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Throughout my American Nations series (based on the books American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard and Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America by David Hackett Fischer) I’ve talked about how North America is divided into distinct ethnocultural regions based on historic settlement patterns.

North American Nations 4 3

These various regions are visible in many ways, from dialect, politics, enlistment in the military, support for marijuana, average IQ (Maps of the American Nations), attitudes towards the death penalty, abortion, guns, same-sex marriage, and school corporal punishment, as well as overall health, lifespan, and behaviors such as smoking and drug use (More Maps of the American Nations & HBD Is Life and Death):


Support for same-sex marriage

Support for same-sex marriage

White Age-Adjusted traffic death rates county 2004-2010

Previously I’ve established that these boundaries reflect genetic differences among different Americans in different places. This is because all human behavioral traits are heritable, with “nurture” (as it’s commonly thought of) playing a minimal to nonexistent role in each. This means that genetic differences between different peoples lead to differences in their behavioral traits, which, collectively, manifests as cultural differences. As John Derbyshire put it, “if dimensions of the individual human personality are heritable, then society is just a vector sum of a lot of individual personalities.” See my Behavioral Genetics Page for more.

It’s also important to note that (as I’ve discussed previously in this series) assimilation is largely an illusion. Cultural and behavioral characteristics can persist for many generations as long as the people who exhibit them remain.

And now, a new paper in Nature bears out the genetic roots of the American nations. In “Clustering of 770,000 genomes reveals post-colonial population structure of North America” (Han et al, 2017), we see that Americans can easily be partitioned into distinct regional clusters:

These clusters map very closely to the boundaries of the American nations, as we can see when they’re superimposed:

American Nations Genetics Nature

Using the vast genomic database of, the authors were able to partition Americans into distinct clusters. As the authors report:

Here we identify very recent fine-scale population structure in North America from a network of over 500 million genetic (identity-by-descent, IBD) connections among 770,000 genotyped individuals of US origin. We detect densely connected clusters within the network and annotate these clusters using a database of over 20 million genealogical records. Recent population patterns captured by IBD clustering include immigrants such as Scandinavians and French Canadians; groups with continental admixture such as Puerto Ricans; settlers such as the Amish and Appalachians who experienced geographic or cultural isolation; and broad historical trends, including reduced north-south gene flow. Our results yield a detailed historical portrait of North America after European settlement and support substantial genetic heterogeneity in the United States beyond that uncovered by previous studies.

They describe their methods:

To investigate recent, fine-scale population structure in the United States, we leveraged one of the largest human genetic data sets assembled to date: genome-wide genotypes of 774, 516 individuals born (96%) or currently residing (4%) in the United States (Supplementary Table 1; Supplementary Fig. 1). All individuals were genotyped at 709, 358 autosomal single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) using the Illumina Human OmniExpress platform as part of the AncestryDNA direct-to-consumer genetic test, and have consented to participate in research (Methods). In this sample, we analysed patterns of identity-by-descent (IBD)16, which have been shown to reveal signatures of recent demographic history3,17,18,19,20,21. If two individuals share an ancestor from the recent past, they will likely carry one or more long chromosomal segments inherited IBD from that ancestor.

In short, their giant sample and rich genealogical data allowed them to detect large patterns of shared ancestry in living Americans. And, as expected the American nations clearly emerge from the genetic data.


In my earlier entry (Clannishness – The Series: How It Happened), we saw that the thing that made the difference between WEIRD Northwestern Europeans and their more clannish neighbors was the selective pressures that each underwent during their histories – particularly since the fall of Rome until the present. This era in time established the conditions in which different sort of individuals survived and reproduced, eventually leading to the modern world as we know it.

As before, it is to be understood that these differences have a genetic basis. That is, they are heritable. This means that genetic differences between different peoples lead to differences in their behavioral traits, which, collectively, manifests as cultural differences. We should be clear that all human behavioral traits are heritable, with “nurture” (as it’s commonly thought of) playing a minimal to nonexistent role in each. As John Derbyshire put it, “if dimensions of the individual human personality are heritable, then society is just a vector sum of a lot of individual personalities.”. See my Behavioral Genetics Page for more. The rest of this entry proceeds assuming an understanding of this reality.

To recap, in Northwestern Europe it was bipartite manorialism that selected for a certain type of people not seen elsewhere in the world.





In Eastern and Southern Europe, and much everywhere else in the world, it the selective factor was the various forms of “viscous” societies, where heavy dependence on relatives for social life selected for individuals who were “particularist” (as opposed to universalist NW Euros) and distrustful of outsiders. As HBD Chick put it:

part of william hamilton‘s theory of inclusive fitness/kin selection, which explains how altruism ever could’ve arisen at all (altruism here having a very specific definition), is that it should be possible for genes for altruism to be selected for if close kin interact regularly. kin don’t need to recognize one another for altruism to be selected for. as long as closely related individuals don’t move far from one another — that is, if a population is viscous — selection for altruism might happen.

i can’t see why this couldn’t also apply to lesser forms of altruism, not just the kind where you sacrifice your life for two brothers or eight cousins. you know what i mean. like: reciprocal altruism or nepotistic altruism. or just pro-social behaviors. whatever you want to call them. seems to me that nepotistic behaviors ought to be selected for more easily in viscous populations (if they increase fitness, of course).

and some populations are more viscous than others

But beyond this, there are great differences between different NW European countries, along with great differences between different clannish societies. Why is this? No doubt, part of the answer is the precise selective pressures each experienced. Let us try to take a look at what those may have been.

This entry will also be a sequel to my earlier post, More on Farming and Inheritance Systems – Part I: IQ – consider this Part II to that post. There I discussed the IQ differences across Europe, and how they could come about. I will return to that topic and expand on it a bit here.

The differences among peoples of Europe proceeds on a sort of gradient, which is visible when you look at the World Values Survey data:

Indeed, as HBD Chick’s modifications (from the one where i draw squiggly lines all over the welzel-inglehart cultural map | hbd chick) make it clear:

The left image are the countries within the Hajnal line, while the right are countries that have practiced father’s brother’s daughter marriage.

Across these regions, many social indices proceed along this broad gradient. WEIRDness peaks in the areas bordering the North Sea (England, the Netherlands, northern France, southern Scandinavia) and diminishes in all directions from there. This area is also the area of peak human accomplishment (see Clannishness – The Series: Zigzag Lightning in the Brain and “core europe” and human accomplish-ment | hbd chick), which likewise roughly diminishes in all directions from there.

WVS axes

Why is this? I’d argue that two main selective factors are involved, at least with respect to HBD Chick’s theory. (I will also discuss two other important selective pressures not directly related to HBD Chick’s theory below).

One was simply the length of time under the manorial system. The longer a selective pressure is (consistently) applied, the stronger the evolutionary change that occurs. The manor first appeared in Austrasia (roughly northern France) and spread outward from there.

The second factor is the farming and inheritance systems that arose – in part due to geography and climate, in part due to the characteristics of the people who adopted them:
Todd's family system map Rings


We see that the farming and inheritance systems form roughly concentric rings outward from the North Sea. One could imagine that the social systems of each became steadily more “viscous” as you moved away from the North Sea.


My earlier entry (Clannishness – the Series: Zigzag Lightning in the Brain) established that there are deep distinctions between Northwestern European peoples and most of the rest of the world, and that these differences have a huge impact on the world, including on levels of human development, the strength of democracy and democratic institutions, scientific output, and levels of social trust. If you’re unfamiliar with this division, the previous entry and materials linked within cover it all in extensive detail.

But the question is, how did it happen? How did these divisions come to be? Well, of course, my answer is evolution through natural selection – specifically, gene-culture co-evolution.

Before we can ascribe these differences to evolution, it must be understood that these differences have a genetic basis. That is, they are heritable. This means that genetic differences between different peoples lead to differences in their behavioral traits, which, collectively, manifests as cultural differences. We should be clear that all human behavioral traits are heritable, with “nurture” (as it’s commonly thought of) playing a minimal to nonexistent role in each. As John Derbyshire put it, “if dimensions of the individual human personality are heritable, then society is just a vector sum of a lot of individual personalities.”. See my Behavioral Genetics Page for more. The rest of this entry proceeds assuming an understanding of this reality.

Now, it’s also very important to understand that evolution proceeds quicker than you’ve been led to believe. Certainly a lot faster than mainstream ideology posits (i.e., claiming that human evolution somehow came to a halt 50,000 years ago) which is demonstrably nonsense:


As seen in both the age of genetic variants and the distribution of lactose tolerance, much human evolution took place within the last 5,000-10,000 years.

But evolution can proceed within the space of a few centuries, as governed by the breeder’s equation. A few centuries of sustained selective pressure can make a considerable impact on the characteristics of a human group. We see that with Ashkenazi Jews, whose high IQ (and many other traits) evolved only within the last 2,000 years.

With all of this out of the way, what selective pressures explain the differences between Northwestern Europeans and the rest of the world? Here, we can, for now, only hypothesize. As opposed to the reality of the differences, which is easy to establish, how these differences came to be is a harder puzzle to untangle. That said, we do have some good ideas.

One aspect is that cousin marriage rates were historically very low in Northwestern Europe as opposed to the rest of the world. This would have an effect on the relationship coefficient between related individuals, having an impact on the returns for kin altruism and hence kin selection (see a table and short discussion in my earlier entry “Ethnic Genetic Interests” Do Not Exist (Neither Does Group Selection). Now while kin selection was involved, it couldn’t have been a dominant force, because kin selection is relatively weak in humans. But maybe factors that came into play along with this were involved.

In Northwestern Europe, that was likely predominantly bipartite manorialism:


The areas of Northwestern Europe that exhibit their peculiar suite of traits also went under the peculiar institution of bipartite manorialism. As HBD Chick describes here (from medieval manorialism’s selection pressures | hbd chick):

“every society selects for something.” — greg cochran

every society selects for something. it does take some time for selection pressures to make a difference when it comes to the frequencies of “genes for” various behavioral traits, of course (unless the culling is extreme): twenty generations, maybe. forty is probably better. a few hundred?

working theory is that manorialism set up selection pressures for a whole suite of traits including perhaps: slow life histories; future time orientation; delayed gratification; the good ol’ protestant work ethic; a general compliant nature and even rather strong tendencies toward conformity; perhaps even a high degree of gullibility; perhaps a few extra iq points; and even more cooperation and trust between unrelated individuals.

manorialism — “classic,” bipartite manorialism (more on that below) — started with the franks in austrasia by at least the 600s or perhaps earlier and spread gradually southwards with the frankish conquest of, well, france and eastwards during the ostsiedlung. we find it just across the channel in southern england very early as well — there are references to what sounds like features of a manor system in the laws of king ine of wessex (688-726) [see mitterauer, pg. 43]. the medieval european manor system originated, then, roughly in the area outlined in green below (yes — this is the very same area where the Outbreeding Project began.

classic manorialism was introduced to southern france (but bypassed some more remote areas like the massif central) as those regions were conquered by the merovingians and carolingians between the fifth and eighth centuries and to northern spain around the eighth and ninth centuries. the bipartite manor system never reached the southern regions of spain that were controlled by the moors. there was a rudimentary form of manorialism in northern italy even before the area was made a part of the carolingian empire, but the region was heavily manorialized (especially by ecclesiastical monasteries) after charlemagne conquered the lombard kingdom in the 770s. classic, bipartite manorialism was never adopted in central or southern italy or sicily — nowhere in the byzantine world, in fact.

the franks also pushed eastwards, introducing the manor system to central europe, beginning in the eighth century. the border of this eastward movement was, for a couple hundred years or so, the eastern boundary of the carolingian empire (look familiar?)



See my earlier column Terrorism Quotient

The idea is that there is a suite of behavioral traits that is more prevalent in many Muslim populations which makes them more likely to perpetrate acts of terrorism.

This is illustrated by the number of terrorist acts (defined here as instances of mass murder/assault/hostage taking) per capita for a given population. There is little question that this rate is incredibly high for many Muslim populations relative to other populations (and of course, there is a great deal of variation between Muslim populations) – even more so when you consider the sizes of the Muslim populations living in Western countries

Because the differences between these groups of people is inherited, the result of centuries of natural selection in their respective environments, these features can’t be expected to change much. Northwestern Europeans and Arabs (and many other Muslim groups) are, as groups, largely incompatible. Social strife emerges when they are brought together as they are in modern Northwestern European countries.

Read the rest there.

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• Category: Race/Ethnicity, Science • Tags: Terrorism

In the preceding part (The Donald Trump Phenomenon: Part 1: The American Nations), I talked about the geographic (and hence ethnic) variation in support for the various 2016 U.S. presidential candidates. In this part, I will focus on the turmoil in this particular election cycle, and what it means for our society and acceptance of the reality of HBD.

This election cycle exhibits a certain ferocity not seen in earlier elections. Much of that is hatred directed at Donald Trump. The rancor will likely intensify as the election progresses, especially if Trump is the Republican nominee, as he is likely to be.

Why this vitriol? Donald Trump was always a talked-about and sometimes controversial figure, but no more so than most celebrities. There were always people who didn’t like him, but few really hated him. But now it seems certain people definitely do hate Trump. Indeed, he has now become the Great Satan in many people’s eyes, and comparisons to Adolf Hitler are common. Why?

Much as been written about Trump’s appeal to his supporters. See:

Donald Trump is not an idiot – he could be the next US President
Note from a Trump Supporter: It’s the Immigration, Stupid! | educationrealist
I was wrong about Donald Trump: Camille Paglia on the GOP front-runner’s refreshing candor (and his impetuousness, too)

But why the hate? I will argue that the hatred directed towards Trump has little to do with Trump himself or his campaign. Rather, I suspect that this is more about what a Trump presidency represents: the end of our politically correct society.

Why do people like me have to write anonymous blogs and columns on the internet when talking about the obvious reality of human biological differences (especially biological group differences)? Why do researchers face the risk of falling into The Bermuda Triangle of Science, as behavioral geneticist Brian Boutwell recently put it?

The academy, in general, is a wonderful place to work, but not everyone plays nice. Veer too far from carefully charted courses and someone may slip quietly up behind you and slide a cold piece of steel in between the ribs of your budding research career.

They’ll do this believing that they are serving public interest by snuffing out dangerous research agendas, but that won’t make any difference to you. It’ll be your reputation that will suffer grievous injury. What in the world might elicit such harsh rebuke from a community of otherwise broadminded, free speech spouting scholars? What is so verboten that it constitutes academia’s Bermuda Triangle, a place where careers disappear more often than ships in the actual Bermuda Triangle? In one word, it’s race.

[R]ace represents academia’s true Bermuda Triangle. Perhaps never has the topic of genetic ancestry been so important, yet despite its relevance, bright scholars continue to stay away from it in droves … It will not matter how noble you think your motives are, if you factor in race as a variable, your actions are subject to impeachment, and your reputation may be sacrificed as a burnt offering to our new religion.

Linda Gottfredson is a brilliant, productive, and innovative scholar. Dr. Gottfredson, however, found herself in the Bermuda Triangle some years back

crossing the boundaries of the Triangle (even if only to defend a colleague) can be frightening. Angry invectives hurled in your direction will come so fast, and so fierce, it will likely leave your head spinning, as Gottfredson illustrates (p.276):

News coverage was often lurid. The UD African-American Coalition argued that my work was not just offensive, but dangerous. My ‘‘so-called research” and the social policies I ‘‘was likely to propose” were ‘‘liable to threaten the very survival of African-Americans” (Tarver, 1990, p. 6A).

Within the Bermuda Triangle, you see, it is a free for all when it comes to accusations and motive indictment. There is no suitable defense, trying to mount in fact one will only fan the flames.

Such facts are effectively embargoed in our society, and anyone who breaks this taboo can face serious social consequences.

As John McWhorter put it in his piece Antiracism, Our Flawed New Religion:

One hearkens to one’s preacher to keep telling the truth—and also to make sure we hear it often, since many of its tenets are easy to drift away from, which leads us to the next evidence that Antiracism is now a religion. It is inherent to a religion that one is to accept certain suspensions of disbelief. Certain questions are not to be asked, or if asked, only politely—and the answer one gets, despite being somewhat half-cocked, is to be accepted as doing the job.

“Why is the Bible so self-contradictory?” Well, God works in mysterious ways—what’s key is that you believe. “Why does God allows such terrible things to happen?” Well, because we have free will … and it’s complicated but really, just have faith.

It stops there: beyond this first round, one is to classify the issues as uniquely “complicated.” They are “deep,” one says, looking off into the air for a sec in a reflective mode, implying that thinking about this stuff just always leads to more questions, in an infinitely questing Talmudic exploration one cannot expect to yield an actual conclusion.

Antiracism requires much of the same standpoint. For example, one is not to ask “Why are black people so upset about one white cop killing a black man when black men are at much more danger of being killed by one another?” Or, one might ask this, very politely—upon which the answers are flabby but further questions are unwelcome. A common answer is that black communities do protest black-on-black violence —but anyone knows that the outrage against white cops is much, much vaster.

Why? Is the answer “deep,” perhaps? Charles Blow, at least deigning to take the issue by the horns, answers that the black men are killing one another within a racist “structure.” That doesn’t explain why black activists consider the white cop a more appalling threat to a black man than various black men in his own neighborhood. But to push the point means you just don’t “get” it (you haven’t opened your heart to Jesus, perhaps?)


Updated, 4/6/16. See below!

The 2016 U.S. presidential race has brought out a serious whirlwind of events, the likes of which haven’t been seen in a long time, if ever. Despite my own expectations for a boring campaign, this election cycle has been anything but. Most significant to this excitement has been the rise of Donald Trump – and, to a lesser extent, the rise of Bernie Sanders. Much has been said about these men, including much in an attempt to figure out what is behind their popularity. However, this election, particularly the battle against Trump, has taken on a larger scope, in ways that far exceed the man. The election is about grander issues. In good part, it is about the fate of the very character of the nation itself – and indeed, of all of Western society.

While there may be a perhaps an unprecedented series of events occurring in this election, there are nonetheless clear patterns to the vote, patterns we’ve seen before.

For one, the American nations (see American Nations Series) have played a large role in the 2016 presidential race. The reason for this, ultimately, is because demographic factors are what drives elections, at least in our era. Contrary to popular analysis (even that within the HBD sphere), the composition of a region’s population dictates said region’s vote – at least, much more so than situational factors such as economics, crime, or urbanicity. This is plainly obvious to the genetically informed, but is ignored by most mainstream discussion of politics. Mainstream sources struggle to find “environmental” factors that dictate the vote, and they run into trouble every time when they do.

None of this should be surprising, since we know that political views are highly heritable (from Hatemi et al, 2010):

Political chart heritability

There is minimal effect of “the environment” within cohorts (and the differences between cohorts is likely primarily situational). The way people vote is a reflection of who and indeed what they are. It has nothing to do with how they were raised by their parents, where they grew up, or where they live now (except to the extent current self-interest is involved). (See also The Behavioral Genetics Page, particularly the post The Son Becomes The Father.) To understand that vote, you must understand the people.

To quickly recap, the United States (and for that matter, Canada) is divided into several broad ethnocultural regions – nations if you will.

North American Nations 4 3

These regions exists thanks to the continuing legacy of the founding populations and the various assortative migrations (founder effects and boiling off) that have happened over the history of the country. This was described by Colin Woodard in his book American Nations. In my American Nations Series, I detail the various ways these nations are visible today as well as discuss their genetic roots.

In the present election cycle, the nations are playing a role. First, here is a map of support for Donald Trump across the country (from Nate Cohn).



Many have dubbed this an “east vs. west” split (as opposed to usual north/south split typically seen), but it isn’t really that, as Trump has modestly strong support near the West Coast. Rather, we see that Trump is strong across the usual “Dixie” nations, the Tidewater, the Deep South, and especially Greater Appalachia. He also has fair support across Yankeedom, but is comparatively weak in the Midlands. There is a pronounced “hole” in Trump’s support, but a look at this second map shows precisely where:

US Personality

Trump is weak in the “Friendly & Conventional” zone of the country. This map is drawn from personality studies detailed in Rentfrow et al (2013). The “Friendly & Conventional” zone is an area high in extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness and depleted in openness to experience (see Predictions on the Worldwide Distribution of Personality). A modern popular notion likes to lump together the interior of the country as the “Flyover Zone”, being universally Christian, conservative, and traditional. But the American nations maps and this one clearly show that that idea is too simplistic. These areas do vote strongly Republican in the general presidential election, but there is much more nuance than that.

For one, there is a key difference in the overall composition. Greater Appalachia is composed heavily of Ulster Scots, originally from the Anglo-Scottish border area. The Deep South and the Tidewater derive from the English Cavaliers from southwest England.

By contrast, the “Friendly & Conventional” zone is heavily German and Scandinavian in ancestry. Furthermore, the area has been heavily “boiled-off,” as more liberal and adventurous individuals have fled the area for decades, leaving a core of traditional and conservative individuals in its wake (as detailed in my post More Maps of the American Nations). These conservatives are quite unlike their Southern counterparts (see Genes, Climate, and Even More Maps of the American Nations):


This page is to make an easy to use (and easy to share) central repository for my posts on the science of behavioral genetics. This is fundamental reading for anyone interested in HBD – indeed for anyone interested in the human sciences in general.

All Human Behavioral Traits Are HeritableThis post introduces readers to the world of behavioral genetics and the concept of heritability. Introduces the “Three Laws” of behavioral genetics (the title of post being the First Law verbatim). Explains the usefulness of twin and adoption studies to partition the sources of human trait variation – that is, disentangle nature from “nurture.” Shows that the source of human differences can be broken into three basic parts, heredity, the shared (or common) environment, and the unique (or non-shared/unshared) environment. Details that all human traits show heritable contribution (hence the First Law). Also details the lack of impact from the shared environment for almost every human trait, which rules out nurture (as its commonly thought) and parenting of having a significant impact on life outcomes. Notes the huge impact the First Law has for human group differences. (Indeed, while not quoted in the post, by as John Derbyshire put it, “if dimensions of the individual human personality are heritable, then society is just a vector sum of a lot of individual personalities.”)

Environmental HereditarianismFollowing up my preceding posts on the matter, this one delves into the matter of the “environment” in more detail. Specifically, this touches on commonly claimed “environmental” influences and explains why they are mostly bunk. As well, this analyzes the “unique environment” and explains why it’s not really environment at all – but more accurately, the unexplained variance. Discusses some of the limitations of behavioral genetic tests that cause them to overestimate the effect of the environment and underestimate the effects of heredity – most significant among them being measurement error. Details the concept of developmental noise, noting how some of the variation between people (as seen in the differences between “identical” twins raised together) can be due to subtle disturbances during development (fingerprints being a simple example).

The Son Becomes The FatherFeatures the work of Gregory Clark, who (through surname analysis) shows that we evidence for heritability going back many centuries. I take the opportunity to detail larger, newer behavioral genetic studies that show high heritability for all human behavioral traits – including intelligence, personality, political views. As well, I detail evidence showing high heritability for major life outcomes, including criminality, marital stability, drug use, lifetime income, and life satisfaction. More importantly, I detail the lack of shared environment effects for all of these traits. This is key to silencing critics who would like to place “nurture” in an important role in shaping who we become.

More Behavioral Genetic FactsHere I analyze some of the last-ditch efforts to insert “environment” into life outcomes, demonstrating the usefulness of reared-apart twin studies, as well the impact that the informant/measurement method have on results. I also delve into the “extended twin design”, which looks at additional family members beyond twins to partition out further uncertainties in genetic vs. environmental influence (for one, this puts the kibosh on the notion that we choose spouses who resemble our opposite sex parent). I also touch on why peers are not likely a source of lasting influence. As well, I make a case against the importance of gene-environment correlations as a source of influence (itself a massive violation of Occam’s Razor).

* * *

In addition to these, be sure to read the papers collected at my HBD Fundamentals page, section On the science of behavioral genetics.

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• Category: Science 

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A persistent misunderstanding both in the world of HBD and general medical and psychological science at large is the notion of what constitutes a “disorder.” When does a phenotype represent a physiological or behavioral malady? For behavioral issues, most people regard the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as the “final word” on this matter. While the DSM does make some attempt to assess actual impaired functioning, its assessments are tinged by cultural biases. A key component of DSM diagnostic criteria is social judgement of what is “proper” – what constitutes a correctly behaving person, according to the current cultural values?

Indeed, the DSM’s own Wikipedia page captures a many of the book’s problems:

Various authorities criticized the fifth edition both before and after it was formally published. Critics assert, for example, that many DSM-5 revisions or additions lack empirical support; inter-rater reliability is low for many disorders; several sections contain poorly written, confusing, or contradictory information; and the psychiatric drug industry unduly influenced the manual’s content. Various scientists have argued that the DSM-5 forces clinicians to make distinctions that are not supported by solid evidence, distinctions that have major treatment implications, including drug prescriptions and the availability of health insurance coverage.

But its more basic problems go deeper than that.

For starters, what do we mean by a “disorder?” The word implies that something is “out of order” – that is, something is not working as “intended.” Now when we’re talking about living things, that “intended” function is the function that survived the cruel process of elimination that is natural selection. Hence, any concept of a behavioral or physiological disorder must be informed by evolutionary theory. Medicine and psychiatry need to incorporate Darwinian processes.

As I begin, I want to be clear that it should be understood that all human behavioral traits are heritable, with “nurture” as its commonly thought of playing a minimal role to nonexistent role in each (see also Environmental Hereditarianism, The Son Becomes The Father, and More Behavioral Genetic Facts). The rest of this post proceeds assuming an understanding of this reality.

However, the people making these assessments, even the “experts,” tend to be evolutionarily illiterate; that is, they have a poor understanding of evolutionary theory. This failing isn’t just academic; in addition to hindering the understanding the nature and origin of these phenotypes, ignorance of Darwinism leads to to difficulty managing and treating them.

This means that there are a host of phenotypes classified as “disorders” that in fact aren’t, as well as a good many that are in fact Darwinian disorders which are not classified as such.

My Twitter followers know that I have been making noise about this problem for some time. And now, enter Durisko, Mulsant, McKenzie, and Andrews, 2016, with their paper “Using Evolutionary Theory to Guide Mental Health Research,” published in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

The authors (who I suspect have read my writing) sum up the problem excellently in their abstract:

Evolutionary approaches to medicine can shed light on the origins and etiology of disease. Such an approach may be especially useful in psychiatry, which frequently addresses conditions with heterogeneous presentation and unknown causes. We review several previous applications of evolutionary theory that highlight the ways in which psychiatric conditions may persist despite and because of natural selection. One lesson from the evolutionary approach is that some conditions currently classified as disorders (because they cause distress and impairment) may actually be caused by functioning adaptations operating “normally” (as designed by natural selection). Such conditions suggest an alternative illness model that may generate alternative intervention strategies. Thus, the evolutionary approach suggests that psychiatry should sometimes think differently about distress and impairment. The complexity of the human brain, including normal functioning and potential for dysfunctions, has developed over evolutionary time and has been shaped by natural selection. Understanding the evolutionary origins of psychiatric conditions is therefore a crucial component to a complete understanding of etiology.

Durisko et al produce a neat chart that analyzes examples:



The sad fact of the matter is that there are some disorders the medical and psychiatric communities are correct in calling disorders but these communities are ignorant about why they are correct. These lead me to the first major cause of mental disorders.

A major challenge any functioning organism faces is genetic load. This is the burden of deleterious mutations that we all carry. For a discussion of this, see Greg Cochran over at West Hunter:

Get Smart
More thoughts on genetic load
The genetics of stupidity
The Golden Age

Intellectual Ambergris

In short, new mutations always arise. The majority of these mutations are neutral or harmful to fitness. Deleterious alleles are selected out at a rate proportional to their fitness impact; the bigger the fitness hit, the faster they are selected out. This means that alleles with mild fitness impacts can persist for many generations. Certain individuals can have more than their fair share of the these deleterious alleles. In some cases, this leads to mental illness – when there are just one too many things “broken” in the brain. While the individual alleles that are causal to these illnesses are all rare and are all being selected out, new mutations continue to arise, hence, the illness persists in the population – each instance being genetically distinct from all the others.

Mathew Keller and Geoffery Miller detailed how this applies to mental illness in their 2006 paper. Genetic load largely* explains mental illnesses such as autism, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.


Chanda Chisala has been producing pile after pile of nonsense for quite some time. At first, I was content with simply leaving comments at his posts refuting his rubbish because it was rather easy to point out where he was full of baloney. Since then, I’ve been banned by him, mostly for my signature flair. :)

I intended to continue to ignore his nonsense since it was such obvious rubbish that it didn’t seem to be worth my (now very precious) time. But then I realized the value of having nonsense essays picked apart for the nonsense they are. Rebuttals are highly valuable to skeptical readers who doubt nonsense but can’t quite put their finger on the problems themselves. So, in that service, I write this rebuttal to Chisala’s latest piece.

Towards a Theory of Everyone

Chisala’s theory is that different human groups differ in the degree of genetic canalization, and that explains the differences in average IQ between groups. It seems he lifted the concept of genetic canalization from Greg Cochran, who I’ll let describe the phenomenon. From Survival of the Flattest | West Hunter :

Genetic canalization is the extent to which an organism is buffered against the effects of mutations. Waddington said “developmental reactions, as they occur in organisms submitted to natural selection…are adjusted so as to bring about one definite end-result regardless of minor variations in conditions during the course of the reaction”. Canalization can act to buffer against environmental perturbations, and selection for resistance to such environmental noise may also produce resistance to genetic noise. But right now I’m thinking about genetic canalization.

Up to some point, the effects of not too many, not too serious mutations would be buffered: those mutations wouldn’t change the phenotype. In the same way, your typical tractor is not designed to nanometer tolerances: parts can be somewhat out of spec – up to some limit – without messing up performance.

Canalization is a product of natural selection. There would be stronger selection for efficient canalization in a species with more genetic load

It might explain why load doesn’t seem to have much effect on IQ over most of the range, why we haven’t seen general IQ depression in the children of old men.

So Chisala’s idea is that certain racial groups have greater levels of canalization, and that makes them more resistant to environmental stresses that might lower average IQ.

Oh God! Where to begin….

It’s hard for me tell if Chisala really believes what he’s saying. Because the truth of the matter is that he’s a bullshit artist, either wittingly or unwittingly. It appears that he has only a superficial understanding of the matters he discusses, and he tries to weave together cherry-picked pieces of information into a seemingly convincing story – at least for those who don’t know any better.

First of all, Chisala is claiming that there are no “genetic” group differences in IQ. Rather, every group has the same average IQ potential, but each group has a different level of canalization, thanks to natural selection (and this is not even genetic canalization – as in resistance to mutations – as Cochran discussed, but resistance to purported environmental insults). This makes each more or less resistant to the purportedly IQ-depressing effects of deprived environment. So first it’s not genetic, but it is? Which is it, man?

I don’t even want to imagine what reaction this particular proposition would garner if you ran it by this guy. —>

Second, Chisala seems to have no understanding of the concepts of elite samples, founder effects, measurement error, sampling bias, or of basic statistical principles like statistics of small numbers. That’s not even to mention his apparent lack of understanding of the breeder’s equation (but at least there he has plenty of company). He seems to be mystified by apparent incongruities he encounters in his cherry-picked (and often outdated) samples because of his ignorance of these important concepts and many other facts.

I’m not going to debunk Chisala’s claims point-by-point, because, really that’s not necessary (and his piece is much to confused to make that a worthwhile endeavor). Instead, I’m going to point out some key facts make his claims ridiculous.

One of those key facts is this:


There are global differences in brain size. Brain size is certainly related to intelligence, both on the individual level (Pietschnig et al 2015) and (even more so) on the group level (though the both the group level and individual level correlations are less than 1.0). In order for Chisala’s idea to work, these environmental insults must also cause certain racial group differences in brain size.

But, as we know, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that environmental insults can affect brain size (see the Zika virus). And sure, sub-Saharan Africa is loaded with pathogens and other environmental insults. But racial differences in brain size are seen between people of European, African, and Asian ancestry in the United States (from Rushton & Jensen, 2010):

Armed Forces Brain Size Rushton Jensen

(At this point, of course, we cue the sociologist’s fallacy invoking the poorer environments of Blacks even in the U.S.) But, Chisala is claiming Blacks are more susceptable to environmental insults that supposedly affect IQ – insults that (save perhaps iodine deficiency) have not been shown to actually impact IQ in any way. I’ll go into more detail in a future post, but there is little solid evidence for a negative impact of most supposed environmental insults on IQ.

For now, I’ll give you Greg Cochran on this (from The Great IQ Depression | West Hunter):