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National IQs re-estimated Becker

Ron has re-posted his July 2012 post on Lynn and Vanhanen, together with all the comments that it raised, and says: “It provoked an enormous outpouring of responses all across the Internet, perhaps 99% of those hostile, often intensely so, but after over a dozen follow-up columns and responses, I believe I was proven correct in almost every particular.”

Many Unz readers agree with Ron’s evaluation, in that some commentators on my recent post on Scrabble as a measure of intellectual excellence commend “Ron Unz’s compelling demolition of many of the average IQ figures put forward by Lynn and Vanhenen.”

Is there anything to say about Ron’s post 5 years later which has not already been said in the many comments and replies, to which he has provided links, together with his own replies? It would be redundant to cover everything in that extensive debate, and much better to highlight relevant new developments. I think that the subsequent 5 years of research allow two general points to be made.

1 The Lynn database is being updated and re-edited, such that every reference is traceable back to the original publication, in all but a few cases, and any untraced publication is not included in country calculations. Furthermore, the basis on which Flynn corrections were calculated have been stated and three different ways of estimating it have been made explicit (the differences are not very large). Estimates about general country effects are based on actual country results, not estimates based on neighbouring countries. Anyone can now look through the database and carry out their own studies, according to how they rate the quality of the data. Further work is in hand to calculate country means by making due allowances for sample size and representativeness. To overcome the heterogeneity of psychometric tests, Becker has produced a subsample of Raven’s-Matrices-only results. Becker is aware of a further 830 sources of IQ data which have not been checked yet. At the same time, we are aware of other publications not in the database, and are trying to include them, with the agreement of other scholars who have collected them. Debates about Lynn’s figures should use the latest Becker versions for hypothesis testing, and the newest edition will be made public in roughly a week’s time. I will post up Becker’s conference talk on his work.

2 As far as I know, Ron did not conduct a re-analysis of the database, so we do not know if the general relationship between country intelligence and national wealth is affected by his comments. His post looks mostly at the European results, and compares different countries, different time frames, and the results of Europeans and others in the USA. His view is that the hereditarian position (50% genetics, 50% environment) cannot be sustained, because there is too much variability in European intelligence, a variability that is better explained by environmental and historical factors. Where Lynn and Vanhanen have carried out a global analysis with correlational analyses, Ron has done a largely Eurocentric comparison of country pairs, and then compared country of origin and later success of those immigrants in the US. The approaches are very different in type and range. Anomalies which Ron sees as evidence of cultural changes can be ascribed by Lynn to the noise generated by different tests, samples and testing dates; all details which wash out in a general correlational study.

Could Ron’s approach lead to testable conclusions? I think so. If, by improving the data quality, the stated correlations with country wealth are reduced, then it could be argued that the Lynn correlations had been inflated by unreliable intelligence test results. Furthermore, by looking at closely defined national or racial groups it would be possible to look at changes in intelligence levels before and after immigration. In the subsequent 5 years further papers have been published on the link between country IQs and wealth. In my view they strengthen the view that ancestry is part of the cause of group differences. Notice that I say “part”. For the purposes of argument, 50% of the difference. Here are some links to a few publications after 2012. This is a selection, no more, and seeks to buttress the case for ancestry being part of the cause of group differences.

First of all, here is Becker explaining the work on the Lynn database. This might be a little hard to follow because it is just the lecture slides, but I will come back to this work in subsequent weeks.

Here is a 2014 paper by Rindermann giving the international gains and losses from immigration.

Fuerst and Kirkegaard have studied a very simple measure: percentage European Ancestry. They have shown it is a good predictor of outcomes at the national, provincial and district level.

They have just published a paper on regional differences in Argentina

Individual papers do not resolve a debate, but I think that more papers like these will increasingly build a picture which supports ancestry as an important part cause of intellectual differences.



Chanda Chisala and I post about each other so often that we should be employing the same agent. Properly managed, I might finally get onto a lecture tour circuit somewhere. The Shetlands, perhaps.

Below is the post to which I am referring.

My reply to Chisala’s post has hardly been prompt: one source of delay, among others, was posting about a massive new study by Hur et al. (2017) on Nigerian children in public schools which has shown early male advantage in intelligence scores, and an overall result which is unchanged from previous estimates, but is far stronger in terms of sample size and representativeness.

Whilst one can always wish for better coverage, particularly of private schools, the current picture is that on Raven’s matrices the new Nigerian generation has an IQ of 70. This is relevant to the calculation of the internationally judged smart fraction in Nigeria, in that it reduces its size and, if the test results are true, makes exceptional intellectual performance less likely in that country, and thus makes demonstrated Nigerian achievement even more of an exceptional case, thus potentially challenging the predictive value of intelligence testing. For the avoidance of doubt: a confirmed low score on intelligence tests placed against good performance in international competitions involving intelligence calls the intelligence test results into question.

Chisala is testing the veracity of African country-level intelligence test results by finding excess African performance on international Scrabble competitions. I am in favour of the general approach of looking at intellectual competitions, because real life achievements are the real test of ability, and intelligence tests are merely predictive instruments. Curious as it may seem, we are in agreement on that matter. I would prefer that the real-life tests of achievement were studied across a broader range than Scrabble, including Chess, Maths competitions, numbers of patents, innovations in science and technology and so on, but I am sure that Scrabble at competition level requires high intelligence.

I am also sure that general relationships are just that: general. There will be outliers and exceptions, positive and negative residuals on the overall trend line, but if there are too many then there will not be a general relationship. So, although the argument largely centres on Nigerian examples, the overall assessment between intelligence tests and actual achievements should cover all countries.

Chisala believes that evidence of exceptional performance is more damaging to the hereditarian than the environmentalist position. He says:

My argument is therefore not against the low IQ score estimates for African nations (by Richard Lynn, et al), but whether this reflects some restrictive racially linked genetic cause. If it is indeed basically genetic, it should practically be impossible to find any area of relative cognitive performance of Africans that is inconsistent with this large IQ deficit with whites and other groups.
If, on the other hand, the cause is basically environmental (specifically, learning resource deficiencies), then some exceptions are bound to exist and these will predictably only be found in areas in which the cognitive challenges are high but the learning resource requirements (books, well-trained teachers etc) are extremely minimal. Performance on such cognitively demanding but bookless contests will far exceed even academic areas that are light on cognitive demands but heavy on book learning (eg soft subjects like sociology etc, where you still find no Africans at the top). The genetic Racial Hypothesis predicts that the gap should be even bigger in favor of whites as you go to the more naturally complex contests like Scrabble (see Spearman’s Hypothesis.) In short, if there was to be any exception to inferior African intellectual performance, it should have been in the softer fields where there are less of the gifted math types to contend with.

I can see his general argument, though geneticists argue that the degree of heritability does not equal the norm of reaction, and a high heritability does not mean that a trait is unaffected by its environment. I see this discussion in a simpler light: if many countries show abilities which are higher than predicted by intelligence testing, then the validity of those test results are called into question. To be clear, I agree that is a valid argument against intelligence assessments at the country level if actual achievements are generally poorly predicted.

Now, performance above prediction could be from genetic causes if there were sub-groups within Nigeria (or any other country) with exceptional abilities. They need not be particularly numerous within Nigeria, any more than Jews need be numerous to be clearly above average in Europe, but they can have disproportionate success in intellectual competitions. This is the observed pattern in Nobel prizes and so on which confirm Jewish superiority in intellect compared to other Europeans. However, the genetic interpretation of exceptional performance could only be argued if it could be shown that Nigerian Scrabble or Chess or Maths competition winners were disproportionately drawn from some especially talented minority group. As far as I know that hasn’t been established, or not yet anyway.

I agree with Chisala’s other points about “softer” fields not being the best measure of national ability, though they require ability which I would probably rate higher than Scrabble, and we already have evidence of that. For example, Nigerian Wole Soyinka won the Nobel for literature in 1986.

However, I do not agree with his dismissal of the chess results as being due to a lack of training in Africa, particularly when Chisala then goes on to make a point about Kenny Solomon of South Africa being a Chess Grand Master. FIDE does not say that, because he has not reached their threshold requirement of 2500 points. Wikipedia says: “Although Solomon has never reached the required rating of 2500, he earned the Grandmaster title by winning the African Chess Championship in December 2014, thereby becoming the first chess grandmaster from South Africa[5] and the second one from sub-Saharian Africa after Amon Simutowe.” This could have made clearer, and it shows how important it is to set thresholds to begin with, or one mixes local rankings with the ones that matter most, the international open competitions. That Africans can be excellent chess players is not in question, simply that determining Grand Masters depends on using standard ranking procedures.

The big advantage of using chess to look at the general cognitive ability of countries is that it is non-verbal competition with a clear win-lose-draw scoring system, and very wide representation across the world. FIDE has 188 member federations, WESPA (English language Scrabble) seems to have 23 nations. This makes Scrabble a slenderer basis for international comparisons.

The top 100 Chess grand master FIDE list does not appear to include an African, but I have not gone through all the names in detail, so please do so for me.

I have looked at the FIDE total scores for the top 10 players in each country, which gives a broader sample of capability. It is worth looking at this list, which allows both genetic and cultural interpretations.

• Category: Race/Ethnicity, Science • Tags: Africans, IQ, Race/IQ 

mosque attacker

The official temperature in London is 31C. This is the measure taken properly, in the shade, as prudence and good methodology requires. In actual fact, the temperature in the sunshine is 36C, and that is what strikes the skin of any Londoner, but that is the least of our problems. Last night, admittedly a sultry one by local standards, an idiot decided to drive his hire van at a crowd outside a mosque, severely injuring at least 10 persons, and possibly contributing to the death of an elderly man who was already unwell, probably because of the heat.

In the weary litany of dreadful events, in terms of modus operandi this one counts as a deliberate running down of pedestrians, but in this case without the additional stabbing. With commendable restraint, the injured crowd handed the assailant, a 47-year-old white man, over to the Police. He had already declared: “I want to kill Muslims.” As seems usual, he too was taken off to hospital “as a precaution” in case he was injured in the process of trying to kill people. The van was apparently hired in Wales. He was not known to the authorities, the authorities say. His neighbours say he is Darren Osborne, of Cardiff, and they are very surprised at his actions.

Political leaders have visited the scene and made statements.

Meanwhile, in the still raw aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the Press have done what they always do after a disaster: they have identified the heroes and the villains. The latter category is understandably generating most attention. The local Borough leaders are accused of incompetence and worse, and the search for who knew what, and approved what, at what stage, continues with renewed vigour. Meanwhile, once the Press had agreed how wrong it was of emergency service operators to advise people to stay put in their flats, the Fire Service have said that that remains their advice “in the majority of circumstances”.

There is general surprise that the fire spread so quickly. However, it is not yet known with any precision when the fire started. An emergency call was received at 00.54 in the morning of 14 June. At least one neighbour says he was shown the fire in the flat, which implies the front door was open at some stage, and some accounts say that the flat owner took time to pack some suitcases before leaving. This is unclear, as so much is always unclear in the immediate aftermath of a fire.

The old way of doing things was to gather forensic evidence and interview all the people concerned, once they were over the immediate shock of the event, and then put together the best estimate of what actually happened. Modern times demand a faster pace, and everyone is sure the fire spread very quickly. It seems probable that the cladding was a major contributor, but since most things burn at a high temperature, the time from first flames to the fire brigade being called is crucial to understanding the vulnerabilities of such buildings and their defensive systems. The case for sprinkler systems seems very strong, and if the economic case for installing them in every flat is considered problematical, it seems highly unwise not to have them in the stairwells and ground floor exit lobby at the very least, and preferably also in all the corridors.

It would good be to say that London is keeping calm and carrying on, but these are not normal times. There is a sense of things having shifted in some profound way. It is not just the rush to judgment, but a rush to a lack of judgment, and implausible assurances to all and sundry that everything will be taken care of (those in government), or must be taken care of (those wanting to be in government) and a competition among all politicians to show compassion, outrage, leadership, or whatever is required on an hourly basis by the public.

Perhaps rain will make a difference.


grenfell tower on fire

A fire in a tower block in London spread to burn out the whole 27 storey building, with large loss of life, possibly almost 100 dead. The probable cause of the fire was said to be a faulty refrigerator in a 4th floor flat, followed by an astoundingly quick spread of the flames, involving recently applied insulation panels on the external walls of the building, which ignited to cause a massive conflagration. Some residents threw out their children and themselves from the building, in sights that will be all too familiar after the Twin Towers. Others waved from windows asking for help, but there was no external way of bringing them down, and even water hoses could reach little further than the 6th floor.

Residents said that no alarms sounded; and that the advice they had been given was that they should stay in their flats behind their fire proof doors, which would keep them safe for at least an hour while the fire service, which arrived within 6 minutes, put out the blaze. In fact, the fire service was not able to deal with the fast-spreading fire, and many people were burned alive in their flats. Many bodies will never be recovered.

There are many facts which have come to the fore after this terrible event, with more coming out each day, and more when the official enquiry takes place. The first is that some electrical devices such as fridges and freezers are known previously to have exploded in people’s homes elsewhere, sometimes causing fatalities. This is rare, but is said to be a little higher with new environment-friendly coolants. If a malfunctioning fridge can cause a tower block to burn down then everything installed or stored in a flat will have to be monitored very carefully for ever. If the polyethylene core insulation cladding was the cause of the spread of the fire, as seems all too evident in the pictures taken of the conflagration, then either it was specified wrongly, or applied wrongly, or the established fire testing techniques and quality controls on building materials are at fault. Luxury flats in the Arabian Gulf and Australia have suffered similar fires, so there may be a world-wide problem with some external insulation panels. They are banned or restricted in Germany and the US.

There was no sprinkler system in the building, but it was built of concrete, and the internal compartmentalization of the apartments should have prevented the fire from spreading quickly. In fact, the external insulation may have bridged that protection by providing an inflammable chimney all around the building. The tower has 6 flats per floor, and only one internal staircase, meaning that any blockage of that staircase for any reason, including toxic smoke, builder’s materials or personal belongings, effectively prevents emergency exit. The internal staircase debouches into the same common ground floor lounge where the 2 lift shafts debouche, so a moderate fire in that lounge would cut off both exit routes. Fireproof separation of the exit routes would be preferable. The external entrance to that ground floor also had no covering roof even for a few yards of the walkway, so blazing insulating materials and debris fell on those leaving and entering. As the fire took hold there were shattering explosions, with blue flames, which might have been the partly installed new domestic gas supplies in not-yet-covered gas pipes, or possibly propane gas cylinders used by some residents for cooking. Which of these is unknown, but explosions were reported, and the blue flames noted.

The standard policy of fire-fighters walking up smoke-filled stairs carrying heavy equipment is called into question by this blaze. It reveals that fire safety is based on a “just in time” approach, in which any interruption of the supply chain can be fatal. Even a short pause to assemble the fire team and to brief them on procedures may have been enough, in this instance, to prevent any control being gained over the fire. No structure should be that vulnerable.

Also in doubt is the concept of standard advice. Staying in a relatively fire-proof flat may seem better than wandering in a smoke-filled corridor, but it depends on a very prompt and effective firefighting. Running out immediately has its risks, but gives more certainty.

The better advice might be to give general principles and ask people to use common sense. For example, during a hotel fire in Scandinavia many guests stayed in their rooms, having put wet towels at the foot of the doors to their rooms and wetting the door to prevent it burning. Many suffocated. Those who, against all advice, broke open the windows to their room gained extra oxygen and survived. However, the advice that one should be flexible comes across as no advice at all, so I can understand why it is not given.

Never mentioned is the option of training all residents to fight small domestic fires with fire extinguishers and fire proof blankets. Fire services generally don’t like such advice, but it is within the capabilities of most adults, given some training. It is worth having a higher level of preparedness. However, that sense of self-effectiveness is not the cultural norm currently.

Anyway, we have a set of official procedures which cannot cope for particular individual circumstances, which is not surprising, because no set of procedures can deal with every new event. The advice was probably appropriate for a building without cladding, though a sprinkler system would probably have improved survivability in all circumstances. The fire was a test of quick thinking, and gut level responses. The instinct of flight was validated. Those who behaved well, and waited, did not have their trust repaid.

When dealing with safety, it is very difficult to draw out a full fault tree. The cladding may not have been seen as crucial to fire safety, but merely a surface characteristic, improving insulation and cosmetic appearance. However, a proper installation would have fire breaks between floors. It is very hard to anticipate all new events, and to understand the interactions of changes in the original design characteristics of the building. Perhaps artificial intelligence will come to the rescue when simulating safety advice, but there will always be unintended consequences to any change.

In summary, the building was unsafe, many people died, and the causes need to be identified and remedied quickly.

While the fire was still burning the following day, it became evident that a political debate would begin. Grenfell Tower is Council housing, that is, subsidized housing. Councils are responsible for housing everyone in their borough, and get central government support through a complicated procedure, in which is it not clear how much flexibility is allowed to local Councils. Councils say this limits their borrowing powers, and gives them responsibilities but a limited budget. Central government intends to eventually reimburse those boroughs who have new residents wanting subsidized accommodation. That is to say, a person seeking subsidized housing can seek it in any borough, and people usually prefer urban centres with good facilities, near where their friends are.

London is under more housing pressure than the rest of the country. Hence London boroughs are coping with free market prices, and having to find ways of financing council accommodation at subsidized prices. Moving people out to cheaper locations is rarely possible, and is seen as a political machination. Central government is supposedly in charge of regulating immigration, and local government is in charge of housing all who request it, whatever the inward flows.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Britain, Immigration 

Membership of political parties UK

It already seems apparent that the Labour campaign depended on the enthusiasm and commitment of its supporters, and that prior to the election the Labour party had succeeded in getting many new members, most of them probably of university age. They formed an activist cadre out of all proportion to their numbers, even though they were already notable for being numerous.

I would have expected Tory strategists to have been very aware of this massive difference in Party numbers, and to have had solid grounds for rejecting the notion that it might influence the campaign. For example, considering and rejecting the notion that students might vote tactically, in either their home constituency or university constituency according to which would have the most impact.

Organize, organize, organize.

Meanwhile, my many contacts have sent on to me an intercepted message in which an aristocrat is seeking to reassure the middling sort of person that all is not lost. To put the matter into context, at times of national turmoil, when the peasants have revolted, shop keepers, traders and their like cannot turn to the unwritten Constitution for solace and instruction, because the whole point of an unwritten constitution is that it has not been written down. This gives plenty of wiggle room, of which our Saxon ancestors would approve. It was the Normans who made a fetish of inventories, though that was probably only because they were sharing out loot among themselves.

Anyway, although the middle class very occasionally meet a quiet person at a party with an interest in constitutional matters, they usually leave these matters to the aristocracy. Here is one Lordly briefing note doing the rounds among us middling folk:

Let’s do a little reframing exercise on the election result. Let’s start with the following observation, sure the result could have been better, but it could also have been much, much worse. Imagine if the Tories hadn’t even been able to break 300 seats – now that would certainly have opened the door to a possible Corbyn premiership. As it happened, they failed to get their majority, but not by much – the difference can be made up with the Democratic Unionist Party – who are far more ‘in tune’ with the Tories than the Liberal Democrats ever were.

Furthermore, the pro-Brexit Democratic Unionist Party will only talk to the Tories, and won’t deal with Corbyn on the grounds that he is sympathetic to the IRA. Also, don’t forget that a parliamentary majority is not the same as a working majority – to arrive at an estimation of the latter, we need to deduct 7 Sinn Fein abstentionists and 1 speaker from the mix – bringing the number down from 328 to 320. Add 10 DUP MPs to the Tories’ 318 MPs and we get a safety margin of 8 votes, so all in all, not so terrible – I don’t anticipate any issue in getting the Queen’s Speech through parliament for example. Finally, it needs to be noted that the Labour Party campaigned on a platform of withdrawal from both the EU and the single market. They also campaigned on ending free movement of people. This is how they were able to attract large chunks of support from UKIP voters. The odd noisome Remainer aside, I think you will find that there is more core agreement between the Tories and Labour on the ‘hardness’ of Brexit than there is disagreement (which seems to be restricted to peripheral issues, like how ‘worker-centric’ Brexit should be etc etc.).

In all, I do not think that anything of substance has changed. May has had her wings clipped, but has also been returned to power. Calling the snap election was a good idea, as, having inherited Cameron’s manifesto, she prima facie lacked legitimacy – much like Brown in 2005. She may have lost a handful of seats, but is (and will continue to be) PM for the foreseeable future. The knives are being slowly re-sheaved as she makes concession after concession to her newly empowered cabinet. It is dawning on the Tory leadership that to oust her from power at this point is to invite a second General Election, and consequently risk a Corbyn led government – not to mention impose an unacceptable delay on the delicate Brexit negotiations that are due to start in a matter of days. Tories are nothing if not pragmatic. They will absorb their loss, reflect on it and ultimately choose to act at a time when the national good can best be served in so doing. My suspicion is that May will not stand for re-election in 2022.

I cannot vouch for any of these matters, particularly since in the 24 hours since I was passed this missive the precise nature of any Tory/DUP deal is still in doubt, but this is how our betters deal with troublesome events, and they have survived.

As regards the afore-mentioned need for organization, I am not a member of any political party, but I am open to offers, and will not object if these are clearly to my advantage. Please make contact through the usual channels, discreetly.


Brenda from Bristol

Although it is too early for a very detailed analysis of which groups voted which way in the UK election, here is a quick overview of my impressions of the campaign.

The election was called because the omens seemed favourable: the Conservatives were well ahead in the polls. Their cover story about the need for a strong hand in Brexit negotiations was plausible, but their timing was obviously opportunistic. In effect, a prediction about voting behaviour was taken as a chance to strike a blow against a weak enemy.

Once the election was announced, the polls continued to be favourable, and it looked like being the dullest election on record. As the weeks went on some cracks started to appear. The Conservative repetition of “strong and stable”, a necessary incantation in the ancient age of newspapers and television, became a joke in a multi-channel world used to getting varied messages and a continuing dramatic story. Their main character, the Headmistress in Blue, showed no character development. Meanwhile, the rival Grandpa in Red began to morph into a pop star. He loved the limelight, the debates and the chance to lap up applause. Campaigning in safe seats, he was pictured among large loving crowds, an impression that was widely shared and circulated in marginal seats. The Headmistress in Blue was less visible, and said little of note to enthuse people. She made a feeble anti-Corbyn joke about imagining him naked. He avoided personal attacks. Advantage Corbyn. He also changed his mind at the last moment and attended the main debate. The Prime Minister sent an under-study. Snooty.

Behind the scenes, it appears that the Conservatives went for a precisely targeted advertising campaign, while Labour spend their smaller sums more widely, and went for the sharing of a more varied, jokey stream of content. Crucially, they had apps to facilitate the young to register to vote, with an additional feature showing if they could swing more constituencies by voting at home or in their university constituency. Crafty. It probably won them many marginal constituencies.

Almost as an afterthought, the parties released their manifestos, which are normally not read by anyone other than the research departments of rival parties. The Conservative manifesto was a responsible company report about cost cutting; the Labour manifesto a cheerful list of spending on healthcare, schools, the police, public sector pay rises, pensions and free university tuition, the extra cash to come from taxes on corporations and high earners. In the battle of counter-claims the Conservatives came off worse, having to reverse their policy on the funding of old age care. Damaging on two grounds: they were cast as being nasty, and also in disarray.

The British electorate, for centuries accustomed to free beer during elections, drank Labour. Young voters drunk most deeply. Accustomed to primary and secondary education being paid by others, it seemed logical to them that the third stage should also be free. More deeply, they were offered protection in an uncertain world, where home ownership seemed unattainable. Hope is a powerful drug, and the Conservatives peddled little of it. A Conservative MP who failed to be re-elected named the causes as “lots of complacency and a terrible manifesto”.

For once, some pollsters got it right, and there was far less herd behaviour among them than last time. The Conservative vote stayed roughly the same, the Labour vote rose progressively. Pollsters who assumed that young voters would turn out to vote predicted the outcome more successfully. Labour managed the social media campaign better, with a more communitarian movement of “likes” and “shares” of varied political jokes than did the Conservatives, who went for more traditional ads which did not gain as much personal traction. A friend repeating a joke is more powerful than yet another annoying ad which interrupts a personal conversation.

So, for anyone interested in the prediction of human behaviour, there is much to learn. The political wisdom had always been that: the polls taken before the election were the best indicators of the outcome; that the campaign and the debates did not matter much; that elections were won before they were announced; that terrorist attacks favoured the Conservatives who stood for law and order, that the old voted, the young were more likely to stay in bed; that slogans needed to be repeated endlessly; and that attacking the competence of the other side was always a good strategy.

All these nostrums have been proved wrong in this instance. Labour built its share of the vote by the nature of its campaign, and the British always love an under-dog. Attacking Corbyn’s past did not resonate with an electorate facing uncertain personal futures and mostly too young to remember the IRA bombing campaign. The economy was barely mentioned, so it was not “the economy, stupid” other than the oblique sense of “personal calculations of future job prospects and home owning” which of course depends on a flourishing economy, but these considerations did not favour the Conservatives, as they usually do. The Conservatives, wanting to show they could deliver, failed to over-promise. The United Kingdom Independence Party vote did not go back exclusively to the Tories, but many Labour voters who had voted Leave to stop immigration (most of which had resulted from the previous Labour government) went back to Labour, once they too said they had cooled on immigration. The young disproportionately voted Labour either because A) they were ignorant of history, and were bribed or B) the older generation had cheated them and they wanted just recompense.

One nostrum proved to be correct. Wiser political operators have noted that the electorate always needs to be bribed, and the skill lies in doing it adroitly, without it being too obvious. Excusing student debt (at the cost of £11.2 billion) may not seem to be a bribe, but it worked. The Conservatives failed to bribe anyone very much, not even farmers, traditional allies who would have liked reassurance that Brexit would not mean an end to farming subsidies.

After Brexit, Remainers said disparagingly of Brexiteers that “they had voted to return to 1954”, the year before mass immigration began. Looking at the Labour manifesto, it could be said that their supporters “voted to return to 1945” the year of Labour victory and mass nationalisation. In my view both these intended historical insults miss the point. The only real argument against policies which have been tried before is that they have been shown to have failed. If the electorate want less immigration, or nationalisation of industries, they can vote for it now. Evaluating whether those policies worked in the past would be sensible, because there is much to criticize in both policies, but the past is another country, particularly for the young.

As you will know from my previous posts, I am tired of journalists claiming after elections that “the country is split”. Elections reveal existing differences, which is what they must do as part of the electoral process. People have different opinions, and are swayed by different arguments. The detailed results have yet to come out. Typically, Steve Sailer already has good data from post-election opinion polls, but we await true exit poll results. Meanwhile, the percentage intending to vote Labour next time has gone up.


publications in library

We are facing a French dilemma: Piffer has an approach to the genetics of racial differences in intelligence which seems to work in practice, but should not work in theory. His technique appears to run against the general trend of genetic research, in that he appears to be getting good results predicting group differences in intelligence on the basis of just 18 SNPs, while genetics researchers are getting only reasonable results in predicting individual intelligence on the basis of lots of SNPs.

For example, people skilled in these matters tell me that they did an out of sample prediction in an independent but European population, and they got 4.8% of the variance, using all SNPs. That is the upper limit of prediction in a non-European population using all SNPs. Pfiffer used just 18 SNPs in non-European populations and his correlation is huge, which does not make sense.

In any case, I think that most genetics researchers will probably wait till Piffer publishes his updated paper before commenting. Of course, there is a difference between predicting in predicting IQ within populations using GWAS and applying GWAS results to between-population differences, which is what Piffer does.

He explains:

These SNPs that explain variance within populations are markers of polygenic selection. They do not have to explain a lot of variance between populations, or even within populations. The polygenic evolution model predicts that a few SNPs will have frequencies correlated to frequencies of countless other SNPs. I just need to know the few most important SNPs to gather a signal and infer to the distribution of the other unknown SNPs.

If selection pressure acted on these 9 SNPs by driving their frequencies up in population A compared to B, then it has also done the same to other SNPs. We don’t need to know what these other SNPs are because theory predicts that they will have similar distribution.

So, the official response to Piffer is: “publish, and then we will give you our comments in reply.” This will take time, but it is the traditional way of doing things.

The unofficial response is to encourage more criticism right now, because if the finding is the result of a simple error, it should be exposed and corrected as soon as possible.

It is open season on Piffer’s methods. Recruit critics and get them conduct their peer reviews right now.



Dear Prof Posthuma,

Thank you for your comments. These comments are not new, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Actually, it works to my advantage because over the years I have had the opportunity to develop ways to rebut these criticisms.

One of the ways of answering your criticisms, and the one which convinces me the most about the validity of my findings, is the new Monte Carlo approach I developed. I show that thousands of unlinked random SNPs (matched for Minor Allele Frequency using the SNPSNAP algorithm) rarely (p<0.01) achieve the same predictive power as the polygenic scores built from GWAS hits. The issues of Linkage Disequilibrium decay, different causal variants, etc, mentioned by you simply create noise, they do not bias the results in one direction. There is no reason why Linkage Disequilibrium decay should produce the pattern we observe, and magically match the IQ scores of populations so closely. As the paper you cite (Martin et al., 2017) explains: “We demonstrate that scores inferred from European GWASs are biased by genetic drift in other populations even when choosing the same causal variants, and that biases in any direction are possible and unpredictable”.

But genetic drift has been controlled for and ruled out in my papers by two different and complementary methods. First, a Mantel-like test, based on regressing phenotypic values on Fst distances and polygenic score distances, showing that polygenic scores predict average intelligence above and beyond Fst distances (i.e. drift and all that is not directional). Second, a method that shows the unviability of drift to explain my results is a Monte Carlo simulation with several thousands of SNPs, whose correlation to population IQ is outperformed 99% or more by the GWAS hits (for a demonstration, see my paper:

The factor analysis of GWAS hits produced even better results, outperforming 99.8% of the random SNPs. For a report, check:

What is remarkable is that height GWAS hits fail to predict population IQ. Guess what they predict? Height. The East Asian advantage we observe for education or intelligence-related SNPs disappears and turns into a lower score for the notoriously not gigantic Chinese, Vietnamese and Japanese. A demonstration of this can be seen here: Look at table 1 and compare the polygenic scores to those for intelligence such as my table2 of my 2015 Intelligence paper or the more recent scores: ( They almost look like their mirror image, with ranks reversed.

An issue I see in the Martin et al. paper is that the polygenic scores were created using a very liberal p-value for inclusion thus pulling in a lot of false positives. False positives are expected to work like random SNPs, hence it is not surprising that they could not reproduce the results in non-Europeans.

When we home-in on the causal variants by picking the right alleles, instead of using a brute-force approach, we tend to see that the same genes have the same effects across different super-populations. For example, countless studies showed that the APOE4 allele is involved in Alzheimer’s disease and has a variety of health-related effects. This allele confers risk on African Americans and European-Americans alike ( Accidentally, I should mention that this variant also has a population pattern closely mirroring the intelligence polygenic scores, perhaps due to the general effect on cognition.

The strength of my approach is in using the SNPs that replicated across many GWAS studies, increasing the chance of dealing with true causal variants or SNPs in close Linkage Disequilibrium with them, hence reducing the effect of Linkage Disequilibrium decay.

And Europeans are not even the top scorers, as the “reference-population-bias” hypothesis would predict. This hypothesis is widespread but lacks any logical rationale. In fact, I consistently observed higher polygenic factor scores for East Asians than for Europeans. If there had been a pro-European (i.e. pro GWAS-reference population) bias built into the cross-population comparison, this would imply that my method underestimates all non-European scores, not just Africans. I am so amused that the debate is fixated on the lower African scores, and nobody notices the East Asian advantage. You cannot have it both ways: if my method had a pro-White bias, then the East Asian scores would also be underestimated. This would actually imply that the East Asian advantage is even bigger than that which I have found. This reduction ad absurdum shows the absurdity of claims against my method.

Finally, a paper published this week, using GWAS hits, replicates the East Asian advantage on educational attainment found by several of my papers (although funnily they do not acknowledge my studies, although one of the authors is familiar with my results, because a while ago I had shared my results with him via email):

This paper strengthens the argument that SNPs which predict within-population differences can be used to predict between-population differences.

I recently published a paper where I put together all my main findings to date:

That paper should be able to answer general questions about my findings and my methods.

In summary, within-population differences can be used to predict between-population differences.

• Category: Science 

debates As you know, this blog moves at internet speed, not the glacial creep imposed by academic publishers, with their lucrative frustration of intellectual discourse. No sooner do I write about the work of Piffer, and his use of the new findings of Sniekers et al. (2017) than a senior author on that latter paper, Prof Danielle Posthuma, writes to me about Piffer’s calculations.

She says:

Piffer uses genetic variants that explain differences between individuals in a European population, to explain differences between European and non-European populations. Our results are not informative in explaining between population differences. (see e.g.

There are basically three issues:

1 Causal alleles need not be the same in European and non-European populations. We do not know that now. Piffer implicitly assumes they are, but there is no evidence that the alleles we found can also explain part of the genetic variance in non-European populations.

2 Linkage Disequilibrium structure and allele frequencies are not necessarily the same across different populations, and therefore beta’s estimated in one population cannot be transferred to another population.

3 The only thing Piffer shows is that alleles that have been associated with educational attainment or IQ in an European population have different frequencies in other populations. This is true for a lot of alleles, irrespective of whether they are associated with Educational Attainment/IQ and is due to historical/geographical divergence, and thus does not have any relevance in explaining between group phenotypic differences. If our discovery sample were to be non-European we would probably also predict the European population to have a lower intelligence, simply because the alleles that explain differences with the non-European population may have a lower frequency in the European population, due to historical reasons. Thus, that prediction is meaningless for explaining between group differences.

Also, if we would apply the same to GWAS results for height, we would predict Africans are much shorter than Europeans, which is not the case. This is a very deep-rooted misunderstanding and misuse of GWAS results, and especially unfortunate for intelligence and the racial issues in that context.

I replied:

Let me give you my lay responses.

Of course, the alleles need not be causal in the same way in Europeans and non-Europeans. Several recent papers have suggested that they are different. I find that rather odd, but there could be many ways to wire a brain.

The linkage disequilibrium structures do not have to be the same, and are probably not the same.

You say that Piffer’s approach shows sample of discovery bias. However, he overcame my scepticism by having a random SNP control condition. Does that not work?

Prof Posthuma replied:

I have not looked at how Piffer created the random SNP set. However, I do not think the question is whether the method is good. The question is whether the outcome makes sense (and can be interpreted in the way he does), and that is where I think he goes in the wrong, as the within group (within EUR) variance is not informative for explaining between group differences.

That is as far as our conversation went at this stage, and I hope this helps in further comment and discussion.

• Category: Science 
Polygenic scores cannot predict a person's IQ, but can they tell a genius apart from the crowd?

watson and venter results

A day is a long time in genetics research. Yesterday I made the following prediction about the method that David Piffer has used to estimate racial intelligence:

Prediction: we will need very many more SNPs before we can attempt predictions of individual IQs across different races at better than a correlation of r=0.7

Having made that bold prediction, it struck me I should ask Piffer if his newly enhanced predictive equation could make a fresh calculation as to the intelligence of James Watson and Craig Venter. It was the inability of his method to classify these two leading lights of genetic research which Professor Neil Risch had used to make fun of Piffer when giving his American Society of Human Genetics Presidential Address in 2016. Piffer turned down my request, saying “Well, that would be like carrying out another mini GWAS (or better, a case control study) with 2 people instead of 100,000. No scientific value beyond anecdotal curiosity.”

Ever bold, I championed the cause of anecdotal curiosity. To keep him motivated, I did not say that his getting a positive result was no more likely than bird droppings in a cuckoo clock. An n of 2 is very, very silly, but I am ever a curious person. After a few hours Piffer relented, and this was his reply.

I looked up the 9 SNPs (the “perennial reliables”) for Educational Attainment. Note that these are the same SNPs that Michael Woodley and I used to successfully predict evolution of intelligence since the Bronze Age. They were identified by myself by finding the replicates across Educational Attainment GWAS. They are highly predictive of population IQ (r= 0.9). One of those SNPs was missing from Watson and Venter but the odds ratios and frequencies are in line with predictions.

This is the matrix with allele count and results of Fisher’s Exact test. Not significant (p=0.17) but odds ratios (O.R.= 1.53) are quite good (indicating the overrepresentation of intelligence-enhancing alleles in Watson and Venter’s genomes compared to the average White American (CEU) person.

Intelligence-enhancing allele Intelligence-decreasing allele
Watson and Venter 12 10
1KG CEU (White American) 497 691

Summary statistics: The average frequency of intelligence-enhancing alleles is 47.2% in Watson and Venter’s DNA but only 42.9% for the average White person and 35.6% for the (Nigerian) Yoruba.
watson and venter results


In sum, it would appear that even this general method of predicting racial differences in intelligence can be pressed into service to hazard a guess that the two scientists in question are more intelligent than the average European.

I would have been interested if it had been possible to add the DNA of Francis Crick, but you can’t have everything. I presume there is also no DNA for Maurice Wilkins, with whom I worked with very briefly when carrying out a study on the effects of the Christmas Island nuclear weapons tests, but he mournfully declined to add his name to the letter we wrote to the Lancet in 1983 describing that work, saying by way of apology: “Critics say I sign too many letters, so it’s better that I don’t sign this one”. I should have got a buccal swab from him instead.

Onwards and upwards to the sunlit uplands.


• Category: Science 
James Thompson
About James Thompson

James Thompson has lectured in Psychology at the University of London all his working life. His first publication and conference presentation was a critique of Jensen’s 1969 paper, with Arthur Jensen in the audience. He also taught Arthur how to use an English public telephone. Many topics have taken up his attention since then, but mostly he comments on intelligence research.