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I have held off talking about the Press attacks on the London Conference earlier this year. Triggered by journalist and educationalist Toby Young’s appointment to a UK Governmental education committee, rival journalists fired off a salvo of accusations in a “guilt by association” spoiling operation. I was simply collateral damage, accused of keeping bad company with a group of deplorables, whose secret meetings Toby had briefly attended in order to gather material for a talk he was giving at another intelligence conference. I thought it was better that the participants replied on their own accout, since they drew most of the fire, rather than I as the organizer tried to speak for them. Many of the participants have put their names to a joint paper which is soon to be published in a scholarly journal.

However, for some months I have been sitting on a charming essay by one particular participant, Julien Delhez, who has the great merit of being an Egyptologist. What is such a person doing at a conference on intelligence, otherwise infested by psychologists of a psychometric persuasion? Well, our inclusion criteria are pretty simple: people with interesting ideas who are committed to empirical methods. The notion that one could someday measure the intelligence of the Pharaohs seemed intriguing, and Julien’s ideas developed as he attended the conferences. Originally interested in estimating how illnesses may have diminished the ability of the highest status ancient Egyptians, he now wants to incorporate ancient DNA studies to do intelligence estimates.

I think he gives a very good background to the events, explains the conference content and general procedures, and draws attention to the underlying socio-political problems which arise when research even raises the possibility of genetic components in group differences.

Any comments you make here will be also be looked at by him, so both of us can reply to your remarks.

• Category: Science 
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  1. res says:

    I have held off talking about the Press attacks on the London Conference earlier this year.

    At this point it looks like you made a good choice.

    charming essay by one particular participant, Julien Delhez

    Thanks to Julien Delhez for an interesting, well written, well referenced, and somewhat risky essay. And thanks to you for passing it along.

    Originally interested in estimating how illnesses may have diminished the ability of the highest status ancient Egyptians, he now wants to incorporate ancient DNA studies to do intelligence estimates.

    An interesting idea. Has he considered using a similar approach with height? The genetic prediction could be checked against actual height and I think this would serve as a good test of the methodology.

    I am not familiar with Egyptology so I might be reinventing the wheel (references welcomed), but has anyone looked at where the Pharaohs appear on a PCA plot from current populations? Is the DNA data dense enough across the generations to evaluate how much of an impact inbreeding had across the IQ, height, disease, etc. domains?

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  2. @res

    seems they were not Egyptians in our modern sense of the word.

    • Replies: @res
  3. res says:
    @James Thompson

    Thanks! Any idea of how much genetic material is waiting to be genotyped? If I read correctly their results were based on 90 mitochondrial genomes and three complete genomes from mummies.

    Is there any chance the three ancient Egyptians (mummies so presumably the elite?) sampled are much different genetically from the general population at the time?

  4. Sorry, don’t know. Apparently there are now political problems about researchers getting access to the mummies, so things may get held up.

  5. About three years ago, the permanent committee of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities took the decision to introduce an outright ban on any scientific studies involving ancient Egyptian DNA. The European institutions in Egypt were notified of the decision, but the Ministry did not give any justification for such a ban. The scientific community has little (or no) recourse: all studies require a prior authorisation from the Egyptian authorities. Egyptologists have expressed concerned about this ban, but it does not change the situation. I do not know how or whether the situation will evolve in the next years. Therefore, I have to resort to collections of Egyptian antiquities in European countries.

  6. songbird says:

    The notion that one could someday measure the intelligence of the Pharaohs seemed intriguing,

    I’d be very curious to know what is was too. Incestuous god-kings seem like such a really bizarre political system that one really wonders how it was possible. The same thing with the Incas.

  7. hyperbola says:

    Claims in the Delhez “essay” are contradicted by articles recently included in this site. For example, Haier claims on his website:

    The Neuroscience of Intelligence introduces new and provocative neuroscience research that advances our understanding of intelligence and the brain. Compelling evidence shows that genetics plays a more important role than environment as intelligence develops from childhood,…

    and Delhez states confidently the same conclusion. Unfortunately we just saw that the “experts” do not agree on this at all. My previous comment remains appropriate.

    Who Are the IQ Experts?
    Who? Whom? versus “What? When? Why? How?

    More blah, blah, blah, ….. from the pseudo-science psychology. To start with, the survey includes only about 20% of the “experts” that were asked to respond – that alone makes it questionable. The distribution of the replies obtained indicates that amongst that 20% their only agreement is that: there is no conclusive evidence and therefore our (equally valid) “expert” opinions vary from 0 to 100% on the influence of environment on IQ.

    Similarly, the Haier claims are not very consistent with recent genetic studies showing that hundreds of genes are required to “account” for intelligence and even with these hundreds, <5% of genetic variance is "explained".

    Gene-based analyses find 709 genes associated with general cognitive function. Expression levels across the cortex are associated with general cognitive function. Using polygenic scores, up to 4.3% of variance in general cognitive function is predicted in independent samples.

    Hundreds of genes have already been found to contribute tiny amounts to intelligence. The population sample sizes are now big enough that it is unlikely that any small numbers of highly dominant genes have been overlooked. Consequently, we already know that there are not enough human beings in the world to provide real statistics for any sort of serious “polygenic” analysis that would allow predicting the “intelligence” of any individual.

    It now bec0mes incumbent to ask why the evidence is being so blatantly ignored by the “psychologists”. The dispersion of “opinion” in the first article above suggests that further pursuit of this is largely about “chosen people” themes. Is kabala why we now have “egyptology” joining the circus?

  8. JackOH says:

    Thanks, Julien and Prof. Thompson. I’m an interested layman who supports your research. Not sure about political consequences, but those are severable, in my opinion, from research itself.

    America’s standardized college entrance exams, which, I guess, correlate roughly with intelligence, helped me escape an awful secondary school for a selective university. “Night and day” doesn’t begin to describe the qualitative differences between the two institutions, the students and instructors. Yep, the secondary school was mostly Black (70%), the university about 97% White. Yep, there are some talented Blacks, Hispanics, and Whites who are ignored because it’s believed by political leaders that talent will find its own level no matter the dysfunctionality of Black culture. Thanks again to both of you.

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