The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information

Publications Filter?
Nothing found
 TeasersiSteve Blog

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New Reply
🔊 Listen RSS

The Flynn Effect of rising raw scores on IQ tests is one of the most interesting phenomena in all the human sciences. It was first noticed in the 1940s, but for a long time little attention was paid to the fact that IQ test publishers had to renorm their tests periodically because people kept doing better on them. This pattern began to be explored by political philosopher James Flynn from around 1979 onward, and the phrase “Flynn Effect” was coined in his honor in 1994′s The Bell Curve.

One interesting aspect of the Flynn Effect is that it tends to be larger on the less culturally biased tests, such as the outer space-looking Raven’s Progressive Matrices:

Historically, much effort was put into the obvious challenge of developing IQ tests that are stable across space, from culture to culture. In contrast, nobody until Flynn paid all that much attention to the question of IQ tests being stable across time.

For example, the alien-looking Raven’s Matrices IQ test that was introduced in the 1930s in the hope of being more culture-free than previous IQ tests has seen a huge Flynn Effect of around 3 points per decade, or a standard deviation (15 points) in a half century. A score on the Raven’s that would put you at the 50th percentile a half century ago would only put you at the 16th percentile today.

The more human-seeming Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) saw a still-substantial Flynn Effect of about two points per decade, but that’s less than the Raven’s.

Screenshot 2015-10-17 00.15.05

Importantly, the size of the Flynn Effect from 1947-2002 differed sharply amongst the subtests on the WISC as shown above, from only 2 points over the 55 years on the “Information” and “Arithmetic” subtests to 22 points on “Picture Arrangement” and 24 points on “Similarities.” (In the table above, the Flynn Effect column is taken from my 2007 review in VDARE of Flynn’s book What Is Intelligence? )

The kind of cognitive facilities that come up in normal conversation, such as vocabulary, arithmetic and general knowledge, have only seen small Flynn Effects, which is why the Flynn Effect isn’t easily noticeable in much of daily life (although I’ll point out below where it can be seen).

Recently, James Thompson’s Psychological Comments had a table of the “cultural load” of each WISC subtest from a 2013 paper:

Kees-Jan Kan, Jelte M. Wicherts, Conor V. Dolan, and Han L. J. van der Maas. “On the Nature and Nurture of Intelligence and Specific Cognitive Abilities: The More Heritable, the More Culture Dependent.” Psychological Science 24(12) 2420–2428

… Cultural load was operationalized as the average proportion of items that were adjusted in each subtest of the WAIS-III when the scale was adapted for use in 13 countries.

I presume that means adjustments in questions beyond simple translation. IQ test publishers validate new editions of their tests in each country in which they intend to sell them, and that lets them notice proposed questions that don’t work well due to local idiosyncrasies. (In contrast, the PISA international school achievement tests have a “we’ll fix it in post-production” philosophy of dropping poorly designed questions after the PISA test is given. But in either case, it’s important to figure out at some point which questions just don’t work the same across space and which ones work well around the world with just simple translations.)

Wicherts et al have noticed that heritability is strongest on the most culture loaded subtests, which is very important. But I want to focus today upon the potential implications of their data (the Cultural Load column in my table above) for better understanding of the Flynn Effect.

My table above combines the two sets of figures for Weschler substests. (Note the oranges to tangerines comparison of WISC [Flynn Effect] to WAIS [Cultural Load] — there are a ton of technical issues here, such as the Digit Span subtest being missing from Flynn’s data, but I’m just going to blunder onward.)

Eyeballing my table, it looks like there’s a moderate negative correlation between the size of the Flynn Effect and the size of the Cultural Load. The correlation is -0.44.

This overall pattern shouldn’t be surprising because it’s in line with the general difference between the Raven’s and the Wechsler’s: the more a Wechsler subtest is like the Raven’s, the higher the Flynn Effect. Conversely, the more culture-dependent a Wechsler subtest is, the lower the Flynn Effect.

For example, “vocabulary” is the most culturally sensitive Wechsler subtest, not surprisingly, and it’s got a quite small Flynn Effect. Interestingly, vocabulary’s also a really good subtest of overall intelligence. For instance, the ongoing General Social Survey includes a 10 word vocabulary test and that has proven to be a surprisingly decent proxy for IQ.

If we leave out the “Similarities” outlier, the correlation is -0.74.

My best theory for what’s going on with the Flynn Effect besides obvious ones like better nutrition is that the world has seen a major cultural / environmental shift that has been going on in most cultures around the world at a fairly steady pace that makes young people better at certain subtests, typically on Performance IQ subtests, but doesn’t do them much good on Verbal IQ subtests except for “Similarities.”

As I wrote in 2007 about “Similarities:”

Finally, the fastest rising subtest on the WISC, Similarities, rewards abstract scientific thinking, what Flynn calls viewing the world through “scientific spectacles.”

A child gets a maximum score for replying that dogs and rabbits are “mammals.” A kid in 1947 who had never seen a nature documentary on TV would likely have said “They have four legs” or something else more concrete than the Linnaean category “mammals.”

In 1947 a child in the hollers of Kentucky would probably know more concrete things about dogs and rabbits than an urban child today. But IQ tests have tended to anticipate the direction in which global culture has evolved, away from the concrete and toward the abstract and two-dimensional, toward what can be represented on a piece of paper or a screen.

Whatever this change is, it’s reminiscent of Moore’s Law in its endurance and steady pace. As you know, around 1968 Gordon Moore of Intel, the famous Silicon Valley silicon chip firm descended from Shockley Semiconductor, pointed out that Intel had been able to double the number of transistors on a standard size piece of silicon every year or two throughout the 1960s, and he believed that the industry would be able to keep up this pace for some time into the future. This more or less proved true for at least four decades, with world changing consequences, such as the coining of the term “Silicon Valley” in 1971 and the rise of Silicon Valley to immense economic importance.

I don’t know if Moore’s Law is still in effect (the laptop I bought in 2015 is only trivially faster than the one I bought in 2012, the first time in my personal computer owning career, which goes back to 1984, that a new computer wasn’t tangibly faster). Similarly, I don’t know if the Flynn Effect is still operating everywhere. (I haven’t really been following the data in this decade.)

But Moore’s Law has been kind of like the Flynn Effect in that it has been relatively incremental, decade after decade, rather than erratic, and the effects have been felt globally even though its heartland has been Silicon Valley, kind of like how IQ testing’s heartland has been Silicon Valley ever since Lewis Terman released America’s first IQ test, the Stanford-Binet, a century ago.

Moreover, Moore’s Law (in the sense of higher performance in general) has had multiple causes. For example, when clock speeds on CPU chips topped out, the chip companies were able to regroup and keep Moore’s Law progressing for a number of years further by doing other things. Similarly, it’s likely that better nutrition both contributed to the Flynn Effect (the U.S. added micronutrient supplementation of both iodine and iron to staples between WWI and WWII) in the past, but improved nutrition has been less of a contributor to the Flynn Effect in some countries in recent years as nutrition has gotten about as good as it’s going to get. But other more mysterious factors apparently stepped in to keep the Flynn Effect going a while longer.

So, Moore’s Law is an informative analogy for the Flynn Effect.

But I would go further and suggest, somewhat hand-wavingly, that one of the driving forces of the Flynn Effect has been Moore’s Law, or, to be both more precise and more vague, some kind of superset of a direction to technological change of which Moore’s Law is a subset.

One of the big changes in daily life over recent centuries has been the growth of what I might call humans having to deal with “machine logic.” People today deal far more often each day than in the past with semi-intelligent machines who can only be dealt with in a certain way according to their own logic. You deal with the ATM rather than with a bank teller, with a gasoline pump rather than with a pump jockey, with elevator buttons rather than with elevator operators. You can’t wave your hands around with these machines until they figure out what you want done. You have to follow a precise logical series of steps.

(This trend may not continue forever. For example, searching the Internet using Google today requires users to use less logic than searching the Internet using Alta Vista in 1998 required. The term “Boolean operators” was useful to understand to get more out of Alta Vista, while Google is so smart today that you don’t have to be as smart.)

This trend toward people having to interface more each decade with machine logic hasn’t just been happening since the silicon chip was invented. Before the silicon chip was the transistor, perfected by William Shockley, and before that the vacuum tube, which Lee de Forest made significant progress upon in Palo Alto around the time Lewis Terman of Stanford was adopting Binet’s pioneering IQ test for the American market.

Granted, I’m waving my hands around in making this argument in the hopes that you’ll grasp what I’m trying to get across. I don’t have this reduced to a precise series of steps that a machine intelligence could understand, but I do think I’m onto something: that the high Flynn Effect, low Culture Load IQ subtests are a kind of like mastering dealing with information technologies, and kids these days get more practice in that than we did and we got more practice than our parents did.

In contrast, kids these days likely have less practice dealing with complex 3-d entities, such as repairing automobile engines. Instead, they are used to dealing with 2-d paper and, ever increasingly, 2-d screens. But IQ tests tend to shy away from much in the way of 3-d testing, other than some blocks subtests on the WISC and other children’s IQ tests, largely for reasons of economy. Asking and answering questions in a 2-d format, whether on paper or on a computer screen, is cheap.

But because 2-d is cheap, the real world has also moved in the 2-d direction that IQ tests anticipated.


One thing that seems pretty likely is that in each person’s life, he has a window where it’s easy and fun to learn to communicate logically with a new set of systems, and over time that window closes. For example, when I was in the marketing research industry, I jumped all over the coming of the personal computer in 1984 and the Internet in 1996.

More senior executives at the information company where I worked back then tended to find the new personal information technologies difficult to master. They were used to issuing orders to intelligent human beings, such as their secretaries, who wouldn’t take everything quite so literally. The founders of the company where I worked were superbly intelligent at dealing with human psychology, but they found arbitrary machine logic daunting.

But similar information technology developments in this century have not struck me as fun at all to learn about. On Twitter, for example, I’m basically clueless about whether I’m replying to one person or to thousands. Today, I feel like the Vice Chairman of my employer back in 1984 when he gave me his $9,000 IBM PC XT with the coveted 10-meg hard disk because he was too old to learn to type.

Generation after generation, children grow up in an environment ever denser with the kind of systems logic that the more Flynn Effected-Wechsler subtests ask about. Growing up, kids these days get more practice with the kind of thinking tested on the Raven’s and on some of the Wechsler subtexts. And they legitimately are better at it.

The Flynn Effect is a side effect of the developers of the IQ test being on “the right side of history.” We’re used to hearing progressives denounce IQ tests as obsolete pseudoscience on the wrong side of history, but, in reality, IQ testing in the United States has some amusing organic ties to the triumph of Silicon Valley. Louis Terman’s son Fred Terman (1900-1982), a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford, was the perhaps the single most important figure in the rise of Silicon Valley. The mentor of Hewlett and Packard, he largely invented the model of Stanford grad students like Larry Page and Sergey Brin starting up high tech firms like Google.

You are supposed to believe that the Termans were all wrong, but it sure looks like we’re living in the world the Terman family anticipated.

• Category: Science • Tags: Flynn Effect, IQ, Moore's Law, Robots, Silicon Valley 
🔊 Listen RSS

Back before 1992 Olympics, Runner’s World executive editor Amby Burfoot published a cover story “White Men Can’t Run” pointing out the West African / East African distinction between who wins Olympic sprints versus distances races.

At that point, blacks of West African descent had made up all of the last 16 finalists in the Olympics men’s 100m dash, the race that determines the World’s Fastest Man. A white Scotsman had won the 100m dash at the Moscow 1980 Olympics, but in both the 1984 and 1988 Olympics, all the finalists who had made it through three preliminary rounds were black.

Amazingly, that’s now true for eight straight Olympics; 64 out of the last 64 finalists have been black from 1984 through 2012. That’s one of most astounding statistics in all of human biodiversity studies.

On the other hand, a few non-blacks have had some success in the 100m in recent years. A white Frenchman became the first white man to clearly break the 10 second barrier, getting as low as 9.92 in 2011. And Japanese sprinters regularly make the Olympic semifinals, so this streak no doubt won’t last forever. This spring Bingtian Su of China became the first Asian to run 9.99.

In Beijing, at the current world championships of track & field (one tier below the Olympics), Usain Bolt of Jamaica, 2008-2012 Olympic gold medalist, edged out Justin Gatlin, the American 2004 Olympic gold medalist who was twice subsequently caught for PEDs, in a time of 9.79 to 9.80.

Of note, Bingtian Su of China pleased the home fans in the semifinal by tying his recent Asian record of 9.99. In the expanded 9-man final, he finished last at 10.06.

• Category: Race/Ethnicity, Science • Tags: Human Biodiversity, Sports 
🔊 Listen RSS

Carl Zimmer reports in the NYT:

DNA Deciphers Roots of Modern Europeans
JUNE 10, 2015

… On Wednesday in the journal Nature, two teams of scientists — one based at the University of Copenhagen and one based at Harvard University — presented the largest studies to date of ancient European DNA, extracted from 170 skeletons found in countries from Spain to Russia. Both studies indicate that today’s Europeans descend from three groups who moved into Europe at different stages of history.

The first were hunter-gatherers who arrived some 45,000 years ago in Europe.

Then came farmers who arrived from the Near East about 8,000 years ago.

Finally, a group of nomadic sheepherders from western Russia called the Yamnaya arrived about 4,500 years ago. The authors of the new studies also suggest that the Yamnaya language may have given rise to many of the languages spoken in Europe today.

In other words, with “the Yamnaya” we’re likely talking about more or less the people also known as the Proto-Indo-Europeans, who used to be called the Aryans.

… Until about 9,000 years ago, Europe was home to a genetically distinct population of hunter-gatherers, the researchers found. Then, between 9,000 and 7,000 years ago, the genetic profiles of the inhabitants in some parts of Europe abruptly changed, acquiring DNA from Near Eastern populations.

Archaeologists have long known that farming practices spread into Europe at the time from Turkey. But the new evidence shows that it wasn’t just the ideas that spread — the farmers did, too.

The hunter-gatherers didn’t disappear, however. They managed to survive in pockets across Europe between the farming communities.

“It’s an amazing cultural process,” said David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School who led the university’s team. “You have groups which are as genetically distinct as Europeans and East Asians. And they’re living side by side for thousands of years.”

Between 7,000 and 5,000 years ago, however, hunter-gatherer DNA began turning up in the genes of European farmers. “There’s a breakdown of these cultural barriers, and they mix,” said Dr. Reich.

Poussin, 1634

Perhaps like the breakdown of the cultural barriers between the Roman men and the Sabine women?

About 4,500 years ago, the final piece of Europe’s genetic puzzle fell into place. A new infusion of DNA arrived — one that is still very common in living Europeans, especially in central and northern Europe.

The closest match to this new DNA, both teams of scientists found, comes from skeletons found in Yamnaya graves in western Russia and Ukraine.

Archaeologists have long been fascinated by the Yamnaya, who left behind artifacts on the steppes of western Russia and Ukraine dating from 5,300 to 4,600 years ago. The Yamnaya used horses to manage huge herds of sheep, and followed their livestock across the steppes with wagons full of food and water.

It was an immensely successful way of life, allowing the Yamnaya to build huge funeral mounds for their dead, which they filled with jewelry, weapons and even entire chariots.

David W. Anthony, an archaeologist at Hartwick College and a co-author on the Harvard study, said it was likely that the expansion of Yamnaya into Europe was relatively peaceful. “It wasn’t Attila the Hun coming in and killing everybody,” he said.

It’s a stereotype that the Eurasian Steppe tends to be violent, so therefore it can’t be true. The real reason Eastern Europe is called The Bloodlands is because of the beautiful red sunsets. Everybody knows that.

Instead, Dr. Anthony thought the most likely scenario was that the Yamnaya “entered into some kind of stable opposition” with the resident Europeans that lasted for a few centuries. But then gradually the barriers between the cultures eroded.

For a dissenting view of the values and predilections of Eurasian steppe peoples:

On the other hand, Dr. Anthony cogently rebutted:

The Copenhagen team’s study suggests that the Yamnaya didn’t just expand west into Europe, however. The scientists examined DNA from 4,700-year-old skeletons from a Siberian culture called the Afanasievo. It turns out that they inherited Yamnaya DNA, too.

Dr. Anthony was surprised by the possibility that Yamnaya pushed out over a range of about 4,000 miles.

What with them being so peaceful and all.

“I myself have a hard time wrapping my head around explanations for that,” he said.

I bet you do.

The two studies also add new fuel to a debate about how languages spread across Europe and Asia. Most European tongues belong to the Indo-European family, which also incudes languages in southern and Central Asia.

For decades, linguists have debated how Indo-European got to Europe. Some favor the idea that the original farmers brought Indo-European into Europe from Turkey. Others think the language came from the Russian steppes thousands of years later.

The new genetic results won’t settle the debate, said Eske Willerslev, an evolutionary biologist at Copenhagen University who led the Danish team. But he did think the results were consistent with the idea that the Yamnaya brought Indo-European from the steppes to Europe. …

“We can just say that the expansion fits very well with the geographical spread of the Indo-European language,” said Dr. Willerslev.

• Category: History, Science • Tags: Anthropology, Aryans, Indo-Europeans, Yamnaya 
🔊 Listen RSS

I wanted to come back to the popular NYT Magazine article “Why Do Americans Stink at Math?” about how they teach math better in Japan, as you can tell because Japanese students average a higher PISA score than American students. According to the article, the Common Core now offers us another opportunity to teach math better. But, American teachers have consistently failed to exploit the opportunities offered them by educational theorists:

It wasn’t the first time that Americans had dreamed up a better way to teach math and then failed to implement it. The same pattern played out in the 1960s, when schools gripped by a post-Sputnik inferiority complex unveiled an ambitious “new math,” only to find, a few years later, that nothing actually changed. In fact, efforts to introduce a better way of teaching math stretch back to the 1800s. The story is the same every time: a big, excited push, followed by mass confusion and then a return to conventional practices.

You see, it’s not that the math fads of the past failed, it’s that they were never really tried.

In reality, the New Math mostly failed because it was an attempt by math professors to design a curriculum that makes sense to math professors wanting to create new math professors. To students, however, it was repetitious (every September from 1965-1970 I had to study the Number Line in the first chapter of each math textbook), boring, and pointless. The Number Line didn’t do anything to help me think more interesting thoughts about baseball statistics.

The trouble always starts when teachers are told to put innovative ideas into practice without much guidance on how to do it. In the hands of unprepared teachers, the reforms turn to nonsense, perplexing students more than helping them.

The trouble starts earlier when the Powers that Be adopt some smooth-talking salesman’s pitch for a whole new way to teach math without making him test it first on real students. The reason we have the Common Core is not because it aced its Phase I, II, and III experiments involving real students. It was never tested before roll-out.

No, we have the Common Core because David Coleman impressed Bill Gates as significantly less stupid than the typical education theorist, so Gates bribed the educational establishment to get behind Coleman’s baby and make it a fait accompli before anyone had a chance to ask: “Shouldn’t we test this first?” (And keep in mind that I’m relatively positive toward the Common Core versus most of the other junk out there. If our country is going to let one guy control education according to his whims, Bill Gates would be among the less bad choices for that guy.)

Carefully taught, the assignments can help make math more concrete. Students don’t just memorize their times tables and addition facts but also understand how arithmetic works and how to apply it to real-life situations. But in practice, most teachers are unprepared and children are baffled, leaving parents furious.

This paragraph reflects today’s education establishment worldview about the past up until about last week. Until yesterday, children were forced to sit up perfectly straight in their desks and chant the time tables and get rapped on the knuckles with a ruler when they made a mistake. That’s why students “just memorize their times tables and addition facts” instead of developing Critical Thinking Skills and Concern about Social Justice.

In reality, of course, large fractions of students these days fail to memorize their times tables and addition facts.

In other words, liberals are completely amnesiac about how they’ve been running education for a long, long time.

For instance, I went to a Catholic parochial school with nuns, and there was a little knuckle-rapping still going on in the mid-1960s. But by the time I got to St. Francis de Sales’ 7th grade in 1970, the younger teachers had staged a coup and organized a junior high school teaching collective that was more relevant. Most of my schooling in 1970-72, as far as I can remember, consisted of listening in class to album sides from Abbey Road, Deja Vu, Hair, and Jesus Christ Superstar for examples of symbols and metaphors, and sitting in a circle and rapping about how the deaths of Hendrix, Joplin, and Morison bummed us out.

And this was at a prim parochial school. I went to public Millikan Junior High for summer school those years and it looked like Dazed and Confused. Granted, St. Francis de Sales is just over Coldwater Canyon from the Sunset Strip, so we were probably a year or two out in the lead of the rest of the country, but your junior high school probably went through the same changes within a half decade.

Let me repeat this NYT explanation of how things will be better if the educational theorists ever get their full funding:

Students don’t just memorize their times tables and addition facts but also understand how arithmetic works and how to apply it to real-life situations.

Look, forcing students to memorize their times tables and addition facts (e.g., 6+7=13) is not something the current liberal-run system is all that great at. It’s boring for teachers. But you sure can’t apply arithmetic to real-life situations without being instantly aware and really confident that 6+7=13.

As for “understand how arithmetic works,” well, that’s a rabbit hole that more than a few of the greatest minds of the later 19th and early 20th Centuries went down:

“From this proposition it will follow, when arithmetical addition has been defined, that 1+1=2.”

That’s on p. 379 of Volume I of Principia Mathematica by Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead in 1910. (I haven’t actually read the previous 378 pages.)

There’s a difference between how to work with math and how math works. But the article on why Americans stink at math seems oblivious to that:

The new math of the ‘60s, the new new math of the ‘80s and today’s Common Core math all stem from the idea that the traditional way of teaching math simply does not work. As a nation, we suffer from an ailment that John Allen Paulos, a Temple University math professor and an author, calls innumeracy — the mathematical equivalent of not being able to read. On national tests, nearly two-thirds of fourth graders and eighth graders are not proficient in math. More than half of fourth graders taking the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress could not accurately read the temperature on a neatly drawn thermometer. (They did not understand that each hash mark represented two degrees rather than one, leading many students to mistake 46 degrees for 43 degrees.)

May I suggest that numeracy and mathematics are not necessarily the same thing. The New Math of the 1960s, for example, was definitely not intended to emphasize the kind of practical numeracy that say, a carpenter needs. It was intended to make students better at the higher, more abstract forms of mathematics that would form the underpinnings of their college and postgrad math courses that would allow the very smartest students to make the theoretical breakthroughs necessary to win the technological competition in the Cold War and/or create better grad students for math professors.

In general, numeracy and abstract higher math skills correlate, just as the ability to harmonize and the ability to read music correlate. But lots of star musicians are bad at reading music. For example, here’s a list of 15 guitarists who couldn’t read sheet music, including John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Eddie Van Halen. Similary, from Wikipedia on the Beatles’ song “Golden Slumbers” on Abbey Road:

“Golden Slumbers” is based on the poem “Cradle Song“, a lullaby by the dramatist Thomas Dekker. The poem appears in Dekker’s 1603 comedy Patient Grissel. McCartney saw sheet music for Dekker’s lullaby at his father’s home in Liverpool, left on a piano by his stepsister Ruth. Unable to read music, he created his own music.

My impression is that while McCartney lacks musical literacy, he’s quite good at numeracy and could probably tell you off the top of his head his annual after-tax royalties on “Golden Slumbers” and how much that bitch Yoko made off his song before Paul wrestled the rights back. (I don’t know specifically about “Golden Slumbers,” but there was a period of years in which 100% of the royalties from Paul’s “Yesterday” went to Yoko, and that sum is no doubt carved in Paul’s soul.)

By the lowly standards of pundits, and even by the higher standards of MBAs, I’m pretty numerate. I can do arithmetical stunts like calculating a weighted average in my head. But I let my wife help my sons with their high school math because all that stuff is over my head. It’s too abstract for me. I don’t like variables that can stand for different things, I like numbers that represent real things. If I didn’t like working with actual numbers so much, I might care more about working with pretend numbers.

Unlike most people, however, I don’t advise children to Be Like Me. But, I think people who theorize in the New York Times about education should try at least to be aware of these tradeoffs.

On the same multiple-choice test, three-quarters of fourth graders could not translate a simple word problem about a girl who sold 15 cups of lemonade on Saturday and twice as many on Sunday into the expression “15 + (2×15).” Even in Massachusetts, one of the country’s highest-performing states, math students are more than two years behind their counterparts in Shanghai.

Adulthood does not alleviate our quantitative deficiency. A 2012 study comparing 16-to-65-year-olds in 20 countries found that Americans rank in the bottom five in numeracy. On a scale of 1 to 5, 29 percent of them scored at Level 1 or below, meaning they could do basic arithmetic but not computations requiring two or more steps.

This PIAAC test of adults from the PISA people showed that immigrants and blacks were pulling the U.S. scores way down versus other rich countries in Europe and Northeast Asia. From the New York Times last year :

The new study shows that foreign-born adults in the United States have much poorer-than-average skills, but even the native-born scored a bit below the international norms. White Americans fared better than the multicountry average in literacy, but were about average in the math and technology tests.

The NYT Magazine article assumes that numeracy is the same as understanding how math works. For example, in reactionary America in contrast to progressive Japan, according to the article,

Students learn not math but, in the words of one math educator, answer-getting. Instead of trying to convey, say, the essence of what it means to subtract fractions teachers tell students to draw butterflies and multiply along the diagonal wings, add the antennas and finally reduce and simplify as needed. The answer-getting strategies may serve them well for a class period of practice problems, but after a week, they forget. And students often can’t figure out how to apply the strategy for a particular problem to new problems.

In contrast, street children in Brazil are numerate and understand the essences:

But our innumeracy isn’t inevitable. In the 1970s and the 1980s, cognitive scientists studied a population known as the unschooled, people with little or no formal education. Observing workers at a Baltimore dairy factory in the ‘80s, the psychologist Sylvia Scribner noted that even basic tasks required an extensive amount of math. For instance, many of the workers charged with loading quarts and gallons of milk into crates had no more than a sixth-grade education. But they were able to do math, in order to assemble their loads efficiently, that was “equivalent to shifting between different base systems of numbers.” Throughout these mental calculations, errors were “virtually nonexistent.” And yet when these workers were out sick and the dairy’s better-educated office workers filled in for them, productivity declined.

The unschooled may have been more capable of complex math than people who were specifically taught it, but in the context of school, they were stymied by math they already knew. Studies of children in Brazil, who helped support their families by roaming the streets selling roasted peanuts and coconuts, showed that the children routinely solved complex problems in their heads to calculate a bill or make change. When cognitive scientists presented the children with the very same problem, however, this time with pen and paper, they stumbled. A 12-year-old boy who accurately computed the price of four coconuts at 35 cruzeiros each was later given the problem on paper. Incorrectly using the multiplication method he was taught in school, he came up with the wrong answer. Similarly, when Scribner gave her dairy workers tests using the language of math class, their scores averaged around 64 percent. The cognitive-science research suggested a startling cause of Americans’ innumeracy: school.

But of course the favela kids making change don’t understand the “essence” of arithmetic, not in the sense that say Bertrand Russell understood its essence. They have rules of thumb they follow that work fine for their tasks. Their techniques aren’t necessarily generalizable, however. Their change-making techniques aren’t going to be much use in getting them through Algebra II, which is now required to graduate high school in some regions in America.

So, in the real world, inculcating the numeracy to make change and getting all students through Algebra II turn out to be somewhat contradictory goals for the bottom half or so of the population. I don’t know what’s the best way to deal with this partial trade-off. But certainly the first step is to be able to publicly admit there is a tradeoff.

• Category: Science • Tags: American Media, Education, Math 
🔊 Listen RSS

My favorite Sesame Street character is Count von Count, an amiable vampire who always refers to himself in the third person in his thick Transylvanian accent—”The Count loves counting!”—as he enumerates everything in sight.

I love counting, too, which is why I find Richard Lynn’s books, such as 2002′s IQ and the Wealth of Nations, irresistible: Lynn is another countaholic.

Lynn’s latest, The Chosen People: A Study of Jewish Intelligence and Achievement, tabulates the consistently impressive performance of Northern European Jews—known as “Ashkenazi” Jews, as opposed to the Sephardic Jews from Spanish or Portuguese backgrounds, such as Benjamin Disraeli—across many fields in 17 different countries. Lynn, a psychology professor emeritus at the University of Ulster, calculates “Achievement Quotients” of how heavily Jews are represented in a broad range of desirable categories, from the professions to bridge champions.

To summarize Lynn’s findings: Ashkenazi Jews do well in every country they inhabit, and in most every field in which they compete.

Jewish organizations devote much energy to counting the number of high-achieving Jews, as the many Jewish websites devoted to listing famous Jews attest. (For example, here is the Google search page for “Jewish baseball players“).

So this information is available to anyone with an internet connection. But it is presently considered Just Not Done for gentiles like Lynn to take a scientific interest in such matters—no matter how appreciative their attitude.

In contrast, the federal government spends huge sums counting blacks, Hispanics, and whites for the purpose of rectifying white “overrepresentation” through quotas and lawsuits.

Lynn, however, blithely plunges ahead with his task. And he is quite right to do so. The impact of Jewish intelligence in the modern world could hardly be more important—or less studied.

For example, the Jewish record in winning Nobel Prizes is extraordinary. Lynn cites Nobel laureate data compiled by the Israel Science and Technology Homepage, a website run by biochemist Israel Hanukoglu, who was the chief science advisor to Benjamin Netanyahu during his first term as prime minister. Updating Lynn’s Nobel numbers to include the recently announced 2011 prizes, we find:

  • Medicine or Physiology: Jews have comprised 51 of the 199 laureates, or 26 percent
  • Physics: 47 of 191, or 25 percent
  • Chemistry 30 out of 160, or 19 percent
  • Literature: 12 out of 108, or 11 percent
  • Peace: 9 out of 101, or 9 percent
  • Economics: 24 out of 69, or 35 percent

Of course, the latter three prizes are all dubious. The Literature Prize depends upon vagaries of taste and translation (there are likely more famous authors who didn’t win the Nobel than ones who did). The Peace Prize is inherently political. And Economics is more ideological than scientific. While there are Republican and Democratic economists, nobody talks about Republican and Democratic chemists.

This is not to say there are no controversies about the hard science Nobels. For example, the only Nobel laureate I’ve had dinner with is among the most frequently cited as undeserving. When I was a student at Rice University in 1978, the new physics laureate Robert Wilson, a Rice alumnus, came to his alma mater to give a speech. A modest man, he pointed out that it was ironic that he and Arno Penzias had won the Nobel Prize for proving the Big Bang Theory, even though they had to have the cosmic importance of their discovery of microwave background radiation explained to them by astrophysical theorists at Princeton. And the Princetonians, as many other Princetonians have complained, didn’t win the Nobel.

But when I mentioned this anecdote about Wilson to an astronomy professor last year, however, he replied: “Do you think it was a coincidence that they gave the Nobel to the best experimental astronomer of his generation, the guy whose technique was so good that he found what nobody else could find?” So even this notoriously controversial hard science Nobel turns out to be quite legit.

And winning a science Nobel should not be thought of as solely an individual achievement. To earn the chemistry prize, for instance, you need a good laboratory. Thus, it took the U.S. a long time to get started at winning Nobels. From 1901 through 1929, a period in which 30 people born in Germany won Nobels, only one native-born American was a laureate. There was plenty of talent born in America in the 19th Century. But America back then trailed Europe at the highest levels of technical sophistication.

Still, if you keep all that in mind, the Nobels are a good data source for Lynn to mine.

Jews have won 23 percent of the Medicine, Physics, and Chemistry Nobels. This is tremendously impressive because Jews have always comprised a small fraction of the world’s population. Before the Holocaust, Jews might have made up about 2.5 percent of the population of Europe, North America, and Australasia. Today, they make up roughly 0.2 percent of the world’s population.

It has long been predicted that Jewish achievement in science will slow down, as affluent younger Jews turn to more lucrative or fun careers, such as Wall Street and Hollywood. But we don’t see that in the Nobel Prize data. In the 21st century so far, Jews have won 24 of the 91 science Nobels, or 26 percent, which is even higher than their 20th Century rate.

Of course, that doesn’t tell us what is actually happening in the last decade. The awarding of hard science Nobels typically lag their discovery by at least a decade, as the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences has grown cautious about either rewarding work that might not bear the test of time or overlooking the greats of the past before they die. The 2011 winners were recognized for work first published between 1973 and 1998.

Inevitably, all this data raises the inevitable question: Who is a Jew? This is both a fascinating question and the kind of quibble frequently used to intellectually intimidate curious gentiles with the message: Move along, nothing to notice here.

Netanyahu’s friend Hanukoglu offers one definition:

“This list includes only Nobel laureates who are Jewish by the strict definition of Halacha (interpretation of the laws of the Hebrew Scriptures) that requires being born to a Jewish mother or formal conversion to Judaism. Definition of being Jewish is similar to nationality and is independent of personal beliefs.”

On the other hand, the website, building upon the 1997 Encyclopedia Judaica, uses a more inclusive definition, counting anybody who is at least half Jewish, whether upon his mother’s or father’s side. JInfo writes: “Approximately 15% of those [laureates] listed (and about 10% of the Americans listed) are, or were, of half-Jewish descent.”

Including everybody who is at least half-Jewish bumps up the percentage of laureates by one to six points: medicine goes up from 26 percent Jewish to 27 percent, physics from 24 percent to 25 percent, chemistry from 19 percent to 20 percent, while economics jumps from 35 percent to 41 percent.

Lynn would prefer to take a more precise approach than either website does because he’s interested in the genetics of Jewish intelligence. Consider the Bohr family. The great Danish physicist Niels Bohr won the 1922 Nobel in physics. His mother Ellen Adler Bohr was Jewish, while his father Christian Bohr was Christian.

In turn, Niels’s son Aage Bohr won the Nobel in physics in 1975. By both Hanukoglu’s rabbinical standards and JInfo’s ethnic ones, that makes Niels Bohr Jewish but Aage Bohr gentile. Lynn, however, feels it would make the most sense to count Niels as half Jewish and Aage as one quarter Jewish.

And there are always the ambiguous nature-nurture cases. For example, how many Jewish baseball players are in the Hall of Fame?Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax are famous as Hall of Famers who are Jewish. But what about Lou Boudreau, the Cleveland Indians shortstop who became a player-manager at 25? Apparently, he had a Jewish biological mother, but was adopted by Catholics.

Statistically speaking, however, these sort of quibbles probably don’t make much difference. If laureates who are half Jewish are evenly divided between those with Jewish mothers and those with Jewish fathers, either the rabbinic method or the genetic will produce the same overall percentage results.

By any means of counting, there are quite a number of countries where Jews make up a remarkable percentage of native-born Nobel laureates. For example, among American natives, Lynn counts 200 prizewinners through 2009 (leaving aside the peace prize as non-intellectual). Jews made up 62, or 31 percent. Since Jews comprised about 3 percent of the adult population in the U.S. in the middle of the last century, this gives American Jews an Achievement Quotient for Nobel laureates of just over ten.

And the American AQ is fairly low by international standards. In places with very few Jews, AQs can be stratospheric, such as Switzerland (3 Jewish laureates out of 17 total laureates for an AQ of 60), Latin America (2 out of 8 for an AQ of 220) and Italy (4 out of 17 for a 320).

After awhile, The Chosen People becomes slightly repetitious as evidence for consistently high levels of Jewish accomplishment pile up. For variety’s sake, I started looking for exceptions to prove the rule.

I found a few. British gentiles are pretty good at winning Nobels. They’ve won 76 while British-born Jews have won only three, for an Achievement Quota of six. This low AQ not appear to stem from British Jews being untalented or terribly discriminated against, but instead because British gentiles are unusually good at doing Nobel-worthy work.

Similarly, as Lynn documents, Jews do very well in Australia, but gentiles have won all ten Nobels awarded to natives of Australia.

Lynn’s data suggests that Jews have their very highest Achievement Quotas in the more abstract fields such as philosophy and mathematics. Lynn notes that IQ tests suggest Jews tend to be strongest at logic involving words and numbers and weakest at visuo-spatial reasoning. In the professions, Jews might be least distinguished as engineers. Yet Jewish engineers still have AQs well above 1.0 in most countries.

One creative career where Jews appear to be less heavily represented than you’d expect: cinematography (although the best-known Mexican cameraman, Emmanuel Lubezki, who works on Terence Malick’s movies like The Tree of Life, is Jewish). Why? My guess is that Jews in Hollywood who have outstanding visual talent will tend to become directors rather than just be cinematographers.

Perhaps the artistic field where Jewish influence is least powerful is golf course architecture. I’ve devoted absurd amounts of time over the last 40 years to studying the history of golf course design, but I’m not familiar with any major golf course architect who was Jewish. This is not for lack of opportunity. There are scores of historically-Jewish country clubs in America (their names can be found in this discussion at Golf Club Atlas). But they tend to have better clubhouses and cuisine than golf courses.

There are social reasons for this. Golf is a Scottish game, and the classic courses tend to belong to private clubs dominated by Protestants. Therefore, those who move in old-money circles get more chances to see great golf design. And there are likely also cognitive reasons: the ability to imagine three-dimensionally is crucial to success in golf architecture.

In summary: the sheer comprehensiveness of Lynn’s data collection, stretching across many fields and many countries, allows him to consider judiciously the various ad hoc theories that have been proposed to explain specific instances of high Jewish achievement.

His conclusion: we don’t need all of the theories, but we do need at least two factors to account for this hugely important pattern.

One reason seems overwhelmingly obvious to Lynn, although apparently not to most of those who have advanced theories (at least in print) for Jewish achievement: higher average IQ.

Lynn digs up 32 IQ studies of American Jews and seven of British Jews. He concludes that Ashkenazi Jews (ones with Yiddish-speaking ancestors) average about ten points higher than non-Hispanic white gentiles, or 110 on a scale where white Americans and Brits average 100. That would put the median Ashkenazi Jew at about the 75th percentile among whites.

IQ testing in Israel suggests that the other Jewish communities trail the Ashkenazi. Lynn estimates that Sephardim score about two points less than white gentiles, or 98. The Mizrahim (Jews from the Arab world) average around 91.

That ten-point gap between Ashkenazi and gentile whites is substantial, but not enormous. The proportion of individuals with IQs of 115 or above is about twice as great among Jews as among white gentiles. But the absolute number of gentiles is much larger.

Jews are, per capita, twice as common relative to American gentile whites over the 115 IQ level that Lynn sees as the bottom threshold for the professions, but are about 5 times more common per capita among doctors and lawyers. And in many other developed countries, these ratios are even higher.

Lynn significant (and subtle) conclusion: superior Jewish IQ isn’t everything. He writes:

“This suggests that the success of the Ashkenazim is attributable to more than just their high IQs and that they also possess strong motivational and work-ethic qualities.”

This profound subject has only just begun to be explored.

[Steve Sailer (email him) is movie critic for The American Conservative. His website features his daily blog. His book, AMERICA’S HALF-BLOOD PRINCE: BARACK OBAMA’S “STORY OF RACE AND INHERITANCE”, is available here.]

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science • Tags: IQ, VDare Archives 
🔊 Listen RSS

Nicholas Wade in the NYT reports:

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded this year to three American scientists who solved a problem of cell biology with deep relevance to cancer and aging. The three will receive equal shares of a prize worth around $1.4 million.

The recipients solved a longstanding puzzle involving the ends of chromosomes, the giant molecules of DNA that embody the genetic information. These ends, called telomeres, get shorter each time a cell divides and so serve as a kind of clock that counts off the cell’s allotted span of life.

The three winners are Elizabeth H. Blackburn of the University of California, San Francisco, Carol W. Greider of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Jack W. Szostak of Massachusetts General Hospital.

The two other 2009 hard science Nobels are not out yet, but this announcement reflects an on-going trend in which the top female scientific talent is concentrating in the life sciences and leaving the lifeless sciences, physics and chemistry, to the boys.

Here’s a list of all female winners (keep in mind that there have been more multiple winners in recent years — in other words, it’s gotten easier to be a Nobel Laureate in recent years because prizes are more often fractured):

So, before 1965, women won five Nobels in physics or chemistry vs. only one in medicine. Since then, women have won zero in physics or chemistry (warning: this could change this week) versus nine in medicine.

This strikes me as healthy: women specializing in what they (and I, as a beneficiary of medical science) find most important. Of course, in the wake of the 2005 Larry Summers brouhaha, vast amounts of money are being spent to lure women scientists away from the life sciences and into the inanimate sciences in the name of diversity. Will all that money spent make humanity better off?

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science • Tags: Diversity, Feminism 
🔊 Listen RSS

When James D. Watson was driven from his post at the famous Cold Spring Harbor medical research laboratory for making politically incorrect remarks about IQ, Richard E. Nisbett, a psychologist at the University of Michigan[email him], helped put the boot in, publishing an op-ed in the December 9, 2007 New York Times under the memorable title All Brains Are the Same Color.

Now, Nisbett has a book out entitled Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count , which has greatly excited such intellectual luminaries as New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell, who nominated Nisbett for Time’s Top 100 Most Influential People in 2009, and NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristof [Rising Above I.Q. June 6, 2009].

Strikingly, however, Nisbett’s new book on the IQcontroversy never mentions Watson’s fate.

Indeed, Intelligence and How to Get It seems to be set in some alternative universe in which Watson’s heresies are the almost-unchallenged orthodoxy and Gladwell is some pixel-stained wretch barely scraping by, while I’m pulling in the big bucks making speeches to national sales conventions. Poor Nisbett is a just a lonely dissidentbravely speaking truth to power—in Nisbett’s book.

It resembles a book-length version of one of those David Brooks’columns in the NYT in which he tries to exorcize the voice of his conscience telling him that I’m right.

Nisbett never explains his bizarre polemical strategy. But, I presume that after a few drinks, he might justify it like this: “Well, sure , abunch of innumerate journalists and excited ideologues like Stephen Jay Gould convinced themselves and a lot of their more naïve readers that all this IQ stuff was hooey, but you know and I know that the kind of thing you write in about IQ is actually the conventional wisdom among those few who know what they are talking about!”

Nisbett’s book thus concedes vast swathes of normally disputed territory: according to Nisbett, 1] IQ is real and important; 2] IQ tests measure it accurately; 3] there are sizable racial gaps in average IQ; and 4] IQ tests are not culturally biased (which will come as a big surprise to Sonia Sotomayor). On many of the issues I covered in my FAQs on the subjects of IQ and race, we wouldn’t have much to disagree over.

Nisbett, however, tries to draw a line in the sand in two places by:

As for Nisbett’s first dogmatic decree, well, time will tell.Soon—the DNA data is flooding in.

Nisbett’s second decree—the potential effectiveness of social engineering—is particularly popular at the momentbecause of the Obama Administration’s lavish funding of education.

Unfortunately, despite his book’s self-help title, Nisbetthasn’t figured out an actual plan for increasing IQ amongone’s own children, much less among the masses of black and Hispanic poor.

Depressingly, out of the countless educational experiments tried over the last five decades, he mostly cites the same handful of fabled preschool intervention studies that I’ve been reading about for muchof my life: the Perry Preschool Program of the mid-1960s, the Milwaukee Project of the late 1960s, and the Abcedarian Project of the late 1970s.

Even Nisbett laments , “a huge amount of research needs to be done to establish whether something like the Perry or Milwaukee or Abecedarian program would be effective and feasible if scaled up to national proportions.”

Yet, if these programs actually worked in the past, why haven’t they been replicated in the last 30 years? The problem in Nisbett’s book is rather like the one that Herodotus, the Father of History, wrestled with in the 5th Century B.C.: the older the tale, the more miraculous it is.

For example, Nisbett devotes pages 124-126 to recounting with a straight face the successes at raising black test scores of Rick Heber’sMilwaukee Project. This was an expensive late 1960s study much like the Early Childhood Education endeavors that Barack Obama is promoting.

Amusingly, Nisbett never mentions that Heber turned out to be a con man who went to prison for fraudulent misuse of Milwaukee Project funds! The Concise Encyclopedia of Special Education says:

HEBER, RICK R. (1932-1992)

… Heber is best known for his work as principal investigator of the Milwaukee Project and the subsequent controversies surrounding the project. … Heber was a member of thefaculty of the University of Wisconsin at Madison when he was indicted on charges stemming from the misuse of federal funds allocated to the project. He was subsequentlyconvicted and served time in the federal prison in Bastrop, Texas. Previously a respected scholar in the field of mentalretardation, his academic work on the Milwaukee Project has been called into serious question. It is now questionable whether the project ever actually existed as it had been described by Heber.

And here’s the Encyclopedia’s description of this Milwaukee Project that Nisbett takes so seriously:


The term Milwaukee Project is the popular title of a widely publicized program begun in the mid-1960s as one of many Great Society efforts to improve the intellectual development of low-achieving groups. It was headed by Rick Heber of the University ofWisconsin (UW), Madison, who was also director of the generously funded Waisman Institute in Madison. The Milwaukee Project was a small study with some 20 experimental subjects and 20 control subjects. It was notreported on by the investigators in any refereed scientific journals, yet its cost was some $14 million, mostly in federal funds, and its fame was international, since it claimed to have moved the IQs of its subject children from the dull-normal range of intelligence to the superior range of intelligence.

Spending $14 million in 1960s dollars on 40 children over a half dozen years is quite an accomplishment!

Enthusiasm, controversy, and scandal subsequently surrounded the history of the project. Its claimed success was hailed by famous psychologists and by the popular media. Later in the project, Heber, the principal investigator, was discharged from UW, Madison and convicted and imprisoned for large-scale abuse of federal funding for private gain. Two of his colleagues were also convicted of violations of federal laws in connection with misuse of project funds. ….However, the project received uncritical acceptance in many college textbooks in psychology and education.

To be fair to Nisbett, perhaps he never heard of Heber’s imprisonment 28 years ago. After all, it didn’t get much coverage from the media outlets who had earlier trumpeted his press releases. On the other hand, imagine how you would never hear the end of it if, say, Charles Murray wound up in the slammer …

Moreover, it never quite dawns on Nisbett that educational projects aren’t exactly like chemistry experiments, which should be perfectly reproducible. Unusually successful schooling experiments are more like hit movies, which notoriously depend upon the temporary and highly unstable commingling of charismatic individuals. For example, the original 1962 Manchurian Candidate is famous for being a daring movie where everything clicks. It shouldn’t work. But it does. In contrast,The Manchurian Candidate was remade in 2004 at a cost of $80 million by a team of Oscar-winners (Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, and Jonathan Demme), but the remake was instantly forgotten.

As an even closer analogy, consider merely all the movies about dedicated teachers who overcome societal prejudices to make a difference in the lives of their students. (IMDB lists 31.) A few of them triumphed (for example, Maggie Smith’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie), while others fizzled (Michelle Pfeiffer’s Dangerous Minds). You might think that Hollywood would have a formula for reliably churning this genre of films out by now, but each new one remains a gamble.

Ironically, Nisbett’s best advice for lifting your IQ is to choose your parents wisely—i.e., get yourself adopted as an infant by rich parents.

Nisbett is impressed by a 1989 study by two psychologists Christiane Capron and Michael Duyme. They attempted to overcome the usual “restriction of range” problem with adoption studies (agencies don’tlet people who are likely to be lousy parents adopt children) by spending years searching for 40 adoptees whose biological parents were from the top 15 percent or bottom 15 percent of French society and had been adopted by parents at the top or bottom. They only found eight highborn adoptees who had followed the Oliver Twist path in being brought up in poverty, but they managed to fill out their other three cells for a sample size of 38. (Assessment of effects of socio-economic status on IQ in a full cross-fostering Nature, August 17, 1989.) On average, those children lucky enough to be placed among the rich averaged 12-point higher IQ scores at age 14 than thoseplaced among the poor. That’s a bigger nurture effect than typically seen in American adoption studies, but it sounds plausible to me. (Note, however, it’s not clear that this IQ boost extended past puberty. It appears that, while children can be molded to some extent, adults tend to choose their own environments, with levels of intellectual stimulation best suited for their genetic endowments.)

And consider the cost to reproduce the benefits of havingwealthy parents for millions of poor children. It’s not justthe additional out-of-pocket expenditures, but the tens ofthousands of hours of time spent by well-educated peopletalking individually to their children: likely seven-figuresper child.

And yet, in this most pro-nurture of all the many adoption and twin studies yet done, the nature effect was still larger than the nurture effect. Highborn children averaged 16 points higher in IQ than lowborn children compared to the 12-point advantage seen among those raised rich.

Therefore, assuming this tiny study is correct, societycould eliminate roughly 75 percent of the IQ gaps caused by genetic differences. All it would take is for the government to make parents in the upper and lower sectors of society exchange their children.

It would be like Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauperas rewritten by Pol Pot.

I had some hopes for Nisbett. His 2004 book The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently … and Whywas an intriguing exploration of how Northeast Asians tend to think in terms of context and harmony while Americans are more object-oriented and innovative.

Unfortunately, however, Nisbett’s handling of the evidence in Intelligence and How to Get It gravely undermines his own reputation. Terms like “cherry-picking,” “scattershot,” and “disingenuous”come to mind. Arthur Jensen and J.P. Rushton have already pointed out many of the ethical shortcuts Nisbett has taken in order to appeal to the Gladwellites.

Still, there’s no doubt that the intellectual establishment, and very large numbers of well-meaning ordinary people, desperately want to buy what Nisbett is selling.

He’s a sell-out, but a successful sell-out.

So much the worse for America.

[Steve Sailer (email him) is movie critic for The American Conservative.

His website features his daily blog. His new book, AMERICA'S HALF-BLOOD PRINCE: BARACK OBAMA'S "STORY OF RACE AND INHERITANCE", is available here.]

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science • Tags: IQ, VDare Archives 
🔊 Listen RSS

William Saletan, the Human Nature columnist for the Washington Post-owned online magazine Slate, has been running a series of articles trying to figure out how to reconcile his liberal ideology and emotions with the ever-increasing implausibility of the conventional wisdom that racial gaps in achievement will vanish if taxpayers just try hard enough.

Saletan has cast me in his psychodrama in the role of the horrible person who somehow happens to be horribly right. He appears to be excoriating me / promoting me so that he can say: “Okay, I admit it. I’m a heretic about race and intelligence! But I’m not an evilheretic like that guy Sailer over there. He’s the one you should be mad at. Go get ‘im!”

It’s reminiscent of a scene out of a Mel Brooks movie, such as the one in Blazing Saddles where Cleavon Little baffles a dim-witted lynch mob into not stringing him up by holding a gun to his own head.

At VDARE.COM, we call this triangulation and we’re used to it. Other eminent triangulators: Mark Krikorian; Stephen Steinlight. It seems to be a phase the timid have to go through in order to approach the taboo topics we raise.

Saletan suggests that I’m an object lesson of where thinking about race can lead. He says (links added):

“Is Sailer a nice guy? No. Does he display an unhealthy interest in categorizing people by race or ethnicity? Yes. But the problem here isn’t Sailer, James Watson, Charles Murray, or anybody else you feel like dismissing as a racist. The problem is the evidence these people quote. Condemnation won’t make it go away.”

Good point!

Still, Saletan does the usual Point-and-Sputter:

“Consider Sailer’s views on immigration. A few months ago, he wrote

‘Typically, the two most important factors influencing the long-term success of an organization are the quantity and quality of people involved. … Is adding 100 million Latinos to the U.S. population a good idea? …’

“This is what can happen when you constantly look for racial angles in data on crime, IQ, and other measures of the “quality of people.” You start aiming policies at ethnic groups. But I don’t think this kind of racism is a product of uneven distribution. It’s a product of bad framing.”

To Saletan, my having spent years toiling at the unpopular task of correctly figuring out one of the central conundrums facing modern America—how race, IQ and public policy interact—makes me a bad person.

Saletan’s view is like the scene in the movie Deuce Bigelow, European Gigolo when Deuce Bigelow (Rob Schneider) tracks down his fugitive friend T.J. Hicks (Eddie Griffin) in Amsterdam by looking for him at the Van Gogh Chicken and Waffles Joint.

Eddie Griffin: How’d you find me?

Rob Schneider: It’s the only chicken and waffles place in Holland.

Eddie Griffin: So, a black man’s gotta be at a chicken and waffles place? That’s racist.

Rob Schneider: But you are here.

Eddie Griffin: Yeah, but figuring it out is racist.

Meanwhile, at The New Republic, Broadway musical expert John McWhorter has twice jumped in with even more fanciful denunciations of me—while also admitting I’m probably right and displaying even less awareness of the basic data.

As we’ve noted many times at VDARE.COM, a modern convention seems to be that long as you are on the side of the angels politically, you are justified in just plain making stuff up.

Thus I’ve spent a decade and a half arguing for equal protection of the laws for all individual citizens. But Saletan and McWhorter feel no need to turn to Google to see what I’ve actually said before accusing me of hatching sinister plots against minorities.

If anybody is interested in what I’ve actually said about race and IQ, I wrote up “Frequently Asked Question” [FAQ] lists back in 2007: IQ and race.

I would be sympathetic toward Saletan’s attempt to finesse the race-intelligence connection if he was actually succeeding in finessing it. Unfortunately, if predictably, he’s making such a hash of it that his essays won’t persuade anybody; not even, it appears, himself.

The reason Saletan is getting so tangled up in basic factual and conceptual misapprehensions is that the race-intelligence subject is immensely complicated. The only way that it’s feasible to keep it all straight in your head is to resolve to be honest. As a wise old venture capitalist who had given a lot of depositions under oath once explained to me: “Always tell the truth. It’s much easier to remember.”Facts are connected to other facts, while spin always turns out ultimately to be a dead end.

For purposes of sensible public policy, arguing over whether genetics plays a role in racial differences in achievement is a red herring. What’s crucial to understand is that racial differences—for whatever reasons—are unlikely to vanish Real Soon Now, as all right-thinking people are supposed to assume.

Say it’s discovered in 2010 that the entire cause of the black-white IQ gap is some hitherto unknown micronutrient needed by pregnant women that African-Americans don’t get enough of, and a crash program is put into place immediately to solve the problem. If that happened, the IQ gap among working-age adults still wouldn’t disappear until the late 2070s.

In contrast, the theory of “disparate impact that is the keystone of the government’s anti-discrimination enforcement since the 1970s assumes that differences in achievement among the races should be minimal—otherwise the employer must rigorously justify itself. (Or, to be safe from lawsuits, the employer can impose quotas on itself, as New Haven did in the Ricci firemen case now before the Supreme Court).

Of course, if there really are genetic differences in average intelligence among the races, that would make the “disparate impact” notion look silly. But it’s not actually necessary to know that. It’s merely enough to know that fair and valid predictors of future job performance have routinely found substantial gaps for decades.

Saletan and McWhorter find it deeply disturbing that I know what I’m talking about. Well, I’m sorry, but I just like data. Nobody finds it all that weird that I’ve been following baseball statistics for 44 years. But being well-informed about what is perhaps the central social issue of the last four decades is simply unheard of in today’s polite society.

Unlike most people who express strong opinions on the subject of race and intelligence, I began following the social science research 37 years ago. My high school debate topic in 1972-73 was: “Resolved: That governmental financial support for all public and secondary education in the United States be provided exclusively by the federal government”. Practically every trendy idea you hear today about how we’re going to close racial gaps in schooling was being tried in 1972 as well, But almost everybody except me has apparently forgotten that disappointing history.

My first published effusion was a letter-to-the-editor that appeared in the March 16, 1973 National Review when I was…14! It concerned sociologist Christopher Jencks’s book re-crunching the 1966 Coleman Report data, Inequality: A Reassessment of the Effect of Family and Schooling in America.

I wrote:

“Having read Ernest van den Haag‘s article onChristopher Jencks, I am reminded of an old psychiatry joke: A psychotic (egalitarian, in this little morality story) says. ‘All people are equal, and I’ll fight anyone who says I’m wrong.’ A neurotic (Jencks) says, ‘People aren’t equal, and I just can’t stand it.’

Three dozen years later, the joke applies equally well to William Saletan.

Why has the old race and intelligence question that underlies so many issues in American life made one of its periodic returns to the foreground? I can think of two reasons:

  • First, the Ricci Supreme Court case filed by discriminated-against white firemen in New Haven has reminded the public of the injustice and inefficiency perpetrated by the government in the name of preventing “disparate impact” on protected minorities.
  • Second, the Obama Administration is pouring a vast amount of money into schools ($100 billion in the stimulus package alone) with no plausible idea whatsoever about how to fix the failure of the No Child Left Behind act to eliminate the gaps in achievement among the races, other than to spend vast amounts in the hope that something turns up.

Thus, Obama is now giving Education Secretary Arne Duncan a cool $5 billion for a Race to the Top fund to reward promoters of pedagogical panaceas. (See David Brooks’s May 7 New York Timescolumn The Harlem Miracle for an example of the kind of marvels that will be increasingly hyped to as the miracle workers jostle for the money.)

Against this background, Saletan is groping for some kind of ideology that will let him, as a genetics reporter, off the horns of an unpleasant dilemma.

Horn #1: as Saletan pointed out in his belated but worthy defense of James D. Watson in late 2007, the scientific evidence is increasingly overwhelming that the reigning dogma on race—what Saletan wittily calls “liberal creationism”—consists of ignorance, wishful thinking, and lies.

Horn #2: as Saletan’s humiliating apology immediately thereafter made clear, if Watson, America’s most distinguished man of science, can lose his job for speaking frankly, then so can you.

Saletan obviously came to the conclusion that, rather than speak dishonestly about race, it’s better that we say nothing about it at all. So he has been promoting an idea that is similar to, but broader than, the unsuccessful Racial Privacy Initiative that Ward Connerly put on the California ballot in 2003: everyone should stop counting by race.

Where Ward restricted himself to limiting what government could do, Saletan wants to start with private individuals—most especially, me.

Amusingly, Saletan cites me as the leading bad example of counting by race. But I endorsed Connerly’s initiative in in 2003. Here, for example, I’m arguing for it against American Renaissance’s Jared Taylor.

It’s hard to tell whether Saletan’s just trying to be tactically clever in promoting his view or if he doesn’t actually understand that counting by race is mandated by law—so that it can serve as the basis for disparate impact anti-discrimination lawsuits. As Michael McKean says in Spinal Tap, “It’s such a fine line between stupid and clever”.

Counting by race is procedurally essential to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s “four-fifths rule”, which, not coincidentally, is the city of New Haven’s chief defense for throwing out that firemen’s promotion test that no blacks passed. Without counting by race, you can’t calculate whether blacks are passing at a rate at least four-fifths of the white rate.

On Friday, after years of writing about race, Saletan finally realized (or admitted—who knows?) that counting by race is essential to anti-discrimination law. He goes on:

“[Sailer] has offered to give up that practice. In exchange, he wants proponents of affirmative action to give up the converse practice of categorizing people by race in the course of trying to equalize opportunity or outcome. I’m inclined to take this deal.”

That’s good to hear. But it’s hardly my deal to make. Saletan should make that offer to the President, whose Justice Department is defending the “disparate impact” concept in the Ricci case. (Let’s see if Obama, a former discrimination lawyer himself, takes him up on that bargain!) And I wonder whether Saletan understands that not categorizing by race means laying off most of the government’s anti-discrimination lawyers.

Yet, Saletan is still confused here in interpreting what I’ve said. The government “categorizing people by race” is hardly “the converse practice” of “trying to equalize opportunity or outcome”. Instead, the government counting people by race is the necessary precondition for the government to sue employers for “disparate impact”discrimination.

In large measure, civil rights lawyers are not in the business of fighting disparate treatment. Instead, they sue based on statistical studies of disparate outcomes. One example: Obama’s successful 1994 lawsuit under the Community Reinvestment Act against Citibank for not lending enough mortgage money to minority home purchasers in Chicago. (By the way, how are those minority mortgages working out these days?)

This becomes clearest if you think about the dog that doesn’t bark in disparate impact lawsuits: religion.

Consider the names of the firemen petitioners in the Ricci suit:

Frank Ricci, Michael Blatchley, Greg Boivin, Gary Carbone, Michael Christoforo, Ryan Divito, Steven Durand, William Gambardella, Brian Jooss, James Kottage, Matthew Marcarelli, Thomas J. Michaels, Sean Patton, Christopher Parker, Edward Riordan, Kevin Roxbee, Timothy Scanlon, Benjamin Vargas, John Vendetto and Mark Vendetto

I’m guessing that a high proportion of the firefighters who earned the highest marks on the New Haven test are Roman Catholics. That’s common throughout the Northeast. If you look at the names of the 343 New York firemen who died on 9/11, you’ll see that they are heavily Catholic.

It’s also common for non-Catholics in Northeastern cities to claim that the fire and police departments discriminate against them in surreptitious fashions. If you’re a Congregationalist fireman named Thurston Howell IV, well, let’s just say that you might have to put up with a lot of practical jokes at the hands of, say, the Vendetto Brothers before you’ll be fully accepted at the New Haven firehouse.

But although the federal government constantly sues fire departments for using employment tests that blacks pass at less than four-fifths the rate of whites, it’s hopeless for Protestants to try to file disparate impact claims alleging discrimination by Catholics using a similar statistical test. The government might sue over actual evidence of religious discrimination, but it doesn’t file purely statistical suits, as it does so often over race.

Why not? Because the government doesn’t have any official data on religious affiliation with which to do a four-fifths-type calculation. In the 1950s, the Census Bureau proposed asking about religion, but Jewish groups protested, so the idea was dropped.

This doesn’t mean that no data exist on religion. The sociology of religion is a perfectly worthy field of study., for instance, offers “a growing collection of over 43,870 adherent statistics and religious geography citations”.The point is that the government doesn’t collect religious statistics any more than it collects baseball statistics.

Since we don’t have any religious discrimination lawsuits, we don’t have any religious discrimination lawyers. Instead, conflicts between religious groups over hiring and promoting are best dealt with in the same manner as conflicts over jobs between extended families: by crafting civil service laws to crack down on nepotistic, sectarian, or partisan favoritism among government workers. Thus, the civil service code of Connecticut carefully mandates how promoted officers in fire departments must be taken from near the top of the list of highest scorers on the exam.

Yet, it’s exactly that older tradition of civil service fairness that was trashed by New Haven politicians in the name of civil rights. And it’s that concept of disparate impact that the Obama Administration defended at the Supreme Court.

In his latest effort, Saletan writes:

“Sailer, the person in this conversation who most vigorously defends categorizing people by race in the course of assessing their worth to society …”

But Saletan has made a jumble of my position.

I am a strong proponent of assessing the worth to the American citizenry of potential legal immigrants, just as Canada does. (Saletan seems to consider it downright unAmerican for America to choose among immigration applicants, but somebody has to choose. Currently, they are mostly chosen nepotistically by virtue of their family members having previously immigrated.)

As long as legal immigrants are carefully selected for optimum benefit to current American citizens, as well as (to quote the Preamble to the Constitution) “our posterity”, and are quite limited in number, then I don’t see much reason to consider race in choosing legal immigrants.

Others would disagree. Overall, it’s not a particularly big issue as long as we change the law from the current system of “family reunification” chain migration.

Apparently, what Saletan has gotten confused by is that I (and VDARE.COM’s Ed Rubenstein) frequently look at government statistics about Hispanics as a proxy for illegal immigrants in assessing the impact of illegal immigration, since the vast majority of illegal immigrants are Hispanic.

There is no alternative. Just as the federal government maintains an enormous Home Mortgage Disclosure Act database to make sure minorities are getting enough mortgage money, but collects no statistics on whether minorities are paying back their mortgages, the government garners voluminous Census statistics on Hispanics for the purposes of fighting “disparate impact”, but collects virtually no data categorized by legality of residence.

(You sometimes can’t help getting the impression that the federal government is just not terribly interested in fighting illegal immigration.)

Obviously, using the average Hispanic as a proxy for the average illegal immigrant tends to underestimate the problems caused for Americans by illegal immigrants. (If you don’t see why, stop and think about it for a minute). But that’s the best that government statistics allow us to do.

All of this is prologue. The real problem coming down the track toward us is the combination of disparate impact law and massive immigration by (on average) low-achieving individuals who benefit from racial and ethnic preferences under “disparate impact” law.

The interaction of government-sponsored non-traditional immigration and “disparate impact” affirmative action constitutes a doomsday machine that will rapidly dispossess, and probably seriously radicalize, white America. It’s a recipe for revolution.

And that’s something Saletan hasn’t even begun to wrap his head around.

Perhaps in a decade or so we’ll hear him saying we need immigration restriction—or nasty people like Steve Sailer will be proven right again.

[Steve Sailer (email him) is movie critic for The American Conservative.

His website features his daily blog. His new book, AMERICA'S HALF-BLOOD PRINCE: BARACK OBAMA'S “STORY OF RACE AND INHERITANCE”, is available here.]

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science • Tags: Human Biodiversity, VDare Archives 
🔊 Listen RSS

This Thursday, February 12, 2009, marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, author of the 1859 book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection: Or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

(I guess Darwin didn’t get the memo about race not existing. You’ll see vast heapings of praise in the press for Darwin this week. Keep in mind, though, that if he were alive today, the same people now lauding the dead Darwin would be denouncing the living one the same way they demonized James Watson in 2007.)

I’m pleased that a new book, The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution,

demonstrates that Darwin has two worthy 21st Century successors of comparable insight and ambition: co-authors Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending. (They’ve set up an official website for The 10,000 Year Explosion here).

On a rather less epochal note, the publication of The 10,000 YearExplosion marks the tenth anniversary of my invitation-only Human Biodiversity email group, which I started in 1999.

And that’s where Greg and Henry got to know each other! Peter Brimelow recently called to my attention that the inscription on theWestminster Abbey tomb of concert impresario J.P. Salomon reads,“He brought Haydn to England …” Perhaps my gravestone will read,“He introduced Cochran to Harpending.”

Henry Harpending, a professor at the University of Utah and member of the National Academy of Sciences, is one of the few field anthropologists (he lived for 42 months with hunter-gatherer peoples in Africa, such as the tongue-clicking Bushmen) with the mathematical skills to grapple with the current deluge of genetic data.

(Here’s Henry’s hair-raising tale of going hunting with Bushmen for the most lethal African game animal, the Cape buffalo.)

Greg Cochran, a physicist turned evolutionary theorist, is a polymath who might be the most ferociously brilliant idea man of his generation in <st1:country-region

Obviously, I’m biased about their The 10,000 Year Explosion. Over the last decade, I’ve spent perhaps a thousand hours talking to Greg Cochran on the phone. Or, to be more accurate, listening to Greg, which is how I’ve gotten a sizable fraction of my best ideas. (My worst ideas are all mine.)

Cochran the conversationalist is at his acerbic best in a five part interview on the 2Blowhards blog: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, and Day 5.

On the first page of The 10,000 Year Explosion, Cochran and Harpending quote the reigning conventional wisdom about humanity:

“There’s been no biological change in humans in 40,000 or 50,000 years. Everything we call culture and civilizationwe’ve built with the same body and brain.” Stephen Jay Gould

The co-authors then announce that they will undermine this standard presumption:

“We intend to make the case that human evolution has accelerated in the past 10,000 years, rather than slowing or stopping, and is now happening about 100 times faster than its long-term average over the 6 million years of our existence. The pace has been so rapid that humans have changed significantly in body and mind over recordedhistory. Sargon and Imhotep were different from you genetically as well as culturally.”

As Greg quips, “The past may never be the same again.”

While Cochran and Harpending don’t have much respect for Gould, their book serves to complement the much-touted Jared Diamond’s 1997 bestseller Guns, Germs, and Steel, showing you what Diamond left out in his successful bid for political correctness.

So, what happened 10,000 years ago?

Farming changed everything. Planting crops and raising livestock allowed the human population to grow enormously. Cochran and Harpending note:

“In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond observed: ‘A larger area or population means more potential inventors, more competingsocieties, more innovations available to adopt—and more pressure to adopt and retain innovations, because societies failing to do well will be eliminated by competing societies.’ We take this idea a step further: There are also more genetic innovations in that larger population.”

A hundred-fold growth in world population from its pre-agriculture size to the 60 million alive during the Bronze Age 3,000 years ago meant a similar hundred-fold increase in the rate of genetic mutations.

Most random changes in DNA are deleterious and eventually die out. But favorable mutations , which improve the odds of survival and reproduction, are more likely to thrive and spread.

Cochran and Harpending make the crucial mathematical point that a large population size increases the rate of favorable mutations much faster than it slows their dispersion:

“One might think that it would take much longer for a favorable mutation to spread through such a large population than it would for one to spread through a population as small as the one that existed in the Old Stone Age. But … it takes only twice as long to spread through a population of 100 million as it does to spread through a population of10,000. ”

Moreover, agriculture dramatically changed the environment that selects which mutations turn out to be favorable. To flourish, farmers have to be harder-working than hunter-gatherers, more orderly in densely crowded location s, less susceptibl e to alcoholism, and more foresighted (farmers can’t eat the seed corn). Harpending writes of his Bushmen friends:

“They weren’t very good at self-denial back in the early Neolithic period, and they aren’t very good at it even today: Efforts to teach Bushmen to become herders frequently fail when they eat all their goats.”

Different cultures bring about different genes.

Therefore, different kinds of agriculture select for different genes. For example, the “female farming” cultures of tropical Africa, where women do most of the work, tend to evolve different personalities on average than the labor-intensive rice-growing cultures of Northeast Asia. As I wrote in my 1997 review of Guns, Germs, and Steel:“Diamond makes environmental differences [between continents]seem so compelling that it’s hard to believe that humans would not become somewhat adapted to their homelands through natural selection.”

Conversely, different genes bring about different cultures, at least in the short run.

The authors illustrate their theories with countless historical and prehistorical examples, such as the beautiful but isolated village in Italywhere 43 people possess a mutation from the late 18th century that protects against heart disease so well that it has increased their overall fitness by 7 percent.

Going back further in time, a mutation for lactose-tolerance among adults emerged about 8,000 years ago and has since spread across a vast swath of western Eurasia and northern <st1:place
w:st=”on”>Africa, reaching 95 percent levels in southern <st1:place

Lactose tolerance dramatically increased the Darwinian fitness of people living in grasslands because keeping cows for milk rather than just for meat produces five times the calories. Cochran and Harpending theorize that this lactose tolerance mutation accounts for theremarkable spread of Indo-European languages from Calcutta to Cork.

“If this picture is correct, the occurrence of a single mutation in a particular group of pastoralists some 8,000 years ago eventually determined the spoken language of half of mankind.”

The 10,000 Year Explosion outlines a new type of scholarship:genetic history,” in which DNA differences between groups can drive major events. For example, the astonishing conquests of the great empires of Mexico and Peru by a few hundred Spaniards can be explained by immune system disparities between Old Worlders, who had been evolving in a stew of Afro-Eurasian infectious diseases, and New Worlders, whose ancestors hadn’t brought many germs with them when they crossed from Siberia to <st1:state

Most controversially, Cochran and Harpending make a strong case that the high average IQs seen today among Ashkenazi (Central European) Jews are the results of Darwinian selection for mental skills useful in the finance-related jobs held by so many medieval Ashkenazi. I summarized this audacious theory in back in 2005, buttheir new write-up is the best version yet.

The 10,000 Year Explosion features enough original ideas to launch a hundred Ph.D. dissertations. What proportion of their suggestions will turn out to be right, I don’t know. They’re founding a new branch of knowledge, so it will take decades to find out.

Despite this density of novel notions, the book is remarkably readable. It’s much smoother sailing than On the Origin of Species. In fact, The 10,000 Year Explosion scores on the Microsoft Word readability scales as easier to read than my review of it. (One of the “deleted scenes”featured on the book’s website rings up a Flesch Reading Ease score of 45.1 and a Flesch-Kincade Grade Level of 12.5—not bad for a breakthrough book.) The writing style is a combination of casual and pithy, with a joke every couple of pages.

Still, you can’t just breeze through this book. I found myself cruising along muttering, “Oh, yeah, that makes sense, I get it, yeah, I get that too, no problem, I get it, I get it, I …I … I … Wait a minute, where’d that idea come from?” And then I have to backtrack and think it over.

A century and a half ago, <st1:place
w:st=”on”>Darwin penned two gnomic but prophetic sentences that didn’t blossom into the new field of evolutionary psychology until the late 20th century:

“In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a newfoundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by gradation.”

Just as scientists still reread <st1:place
w:st=”on”>Darwin today to get new insights, they will be rereading Cochran and Harpending for decades to come.

[Steve Sailer (email him) is movie critic for The American Conservative.

His website features his daily blog. His new book, AMERICA'S HALF-BLOOD PRINCE: BARACK OBAMA'S "STORY OF RACE AND INHERITANCE", is available here.]

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science • Tags: Evolution, VDare Archives 
🔊 Listen RSS

A point I want to make more clearly is that one major reason that accurately predicting events that people are particularly interested in is so hard is because many of those events are the result of some kind of tournament.

We are fascinated by tournaments. (Just look at all the complaints that tonight’s college football championship game only represents a quasi-tournament rather than an explicit tournament like the NCAA basketball championships).

So many of the things we most want experts to predict for us are explicit tournaments (e.g., the Super Bowl playoffs) that have been carefully designed to create maximum uncertainty in the later, more climactic rounds by matching the best contestants against each other.

For example, in about 90 or 100 tries, a #16 seeded team in the men’s NCAA basketball team has never upset a #1 seeded team in the opening round, so basketball games are actually quite predictable when there is a fair-sized difference in quality between teams as determined by their seasonal performance. But subsequent round games become less predictable as the quality gap narrows, so public interest builds.

Or, the things we are interested in can be semi-explicit tournaments (e.g., the Presidential primary/general election process).

Or, unplanned events take on some of the nature of tournaments.

For example, people in the 19th Century were utterly fascinated by the Battle of Waterloo (June 18, 1815), which determined the basic political arrangements of Europe up through 1914. It was often remarked that the next century of European dominance was determined by the events of a few minutes in the crisis of the battle in which Napoleon’s hitherto-undefeated Imperial Guard nearly broke through the British lines, but were stopped just short. Then, they faltered, broke, and ran.

Waterloo — which Wellington called “a damn nice thing — the nearest run thing you ever saw” — was seen as evidence against large-scale deterministic theories of history, since so much depended upon something so close.

Contributing to Waterloo’s fame was its numerous tournament-like aspects. For example, Bonaparte was the old champion making a stunning comeback. Wellington was the challenger who had never faced Napoleon before, but had worked his way up to the top by defeating his best marshals.

Finally, much that interests us are forged by vaguely tournament-like processes. For example, stock prices are the result of, in effect, competitions between those who think the price is too low and those who think it is too high.

On the other hand, the kind of phenomena that the social sciences (and much of public policy) are concerned with — crime rates, test scores, and the like — tend not to be very tournament-like at all, and thus tend to be fairly predictable.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science 
🔊 Listen RSS

Why did Jamaicans, led by triple world record-setter Usain “Lightning”Bolt, dominate the 100 and 200 meter sprints in the 2008 Olympics?

This question can be answered at two very different levels: the superficial and the fundamental.

The former, the horserace type of question—i.e., Why did the Jamaicans surge ahead of the Americans between 2004 and 2008?—is the more interesting one to most people. They want to know whichThoroughbred to bet on in the next race, not why Thoroughbreds are faster than Clydesdales.

In contrast, more fundamental questions about matters that don’t change rapidly—e.g., Why have people related to Usain Boltgenealogically, men of West African descent, made up all 56 qualifiers for the finals of the 100 meter dash in the last seven consecutiveOlympics?—are not terribly welcome.

It’s not just that the answers tend to imply profoundly unsettling things about humanity. But also … how do you make money off them?

For example, consider the climactic event of the 2008 Olympics, the men’s marathon. If it had been won by, say, an African-American named D’Shawn, there would already be literary and movie agents winging their way to Beijing to try to sign him up for an inspiring autobiography, television movie, and motivational speaking tour about how he had shattered stereotypes that men of West African descent are better suited for the 100m than the marathon. Stereotype Shattering is big business in the modern world.

Unfortunately for would-be promoters, the 2008 marathon medals were actually earned by a Kenyan, a Moroccan, and an Ethiopian, boringly reaffirming all the stereotypes about who is best at distancerunning.

Nobody in America was wowed that a 5′-4″ and 112 pound Kenyan won the marathon. (Actually, it was the first time a Kenyan was victorious in the Olympic marathon. The top Kenyan marathoners, nofools, focus more on the spring and fall marathons, such as the Boston and New York, which pay winners in money rather than in medals.)

Yet, it’s precisely this ho-hum several-decade-long stability in the racial heritage of the winners of the various men’s running events that makes the demographics of running a topic of fundamental interest.

Running is certainly among the most primordial and universal of sports. It’s the one about which we can most accurately say: We evolved to do this. We are more likely to be descended from humans who outsprinted charging predators or outjogged wounded prey than from those who did not.

Of course, other sports—whether the pole vault, rhythmic gymnastics, or BMX bike-racing—all make use of evolved skills. But the connection is more indirect. The sports closest in naturalness to track and field (which the rest of the world tellingly calls athletics) are the fighting sports—boxing, wrestling, judo and the like. But they are all hedged in with complex rules to keep the competitors from doing too much damage to each other. In contrast, in running, the gun goes off—and the first one across the finish line wins.

This very lack of complexity makes running less than fascinating as a spectator sport—except at the quadrennial Olympics when the weight of history and the four year wait until the next Olympics bears soheavily on the competitors’ shoulders.

Fans who keep up with track and field in-between Summer Games tend to be statistics-loving nerds. This has kept the sport relatively popular in Europe, where the main spectator sport, soccer, was traditionally almost bereft of statistical interest.

Here in the U.S., though, baseball absorbs more of the attention of thenumbers-obsessed fraction of the public.

Nonetheless, it’s time to think about the fundamentals of running success.

During much of the 20th Century, the backgrounds of the best runners were constantly changing, making it hard to draw inferences about natural talent. The first Olympics were dominated by Chariots of Fire-style English schoolboys and their American cousins. Then emerged Finnish “scientific runners” such as Paavo Nurmi, followed by long-legged African-American and studious Japanese sprinters, and so forth.

In the last quarter of a century, however, we seem to have reached anequilibrium point. The racial patterns have stabilized. Each distance having its dominant ethnicities.

I’ve created tables of the 200 fastest times by racial background for each of the major distances from 100 meters to the marathon(42,000 meters). My calculations aren’t perfect, but I spent a lot of time looking at pictures of runners to ascertain their race. For example, the great Cuban 400m and 800m gold medalist at the 1972 and 1976 Games, Alberto Juantorena, wore his hair in the ‘fro stylepopular at the time. These days, however, the balding Juantorena looks quite white.

The results are most informative. For example, here is a graph showing performances by West African runners and their black cousins in the New World.

Blacks of West African descent utterly dominate the 100 meter dash, accounting for all but one of the 200 quickest marks in history. They’re almost as dominant at 200m, not quite as overwhelming at 400m, and only modestly competitive at 800m. They aren’t world class at any longer lengths, although a black Brazilian did once run a fast marathon in the 1990s. (Brazilian blacks appear to average more East African ancestry than American and West Indian blacks.)

Incontrast, this graph shows the strengths of the three African distance running powerhouses. The Kenyans (green line) are not competitive in the short sprints but occasionally show up in the 400. They are tremendously strong from 800m through the marathon.

The Kenyans’ northern neighbors, the Ethiopians (red line), don’t emerge until 3000 meters (I’ve averaged the 3000m steeplechase and the 3000m flat race). They peak at 5000 and 10000 meters.

The northwest Africans (from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia) aren’tcompetitive below 800m. Their most famous runners specialized in the 1500 but they are competitive at all the longer distances.

Both the black-skinned Kenyan and brown-skinned Ethiopian runnerscome overwhelmingly from highland portions of their countries, where evolving an efficient use of the limited oxygen is crucial.

Moreover, the running tribeof Kenya, the Kalenjin, had a history of cattle rustling on foot, sending young men to steal neighbors’ cows and stampede them home. The slower ones got spears in their backs, while the faster ones got multiple wives.

Ethiopia tends to produce superstar runners with long careers, such as Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele, while Kenya burns through countless speedy farmboys.

The differences between East Africans and West Africans are often overemphasized. While the former tend to have more aerobic capacity and slow twitch muscle fibers and the latter more musculature and more fast twitch fibers, black Africans tend to share the body structure most efficient for running. As O.J. Simpson, who once shared a world record in the sprint relay with his USC track teammates, explained in 1977:

“We are built a little differently, built for speed—skinny calves, long legs, high asses are all characteristics of blacks.”

The Northwest Africans, such as 2004 Olympic hero Hicham El-Guerrouj, in contrast, are primarily olive-skinned Caucasians. Many Berbers and Arabs live in the tall Atlas Mountains of the Maghreb, but it’s not clear whether their runners are predominantly highlanders. El-Guerrouj, for instance, grew up on the Mediterranean. More researchinto northwest African runners is needed.

People of European descent (blue line) appear to be about equally strong at all distances, but do relatively best at the lengths where West Africans and East Africans aren’t as specialized: 400 to 1500 and again at the marathon.

East Asians are noticeable only in the marathon, although there havebeen several good-but-not-great Japanese sprinters. In the 100, Japanese have comprised four of the 64 semifinalists over the last four Olympics, and they account for one of the top 200 times at 200 meters.

Not shown on these graph are all the regions with negligiblerepresentation. In particular, South Asia is a black hole for sports other than cricket.

It’s true that each culture has its peculiar favorite length—Americans inthe 400, Kenyans in the 3000m steeplechase, and Maghrebians in the 1500.

Still, hereditary differences are the simplest explanation for why track-crazy countries like Kenya, Ethiopia, and Morocco can’t buy a sprinter, while Jamaica can’t produce a competitive miler. Runners and coaches always have an incentive to explore longer and shorter distances.

The relationship between amount of effort and amount of success inrunning is usually assumed to be high, but the relationship is complicated. Sprinting requires less exercise to be world class than just about any other sport. In preparation for winning four gold medals atthe 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Carl Lewis worked out eight hours per week.

The money in sprinting isn’t as big as in football, but, then, you don’t get knocked down by trained professionals either.

Distance running is much harder, of course, but it’s not at all clear thatwhite people suddenly got lazy when the East Africans emerged.

Consider who runs cross country in American high schools. I looked up the 185 boys who had recorded the 300 fastest times in high school cross country running (5000 meters distance) in America in 2006. Here, roughly, are the demographics weighted by number of times in the top 300:

  • Non-Hispanic White 82%
  • East African 9%
  • Spanish Surname 5%
  • Black American 2%
  • American Indian 1%
  • East Asian 0.7%
  • South Asian 0.3%

Clearly, the East Africans are wildly over-represented (just as they areon Olympic medal stands), since they must be well under 1% of the US population. They are as common as all other minorities combined!

If you subtract the East Africans out, you get whites at 90%, whereas they make up less than 60% of the teenagers in America today.That’s rather interesting for what it might say about willingness to put in enormous amounts of effort. (Cross country requires minimal cost, other than shoes, so it’s wide open to the less affluent.)

An anonymous commenter on my blog explained:

“Distance running is mostly a smart kid sport at the high school level. It doesn’t require a lot of hand-eye coordination, but rewards determination and self-discipline and gets you the varsity letter that makes you look well-rounded to college admissions boards. And for bright kids with mile a minute brains, the repetitive, exhausting nature of distance running helps calm the mind and helps these kids get a little centering in their lives.”

Similarly, in the U.S., marathon running is an upscale hobby. It’s #27 on the list of Stuff White People Like. The number of Americans finishing a marathon keeps going up yearly, although the average time of finishers has slowed dramatically as the white population ages.

Nevertheless, running is in decline as a spectator sport in the U.S. outside Oregon.

One problem is that doping—most notably, with steroids: artificial malehormones—was long a more visible problem in track than in, say, baseball. This is in part because running is more one-dimensional of a sport than baseball.

It’s also because track cracked down harder on dopers. In September 1988, two athletes heavily juiced on steroids set famous records. At the Seoul Olympics, Ben Johnson won the 100 meter dash in 9.79 seconds. Stateside, Jose Canseco became the first baseball player to hit 40 homers and steal 40 bases in one season.

Johnson’s medal and record was stripped from him two days later. But baseball didn’t get around to drug testing until this decade, after muscleheads like Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds had made a joke of the record book.

Runners continued doping, of course, but a new milestone in punishment was reached recently when sprinter Marion Jones, theAmerican heroine of the 2000 Sydney Games, was sent to prison for lying to federal agents about her use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Samuel Johnson observed, “When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” Similarly, the current imprisonment of the celebrated Jones has likely concentrated the minds of American Olympians wonderfully.

And, in answer to the superficial question about why Jamaicans outsprinted Americans in 2008, American fear of getting caughtprobably accounts more than anything else for the performance of American sprinters in Beijing relative to their West Indian rivals.

The Jamaicans and their even smaller neighbors such as Trinidad and the Bahamas have long been contenders, but seldom gold medalists. The lengthy career of the regal sprinter Merlene Ottey, “the Bronze Queen”, epitomizes the regional tradition: she garnered eight Olympicmedals, none of them gold.

The Jamaicans argue that the new American drug testing and sanction system has finally leveled the playing field. Americans counter by asserting that now the Jamaicans are more doped than the Americans.

Nobody knows for sure.

For example, the American sprinter most unlikely to be on steroids, the gazelle-like Allyson Felix, finished second in the 200 meters to a Jamaican lady with arms twice the diameter of hers.

On the other hand, Usain Bolt, while certainly muscular, doesn’t appear to be more massively over-developed in his upper body than his rivals, the way Ben Johnson suddenly became in the mid-1980s. For contrast, here’s a picture from 2004 of the American 200m goldmedalist Shawn Crawford.

Considering how awesome Bolt was last week, it seems plausible to assume that if all performance enhancing drugs vanished tomorrow, Bolt would still be the fastest man on Earth.

Ironically, doping among sprinters appears to be an arms race (or a biceps race) that only marginally changes who wins, at least among men.

Thus, the old East German Communist chemical-industrial complexchurned out female record setters by the dozens but couldn’t manufacture a world class male sprinter. The benefits of a given amount of steroids are much greater for women than men because men average vastly higher levels of natural testosterone. Thus, malerunners need suspiciously large, Ben Johnson-sized doses to make huge improvements, while women can bulk-up significantly on smaller, less-easily detected amounts.

So, in men’s running, doping doesn’t much change the big picture.

Let’s return to the fundamental question: why Jamaica produces such fast sprinters.

An article in Science by Constance Holden, Peering Under the Hood of Africa’s Runners, reviewed the state of the art in scientific research onracial differences in running as of 2004.

In 2006, however, Dr. William Aiken, president of the Jamaica Urological Society, offered in the Jamaica Gleaner a reductionist theory that has the potential to explain many racial differences beyondsprinting:

“I wish to propose a hypothesis that addresses not only the aspect of Jamaica’s raw athletic talent, but also encompasses an explanation of seemingly diverse phenomena as our high incidence of prostate cancer (one study found it to be by far the highest in the world at 304 / 100,000 men / year), our high crime rate (murder capital of the world status earlier this year), our high road traffic accident and fatality rate, and our alleged high levels of promiscuity.

“What do these seemingly disparate phenomena, characteristic of Jamaican life, have in common? On close examination these phenomena are manifestations of high levels of aggressiveness and drive, high libidos, highly efficient muscles from persons of lean body mass and black ethnicity.

“On closer scrutiny all of these phenomena are either related to high circulating levels of testosterone or alternatively to high levels of responsiveness of testosterone receptors to circulating testosterone. It has already been shown that the testosterone receptors of blacks are different genetically to those of whites and this difference confers increased responsiveness to testosterone.”[The athletic prowess of Jamaicans, November 22, 2006]

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science • Tags: Olympics, VDare Archives 
🔊 Listen RSS

Dear Jim: [Email Jim Manzi]

I’ve thought some more about why your National Review cover story Escaping the Tyranny of Genes,” [June 2, 2008], into which you clearly put a lot of effort, is getting such a skeptical reaction from the small number of people whose respect you should worry about. (Forexample, I’m told that Richard Lynn, when he came to the part about the Minnesota Transracial Adoption Study, simply stopped reading your article.)

I think I’ve figured out how you went off track.

You started with the reasonable goal, one that I’ve pursued myself several times, of trying to criticize the pop journalism about genetics that has been common for the last 15 years. There have been repeated sloppy headlines about the discovery of “A Gene for … Homosexuality (or Happiness or Infidelity or Whatever) “. Some of those “Gene for” headlines have turned out to be wrong.

For example, gay geneticist Dean Hamer got enormous publicity in 1993 when he declared he had found “The Gay Gene” (at least for men). This was hugely popular in the media for a while because a genetic cause for homosexuality is politically correct—it’s assumed to be a rebuke to Christians. But 15 years later, you never hear muchanymore about Hamer’s “discovery”.

It’s probably not very true. As physicist turned evolutionary theorist Greg Cochran has argued since the 1990s, it’s unlikely that a gene for gayness could evolve, because gay men have so fewer children.

Similarly, the hunt for genes that cause fatal diseases has been going slower than expected, probably because, as English science writer Matt Ridley pointed out, your genes didn’t evolve to kill you.

Your NR article didn’t spell out what bad effects you expect to be caused by credulous science journalism. When you were pushed toclarify your fears in the comments section of The American Scene blog, you wrote:

“I suspect that the analogous policies that might beestablished if an (incorrect) view of the linkage between gene patterns and mental characteristics and capabilities became more widely and deeply entrenched would be unpredictable, but more likely to be related to the relaxation of the notion of personal responsibility—replacing justice with therapy, greater paternalism in constraining economic, political and lifestyle decisions for those who are ‘unable’ to exercise ‘true’ choice, targeting government services based on genetic content and so on.”

That’s pretty vague. But perhaps you fear a “liberal therapeutic regime” rather like the one Anthony Burgess described in A Clockwork Orange, where the young thug Alex, rather than being locked up, is conditioned into not liking violence anymore.

Unfortunately, you didn’t spend much time at all on these valid examples of weak pop journalism that might support your thesis that the press is overemphasizing genetic explanations. Instead, you chose to devote a huge amount of space to a single example—race and IQ—so incredibly ill-chosen as a case study for your argument that it has proven disastrous to the reception of your article.

As we all know, but you ignored to your credibility’s severe detriment, much as the mainstream media want to hear about the Gay Gene andsuch, they do NOT want to hear about racial differences in IQ. And, the MSM especially do not want to hear about evidence for genetic causes for racial differences in IQ. How many voices in the press stood up to defend America’s most eminent living scientist, James Watson, when he got fired last year? (Answer: none—and notably not National Review).

Moreover, the small number of race-and-IQ researchers, the Arthur Jensens and Charles Murrays, are not slapdash Dean Hamers goingwith the flow of popular opinion. They tend to be cautious and careful scientists aware that they are infringing elite taboos by carrying out unpopular studies certain to be picked at by legions of hostile critics.

Real IQ scientists, like Cochran and Henry Harpending, authors of the 2005 theory [PDF] attempting to explain the evolution of high average IQs among Ashkenazi Jews, are generally close students of the theory of natural selection. So they are less likely to fall for evolutionarily dubious ideas like the Gay Gene.

The evidence for a genetic link between IQ and race is broad but not conclusive. For example, Jensen and Rushton’s 2005 summary paper [Thirty Years Of Research On Race Differences In Cognitive Ability(PDF)] listed, I believe, ten different lines of non-genetic evidence for a genetic link.

Occam’s Razor, which tells us that the simplest explanation is most likely right, suggests that Jensen and Rushton are probably correct, especially because there is so little evidence for the more sociallyacceptable opposite view.

You mention Sandra Scarr‘s Minnesota Transracial Adoption Study,but what you don’t mention is that it was originally trumpeted in the 1980s as proof of closing of the racial gap through improved homeenvironments for black children. (The adoptive fathers averaged a year of grad school each.) When the black adoptees were tested as 7-years-olds, they averaged around 100. This was a very popular study at the time.

Then when Scarr went back and retested the kids when they were teenagers, their average IQs only came out to 89. This was horrible news and so she buried it in her subsequent paper. Nobody noticed what had actually happened except a CCNY philosopher named Michael Levin, who publicized the actual results.[Comment on the Minnesotatransracial adoption study. Intelligence , 19 , 13-20, 1994]This led poor Dr. Scarr to do a lot of soul searching. [PDF]

There is the Flynn Effect—the tendency for average IQs to rise over time—which shows we don’t fully understand IQ. But otherwise, even though any social scientist who could publish a valid study showing the race gap in IQ could be eliminated would become an academic superstar, there is remarkably little evidence supporting theconventional wisdom. Thus, when James Flynn debates Murray, he ends up harping on Eyferth’s unreplicated 1959 study of the childrenof black American soldiers and German women for lack of anything better to cite in the way of positive evidence.

But the Jensens and Murrays do NOT claim they’ve proven their case. They hope to live long enough to see the genome analyses dramatically lower the uncertainty level.

Murray said in 2003 that we’ll know from the genome studies one way or another within a few decades. James Watson guesstimated in 2006 that it would take 15 years, but on second thought decided it might be as little as ten.

In the long run, the number of years or decades doesn’t much matter. We’ll find out, one way or another.

Hence, your race-IQ example is precisely backwards and undermines the point of your article.

Jim, I imagine you are upset at present that your article has elicited so much scoffing. I hope this helps you understand where your chain ofargument derailed itself—so you can get back on track in the future.

[Steve Sailer (email him) is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website features his daily blog.]

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science • Tags: Human Genome, VDare Archives 
🔊 Listen RSS

Symptomatic of the intellectual and moral decline of National Review into just another dispenser of theconventional wisdom is its latest cover story Escaping the Tyranny of Genes, [June 2, 2008], an ambitious but remarkably muddled attack on the human sciences.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science • Tags: Human Genome, VDare Archives 
🔊 Listen RSS

The human sciences are in a paradoxical situation. Vast quantities of new data are pouring in, particularly from the exponential improvements in genome sequencing. Yet theorizing about what the new data imply has seldom been more career-threatening—as the fates of James Watson and Larry Summers show.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the May 10, scientific conference on “Evolution, Culture, and Human Behavior” at UC Irvine, which brought together leading theorists for a day of presentations centeredaround the debate over human uniformity vs. human biodiversity, flew under the radar. It needed only a single normal-sized classroom.

Still, the few dozen spectators included an honor roll of prominent figures in the human sciences.

For example, Leda Cosmides, the co-developer of the field of evolutionary psychology. Also: John Hawks, the young anthropologist from the University of Wisconsin, whose remarkably broad range of expertise, from the oldest bones to the latest statistical techniques forgenetic analysis, has quickly made him a star science blogger.

Hawks is already a strong prose stylist. If he continues to improve, he could someday fill the job of the human sciences’ Public Sage—a role for which such luminaries as Stephen Jay Gould, Edward O. Wilson,Richard Dawkins, and Steven Pinker have competed.

And in attendance: Gregory Cochran. In evolutionary theory over the last decade, Cochran has been the straw that stirs the drink—as slugger Reggie Jackson described his function on the tumultuous 1970s Yankees baseball team. (Here’s the unofficial Cochran Fan Site.)

There were four main speakers:

  • Shinobu Kitayama, director of the Culture and Cognition Program at the University of Michigan.

Kitayama discussed the sizable differences in personality between Americans and Japanese. Just as the stereotype would suggest, Americans are more independent; the Japanese more interdependent. Americans like to feel individually in control of the situation; the Japanese are happiest when their group is cohesive.

Interestingly, the Japanese on the northernmost island of Hokkaido generally fall midway between the Japanese and American norms. Kitayama speculates that this is related to Hokkaido having been a wilderness frontier, not settled until the late 19th Century, rather like the United States.

Bouchard explained that the state of the art in twin and adoption studies shows that IQ is highly heritable. Remarkably, the heritability of IQ goes up as we age. Identical twins who grew up together tend to become more alike in IQ when they are adults living apart than whenthey were children in the same home.

The conference was organized and emceed by UCI professors

  • Robert Moyzis, one of the co-authors of the late 2005 paper Global landscape of recent inferred Darwinian selection for Homo sapiens[PDF], which listed 1,800 genes that have been under varying selection pressure in Africa, Europe, or East Asia over the last 50,000 or so years. This shattered the conventional wisdom that Darwinian selection had somehow ceased to operate on the human species when our ancestors first left Africa. The data now suggests what common sense always implied—that when humans dispersed out of the tropics, the new environments they encountered, such as cold weather, led to important degrees of racial diversification.

The central argument of the conference turned out to be between the other two speakers, the prominent anthropologists, Henry Harpending of the University of Utah and John Tooby of UC Santa Barbara over, in effect, whether diversity or uniformity best characterizes humanity.

Harpending spoke first on the accumulating evidence that human evolution has actually accelerated since we came out of Africa, especially after the invention of agriculture. This was proposed by Harpending, with Cochran, Moyzis, Hawks, and Eric T. Wang, in theirimportant December 2007 paper Recent acceleration of human adaptive evolution“, [PDF] which appeared in the Proceedings of theNational Academy of Sciences

For example, Harpending suggested that the prehistoric spread of Indo-European languages across a huge swath of Eurasia from India to Ireland might have been made possible by a beneficial genetic mutation for lactose tolerance.” This allows many adults in this region to drink milk without gastro-intestinal discomfort. In the right terrain for dairying, a tribe whose adults can get much of their nourishment from the milk of cattle or goats has a big competitive advantage over tribes that can’t—perhaps allowing the Proto-Indo-European-speaking milk drinkers to impose their language and spread their useful gene.

By the way, a “lactose tolerance-centric” theory of world history was put forward by the Irish dairy farmer-turned-economist Raymond D. Crotty in his ambitious but little known 2001 book When Histories Collide: The Development and Impact of Individualistic Capitalism. (It hasn’t been published in the U.S., but you can read part of it on Google Books. And here is a brief summary.) Crotty attributed the medieval rise of property rights and the rule of law in NorthwesternEurope to deep roots going back to the type of European agricultural society made possible by the evolution of lactose tolerance.

In contrast, John Tooby, co-founder of evolutionary psychology with Leda Cosmides, who is his wife, countered Harpending’s emphasis on human biodiversity with their Gray’s Anatomy Test. Open that 1918 book of medical charts at random, close your eyes, and poke a drawing. In all likelihood, whatever tiny anatomical detail you’re touching can be found in virtually everybody on Earth. (Or at least everybody of one sex).

Although the parts differ in size from person to person, the basic human blueprint is extremely uniform in terms of which parts are used.

This uniformity is what allows sexual reproduction. Imagine that you want to assemble a working Toyota Camry from the parts of two other cars, Tooby suggests. You’ll see that you’d better start with two other Toyota Camrys.

As cognitive scientist Steven Pinker wrote in his 1994 bestseller The Language Instinct, produced after a sabbatical year spent in Santa Barbara with Tooby and Cosmides, “To a scientist interested in how complex biological systems work, differences between individuals are so boring!”

Well, that’s one way of looking at it …

Tooby also suggested that human nature is reasonably uniform in many behavioral areas as well. For instance, in virtually every society currently in existence, incest within the nuclear family is unusual and socially disapproved.

Sigmund Freud famously theorized that humans desperately want to commit incest with their nearest and dearest relatives, and that makes necessary the convoluted apparatus of Freudianism. But Finnish anthropologist Edvard Westermarck offered a simpler idea way back in 1891: that humans have evolved an instinct to find incest repugnant because it leads to birth defects. (In a 2007 paper in Nature,TheArchitecture of Human Kin Detection,” [PDF] Tooby, Cosmides, and Debra Lieberman offer what they believe are the two rules for recognizing siblings—seeing your sibling being nursed by your mother, or being raised together–that make Westermarck’s instinct feasible.)

So who is right? Is the human race uniform or diverse?

Well, they’re both right. It all depends upon what you’re interested in at the moment.

That’s usually how it goes—the things that interest us the most, that get us most worked up, are those that are on the knife edge, that lookdifferent when viewed from different angles.

Let’s consider a similar question that’s remote enough that we can think about without political biases getting in the way: Is the universe empty or full?

Outer space is famously empty. You can’t get much emptier than space. By one account, the universe is about 0.00000000000000000000000000001 as dense as water.

And yet, outer space is also famously full of “billions and billions” of stars, as Johnny Carson used to say when parodying astronomer Carl Sagan. In 2003, a team of Australian astronomers estimated that there are 70 sextillion stars in the known universe. That’s70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars.

Now, it’s perfectly reasonable to conceive of the universe both ways, depending upon what you need to think about at the time. The incredible emptiness of space is terribly important to understand if you are, say, contemplating an interstellar voyage. Nevertheless, to be frank, once you grasp that fact, it gets kind of boring to think about. So, astronomers spend more time thinking about the tiny fraction of space that isn’t empty, those 70 sextillion stars.

Similarly, the Wikipedia article on Human Genetic Variation reports DATE, “Two random humans are expected to differ at approximately 1 in 1000 nucleotides

Well, that’s not a very big number.

But Wikipedia goes on to say, “However, with a genome of approximate 3 billion nucleotides, on average two humans differ at approximately 3 million nucleotides.”

Well, three million is a pretty big number. (It’s not as big as 70 sextillion, but still …)

So, now we can see why, no matter what Pinker says, the African-American 7′-1″ basketball player Shaquille O’Neal and the Lebanese-Colombian 5′-1″ singer Shakira seem interestingly different.

Of course, probably they would not at all be very different at all compared to space aliens possibly living on a planet going around one of those 70 sextillion stars.

And if those aliens showed up in hostile flying saucers to conquer the human race, no doubt Shaq and Shakira and everybody else would team up to fight them off. Ronald Reagan said exactly this to the United Nations back in 1987:

“I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world.”[Address to the 42d Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, New York]

But, we’re not facing space aliens. So the differences between humans are interesting—and important.

When it comes to thinking about race,—which is all about who your relatives are—it’s all, well, relative.

[Steve Sailer (email him) is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website features his daily blog.]

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science • Tags: Human Biodiversity, VDare Archives 
🔊 Listen RSS

At VDARE.COM. we’ve never been in the business of endorsing Presidential candidates. And considering who’s left in the running in 2008, we’re certainly not going to start now.

But by publishing revelations about one candidate, aren’t we tacitly just helping the others?

For example, when Sen. Barack Obama, who has been running largely on his autobiography, makes campaign claims about his relationship with his pastor or his grandmother and I point out that his 1995 autobiography

says something very different, I always receive messages denouncingme for being culpable for electing Hillary Clinton and/or John McCain.

Apparently, I’m orchestrating a plot to change the course of human history by sitting here in my bathrobe copying paragraphs out of theDemocratic frontrunner’s own bestseller.

In this view, a presidential campaign is a zero-sum contest. Somebody has to win and everybody else has to lose. So any revelation aboutCandidate X is seen, not as contribution to the sum total of human knowledge, but as a dirty trick intended to elect Candidate Y or Z.

In contrast, I believe that the more that voters know about the candidates, the better. Of course, I would say that: as a nonfictionwriter, that’s my professional bias.

Still, I do believe the zero-sum model is simplistic.

Moreover, the reason I write more about Obama than about Clinton or McCain is because I think I have more to contribute about him. The two old warhorses have been around forever, but few journalists have thought hard and honestly yet about Obama, due to his s uddenemergence—and his race.

For example, for over a year, I’ve been pointing out that Obama isn’t the centrist post racial conciliator he plays on television. His campaign has been as disingenuous as if Ronald Reagan had run for President in 1980, not as a proud conservative, but as a bipartisan middle-of-the-roader.

In truth, Obama is a liberal somewhat to the left of the Democratic median, and with a recent radical background. And slowly, the MainStream Media [MSM] is starting to wake up to the phoniness ofObama’s marketing of himself. This week, the New York Times[Obama's Test: Can a Liberal Be a Unifier?, By Robin Toner, March 25, 2008] and Washington Post [In Obama's New Message, Some Foes See Old Liberalism, By Alec MacGillis, Washington Post, March 26, 2008]have finally gotten around to admitting in major stories that Obama is well to the left of where many imagine him to be.

This slow debunking of Obama might have crucial implications for his Vice Presidential selection. The more people who understand who Obama really is, the more pressure he will be under to pick as a ticket-balancing running mate an anti-Obama, such as Sen. James Webb (D-VA).

Moreover, within a President Obama, there would always be an ongoing struggle between his cautious head and his radical heart. The more a gullible press and public persist in imagining him the equally loving son of a happy biracial home, the more leftist actions his heart will be able to get away with. But the more we are alert to the two sides of this complicated man, the more likely his intelligent prudence would triumph over the passion to prove himself “black enough” that is the remnant of his psychologically-damaging childhood.

For example, the more he is seen, correctly, as a man who chose to devote much of his adult life to pursuing political power in order to take from whites and give to blacks, the more scrutiny a President Obama would receive over seemingly minor questions such as appointments to jobs at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the civil rights section of the Justice Department.

These obscure offices can be tremendously important. Consider, for example, the slow-motion disaster that minor Carter Administration officials at a department almost nobody has heard of inflicted upon America in early 1981.

From the 1920s onward, the federal government introduced ever-improved civil service exams, culminating in the 1970s with the superb Professional and Administrative Career Examination (PACE). Because these cognitive tests assessed not just entry level skills, but the applicant’s potential for higher management, the quality of the federal workforce was relatively strong for much of the 20th Century.

Then, in January 1981, with only a few days left in the defeated Administration, Carter appointees in the U.S. Office of Personnel Management signed a consent decree in the Luevano nuisance suitagreeing to throw out the PACE, because blacks and Hispanics averaged lower scores on it, and to replace it with a test that would have predictive power but not “disparate impact.”

More than a quarter of a century later, no such miracle test has been invented. In fact, of course, it can’t be invented—because the races do differ systematically in intelligence. And so the various federal departments continue to make due with a hodge-podge of job application techniques that have been shown to be less effective than the extinct PACE. As the pre-Luevano hires retire, a less competent generation of employees is rising to senior management in the federal bureaucracy, with predictable results.

Similarly, there’s no end to the domestic mischief that an Administration appointed by Jeremiah A. Wright’s congregant could get up to without intense public oversight.

Finally, the more Obama’s phony claim to be a racial mediator who wants to start a “frank conversation about race” is derided, the more he might actually someday do something to justify his grandiose posturing.

The MSM found Obama’s 5,000-word speech last week to be “nuanced,” thoughtful,” and even “worthy of Abraham Lincoln” in MSNBC’s Chris Matthews’ excited estimation. But its power-to-weight ratio was not exactly in the same ballpark as the 278-word Gettysburg Address.

Obama didn’t actually do anything in his speech. He’s not leaving hisradical / racialist church. His policy prescriptions were just warmed-over LBJ-ism.

Still, if he so chose, Obama could alleviate his Jeremiah A. Wright problem by making a major symbolic contribution to freedom of speech in America.

Obama surely knew all along that Americans would eventually find out about what Wright preaches and be appalled by it. The most sensiblestrategy would have been for Obama to slowly bring up his pastor’s outrageousness and make a running joke out of it, while saying that a free society must err on the side of free speech.

The ridiculous moral panic over radio broadcaster Don Imus’s vulgar off-hand comment last year offered Obama a perfect opportunity to call for forgiveness for Imus and, at the same time, have a laugh about his own pastor being a sort of “shock jock of the pulpit.”

Obama could have put on that really serious baritone he does so well, and say:

“But the important lesson is that we must protect freedom of expression, even at a cost to our sensitivities. Being a free country means that people, such as Don Imus and my pastor, are sometimes going to go over the line now and then, but we are all better off living with that than shutting them down.”

Instead, Obama sanctimoniously denounced Imus—demonstrating the Who? Whom? thinking that he has made the core of his identity.

Of course, the egomaniacal Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr. might never have stood for being lumped with a mere disk jockey like Imus.Indeed, it’s possible Wright is trying right now to passively-aggressively sabotage Obama’s campaign. And who knows what explosive secrets Obama’s mentor might be able to unveil if he got really peeved at the candidate.

Nevertheless, with the November election still endlessly far off, there is time for Obama to gin up a principled defense-by-analogy of Wright—by championing free speech for one of Obama’s own campaigncontributors, a man of such vast accomplishment that even Wright’s massive amour propre might be assuaged at the tactic of lumping Wright and this Obama supporter together.

Q. Who is this victim of political correctness/lifelong Democrat who donated the legal maximum of $2,300 to Obama onJanuary 10, 2008?

A. America’s most eminent living man of science—James D. Watson, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA!

In 2006, a panel of historians assembled by the Atlantic Monthlyranked Watson the second most influential figure in American historyliving today. And yet, as you’ll recall, when Watson tried to start a frank dialogue on race last year, he was immediately fired by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the outstanding medical research center that he had built up over the last four decades.

If Obama were to appear with Watson and announce that the great man had accepted his invitation to advise the Obama campaign on issues involving science, and if Obama pointed out that the country’s elites s hould be ashamed of how they treated Watson last year, thenwe’d have some evidence that Obama isn’t the hypocrite that he appears to be.

Don’t hold your breath.

[Steve Sailer (email him) is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website features his daily blog.]

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science • Tags: James Watson, VDare Archives 
🔊 Listen RSS

The pioneering German sociologist Max Weber coined a useful term:status symbol.

This refers not just to the distinctions in clothes and furniture lovingly catalogued by novelists such as Tom Wolfe. There are also status symbols in the realm of ideas.

Perhaps the two doctrines currently most de rigueur for entry into intellectual polite society:

1. That humanity evolved from lower animals according to the process of natural selection outlined by Charles Darwin.

2. That humanity has not evolved any patterns of genetic variation corresponding to geographic ancestry … well, none other than the obvious ones that we can all see.

These two concepts are directly contradictory, as former UCLA professor of science education Cornelius J. Troost points out in his new book Apes or Angels? Darwin, Dover, Human Nature, and Race.Troost’s title refers to how the British politician Benjamin Disraeli wittily rejected the first proposition in his day: “Is man an ape or an angel? My Lord, I am on the side of the angels”.

Yet, the two doctrines, self-annihilating as they may be, are tests of sanctity among the self-righteous of our day. For example,Christopher Hitchens asserted in the Wall Street Journal on January 18, 2008 in The Perils of Identity Politics” :

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science • Tags: Creationism, VDare Archives 
🔊 Listen RSS

This was another tumultuous week in the science wars over race.

  • The Times (both London and New York) ran articles claiming that James Watson was genetically one-quarter non-white. Yet anyone with a basic knowledge of American racial history who bothered to look at the first half dozen pages of Watson’s new autobiography, Avoid Boring People, which includes photos and detailed information on his ancestors, would realize that this assertion by the Icelandic firm deCODE genetics is wildly unlikely.
  • Far more importantly, a landmark paper [Recent acceleration of human adaptive evolution John Hawks (PDF)] by five scientific heavyweights on the implication of the newest genome research—that evolution sped up as the races moved away from each other—was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: evolution has been speeding up since the races began splitting apart.

Genetic anthropologist Henry Harpending of the U. of Utah explained that over the 40,000 or so years since humans left Africa:

“’Human races are evolving away from each other,’ Harpending says. ‘Genes are evolving fast in Europe, Asia, and Africa, but almost all of these are unique to their continent of origin. We are getting less alike, not merging into a single, mixed humanity.’ …

” ‘Our study denies the widely held assumption or belief that modern humans … appeared 40,000 years ago, have not changed since and that we are all pretty much the same. We show that humans are changing relatively rapidly on a scale of centuries to millennia, and that these changes are different in different continental groups.”

“The increase in human population from millions to billions in the last 10,000 years accelerated the rate of evolution because ‘we were in new environments to which we needed to adapt,’ Harpending adds. ‘And with a larger population, more mutations occurred.’

So, it is a good time to step back and try to understand the underlying concept of race. Here’s a Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ] list about how to think about race. It’s a non-technical introduction to this topic that so confuses Americans.

Q. Why do you talk about race so much?

A. Most human beings talk about race a fair amount. I write about it.

Q. Why do people care about race?

A. Why do people care about who their relatives are? Maybe they should care, maybe they shouldn’t. I’m not here to preach morality. But people do care, so it’s important to understand the implications.

Q. What’s race all about?

A. Relatedness.

Race is about who is related to whom.

Q. Do you mean a race is a family?

A. Yes, an extended family. (To be precise, a particular type of extended family, one that’s more coherent over time than the norm, a distinction I’ll explain below.)

Q. Race means family? I’ve never heard of such a thing!

A. It’s remarkable how seldom this concept essential to understanding how the world works is mentioned in the press. Yet, in my Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, the first definition of “race” is:

“1. A group of persons related by common descent or heredity.”

Q. If races exist, then, pray tell, precisely how many there are?

A. How many neighborhoods are there in the place where you live?

For some purposes, an extremely simple breakdown into, say, City vs. Suburbs is most useful. For other uses, an extremely detailed set of neighborhood names is helpful: e.g., “The proposed apartment complex will aggravate the parking shortage in Northeastern West Hills.”

Similarly, racial groups can be lumped into vast continental-scale agglomerations or split as finely as you like.

For instance, should New World Indians be considered a separate race—or merely a subset of East Asians?

Every system of categorization runs into disputes between “lumpers”and “splitters.” Whether lumping or splitting is more appropriate depends upon the situation.

Q. Isn’t race just about skin color?

A. That’s a simplistic verbal shorthand Americans use to refer to ancestry. Nobody really acts as if they believe race is synonymous with skin color.

Q. What do you mean?

A. Consider the golfer Vijay Singh , who during 2004-2005 became the only man in this decade besides Tiger Woods to be the number one ranked player in the world. Singh, who was born in the Fiji Islands of Asian Indian descent, is much darker in skin color than Woods.

Singh is at least as dark as the average African-American. Yet, nobody in America everthinks of Singh as black or African-American. There’s an enormous industry that celebrates the triumphs of blacks in nontraditional venues such as golf. But Singh’s accomplishments elicited minimal interest in the U.S.

A 2007 article, for example, asked where are all the black golf champions who were expected to emerge in the wake of Tiger Woods’s first Masters championship in 1997. It never mentions the blackest-skinned player on tour, Singh … because we’re not actually talking about skin color when we use the word “black,” we’re talking about sub-Saharan African ancestry.

Q. Aren’t we all related to each other?

A. Yes, that’s why we’re “the human race.”

Q. If we’re all related to each other, how can one person be more related to some people than to other people?

A. How can you be more related to your mother than you are to your aunt? Or to my mother?

Q. If races exist, how can somebody belong to more than one race?

A. If extended families exist, how can you belong to your mother’s extended family and to your father’s extended family?

Q. How many races can you belong to?

A. How many extended families can you belong to?

Consider Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s children. Clearly, they are part of the Schwarzenegger clan via their father and grandfather. But they are also part of the Jadrny extended family through their father’s mother. Yet, they also belong to the well-known liberal Catholic Shriver tribe through their mother, Maria Shriver, daughter of Sargent Shriver, the 1972 Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate. And, they are, famously, Kennedys, because their maternal grandmother is Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the sister of the late President.

Q. So, everybody belongs to four extended families?

A. You could keep going beyond the four grandparents. The Schwarzenegger kids, for instance, are also Fitzgeralds, because they are the great-great-grandchildren of John F. “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, the mayor of Boston.

Q. So, your family tree just goes on out to infinity?

A. No, it eventually turns increasingly in on itself, as you can see it must from the basic arithmetic of genealogy. This tendency to turn back in on itself is the reason that racial identity exists.

Q. How does the math work?

Assume 25 years per each generation in your family tree. Go back 10 generations to the 1750s, and you have 1024 ancestors.

Go back another 250 years to the 1500s and you have 1024 times 1024 slots in your family tree; call it a million. Back to the 1250s and you have a billion openings. (Were there even a billion people alive then?)

And back in the 1000s, 40 generations ago, you have a trillion ancestors. Yet there definitely weren’t a trillion people alive then.

Q. So, where did all my ancestors come from?

A. They did double duty, to put it mildly.

Q. So my family tree doesn’t extend outward forever?

A. At some point in the past, the number of unique individuals in your family tree (as opposed to slots) would start to get fewer in number, ultimately forming a diamond-shaped rather than fan-shaped family tree. Genealogists label this pedigree collapse.”

Demographer K.W. Wachtel estimated that an Englishman born in 1947 would have had two million unique ancestors living at the maximum point around 1200 AD, 750 years before. There’d be a billion open slots in the family tree in 1200, so each real individual would fill an average of 500 places. Pedigree collapse would set in farther into the past than 1200.

Q. Wait a minute! Are you saying my ancestors married among themselves? So I’m inbred???

A. Yes. It’s mathematically certain. There just weren’t enough unique individuals alive.

Q. Ooh, yuck!

A. I suspect that the American distaste for thinking about inbreeding, even when it’s so distant and genetically benign as in this English example, is one reason why our understanding of relatedness and race is so deficient.

Q. What does this have to do with race?

A. Pedigree collapse reveals how the biology of race is rooted in the biology of family. We can deduce from the necessary existence of pedigree collapse that while everybody is related to everybody else in some fashion, it’s more genealogically significant to note that every person is much more related to some people than to other people. Even a Tiger Woods can identify himself as being of Thai, black, Chinese, white, and American Indian descent, but not of, say,Polynesian, South Asian, or Australian aborigine origin.

Pedigree collapse is how extended families become racial groups. A race is a particular kind of extended family—one that is partly inbred. Thus it’s socially identifiable for longer than a simple extended family, which, without inbreeding, disperses itself exponentially.

Q. Can racial groups merge?

A. Over time, yes. Think of the term Anglo-Saxon.” The Angles, Saxons, and Jutes intermarried until they lost their separate identities. (The Jutes even lost their name.)

Similarly, the official ideology of Mexico is that whites and Indians have merged seamlessly into La Raza Cosmica, “The Cosmic Race.”(African Mexicans play the role of the forgotten Jutes.) The reality is different, but the mestizaje propaganda isn’t wholly false.

Q. But race is just identity politics!

A. Well, there’s a reason that identity politics are a big deal. However you feel about all the various kinds of identity politics, you need to understand them.

People tend to organize politically around some aspects of shared identity, but not around others. For example, language and religion tend to be politically salient, but not handedness. No politician fears the Lefthanders Lobby, because left-handedness is distributed too randomly throughout the population.

Sex can be politically relevant, but it frequently turns out to be less important than feminist activists hope. As Henry Kissinger supposedly said, “No one will ever win the battle of the sexes; there’s too much fraternizing with the enemy.”

Relatedness or race is typically the single most common dimension along which people align themselves politically.

Sharing relatives gives people more reason to trust each other—for instance, Jared Diamond notes that when two strangers meet on a lonely and lawless jungle path in New Guinea, they immediately start a far-reaching discussion of who all their relatives are, looking for overlap so they can be more confident the other person won’t kill them. Similarly, organized crime families typically have real extended families as their nuclei because relatives can trust each other more when outside the law.

Further, blood relatives are more likely to share other potent “ethnic”identity markers, such as language and religion.

Q. But, if we’re all part of the human race, then why don’t we always act that way?

A. Because we’re not, currently, under alien attack. Throughout his Presidency, Ronald Reagan, to the alarm of his less-imaginatively insightful aides such as Colin Powell, repeatedly pointed out that the differences between the Superpowers would seem insignificant if Earth was under assault by hostile flying saucers. Reagan, for instance, told the UN in 1987:

“I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world.” [Address to the 42d Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, New York]

But little green men are not threatening us at present, so we compete against each other in the meantime.

And relatedness (i.e., race) is the most common dimension along which people cooperate in order to more effectively compete against other groups politically.

Q. Isn’t race just a social construct?

A. Relatedness is the most real thing in the world: mother, father, baby.

Q. But, don’t different societies have different rules about who is considered to be related to whom?

A. Yes. Indeed, every culture comes up with a way to deal with the exponential unwieldiness of family trees.

For many purposes of daily life, you have too many relatives. The sheer numbers of ancestors, distant cousins, and potential descendents you have expand out beyond any manageable boundaries. The amount of relatives you’ll send a Christmas card to might be larger than the number you’ll volunteer to cook Thanksgiving dinner for, but, still, there’s got to be an end to everything.

Many cultures have devised rules to limit who counts as a relative for the purposes of, say, inheritance. English aristocratic families didn’t want their land holdings divided up into unimpressive and inefficient parcels, so they followed the rule of primogeniture, passing the claim to be of noble blood down through the first-born son, with latter-borns falling out of the aristocracy within two generations. For instance, Mr.Winston Churchill was the first-born son of Lord Randolph Churchill, who was the second-born son of the Duke of Marlborough. That seems awfully aristocratic to us plebian Americans, but by English law, he wasn’t a peer because his father wasn’t first-born. And thus, to Winston’s political benefit, his parliamentary career was spent in the House of Commons rather than the House of Lords.

The Chinese treated sons more equitably, but almost completely ignored daughters.

In contrast to these attempts to nominally define down the putative number of relations, many Middle Eastern cultures have come up with an actual biological solution (of sorts) to reduce the number of relatives: cousin marriage. In Iraq, half of all married couples are first or second cousins.

Q. Why?

A. One reason is this: If you marry your daughter off to your brother’s son, then your grandchildren/heirs will also be your brother’s grandchildren/heirs. So, there is less cause for strife among brothers. Cousin marriage helps make family loyalties especially strong in Iraq, to the detriment of national loyalties.

Q. Do you ever want more relatives?

A. For many political struggles, the more the merrier.

Ibn Saud, who founded Saudi Arabia in the 1920s, consolidated his victory over other desert chieftains by marrying 22 women, typically the daughters of his former rivals. Thus, today’s vast Saudi ruling family represents the intermixing of the tribes, which has helped it survive in power for 80 years.

On the other hand, the wealthy Syrian Jews of Brooklyn, with few political threats hanging over them here in America, don’t need blood relations with other power centers, so the community fiercely ostracizes anyone who marries outside it.

Or, political entrepreneurs can attempt to widen or narrow their followers’ working definition of who their relatives are by rhetorical means. For example, in the 1960s, black leaders encouraged African-Americans to call each other “brother” and “sister” to build solidarity.

Q. In America, wasn’t there a “one-drop rule” for determining if one is a minority?

A. For blacks, yes: for American Indians, no. Herbert Hoover’s VP,Charles Curtis, was famous for being 1/8th Kaw Indian. Being a little bit Indian added glamor to his image.

Indian nations have the right to set ancestry minimums (generally, at least 1/4th) required for legal membership in the tribe, and they often police membership with a vengeance.

Q. Isn’t all this outdated?

A. Both blacks and Indians are standing by the traditional definitions, because it’s in their interests.

Ever since Congress allowed Indian nations to each own one casino in the late 1980s, many tribes have been expelling racially marginal members to increase the slice of the pie for the more pure-blooded remainder. That’s because the main benefit of belonging to a tribe—the rake-off from a single casino—is finite.

In contrast, black and Hispanic organizations have backed broad, inclusive definitions of who is black or Hispanic because the rake-off from being black or Hispanic—affirmative action quotas—is indefinite in magnitude. The larger the percentage of the population, the larger the quota, and the larger the number of voters who are beneficiaries and thus supporters.

Q. So cultures change their definitions of who deserves to be a relative?

A. Not just cultures, but individuals change their definitions to fit their needs at the moment.

For example, right before the Battle of Agincourt, King Henry V needed all the loyal relatives, real or exaggerated, he could get, so Shakespeare has him address the English army:

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother”.

On the other hand, once the bloodshed was over, King Henry probably wasn’t inclined to let his old yeomen archers come over and hang around the palace whenever they liked as if they were his actual brothers.

Q. So, leaders can persuade their followers to see themselves as more or less closely related?

A. Yes, but the more they follow existing genealogical fault lines, the more likely they are to succeed.

Q. What’s an ethnic group?

A. The Census Bureau draws a sharp distinction between race and ethnicity, stating that individuals of Hispanic ethnicity can be of any race. The way the federal government uses the terms can be formalized like this:

  • A racial group is a partly inbred extended biological family.
  • “An ethnic group is one defined by shared traits that are oftenpassed down within biological families—e.g., language, surname, religion, cuisine, accent, self-identification, historical or mythological heroes, musical styles, etc.—but that don’t require genetic relatedness.

Q. Can you give an example?

A. The difference is perhaps easiest to see with adopted children. For example, if, say, an Armenian baby is adopted by Icelanders, his ethnicity would be Icelandic, at least until he became a teen and decided to rebel against his parents by searching out and espousing his Armenian heritage. But racially, he’d always have been Armenian.

Q. If races exist, doesn’t that mean one race has to be the supreme Master Race? And that would be awful!

A. Indeed it would, but no race is going to be best at everything – any more than one region could be the supreme master region for all human purposes.

For example, a mountaintop is a stirring place to put a Presidential Library. But if you want to break the land speed record in your rocket car, it’s definitely inferior to the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Q. Okay, what does it all mean?

A. It means it’s time for our intellectuals to grow up. The world is what it is. Making up fantasies about it, and demonizing scientists such as James Watson, just makes reality harder to deal with.

[Steve Sailer (email him) is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website features his daily blog.]

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science • Tags: Race, VDare Archives 
🔊 Listen RSS

First a word on behalf of our sponsor:

On a variety of crucial topics, VDARE.COM serves as the Research & Development lab for public discourse. We routinely point out facts that merely mentioning in the Main Stream Media might get you fired—if you were, say, head of a celebrated university, like Larry Summers, or of a famous laboratory, like James Watson. (And in modern Europe, stating realities might get you arrested.)

VDARE.COM’s indispensability was clear during the first month after Watson, America’s most prominent man of science, was fired for violating the dogmas of political correctness. stood almost alone in declaring the crushing of the great geneticist to be a disgrace.

Last week, a Main Stream Media outlet, the Washington Post-owned webzine, finally joined us. It ran a three part series by their human sciences correspondent William Saletan entitled Race, Genes, and Intelligence. Saletan admitted what readers (but almost no other kind of readers) had known all along:

“Last month, James Watson, the legendary biologist, was condemned and forced into retirement after claiming that African intelligence wasn’t “the same as ours.” “Racist, vicious and unsupported by science,” said the Federation of American Scientists. “Utterly unsupported by scientific evidence,” declared the U.S. government’s supervisor of genetic research. The New York Times told readers that when Watson implied “that black Africans are less intelligent than whites, he hadn’t a scientific leg to stand on.”

“I wish these assurances were true. They aren’t.”

Fortunately, the First Amendment means that nobody can stop us from telling the truth—as long as we can afford to keep doing so.

And for that, we are dependent upon the kind generosity of you, our readers. Please give now.

A half century ago, A.J. Liebling acidly noted, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.” Today, the Internet means that owning the contemporary equivalent of a printing press is dirt cheap. But, quality writing isn’t dirt cheap. We professional writers are just plain cheap.

But we aren’t free.

Normal Research & Development will now resume:

Today, I want to turn to another crucial topic that has been almost utterly ignored outside of and a few technical sources—the interaction of immigration policy and birthrates.

Millions of words written about the Kennedy-Bush amnesty legislation that the powers-that-be almost succeeded in sliding by the public last summer. But it has almost never been mentioned in the press that the last amnesty, in 1986, set off a massive baby boom among Hispanic immigrants in California. This demographic pig-in-the-python nearlychoked the public school system.

The non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) has just released a new study by demographer Hans P. Johnson entitled BirthRates in California[PDF] demonstrating what immigration has done to California—and thus what it portends for America as a whole.

A PPIC graph shows that the expected “total fertility rate” (TFR) or expected lifetime number of babies per woman in her childbearing years was sharply affected by the 1986 amnesty.

Johnson explains what happened:

“In the mid-1980s, fertility rates for Latinas [about 2.6 babies per woman ] were only slightly higher than for other ethnic groups, but the increase in fertility rates in the late 1980s was much more dramatic among Latinas, so that by 1991 the total fertility rate for Latinas had reached 3.5 children per woman. … This increase is likely associated with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986… One consequence was that many women from Mexico migrated to the United States to join their spouses or partners who had been granted legal residency.”

This baby boom among amnestied illegal immigrants led to severe overcrowding of California public schools. Many shifted to dysfunctional year-round schedules to spread the growing student load over the entire 12 months. The notorious B Track for example, starts in early August, then takes a couple months off in the fall, then a couple of months off in the spring, and ends the school year in late July. It then immediately starts the next grade the following Monday.

Among immigrant Latinas, the total fertility rate peaked at 4.4 in 1990, four years after the amnesty, then dropped to 3.2 in 1999, but has since climbed back to 3.7 in 2005.

(In contrast, American-born white California women have a totalfertility rate of only 1.6.)

The low average education level of the parents of these newCalifornians is not promising, which explains a lot about why the Golden State has fallen behind traditionally weak-testing states likeTennessee, Kentucky, and Louisiana on the federal school achievement exam. Across all races, Johnson estimates:

“… the total fertility rate for women in California with agraduate degree was 1.8, compared to 2.9 for women who had not graduated from high school.”

He also notes:

“The higher rate among Mexican immigrants in California today is at least partly, if not wholly, due to the origins of immigrants within Mexico. Most immigrants to California from Mexico come from rural areas and small towns, areas where educational attainment levels are low and fertility rates are much higher than the national levels.”

But note this: the PPIC report also observes that

Yet the total fertility rate of immigrants from Mexico inCalifornia is far higher than the overall fertility rate in Mexico, which stands at only 2.4 children per woman.”

My emphasis. In other words, Mexicans who can’t figure out how to make enough money in Mexico to have as many children as they want have been moving to California in order to have them.

At our expense. Their arrival has driven up California’s home prices and taxes and damaged its public schools, but, hey, it’s still better than Mexico.

In response, the natives of California who want more children than California’s decay allows them are either leaving the state or delaying having children until they can afford them.

Which often turns out to be never. Among US-born women of all races in California, 26% are still childless at age 40-44, versus 20% nationally. (The rate for American-born white women is certainly higher.)

Last-chance fertility among native women in their 40s has skyrocketed. Johnson writes:

“Fertility rates for U.S.-born women ages 40 to 44 haveincreased almost threefold since 1982.”

Having a baby in your 40s increases the chance of birth defects, such as Downs Syndrome, and of having twins or triplets. And babies are cute, but exhausting, especially for an older mom.

“For older mothers, those 40 and over, the rate of twinbirths has increased almost threefold, from 2.5 percent of all births to 7.4 percent. Rates are particularly high for older white women, increasing to 11.1 percent from 3.1 percent over the past 15 years.”

The total fertility rate actually underestimates the overall impact of immigration on the population. Hispanic generation times are shorter than among American-born whites and Asians, who are delaying childbirth almost to the biological limits. The peak fertility for Hispanicsis from ages 20-24, compared to 30-34 for whites and Asians.

Among American-born Hispanics, the TFR is “only” 2.2, but that’s 38% higher than for American-born whites. Further, it’s up from under 2.0 in the mid-1980s. So the ethnic gap isn’t narrowing.

Finally, the very high fertility of the first generation of Hispanic immigrants means there are more Hispanic second-generation mothers around to have 2.2 babies each.


This phenomenon of “demographic momentum” that keeps the population growing for a half century or so after replacement level fertility is reached is little understood. But consider it from a grandparent’s perspective.


Imagine two neighbors comparing notes on who has moregrandchildren. Mr. North, who lives on the north side of the street, says, “My children each have two children.”


Mr. South replies, “So do mine.”


Mr. North exclaims, “Then you must have four grandchildren, just like me.”


Mr. South laughs, “No, I have eight grandchildren! See, you only had two children, so you have four grandchildren. But I had four children, so I have eight grandchildren.”


Among immigrant whites, the TFR is 2.0 because, according to the PPIC report,

“A substantial share of white immigrants are from theMiddle East (western Asia) and North Africa, wherefertility rates tend to be higher than in the United States.”

Middle Eastern immigrants tend to live as extended families in one house, with three to five paychecks, allowing them to outbid American nuclear families for expensive California housing.

It’s common for pundits to opine that we’re lucky that immigrants are keeping the economy afloat by having so many children because whites just can’t hack it anymore.

But it’s not a racial weakness—according to the PPIC, the problem is even more severe among American-born Asians:

“U.S.-born Asians have among the lowest fertility rates in the world, with only 1.4 children per woman in 2005.”

The fundamental problem: California isn’t working for its American-born citizens anymore.

So, why Californicate the rest of the country?

[Steve Sailer (email him) is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website features his daily blog.]

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science • Tags: IQ, VDare Archives 
🔊 Listen RSS

James D. Watson, perhaps the most distinguished living American scientist, has now been kicked to the curb by the Cold Spring Harborgenetics laboratory he rescued and rebuilt over the last 40 years for making politically (but not scientifically) incorrect statements about African IQs.

Watson’s crimethink was to say he was

“‘inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa‘ because ‘allour social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours—whereas all the testing says not really.’

[The elementary DNA of Dr Watson, By Charlotte Hunt-Grubbe,TimesOnLine. October 14, 2007]

A few lessons from this shameful affair:

As we can see by the enormous number of journalists and bloggers who couldn’t wait to put the boot in when the great man was down, and by the negligible number who came forward to defend the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, the chattering classes of the 21stCentury are composed, by and large, of bullies and/or cowards.

Why did so many so enthusiastically sign up as auxiliaries of the Thought Police?

Because it’s fun.

The psychology of those who rushed to attack Watson was memorably outlined in Orwell’s 1984, when the interrogator O’Brien explains to his prisoner Winston Smith the exciting future envisaged by the Party:

“Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever. …The heretic, the enemy of society, will always be there, so that he can be defeated and humiliated over again. … The more the Party is powerful, the less it will be tolerant: theweaker the opposition, the tighter the despotism. Goldstein and his heresies will live for ever. … Always we shall have the heretic here at our mercy, screaming with pain, broken up, contemptible—and in the end utterly penitent, saved from himself, crawling to our feet of his own accord.”

  • Watson’s putative defenders betrayed him.

Out of the vast pile of ephemera published on, say, National Review Online during the week and a half that this disgraceful brouhaha has been going on, Google shows Watson’s plight being mentioned once, by John Derbyshire—and not at all by anybody else.

The level of intellectual integrity on the Right—let alone courage—is catastrophically lower today than just 13 years ago, when the John O’Sullivan-edited National Review responded to the publication of The Bell Curve by devoting most of its December 5, 1994 issue to an impressive symposium on race and IQ.

In it, Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray’s bestseller was attacked by some, but also stoutly defended by Michael Barone, Michael Novak,James Q. Wilson, Dan Seligman, Arthur Jensen, and Ernest Van den Haag.

Where have you gone, Michael Barone? (Or John O’Sullivan, for that matter.)

Another example: As of October 27, a search revealed that not one of the myriad columnists and bloggers at had evenmentioned the Watson scandal.

As I noted at the time of the Trent Lott Lynching, a RighteousRight has emerged, especially in Washington, which has in effect internalized the left’s hysterical race denial. The betrayal of Watson is further evidence of the profound cost of this development to American public discourse.

When you beg forgiveness, the hate-filled jackals just smell your fear and weakness. It excites them, so they pile on. Further, the watching crowd can’t tell who’s right, so they respect whoever seems the master of the situation at the moment.

In his October 19 response in the U.K. Independent, “To question genetic intelligence is not racism,” Watson seemingly tried to be subtle, arguing that there was a difference between inferiority and diversity, then pointing out the Darwinian implausibility that everyonecould have evolved to be identical.

Well, swell. But the politically correct don’t engage in rational argument. They just hound and bludgeon. So you have to stand yourground.

There is so much agitprop in the media about IQ and race that onlyaggressive, confident responses can cut through the lies. For example, Watson could have hit back like this:

Q. Is there really such a thing as “intelligence” and can IQ tests measure it?

A. Don’t be ignorant. The U.S. military has spent a fortune from WWII onward giving an IQ test to everyone who tries to enlist. The Armed Services have turned away millions of would-be volunteers and draftees because their IQs were too low. How come? Because the Pentagon has done numerous studies showing that onaverage higher IQ people outperform lower IQ people.

Thus the PC Inquisition has several times tried to destroy the careers of Pat Buchanan and Ann Coulter. But Pat and Ann simply won’t let them.

In contrast, as soon as Larry Summers, president of Harvard, started apologizing for telling the truth and offering $50 million in other people’s money as payoffs to the Sensitivity Stasi, he was doomed.

As I noted last week, in the epilogue of his new memoir, Avoid Boring People: Lessons from a Life in Science, Watson makes clear his contempt for Summers’ cowardice. Not the least of this tragedy is that, when it came to the point, his own nerve broke too.

They’re vulnerable. Thus perhaps the most widely quoted smear-artist attacking James Watson has been Steven Rose. Rose is a professor emeritus of neurobiology at the Open University, a sort of British 1960s lefty version of the University of Phoenix. Rose is a Marxist and the co-founder of the boycott Israel movement among British academics.

He was also the co-author, with Leon Kamin and Richard Lewontin, of the 1984 manifesto with the amusingly unprophetic title Not In Our Genes. (Here’s Richard Dawkins’ scathing review—which led to Rose threatening to sue Dawkins for libel!)

During the attack on Watson, Rose wrote in The Guardian:

“As for freedom of speech, these freedoms are and must be constrained. We don’t have the right to casually cry fire in a crowded theatre, or to use hate speech—at least in Europe, as opposed to the US. Watson’s now retracted [sic] remarks came into these unacceptable categories. So the repercussions are tobe welcomed.” [Watson's bad science, October 21, 2007]

Not surprisingly, Steven Rose has been accused of practicing what he preaches: having the government silence scientists whose ideas he dislikes.

According to social scientist Volkmar Weiss, a dissident under the East German Communist dictatorship, Rose ratted him out to the East Berlin regime, setting in motion the crushing in East Germany of IQ research and human behavioral genetics.

Weiss explains this in a 1983 essay entitled The Suppression of HumanBehavioral Genetics by the Radical Left—unpublished, for obvious reasons, until 1991. He wrote:

“In 1980, the manuscript of the monograph Psychogenetik(Weiss 1982a) was complete. Now some fierce dogmatists were discovering that a cuckoo’s egg had been laid in the nest of socialism. One example: S. Rose asked his East German colleague, the professor of neurochemistry D. Biesold at the Karl-Marx-University of Leipzig (personal communication by Biesold), whether there was no means of stopping further publications by Weiss, because such publications printed in a socialist country were particularly disadvantageous to thepropaganda of the Radical Left in the Western world. …”

Rose’s wish appears to have been the East German Communists’ command:

[A]t the end of the year 1982 [Walter] Friedrich [director of the Central Institute of Youth Research in Leipzig] sought and obtained the backing of high-ranking officials of the Communist Party and all further research in psychogenetics in East Germany came to an end.”

Weiss goes on to describe the aftermath he endured, which would be familiar to anyone who saw the tremendous 2006 film about life in East Germany under the thumb of the secret police, The Lives of Others:

“… the cited author was under the threat of arrest and had already lost all possibility of doing further empirical work of defending his field of research. After 1984, Weiss was forced to work in a quite different field … What follows is the usual story of life and resistance under totalitarian conditions. In order to bepublished abroad, any new theoretical contributions had to be smuggled out of the GDR.”

I asked Weiss about the incident. He replied:

“What I have written and published is completely true.

“However, in 1993 a journalist of a leading English daily (which I do not remember) visited me in Leipzig and tried to confirm my publication by independent sources. At this time

[Dietmar] Biesold had already died, his widow did not know anything. Biesold, who had done research together with Rose, had told me about Rose under four eyes [in secret], and there was no witness. Evaluating this, the English daily, afraid tobe sued for libeling by Rose, did not publish anything.

“After my publication, Rose had published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung a note in which he declared that he never was involved in activities against East German scientists. My name and my publication was not explicitly mentioned, and I hadnever personal contact with Rose. He tried never to be active in any direct way against me and never mentioned or cited me.”

Rose is notoriously litigious (recently threatening to sue for libel the author of a comic book). But the US, no doubt to Rose’s displeasure,still has a First Amendment. If Rose wants to dispute the Weiss’s account, he is free to write us a letter.

But the bottom line is the same: Watson has been suppressed by brute political force. The Righteous Right ran away.

As after the very similar case of Italy after Galileo, the consequences for science in the Anglosphere could be a new Dark Age.

[Steve Sailer (email him) is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website features his daily blog.]

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science • Tags: James B. Watson, VDare Archives 
🔊 Listen RSS

I was wondering what impact Galileo’s conviction had on science in Italy, so I took a look at the database Charles Murray sent me of the 4002 eminent artists and scientists he compiled from leading reference books for his 2003 book Human Accomplishment.

From 1000 AD to Galileo’s conviction in 1632, Italy furnished 34.7% of the world’s scientific eminence. From then up through 1950, it only accounted for 3.46%. Now that’s what I call an order of magnitude!

Italian contributions to science (measured at the scientist’s 40th birthday) continued on fairly strong for the rest of the 17th Century, so the Galileo trial impact wasn’t immediate. Of course, the 17th Century was like Andy Warhol’s factory — everybody was a genius! (Except, in the 17th Century there really were geniuses throughout Europe). But, in Italy slowly things sloooowed down, as they sped up elsewhere.

We’re not used to things getting more boring and unproductive, but it has been a common tendency throughout history, and one we may get familiar with again.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science • Tags: Political Correctness Makes You Stupid 
No Items Found
Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

The “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam.
What Was John McCain's True Wartime Record in Vietnam?
The evidence is clear — but often ignored
Are elite university admissions based on meritocracy and diversity as claimed?
A simple remedy for income stagnation