines as the only correct ones, and quite obviously expects them to receive general endorsement as such. I repeat that, without assuming any attitude towards the substance of the doctrines in the Statement, I am opposed to the principle of advancing them as doctrines. The experience of the past have strengthened my conviction that freedom of scientific enquiry is imperiled when any scientific findings or opinions are elevated, by an authoritative body, into the position of doctrines.

A different section of statement relays Fisher’s view of the empirical realities, which would make him extremely unpopular today:

Sir Ronald Fisher has one fundamental objection to the Statement, which, as he himself says, destroys the very spirit of the whole document. He believes that human groups differ profoundly “in their innate capacity for intellectual and emotional development” and concludes from this that the “practical international problem is that of learning to share the resources of this planet amicably with persons of materially different nature, and that this problem is being obscured by entirely well intentioned efforts to minimize the real differences that exist”.

This sort of comment from Fisher makes sense in light of his personality. I’m tempted to think that today he would be diagnosed as being “on the spectrum.” Arguably the most eminent evolutionary geneticist of the 20th century, he also made many original contributions to statistics. But as documented in his daughter’s biography of her father, he was a monomaniacal and selfish person, who lacked many social graces. There is a section in R.A. Fisher: The Life of a Scientist which documents his tendency to engage in arguments with people who shared his general conclusions on a given topic, but where he believed they engaged in fallacious reasoning (in this he seems to resemble Karl Popper). This tendency is clear above. Though he agrees with a broad liberal humanitarianism which looks darkly upon considerations of race, he disagrees with the presumption that these values are rooted in empirical facts.

Finally, I want to quote page 238 of my edition of The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection:

The general consequences of race mixture can be predicted with confidence…Their general character will therefore be intermediate, but their variability will be greater than that of the original races. Morever, new combinations of virtue and ability, and of their opposites, will appear in the mixed race, combinations which are not necessarily heterozygous, but may be fixed as permanent racial characters. There are thus in the mixed race great possibilities for the action of selection. If selection is beneficient, and the better types leave the greater number of descendants, the ultimate effect of mixture will be the production of a race, not inferior to either those from which it sprang, but rather superior to both, in so far as the advantages of both can be combined. Unfavorable selection, on the other hand, will be more rapidly disastrous to a mixed race than to its progenitors. It should of course be remembered that all existing races show very great variability in respect of hereditary factors, so that selections of the intensity to which mankind is exposed would be capable of producing rapid changes, even in the purest existing race.

41PHSZN6AEL Fisher was writing this in the 1920s. This was near the tail end of the peak of white supremacy across the world. Charles Davenport, the director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, published Race Crossing in Jamaica in 1929. It presented a view where mixed-race children suffered due to crossing between diverged lineages. This was not an atypical view at the time. The man whom Fisher succeeded to a great extent as Britain’s most eminent statistician, Karl Pearson, was a socialist and feminist (Fisher was a political conservative whose views on women were more regressive than Pearson) who also believed that inter-group competition with “inferior races” was a major driver of the evolutionary progress of Europeans. The above passage shows that Fisher’s logical mind internalized Mendelianism and its necessary implications to such a great extent that as early as the 1920s he was already dismissive of the racialism ascendant at the time. But by the 1950s the dominant viewpoint differed, and here Fisher again stood his ground, not changing the things he had written in the later eugenic sections of tGToNS.

Note:
R. A. Fisher had some unfortunate views on smoking. See When Genius Errs: R. A. Fisher and the Lung Cancer Controversy.

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity, Science • Tags: R. A. Fisher, Race

103 Comments to "R. A. Fisher on Race and Human Genetic Variation"

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  1. “many young geneticists seem to view the idea that “race is a myth” to be a noble lie”

    That’s quite a claim, any examples? My experience, and talking to other biologists in Western universities, indicate otherwise. Their students accept wholly, as do the academics themselves.

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  2. That’s quite a claim, any examples?

    don’t be an asshole. most people aren’t as bold as i am about being open, i’m not going to “out” my friends.

    My experience, and talking to other biologists in Western universities, indicate otherwise.

    unless it’s a geneticist with a minimal level of population background that doesn’t sound unreasonable. if you’re talking about geneticists, then your experience is your experience. i do have good friends with a pop gen background who dislike and reject the ideas of races, but i’m pretty persistent and it usually turns out that disagreements are very subtle and often semantic.

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  3. Anonymous
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    How would public policy change if all of a sudden some form of “race realism” became prevalent?

    Let’s say that “equality of outcomes” becomes discarded as a goal. “Equality of opportunity” would still remain as a goal, so even if affirmative action is dropped in favor of “color-blind” college admissions and hiring, billions would still have to be spent to partway remedy the serious disadvantages that children from poor families (disproportionately non-whites) face. Massive wealth redistribution for the indefinite future. I do not see a moral argument to end that.

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  4. Well, if you accept that populations differ greatly in genetic components, then you have to accept that the nature part of the genetics may lead to different social outcomes.

    After all, we are finding that extrapolation of WEIRD dynamics to populations outside of western civilization does not work. See all the economics research on group dynamics.

    Of course, saying it makes one a racist, not a realist.

    But given how people turn into tribal idiots at the first real threat to their settled worldview, well, humanity has a long way to go to understand itself.

    Ahilan, how much damage would it do to your viewpoint of humanity to accept what Fisher wrote?

    The really funny part is how difficult it is to accept that you are simply a random outcome of sperm vs egg competition, and your success is dependent on the survival of your dependents.

    As a male, think of the number of men of each generation that did not have children. They are the genetic branches that have been pruned from humanity- stretching back to the first bands of humans to leave Africa. The fact we prune so many from each generation means evolution is still measuring fitness, unlike a lot of animals with fairly stable dna.

    So, while race is a handy construct, the interesting part is Fisher is even hinting at better combinations producing humans which will be even more successful.

    We are the neanderthals, and in twenty generations humanity will look back and wonder what we were thinking.

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  5. The problem, if there is one, is that these population genetic differences are not necessarily good fits if one assumes a Platonic model of racial categorization.

    I don’t understand this. It may be that the phrase “Platonic model of racial categorization” is what I don’t understand; but please elaborate the whole sentence.

    Thank you.

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  6. Razib, has your boldness affected your professional relationships in any way? I’m amazed that you’re still able to participate in your field and associate publicly with your colleagues. Is this simply because the average academic is a nicer person than the commissars who pen all those open letters in favor of affirmative action and such?

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  7. well, most of them are nice. hasn’t impacted me directly

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  8. typologies.

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  9. “many young geneticists seem to view the idea that “race is a myth” to be a noble lie”

    It really is amazing that anybody who describes themselves as a scientist might be comfortable with such a position, after realizing that that is indeed the position they have adopted.

    And you’d think that might particularly be true of those in evolutionary biology, given its history as a science. After all, it was the exact sort of problem held to be true of the theory of evolution back when Darwin first introduced it — that it would undermine belief in religion, and that that would undermine public morality. Now we sophisticates laugh at these yahoos, and deplore their current counterparts, the creationists.

    But how different is their position from those of these biologists who embrace the “noble lie” of equality among all human groups? Isn’t there some decent evidence that, in fact, the breakdown in religion does negatively affect public morality? Consider, for example, the breakdown in the religious habits of the white working class, which seem at least to be well correlated with other dysfunctional behavior, and plausibly play a causal role in that dysfunction. Nor would this be surprising. Religion certainly has played a pivotal role across the evolution of man, and it would be actually strange if its complete removal had no adverse effects.

    Why doesn’t this sort of bad outcome when religion is undermined render the theories of today’s religious creationists a “noble lie”? Why is the “noble lie” of today’s evolutionary biologists worthy and important, but that of the religious creationists nothing more than laughable ignorance?

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  10. True scientists are more concerned with objective evidences than social validation (approval). When politics/ideology/religion want to shape how science work, fallacy reasoning become accepted as truth, and true scientists suffer (like Galileo). It is no surprise that Fisher himself was viewed badly in social context. To be socially popular, you need to be conformist who want to win social approval, which are done better by politicians and salesmen. Verbal guys (politicians and salesmen) are specially good at fallacy reasoning(sophistry). All they care is to say thing appealing to popular minds; truth is last thing on their mind.

    There are thus in the mixed race great possibilities for the action of selection. If selection is beneficient, and the better types leave the greater number of descendants, the ultimate effect of mixture will be the production of a race, not inferior to either those from which it sprang, but rather superior to both, in so far as the advantages of both can be combined.

    This is what I have always intuitively believe how human evolution works through admixture and/or introgression. Who knows that Non-African might be direct descendants of Neanderthals by continuous outflow Africans into Eurasia just like today’s migrations. With continuous inflow into homo erectus, its genes diluted to non-existence except a few of useful ones (3-5%?). Thus these descendants might end up far better (in term of survival ability) than their ancestor populations (homo erectus and original home sapiens). Just a thought which might be wrong. The critical factor is favorable selection environment. What is favorable? I interpret it as higher selection pressure which get rid of slackers like ice cold environment or any tough survival conditions which leave little room for the ones at bottom in term of productivity to provide for survival. Certainly socialism or communism against counter nature rule will not last long. At end of day, survival of fittest is not survival of the purest or moralist (both socially constructed).

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  11. The doctrine keepers must be feeling some heat. This showed up in my inbox last week. A comedian and a pop scientists (Brian Cox) reinforcing the doctrine. I saw something similar on Vox the other day. Pretty soon every high minded person with correct, and informed, views will know precisely what to say on the topic thus rendering further conversation superfluous.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06ybg84

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  12. Razib,

    Not a geneticist nor even a biologist, so please indulge my ignorance for a moment.

    When I was younger I always believed that race did and didn’t exist: don’t judge a book by its cover, race comes from what’s on the inside. Yes, I was a dumb good ol’ boy from Texas. But now researchers are producing studies that say something very similar (albeit far better than I ever could). So here’s my question: If you see ‘race’ as homo sapiens, are Caucasians, Asians, Han chinese, Igbo, etc. the ‘breed’? Is that a valid way of seeing the differences between population groups (other than the fact that no one wants to be compared to a poodle)

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  13. I know that is has affected his professional life at least once: he was given and then promptly denied a periodical column space or something on the New York Times (or a similar paper). Denied because of past writings and associations that are politically unpopular.

    As for his reputation among actual scholars, I don’t quite know, but I suspect it is good.

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  14. Proust – In case Razib’s telegraphic response didn’t help, I’ll elaborate a bit. Disclaimer: this does not necessarily represent Razib’s view; he is not me.

    A typological view would be that there are n “kinds” of people. When a white person is born, he is randomly selected from the “white type”, with some error. You can divide up humanity however you want: e.g. caucasoid, negroid, mongoloid, etc. I have at least one friend that appears to think this way: there are black people, white people, asian people, and that’s that.

    In reality, a person is not a random sample from a population type. He is a Mendelian combination of his parents. This fact implies lots of structure at each level; take any population of people at any level, and you can find population structure beneath it that follows from Mendelian genetics. In a sense, then, any typological division into humanity into n groups is a simplification of the structured reality of things. So races are “constructs”, in that sense: there isn’t a single correct racial categorization. And Razib can probably tell you that different populations have different racial categorizations.

    That’s not to say that classification is useless. A good classification scheme can still have predictive power, even if it’s not “real.” It’s also not to say that there is no population structure – indeed, that’s what makes typological races incorrect in the first place.

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  15. How would public policy change if all of a sudden some form of “race realism” became prevalent?

    It’ll happen in medicine even if by stealth because the payoff from tailored medicine is likely to be so enormous (imo).

    If it was more public I’d say low (but not too low) IQ women would choose different boyfriends.

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  16. the analogy isn’t bad. though dog breeds are often much more distinct in phenotype arguably and inbred.

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  17. agree with all of it. classification system is judged by its utility in projecting a map of reality. that map isn’t something we can truly comprehend all at once in a gestalt manner.

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  18. I don’t know about race – the biological construct, but race – the social construct is definitely a fiction.
    Based on my personal anecdotal evidence, in the same country (Israel) some people in some contexts think that I’m a native and other people in other contexts think that I’m a foreigner.

    People constantly mistaken me for somebody else.

    Some datapoints from Israel:
    - Security guards usually would assume that I’m an Arab.
    - Israeli Christian Arab girl who work at the local supermarket would always greet me in Arabic like she knows me (for some reason I think there are more chances that I’ll be mistaken for Christian Arab, than for Muslim Arab).
    - even Muslim Palestinian Arabs in Jerusalem spoke to me in Arabic, disregarding the fact, that I was wearing an IDF uniform and M16 rifle.
    - Lebanese guy told me that I look like a Lebanese Armenian.
    - when I was a child, my Muslim neighbor told me to pretend as Armenian (my father did practiced something like “Taqiyya”, i.e. pretended to be Armenian with Armenians, Turk with Turks, etc., he knows several local languages fluently and even has different nicknames in each. I did outed him as a Jew once or twice. He didn’t hide that he is Jew, but people always assumed that he is of their own ethnicity).
    - Israeli Jews would ask me if I’m an Egyptian Jew, a Bulgarian Jew, people frequently tell me that I look similar to the Yemenite Jewish singer or the Azhkenazi minister.
    - In Israel, if I’m at upscale restaurants barman would assume I’m a foreigner and would talk to me in English. This happened again, just a a hour ago. When the manager told the waitress that I’m a regular, the waitress appologizaed and said “I thought you are an exotic foreigner.”
    - at the same time a Mizrahi waitresses not once warned me about shellfish, assuming that I keeping kosher.

    From abroad:
    - Israelis abroad at conferences – would come to me and start speaking Hebrew (probably because of a name tag?).
    - Israeli sales girl from San-Francisco Westfield mall, somehow guessed that I’m from Israel.
    - When visiting some San-Francisco electronics shop, the Latino salesman would start talking to me in Spanish. White woman at San-Francisco hotel also assumed I speak Spanish.
    - Even in Israel at least two people assumed that I’m originally from Spain or South America.
    - In Scandinavia, Kurds would waive me hands, like I’m their old friend.

    Another anecdotal fact is that I do have blond cousins who, who are from the both sides from the same sub-ethnic Jewish group as I am.

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  19. “but race – the social construct is definitely a fiction.”

    And yet, nobody ever confused you for an Han Chinese or an African? How do you suppose social fictions create outer boundaries recognized by all?

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  20. My conclusion was modest: if there are biological differences between groups, and if, as Lee Jussim has argued, some stereotypes turn out to be accurate in part because of correct generalizations about biological differences, these facts should not undermine our commitment to treating one another as moral equals, or to increasing opportunity for all, regardless of group membership.

    I think the danger is to assume stereotypes are based on reality and just give one’s society a free pass. Frankly, I think that’s an assumption that many commenters here are far to willing to make. Challenging and correcting the faults of one’s own society is difficult, and far too many are willing to take the intellectually lazy rout on this, particularly when those faults might happen to benefit oneself.

    He believes that human groups differ profoundly “in their innate capacity for intellectual and emotional development” and concludes from this that the “practical international problem is that of learning to share the resources of this planet amicably with persons of materially different nature, and that this problem is being obscured by entirely well intentioned efforts to minimize the real differences that exist.

    I can understand why people would feel this is worth investigating, but what seems to be left implied is that there might be some sort of evidence that supports this. Does anyone care to share it? The only stuff people have posted here has either shown 0 statistical significance, or failed to show there was anything to do with genetics going on at all. Like income for instance – I have a hard time believing there’s a genetic reason for income to be twice as heritable in the US as Canada.

    I realize the absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence, but still, I don’t see why we should just assume that it is particularly relevant to how we view our society as a whole.

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  21. I don’t know about race – the biological construct, but race – the social construct is definitely a fiction.

    I think that hits on one of the critical aspects – even if the various cores are real and distinct the edges are always fuzzy so the precise boundary is a social construct because it has to be.

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  22. Almost 20 years ago now, Barbara Ehrenreich and Janet McIntosh wrote an article in The Nation with a similar title: The New Creationism: Biology Under Attack, but the cause of the scientific denial on the left in that case was sex, not race. You can see a copy here: http://cogweb.ucla.edu/Debate/Ehrenreich.html

    The pattern here that really stuns me is that it reveals that many on the left apparently believe that for there to be true equality between groups, the two groups must actually be equal in all ways. That leaves me wondering if any acknowledgement of inequality in ability will result in their entire belief in equality collapsing, leading them down the path of eugenics and biological engineering that earlier utopian progressives found so appealing.

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  23. Who asked for you to name names ;) ? I asked for some examples of this sort of thinking. My experiences are from discussing things w/ some pop. geneticists who are adamant that the idea of “race” is useless to them and to pop. gen. in general. I’ve linked them to you, and some others who’ve argued in favour of “race” in pop. gen (biological race concept) and they generally don’t give much.

    But anyway, what’s the latest in the pop. gen. literature for biological race? I don’t care about that too much so it’s perhaps I don’t bring up the latest data in favour to these people.

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  24. Compared to Social Scientists, definitely. Geneticists may disagree but those in social sciences will not stop until you’re out of a job and publicly humiliated.

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  25. Or folks just think that the societal issues still vastly dwarf any sort of biological issue. I doubt any of us men here working in STEM professions have had a creepy old dude in a position of power over them go and grope their ass. Geoff Marcy’s students may not have been so lucky. And there are far more benign examples than that (such as just the attitude that women aren’t supposed to be good at math).

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  26. i’m confused at what you’re getting at. if it turns out that women have weaker upper bodies does that impact sexual harassment in any way? perhaps you can illuminate why many liberals (they’ve admitted it as much privately) believe their politics demand a radical empirical equality in all sorts of traits among humans.

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  27. the general issue is that race is, as they say, “problematic”. but, many of my acquaintances get annoyed when the general public starts to confuse a lot of things when you tell them race is a social construct. e.g., i’ve been told that it is known that you are as likely to be as genetically related to someone in another race as your own race (it’s a garbling of lewontin’s fallacy).

    many pop gen people have an aversion and frankly contempt for the race concept since it’s origins are typological, and it yields easily to vulgar misinterpretation. but if you drill down on what they believe almost always they’ll accede that population structure is not trivial. but you need to know how to ask the right questions to frame things…and honestly, they have to sort of understand that you know what you are talking about and can move in their lexical universe. it’s totally removed from the sort of thing you’d have to say to the general public.

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  28. I think that hits on one of the critical aspects – even if the various cores are real and distinct the edges are always fuzzy so the precise boundary is a social construct because it has to be.

    like the color spectrum. though arguably human structure is far less clinal in its history than we’d have thought 10 years ago.

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  29. Like income for instance – I have a hard time believing there’s a genetic reason for income to be twice as heritable in the US as Canada.

    i don’t think this is the case, but you do know that in a more meritocratic society income is likely to be more heritable, right? perhaps your possible confusion on this explains why a better understanding of human variation is important.

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  30. I can understand why people would feel this is worth investigating, but what seems to be left implied is that there might be some sort of evidence that supports this. Does anyone care to share it?

    If you like news accounts you can start with this http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/12061787/Intelligence-genes-discovered-by-scientists.html

    And then there is this https://jaymans.wordpress.com/jaymans-race-inheritance-and-iq-f-a-q-f-r-b/

    Or here http://www.amazon.com/Troublesome-Inheritance-Genes-Human-History/dp/1594204462

    I found this helpful http://www.amazon.com/Natures-Oracle-Life-Work-Hamilton/dp/019860727X

    If all that is too much you can go to the wiki page for ‘Heritability of Intelligence’ and under notes there are links and citations to 63 papers.

    Then there is this blog.

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  31. honestly i would just sit on my hands for now. in the next <5 years the genomic components of traits like intelligence will finally be characterized. this is not speculation, but anticipation based on research going on now.

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  32. How do you suppose social fictions create outer boundaries recognized by all?

    Do you think all are able to distinguish an African from an Australian aboriginal?

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  33. in the next <5 years the genomic components of traits like intelligence will finally be characterized.

    This seems overly optimistic. At best, in <5 yrs, ~1M cognitively characterized samples may become available. In order to obtain these sample sizes, phenotyping will be necessarily limited, contributing to considerable noise relative to simple anthropometric measurements, thereby reducing power for GWAS.

    I suspect by 2020, the list of replicated cognitive GWAS hits will be in the low hundreds, but even if it is quite a bit larger than that, the % of variance captured will be tiny, the true causal SNPs will remain ambiguous, and the list will be fed into pathway analytic platforms that will yield highly significant enrichment of such blandly uninformative categories as "neuronal differentiation" and "synaptic transmission."

    Most relevant to your original post, there is no clear statistical method to determine whether alleles associated with a phenotype in one population are causal to observed phenotypic differences across populations, given extremely broad background differences in genomewide allele frequencies.

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  34. I suspect by 2020, the list of replicated cognitive GWAS hits will be in the low hundreds,

    this is certainly false. publication lag times being what they are, perhaps you aren’t privy to what’s already been done? (i’m keeping confidences here, but read my earlier comment closely and i’m hinting pretty obviously)

    Most relevant to your original post, there is no clear statistical method to determine whether alleles associated with a phenotype in one population are causal to observed phenotypic differences across populations, given extremely broad background differences in genomewide allele frequencies.

    the past 10 years of the GWAS era have calmed me down about portability of variant effects. and the alleles are not going to be mostly alleles private to populations.

    anyway, we will revisit these issues in a few months and i will be more direct with addressing your concerns. i would have thought 2020 was pretty crazily optimistic literally 4 months ago.

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  35. So, less purebreeds and more mutts than dogs, cats, horses, or pigs?

    Well, R.A. Fisher and I agree on one thing: mutts are awesome

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  36. This type of debate is an old fashioned word usage problem. Authors who are careful to define what they mean by race can generally avoid controversy when they want to, at least when they are talking to someone intelligent and educated enough. Sensitivities beyond that are coming from misunderstandings and, in some cases, valid concerns about whether people are using terminology in a deliberate way to favor political or cultural biases that they disagree with or find dangerous in some way. For example people more to the left than this blog politically would tend to say that using the old word “race” which has a common meaning in common parlance that is not coming from science, can simply better be avoided. Note how this indicates no necessary difference of opinion about the science.

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  37. under the assumption that there actually are different IQ distributions in different populations due to genetic differences I think it will be very interesting to see how the order of discoveries will affect this debate. Surely the first valid results connecting genetic patterns to IQ will start to explain only a small share of IQ variance in the general population and then the share of variance which can be explained will slowly grow over time. Some of the genetic patterns then might differ between populations, others not. So in the random (?) sample of the IQ-related genetic patters which are already discovered out of the whole genetic architecture of IQ the distinctive patters which actually differ among populations might be over- or underrepresented.

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  38. assume it’s randomly sampled you will probably start seeing patterns soon. in fact, you will….

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  39. For example people more to the left than this blog politically would tend to say that using the old word “race” which has a common meaning in common parlance that is not coming from science, can simply better be avoided. Note how this indicates no necessary difference of opinion about the science.

    the problem is that the negation of race has engendered just as many confusions.

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  40. Warning: wall of text. And that part that probably interests you the most Razib is closer to the end.

    i’m confused at what you’re getting at. if it turns out that women have weaker upper bodies does that impact sexual harassment in any way?

    I’m getting at that you and I don’t get our asses grabbed by male supervisors because most men are straight, and men tend to be the ones doing the ass grabbing. That actually has more to do with society than upper body strength too – it’s prestige and power being used to harass, or to cover harassment, not pure physical strength. John Hawks had a good post on it, though I think he missed the mark on some of the institutional issues.

    My bigger point is that as a species we’re mostly conformists. If women being interested in math isn’t socially acceptable, you just get fewer women studying math, regardless of aptitude or other barriers.

    perhaps you can illuminate why many liberals (they’ve admitted it as much privately) believe their politics demand a radical empirical equality in all sorts of traits among humans.

    I’m centre-right by Canada’s standards, so I’m probably no the person to ask, but I will say that I do not demand equality among all traits among humans, inherited or not. I just think that in the absence of evidence to the contrary, it’s best to take the George R. R. Martin approach – assume we’re all just people, for better or for worse.

    But if you’re looking for someone to explain the far-left orthodox viewpoint, I’d just say this: right or left, people are bad at distinguishing between the individual and the group, and I’d add that most people prefer simple, reassuring worldviews. To the left, or its caricature, the simple world view is that inequality is caused by societal and systemic issues, and therefor all individuals and groups are exactly equal. Similarly, the simple world view for the right is that all inequality is caused by differences between individuals and groups, and that there are no societal or systemic issues

    Now, none of us are quite as simple as our caricatures, but you get the idea. I feel though that most people have a relatively low tolerance for complexity and uncertainty. I think too that these days people are exposed less and less to viewpoints that differ from our own. Obviously your blog is an exception to that, but you get my point.

    I could write more on this, but it’s late. I’d just say that my own personal view is that we ascribe too much value to one specific form of aptitude and interest, and that I don’t feel the genetic factors responsible for some of the differences in aptitude and interest aren’t strongly partitioned between different human partitions.

    I’d caution too that our understanding of the genetic basis for intelligence will probably come first for genes most prevalent in well sampled populations, and if this genes are absent in some populations, that may simple be because other unidentified genes are performing a similar function. I know I’m operating WAY outside my wheelhouse when I say that, but some old astronomy courses are shining through by giving me that innate fear of selection bias. :3

    i don’t think this is the case, but you do know that in a more meritocratic society income is likely to be more heritable, right? perhaps your possible confusion on this explains why a better understanding of human variation is important.

    It is, yes. At least to the extent that “merit” however we choose to define it (in this case propensity to earn greater income since we can measure it) is heritable. The lazy idiot son of hardworking genius parents inheriting a high income by default isn’t a sign of meritocracy after all.

    There’s no confusion here. With due respect Razib, I’d suggest you should review the data.

    http://www.oecd.org/centrodemexico/medios/44582910.pdf

    http://ftp.iza.org/dp7520.pdf

    A few things to note:

    While high inequality countries do tend to have lower social mobility, the relationship isn’t perfect. The United States has higher income inequality than the UK and Italy, but also higher social mobility.

    Germany and the Netherlands have low inequality, but also low social mobility. This is probably due to public policy – namely placing students into different streams from a fairly early age.

    I think figure 5.4 in the OECD paper is particularly important. It looks at how much of students’ variation in test scores is explained by their classmates’ socioeconomic status, and how much by their own socioeconomic status. Apparently academic success is contagious, and more importantly, it is more contagious in some countries than others. I think we can both agree to exclude one’s classmates’ backgrounds as any sort of genetic factor – though it certainly can be heritable.

    So that leaves us with one’s parents socioeconomic background’s effect on test scores. I certainly think genetics could play some role there. So that does let us get some sort of rough idea of the order of magnitude we’re talking about here.

    Notice by the way that in Canada and the US, individual background and school environment play roughly equal roles. In low social mobility outliers like Germany and the Netherlands, school environment is much more important than individual background. In very high mobility countries like Finland and Denmark, it is individual background that plays that largest role.

    That suggests to me that Finland and Denmark are actually getting much closer to a merit based society than Canada or the US is. Wouldn’t you agree?

    And for what it’s worth, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with there being some inequality due to merit. I don’t think strick equality is a good primary goal in and of itself. After all, we’re all equal when we’re dead. I don’t think it’s necessarily bad for some inequality to not be merit based either. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with working on and wanting to be able to confer some modest advantage to your offspring as a result. What my priorities for society would be are:

    1. The needy are provided for.
    2. All receive a reasonable opportunity to succeed and make best use of their own aptitudes.
    3. That society should generally be Pareto efficient.

    Very high and very low inequality both fail on point 3 in particular.

    the more most of them are convinced that the standard labels used to distinguish people by “race” have little or no biological meaning.

    I’d argue that they still have little or no meaning to the human condition itself. Just my 2 cents. (Or I guess 3 cents given what’s happened to the Canadian dollar)

    Curle – I’d prefer peer reviewed sources to news sources ideally.

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  41. Ancestry and ethnicity seem to be terms that convey far less ideological baggage, at least in my experience.

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  42. That is the wrong question. Can all aboriginals tell themselves apart from Africans? Yes, they can. The fact to some all mice look alike doesn’t say a thing about the different species of mice.

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  43. When the commissars want to punish a white person, race becomes decidedly real and concrete.

    We are dealing with a religion here, with all the evil that implies.

    • Agree: dc.sunsets
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  44. Let’s say you conduct a GWAS in one continental ancestry population, and all of the alleles associated with a trait are more common in that population than in another continental ancestry population—you cannot then simply conclude that the 2nd population has less of that trait due to lower allele frequencies at those loci. These alleles could act differently in population 2, given vastly different background.

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  45. “I’d caution too that our understanding of the genetic basis for intelligence will probably come first for genes most prevalent in well sampled populations, and if this genes are absent in some populations, that may simple be because other unidentified genes are performing a similar function.”
    I am a total layman but I would say the likelihood of different genetic paths leading to the same level of intellectual aptitude in terms of convergent evolution is extremely low.

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  46. this sounds really exciting!

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  47. “in the absence of evidence to the contrary”

    Every result in psychometrics.

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  48. i’m not stupid, of course i know this. genetic backgrounds were a big concern of mine circa 2005-2010. not as much now after what we’ve seen re: portability of GWAS results. you’re just repeating the caution you indicate in the earlier comment. in any case, with large samples sizes for most populations in the near future you’ll have some replication.

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  49. ” so different that they’re the same”

    I’ve been waiting for that one for years.

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  50. The lazy idiot son of hardworking genius parents inheriting a high income by default isn’t a sign of meritocracy after all.

    Do you think this lazy idiot have any chance to keep those wealth? If he or she does, at least the person is competent in term of mental ability to keep or even grow the wealth.

    Here I will speak of my family anecdotal experience. My family since my great grand parents generations keep giving the unfair share inheritance to these lazy idiots offspring since they needed help to survive at first place. Yes, this is family welfare system which help the disadvantaged people in the family. But they were invariably end up with bankruptcy and poor at end. Some time I wonder how can some one so easily waste away so much wealth in such short time. The wealth can sustain a middle class family at least 3 generations passive spending. It is all because bad investment decision which is very likely g dependent. But if you look at most lottery winners, they are quite similar to these losers at end. No body became Rockefeller with this lucky money. The irony is that offspring who give up inheritance ended up big again next generation. This happens to my generation again. Five direct descendants from my grandparents end up with 3 for upper middle class and 2 for broken. The two loser inherited the wealth 100 % from their own respected parents. 3 without inheritance end up all in 1% category in their resident country. One is considered super rich with personal jet and ranked among top 50 richest people in East Asia. Another own a national chain of business in another country. So at end, I believe inheriting good genes is far better than inheriting money directly.

    Maybe it is fair at end.

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  51. I don’t know how well the following argument holds up, but it does seem to me that for a case like genes for cognitive ability it’s likely standing variation across all human populations provides most of the genetic variation.

    The argument is based on the now well established fact that the genetic variation in a given population on cognitive ability is based on many genes of very small effect. The most reasonable way to interpret that fact, I think, is that any genes that might have had a large effect have long since been swept through across the human species. What that would seem to imply is that any mutations which have a positive effect, and which have come about since the various races have separated, have had very small effects. It takes much more time to accumulate many, many mutations of small positive effect than it would if the effects were larger and fewer. Given the length of time of that separation, which isn’t extremely large, it is probably not plausible that a substantial number of such new positive mutations of small effect have accumulated. Therefore, most of the variation we will see across human groups is likely to be standing variation.

    I wonder if this argument seems sensible to others.

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  52. Can all aboriginals tell themselves apart from Africans? Yes, they can.

    I’ll take your word for it, although it seems unlikely. However, I know that some Africans can’t distinguish themselves from aboriginals.

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  53. “For example, many young geneticists seem to view the idea that “race is a myth” to be a noble lie.”

    I’m sure that all the geneticists with actual brains understand this, but I must say that there is nothing “noble” about lies whose sole purpose is academic advancement at the expense of the students being lied to…..

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  54. The denial of scientific evidence of biological differences and the harassment of anyone who even entertains a biological role n differences requires more than a simple belief that the societal differences And I say this as someone who believes differences in intelligence between racial groups is largely societal. The further problem is that many in the left fancy themselves as people who believe what the science says and have an open mind about things.

    Yes, the right had its own problem, among them being too quick to accept that differences are heriditary rather than societal and can also view differences in ability as a justification for valuing one person over another, but it surprises me that many on the left have to believe in actual equality between groups and don’t, instead, argue that moral equality is independent of ability, which is what some religions have long argued. Can there be no moral equality without equality of ability?

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  55. ” The idea of race implicit in this piece, and commonly held by the general public, is typological. That is, races are like Platonic ideal forms, and genes and traits are used to explore these ideal forms.This is false. Races are not like ideal forms. ”

    Formal racial typology, for example that of Karl Pearson or Hooton, does not strike me as being Platonic in any sense. It’s interesting to read what critics of typology say:

    “This is classic typological thinking, yet Pearson, Fisher et al. were far from naïve… The idea is a somewhat elusive one that can be related to our simulation exercise. A race can be characterised as a variable type in the following statistical way…This is not the usual notion, but it is a way of formalising what was in essence said by the early geneticists, and it is what is graphically reflected in the simulations in Figure 2…Expressed this way, a race’s type vector points to the centroid of its expected genotype distribution as might be represented in a multilocus Punnett square. The quantitative genetic difference between races is related to the Euclidian distance between their type vectors…One might fancy that typological days are safely locked away in the cobwebs of history, but the same typological thinking is still here, all around us (Weiss & Long, 2009). In one of its more rigorous forms it is called “structure” analysis, after the first of several programs that perform it (Pritchard et al., 2000)…We stress again that the authors of structure analysis rarely if ever use the word “race,” and we are not suggesting that their analysis has any social racist or eugenic intent whatsoever. But what we know about population and evolutionary history shows that typological thinking is at best inaccurate and can be misinterpreted.(When the time seems ripe: Eugenics, the Annals, and the subtle persistence of typological thinking.)

    For them, you’re just another typologist! But that hoary old typology wasn’t so crazy.Hooton contrasted it with Dobzhansky-esque fuzzy headed Mendelian population concepts of race:

    “We had thought that physical anthropology was through with this hoary sinner-the fictitious average type-but unfortunately such is not the case. There has arisen a group of geneticists who are interested in physical anthropology, but know little about it, and another group of physical anthropologists who are interested in genetics without knowing much about that, who have revived the old idea of talking about “populations” as if they were races or subspecies. These workers concern themselves with isolated variables and attributes because they are afraid to use the term “race,” in any except the most generalized application, lest they be accused of “racial discrimination” or of being “racists.” They are willing to have “races,” but they are loathe to assign any individual to a race because they think of “races” as being “populations” or “groups.” This is absurd. If there is a Negro race, there must be Negroes. The same thinkers, if they can be so designated, are equally opposed to individual constitutional “types”-and for the same reason.”

    Type frequently meant something akin to general idealized picture e.g., carnivorous type, criminal type, racial types. Perhaps the analogy was poor “type” = “mold”, but I’m not sure that we are dealing with much more than a shift in metaphor. Race as lineage to race as division to race as type to race as Mendelian population to race as biogeographic ancestry group (which to me seems a lot like race as (population-)lineage). It’s hard to say because the historiography is simply awful.

    But you say, “That’s in part because modern human populations are by and large the consequence of massive admixture events between deeply diverged lineages.”

    The race concept implicit in the piece was no different from that explicit in the paper. Footnote 15. So that leaves us with the purported “general public’s” epistemically problematic platonic esque typological concept, which is what exactly?

    Maybe you’re saying: “human races as understood through the ordinary psychological essentialist mode of thought — which tends to …. — don’t well match with human races understood biostatistically, because …, though psychological essentialist and the bio-statistical understandings would somewhat better correspond were we discussing primate species or human semispecies.”

    What were the missing phrases?

    The problem I have is that a lot of these crazy ways of thinking don’t seem so crazy.

    “Essentialism in Everyday Thought

    The following observations may seem wholly unrelated, but all can be understood within a framework of psychological essentialism:

    1.The president of Harvard recently suggested that the relative scarcity of women in “high-end” science and engineering professions is attributable in large part to male-female differences in intrinsic aptitude (Summers, 2005).

    2. In a nationally representative survey of Black and White Americans, most adults agreed with the statement, “Two people from the same race will always be more genetically similar to each other than two people from different races” (Jayaratne, 2001).”

    The funny thing is that I would define biological race along the lines of (2) — which would be “variable typology”.

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  56. “It takes much more time to accumulate many, many mutations of small positive effect than it would if the effects were larger and fewer”

    No.

    (Because selection acts on phenotypic variance, not on individual genes. It won’t matter if the genetic architecture of the trait being selected for is simple or super–additively –complex.)

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  57. You don’t seem to understand what I’m saying.

    It takes more time for a population to create ab novo, and accumulate, many mutations than it does to create ab novo, and accumulate, a relatively few number of mutations.

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  58. The other aspect of this phenomenon is that it takes much longer for a given mutation of small positive effect to make its way through the population than it does a given mutation of large positive effect.

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  59. Aboriginals don’t look like Africans. Back in the days of the prisoner colonies the escaped blacks were especially despised by the Aboriginals. This to the astonishment of the British, who held a similar opinion as you. Source: The First Australians by Josephine Flood

    Have you noticed the difference in hair, by the way? It is a dead giveaway. Not so much difference with Papua’s but certainly with Aboriginals.

    What Africans can’t? I’m curious.

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  60. But Razib, you don’t understand! How can we out the snakes and counter-revolutionaries unless we have names!

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  61. If Mao were alive today, I’m pretty sure he would be all over eugenics.

    Eventually, we’ll all agree (Left and Right) that eugenics, like vaccines, anesthetics etc. is a good thing.

    The trick will be the next couple of generations. The dysgenic load is already heavily front-loaded. At some point, denying reality will produce a certain kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.

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  62. It’s telling that True Leftists are actually hostile to personalized medicine for this very reason. These are not just academics, but people with some pull in terms of affecting how clinical trials are done.

    I would need to dig for the references now and I should be working, so don’t ask.

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  63. We’re only just now getting to genomic datasets big enough (millions) to get good confidence on GWASs for highly polygenic traits (e.g. frugality).

    Come back in 5 years (prolly less)

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  64. I’ve been making this point fairly publicly that at some point the cognitive dissonance will become so great that there will be a phase transition and the Left will become big champions of eugenics.

    I already see it with some of my online adversaries who suddenly claim they were never arguing the blank slate position at all, that of course group differences have some genetic basis, but (as is the fashion) only epigenetically. Baby steps, baby steps! The god of the interstices is forgiving but not that forgiving! Compare to creationists: “ok, i’m no caveman, i accept MICROevolution, but full on Darwinian evolution? That’s CRAZY!”

    Like Razib, at this point in my tender middle age I don’t have to supplicate at the anus of some public employer so I’m thoroughly enjoying my freedom of expression.

    It’s especially powerful because of how speech and thought are coupled. When you self-censor, it turns out it’s not just a matter of being inaudible, your thinking suffers as well.

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  65. Fair enough. HBD’ers may need to walk some of this back. I recognize the fact I may be wrong. Which is more than can be said about the True Believers.

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  66. Here’s a question: who coined HBD (someone must have), and what is it really all about?

    Seems to me that HBD is mostly not about human biodiversity per se, but about inter-population human biodiversity. Bluntly, racial diversity. Is that an incorrect assessment? Why not call a spade a spade?

    HBD does not seem to have any official representation in academia, i.e. I know of no professor in the human-behavioral-evolution or genetics world who calls himself HBD (let me know if I’m wrong). That’s not a problem, of course, and many professors surely believe HBD things even if they don’t claim to “do HBD”. It’s just a fact I noticed. HBD seems mostly to be an online blogger community (again, nothing wrong with that).

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  67. Also only my take: Race was once apprehended by experts as a set of phenotypes. A categorical or typological view is that race has necessary and sufficient (that is, defining) phentotypical characteristics. (The term “race realism” implies this view, at least if “realism” is taken as affirming general, categorical kinds – as the term is used in philosophy.) Viewed phenotypically, races actually present as populations sharing family resemblances rather than defining attributes.

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  68. You may be right. My results may depend on suggestion.

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  69. Obviously, “biodiversity” is a very PC word, and “race” is a very unPC word. The term HBD is thus a nice little piece of irony which couches the highly politically incorrect in terms of the highly politically correct while remaining perfectly accurate. Whether the original intention was humour or concealment (or both) I don’t know.

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  70. Unless you think there’s some sort of horizontal gene transfer going between students and their class mates, then no, 5 years will not change my central point.

    And I never disputed that personality traits have an important genetic component to them. My point is simply that those genetic components are responsible for only a small portion of the variation economic outcomes we see today.

    The empirical data backs that up, and imagining some miracle discovery in the future to contradict that is an exercise in self-deception.

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  71. But they were invariably end up with bankruptcy and poor at end.

    Heard of the Hapsburgs?

    So at end, I believe inheriting good genes is far better than inheriting money directly.

    I’m not just talking about inheriting money – it’s the school you go to, the values impressed on you, your peer circle, and so on. There are a lot more factors than just dollar signs here.

    Ultimately I’d take good genes over a good environment too – I can change my environment at least – but the fact of the matter is that growing up in a positive environment did give me a huge advantage over my peers who didn’t.

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  72. Well, it’s not something that one can join (per hbd chick).

    I am not sure if she has trademarked hbd chick or not.

    Just a personal opinion here, but they are on the whole very unusual people in that they seem to think for themselves and expect you to do the same.

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  73. I think it’s not just inter-population because it encompasses e.g. male-female differences and intra-population differences in e.g. general intelligence. I just think of it as the polar opposite of blank slate.

    And I think HBD has acquired the political incorrectness formerly attributed to expressions like race realism, so euphemisms only work as euphemisms for a while. You see this with lots of things, as a whole hierarchy of labels become progressively non-PC. A classic example might be retarded, which has gone through a whole series of permutations of euphemisms, through intellectually disabled, and has wound up as ‘differently abled’.

    I already see HBD used online as a pejorative term. Which is kind of weird, because one of the big things currently is to harp on diversity in everything. A lot of the people who constantly demand evidence of diversity in organisations, for example, and comment that it is a constructive thing because diversity in staffing brings a wider range of innovation, etc., might well be the same people who reject bio-diversity as a concept.

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  74. Like income for instance – I have a hard time believing there’s a genetic reason for income to be twice as heritable in the US as Canada.

    Restriction of range. Canada is much more ethnically homogenous than the U.S., thus random variation within the distribution of its population will have a larger effect on royal variation than in the U.S., where variation across population groups will drive more of the overall variation.

    This does not prove that Canada is more, or less, meritocratic than the U.S., it just shows that a difference in the heritability of income is not evidence for either hypothesis.

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  75. Ethnicity is not exactly the same than race. Is like the recombination of Subraces who share the same geographic territory, poles for example.

    Classical european mediterraneans tend to be psychologically and phenotypically different than Nordics and teutonics but they share very similar facial shape and other very Caucasian traits.

    I though skin tonality AND facial shape tend to be crucial to differentiate people, generally speaking, because what really differentiate people in groups are essentially its (comparative or intergroup) differences and its self-consciousness about this differences, the part when race emphasis will be socially construct too.

    I analyze race by their fundamental concept and this will be biologically construct.

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  76. More like 2000 generations surely? That is one takes the Neanderthal example seriously.

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  77. >there will be a phase transition

    Yup.

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  78. If the originator was this guy, the concept has done a 180!

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  79. Regarding “HBD” broadly, I don’t find many of the proponents any more systematic in their thinking than the dogma of genetic equality. Most individuals have either drifted towards supporting it because it validated their priors, or because they became enmeshed in a (generally online) social group which slowly caused them to “see the light.” Indeed, I’ve generally found that when adults change their position on a political issue (which is rare), it is not because they have carefully considered the evidence, but because their peer group shifted to one with new ideological norms, which they slowly, on an unconscious level, mold themselves to.

    I am open to the idea of there being variation in intelligence between populations. However, given what we know of how most human traits vary, I am doubtful that intelligence will break neatly along historic racial typology. As an example, height clearly varies among human populations, not just within them, even with adequate nutrition. However, you can find tall populations and short ones on every continent – in the case of Africa, only a few hundred miles apart. This really isn’t surprising, as the selective environment which makes being taller or shorter advantageous is based upon the local climate and cultural toolkit.

    I would also expect, given we know that intelligence is massively polygenic, that there’s no way that boosted intelligence could just be a “spandrel” – a side effect of mutations which had selective advantage for other reasons. This may of course be the case for individual genes, but one would presume that it could be just as likely that a gene with a secondary selective advantage could result in lowered intelligence. So heightened intelligence was probably a trait which many populations experienced active selection for.

    What could cause active selection for heightened intelligence? The two most likely factors, through most of human society, would be either be heavily seasonal climates or increasing social complexity. Neither of these would be perfectly linear processes however. Climates have long-term oscillations. And civilizations do eventually fall – and even when they don’t the conditions which allowed for the smartest to flourish and have many children may change over time.

    But really, this is all conjecture. I tend to concur with Razib that it’s not really worthwhile to argue the points until serious data points are in. Even if these sort of studies are surpressed in the West, I’m sure they’ll be done in Asia or elsewhere.

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  80. Excellent comment from you as usual.

    I think that the validation of priors is prominent and can be seen in a lot of comments.

    Some of the most ardent supporters of “HBD” resolutely insist that it is just “science”, no politics involved.

    I fall into the “see the light” category. It pretty much got rolling for me when I read The Blank Slate. I still think that it is interesting how he scattered all those caveats and disclaimers throughout the book that basically said, “Don’t any of you dare use anything that I have written here as support for Nazism.”

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  81. A simple blood test today can determine if a woman is carrying a fetus with three 21st chromosomes and (if she chooses) an early abortion. It is now possible to systematically eliminate Downs Syndrome in the future, or (actually) render it a choice.

    Is it not predictable that people will eventually (well within 20 years) be able to selectively abort fetuses with predicted low IQ’s? I’m not debating the morality or merits, just suggesting that eugenics on a very personal level is far closer than most people realize.

    If this ability coincides with or follows on a (what seems like a predictable) collapse in public-sector wealth transfer schemes, it strikes me as entirely plausible that public policies in some places would jump all over it.

    Brave New World, indeed.

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  82. re: squaring racial differences with social justice and harmony

    My view is that equality under the law is not enough, nor is “equality of opportunity” it that means an equal chance for the most talented individuals, regardless of race, to rise to the top. Rather what is wanted is equality of opportunity in the sense that every individual, regardless of race, should have a decent chance of leading a good life if he, to use a famous phrase, “works hard and plays by the rules.” Good government policy in other words should be based on the axiom that every person’s happiness regardless of race — including those in the lesser-skilled half of the population — is equally important. Current trade and immigration policies, for example, do not pass that test. If this were the case, I hypothesize, racial tensions would be much reduced because the pursuit of happiness would be much less of a zero sum game.

    As to what such a society might look like in part, or at least one possibility, I’ve written a whole book on the subject: http://goo.gl/C4k2H7

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  83. “I am open to the idea of there being variation in intelligence between populations. ”

    Let’s get this straight: It is an empirical fact that the distribution of intelligence, as measured by IQ, school test scores, etc., differs among racial groups. So you shouldn’t just be “open” to it; you should *know* that white people are more intelligent that black people. That is, unless you doubt the validity of those tests.

    What you don’t know is whether those differences are innate; that’s what you should be “open” to.

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  84. Do you really imagine that a multi-racial, multi-ethnic society where some people accept being second-class as a group is possible or stable? I can’t help immediately jump to Rwanda as an example of that difficulty.

    We’re just coming off a peak in “We Are The World”-ism and the West’s maniacally optimistic embrace that we’re all the same under the skin. No tree grows to the sky; this peak was literally centuries in the making and the cyclical nature of history all but demands a swing to its opposite even if one rejects the deeper theories that predict it (i.e., socionomics.net).

    If this notion is real, people have only begun to abandon the muddy middle in favor of intensely held membership in (competing) sub-populations (PONED, People of Northern European Decent, are the only ones NOT doing this…yet.) Those who until recently believed themselves so wealthy as to promote redistributive public policies are all but certain to discover their own cupboards are bare. Fracture into self-interest groups is an idea whose time has come.

    I argue that the last 150 years were a drive toward inclusive collectivism where “everybody” was welcome. That trend hit apogee during the last 20 years of Peak Credit Bubble Wealth Illusion. Nothing suggests to me that collectivism is waning, only the inclusive aspect.

    I see a move toward homogeneous societies as inevitable. Heterogeneous societies cannot coexist with democratic political forms where race and ethnicity are accepted factions. What this must create is a Hobbesian state of nature (in politics.) That’s not peace, it’s Cannibal Socialism.

    Homogeneous societies will emerge only from the ashes of conflict, as there are no deliberative political solutions to this predicament. The Uncivil War appears inevitable, unless Fukayama is right and we’ve arrived at stasis in history.

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  85. BTW, for what it is worth, here is the best systematic discussion of social justice I’ve ever seen, a lecture, given in India, with the title, “What Do We Deserve.” https://goo.gl/brZZtd It’s long but worth it.

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  86. Look at the OECD paper I linked. Your explanation doesn’t fit the data.

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  87. Another good article:

    http://www.dukechronicle.com/article/2013/10/response-walk-out-charles-murray

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  88. I was fairly genetically deterministic in my outlook even before reading The Blank Slate. I know I read some of Matt Ridely’s books several years prior while I was still in college. I didn’t see any basic conflict between being a leftist (more of the economic sort than the social justice sort) and believing genes determined much of human behavior. The Blank Slate just took things a step further though – it left me feeling unmoored for a bit, but as Pinker himself notes, blank slate ideology isn’t really needed to have a belief in equal rights or egalitarian economic distribution.

    I sometimes wonder if Pinker wrote The Better Angels of Our Nature in part because he was disturbed at becoming increasingly associated with neoreaction – that he wanted a magnum opus which placed him firmly in the liberal (in the broadest sense of the world) political tradition.

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  89. I think a lot of those who come to HBD aren’t necessarily “validating their priors”, but find in their priors less resistance than do others. I think it’s a lot easier for conservatives and libertarians in particular to accept HBD because they have a socio-political system of beliefs that relatively easily can accommodate HBD. If you believe that individuals should be treated on their own merits — “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character — HBD does little to alter that view.

    Liberalism, as it has come to be defined over the years as little more than identity politics, has essentially no place to put the idea that human groups may differ genetically on socially important traits. Essentially, acceptance of HBD represents the full collapse of identity politics. Liberals who didn’t buy into the identity politics angle, or only partially, may be susceptible to coming over to the dark side of HBD, but very rarely the SJWs. The SJWs would likely require some life altering experience — perhaps being called out and ostracized as a racist over some faux pas — for them to change their minds on HBD.

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  90. I didn’t see any basic conflict between being a leftist

    I don’t either. If anything, I feel strengthened in my leftist economic views.

    disturbed at becoming increasingly associated with neoreaction

    I would guess that it would cause many scholars distress at being associated with reactionary politics. (I certainly hope so.)

    I can’t see why we can’t have an “HBD” left. This is a body of science so why could the implications of that science not inform a gamut of political opinion from “left to right?”

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  91. it’s so weird (in both meanings) to expect a population group mean (mu) to exactly equal another population group mean (mu) at all times & in all circumstances. if 2 population group means are exactly equal on height, then when a tall person dies in group 1, a tall person must die in group 2, for those 2 mu’s to stay exactly equal (or i guess someone could just grow the right amount of inches). same with intelligence. it’s ridiculous to expect population means to be exactly equal.

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  92. The above passage shows that Fisher’s logical mind internalized Mendelianism and its necessary implications to such a great extent that as early as the 1920s he was already dismissive of the racialism ascendant at the time.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_eclipse_of_Darwinism
    Natural selection was a lot less dominant that one might think in the 1920s. Unlike Davenport, and more influential in American Anthropology, Hooton and Hrdlička were not Darwinists and thought in terms of Lamarckian inheritance (and cranial enlargement of Americans over west Europeans ) . The craze for eugenics was aimed at those whose genes were not susceptible to (implicitly Lamarckian ) improvement by the American way of life.

    In contrast to the healthy old American stock, Dr. Hrdlicka described another of seven racial strains influencing America’s growing racial type. The Appalachian mountaineers, ranging from New York State to Alabama and numbering as many as 8,000,000, are the “sore on the American Continent,” in an anthropological sense, he said.

    “There is something that needs the hearty attention of the biological and anthropological part of America.”

    He wanted to sterilise hillbillies, because they had been in the US for a long time but failed to show evolutionary improvement, such as increasing cranial size, in the way he thought the Boston and other US whites were. Criminals and hillbillies were seen as biologically degenerate by the leading anthropologists of the time, such as Hooton, because they did not demonstrate improvement over generations in the favourable US environment though unmentioned (Lamarckian) mechanisms .

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_argument_against_naturalism

    Evolution would be expected to select for advantageous behaviour, not true beliefs. I don’t think anti-racists use EAAN reasoning, but I do think they intuitively assume (fantastic as it seems) that biological concept of race is personally advantageous to those who believe in it, and thus anyone holding to a biological concept of race is discredited, thereby making the scientific truth beside the point.

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  93. Obviously, if he were White it would be a different story; and he would be shouted down as a White supremacist and Nazi. But since he’s not, the spineless and limpwristed ‘academics’ are left confounded and unsure how to proceed.

    Most of these dickless scientists would rather back the ‘official’ malignant narrative of racial egalitarianism and watch civilization go down the drain because of it, then challenge it and risk their cushy, prestigious academic positions.

    Meanwhile, the Overlords and authors of our demise are quietly collecting the data and results of scientific inquiry and using it to enhance their own future wellbeing and that of their offspring.

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  94. Remember though that much of the left are IQ denialists, in that they do not believe that IQ really measures intelligence. I consider this a moot point, because IQ very clearly correlates well with adult income and academic success, so even if one wanted to argue it didn’t measure intelligence, it does indeed accurately measure the single most important requirement for success in our culture.

    That said, you are correct that IQ variation exists no matter what you want to call it. I firmly believe that a certain percentage of it at least is still due to differential levels of lead exposure in black communities. While I have come to doubt “stereotype threat” makes a considerable difference in black educational outcomes, I have seen some some studies which suggest peer effects do matter a great deal.

    Regardless, I do not understand why the discussion about “HBD” always has to boil down to a discussion of U.S. whites versus U.S. blacks. I also think in a generation or two the IQ gap really won’t matter, because the vast majority of people of all races will be functionally unemployable, as automation will have eliminated virtually all blue collar (and much white collar) work.

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  95. This is the way I look at it, being someone on the socialist left:

    1. People generally speaking can’t help being who they are, because who they are is a direct function of neurochemistry. Their neurochemistry is in turn caused by some mixture of genetics and adherence to cultural norms, which they have no active control over.

    2. Hence, people who are lazy and stupid (to put it in the bluntest way possible) are that way through absolutely no fault of their own. Any attempt to get them to change, particularly once they hit adulthood, is bound to fail. It’s better to accept them for what they are, flaws and all.

    3. In a very real sense, the naturally lazy and stupid have a disability, at least as long as we live in a capitalist system which forces people to work to survive. They were born with traits which caused them to be unable to engage in more than the most basic maintenance of their personal condition. To ask these people to just buck up in my mind is as morally wrong as asking someone who is paralyzed to crawl up a flight of stairs using their arms.

    4. We live in a society of true abundance, where the need for labor is continually decreasing, while the ability to provide products and services to the masses is continually increasing. It is already financially possible to provide a decent standard of living to everyone on Earth. Certainly it is possible to do this locally with ease within the U.S., without impacting the ability of the top 1% to continue to live their own lives with their material desires taken care of. As time passes, the ability to provide for basic income increases.

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  96. I’ve been pondering writing a political tome on “biosocialism” for some years now. I’m not sure anyone would want to publish it however.

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  97. Pray tell, how does Pinker (or you) square the circle of egalitarian economic distribution?

    By this, I mean, how do you give someone something (for nothing) without raising monetary demand for nothing?

    Have you noticed that paying poor people to be poor simply adds incentive to be poor? Is it not obvious that if you give a person (for example) $20k for being unemployed that the marginal value of a $25k job is a lousy $5k? Would you work for a net gain of $2.50/hr? Wherever the “egalitarian line” is set, those just above it will be pulled like gravity into sloth and uselessness, just as they are today.

    The future will continue to amplify the benefit of being born with:
    1. genetically determined high intelligence.
    2. genetically determined low time preference.
    3. genetically determined cultural affinity for productive work.
    4. genetically determined cultural affinity for a high trust society.
    5. genetically determined cultural affinity for dispersed authority (West vs East)
    6. genetically determined low affinity for violent behavior.

    The future will continue to amplify the utter self-destruction of the inverse of #2-6, and the explosion of robotics is apt to wipe away most of the productive work for people with low IQ’s.

    Add democracy, a few utter sociopath demagogues in political circles and what will you have?

    Utter chaos. An increasingly bimodal society where stupid people breed like rabbits (it’s quite literally the one thing they’re really good at, it seems, after watching two SpEd kids in high school practically get it on at a school dance) paid to do nothing but…watch TV, drink, smoke, pop pills and screw, while an ever smaller cadre of assortively mating high IQ people are increasingly treated as nothing but draft horses.

    Oh, I forgot. The egalitarian Utopia requires people to mate with randomly chosen partners to insure homogenization.

    Now I get the genesis of the plot for the movie, Logan’s Run.

    Today: Socialist democracy.
    Tomorrow: Cannibal democracy.
    The next week: Zombie democracy (you know, like under Pot Pot where the mob eats the brains.)

    All in the good (modern, leftist) liberal tradition.

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  98. 3. In a very real sense, the naturally lazy and stupid have a disability, at least as long as we live in a capitalist system which forces people to work to survive. They were born with traits which caused them to be unable to engage in more than the most basic maintenance of their personal condition. To ask these people to just buck up in my mind is as morally wrong as asking someone who is paralyzed to crawl up a flight of stairs using their arms.

    Yes, and why would you then subsidize the reproduction of these traits? Have you not the slightest grasp of what the long run outcome would be? Have you seen the documentary, Idiocracy?

    4. We live in a society of true abundance, where the need for labor is continually decreasing, while the ability to provide products and services to the masses is continually increasing. It is already financially possible to provide a decent standard of living to everyone on Earth. Certainly it is possible to do this locally with ease within the U.S., without impacting the ability of the top 1% to continue to live their own lives with their material desires taken care of. As time passes, the ability to provide for basic income increases.

    Spoken like someone who thinks this moment in time is permanent. We do not live in a time of abundance. What kind of fool thinks that usable energy, food, shelter, all the stuff of life grows on trees, ready for the taking?

    All of this must be produced.

    Further, the UN now suggests that Africa’s population may quadruple in coming decades. Do you still think that would yield a planet of plenty?

    If so, I have a wonderful bridge to sell you.

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  99. As Karl Marx predicted, we might be able to provide basic standard of living like the way of current public supply of toilet paper (take as much as you need without paying a penny). I think such day can be achieved very soon with current technological development. The famers working on my property told me that automated self driving farming combine and machines would be available very soon. That means farmer can work in their home office and let machines get on the field automatically.

    However

    In biology, bacteria culture can provide important clue about future scenario. If you provide end less nutrient to bacteria culture, it would grow exponentially until running out of living space or toxic waste build up to limited. The new equilibrium reach with proliferation and death at higher rate. In nature, there will be limiting factor showing up soon or later. Resource (nutrient, space, waste elimination, many more factors) is not unlimited after all.

    If human basic living standard guarantee reproduction of offspring, then we will have future like those bacteria culture. Human population (especially underclasses) will explode to the point that new limiting factors kicked in. When limiting factors coming in, it is likely the one at bottom suffering again at higher rate. Who knows. Mass death from underclass due to fighting for living space or uncontrollable disease ect. When that happens, the whole world might precipitate back to stone age or worse. Nature has its own way to balance thing off. Survival of the fittest all the time. Any violation of that rule or attempt to change that rule are likely have huge counterbalance. All these sounds like science fiction. But these are based on observation of bacteria, animals living on savannah with their natural cycles. Utopia seems always leading to disaster at end.

    If there is any hope, system should fit survival of the fittest which should have limiting factor building in. Yes, I support the basic living standard to survive, but not standard good enough for reproduction. The material should be good enough for a person to live, but not good enough to raise a family. Only a person can earn enough to raise family. With this, humanity might have better predictable future.

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  100. There is no way out of the box. Your basic living standard either lets kids starve or it pays their parents to endlessly pop them out. Since letting kids suffer the full spectrum of hardship produced by their parents is not an option, the future promises some sort of interesting violent conflict.

    Nature either rewards or punishes. Collectivist empathobesity tendencies only serve to thwart the carrots and sticks of nature.

    I never tire of watching people try to figure out a way for the lions to be fed while the baby gazelles are left unmolested.

    It seems that most people who favor welfare states have little actual contact with welfare recipients, or else they have no grasp whatsoever of animal husbandry. Imagine a farmer who arranged to feed his least productive livestock, and insure that the least productive livestock were by far the most successful at reproduction.

    Is there a disconnect? Do we inhabit a magical world where people are somehow not part of the animal kingdom and subject to all of its axioms?

    There is no difference between ameliorating the hardships of a child and providing the same monetary value to his mother (and father.) The more that schools feed kids, the less their parents need to do so. The line between welfare dependency and a life of independence is not static, it moves. The system rewards ever-increasing dependence.

    And people who are dependent are either slaves or pets.

    Pick one.

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  101. This discussion is, IMHO, a bit too intellect centric. My experience suggests that individual success –and thus societal success-is a function of talent, culture and intellect with intellect being the weakest link –it need be only adequate.

    While a bit too extensive to develop fully, I grew up in a mill town with many first generation classmates –largely Italian but with a fairly extensive group of various ethnicities. As a bit of a control the high school (3500 students) also served a country club community of rather well to do. At the extremes, the most intellectually gifted student was from the latter community while the most successful was from the poor circumstances of Hungary Hill. The former went on to advise doctoral candidates as a Harvard/Stanford math professor while the latter parlayed an outstanding jump shot into founding a MLB team, real estate developer and Olympic team developer.

    I’m none too bright but, in response to my father’s amazing work ethic –he grew up in Dickensian poverty since my grandfather died leaving my grandmother with four young children-, I worked my way through seven years of university (253.5 semester credit hours) in seven years, the last two of which were night school since I had run out of money -no debt.
    Of the success triad culture is the most important and most malleable. It’s a bit too much of a subject to develop but I firmly believe that institutionalizing kids at a young age and keeping them cocooned until college graduation rots out needed development.

    It may be pop science but I’ve read that we’re born with a great excess of brain cells and those unexercised atrophy and disappear. Young people need challenges and freedom to explore and fail rather than a sterile, protected environment to develop to their fullest potential. Otherwise it’s akin to developing an athlete by enscouncement in bed.

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  102. too many dumb comments are coming in for me to moderate (also long-winded ones). closing thread….

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  103. Look at the bell, see that perpendicular line at the median? Shift that bell to the right (or the left for that matter) see that perpendicular line at the median? Half the population is on one side and half is on the other no matter where you put the bell.

    No civilization or country has ever failed because the left side was screwing or drinking or whatever too much. The failure comes because the right side (sometimes because some who think that they are on the right, but are really on the left) fails to lead, prod, push , pull, kick, whatever, the left side in the right direction.

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