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It is a measure of the quality of British life that one of its longest running TV programs is “University Challenge”, a quiz show for university students. Yes, it has always been a minority interest, but it is a showcase of talent, an astounding example of what bright young people can get to know in... Read More
Despite being interested in intelligence, I am also on guard against judging the mind from the face (there's no art to find the mind's construction in the face) while probably doing just that all the time. I assume that I judge mental ability by conversations which go beyond pleasantries. Indeed, perhaps measuring how quickly people... Read More
No story about the brain is simple; no one study is definitive; and it takes many years to sort out conflicting and inconsistent findings and establish a weight of evidence. It is a fundamental truth that any researcher who can put a person in a scanner can publish a paper. Any researcher able to talk... Read More
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Great at reading or recognizing faces? You might not do so well on an IQ test.
The English psychologist Charles Spearman was the first to argue that a single factor, called "g," explains most of the variability in human intelligence. When observing the performance of children at school, he noticed that a child who did well in math would also do well in geography or Latin. There seemed to be a... Read More
An Invitation to a Lynching
Human races are subspecies of Homo sapiens (sic), just as basset hounds and Chihuahuas are subspecies of dog. The breeds of neither are precise genetic categories: In the words of the heroic John Derbyshire, genetically “what you see is a continuum with some pretty sharp clines.” Yet the genetic commonalities are sufficient to be obvious:... Read More
[This was an address I gave to the H.L. Mencken Club on Saturday, November 2nd, 2013. The theme of the weekend meeting was “Decadence”; the particular sub-theme we addressed on Saturday afternoon was “Political Decadence.”] Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I am happy to see such a good turnout for this year’s conference. I assume... Read More
Interior of a magasin général (source: photographiquement Frank). Wherever there was less competition from British or American merchants, it was easier for French Canadians to go into business. These same regions also have unusually high rates of neurological disorders, including Tay-Sachs. Coincidence? French Canadians have a unique demographic history. From a founding population of some... Read More
A Parsi woman in traditional costume, painted by Raja Ravi Varma (source) The Parsis are renowned for achievement in many areas of life—trade, education, philanthropy, and popular culture. Yet they number only about 100,000 in the entire world (Wikipedia, 2013). What qualities made them so successful? The most often-cited ones are their thrift, foresight, skillfulness,... Read More
Bandit with traditional tattoos (source). In premodern China, who enjoyed the most reproductive success? The thrifty hardworking farmer? Or the local bandit/warlord? In my last post, I asked how well the Clark-Unz model of selection applied to Japan and Korea (Unz, 2013). Let me now ask a more obvious question. How well did it apply... Read More
“‘How could any man in our village claim that his family had been poor for three generations? If a man is poor, then his son can’t afford to marry; and if his son can’t marry, there can’t be a third generation” China’s poor were continually removed from the gene pool, their places taken by downwardly... Read More
Labrador retriever running an obstacle course. Can dog intelligence shed light on human intelligence? (source) My last post described a Chinese project to identify the many genes that contribute to normal variation in human intelligence. If successful, it will simply demonstrate what we already know, i.e., genes are largely responsible for the differences in intelligence... Read More
Robert Plomin on the genetics of various mental traits (source) A Chinese research team is looking for genes that explain why IQ is higher in some people and lower in others: The head of the team, Zhao Bowen, believes this question has not be
Recent research, such as by historical economist Gregory Clark, suggests that differences in mental and behavioral traits cannot always be ascribed to different reproductive strategies, as Philippe Rushton suggested. There probably will never be a unified theory of human biodiversity … other than the theory of evolution by natural selection. Last March, I was asked... Read More
J. Philippe Rushton. February 8, 1989 (source) I first heard about J. Philippe Rushton in the mid-1980s. My mother would leave newspaper clippings about him on my desk, thinking I might be interested. I didn’t know what to think. Wasn’t she a Christian fundamentalist? And why would I be interested? A few years later, in... Read More
Red-winged blackbird (source). Is dark coloration directly linked to male aggressiveness? For the past thirty years, psychologist Philippe Rushton has been using life history theory to explain human differences in many areas: IQ, sexual development, parental investment, mating system, time orientation, etc. Initially, he saw skin color as being incidental. In recent years, however, he... Read More
An Inuk wearing snow goggles. Is ambient light at its lowest in Inuit territory? The logjam seems to have broken. On the heels of Lewis et al. (2011), we now have another paper on variation in brain size among human populations, this time by Pearce and Dunbar (2011). Brains vary in size by latitude, being... Read More
“A chimpanzee’s ability to learn is drastically reduced upon reaching maturity. But baby chimps will eagerly mimic a human caretaker – sticking out their tongues, opening their mouth wide, or making their best effort at a kissy face.” (Geoff, 2009) A newborn creature will spend much time exploring its environment. As it comes to know... Read More
Upper-caste Indians. Clark’s model works poorly in State societies where class divisions are rigid and where different classes operate according to very different rules. In my last post, I discussed Ron Unz’s essay on selection for intelligence in East Asian societies. This paper, as its own author points out, makes the same point that Gregory... Read More
Pupils studying for the Chinese civil service exam. One conundrum of human biodiversity is the high mean IQ of East Asians, specifically Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese. On average, they outclass all other human populations on IQ tests, which were originally designed by and for Europeans. This intellectual success is matched by the economic success not... Read More
Children making pillow lace for a home workshop. Germany, 1847. During the early stages of Europe’s market economy, successful entrepreneurs would expand their workforce by having more children. There are several obstacles to our understanding of geographic variation in human mental performance. First, the subject is taboo. When people do discuss it, they often resort... Read More
In French Canadians, Tay Sach’s is caused by 2 different mutations that arose within a relatively small geographic area and short time frame (neither mutation is reported in France). This area (Bas St-Laurent and Charlevoix) is also the one where English Canadian merchants and managers were historically the least present. Is there a link between... Read More
"As to why is it shrinking, perhaps in big societies, as opposed to hunter-gatherer lifestyles, we can rely on other people for more things, can specialize our behavior to a greater extent, and maybe not need our brains as much," he added. (source) It’s usually assumed that humans have steadily increased in intellectual capacity. But... Read More
The October issue of Scientific American has an article on the search for genes that influence intelligence. Twin studies suggest that such genes exist, yet efforts to date have been disappointing for Robert Plomin, a behavioral geneticist at the Institute of Psychiatry in London. That means that there must be hundreds—perhaps thousands—of genes that together... Read More
According to the online magazine Seed, “a growing number of scientists argue that human culture itself has become the foremost agent of biological change.” Much of this change has been surprisingly recent: I thought I was on top of the literature, but this was new to me. It’s even more proof that human evolution did... Read More
The New York Times has run an article on genetic research by Dr. David Goldstein of Duke University. His main finding is that most human diseases with a genetic basis are not due to common alleles. They are apparently due to rare alleles that have not been eliminated by natural selection. This seems to argue... Read More
G is general intelligence, a common property we see in the similar test scores that people show for different cognitive tasks. But just what is this common property that makes some people generally smarter than others? There have been attempts to identify g with a specific brain characteristic. Unfortunately, as Anderson (1995) notes: Whatever g... Read More