A common piece of advice that I’ve heard with the release of Nicholas Wade’s A Troublesome Inheritance is that in order to get people to accept the findings of HBD, you can’t be too honest and direct with the reality of the situation. That is, you can’t tell the full scope of the truth of what we know. Rather, you need to insert a bit of “squid ink” into the water to blur your actual claims. You need to say things that are somewhat untrue but might be a bit more palatable to apprehensive audiences. One example is Wade’s stress that the understanding of inherited differences between people and the effects of these on national outcomes is largely “speculative.” Another is the common behavioral genetics trope that the sources of human differences are “nature AND nurture,” being a 50-50 mix of each. Robert Plomin’s constant stress of the likelihood that “gene-environment correlations” are ultimately behind heritability estimates is yet another example.
There is little to no truth in any of these claims. But they all have one thing in common: they all leave the door open to the “environment” – that is, they leave the impression that controlled environmental manipulation can greatly affect behavioral and societal outcomes. For better or worse, Westerners, especially the more Left-leaning ones, are social engineers at heart. They have an innate belief that we can engineer a better society if we try hard enough – the Utopian Vision, as discussed by Steven Pinker in The Blank Slate. Those that accept the role of heredity, frankly, merely see it as another obstacle to overcome in their hopes of engineering a better world. Hence, the advice is that if we want HBD to gain widespread acceptance, we can’t be too “hard” with our claims, regardless of how true they actually are. How would these people then receive the true realities of the situation then? Like:
- Every single human behavioral trait is impacted by genes, usually considerably so.
- How you raise your kids has virtually no impact on how they turn out. That is, nurture appears to matter little in the end.
- For that matter, contrary to what we’ve been told, it doesn’t look like peers matter too much, either.
- We have been so far unable to find much of anything in the environment that leaves a lasting impact on intelligence or behavioral traits.
- Indeed, this is largely true of health outcomes. “Lifestyle” (say diet and exercise) doesn’t appear to be primarily responsible for differences in illness or lifespan.
- One class of agents in the environment that the evidence does seem to be pointing to that can impact health and behavior are pathogens, and many, if not most, have yet to be discovered. These infections can cause chronic disease, like cancer and perhaps heart disease, and can even alter behavior, most poignantly in the case male homosexuality.
- While we know the grand-scale environment can make a difference, as seen with rapid secular changes, this seems to primarily occur because of alterations in the incentive structure or through hitherto unavailable possibilities (e.g., cars, internet, oral birth control). Changes here quite likely aren’t easy to execute in a way that achieves controlled outcomes.
- Given the high heritabilities of behavioral traits and the lack of clear environmental mediators, differences in “culture” (especially within a given time period) are largely due to genetic differences between people. That is, differences between all human groups (races, ethnicities, social classes, or whatever) are all to some degree due to genetics, and perhaps mostly or almost entirely so.
- Your birth family/clan heavily determines your eventual social status. Social status is in fact as heritable as height, and decays very slowly generation after generation in all different social systems across different countries. Social mobility, by and large, doesn’t exist.
- This scales up to larger groups: the average intelligence and distribution of behavioral traits of a nation or a race/ethnicity within a nation are overwhelmingly the primary determinants of its outcome and social structure, and not its resource wealth or historical circumstances (generally).
- Indeed, these imply that all of human history is largely the result of the churning of these behavioral and intellectual differences, enabled by technology (which itself is a function of the people).
Would a speaker that said all these things get a lot of play? Would a book that laid bare the case for these rather than took the more muted tack that Wade’s did be well received? What do you think?
I will say one thing: with all these considered, it’s hard to escape the seeming importance of eugenics, if crafting a better society is what you’re after. Indeed, if that’s your goal, eugenics – in one form or another – does appear to be your only avenue.
These represent pretty much the case made through out the nearly 200 posts on this blog. It is my belief that if we are motivated by the desire to clear up falsehoods, then better to tell the actual truth, rather than give watered-down and ultimately incorrect information about the science. But then, I’m opposed to propagating falsehoods in general, so maybe that’s just me.
I’m not a marketer, so I can only do what I know. Maybe these facts, as true as they are, are just not digestible by people, not yet and perhaps not ever (or at least for the foreseeable future). Who knows? But I personally don’t see the sense in it. After all, a mistake often spreads faster and further than the correction to it, so better to get it right the first time, I say. If you’re going to do it, better to do it right. However, I honestly don’t know. What are your thoughts?