Friday, January 02, 2009

Ethnic differences in morality   posted by Razib @ 1/02/2009 07:44:00 AM

Everyone & their mother is emailing me about Jonathan Haidt's new commentary in Edge, FASTER EVOLUTION MEANS MORE ETHNIC DIFFERENCES:
I believe that the "Bell Curve" wars of the 1990s, over race differences in intelligence, will seem genteel and short-lived compared to the coming arguments over ethnic differences in moralized traits. I predict that this "war" will break out between 2012 and 2017.

There are reasons to hope that we'll ultimately reach a consensus that does not aid and abet racism. I expect that dozens or hundreds of ethnic differences will be found, so that any group - like any person - can be said to have many strengths and a few weaknesses, all of which are context-dependent. Furthermore, these cross-group differences are likely to be small when compared to the enormous variation within ethnic groups and the enormous and obvious effects of cultural learning. But whatever consensus we ultimately reach, the ways in which we now think about genes, groups, evolution and ethnicity will be radically changed by the unstoppable progress of the human genome project.

Yes, psychopathy might have adaptive "strengths" in a frequency dependent context, but I don't think that's what Haidt meant! One difference with the IQ wars when it comes to personality is that it seems every single dopamine receptor has already been implicated in behavior genetic variation, while we're still a long way from IQ loci results which have been reproduced, though one might double-check on the details of the statistical analyses on suggestive findings from behavior genetics. In any case, since the heritability of behavior in economic games has already been established, it would be interesting if GWAs found some loci which tracked the variation. My own hunch is that personality variation is less continuous than IQ (characterized by a few morphs hanging around fitness peaks), with an underlying architecture of larger effect QTLs. Perhaps altruism is just way simpler to modulate than general intelligence?