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Apparently like everybody who can read, still a probable majority in the US, I have just finished Nicholas Wade’s A Troublesome Inheritance, which deals with the genetics of human behavior, race, intelligence, how they came about, and related things about which one must never, ever state the obvious. It is a fine book: cogent, well informed, devoid of political propaganda. Anyone interested in the foregoing matters should read it. If you are a Democrat, have it shipped in a package marked Weird Sex Books to protect your reputation.

It is creating a great disturbance among professors, the right-thinking press, those college students who have heard of it, race panders, and related herbivores. This is curious. Reduced to a sentence, Wade says that genetics has a lot to do with human outcomes. Its major conclusions have been accepted or suspected forever in every blue-collar bar in the country. Yet they are a shock in faculty lounges. It is interesting to consider the pattern of views:

The Lounge: Race is a social construct. It doesn’t biologically exist.

Wade: Yes it does. (He demonstrates this with things like base-pair repeats and single-nucleotide polymorphisms, a bit messy to go into here.)

Joe’s: Sure, race exists. Just look.

(If it doesn’t, then everyone who has received benefits based on race should repay them, and face fraud charges.)

The Lounge: No genetic or group differences in intelligence exist.

Wade: Yes they do, they are measurable, and came about through natural selection.

Joe’s: Sure, everybody knows Jews are smart, blacks aren’t, and the Chinese and Japanese must be too because look at what they’ve done.

Now, races are genetic subspecies, slightly blurred at the edges, of Homo (doubtfully) sapiens, just as Dobermans and Chows are subspecies of dog. Any dog breeder will tell you that Chihuahuas and Great Danes are not social constructs. Only a professor could think otherwise. The breeder will also say that Border Collies are smarter than beagles. This is genetic, not due to Border Collie Privilege.

He will further assert from experience that much of behavior is genetic. If you think the personalities of pit bulls and cocker spaniels are equally warm and fuzzy, you probably need to stay away from dogs.

It is also clear to inhabitants of the real world that genetic differences in behavior exist between sexes. Raise a heifer (for readers under thirty, that’s a little-girl cow) and a little-boy cow completely apart from other cows, so they learn nothing from cow culture. After they reach puberty, go into their field, throw rocks at them, and observe the differences in their reactions. (Put me in your will before doing this.)

Genes count. It’s how things are.

Much more interesting, because less obvious, is the case Wade makes for a genetic element in differences in behavior between genetically distinct groups. For example, East Asians consistently come out ahead of Caucasians on tests of intelligence, yet Caucasians dominate by a wide margin in inventiveness. Why is this? Wade asserts, somewhat speculatively but with a lot of evidence, that natural selection has shaped the Chinese and Japanese to form collectively-oriented, hierarchical societies, not favorable to independent thought.

While the collectiveness of East Asians might be argued, it fits a lot of observation. I am reminded of the Asian proverb, “The nail that stands up will be driven down,” and Johnny Paycheck singing, “You can take this job and shove it.”

In the US, Asians way outperform Caucasians in the hard sciences. For example, CalTech is perhaps the most demanding technical school in the country, and does not practice affirmative action. It is 1% black, 8.3% Hispanic, and 40% Asian. Yet a list of founders of high-tech firms shows very few Asians.

How did we get where we are? Through natural selection, says Wade. It is indisputable that selection can alter a species or subspecies. The unnatural selection which we call selective breeding produces animals of different sizes and shapes, and temperament. Why would we think that human animals are different? If flu regularly killed those susceptible to it, presumably those genetically resistant would come to predominate. This is both reasonable and observable.

However, the thoughtful may be uneasy with some of this. Boilerplate evolutionary theory holds that when a beneficial mutation accidentally arises, its possessor has an advantage in the struggle for survival, has more children, and thus passes on the new trait. This makes sense, at least if the mutation does something really desirable.


Wade points out that certain Asians, due to a mutation, have hair with thicker hair shafts. One is hard pressed to see how slightly coarser hair would promote survival so efficaciously as to result in having more children. It is not clear why it would be an advantage at all. In the absence of reason or evidence, various solutions may be adduced: thick hair cushioned the blows of clubs, or girls thought it was sexy and said yes, or…something. It smacks of desperation.

While traits conferring very small or no advantage spread through populations, many that would seem to offer great advantage in surviving and reproducing do not. No mutations are needed to produce the phenomenal eyesight of Ted Williams, the brains of Stephen Hawking, the body of Muhammad Ali, or the phenomenal running endurance of the Tarahumara Indians: The genes already exist. Would not these things, at least in the pre-modern world, have produced much more advantage than coarse hair, or some slight tendency toward collectivism, and thus have become general?

And it has always seemed curious to me, though not necessarily inexplicable, that a brain which evolved to make pointed sticks for hunting, and crude clothes, should just happen to be able to produce Mozart’s music, Renoir, tensor calculus, and Mars landers. Such minds existed 2500 years ago, as for example Euclid, Archimedes, and Plato. It looks like evolutionary overkill.

A minor defect of the book, understandable since Wade works for a very PC newspaper and may want to keep his job, is that he dances away from the conclusions to be drawn from what he says. Differences among people are actually small, he asserts, and only in cumulative effects on societies do they really count. Yet he puts the mean IQ of Sub-Saharan Africans at 67, of Europeans at 100, and of Jews at 115. He also says that four of every thousand Europeans have IQs in excess of 140, but 23 Jews. These are huge differences and, if real, have equally huge implications.

Which would surprise no one at Joe’s Bar.

(Republished from Fred on Everything by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Race/Ethnicity, Science • Tags: Nicholas Wade 
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  1. Dave37 says:

    Just my two cents, but I know of some 2nd and 3rd generation asians that don’t do well scholastically though maybe they could if they wanted. There is a lot of push by asian families (that I know) and some greasing of the wheels of commerce to get their kids a well paying job where they usally do well enough (as long as they don’t gamble too much). I don’t doubt what is being said here but unfortunately I think as far as ordinary jobs goes today there isn’t that much demand for really smart (or educated) people as the system seems to be set in place, at least in my experience, and they just want employees to work hard (if you are divorced with an obsessive-complusive complex, that might be a plus) which most Americans, at least the ones I worked with, don’t seem to want to do.

  2. Yep. Joe’s Bar. How many there are Irish and do they have an adaptation that makes them immune to brain cell loss from alcohol consumption? It’s good (for someone) that the denizens of Joe’s know their place in the hierarchy is inevitable as it was all heritable. They may never make it to the oligarchy, but they can console themselves at least they’re not black. And with another drink. (The folks at Joe’s may not use the term “black,” but a colloquial one they consider more accurate.) Who would have believed Jim Crow was just codifying scientific fact obvious to a barfly, even if it was “The Mismeasure of Man” as per pointy-head evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould?

  3. The author can speak for himself, but given your intemperate slur of the Irish, who have no place in the topic at hand, I’ll take a crack at doing his job. I believe the author was contrasting the folks at Joe’s bar, who live in the world of work with the denizens of the academy who avoid contact with any but each other. Tenured professors and media opinion leaders can segregate themselves far more effectively than the plumbers, cops, and office workers at Joes. They get to see human diversity first hand, every day. And dispite your disdain, make inferences based on experience.

    Stephen Jay Gould was a Paleontologist, so his field of expertise had prescious little to do with human cognition or recent genetics. I hate to tell you this, but the late Dr. Gould was found to have falsified findings and is no longer considered a reliable source, except by worshipers of the New York Times and yourself.

  4. MarkU says:

    It would be remarkable indeed if different communities (and sexes) of humans, evolving as we were to different roles/environments were to have identical average abilities in every area.

    So what are you going to do with the information?

    Let us use the uncontroversial example of physical strength. If a job required a significant degree of physical strength, would it then make sense to say that only men should be considered for the job? Would we employ a male, even if he was seven stone weakling, simply because he is male and hence presumed to be of above average strength. Would we turn down a woman for the aforementioned job because women are ‘weak’, even if she was physically large and powerful? In a sane world we would not!

    It seems obvious that similar arguments to the above can be constructed using ethnicity and IQ instead of sex and strength. The degree of physical strength and/or intelligence possessed by individuals is not simply determined by sex or ethnicity.

    So, the different sexes and ethnicities have differing average abilities in different areas, what are you intending to do with the information? I am honestly curious.

  5. quercus says:

    Intelligence? Is there anyone who can define what exactly IS intelligence? I don’t think so. It’s not the ability to read — reading is a learned skill. It is not the ability to perform calculations — that too is a learned skill, and computers do it, and they are not intelligent. So, what is it?

    IT remains undefined. IT is not determined by the administration of IQ tests, which have an inherent bias.

    If you were to take an Asian child for example and raise that child with a poor, relatively uneducated black mother, and take the black child and raise him/her with a well-educated, affluent Asian mother, and if you did that 10,000 times and if in the majority of cases, the black child still fared poorly in school and the Asian child did well despite his or her deprived circumstances, then I would have to acknowledge that there might be a genetic basis to intelligence. Until that can be done, however, I remain highly skeptical.

  6. KA says: • Website

    Is there a shelf life of the ‘ brilliant,intelligent,genius” producing genes?
    It seems the Western world with all the so called innate differences from the rest particularly from Africans are slowing down a little bit compared to the power that emerging on the horizon.
    As Kennan ( I think it was G Keenan ) said that the so called technological and intellectual superiority of the Europeans grew out of raw barbaric conquest and exploitation of resources freeing time,energy,and and space for millions to engage to research and developments . from that iosed realities we draw the impression of one group permanently defeated as belonging to low IQ.but it is a conclusion that won’t wash .
    Did not Greek write and calculate while the soldiers guarded and expanded the borders and the slaves worked on the fields at the kitchen,in the garden,and carried waters so that the high IQ could wash their rear ends without moving a finger?

  7. KA says: • Website

    Racism will never go away for there will always be winners and losers whether it is seen in kindergarten play ground or in war torn Tora Bora caves . The symphony of joy of the vanquishing will paint the agony of the defeat as the feeble cry of the one who deserves the defeat as accounted by certain practices,beliefs,family structure,individual spaces allocated which then would be related to colors and heights and then to DNA. The extended tautological arguments become the scientific explanation.

  8. Sammy says:

    Noting that “Jews are smart”.
    Where do Palestinians stand in the context of race and smartness?

  9. Actually, I have Irish ancestors. Once the Irish were seen as inferior in America – “No dogs, Niggers or Irish allowed.” I think that the New York Times is a reliable indicator of elitist opinion, but not a reliable source for objective news or opinion. Not to be deferential at all to academia’s supriority, but there are quite a number of professors who are “black” or “Latino.” I guess this is the “hoi polloi” theory of humankind – one aristocratic family looks down their noses on the poorer one down the street.
    When blackor Latino professors write such books, these ideas will have more credibility. You could argue, of course, that black or Latino professors would never cede such points because it would not be to their racial advantage. But then, if that were true, it would be equally as likely for a white professor to be similarly biased on behalf of his own societal position. Which means this is outside science and more in the realm of economic power struggles between peoples being set against one another by benefiting elites

  10. DK says:

    One of the best reviews of that book. Great job, Fred!

  11. Rod1963 says:

    Interesting review of a book that stepped on a lot of Marxist PC/Corns.

    It does explain though, why after 50 years, trillions of dollars, forced busing and endless modifications to the curriculum that public schools have been unable to raise the math and reading scores of minority students. The vast majority simply don’t have the brain power to succeed in modern society nor the culture to support it. All they are good for is being wards of the state and producing more fatherless children who suffer from a genetic predisposition to sub-optimal performance in life.

    And now Marxist academics in public school are doing away with valedictorians or anything that awards public recognition to students with superior academic performance. Can’t offend the stupid and lazy that constitute the bulk of the student populace in urban areas.

    It’s bad enough smart kids don’t get anywhere near the help the dummies do but now, they are out any recognition by the school.

    But no matter what they can’t let the cat out of the bag and that is the truth that a segment of our population just cannot be educated to any degree and they have no real place in modern society due to their inherent lack of impulse control which cause them commit crimes all out proportion to their percentage of the population.

    We have to keep the big lie going that multicultural works, even if it kills people.

  12. Wow – who’s vying to be the 21st century Thomas F. Dixon Jr. here?

  13. “When black or Latino professors write such books, these ideas will have more credibility.”

    The funny thing about science is that it’s not a matter of personal ideas, it’s supposed to be about experimentation, data, etc. Science can be falsified but in the end, replication studies will always out. The science of genetics Isn’t just a matter of opinion and those Black and Latino professors will have to use the same tools and come to the same findings by the same methods.

  14. Of course there are inherent differences between races, but there’s serious flaws in the application of euro-centric IQ tests to measure a euro-centric (and dated) definition of intelligence. School performance is influenced by socio-economic factors more than race. Starving children from broken families tend not to do so well in school. Or on IQ tests. That said, I’m not opposed too an open discussion or admitting to both flaws and strengths in different races. We need more honest discussion, our pc-overkill culture is ridiculous and detrimental to society. Case in point, I was amused by the crack on the Irish as opposed to the comment following it. Stereotypes exist for a reason. Because there’s truth to them. Anyways, of course I haven’t read the book but it seems like taking IQ scores or school performance and extrapolating from that, independent of all other factors, it’s not a good starting point- but it’s about time we started somewhere, so kudos to the author and publisher for at least

  15. (continued) having the balls to defy convention and risk the wrath of the pc police, I’m sure he’ll take a lot of flak.

  16. What an embarrassing comments section. We’ve got people who haven’t heard the news on Stephen Jay Gould from 3 years ago. We’ve got the Red Irish Herring. Some “What is intelligence really??” squid ink. Comparing honest inquiry to Thomas Dixon…

    In answer to “So, the different sexes and ethnicities have differing average abilities in different areas, what are you intending to do with the information? I am honestly curious.” though:

    To continue your strength analogy, the status quo (indeed the “standard social science model”) is that we assume everyone has equal strength potential and women are less strong because they are victims of a poor environment/male oppressors. We spend trillions of dollars on researching and implementing whey supplements and hormone treatments for women and while generally ignoring/neglecting the nutrition of men at the federal level. This has failed to close the strength gap (which has existed throughout written human history), but that’s just evidence we need to try harder. We know that the highest paying jobs in society go to those who lift heavy things, but when we see fewer of those jobs go to women we presume discrimination on the part of the employer. Indeed many industries have quotas for how many women they must have in their workforce lifting things, and this hurts productivity. Those who postulate there are genetic and even skeletal reasons that men outlift women are shunned from polite society as perpetuating the oppression and weakness of women…

    So the first thing would be to reexamine all those conventions. We could also certainly take this information and inform our choices about immigration and foreign aid. Ignorance is a bad thing, but on some topics it’s our public policy. That’s fundamentally insane.

    PS: Eurocentricity of IQ tests would be news to the career psychometricians as well as to those inland chinese who have had very little cultural contact with the West, but stubbornly insist on scoring 5 points better on average anyway.

  17. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Ka – Racism will never go away

    You seem to think ‘racism’ is some well defined, generic concept. It isn’t, it’s a concept designed to delegitimize the interests of white people alone.

  18. Avalanche says:

    “Wade points out that certain Asians, due to a mutation, have hair with thicker hair shafts. One is hard pressed to see how slightly coarser hair would promote survival so efficaciously as to result in having more children. It is not clear why it would be an advantage at all.”

    And thus, someone without knowledge of biology, science, and genetics makes a (really annoying!) uneducated mistake. Stating (or pretending?) that “slightly coarser hair would promote survival” makes clear your deep lack of knowledge about genetics: please go read up on the work done in Russia to breed docile foxes on a fur farm. By carefully and selectively breeding the most docile foxes in any generation to each other, they have (after 30-40 years) come up with (and are now selling) actual *pet* foxes — foxes that are now as ‘domesticated’ as dogs. So, the scientist/fur breeders’ selective breeding for docility worked (the docile foxes ‘survived’; the less-docile were killed — (un-)natural selection in action!).

    However — and here’s the meat of the matter — these docile foxes now have softer hair (i.e., LESS coarse hair), which has absolutely 100% NOTHING to do with “survival” and more offspring. The genetic ‘trait’ that led to better survival was more docility, not hair coarseness! The less-coarse fur was merely an additional trait that travelled along with the ‘survival’ trait.

  19. I would have to read this book and see how the IQ data was arrived at.
    It lists Caucasian IQs at 100 and Jews at 115. For years I studied inventors and it was clear that the majority of inventions were by the Anglo and Scottish and of course there were many other inventors from different European countries.
    I do not know what constitutes being “Jewish”. My Jewish in law (I am Irish) is a mix of peoples (non Jewish maternal side) and we have always just seen him as Russian. There are so many mixes of peoples so that if one has a trace of Hebrew ancestry then is that person considered Jewish? If one has 5 parts, 10 parts, 40 parts out of 100 that are Jewish, does that make them Jewish when taking IQ tests? I ask these questions for the sake of fairness.
    I came from an urban area and was never looked at as someone who had smarts. Being in the Marine Corps clinched people’s perceptions of me being a slow immature mick or whatever.
    Heinrich Hertz was the German in the 1800s who set up an apparatus and demonstrated electromagnetic waves. (It was the Englishman Maxwell who laid the groundwork through mathematics and theory). Light is a form of electromagnetic wave. Hertz’s paternal ancestry was Jewish and his maternal was German non Jewish. Does this make Hertz Jewish when he is asked on an IQ test what his ancestry is?
    If all those smart men and women were of mixed descent such as Polish- Jewish, Ukranian, Russian, German-Jewish, Hungarian-Jewish and so on, are all these people counted as Jewish for IQ tests?
    Like Fred Reed I went in Marines in latter half of the sixties. I had three years of high school. I did some years in Corps and got discharged through the hospital system because of injuries.
    For the heck of it or because someone brought up the topic of MENSA, I took the tests and qualified for MENSA. I guess there was not high power physics on these qualifying tests because I had never taken physics. I learned how to read properly as I got a little older.
    I am not contradicting the author about the results on IQ testing. I just want to see how people are broken down. I have seen lots of brilliant people with Jewish ancestry and I have worked with a goodly number of blue collar Jewish guys and they weren’t wrapped too well up stairs.

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