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Birthday candle

The early months of 2018 were taken up with dealing with hostile press coverage of the London Conference on Intelligence, attacks which intended to prevent evidence-based discussion of group differences in intelligence, and sought to grossly misrepresent any discussion of genetic components in behaviour, lest new readers think for themselves. Stain the source: obscure the findings.

Analytics 2018 and total pageviews ever

Despite distractions, I wrote 46 somewhat longer posts and got 240,478 pageviews: 5,228 per post, which is most welcome. Thanks for reading. Comments continue to grow, with 516,906 words generated. My overall total since 2012 is roughly 750,000 words written, and 678,000 pages viewed, which is more impact than my published papers, and far more impact than just shouting at the radio or TV set.

More to the point, in 2018 there were notable advances in the understanding of the genetics of intelligence, in artificial intelligence, in brain scanning, and in intelligence research generally, so there were important things to write about. Most aspects of behaviour have a substantial heritable component, and these findings grow more numerous every month. It is an exciting time. Once artificial intelligence gets to grip with the genetics of intelligence then it will get even more exciting. It is possible that by the end of 2019 we will be able to predict close to 20% of intellectual variance from the genome alone.

Top 10 posts are shown below.

Analytics 2018 top ten

Three points stand out: first, although written several years ago, that old standby “The 7 tribes of Intellect” is still popular because it explains what intelligence means in everyday life. Second, James Flynn is now deeply concerned about data showing that children are now far less capable of applying scientific methods, and that that he is also very troubled by attacks on academic freedom and race and intelligence research. Although this last paper was the subject of a very recent post, it still drew enough interest in the very last few days of the year to make it into the Top 10.

Analytics 2018 regulars

Well, this is a test of quality. Over 57,000 sessions are one-night stands. I assume the statistics puts them off. Who knows? After that come the real aficionados, and to my surprise and delight, that includes 42,000 long-time readers. A special thanks to you.

Analytics 2018 demographics

Readers are mostly male, and cover all age ranges, with a peak at 25-34. Why? They may be more interested in blogs generally, but I would like to think that they have moved from the “prizes-for-all” subsidized world of school and college and have entered the world of work, which is far more demanding. There are fewer alibis and fewer glib evasions. Now it is for real. You have to make the grade in the jobs which will take up four decades of your life. This makes you curious about ability and problem-solving.

Analytics 2018 countries

US continues to dominate, in this blog as in real life. No sign of China. Are they being told what they may or may not read?

Many people have short attention spans or, conversely, are quick to realise that the site does not meet their interests. However, I am charmed at those who spent 30 minutes: almost like book reading. Great!

Analytics 2018 brief encounters

In all, a good blogging year.

Twitter followers have grown to 4,500. In the last three months my tweets gained 935,000 impressions. The tweet announcing the post about academic freedom got 26,400 impressions. Most other tweets about posts on the blog get roughly 6,000 impressions.

I am well aware that these are small numbers compared to those who blog about popular subjects, but I always compare them with the ground zero of not having commented at all.

Final plea: try to be kind to other commentators. Not all students do the necessary reading, and if they get insulted they probably never will.

• Category: Science 
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  1. Flemur says:

    A special thanks to you.

    Back atcha!

  2. Hail says: • Website

    Surprised to see Germany is your highest ranked non-English-speaking country. (Although Sweden is a whole lot higher in per capita terms, as is the Netherlands.) What surprises me is that this means is not banned in Germany after all.

    • Replies: @RadicalCenter
    , @Anon
  3. Rosie says:

    Second, James Flynn is now deeply concerned about data showing that children are now far less capable of applying scientific methods

    No surprise there. Science is seen as optional, and when students are increasingly struggling with reading, writing, and arithmetic, the temptation is to neglect it to keep test scores up to mask the effects of changing demographics (i.e. running out of White children).

  4. atta boy…great job…keep on keepin on.
    appreciated,thank you
    best wishes

  5. HI,
    I love this articles and I acceot who and what I am and we live it. I am a male of North Indian Decent from South Africa, who happens to be Muslim and these articles on the genetics and genes and how it affects us is very impressive.

    Unfortunately, we live in a world where Idiocracy is the norm.

    Thanks for the insights.

    The KP Factor

  6. dearieme says:

    Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year, doc, and congrats on enjoying your blogging success.

    Now then: “children are now far less capable of applying scientific methods”. I find that a bit of a puzzle – I have no memory of being taught a “scientific method” at school. We were taught science, of course, which then meant physics and chemistry. (Biology was for people who couldn’t do maths i.e. most often girls.) Perhaps I picked up scientific method by osmosis – most likely from my reading or from my father rather than from the rather limited chap who taught us science.

    Another possibility is that “scientific method” is essentially just a reference to the demand for evidence, for reasoning, and for the notion of experimental testing. Perhaps the problem with children is that they are taught that feelings matter more than facts – which would certainly incapacitate them for science, but also for almost any worthwhile scholarly activity.

    I shall have to read your Flynn post again.

  7. Michael Shayer’s work on the periodicity of the pendulum, Archimedes problem, etc. Search for “Does the rot start at the top” and then look at Shayer’s further comments

    • Replies: @dearieme
  8. @Hail

    The Muslims will get to that later. It’s still early days for the future overlords of selfhating Germany.

  9. dearieme says:
    @James Thompson

    Thank you. Very instructive – alas I’d read it and forgotten all about it.

    I’ve always had a lousy memory – I assume that when I was younger I must have unconsciously developed strategies to avoid being held back too much by that flaw.

  10. Jesus Noel bless your beautiful Soul here, there, near, anywhere!1

  11. dearieme says:

    What ho again, doc. May I invite you to take a gander at the first comment on the thread here:-

    Is this – the IQs of the professions and the professors – something you’ve blogged about (beyond your excellent Seven Tribes piece, I mean)?

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  12. @dearieme

    Thanks for directing me to this piece, which was informative. I think that the University of Cambridge is more at risk than Noah Carl.

  13. Anon[533] • Disclaimer says:

    There is an obvious link between interest and intelligence (and open-mindedness or race, as you want to put it. A mistake intelligent Westerners are prone, or committed, to making is assume other peoples, intelligence being the same, be equally interested in non-immediately-practical discussions and subjects.

  14. I have a question which I hope someone here can please answer for me. I am a newbie trying to understand heritability, so please excuse me if this question sounds “stupid”:

    1) Identical twins have DNA which is 100% the same.

    2) Studies of twins reared apart have shown that their phenotype similarities are not markedly different to twins reared together.

    3) Anyone who has met identical twins can immediately see that though they may not be identical in all respects, their similarity is pretty close, > 90%. Physical characteristics are almost 100%, and intelligence, emotional and psychological characteristics are also very very similar if not 100%.

    Yet, we are told heritability is only around 50%. That would mean that identical twins are only 50% similar in terms of phenotype – which would mean that they are dissimilar as they are similar, which of course would appear to be ridiculous? If they have the same DNA and are say 90% similar in terms of phenotype, even when reared apart, then does that not “prove” that heritability in general is 90%?

    Thank you in advance for anyone who can please take the time and trouble to educate me.

    • Replies: @James Thompson
    , @res
  15. @Truth seeker

    Heritability of characteristics in the general population can be summarized as being 50%. It is very high in identical twin, and then drops lower as the degree of relatedness is more distant. So, identical twins are the upper end of the continuum.

    • Replies: @Truth seeker
  16. @James Thompson

    Thank you very much for your reply.
    I am confused over via the level of the influence of DNA should differ in different individuals. By heritability I mean “the amount any individual person’s traits are determined by their DNA”, not how similar their characteristics are to someone else. I think I may be using the wrong word in “heritability” – but I am interested in whatever the term is for the phrase I have put in speech marks.
    I am interested only in how much any individual is formed by their DNA – the degree of
    “DNA programming” present for every individual.

    The issue of identical twins reared apart and *their* similarity is only relevant as an indirect method for determining that influence of DNA programming on any individual’s development, because here we have an unique example where: DNA is the same, environment is different, but phenotype is almost the same = proof that DNA determines one’s (anyone’s) characteristics to a very high degree?

    And surely this amount of DNA influence should be the same in all humans as we all have chromosomes and DNA which lead to our development – the DNA may differ, but the fact that it determines our development does not – as the process of an embryo being formed and then developing based on the chromosomes is the same for all humans (or so I was taught in school!) So the difference in DNA determines that the traits are different, but surely the fact of influence of DNA on development is the same for everyone?

    Thank you again in advance for explaining this to me.

    • Replies: @academic gossip
  17. supertjx says:

    US continues to dominate, in this blog as in real life. No sign of China. Are they being told what they may or may not read?

    The Chinese may be told what they may or may not read, but it’s doubtful that they need to read your blog to understand that intelligence is largely hereditary. They are probably the most clear eyed race realists in the world. Did you mean that as a joke?

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  18. res says:
    @Truth seeker

    Good question. Some thoughts.

    First, it might be obvious, but I think it is still worth mentioning that most identical twins people encounter will have been raised together. I think the examples of extreme similarity in twins raised apart are often cherry picked (I would be interested in counterpoints to this).

    “heritability is only around 50%” is a useful rule of thumb across human traits, and is often used as a “moderate” statement for traits which appear to have a higher heritability in studies (e.g. IQ). So the first thing to do is look at the actual measured heritability for specific traits (see JayMan link below).

    I don’t often see it discussed, but traits vary greatly by measurement accuracy. For some examples, I think it is obvious to say these are in descending order for measurement accuracy:
    height > IQ > personality
    This matters for your question because measurement error reduces apparent heritability, while (IMHO) it also increases the perception of similarity for identical twins (people tend to hold the prior that they are similar and believe that in absence of concrete evidence, especially if there is an obvious visual similarity).

    It is also worth noting that heritability depends on the variability of both genetics and environment within the population being studied. I haven’t thought all the way through how this affects your question, but I think considering these cases is helpful (also worth considering how much environment varies for raised together versus apart twins):
    – high genetic and low environmental variability gives higher heritability and more similar identical twins
    – low genetic and low environmental variability gives moderate heritability and more similar identical twins
    – high genetic and high environmental variability gives moderate heritability and less similar identical twins
    – low genetic and high environmental variability gives lower heritability and less similar identical twins
    I think this illustrates why apparent twin similarity and measured heritability might be decoupled somewhat depending on the larger population.

    This article from JayMan is good background for this conversation:

    P.S. I don’t think “which would mean that they are dissimilar as they are similar” is a good way to think about 50% heritability. I’m not coming up with a good way to articulate why right now though. Can anyone help? It is partly due to the population effect I describe above. In particular consider the low genetic and low environmental variability case where twins might be very similar, but heritability is moderate.

    P.P.S. Congratulations on your second year at the Unz Review, Dr. Thompson! Great to have you here. It is my sense that being here has greatly increased your comment volume while reducing the signal to noise ratio somewhat. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on this (in particular whether lower SNR has driven away some of your more knowledgeable commenters and whether it has affected your posts).

  19. @res

    Thanks. On your last point, yes, probably so. Signal to noise ratio has to be balanced against signal to readership ratio.

  20. @Truth seeker

    Heritability doesn’t mean DNA inheritance, it is only a measure of how much a child’s phenotype is predictable from parents’ phenotypes (technically the R^2 in a linear prediction model such as child IQ from parent IQ’s). It doesn’t necessarily imply genetic transmission or that the trait has anything to do with biology, for example a child’s native language correlates highly with that of its biological parents with heritability probably higher than that of IQ.

    I think where JT says heritability is higher for twins he means the same measure applied to prediction of a twin’s IQ from the other twin, rather than from parents. In this sense twin-to-twin or cousin-to-cousin “heritability” is a real concept even though there is no inheritance of DNA involved.

    • Replies: @Truth seeker
  21. @res

    Thanks very much for the reply. I realise the language I used may be imprecise and thus I wish to restate my question in hopefully a clearer manner. I am only interested in how much one’s traits arise from their “genes” or “DNA coding” – that’s all.

    1) The *extent* to which DNA determines any person’s particular phenotype, whatever that extent is, even though the extent may differ for traits, and the resulting phenotypes may differ in individuals, is the same in all humans. i.e. it’s not that one person’s eye colour is determined 100% by DNA in one person, but not 100% in another, and so on for all traits. Call this premise 1.

    2) Following on from premise 1, if we are able to determine the extent of DNA coding in just one individual, then we will know the extent of DNA coding for all individuals. Call this premise 2.

    3) Following on from premise 2, studies of twins reared apart, where the cause of their phenotypes are almost completely, if not completely, due to DNA, will give us this answer for the extent of DNA coding for any individual. Even allowing for inaccuracies in measuring Phenotypes, the phenotype similarity in twins reared apart, has an average that is greater than 50%. This is premise 3.

    Thus, I just want to understand which of these premises are wrong and why.

    • Replies: @res
  22. @academic gossip

    Thanks very much for the explanation. As I stated in my comment, I thought I may have been using the wrong term in “heritability”. Please see my other comment – I hope my question is now framed correctly. Thanks.

  23. res says:
    @Truth seeker

    First, I think it is worth mentioning that measuring “similarity” is nontrivial. Here is a page documenting a variety of similarity measures giving an idea of that complexity:

    Second, part of the complexity is defining a reference class. Any two humans are very similar compared to earthworms. Heritability is defined relative to a population (as discussed in my four case example above).

    For a concrete related example, consider “genetic difference/similarity” as relates to DNA base pairs. We often hear that the average genetic difference between humans and chimps is about 1% while between humans it is more like 0.1%. Those numbers are defined as the number of different base pairs across the entire genome. I think it is much more relevant to talk about differences between two particular humans (or to a reference genome). One possible metric for this is Hamming distance:

    But I think Principal Component Analysis provides a much more effective way of looking at genetic differences. Largely because it better represents the multidimensional nature of genetic differences.

    And of course, phenotypic similarity has a complex mapping to base pair similarity. The visibility of base pair changes varies dramatically. One of the things which I think makes racial genetic differences so easily observable is that they often tend to be in fairly large effect alleles AND occur in a systematic fashion.

    Regarding your premises the issues I see are:
    – I don’t think “extent” is a single value. It will vary by degree of environmental differences present.
    – Identical twins raised apart will experience different levels of environmental differences (i.e. phenotypic similarity may have an environmental component). One criticism of adoption studies is that the environments may not be reflective of the range of environments in the larger population.

    Your eye color example is a good one because it gives an idea of the complexity involved with even a fairly straightforward trait:

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