Open Thread, 3/16/2014

k10181I’ve been reading reviews of The Son Also Rises, Greg Clark’s new book on the persistence of social inequality. A major problem I see in the reactions is that the idea of heritability is not one that most public intellectuals and journalists have as part of their intellectual toolkit. If, on the other hand, you understand what heritability is Clark’s formal framework is not too interesting. Rather, the empirical results are somewhat surprising, but one can after the fact understand how they might have come about.

At some point I’ll review the book, though I want to talk to Clark about it beforehand. For readers who want to know I think though, honestly you should just check out or buy a copy of Introduction to Quantitative Genetics, and absorb the section on heritability. Once that logic is under your belt you can evaluate the argument Clark lays out, and actually chew it over. Though I will say that the results in the book probably would support hereditarian maximalists, insofar as the proportion of outcomes you can control in your offspring have almost everything to do with mate choice, and nothing to do with environment (though environmental variation is huge, it’s not accounted for, so you can’t “pick” the optimal one).

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