Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Robert Skipper, philosophy & biology weblog   posted by Razib @ 2/28/2006 03:01:00 PM

Technorati suggests that there aren't too many inbound links to Robert Skipper's weblog. There should be. His most recent post is Solving Lewontin's "Paradox of Variation".

Monday, February 27, 2006

A call out for evolution & genetics raps   posted by Razib @ 2/27/2006 11:10:00 PM

I'd like to give a shout out and request submissions for evolution & genetics related raps. Yo, you heard that right. Raps. Something that is redolent of "Lazy Sunday," I'm not looking for hard-core mimics of West coast thuggin' style. Incorporations of R.A. Fisher, Chuck D. (Charles Darwin) and W.D. Hamilton into the lyrics would be good. Doing some conversions like, "I'm going to smack your ass," to "I'm going to stat your ass" would be cool too. Get into a mindset of genomicists and statistical geneticists unintimidated by artful integrations of physical scientists. Not frontin' or trippin,' but calling out for respect.1 Remember, evolution and genetics is in the end all about "playin."

Keep them short and sweet, and post them into the comments box. I'll take the best ones and repost them (with attribution if offered) on this and my other blog. Evangelicals have their "praise music," the evo-thugs need to represent!

Thanks ahead to all participants.

1 - Please keep intimations of gang-land style violence subtle and to a minimum. I'm look for a "positive" but hip face for evolution and genetics lyrics.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Birth of the Blonde   posted by DavidB @ 2/26/2006 04:42:00 AM

Today's London Sunday Times has an article here about a forthcoming theory on the evolution of blondeness in Northern Europe. The theory is that blondeness become common around the end of the last Ice Age as a result of strong sexual selection on females. Food was short and men had to go on long arduous hunting trips. A lot of them died, leaving a surplus of females, so there was pressure for females to attract mates, resulting in variant hair colour, etc., being selected.

The theory sounds to me like what is technically known as 'a load of bollocks', but hey, what do I know? Actually, what I do know is that women, unless they are very old or seriously ugly, have no difficulty in obtaining mates - all they have to do is to be available. The theory might be more plausible if the society were strictly monogamous, and women found it difficult to get a husband to provide for their children, but very few hunter-gatherer societies are strictly monogamous, least of all if there is a surplus of women.

Added: I see from a Google search that the theory is not that new. The author, Canadian anthropologist Peter Frost, has been touting it in one form or another for some time. I should also say that even in a polygamous society sexual selection on females might operate through the quality of husbands, but I guess this would be a comparatively weak force, and what is needed for the theory is unusually strong selection.

Addendum from Razib: Remember, "beware of British newspapers." The story concludes with this old false story from 3 years ago:

A study by the World Health Organisation found that natural blonds are likely to be extinct within 200 years because there are too few people carrying the blond gene. According to the WHO study, the last natural blond is likely to be born in Finland during 2202.

John Hawks has more. A "recessive" trait like blondness will disappear when the frequency is so low within a panmictic population that the expectation of alleles conferring blondness coming together becomes very low. If you think of it as a monogenic trait (say on MC1R), then it is just a matter of Hardy-Weinberg, p2 + 2pq + q2 = 1, so if q was the frequency of the blonde allele than frequency of blondes would go to q2. As it is, I don't see the process of panmictia in the near future....

Update II OK, I'm going to cut & paste my comment here so everyone sees it. For what it's worth, Dienekes has addressed Frost's thesis and offers his own counter-argument.

re: this theory. props to peter f. for throwing something out there. but, i must say that i am starting to feel that sexual selection is the new deus ex machina in lieu of random genetic drift. ?'s

1) is the asymmetry between Y and mtDNA long term effective population greater in northern/eastern europe than in southern/western europe (the blonde-non-blonde gradient).

2) what about other populations, like eskimos, where this process occurs? since selection can be stochastic it is not inevitable that blondness will be the novel or padaeomorphic cue. could east asian padeomorphism evolve from the same bias?

3) how did blondness increase in frequency among some australian aboriginals? the probability seems high that the trait is endogenous because its transmission mode seems different than that of europeans (though there isn't a perfect coupling between blondness and fair skin, they are connected in europeans via MC1R). i know that blondness is considered attractive among the women and youth there as well.

4) recent work points to selection on non-MC1R loci to generate light skin in europeans. this might have freed up MC1R to explore genetic space and evolve novelty. but, it might be that this process of sexual selection is ubiquitous in many (most) populations and that it stochastically fixed on different traits. (eg., epicanthic fold in asians)

5) is this runaway sexual selection? that implies coupling between the preference and the trait, and extremely fast evolution toward fixation of the trait sans functional/selective constraint. it doesn't seem that blondness has ever fixed, almost no population has a majority of adult female blondes (in c.s. coon he states that only in southern sweden does the intersection of blonde hair and blue eyes exceed 50% of the population).

6) what about traits like blue eyes? that seems unrelated to MC1R.

Here is the link to the abstract.

A strange new respect   posted by dobeln @ 2/26/2006 02:56:00 AM

Just thought this tidbit from The Corner, by Tom Bethell* was interesting:

"Incidentally, this criticism, that Darwinism amounts to the retelling of Just-So Stories, was brilliantly made in the 1970s by Richard Lewontin of Harvard, now emeritus."

*The author of "The politically incorrect guide to science"

Sweden just won the Olympic Hockey Gold!!!! Whohoooooo! :P

Update from Razib: Derb schools The Corner on the Left & Right Creationists.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Genius germs?   posted by agnostic @ 2/25/2006 10:00:00 PM

I began this series at my other blog before I became a poster here. You could read this on its own, but the first four parts -- I here, II here, III here, IV here -- provide the necessary background (esp. part I, first 3 paragraphs of part II, and part III, all of which are short). Briefly, the idea was to investigate whether microbes could affect human cognition in ways more subtle than rabies. Now comes the empirical support I've uncovered: a strong winter-spring birth seasonality effect on "genius," which I take to reflect early infection. (Somewhat long read.)

We present evidence that early infection likely contributes to "genius" status -- recall from part II our definition of "genius" as anyone who had an Index Score (IS) of at least 50 (from 0-100) in the inventories of Charles Murray's Human Accomplishment. The prediction is that at the highest level -- the "giants," who score in any category's 10th "decile" (i.e., IS at least 90) -- the births will be the most lopsided toward winter-spring (WS = Dec-Feb and Mar-May), when infant infection is most likely; that the top 5 deciles will show less lopsidedeness though still toward WS; and that the bottom 5 deciles will not necessarily show the pattern. More, we predict that the more abstract the field (and thus the more it requires superhuman creativity), the more pronounced the bias. We first examine the giants, then the geniuses of the most abstract fields -- Philosophy in the humanities, Music in the arts, and Math in the sciences -- and finally the geniuses of the remaining fields. In our research, we found birth month data only for Westerners, which constrains the scope of the argument w.r.t. the arts, though no non-Westerner is among the geniuses of any science category. All lists of births available by email (see my bl*gspot profile).

First, in HA 18 Westerners scored 90 or above in any field, though only 16 figures had known birth months (unknown: Aristotle & Hippocrates). Of these 16 giants, 14 are WS: Galileo, Kepler, Darwin, Newton, Einstein, Euler, Pasteur, Koch, Edison, Watt, Beethoven, Mozart, Michelangelo, Shakespeare. Among these, 10 are winter, 4 spring. Only 2 of 16 are summer-fall (SF): Lavoisier and Lyell. The prediction checks out: 87.5% are WS, and the actual value of winter births is 2.5 times the expected value of 4.

Next, the most abstract art: Music. Homo sapiens' natural mode of expression is linguistic, and we can grope our way through visual modalities such as gesture, mime, etc. But we are utterly at a loss when it comes to non-linguistic sound. Moreover, Western music emphasizes both complex melodies, which are serial, as well as complex harmonies, where notes are stacked on top of one another. Juggling these elements for various instruments in one's head, all while attempting expression in the most foreign of artistic languages, is the greatest test of artistic genius. The Western Music inventory is particularly instructive since birth months are known for all figures save a neglible number down in the 2nd decile (2D: we use XD as short-hand for the Xth decile). There are 5 geniuses (people in 6D-10D), all 5 of whom are WS: Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Wagner, Haydn. All graphs visible here.

Turning to the most abstract science, Math, there is little role for "inevitable discovery," and the objects it studies are farther removed from the real world than in other sciences. Moreover, we have less innate / intuitive scaffolding to hoist ourselves up by when it comes to math as compared to physics or biology. There are 8 geniuses, 1 of whose birth months is unknown (Euclid in 9D). Again, the hypothesis checks out, though not as strongly as in Music -- of the known 7, 5 are WS: Euler in 10D, Newton & Gauss in 9D, Descartes & Cantor in 6D. The 2 exceptions constitute 8D: Fermat & Leibniz.

As for Philosophy, it is the only humanities field Murray included, presumably because it is (at least for now) the only one demanding genius thought, fields like history being closer to (extremly important) clerical work. Again, we only found data for Westerners. There are 4 geniuses, 1 of whose birth months is unknown -- unfortunately, the top-ranked and only figure in 10D: Aristotle. We admit this weakness. Still, the hypothesis checks out -- of the known 3, all 3 are WS: Plato in 9D, Kant in 8D, Descartes in 6D.

To sum up so far: there are 17 geniuses in the three most abstract fields, and 15 of their birth months are known. 13 of these 15 (~87%) are WS, and the 2 exceptions show up in 8D in Math. So, the percentage of WS is almost identical to that among giants, though the gross overrepresenation of winter births is gone: of these 15, only 3 (or 4 -- Plato was born in either Dec or May) are winter, which, depending on Plato's birth, is either 0.25 above or 0.75 below the expectation of 3.75.

The link to the graphs begins w/ raw number and percentage of summer-fall births in the three most abstract fields; SF are shown in order to highlight data points that falsify the hypothesis. A dashed line indicates no data points in that decile; a red numeral indicates the number of points in the decile for which data were not found. Depending on the inventory, some of the lower deciles were not examined since 1) they did not bear on the hypothesis, 2) they had larger numbers that would have required more hard labor to collect, and 3) these are the people most likely to fluctuate in and out of the inventory depending on which encyclopedias are consulted (unlike, e.g., Mozart or Newton).

Next is a graph of the other arts, Western Art and Western Literature. In Art, there are 5 geniuses, 1 of whose birth months is unknown (Titian in 6D). Of the known 4, 3 are WS: Michelangelo in 10D, Raphael in 7D, Leonardo in 6D. The 1 exception, in 7D, is one of the few people widely considered by reviewers of HA to be an epochcentric anomaly (see, e.g., this review by Denis Dutton): Picasso, who scores two deciles above Dürer, Rembrandt, Giotto, Bernini, Cezanne, & Rubens (5D). The least abstract art, Lit, we predict to be least lopsided toward WS since Murray explains that creators of Lit encyclopedias strongly consider the role the writer played in social movements, since writing is used not only for expression but for communication and persuasion. (The Art and Music inventories do not show such an effect.) E.g., for his political impact, Rousseau (in 5D) ranks two deciles above inter alia Aeschylus, Ovid, Whitman, & Proust. There are 5 geniuses, 1 of whose birth months is unknown (Homer in 6D). Of the known 4, only 1 is WS: Shakespeare, the lone figure in 10D. As the graph shows, Lit is the most SF-friendly art, as predicted.

We continue w/ a graph of the Combined Sciences. Murray only listed the top 20 figures, though his point was only to illustrate the "big fish in a small pond" effect for figures such as Lyell who dominate their small pond but don't show up in the larger pond. There are 6 geniuses, 1 of whose birth months is unknown (Aristotle in 8D). Of the 5 known, 4 are WS: Newton in 10D, Galileo in 9D, Kepler & Descartes in 6D. The 1 exception is Lavoisier in 6D. So considering the sciences as a whole, the prediction is met.

Considering each scientific pond, we turn next to the three most established sciences after Math: Physics, Chemistry, and Astronomy. In Physics, there are 9 geniuses, of whom only 4 are WS, though these include the two in 10D -- Newton & Einstein -- along w/ Galileo in 9D and Thomson in 6D. The exceptions are Rutherford & Faraday in 9D and Cavendish, Bohr, & Maxwell in 6D. In Chemistry, there are just 3 geniuses, 1 of whom is WS: Scheele in 6D. The 2 exceptions are Lavoisier in 10D and Berzelius in 7D. In Astronomy, there are 9 geniuses, 1 of whose birth months is unknown (Ptolemy in 8D). Of the 8 known, 5 are WS: Galileo & Kepler in 10D, Laplace & Copernicus in 8D, and Brahe in 6D. The 3 exceptions are Herschel in 9D, and Halley & Cassini in 6D. So, by zooming in closer on each pond, the actual value of WS is 0.5 below expectation (10 of 21 in these three fields), which weakens the hypothesis. Alternatively, sub-giant-level insight in these sciences may not require as much "outside the box" creativity as does giant-level insight in these sciences, or as does sub-giant insight in the arts.

Now we consider the two least abstract sciences (as of 1950, when Murray's survey ended): Earth Sciences and Biology. In Earth Sciences, there are 4 geniuses, 2 of whom are WS: William Smith & Agricola (Georg Bauer) in 6D. The 2 exceptions are Lyell in 10D and Hutton in 8D. This matches the prediction that the least abstract field will not show lopsidedness toward WS (as w/ Lit). Biology is another case in point, since by 1950 it was barely established as a field and not very abstract at that. There are 7 geniuses, 2 of whose birth months are unknown (Aristotle in 10D and Harvey in 6D). Of the known 5, just 2 are WS: Darwin in 10D and Linnaeus in 6D. The 3 exceptions are Lamarck in 10D, Cuvier in 9D, and Morgan in 8D.

None of the geniuses who developed biology into a mature science during the 20th Century even made it to 4D, again because Murray's encyclopedias focused on periods before 1950. For example, Darwin the Second -- Bill Hamilton -- is not included at all, while R.A. Fisher barely shows up in 1D. Though it is too early to provide a ranking of who encyclopedias 200 years from now will consider the equivalents of Newton and Rutherford, we can at least come up w/ an unordered list of newcomers and their birth seasons: Hamilton (sum), Haldane (fall), Fisher (win), Wright (win), Smith (win), Trivers (win). This is not definitive, but on the right track.

Haldane is clearly an exception, and though Hamilton's data point may appear to falsify the hypothesis of higher likelihood of infant infection among geniuses, the fuller story is revealing. Unlike every other European genius, he was born in Cairo, Egypt's most crowded, slum-ridden urban area, in Aug 1936 -- less than 4 months after Egypt had even established a Ministry of Health! More, his mother was a medical doctor, who would've been exposed to god knows what in those days and potentially have brought it home. In this sole case, we consider geographical location to be more informative than WS birth in assessing likelihood of infant infection. The geniuses in other categories show a general bias toward urban birth, but the effect is not as strong as birth month, and it is susceptible to alternative interpretations. We return to this point later.

Finally, we consider the two applied sciences: Technology and Medicine. While Technology is by definition creative and inventive, we are agnostic on whether it requires the genius of Beethoven or Newton; and Medicine is largely discovery, not creative model-building. Nevertheless, next is a graph for these two. In Technology, there are 6 geniuses, 1 of whose birth months is unknown (Archimedes in 6D). All 5 of the known are WS: Edison, Watt Leonardo, Huygens, Marconi. In Medicine, there are 8 geniuses, 3 of whose birth months are unknown (Hippocrates in 9D, Galen in 8D, and Paracelsus in 7D). Of the 5 known, all 5 are WS: Pasteur in 10D, Koch in 9D, and Ehrlich, Laennec, & McCollum in 6D. We interpret these data as not falsifying the hypothesis, though hardly a ringing endorsement of it, given the conceptual nature of the fields, their relative immaturity up to 1950, and the lacunae among the data for Medicine.

So, overall the hypothesis passes the tests for finding lopsided seasonality among genius births in abstract, creative fields, as we believe the Combined Sciences ranking better highlights scientific genius than the rankings in the separate fields which compose it. This was especially so for the mostly-winter "giants." But how do we interpret this finding? First, imagine we examined another trait w/ 0.5 probability of occuring in the general population -- say, male vs female sex. If we observed a similarly lopsided male to female ratio, we would need to account for it somehow: sex discrimination, different distributions in cognitive ability, a mix, etc. We find it implausible that social factors contribute to the seasonality of genius births: there is no evidence that WS children are encouraged more, that SF suffer Zodiac "stereotype threat," that either of these would make such a difference in magnitude anyway, and so on. In epidemiological studies, seasonality of births is typically taken to reflect the role of infection, as it cannot be easily confounded w/ other variables, unlike the effect of urban birth -- the latter could reflect selection bias for higher IQ, class structure, better access to mentors, and so forth. But the only powerful, non-magical explanation for seasonality is infection.

In principle, WS seasonality could also reflect, e.g., lack of sun exposure and thus lack of vitamin D. But unlike vitamins, microbes are alive & evolving, meaning their presence (or absence) can have either positive or negative effects, depending on whether they are mutualist or parasitic. We cannot easily conceive of how lack of vitamin D would help smart people become singular geniuses, so we find subtle microbial influence much more plausible. Indeed, a recent study done to assess seasonality of schizophrenic births also found higher cognitive development among normal WS children, as measured by various psychometric tests, though the data do not report adult IQ, which would be more noteworthy.

Now, are we saying that early infection is all there is to genius? No, because we already know from Behavior Genetics that in adulthood, the broad-sense heritability of g is ~0.7, so genes certainly play a crucial role as well, not to mention access to mentors, etc. Recall that in the lower 5 deciles of the inventories, there was no apparent seasonality, so this infection likely plays a role in a tiny minority of cases indeed -- though these are the most impressive of cases -- and again we assume the affected individuals already had a high IQ due to additive genetic effects. But since we do not know exactly what the germs are, we cannot tell what effect they would have on an average or below-average intellect; in principle, it could go either way. Therefore if the germs were identified, administering them in the hopes of turning one's child into the next Mozart would almost certainly fail, since presumably many more individuals were infected in addition to Mozart, Newton, et al. Now, if the parents had good reason to believe their child's IQ would already be quite high, the prospect would be more promising.

Where, then, does this leave us as far as exploring the cells in the "brain germ" matrix outlined in part III? We are utterly clueless as to the route, aside from knowing that it must begin early after birth, and we are also unsure of its impact of reproductive fitness. We could not easily locate data for average family size in the times and places that produced the "giants," but here are the numbers of children sired by each of the 14 WS giants: 0 (Newton, Beethoven, Michelangelo), 1 (Koch), 3 (Galileo, Kepler, Einstein, Shakespeare), 5 (Pasteur), 6 (Edison, Watt, Mozart), 10 (Darwin), and 13 for the man whose genetic output was second only to his mathematical (Euler). How these actual values compare to the expected values given the time & place in which they flourished, we leave open for now.

So if early infection is one piece of the puzzle behind Galilean excellence, might better hygiene play a role in the decline of the per capita *rate* of accomplishment that Murray wrestles w/ in HA (Ch. 21), which accelerated downward after 1800? Part of his argument is that the secularization of Europe left each generation after ~1800 w/ less motivation to pursue their calling in life. As in our discussion in Part IV of Judith Rich Harris' personality model, we don't discount social influences such as the ones Murray mentions. However, in Murray's own list of "Significant Events" (Ch. 9) for Medicine, he has boldfaced the entry of 1796 to underscore its importance: "Edward Jenner systematizes vaccination for smallpox, founding immunology" (p.194; original emphasis).

During the 19th Century, the scientists Paul Ewald calls "the microbe hunters" in his book Plague Time began searching out infectious causes for diseases and proposing cures or preventative measures, including Semmelweis' efforts to introduce rigorous hygiene among doctors who were delivering newborns in order to cut down neonatal mortality rates, not to mention Pasteur's establishment of the germ theory of disease and Koch's formulation of Koch's Postulates to determine infectious origin. Conversely, we interpret the increasing rate of accomplishment up to and shortly after the Renaissance to reflect in part the increasingly frequent exposure to microbes as a result of urbanization. Similar reasoning suggests a partial reason for why advanced civilizations produce more geniuses than hunter-gatherers.

The early immunological efforts and their present-day descendents have surely improved the quality of life for the average person born in Western nations. Yet they might also have contributed to the decline in the rate of genius-level accomplishment. As elsewhere, science can only illuminate a trade-off -- if our interpreation is correct, in this case between level of public health and rate of genius-level excellence -- and the value judgment of where to resolve the trade-off is ultimately up to the individual or the society, not scientists. More big thinkers are better than fewer, ceteris paribus, but few will accept a larger percentage of geniuses if it requires diminishing the effect of public health on quality of life for the average person. Still, we feel a certain optimism is in order: after all, the Industrial and Information Revolutions took off when the rate of accomplishment was declining, suggesting that what matters on a day-to-day level -- e.g., having electricity so you can listen to a Chopin CD -- is more a function of the raw number of big thinkers rather than their proportion of the general population.

Epilogue: Psychology. I can hardly drone on about genius cognition w/o mentioning the geniuses of Psychology. Now, the field is far too immature to show up in Murray's survey, but I came up w/ the tiny handful of psychologists I estimate will compose the top 5 deciles in the 200th anniversary edition of HA. There are two main groups in psychology: those that deal w/ universals and those that deal w/ individual differences. From the former, I'd wager that Francis Galton (win) will make it. From the latter, I'd wager that William James (win) will make it, and perhaps the founders of the two fields of cognitive psychology that are best understood: language pioneer Noam Chomsky (win) and vision pioneer David Marr (win). Just as I assume Cuvier will fall from the top 5 deciles in Biology once Hamilton & Fisher work their way into the encyclopedias, I assume the following will drop from their (even now decreasing) Deity status: Freud (win), Skinner (spr), & Piaget (sum).


Yezidis   posted by Razib @ 2/25/2006 04:16:00 PM

Michael J. Totten has an interesting piece where he interviews the religious leader of the Yezidis. I read a book on the Yezidis in college...and their "history" is difficult to untangle. If I had to bet I would contend that their assertion of the being the ur-religion of the Kurds is a rather late invention. I once talked a Kurdish cab-driver in Chicago who repeated the idea that Yezidism was the Kurdish ur-religion, so this idea seems accepted among Muslims. The Yezidi beliefs are a melange, and there are indications from their rituals that they were either Jacobite Christians or strongly influenced by Jacobite Christianity. Additionally, there are historical records of paganism within the mountains of Kurdistan, during the 17th century a Ottoman padishah was making his progress through this region and stumbled upon a village where everyone worshipped the sun. This solar paganism offended the padishah, and eventually the village converted to Jacobite Christianity (at least outwardly) to avoid his wrath. This area has a long historical record of solar paganism, the city of Haran in upper Syria was spared forced Christianization1 during the 6th century because of special protection that the Persian shah extended to it (though it was in Byzantine territory, its nearness to the Persian Empire rendered it vulnerable to attack). Haran remained a pagan city with an indigenous religion at the time of the Muslim conquest.

The Middle East certainly has many peculiar cults. One observation I have read is that the closer you get to the center of the Islamic world the greater the variation in belief and tendency toward heterodoxy. For example, the frequency of Shiism drops to zero at the antipodes of the Dar-al-Islam. The Muslim nations with non-Sunni majorities or large minorites are generally part of the "Islamic core," many of the Gulf states (including Saudi Arabia), Oman, Yemen, Syria, Iran and Lebanon. Heterodox semi and quasi Islamic groups also seem far more prominent in the Fertile Crescent than elsewhere. Aside from the Yezidis you have the Druze, the Alevis, the Alawites and the Mandaeans.

1 - The Baalbek valley was forcibly Christianized while missionaris were sent into central Anatolia during the 6th century under Justinian so as to finally complete the nominal unification of the Byzantine Empire religiously.

So where the bloody hell are you?   posted by Razib @ 2/25/2006 12:03:00 PM

The Australian Tourism Board has a new commercial out titled So where the bloody hell are you? At the link provided you have options to view the video, but, as a test I invite you to select the windows media or quicktime (not the "play" button) video and place the screen in the background so you can't see the people and listen to the female voices and rank them in attractiveness. The second time please click the "play," it will cover your full screen and you can check out what people look like see how closely your inferences by voice match reality.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Functionally complex   posted by Razib @ 2/24/2006 04:30:00 PM

Theological Incorrectness by Jason Slone is a pretty slim and insubstantial book, but, it has a great chapter that comes close to parodying the "discourse" in modern cultural anthropology. I am interested in anthropology and comparisons between cultures. Myself, I personally span two cultures,1 and feel somewhat an alien in both. Because of my perspective there is one trend in modern cultural anthropology, and to some extent the "multiculturalist" zeitgeist, that I have found profoundly alien, and that is to view culture as something out there that has almost divine power to shape and distort our perception and experience of the world around us. To be succinct, many who are influenced by a "Culturalist" mode of thinking seem to conceive of the world like so:

Culture (individual) = suite of behaviors and perceptions

That is, culture operates like a function upon the individual and spits out a particular range or likelihood of behaviors and modifies and shapes one's understanding of reality. This is taken to its extremes in claims of cultural relatively, in a denial that humans across societies have some basal fundamental feelings, yearnings and priorities. In other words, it is the idea that norms and personalities are arbitrary complexes shaped purely by cultural inputs. Being a divine essence which pervades the universe the new Culturalism denies intelligibility across peoples, it argues that relativism must reign supreme because each Culture has its own independent set of norms, inviolate axioms which lay are the foundations of individual worldviews. Warped by their cultural filter humans can not "step out" and view the world from the without and model it as a dynamic system which can be characterized by general patterns, trends and laws.

I won't belabor my point, most of you know what I am getting at. Slone suggests that the "thick description" and anti-generalist discourse & critique in modern anthropology is a path to nowhere, a dead end. Anthropologists like Scott Atran have plainly called bullshit on the tendency to claim that each culture exists as a distinct set of norms and values only intelligible from the "inside," as the anthropologists who are making the assertion themselves are on the "outside" but making knowledge claims, and often in their everyday conversation belie their contention of the reality of outsider-ignorance.

It seems a trivial assertion to contend that culture exists within the minds of humans and throughout the course of their interactions. Since humans exist in this world there are obvious constraints and probabilistic paths of cultural evolution and selection. Intelligibility is a given because we are all humans. Clarity is not guaranteed, and misunderstanding is common. When the vessels of the Chinese Muslim explorer Zheng He visited the Malabar coast of southern India they characterized the Hindus as Buddhists (idolaters). When Vasco da Gama arrived in Calicut nearly a century later he doffed his cap to some Brahmin priests he saw on the promenade, taking them for Roman Catholic clerics. Hindus are neither Buddhists nor Catholics, both groups who came from the outside saw what they were conditioned to see by their own experience of the world and the categories with which they were familiar, but, it is understandeable why they made the mistakes they did. These sort of confusions, ubiquitous as they are, make cross-cultural communication as impossible as male-female relationships (don't finish that thought!). In other words, necessary and doable, if not always easy.

Culture is an amorphous mess, and its constituent parts influence each other, as do the people who channel ideas and motifs. I have spoken of the fact that I believe that the God of the philosophers and the God of the people are two different entities, just as some Gnostics asserted that the God of the Hebrew Bible and the God of the New Testament were different entities. In this case, variation within the human mind results in different outputs from the same putative inputs. Or, consider the Protestant Christianity of South Korea and that of Sub-Saharan Africa. Both these regions have been Christianized only within the past few generations from northern European cultural sources, but the forms that the faith has taken differs radically. My exploration of the scene of Protestant Korean Christianity suggests that it is taking a course not dissimilar from that of European Christianity, developing a sophisticated liberal modernist theology at sharp variance with the orthodox conservative substrate. One strand of Korean Christianity is highly rational, systematic and philosophical, even if the majority of it reflects a shamanistic sensibility in the power of God to offer favor to his believers or an Old Time fundamentalist literalism. I do not know of similar developments in Africa even though the religious scene is just as vibrant (in fact more so, half of Koreans lack religious affiliation and a large minority are atheists). The point is that the different cultures had their own biases and simply refashioned a set of beliefs and norms which were transmitted to them from Europeans. This is why I tire of heuristics such as "Christianity implies...." One can speak to creedal confessions, but as to whether Christianity accepts polygyny, prosperity theology or ancestor worship is culturally conditioned. Humans aren't robots who are preprogrammed with hard-coded lines of C without flexible conditionals.

On another forum I got into a long dispute with someone who was expressed a Culturalist perspective. Ultimately we kept talking past each other until he asked me whether I thought that a Chinese peasant and a European peasant would have the same cognitive states. His contention was that "forward thinking" Christianity was critical to breaking out of the normative "cyclical" mode of cosmology that dominated the pagan mentality. I think the problem here is that most humans can barely define the difference between a circle and a line, let along allow the implications of linear eschatologies to percolate into their minds. I get tired of the stories about how culture A makes people behave in way X because you can tell almost any story with the enormous sample space of data you have. I know because I do know enough factual tidbits that I could dishonestly abduce all sorts of rubbish which I have no faith in simply by biasing the data set.

But do cognitive differences exist? Yes, I suspect so. But need we to get off our asses, and stop pretending like what we think we know is sufficient to model the world as it is.

Consider this paper (PDF):

This study examined the emergence of cultural self-constructs as reflected in children's remembered and conceptual aspects of self. European American and Chinese children in preschool through 2nd grade participated (N = 180). Children each recounted 4 autobiographical events and described themeslves in response open-ended questions. American children often provided elaborate and detailed memories focusing on their own roles, preferences, and feelings; they also frequently described themsleves in terms of personal attributes, abstract dispositions, and inner traits in a positive light. Chinese children provided relatively skeletal accounts of past experiences that centered on social interactions and daily routes, and they often described themselves in terms of social roles, context-specific characteristics, and overt behaviors in a neutral or modest tone....

The findings aren't too surprising, but read the whole paper, some of the results conflicted with the researcher's a priori expectations based on their model of cultural differences. That's why they did the research!

About 6 months ago I asked Chris of Mixing Memory about cognitive psychological studies which examined how believers in different religions conceived of the world around them, how they reacted to a range of inputs, etc. Chris didn't know of any such studies. My knowledge of the literature suggests that cognitive scientists are spending a lot of time understsanding the universal basal aspects of religious belief, as opposed to the cross-cultural variation and possible deep differences in perception and reaction to the world based on the religious ideology they profess to follow. My hunch is that controlling for variables the impact of religious ideology is less than one would think. That is, religious views and interpretations are driven forward by cultural assumptions and currents, they do not hold culture and individual on a tight leash. To be specific and frank, the savagery of Islam today is a function of the savagery of the cultures that espouse Islam, not the religion itself (and there was a time when Islam was an exemplar of civilized cosmopolitanism). Did Islam have a role independently in the current state of the Muslim world? Perhaps. But the current models bandied about in the public forum are far too glib and skeletal for my taste. Since I've come close to espousing nominalism in terms of what the religious labels mean substantively I'll stop there, because I've come close to saying something about nothing.

Suppositions need to be tested. My patience is running thin on bullshit derived from reading The Jerusalem Post and two Bernard Lewis books (if you know considerably more than me about an aspect of history which I'm enthusiastic about I'll be sure to be wowed of course!). I nearly shut down the blog in disgust after Matt McIntosh's post (and one GNXP contributor had their account deleted and I sent out some nasty emails to people I don't normally pick fights with).

I recall watching a documentary about the Ottoman Empire once. There was one montage where janissaries were drumming on the war march. There is something hypnotic about battle music, thousands of men marching in tandem to kill other humans, emotionally driven to irrational self-sacrifice and putting their own existence in jeopardy. The reptilian brain is a persistent seductress. Whatever general intelligence humans have, that does not imply that our rationality is not easy to scratch off given the appropriate teases. I see us standing at the apex of a steep ridge, and the snake is whispering in our ears to dash left or right. To one side are the howlers of the one true faith, those who know the truth and live for the acclaim of their fellows, who thrive on boiling blood and the exultation of rhetorically slippery point after point sliding under the armor. To the other side are thriving legions drunk on the delusions of their own solipsistic dreams, follies and fantasies. They have abandoned the quest in favor of indulgences and personal gratification. Shall we join the battle? Not yet. We may broker a less costly peace if God is on our side. But if you want to prepare your armor for battle, be my guest, leave us, but the hill is steep, I don't expect to see you back.

1 - The span is not symmetric. My Bengali aspects are accidents.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Shia, Sunni and other states of mind....   posted by Razib @ 2/23/2006 05:51:00 PM

Over the past day the query Shiite vs. Sunni in google has sent us a swarm of traffic, for obvious reasons. Religious taxonomy is a nasty thing. Godless Capitalist once expressed the opinion that trying to figure out the stamp collections of religous sects was as worthwhile as comic book systematics...the only problem of course is that people don't kill each other over comic book differences. As an unbeliever I have expressed the opinion that I don't think most religions are that special or distinctive cognitively, but as a student of humanity I also am aware that believers imbue their religious affiliation with deep and powerful significance. People kill each other over religious differences...but these motivations are also usually in part a mask for other fissues and factions. The Greek pagans of the 4th century quipped that the Christians killed each other over a letter, homoousia, the same essence, being the Trinitarian position, and homoiousia, the similar essence, being an Arian position. There was certainly more to it than one letter,1 many have noted the power of heresies in non-Greek regions of the Eastern Roman Empire, ergo, the implication that theological disputation was a mask for nationalist dicontent. This begs the question as to the validity of "nationalist" identities during this period, and further ignores the reality that Aramaic speaking Palestine was firmly orthodox while the primary propagandizers for the heretical movements within the Eastern Church were Greek speakers themselves.

In regards to this "Shia vs. Sunni" schism, and the barbarity of impending civil war, it makes us reflect on our suppositions about the "unity of Islam." One might suppose that this conflict has deep roots in the conflict between Shia and Sunni in Iraq, but the historical reality is that the Shia majority of the geographical region which composes Iraq today is an artifact of the 19th century! As European engineering reopened vast swaths of southern Iraq to farming, traditionally Sunni nomads began to settle and become farmers. The non-nomad population of southern Iraq at this period consisted of Shia, many of them derived from pilgrims who had settled in the holy cities of the region and were Iranian in origin.2 The new farmers picked up the religious affiliation of the long-standing residents of the area, and there you have the Arab Shia majority in the nation-state that became Iraq. The shift from "Sunnism" to "Shia" identity suggests a fluidity that is belied by the fact that people kill each other over these differences. It has been suggested that the number of Shia in Pakistan increased in the 1980s in response to the partial imposition of Sharia in Pakistan during the rule of Zia-ul-Huq because the Shia traditions were more liberal. As I have noted before, the Alawites of Syria seem to have shifted in their identity quite a bit in the 20th century, going from the gray land between Islam and non-Islam to Twelver Shiism. If you may indulge me a bit, the idea that the Alawites are Twelver Shia is ludicruous when you compare their beliefs and habits with non-Twelver Shia who are far less heterodox. But, it makes more sense when you consider that the declaration that the Alawites were Twelver Shia occurred during a time when sectarian conflict in Lebanon made it politic for the Lebanese Shia to express solidarity with the religious elite of their larger neighbor.

The point is that there are layers within layers, and peeling the pages of this book back you become less and less sure of the boundaries, categories and definitions you once thought were hard and fast. On the one hand, I am suggesting that religious identity is far more fluid and subject to the vicissitudes of personal and social history. But I also do not deny that people kill themselves in part due to religious motivations. I suspect part of the answer lay in understanding the cognition of human beings, and stepping back from the assumption that humans are unitary reflective beings. Rather, we are decomposed into various sub-entities with specific axioms and utility functions, and to top it off many of these sub-entities are not exposed to our conscious mind.

Weird Addendum: In the "I don't get religious people category," please read about the Domneh. Also, in No God but God Reza Aslan writes that Shah Ismail, founder of the Safavid dynasty which converted all of Iran to Twelver Shiism, proclaimed himself mahdi by declaring "I am God, very God, very God!" Here is something via google print (type "Shah Ismail I am God"):

My name is Shah Isma'il. I am God's mystery.
I am the leader of all these ghazis....
I am the living Khidr, and Jesus, son of Mary.
I am the Alexander of my contemporaries.

The Perfect Guid has arrived. Faith has been brought to all.
All the ghazis are full of joy at the coming of the seal of the Prophets.
A man has become a manifestation of the truth.
Prostrate thyself!
Pander not to Satan! Adam has put on new clothes.
God has come.

Tell us what you reall think buddy (remember, Islam abominates idolatry!)....

1 - Some historians had asserted that the espousal of Arianism by Constantius II was the primary factor in sustaining that faction as a force deep into the 4th century. Why was Constantius an Arian? Many contend it was the influence of his tutor, the bishop Eusebius. The point is that major historical dynamics may be rooted in such capricious and arbitrary convergences.

2 - I say Iranian specifically to include the large Turkic population of Iran.

"Black" and "white" twins   posted by Razib @ 2/23/2006 02:59:00 PM

Update: More comments here, here and here.
End update

Desidancer and Diana both pointed me to this story about a mixed race couple who gave birth to daughters of very different phenotypes. The explanation in the story is about right, the loci which give you a gestalt impression of racial identity are a tiny sample of your overall genome. In the story it is reported that 7 genes control skin color and F1 (first generation) hybrids should carry half of the variants of each race (since their parents contribute exactly 50% of the genes to each). But the F2 generation can come out as a range of combinations, so it stands to reason that mixed-race couples will have children who vary a great deal in phenotype as the alleles resegregate themselves into alternative combinations. I lay out the details in By the Punnett Square. South Asians, who often exhibit a wide range of color variation from near white to near black, should not be surprised at this sort of dynamic, as the variance within a family can be rather large in complexion.

In any case, independent assortment implies that even if the coloration of these two children reflects one of their ancestral ethnic groups, other traits do not necessarily line up in such a fashion. Since the twins above are babies it is hard to discern facial traits (they just look like babies), but I wouldn't be surprised if the "white" and "black" baby had facial traits that were more equidistant to the metrics of whites and blacks (this would be expectation, though you expect a lot of variance still). There is a reason that in much of the southern part of the New World where admixture between Africans, Europeans and American indigenes is common, there are dozens of definitions for racial phenotypes, because the full range of appearance is expressed in a large enough mixing population (eg, there are terms for people with Negroid facial features and hair form and Nordic coloration and European facial features and hair form and Sub-Saharan African coloration).

By the way, as personal stories like this become more common hopefully we'll stop hearing about how everyone in the future will be brown because of admixture. More values at each variable will result in an increase in variance for the distribution, not a decrease.

Update: OK, I think I need to repost this link, The incidence of superfecundation and of double paternity in the general population:

Sometimes superfecundation occurs by two different men. The frequency with which this occurs must depend on rates of infidelity (promiscuity). It is suggested that among DZ twins born to married white women in the U.S., about one pair in 400 is bipaternal. The incidence may be substantially higher in small selected groups of dizygotic twin maternities, eg. those of women engaged in prostitution.

In other words, double paternity is a possible explanation, but if the number of loci in question is seven or less than this is surely will the expected range due to variance emerging from heterozygosity in the parents1 (and we are only looking at skin color here from what I can tell, the two infants are still of the "baby race," other features are not at play). I don't think that the expectation of double paternity, evening adjusting for SES, approaches the probability that "white" and "black" color genes will resegregate in this fashion.

Update II: David points out that this is being reported in the British newspapers, which does alter your Bayesian priors, but walk around Lowell, Massachusetts, and observe the range in phenotype of the Cape Verdian community. The general point still stands.

1 - Fisher's 1918 paper dealt in large part with the variance expected from heterozygous parents.

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The Evolution of Co-operation: the Santos Model   posted by DavidB @ 2/23/2006 07:02:00 AM

The existence of cooperation is one of the major problems in human evolution. Among non-human animals, cooperation is rare except among individuals who are closely related. Among humans, in contrast, it is common. The problem is to explain this in view of the temptation to 'defect' from cooperation, obtaining its benefits without its costs. The problem is classically exemplified in the game of the Prisoner's Dilemma, where in any single play of the game it is always advantageous for an individual to defect, even though two players who cooperate will both do better than two who defect.

A variety of solutions to the problem have been suggested. They include:

- reciprocal altruism in repeated interactions (Trivers)

- group selection for benefits to the social group (D. S. Wilson, Boyd and Richerson, and others)

- cooperation enforced by punishment, including 'altruistic' punishment (see e.g. here)

- indirect fitness benefits to cooperators, such as sexual selection via the Handicap Principle.

An interesting alternative or addition to these solutions has been developed in recent work by F. C. Santos and colleagues. The main papers are available here. (NB some of these are in preprint form, so they may not correspond exactly to published versions). As far as I understand it (which may not be very far) the key feature of the Santos model is that societies have a heterogeneous structure, in such a way that some individuals have more social interactions than others. The results of simulations appear to show that for plausible values of the parameters cooperation can prevail even in the classical Prisoner's Dilemma game, where each pair of individuals meet at random and interact no more than once.

This appears paradoxical, because there is no doubt that if players interact at random, the average payoff per interaction is greater for defectors than cooperators, whatever their proportions in the population. If payoffs are measured in reproductive fitness one would therefore expect defectors to drive cooperators to extinction. The solution to the paradox is that the total payoff to each individual depends not only on his average payoff per interaction, but on his total number of interactions with all other individuals. Provided the average payoff is positive, a player with a lower average payoff, but a lot of interactions, may do better overall than one with a higher average payoff but fewer interactions. So if 'cooperative' individuals have more interactions than 'defectors', they may do better than defectors even if their interactions with cooperators and defectors are random in the sense that they are in line with their proportions in the population.

There may be a suspicion of some fallacy in this argument, and on reading the Santos papers I didn't understand how cooperators could have more interactions overall without also driving up the number of interactions (and the total payoff) for defectors. However, I worked through a few simple numerical examples to satisfy myself that the model can work. The explanation is that an increase in the total interactions of cooperators does increase the interactions of defectors, but not to the same extent as for cooperators. By analogy, suppose that males and females have both homosexual and heterosexual encounters. It would then be possible for males (or females) to increase their total number of both homosexual and heterosexual encounters, maintaining the same proportions of these as before, while the other sex increased only its heterosexual encounters. In the same way, if cooperators increase their number of interactions with both cooperators and defectors, they may increase their total number of interactions compared to defectors. The average payoff per interaction for cooperators is unchanged, while for defectors it increases (because a higher proportion of their interactions are with cooperators), but the total payoff to cooperators relative to defectors can still increase.

Of course, this shows only that the model is possible, not that it is realistic in practice. It is certainly realistic to suppose that different individuals have differing numbers of social interactions, but this does not explain why cooperators should have more interactions than defectors. Unless we suppose that the tendency to interact is somehow correlated with the tendency to cooperate, it would seem to be a matter of chance whether cooperation evolves.

But the problem disappears if we allow something equivalent to reputation to enter the model, because individuals with a reputation as cooperators will have more encounters than those with a reputation as defectors. I therefore suspect that the Santos model will be most useful in conjunction with models involving reputation and reciprocity, which arise mainly in humans and other social animals with advanced cognitive capacities.

Added: I should have emphasised that the ultimate outcome depends on the parameters. If the advantage per interaction of defection relative to cooperation is too large, the 'Santos Effect' will only slow down the elimination of cooperators, not prevent it. Cooperation will only prevail in the long run if the difference in payoffs is small-to-moderate.

The alpha of the pack once again!   posted by Razib @ 2/23/2006 03:38:00 AM

One of the things that really, really, sucks about the "ID vs. Evolution" "controversy" is how much oxygen it can suck out of the air which could be devoted to shiznit like this, Structural variation in the human genome, Nature Reviews Genetics. One of the unfortunate (or fortunate depending on how you view it) rules of the game in regards to the old classical genetics was that humans were mostly theory and observational inference (eg, pedigree analysis), while the real experimental work was done in flies or mice.1 If terms like "additive genetic variance" and "fitness" were difficult to get a good finger on when you are talking about lines of Drosophila to whom you are the evil demon with the writ of life, death, fecundity and extinction, then they were really in a nasty situation when you knocked around some assumptions to hold you steady in regards to humans. This is kind of a shame because God the Father of the Trinity of modern population genetics, R.A. Fisher, was interested in humans most of all of all the creations of the Demiurge. The great thing about genomics is humans aren't relegated to the back seat anymore (again, many people might not revel in our return to the state of natural examination). In fact, conservation geneticists who work with wildlife are now eager to piggy back on techniques funded by the good graces of the NIH for the sake of human gene sequencing and expression analysis. The genomic revolution has put humans back at the center of the scientific universe as players. Anyway, the abstract:

The first wave of information from the analysis of the human genome revealed SNPs to be the main source of genetic and phenotypic human variation. However, the advent of genome-scanning technologies has now uncovered an unexpectedly large extent of what we term 'structural variation' in the human genome. This comprises microscopic and, more commonly, submicroscopic variants, which include deletions, duplications and large-scale copy-number variants - collectively termed copy-number variants or copy-number polymorphisms - as well as insertions, inversions and translocations. Rapidly accumulating evidence indicates that structural variants can comprise millions of nucleotides of heterogeneity within every genome, and are likely to make an important contribution to human diversity and disease susceptibility.

1 - The old physical anthropology was mostly description and narrative storytelling.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Open thread on "the good life"   posted by Razib @ 2/22/2006 07:22:00 PM

What is the good life for you?

Over @ Science Blogs   posted by Razib @ 2/22/2006 03:49:00 PM

The nature of religion and Breaking the Spell, The story of symbolic algebra and The society of science.

Book review in Science and Spirit   posted by Razib @ 2/22/2006 12:40:00 PM

I have a review of Nick Wade's Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors coming out in the May/June issue of Science & Spirit magazine. Wade's book covered the intersection of genetics and human evolution, so it was a quick and interesting read.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Trading races   posted by Razib @ 2/21/2006 07:51:00 PM

FX has a new show about two families switching races. Check out the before and after pictures though....

From black dad, to 70's porn star?

From black mom, to Tisha Campbell?

From black kid, to Filipino?

From white dad to dark-skinned Egyptian?

From white mom to a 70's muppet?

From a white kid to a Somali?

You can get pictures pictures at My Space. Here is a article about the show.

Evil creeps into CNN   posted by Razib @ 2/21/2006 06:50:00 PM

Control-f "godless capitalist" going through this CNN Reliable Sources transcript. Glenn commented on this back then too.

Doing the experiment   posted by Razib @ 2/21/2006 04:37:00 PM

Over at The American Scene Ross Douthat offers his commentary on Daniel Dennett's new book. He states:

...fortified by the dubious insights of evolutionary psychology, on the efforts of earlier debunkers like Sigmund Freud and H.G. Wells....

I'm a bit frustrated by this. Over on my other weblog one reader offered a chesnut of wisdom in regards to religion from James Frazer. If you don't follow the wiki link, Frazer died in 1941. Freud and Wells are long dead.

Now, no one would appeal to Lord Kelvin or William Bateson to "debunk" new ideas in physics or genetics, but in the human sciences novel paradigms are often dismissed by comparison with the theories which have lost their luster. In Religion Explained the cognitive anthropologist Pascal Boyer spent the first chapter dealing with the fact that most people walking around assumed that they could explain religion rather well. "Religion is about ethics," "religious is about the afterlife" or "religion is about social control." Many of these reflections seem plausible and derive from some inner intuition we have shaped by our hardware and software parameters. Because Dennett is something of a polemicist the fact that he is riding on the crest of a research program that was birthed by the cognitive revolution is totally ignored.

Social science is hard. The study of humanity as a natural phenomenon has been fraught with dead-ends. But before modern chemistry there was phlogistan. Paradigms like Connectionism and dynamicism stand against computationalism in attempting to understand "how the mind works." The problem with understanding humanity is that everyone assumes that they are experts (excluding autistics). Discourse on how and why humans behave as they do even among intellectuals tends to live in an age before Galileo, that is, we all "know" that more massive objects fall faster, no need to test this via controlled experimentation.

I am not saying that the insights of the new human sciences are rock-solid, that they will stand the test of time. Rather, they are all we have to go beyond the expectations of our intuitions, which are often faulty outside banal and conventional social contexts. I recall going to a lecture once where a researcher in molecular systematics exposited on the virtues of the hypothetico-deductive model. He explained that systematics before the revolt of the cladists consisted of long-winded debates by "experts." In response to a criticism of a particular cladistic tree an "expert" would simply state that this tree was valid because "I said so." Myself, I don't bow to the Cult of Popper, and good science does exist outside the hypothetico-deductive model. After having endured a diatribe from a good friend on the parsimonious tyrannies of the Hennigians in systematics, I'm not laying down any dogma of How Science is Done. But too much of reflection on the human condition consists of I Said So.

Preemptive response to Michael: Art, ethics, virtue, beauty, light, music, dance, sport, etc. etc. can exist in their own domains. Science is not the True Way to Conquer All, and all men are not created in mine image, nor do I wish them to be, let a thousand flowers bloom.. I'm just saying that there are people who are actually rolling the balls down the ramp when it comes to the human mind, the reach of I Said So is coming to an end and "cultural critics" should start burnishing their opinions about the arts as opposed to the social sciences. God willing, soon they will look as ridiculous talking about the human mind as they do commenting on evolution.

Measuring Autistic IQ   posted by Jemima @ 2/21/2006 03:59:00 PM

ScienceNOW Daily News has an article on The Case of Mistaken IQ:

Health workers routinely assess autistics using a standard IQ test known as the Wechsler test. But this test requires that children understand oral commands, a trait that many autistic children have trouble with. Cognitive neuroscientist Laurent Mottron of the Hopital Riviere-des-Prairies, Montreal and colleagues noticed that autistic children did poorly on the verbal comprehension part of the Wechsler but exceedingly well on a part that tests non-verbal intelligence and reasoning.

So the researchers decided to test 30 autistic children and 30 autistic adults with a different IQ test called the Raven's Progressive Matrices test, which is written rather than oral. Healthy children and adults performed similarly on both the Wechsler and the Raven test. But speaking autistics scored up to 30 percentile points higher on the Raven test than the Wechsler test, the researchers reported here 19 February at the annual meeting for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which publishes ScienceNOW). "Thirty percentile points could raise a retarded person to normal or a normal one to a superintelligent one," says Mottron.

It sounds like a bit of factor analysis could have gotten them the same result. I didn't find an actual reference, but here's the AAAS press release about the symposium.


Lawrence Summers Resigns   posted by TangoMan @ 2/21/2006 01:03:00 PM

If this isn't the sign of the zenith of the Age of Leftist Creationism it's hard to imagine what else would qualify. Summers faced continuing skirmishes with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and has chosen to resign his post as President of Harvard. Here is his letter of resignation.

Related: Much ado about women & Larry Summers

Derek Bok will be the interim president. I'm thinking that the inventor of the internet will likely be Summers' replacement. All Hail President Gore. He has stature. He can fundraise. He's written on the environment. He's a politician and should be good at smoothing ruffled feathers.

Update: Alan M. Dershowitz on the coup d'etat.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Gay Marriage: The Backdoor to Citizenship   posted by TangoMan @ 2/20/2006 01:13:00 AM

Remember the Canadian hoax last summer that involved two straight guys, Bryan Pinn and Bill Dalrymple, who decided to try out Canada's new fangled gay marriage law solely for the benefits that they would get from taking the plunge? Their's was an entirely feasible plan because the law doesn't require consummation in order to be valid. Well, Britain's civil partnership law also doesn't require consummation and enterprising immigration lawyers are advising their foreign clients of these nuances:

Undercover reporters were told by six different firms of solicitors how to exploit a loophole in the civil partnership rules to get passports.

Immigrants face less rigorous tests if they seek to gain British citizenship through a civil partnership than through a heterosexual marriage.

Under laws that took effect last December, gay people have the same immigration rights as married people - and may secure a full passport after two years in the country.

However, while marriages have to be consummated to qualify there is no such requirement on couples in a civil partnership. It is thus not illegal for two heterosexual friends to form a civil partnership and then to "divorce" after two years once the foreigner has gained British citizenship.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Derb, not posted   posted by Razib @ 2/19/2006 07:14:00 PM

I noticed that John Derbyshire's latest column was not posted at NRO. But, you can find it at his website. Also, here are his other two web pieces not posted, You can't talk about that and the innocuously titled March Diary.

Multiculturalism   posted by Razib @ 2/19/2006 06:33:00 PM

Amartya Sen has an interesting piece in The New Republic titled Chili and liberty: the uses and abuses of multiculturalism. Sen's piece addresses the paradox in the interpretation of "multiculturalism" in some quarters where it implies separation of distinct cultures into a "plural monoculturalism." That is, a nation where separate ethnic and religious groups live apart within the same polity. A pre-modern form of this system would be the millets of the Ottoman Empire, where religious leaders would be responsible for and command their own particular community. A contrasting dynamic is the admixture of various particular traditions and forms into a new cultural complex, in Sen's case he points to the emergence of curry powder, a British colonial invention that has become synonomous with South Asian culture and now is a common part of the British culinary scene. Going back to the Ottoman example, the fez which Kemal Attaturk famously banned as an example of retrograde practice was originally introduced only one century prior and had little sectarian implication.

Sen's own biases seem to be quite obvious. He offers that reason and individual liberty are primary values, and when multiculturalism conflicts with them he clearly believes it has overstepped its bounds. Cultural innovation is all for the good, but the ossification and formalization of group barriers which is engendered by something akin to the millet system is not something Sen seems to favor. Sen asks why the British government legitimates particular religious leaders as community spokesmen when there are more progressive ethnic activists who also claim representative status. He seems concerned that religious identity has become a primary token for identification, and uses the case of Bangladeshis as a particular example where religious rather than linguistic affinities seem to be the manner in which they are classified.

Sen doesn't get into the details, but the example of Bangladeshis is quite instructive. Before 1950 the Muslim elite in eastern Bengal, what became Bangladesh, were the most stalwart supporters of the Muslim League which agitated for the partition of the Indian subcontinent so that Muslims did not live in a Hindu majority state. Before 1947 the Hindu elite of Calcutta agitated for partition of Bengal precisely because they feared being under the domination of a Muslim majority Pakistan. Yet by the 1960s the Bengali speaking Muslim elite of what was then East Pakistan began to emphasize their Bengali identity. The national poet of Bangladesh is a Hindu Bengali, Rabindranath Tagore (whose family had lands in what is now Bangladesh, then East Bengal). An emphasis on the Bengali language was a common tendency of many educated Leftish Bengalis raised after 1947, when the dominant oppressive elite consisted of Muslims from West Pakistan or other regions of British India. In contrast my grandparents lived during a time when many of the local notables were Hindus, many of whom fled to India after 1947.1 During this time period the Bengali speaking Muslim middle class felt marginalized by the predominantly Hindu capital and intellectual classs based in Calcutta.

The fluidity and multivalent nature of identity that Sen alludes to in his essay was a central theme of my post Clash on Crank, where I showed that the Muslim-Christian divide in medieval Spain masked differences of locality and class, and that when opportunity presented itself personal and familial interest easily superseded civilizational loyalty. The emphasis that one puts on a particular axis of an identity vector is contingent upon a host of situationally sensitive parameters. In one context someone might be brown, in another Muslim, in another a Bengali, in another a woman, and so on. The state, in its attempt to simplify the messiness of reality categorizes and deputizes, compresses and condenses. Though something like a French identity surely existed prior to the 1790s, the revolution did impose national uniformity. The French were relatively successful at forging a new identity where regional and local ties were subordinated, but various Third World nations have been less successful because they've had further to go with less social capital to start with. A plural monoculture is probably in many ways ideal for a governing and bureaucratic class. In this way individuals can be put in their boxes and managed and controlled with a precise set of heuristics determined by their identity. An admixed multiculturalism is a more amorphous and less governable situation.

Sen himself has a personal axe to grind. Though born in India, he has spent a great deal of time in England and the United States. His first marriage was to an Indian woman, but his second to a woman of Italian heritage, his third to classicist Martha Nussbaum (a convert to Judaism) and his latest to a woman of Jewish background (going by name). A nobel prize winning economist who emerged out of an elite cosmopolitan Hindu Bengali family, Sen started out biased toward social fluidity serviced by reason. Individuals like him do not benefit from a stable social order constained by familial and group buffers. To understate the situation, he is not the typical South Asian immigrant to England. When Tony Blair panders to some of the less progressive elements of the Muslim community it is not because he sympathizes with their viewpoints, rather, they are numerous and need to be taken into account as a practical matter. When progressives like Chris Bertram argue that Muslims should and can be treated as ethnic groups, it is no doubt out of pragmatic concerns. Progressives who are visibly of minorities who have their own individual interests at stake like Sen might argue that the imprimatur of primary legitimacy that this gives religious identities in the interests of short term pragmatism sacrifices the long term project of positive liberty toward individual choice and expression. Of course, the long term project of positive liberty toward individual choice and expression has already been attained for someone with the surname "Bertram," so the same weights are not given to all these individual issues as opposed to concerns about social stability. Identities do not emerge in a vacuum independent of other influences, the surrounding society has a large role, and what direction it throws it influence has not been determined.

In any case I do not believe that Sen's vision of an admixed multiculturalism is multiculturalism at all, I believe that he is slyly aligning himself with the Enlightenment Project, which fundamentally does stand for something aside from group autonomy. A cultural melange where ideas and fashions float freely in the soup of individual choice must be mediated by common standards and norms. A plural monocultural vision allows group identities and the leaders of these groups to arbitrate cultural evolution, but a unitary multiculturalist vision, where more peculiar admixtures (eg, half-black Jewish Buddhist) arise is simply too chaotic to be managed by a decentralized oligarchy, rather a central state with a monopoly of core values must organize the flux. From a purely utilitarian perspective Sen's vision is not necessarily optimal. If a democratic vote was taken within Muslim communities in Europe they might very well prefer to exist as self-organized and self-ruled millets within the superstructure of European-nation state. In other words, they would be in the nations, as opposed to of the nations. Regardless of what some progressives say and what their ultimate intent is in agreeing toward the crystallization of a Muslim "ethnicity," that is certainly one step toward this process because of the more immutable nature of ethnicity. Where does that leave people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali? Definitely in a difficult place. Though Sen is not from a Muslim background, he is a Bengali, and his allusion to the situation of Bangladeshis, with whom he shares ethnicity in a fashion (no matter the current tendency to conflate ethnicity with religion by the administrative and cultural elites), indicates to me that he is not comfortable with the possibility of his own identity being boxed in from the outside via collusion between well meaning politicians and intellectuals and rising ethnic rights activists who have their own specific vision. In the short term part of the multiculturalist debate must come down to whether the quality of life of people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali is valued equally with someone whose lifestyle is at more radical variance with the Western norm. If you play it by the numbers the latter camp are certainly more numerous than Ali,2 and their rights in the face of censure and criticism from the majority culture should be safeguarded. Myself, though I tend to accept equality before the law, I do not accept impartiality in my heart, and people like Ali are thousands of times more valuable to the maintenance of the Western tradition than those who would temporize about the value of the Enlightenment or waver in their adherence to their nation of residence as opposed to a vague and utopian transnational civilization.

Update: The Guardian has an interview/profile of Sen up. It confirms many of my conjectures above on Sen's personal perspective shaping how he views the multicultural issue. For the record, one reason I support reduced levels of immigration for any country is because it allows the emulsifying power of human social interactions to work. In contrast, a mass volkswanderung simply alters the spatial relation of preexistent cultures.

1 - The flight of Hindus continues in Bangladesh, many who now live in India have deputized Muslim neighbors to watch over their properties and on paper remain residents of Bangladesh (they would forfeit their assets if they were no longer residents of the country).

2 - Actually, I suspect more accurately, more vocal and organized.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Towards a Rational Drugs Policy   posted by DavidB @ 2/18/2006 08:07:00 PM

This post is intended to provoke discussion on the aims of (recreational) drugs policy and law.

As this is largely a political issue, I will put it below the fold for those who are interested.

I will start by proposing a few general principles.

1. First, I take the general pro-liberty position that sane adults should be free to do what they like, provided it does not harm others. We rightly allow people to climb mountains, to play rugby, or to have unprotected sex with strangers, even though these activities can prove fatal. Any exception to this general presumption needs to be justified.

2. In deciding whether to prohibit any activity, its benefits as well as its detriments need to be considered. In the case of drugs, the benefits are mainly in the form of personal pleasure to the users. These benefits tend to be ignored or undervalued in public debate, because most religions, philosophies, and political ideologies have a strong bias against personal pleasure.

3. In considering the merits of legislation, all of its effects need to be taken into account. One effect of prohibiting popular activities (drugs, alcohol, gambling, prostitution, etc.) is that organised crime will arise to meet the demand, with consequential effects on police corruption and so on.

4. Restrictions of liberty should not be greater than is strictly necessary to prevent harm.

From these principles I draw the conclusion that the use of drugs by sane adults should in general be permitted. It does not follow, at least not directly, that the supply of drugs should be permitted. It would be logically consistent to argue that individuals should be permitted to harm themselves by taking drugs, but that those who supply drugs are harming others and should be prevented from doing so. However, if individuals have the right to use drugs, then they must have the right to grow or manufacture drugs for their own use. We could imagine people buying part-shares in Columbian coca plantations or Afghan poppy fields. Cocaine can also be synthesised from inorganic chemicals, though at present it is cheaper to use coca. Amphetamines and various other synthetic drugs can be manufactured with a modest amount of equipment. And if personal manufacture is allowed, there can hardly be any objection of principle to the commercial supply of drugs as a safer and more efficient alternative. However, it would still be consistent with the general principle of liberty that the drugs trade should be tightly regulated.

There could of course be exceptions to the general presumption of liberty. First, there could be some drugs that are so dangerous that no sane adult, if fully informed of the dangers, would risk taking them. It is a matter for debate whether any drugs in fact come into this category. Unfortunately discussion of drugs tends to be inaccurate in one direction or the other: anti-drug campaigners exaggerate the dangers (e.g. the myth that a single rock of crack is infallibly addictive), while pro-druggies play down the dangers. It is also important to distinguish between the intrinsic effects of drugs and the by-products of their present illegal status. Much of the harm caused by heroin, for example, is due to the unpredictable strength and purity of drugs on the street, and to the use of unhygienic needles.

The second possible exception is where a drug causes its users, with high probability, to do harm to others. It is notorious, for example, that crack addicts often steal to pay for their habit. However, it follows from Principle 4 that a prohibition of drugs is unlikely to be justified solely on this ground. If people commit theft or other crimes as a result of drug use, it is fairer to punish them for these crimes rather than for using drugs, which would involve punishing people who may never commit such crimes at all.

If it is accepted that in principle the use and sale of drugs should be permitted, subject to regulation, it remains to consider the form of regulation. Practical issues as well as principles need to be addressed. Control of drugs is notoriously difficult, for two main reasons. First, the supply and use of drugs is a 'victimless crime', so there are no 'victims' to make complaints or voluntarily give evidence. In order to obtain evidence, police and other authorities commonly use questionable methods such as entrapment, covert surveillance, arbitrary searches, and oppressive interrogation (e.g. threatening users with prison if they do not give evidence against dealers). Second, the market value of drugs is very high in relation to their bulk and the cost of production. It is therefore easy to conceal and smuggle drugs, and the profit margins are very high. In an attempt to offset these advantages, legislators have enacted draconian penalties for drug smuggling and dealing, but there is an unlimited supply of low-level 'mules' and dealers who can be tempted or coerced into risking the penalties. In consequence, drugs are still easily available despite repressive anti-drug policies, but at a great cost to civil liberties. Almost everyone who has seriously studied drugs policies agrees that the punitive approach is a failure, yet there is a strange lack of wider public debate on the subject. Presumably politicians are afraid of the reactions of the 'respectable' majority, i.e. those who use only alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drugs.

My own suggestions for a more rational policy would be as follows:

1. Sale of drugs to minors should be prohibited and subject to deterrent penalties. Some of the resources presently devoted to ineffective attempts to control the drugs trade in general could be use for a more focused attack on sale to minors.

2. The manufacture and sale of drugs should require a licence and appropriate supervision.

3. Drugs should be sold with health warnings and accurate health information. For example, in the case of Ecstasy, there should be warnings against both dehydration and over-hydration. Deaths can be caused by drinking too much water to offset the risk of dehydration. The most notorious of all Ecstasy-related deaths in Britain, that of the schoolgirl Leah Betts, was due to this.

4. The manufacture and sale of drugs should be taxed at an appropriate rate. (If the tax is too heavy, a black market will emerge.) The tax should be graduated in relation to the danger and addictiveness of the drugs. The profit margin should be higher on safer and less addictive varieties, while the post-tax price to the consumer should be disproportionately high on the more harmful drugs. In this way there would be a financial incentive for both suppliers and users to choose less harmful options.

5. The tax revenue should be used in part for research and treatment of drug-related problems.

6. Drug manufacturers should be required to fund research into producing safer and less addictive drugs. This could be an important outcome of a rational drugs policy. At present there is no mechanism for making drugs safer. The aim of drugs policy should be to help relatively 'good' drugs drive out 'bad' drugs.

7. Drug users should be subject to registration and monitoring of usage.

8. Special provisions should be made for users identified as addicts. The best approach would be to provide them with a controlled amount of drugs at a relatively cheap rate (to discourage them from committing crimes to pay for their habit). This was essentially the approach taken to heroin addiction in Britain before the 1970s. Addicts were provided with heroin on prescription in amounts sufficient to keep their habit under control. This approach was more humane and effective than the more punitive measures subsequently adopted. Addicts who wish to break their habit can also be given rehabilitation options, paid for out of the tax on drugs.

These are just a few suggestions, intended to stimulate debate. The knee-jerk response of many people towards any proposal to liberalise drug laws is a mantra of 'drugs are evil, they must be stopped.' It would be easier to sympathise with the anti-drugs lobby if punitive policies had been effective in reducing drug use. This is manifestly not the case. The Western world is awash with drugs. Anyone who wants drugs can get them easily and cheaply. The only response of orthodox anti-drug policy is to impose ever more savage sentences on drug smugglers and dealers. (In Britain, they commonly get longer sentences than rapists or people who commit brutal assaults.) This is not only ineffective but unjust. It is also a source of social disaffection, as drug use and dealing tends to be disproportionately concentrated in some social groups (ethnic minorities and lower-class whites).

The effects of liberalising drugs laws would need to be monitored and reviewed. My guess is that measures of the kind I have proposed would in the short term produce a modest increase in drug use (assuming that prices were set at around the current market levels). Some people who currently do not take drugs would be encouraged to try them, and some would become addicted. But in the longer term there should be beneficial effects as the tax system would encourage the substitution of safer and less addictive varieties. And of course if the measures work as planned there should be a great reduction in drug-related crime.

It is worth noting that in the 19th century, and up to the 1920s in some places, opiates and cocaine were legally available. Cocaine was widely used not only in powder form but as an ingredient in drinks, including the original Coca-Cola (this is not an urban myth). Prominent coke-heads included Queen Victoria, who was very partial to cocaine-based tonic wine. The easy availability of drugs did produce some addiction, but it was far less widespread than it is now. Pressure for punitive measures arose as part of the Temperance movement which also led (in the US) to prohibition of alcohol. It was eventually recognised that Prohibition was a disaster, but recognition of the disaster of the drug laws has been slower and less widespread.

I should say, finally, that I have no personal stake in the matter. I do not take illegal drugs, and never have done. I was once offered a line of (alleged) cocaine, but politely declined, on the grounds that for all I knew it might be drain cleaner, and I certainly wouldn't want that up my nose.

J.B.S. Haldane and Soviet Zombie Dogs   posted by Jason Malloy @ 2/18/2006 05:46:00 PM

WFMU blog points me to the infamous Experiments in the Revival of Organisms (1940) propaganda video at the always fascinating Prelinger archive, featuring Soviet stooge/scientific genius J.B.S. Haldane as narrator to Stalinist Russia Frankenstein experiments in reanimation. Gasp as a life-supported severed dog's head licks its chops and dodges various irritants. Marvel as other lucky dogs are drained of all their blood and brought back to life 10 minutes later. And don't feel bad if you're a little more skeptical than Haldane, after all he pimped Lysenko too!

Anyway here is a direct link to the film. Should take about a minute or two to load. WFMU also has an entertaining little history of disembodied heads, including Robert White's monkey head switching shenanigans.

Related: Stalin's Humanzees.

Selling the ever changing experience   posted by Razib @ 2/18/2006 02:43:00 PM

Starbucks says that they are "selling an experience." I can buy that, after spending a week in New York City with crappy coffee Starbucks was a real godsend. One thing I realized is that when you are in a neighborhood you don't know (eg, Park Slope in Brooklyn), it is important to be able to know you won't annoy people if you sit down for an hour or two to read a book with a cup of coffee. I'd been "evicted" in Norwich, Vermont, once when a tour bus came through and more recently paying customers were to be had. But anyhow, the main reason I'm posting this is of late I've been noticing many, many, more people are transacting business in Starbucks. The other day a boomer was trying to sell a timeshare, while a few weeks ago another guy was trying to pass along a pyramid scheme to someone else, and a month ago some woman was signing home loan (yes!) papers. I don't know how I feel about this, if Starbucks is about "selling the experience," do people really want to experience the office while they're sipping their coffee? Then again, I guess some people have mooted the possibility of banning lap-top wielding squatters hacking away code for years....

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Naturally human   posted by Razib @ 2/16/2006 11:10:00 PM

Many of the posts over the past few years have been influenced by my dabbling in cognitive science. My interest in this field is three fold:
  1. I believe that modeling human cognition at its most basic level is a necessary precondition for genuine explanation and prediction in the human sciences.

  2. Cognitive science has helped me to understand a phenomenon whose basal foundations are somewhat alien to my intuitions, religion, and specifically, the belief in the existence of supernatural agents.

  3. Cognitive science also allows me to understand further a human institution which I am particularly attached to, the culture of science. I believe that an understanding of the natural biases and weakenesses of the human mind are necessary to avoid the trap of skepticism which Post Modernism has already foisted upon much of the humanities.

Of course, cognitive science is new, and there really aren't hard and fast truths one can derive from it. Nevertheless, the key is to start somewhere, and move beyond the expectations generated by our innate intuitions. Much of "scholarship" in areas like interational relations, to my mind, lacks the fundamental grounding in the dynamics of the human mind, and resides on a higher level of cultural organization where one can only vaguely discern the basic elements beneath.

Many of the concepts I allude to on this blog assume a basic familiarity with cognitive science and its paradigms. When it comes to science & religion I have some very specific opinions. Rather than reiterating what I've stated many times, I point readers to this chapter of Explanation and Cognition, The Naturalness of Religion and the Unnaturalness of Science, by Robert N. McCauley.

Update: Matoko points us to this article in The Economist which offers a summation of some of the ideas in Dan Dennett's new book, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. Dennett is getting a lot of air time, for example, you can listen to him being interviewed here. But, I hope long time GNXP readers will check out Religion Explained or In Gods We Trust by Pascal Boyer and Scott Atran respectively. You can find a detailed precis of Atran's ideas here, while Boyer has written a popular press article for The Skeptical Inquirer.

For 80-90% of humans "explaining" religion as a natural phenomenon makes as much sense as an exposition on the evilness of breathing. In other words, for most humans religion is not fundamentally a natural phenomenon, rather, it is the "ground of being" or an expression of transcendence, it is orthogonal to the banal and mundane aspects of our world which are easily conceivable as the sum of their parts. By its nature as an entity within the mind which shapes how the mind perceives the world it is insulated from decomposition and reduction, perhaps explaining the tendency of many to treat the behavior of religious fanatics as if they are inscrutable and inspired by a divine spark or madness (depending on your perspective). Nevertheless, this perception of religion is not the opinion of most GNXP readers (if past surveys are to be believed), so it is left to us to examine this feature of the human phenotype objectively. Contrary to the title of Dennett's book "the spell" will never be broken for most humans. Rather, those of us who have never been bewitched need to stop behaving as if the human mind is magic and realize it is not such a sufficiently advanced technology which eludes our comprehension.

Update II:
One thing I want to add, as I have noted before, some of the researchers studying religion as a natural phenomenon are themselves believers in God and a particular religion. The general response of these individuals to the seemliness of their studying the nature of belief is that they examine the proximate features of the human mind which enable the flourishing of theism, a belief which they hold to be foundationally true. Nevertheless, if you read the Amazon reviews of Dennett's book above you will see that some readers were offended by very nature of the project, though I suspect the author's atheism is considerably more aggressive than earlier workers in this area.

Update III: This profile of the book in The Boston Globe is very good. Hopefully Dennett's work will introduce the curious to more serious researchers in this field.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

And Now We Bring You The Melodic Sounds of Failing Hard Drives   posted by TangoMan @ 2/15/2006 04:57:00 PM

If you're interested in how the human imagination can create art from the most unlikely sources, cast your attention to this site which has collected an assortment of digitally created compositions which are constructed from the sounds emitted by failing hard drives. Check out this beauty.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Getting The Wood Up.   posted by TangoMan @ 2/13/2006 10:54:00 PM

Maybe Serbia needs to beef up its national health care system with a pharmacare supplemental, or this guy is a scientologist who doesn't believe in polluting his body with chemicals:

A Serbian man needed emergency surgery after sticking a pencil inside his penis to keep it stiff during sex.

Zeljko Tupic, from Belgrade, told doctors he had experienced erectile difficulties in the past.

So as he prepared for a night with his new lover, he decided to insert a thin pencil into his penis.

Tupic had to cut his sex session short when the pencil shifted and became lodged in his bladder, forcing him to call an ambulance, the daily Kurir reported.

Of course, Occam might say this guy is just an idiot.

Hat tip: Interested Participant.

Value Neutral Reporting   posted by TangoMan @ 2/13/2006 08:34:00 PM

Let's see if you can spot the bias (I'll give you a hint) in the following report on Immigration Reform published in Newsweek:

The Senate will debate three initiatives of a very different nature. First up is the so-called Sensenbrenner bill, already passed by the House of Representatives. Among other hateful features, the legislation seeks to build more than 1,000 kilometers of fences and walls along the U.S.-Mexican border, makes unauthorized entry into the United States a felony and penalizes anyone aiding or abetting illegal immigrants.

[ . . . . . ]

Five years ago, Mexican President Vicente Fox tried to convince George W. Bush that something had to be done about this situation before a conservative, perhaps even xenophobic backlash in the United States began to drastically complicate its relations with Latin America. For a series of reasons, no progress has been made since Fox's visit to Washington on the eve of September 11, 2001; in the meantime matters have, as Fox predicted, gotten much worse. Border tensions between the United States and Mexico have grown; Rep. James Sensenbrenner's wall has rightly provoked anger and indignation in Mexico and Central America, and more unauthorized immigrants than ever are entering the United States. . . . .

No immigration deal will be possible north of the border without addressing security matters; south of the border, none will win Mexican cooperation if it ignores the issue of the nearly 5 million Mexican citizens without papers in the United States. . . . .

Mexico has to assume responsibility for regulating this traffic, which means more than sealing off its southern border and arresting would-be emigrants.

So, first off, why would a US decision to regulate its own borders rightly provoke Mexican anger? The way this article reads you'd think that Mexico is being denied its rightful place at the table to decide what the US should do to protect its own national interests.

Does anyone else see the irony of Mexico securing its Southern borders by instituting procedures beyond sealing its borders and arresting emmigrants? I wonder if those measures might include a non-hateful wall?

E. O. Wilson interview   posted by Razib @ 2/13/2006 11:44:00 AM

E. O. Wilson interview over at meaningoflife.tv.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Enlightenment blues....   posted by Razib @ 2/12/2006 09:19:00 PM

Diana of Letter from Gotham expresses some of what I've been thinking. I am rather uninspired by what I perceive as the relative silence on the Left and the swarming hysterics on the Right.1 Though I tend to sympathize with the suspicion of Islam evinced by many on the Right, I have commented on the problems with a singular focus on reiteration of values in a vacuum of empirically driven analysis, and attempted to address the issue obliquely later in the form of a post. As for the silence of the Left, I am silent myself because the gut reaction is so inchoate and underwhelming.

Addendum: I don't read many blogs, but Ed Brayton seems to have stood firm for free speech without temporizing.

1 - Well, I've come close to being hysterical myself. See here. Boy does it feel good, but the end of the day there needs to be more than trite recitations of Truths we Hold True.

In other news....   posted by Razib @ 2/12/2006 09:04:00 PM

Three posts that might be of interest for GNXP readers over at my Science Blog:

Darwin's species and the One-True-Peak
What genetics tells us about human psychology
Blondes have more fear

Also, check out Genius Germs by Agnostic.

Friday, February 10, 2006

January - National Have Sex With Your Teacher Month   posted by TangoMan @ 2/10/2006 08:30:00 PM

For all of the readers who were kept in the dark about this commemorative event, Interested Participant has dilgently collected reports about those who rang in the New Year in the spirit of celebration. From his January archive, here are the highlights (see if you notice a pattern emerging):

28-year-old teacher Traci J. Tapp was arrested on charges of official misconduct and sexual crimes involving three male students. Tapp pleaded guilty yesterday to harassment by offensive touching in accordance with a plea agreement and was fined $100. The prosecutors asked for a probationary period but Judge James Isman declined. Tapp actually comments at Interested Participant's blog and this looks like she was falsely accused.

Substitute teacher Jacquelyn Faith Garrison, 19, allegedly made significant overtures, some sexual, through telephone calls and text messages toward a 15-year-old student, making him uncomfortable.

A 41-year-old English teacher at Scott Memorial Middle School, Karen Susan Patton, was arrested for allegedly engaging in sex with a 13-year-old student.

A 40-year-old teacher at Rothwell-Osnabruck Public School in Ingleside, Jennifer Dorland, was charged Wednesday with sexual assault of a 13-year-old male student. Police confirmed that the sexual incidents occurred at the school.

Earlier this month, 25-year-old Jessica Bowring pleaded guilty to one count of gross sexual assault of a 13-year-old boy. Yesterday, Bowring was sentenced in Somerset County Superior Court to five years in prison, with all but 9 months suspended. She'll also serve three years probation and have to register as a lifetime sex offender.

With the prevalence of teacher-student sex episodes in American schools, one would imagine that the last thing needed is a "Win A Date With Teacher" contest. Strangely, that's exactly what was offered by 36-year-old Strongsville High School teacher Christine Scarlett and the winner, 17-year-old Steven Bradigan, won not only the date but also regular sharpenings of his pencil.

Last August, a 27-year-old teacher at Ecole Pere Edgar T. LeBlanc, Renee Florence Gaudet, was charged with sexual assault and sexual exploitation of a 13-year-old male student. In November, Gaudet pleaded guilty to sexual assault. Yesterday, Gaudet was sentenced to two years house arrest and told to go to a mental health clinic for assessment and necessary treatment.

A 46-year-old special education teacher at Ferguson Middle School, Cathy Heminghaus, has been charged with nineteen (19) felony counts of statutory sodomy resulting from allegedly engaging in oral sex with some of her students. Heminghaus apparently told her friends that she had performed oral sex on students since October. Her friends told school officials. The incidents occurred at the school and at one outside location.

Former English teacher at South Central High School, Katherine B. Tew, 31, was convicted of taking indecent liberties with a student and given a prison term of six to eight months, suspended, and two years probation. After her sex-toy student boyfriend, 17, spilled the beans last February, an investigation was launched which resulted in finding that Tew, known as "Katy" Tew, was engaging in an extended-term, passing-love-notes relationship with the boy. The nature of their relationship explained behavior that included late-night prancing in pajamas while pulling plugs from a bottle of tequila. Tew was arrested and released on $10,000 bail. Tew denied the charges, however, she was unable to explain why her cell phone records indicated that she had talked to the boy 129 times in a two-month period when she had only talked to her husband 67 times during the same period.

A 29-year-old substitute teacher at Tooele High School, Cameo Patch, was arrested Friday and booked on suspicion of unlawful sexual conduct, a third-degree felony, and lewdness, a class A misdemeanor. It's alleged that Patch met with a 16- or 17-year-old student one evening and had sex. Subsequently, the boy talked about it at school and, after a resource officer learned of the incident, police were alerted.

A 33-year-old married teacher at Warren Alternative School, Amy Bramhall, was arrested last Wednesday and charged with sexual abuse of a minor for allegedly engaging in sexual relations with a 15-year-old student. According to court documents, teacher and student would party together with Bramhall bringing the booze and the boy providing marijuana. On one occasion, Bramhall's cuckolded husband caught the pair doing the horizontal mambo in the couple's home.

A former Fresno County probation officer has surrendered to police on charges of having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old ward whom she met while working at Elkhorn boot camp.

A 26-year-old teacher in the 4-H programs offered by the University of California Cooperative Extension Program, Lilian Pennington, was arrested by Orange Police Department officers for allegedly having sex with a 15-year-old student.

36-year-old teacher and coach at Lecanto High School, Amy Gail Lilley, was arrested last November for engaging in a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old female student. Subsequently, Lilley resigned her teaching position.

30-year-old female English teacher at Central York High School, Robin Winkis, resigned her position as an employee of the school district, effective December 21. The school board voted to accept her resignation on Monday.

Despite the prosecution's recommendation and the desires of the victim's parents, Judge Suzanne V. Delvecchio ruled that former teacher and child rapist, 26-year-old Gregory Pathiakis, hadn't been naughty enough to warrant any jail time.

A 33-year-old youth counselor, Naomi Morton, was arraigned Friday before Judge Richard Rambo in Klamath County Circuit Court for alleged sexual abuse of a 17-year-old boy.

A 38-year-old unidentified woman was arrested last Wednesday for allegedly raping and sodomizing a 15-year-old high school student from Ragland. The boy is reported to be a friend of the woman's daughter. Police started an investigation after being alerted by the boy's mother who caught the woman having sex with her son.

For an alleged months-long relationship with a 15-year-old boy, a 40-year-old South Beloit woman, Marie Ehrhart, was jailed last Thursday in Rockton and charged with aggravated criminal sexual abuse. The same day, the boy's mother took out an order of protection for Ehrhart to stay away from the 15-year-old. After posting 10 percent of $5,000 bond, Ehrhart was released.

Last July, 49-year-old former music teacher at Beverley Manor Middle School, Shelby Sue Shelton, was arrested and charged with carnal knowledge of a minor and taking indecent liberties with a child. Shelton had been accused of having sex on multiple occasions in the 1990s with a former female student who was 13 and 14 years old at the time.

A 39-year-old special education teacher at L.C. Bird High School, Kimberly Anmarie Padua, was arrested Wednesday and charged with taking indecent liberties with a minor by a person in a custodial relationship.

A 32-year-old former teacher at Luther Burbank Middle School, Nieka Arreola, was sentenced to 90 days in the county jail for seducing and engaging in sex with a 14-year-old boy.

A former eighth-grade teacher at Monroe County Middle School, Angela Comer (right), was arrested at a hotel in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, after allegedly running away with a missing 14-year-old Kentucky student. Comer (aka Angela Combs), 26, with her 4-year-old son and the 14-year-old boy were turned over to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers by Mexican authorities at the Laredo International Bridge.

Last November, 38-year-old Julie Ann Welborn was arrested for engaging in sex with a 13-year-old boy she met over the Internet.

A 29-year-old English teacher at Ayersville High School, Nicole Long, resigned her position after allegations became public that she engaged in sex with a 17-year-old student. Long is married and seven months pregnant.

A 21-year-old woman, Christine Sprague, pleaded guilty to child endangerment resulting from incidents of sexual conduct with a 10-year-old boy between July 1 and August 21 in 2003. According to the plea agreement, the prosecutor's office will recommend dismissal of a charge of aggravated sexual assault and for Sprague to receive no jail time.

Former teacher and prominent child molester, Sarah Bench-Salorio, was sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty to 29 counts of lewd conduct with three schoolboys.

From alleged offenses occurring in the town of Randolph, a 26-year-old woman, Andrea M. Yurowski, has been charged with three counts of first-degree sexual assault of a child. Yurowski allegedly engaged in sex on multiple occasions with a 12-year-old neighbor boy. Court records indicate that Yurowski professed her love for the child.

A 37-year-old Florissant woman, Judith Zweifel, was arrested and charged with 30 felony sex offenses for repeatedly engaging in sex with an 11-year-old boy.

Last October, a Somerset County grand jury indicted 25-year-old Jessica Bowring on three counts of gross sexual assault of a 13-year-old boy. On Wednesday, Bowring pleaded guilty to one count of gross sexual assault but not the other two.

A 31-year-old Buena Vista High School math teacher, Jennifer Lynn Sanchez, resigned from her teaching position and turned herself in to police after a warrant was issued for her arrest on child molestation charges. The charges include four counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a 17-year-old student.

A 40-year-old English teacher at Garden City High School, Nadine Nunnelee, has been arrested for having sex with a 16-year-old male student.

A 41-year-old language arts teacher at Buttonwillow School, Sherry Brians, was arrested yesterday on charges of engaging in lewd acts with a 12-year-old boy. The charges resulted after the boy's mother alerted the Kern County Sheriff's Office that she had found a romantic letter from Brians to the boy. Investigators believe the alleged lewd acts occurred at the school.

A 28-year-old Lake County Sheriff's Office corrections officer, Krystal Benn, was arrested yesterday and charge with sexual misconduct at a county detention facility. Benn is accused of entering the jail cell of a 16-year-old boy on several occasions and fondling him.

For agreeing to pierce the nipples of a 16-year-old girl in exchange for sex, 37-year-old Robert Scott Shaffer was sentenced to a term of nine months to two years in a state prison. Shaffer pleaded guilty to corruption of a minor and tattooing of a minor without parental consent.

Interested Participant has 12 more reports, thus far, for the Month of February. I expect that Valantine's Day will be a very fruitful day for new reports.

Swedish security police shut down Mohammed cartoon site   posted by dobeln @ 2/10/2006 12:16:00 AM

This is the most breathtaking example of multiculturalism in action I have encountered in quite some time, as well as breaking news:

The Swedish security police (SAPO) intervened last night against the site of far-right political party Sverigedemokraterna (sd), getting their Internet provider to shut down their site (www.sverigedemokraterna.se).

As far as I have been able to make out, there was not even a court-order involved. (The site is now back up, without the drawings...)The party had been holding a "Draw Mohammed" contest, which in turn created bad blood in the middle east. (The usual suspects: Hezbollah et. al.)

The foreign minister justified the action with the party creating a danger to Swedish interests abroad.

All the links are in Swedish so far, but hopefully some english-language information should be available soon-ish.

UPDATE: The Stockholm Spectator has a post in english up - not much additional info, but I suspect they will keep on this case. Worth a look.

UPDATE II: It appears the Security Police merely placed a friendly phonecall to the ISP of Sverigedemokraterna "informing them of the situation". Oh well then, never mind.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Norwegian Camel Herders   posted by TangoMan @ 2/09/2006 09:40:00 PM

Norway, spotting an empty market niche, has decided to import 20 camels so that Norway's Somalian community can develop a market for sub-zero camel herds:

"Then we found out that many of the refugees here have nomadic backgrounds, and know a lot about camel farming. So we want to import camels, and employ the refugees so that they can use the skills they already have."

Ms Stenseth argued a camel farm could help integrate the refugees, and give them self-respect and pride through working with something they excel at.

She and her colleagues have applied for government money to explore the possibility of importing some 20 camels, which could provide produce like milk, fur, hides and meat.

Ms. Stenseth, with her talk of self-respect and pride sure sounds like she graduated from a School of Education, doesn't she? Perhaps a little business training would have led her to first determine the size of the market for Camel milk, Camel fur, Camel hides and Camel meat, within Norway, or if she was particularly ambitious, she could have explored the export market for Scandavian Camel delicacies.

Hattip to Tuomas.

Preach unto the gentiles   posted by Razib @ 2/09/2006 05:47:00 PM

Someone appreciates us.

The face of discrimination   posted by dobeln @ 2/09/2006 01:04:00 PM

For those of you who have ever wondered about what tangible effects "structural discrimination" might have on disadvantaged groups, here is an excellent example.

This racist (according to the US justice department, and the justice department doesn't lie, no?) police academy admittance test is a major factor in ensuring that "about 85 percent of white applicants passed the math test, while 66 percent of Hispanic applicants and 59 percent of blacks passed".

However, there are several potential remedies available for these kinds of situations. I have no doubt that they will be implemented without delay.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Rising tide   posted by Razib @ 2/08/2006 10:52:00 PM

John Hawks on the Human Genome Project afterglow.

Believing the introspection of the fool   posted by Razib @ 2/08/2006 09:14:00 AM

"The fool saith in his heart, There is no God" (Psalms 52:1), and so begins the ontological argument for the existence of God formulated by St. Anselm. In short, Anselm's argument is that (list taken from Wikipedia):

  1. God is the entity than which no greater entity can be conceived.

  2. The concept of God exists in human understanding.

  3. God does not exist in reality (assumed in order to refute).

  4. The concept of God existing in reality exists in human understanding.

  5. If an entity exists in reality and in human understanding, this entity is greater than it would have been if it existed only in human understanding (a statement of existence as a perfection).

  6. From 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, an entity can be conceived which is greater than God, the entity than which no greater entity can be conceived (logical self-contradiction).

  7. Assumption 3 is wrong, therefore God exists in reality (assuming 1, 2, 4, and 5 are accepted as true).

St. Thomas Aquinas was skeptical of St. Anselm's deduction (the method rather than conclusion), and a long line of philosophers such as Immanuel Kant have refuted forms of the ontological argument, while others such as Renee Descartes have refashioned it. My presentation of the ontological argument was not to open up a discussion of the existence of God, but to point out that a priori logic based on intuitively appealing assumptions have a long history. Anselm's argument can not be understood outside of particular Greek concepts of essences which were imparted to Christianity by the Church Fathers (and rejected by nominalist thinkers within the Church, most prominently William of Okham). Today, in our discrete and reducible world of atoms, conceiving of something "green" as a essence that exists apart from a particular intersection of wavelength and our light processing physiology seems peculiar, but we have stepped beyond simple intuitions about the world around us and understand its fundamental basics at a very deep level, or, more properly, most humans of particular eductional backgrounds assume the reality of atoms and a quantum world and the relation between light quanta, cone receptors and the visual cortext in generating the perception of "green."1

Intuition can take us far, and coupled with basic deductions from these a priori axioms intuited we have a simple recipe for a human model of the world. In relation to our scientific intuitions we now accept that they must be embedded in a larger framework fleshed out by the process of science, that social synthesis of induction (observation and experiment), deduction (model building) and skepticism which allows us to move beyond individual human perceptions and generate ordered systems out of the noise of our sensory experience. Though operationally we act as if down is down, we know that we reside on a sphere and our perception of up and down emerges because of our location at the bottom of a gravity well on the surface of a sphere whose size is great enough in relation to our bodies that it appears flat. If we elect governments that promise to fund space missions we generally hope that they will look beyond intuitive physics and follow the insights of Newton, as unintuitive as they maybe on occassion. We understand, especially those raised with a deep awareness of modernity and an innate capacity to abstract, that there are limits to our intuition and we must sometimes follow the guardrails set by the sciences to navigate strange waters safely.

In the physical sciences this is clear. We don't leave the manfacture of silicon processors to tinkerers who follow their gut, we don't leave bridge building to hobbyists with enthusiasm and we don't render to latter day Leonardo's the task of designing airplanes based on their artistic flair and intuitive leaps. The cold equations and peculiar heuristics that physical scientists and engineers imbibe through their education give them insights that the rest of us can not intuit by our lonesome. In the biological sciences the same process is occurring, as biotechnology will likely render the life sciences a "two-brained" organism with a pure and applied branch, both leveraging abstract concepts toward deductions which point into uncharted waters. Nevertheless, in fields like evolutionary biology folk biology still stands its ground, at least in the United States. I have delved into this topic before, but, I simply wanted to point to this as an instance in the natural sciences where folk intuitions have not been banished in the marketplace of ideas (their recall is subject to intense counter-active lobbying by interested parties).

Now, let us move further, into the social "sciences." I put "sciences" in quotes because the character of these fields is subject to a great deal of variance, ranging from econometrics to history. The study of humanity as a subject to prone to a great pitfall: the overwhelming power of our intuitions and the received wisdom. Many people know that "T.V. causes violence," that "parents shape the personalities of their children" and that "astrology works." If you have an instance where someone challenges this orthodoxy you are often simply confronted by a repetition of the truism rather than a counter-argument. Listen closely the next time to a news program where a member of a camp that is arguing something that seems intuitively appealing or socially promoted is confronted by an antagonist who comes prepared with facts: the proponent of the intuitive or socially accepted side rarely marshals any responses, and they are clearly totally unconcerned that that will be necessary, so serene are they in their belief that the public will accept their position.

This brings me back to the point about intuitions and deducing from them, humans have an innate folk psychology and social intelligence, and in our day to day world it serves us fine, but, it gives us false hope in modeling aggregate group behaviors as well as those in other times and places. Sometimes this folk psychology can be easily falsified, at least in a strong deterministic form, by a simply inspection of the historical record. Consider an acquaintance of mine who suggested that defeat of Muslims on the field of battle (this was pre-Iraq War and the individual was arguing for invasion) would show that their God was weak or false and that this would crush the back of their civilization. I happened to know that this person was Protestant by upbringing and I was surprised they didn't note that the Israelites did not fade from history when their God abandoned them, when Assyria assailed them, Babylon deported them, Rome scattered them.2 Or that the Church was founded on the blood of the martyrs, that they welcomed death that they declared was the will of their God. This is not to say that the Muslims necessarily would take strength from defeat, but it implied to me that this folk psychologizing was thin gruel indeed, and simply a post hoc prop for a prior belief than a genuine attempt to understand the opponent. Since intuitive ideas derived from folk psychology seem to jump out at us, they are often not subject to subsequent scrutiny and examination. They float freely and unconstrained in the winds of ideological and social bias, spreading like memetic wildfire.

Part of this is the problem of social science, it just isn't that scientific. There is the old joke that economists have 100% predictivity of the past, and economics is often considered the most rigorous and empirical of the social sciences with the most robust models at its disposal. Much of cultural anthropology has devolved into a study in self-critique. History is now laced with broad Post Modern textual analyses or narrow monographs on F.D.R's shoelaces. Nevertheless something is better than nothing, a weak signal in the noise is better than no signal. By taking the social sciences into account we can at least attempt to acheive rates of success greater than expectation if we were throwing darts blindly.

This where a new field like cognitive science comes into play. Synthesizing the findings of psychology, computer science, philosophy and neuroscience, cognitive science is the beginning of the first steps toward decomposing the human mind, an understanding of the basic atoms of social science. Without an understanding of elements modern chemistry would be little beyond a hodge-podge of alchemical formulae that worked. Craft chemistry might exist, but industrial chemistry wouldn't, because we wouldn't have a fine grained and deep understanding of the nature of matter to allow us to venture into uncharted and dangerous (explosive) waters. Much of modern social science is in its pre-atomic era, a sea of correlations and regressions that attempt to bring into sharp relief the shadows cast by the underlying causal actors. To genuinely understand how the human social organism acts and plays itself out on the world stage, we must understand the mind.

To do this, we need to move beyond the "ghost in the machine," but, importantly, we need to shift beyond the value in the macine as well. Modern cultural anthropology is a thick description field characterized by a great deal of self critique. Not only is it a highly skeptical field, but there is a definite tincture of left-wing activism which identifies with the "oppressed." This is in contrast with the older anthropology which was the tool of imperialism, and took a blatantly pro-Western point of view from the git-go, and was often characterized by wild conjectures and generalizations bereft of data or skepticism. Ultimately, it seems that anthropology has swung both ways, and hasn't hit upon the solution: treat culture as an artifact of nature, without value.

Now, if oxygen was going to study the elements and create its own periodic table, ultimately it stands to reason that oxygen would be out for its own good, when all things are summed at the end of the day. But, in the process of understanding elements oxygen needs to set aside its own biases about how an "element should behave," whether that be its contempt for promiscuous carbon or disdain toward priggish argon. A similar problem occurs with humans, values tend to obscure our perception and warp our judgements. Much of cultural anthropology and schools of Post Modern humanism in general has taken this to its logical conclusion: all of humanity becomes a sea of values. Nevertheless, there is another tack: enforce intellectual discipline and step outside of the animal you are and view yourself clinically. To a large extent this enterprise will fail, we are biased, and overall it may fail, this is no panglossian universe where all is possible under the sun of imagination. But it behooves us to attempt at least to get beyond expectation and our primal hunches in understanding the world around us.

This is is already a bit long, so I will complete it with haste with a specific example of a problem I see: people seem to forget that they lie. That is, one common finding of cognitive psychology is people will ascribe particular reasons, often in verbose and eloquent form, to acts which they have primed toward by subliminal cuing from the researchers in question. In other words, humans are not as conscious and reflective as they believe they are. They attempt to read the intent of others in alien cultures purely by the content of their speech is bound to fail. But, the content of their speech is highly accessible, and combined with a few rudimentary folk intuitions and it is easy to reach rather superficial and fallacious conclusions within 10 minutes.

What I say is this: take a difficult course of action that works toward your ultimate ends, rather than comfortable ones that satisfy your proximate inclinations. Study, learn, understand. There is a time to paint yourself with the blood of your enemy, scream at the top of your lungs and tear your hair out in mourning for those you have lost, but not in this space and this time. Reason is a slave to passions, but it must not be consumed by its master.

1 - Please side step debates about qualia, I'm not going there.

2 - Most of these events are historical, unlike much of the earlier sections of the Hebrew Bible. We know that Jews and Christians kept faith even in the midst of the harshest persecutions.

Bosom Buddies   posted by DavidB @ 2/08/2006 03:56:00 AM

Nothing to do with genes, but you may like to know that the latest issue of Vanity Fair features Keira Knightley and Scarlett Johansson butt-naked on the cover. Apparently it was the first time they'd met, but hopefully not the last. According to one account, "After she and Johansson kissed each other goodbye, Knightley said with a smile: 'Lovely to meet you. I'll see you again some time... naked, I'm sure.'" Hold that thought...

Update: Picture here.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Talking about race   posted by Razib @ 2/06/2006 03:56:00 PM

Dan Jones has two posts that might be of interest to readers, Race - Fact Or Fiction? and Race Reprised, and the Difficulties of Debate. Those of you who have ventured into virgin message boards with various heterodoxies will find it enjoyable and familiar I suspect.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Too long   posted by Razib @ 2/05/2006 08:23:00 PM

Between the age of 13 and 18 this would have mattered a lot to me. So this image and reference is in homage to who I once was, and the joy I would have once felt.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

We Have Met the Enemy, and He Is Us   posted by Matt McIntosh @ 2/04/2006 05:33:00 PM

"I know the evil of my ancestors because I am those people. The balance is delicate in the extreme. I know that few of you who read my words have ever thought about your ancestors this way. It has not occurred to you that your ancestors were survivors and that survival itself sometimes involved savage decisions, a kind of wanton brutality which civilized humankind works very hard to suppress. What price will you pay for that suppression? Will you accept your own extinction?"
-- The Stolen Journals of Leto II

In the course of the current controversy over the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten's publication of cartoon depictions of the Prophet Mohammed, some observers have either insinuated or explicitly claimed that the Muslim reaction to the cartoons constitutes evidence that Islam is not ready to join the modern world. While sane people would agree that the fact that a few poorly-drawn cartoons are capable of causing riots and diplomatic rows definitely suggests that something is rotten in Denmark (sorry), it would behoove us to engage in some introspection before we jump to conclusions about the nature of the problem.

Ironically enough, there is a non-trivial intersection between the set of people who hold the aforementioned view of Islam and the set of people who have loudly called for Ted Rall's cartoons to be dropped from all newspapers. Indeed, were I a betting man, I would wager that the group of people who have sent Rall threats of phsycal violence and death (or approve of such threats) is entirely a subset of the first group. (I use Rall merely as a salient example; he is a slimeball of anthropological interest only. One could pluck out numerous other examples. Just google "death threats" and you can have fun for hours.)

Of course, there is a real and important difference here: in our part of the world, those who threaten violence over offenses are rightly viewed as statistical outliers -- if someone gets angry and makes a threat of violence, odds are that he's just blustering because Westerners as a group are generally bound by Western social mores concerning the use of violence. Muslims as a group, on the other hand, have shown a noticeable tendency to be less bound by those mores and have shown a much greater statistical likelihood of following through on their threats. So it isn't just angry letters. To borrow a helpful analogy from Razib, the vector is the same but the magnitude differs significantly. To this extent, we are justified in speaking of there being a "Muslim problem," and there will continue to be one until a majority of Muslims are willing to say "I vehemently disagree with what you say, but uphold your right to say it."

However, the "Muslim problem" is just a special case of the "human problem." Human psychology is pretty constant across cultures and has remained pretty much the same throughout history, and anyone who believes for a second that Westerners are intrinsically above these sorts of shenanigans is kidding themselves. Every age and every society has always had its peculiar heresies. And there is no better way to disabuse oneself of the notion that Muslims are somehow special in their capacity for savagery than to simply study history -- life through much of human history has been nasty, brutish and short, and it is only in the last few centuries that we have begun to pull ourselves out of the proverbial muck. The past century alone has witnessed enough bloody wars and shameful predations against minorities even among "civilized" nations that it renders risible the very notion that "those people" are somehow intrinsically different from us.

No, the authoritarian mindset lurks within many of us, and anyone who doubts that tribalism is our default psychological mode should watch a soccer riot, or go spend a few hours reading the comment sections of various extremely partisan political weblogs. But it's not merely the ideologues and hooligans that we need to be wary of. In the General Social Survey, Americans were asked how they felt about the following statement: "People should not be allowed to express opinions that are harmful or offensive to members of other religious or racial groups." A total of 42% either agreed or strongly agreed. Liberalism does not come naturally to humans, and its true friends are few.

And yet, here we are. We live in the most wealthy, tolerant, pluralist, liberal society ever to exist on Earth. Taking the long view is enough to make one marvel that such a thing is even possible, and feel a mild sense of terror at how fragile and precious the social environment we take for granted suddenly seems. So how did we get here? How our part of the world get to be so different from that one over there?

Simply put, we've spent a very long time building up social mores and legal rules that bind our innate psychological tribalism. Another interesting data point from the GSS is that people were subsequently asked whether they agreed with the following statement: "Under the First Amendment guaranteeing free speech, people should be allowed to express their own opinions even if they are harmful or offensive to members of other religious or racial groups." When the questioners phrased it this way, the median response suddenly became a lot more friendly to free speech. As Bryan Caplan puts it:

"The median person agrees with free speech if you link it to the Constitution. Otherwise, the median person could take it or leave it. . . . While many people seem to think that the Constitution always favors whatever policy they prefer, there are actually quite a few people who prefer whatever policy they think the Constitution favors."

An older friend of mine from Iowa remarked to me years ago that Americans have their own religion -- they worship the Constitution. Only recently have I come to understand what he meant. The median Westerner's support for free speech arises more out of a sense of tradition and group identification than a well-considered commitment to liberal values in themselves. You see this same sort of dynamic among the conventionally religious: to take one example noted by Razib, there is a substantial minority among the Roman Catholic laity who, if asked, will profess a belief in some form of Creationism. When informed that the official Papal doctrine for the past few decades has been that natural selection is in fact wholly compatible with the Catholic faith, they'll typically switch their position to the doctrinally correct one. This is not irrationality so much as bounded rationality, relying on salient focal points and epistemic authorities on which to anchor their beliefs so that they can get on with the business of life. For all but those on the rightmost intellectual tail of the bell curve, their most basic assumptions about the world and society are fundamentally matters of faith.

Having taken a rather roundabout path, the point is this: while the behavior exhibited by many Muslims today is unacceptable by our civilized standards, the psychological substrate that governs these behaviors is fairly uniform across cultures. Chalking their behaviour up to some sort of essential Islamicness and viewing them as barbarians at the gates may well be gratifying to some, but isn't helpful. Psychologically, "we" are not half so different from "them" as many of us would like to believe, and we have barbarians in our own midst. We are not monkeys anymore, but our neanderthal legacy lingers beneath the cognitive surface and can be seen poking through every now and again. It's our system of rules (both implicit and explicit), evolved painstakingly over many centuries to co-opt and restrain our baser aspects, that makes all the difference. Our society's liberal faith is superior to other illiberal faiths, but these faiths are not fixed in either direction. "We" can always backslide, and "they" can progress -- indeed they must, or we're in just as much danger of getting pulled back down too.

The most dangerous game in the world is being played by those who misunderstand us just as much as we misunderstand them: those who take the tolerance of the civilized world for granted rarely stop to consider the wanton brutality that we are all undoubtedly capable of when pushed far enough. I share Armed Liberal's fear of what we may become if the bin Ladenists of the world get a little too lucky one day, and I too am willing to pay a high price to prevent it from ever getting to that point. But casting this as Islam versus modernity works against that goal by polarizing the field, in addition to missing the point -- the continual struggle between the open society and the closed encompasses all of humanity, and is lost or won within the human brain. We're in a race to connect the rest of the world up to our level before the bin Ladens of the world can bring us back down to theirs. That was the purpose of Iraq, and no matter how one felt about the wisdom (or lack thereof) of the Bush administration's choices, we can all hope that the Iraqis will succeed, insh'allah. The future bodes ill if they don't.

(Update: This post was intended to be descriptive more than moralizing. What I'm preaching here is to take a big step back and analyze the current state of affairs in a broader context, informed as much by cognitive psychology and anthropology as by history. Some of the commentors have grasped the message here perfectly well, but others haven't, so let me be clear: I'm not asserting moral equivalence because morality is in the act. I'm asserting cognitive equivalence and suggesting that human behaviour be looked at in terms of norms of reaction. As Richarde Sharpe put it in the comments, the wetware is pretty fixed but the software is more highly variable than people tend to be conscious of.

Also, I've already advertized them in the comments to this post, but I highly recommend 'Aqoul for a "reality check" on Middle Eastern politics. These guys are regional veterans with no patience for bullshit. This post and this one are particularly instructive.)

(x-posted at Winds of Change, and posted here with Razib's encouragement.)

Why the game is played   posted by Razib @ 2/04/2006 11:23:00 AM

Likely you all know that heterozygote advantange, where the fitness of the heterozygote (Aa) is greater than that of either homozygotes (aa, AA), is often given as a reason why genetic diversity (polymorphism) persists. This was one of the many ways that the Balance School in classical genetics, derived from Sewall Wright, argued that genetic variation was maintained.1 In the 1960s the emergence of dramatic polymoprhism revealed by molecular techniques did not vindicate the Balance School because the extent of variation was far greater than anticipated or explainable via balancing selective forces.

But back to stage one, the equilibrium frequency for a frequency of allele A, where genotype Aa is overdominant (its mean fitness is greater than the homozygotes) is:

Frequency A = (fitness[Aa] - fitness[aa])/(2*fitness[Aa] - fitness[AA] - fitness[aa])note - 2

This is the difference between the heterozygote fitness and that of the other allele, divided by the difference between twice the heterozygote fitness after subtraction of the sum of homozygote fitnesses.

Frequency a = 1 - A

A situation where the mean fitness of the homozygotes is the same but the heterozygote is higher will naturally result in frequencies of both alleles persisting at ~0.5 (the frequency of the heterozygote genotype is maximized via Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium, p2 + 2pq + q2). The logic seems transparent and intuitive. But what about multiple alleles at a locus?

In the 1970s Richard Lewontin and others investigated these scenarios and they found that their initial models showed that increasing the number of alleles can lead to counterintuitive results. If you have a scenario where you have n alleles, and all heterozygotes are more fit than all homozygotes,3 this is neither necessary nor sufficient for persistence of genetic variation (polymorphism) over time. Remember, the mean fitness of a heterozygote is greater than that of any of the homozygotes. When fitness is assigned randomly to allelic combinations the researchers found that the parameter space allowing a stable polymorphism decreased as a function of the number of alleles. For example 0.1% randomly chosen viabilities allowed stable polymorphism at a gene with seven alleles.

The point here is that I am skeptical that this fits in with our intuition of what should occur as you increase the number of alleles and retain heterozygote advantage. This, along with the difficulty of detecting overdominance in nature, is why W.D. Hamilton appealed to long term frequency dependent selection for his "Red Queen" hypothesis (recall that immunity related loci, such as MHC, are highly polymorphic). But science doesn't stop until results are definitive. Here is a 1992 paper which tweaks the parameters to show how multiple alleles can persist.

In A Reason for Everything Marek Kohn recounts how Amotz Zahavi, proponent of the handicap principle, had difficulty getting along with the late J.M. Smith, because their modes of thinking were very different. Zahavi saw no reason to cede his intuitions in the face of Smith's analytic formalist methodologies ("doing the sums"). Verbal arguments and intuition are essential preconditions of science, nevertheless, as we explore the full sample space of reality, our intuitions tend to lose their way and we must put faith in the guard-rails of deduction and theory.

1 - The Balance School is to be contrasted by the Classical School which took after R.A. Fisher. While Fisher believed that genetic variation was only an epiphenomenon that derived from the transitions toward fixation of newly beneficial alleles, Wright contended that various balancing selective forces, heterozygote advantange, environmental fluctuation, gene-gene interactions (epistasis), resulted in a rugged adaptive landscape which allowed multiple stable fitness peaks.

2 - Adapted from Principles of Population Genetics.

3 - fitnessii is less than fitnessij, fitnessjj is less than fitnessij.

Not much evolution....   posted by Razib @ 2/04/2006 03:31:00 AM

Last month there were over 8,000 entries to this website via the referer "Kate Beckinsale" vs. 3,500 for "Keira Knightly." Normally Keira kicks ass, so I was a little surprised...but then I realized that Underworld Evolution is out. I'm not a big movie watcher, but my friend at MIT told me that Underworld was a good flick in about 5 words, and well, MIT students know how to be smart, so I figured that I should weight his opinion more than some fluffy Harvard student who could string 1,000 words together explaining how it was schlock. So I did watch Underworld and Underworld Evolution. First, if you want to see the "nude" scene in the second film, go here. You aren't missing much, it was really hard to see anything worth seeing. But as I said, MIT students know how to be smart, and the first film was shockingly coherent (note that the bar here is low, so if Kate in skin tights killin' and beatin' ain't your thang, don't get the DVD). Chris Mooney, my neighbor at Science Blogs, aired the possibility of the second movie distorting evolution. I can't speak to that, while Underworld overperformed above & beyond expectation, Underworld Evolution drowned me in irrelevant backstory, so I really wasn't trying to figure out how evolution fit into all of this (I assume something about hybridization). I do get the distinct impression that it isn't a good idea to eat the bread at a seedy Transylvanian bar (that's a spoiler), and that the tetrapod body plan is shockingly easy to distort via viral infection, but that was about it. I would have liked to see the actress that played Amelia, Zita Gorog (work safe pic), more. Not only is she hot, but she has a name that is apropos for the Whore of Babylon, or the mother of Gog and Magog. Oh, and if anyone has found a good timeline for these movies, shout out in the comments box, I thought there was a reference to 1,400 years, but nothing seems to go back further than around 1,000.

Oh, and Kate Beckinsale is 1/8 Burmese. Since inheritance isn't blending, and the number of traits we use to judge "race" isn't super large, assume there to be variance in the range in appearence of people who are 1/8 anything that is very different from the other 7/8. You could say that Kate's relative swarthiness is a clue to her ancestry, but she is as dark as many Englishwomen.

Update: I suspect many of you will enjoy The Faces of Tomorrow, where they take the faces of citizens from various regions and make composites. As usual, the averaged out faces are much more attractive. Via NuSapiens.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Altruistic Punishment in Monkeys   posted by DavidB @ 2/03/2006 04:31:00 AM

I have several times commented on the problem of altruistic punishment (see links here), so I was interested to see a report by John Hawks (Jan. 30) on punishment among pigtailed macaques (monkeys).

Altruistic punishment by definition occurs where one member of a society takes action against another, with a resulting benefit to the society, but at a net cost to himself. The problem is to explain such behaviour, since it does not seem prima facie to be consistent with natural selection at individual level.

I am sceptical about whether altruistic punishment in this sense is often found among non-human animals, but the research by Flack et al. (see especially the paper in American Naturalist) shows that it does sometimes occur. Among pigtailed macaques individual monkeys will frequently intervene to break up disputes among other, unrelated, monkeys. Such intervention carries a cost (risk of being bitten, etc), which seems greater than any immediate benefit to the intervener. It is significant that the intervention is nearly always by individuals high in the dominance hierarchy. Since these are the most powerful animals, they incur relatively little risk of injury. But it is still necessary to explain why they bother to intervene at all.

Several possible explanations have been suggested:

a. multi-level selection. The intervention is selected against at individual level, but it is beneficial to the group, so those groups with a high proportion of interveners will flourish, which may be sufficient to offset the cost to interveners within the group.

b. indirect benefits to interveners. The idea here is that dominant individuals stand to gain disproportionate benefits from the prosperity of the group as a whole, in terms of territory, number of females, etc., so it is in their individual interest to promote group success.

c. the Handicap Principle. By intervening in disputes, at a risk to themselves, dominant individuals are demonstrating their fitness, with resulting benefits in attracting females, discouraging rivals, etc.

I rather like the Handicap suggestion, but I wonder if there is not another explanation? In a dominance hierarchy any dominant individual has a direct interest in preventing subordinate individuals from rising in the hierarchy, and potentially challenging his own position. Individuals rise in the hierarchy mainly by defeating other individuals in contests. Dominant individuals therefore have an interest in preventing subordinate individuals from winning contests. Imagine a Mafia boss who finds there is a feud between two of his subordinates. He will try to stop it, not only because it disrupts the smooth operation of the family, but because the winner of such a feud will have enhanced power and status, and will be a natural rival to the boss himself.

It would probably be difficult to find a way of deciding among these possible explanations, but I suggest that one implication of my own hypothesis is that dominant individuals will be especially likely to intervene if one of the contestants appears to be winning the contest. This is not obviously predicted by the other hypotheses. Another prediction is that males will intervene disproportionately in disputes among males, and females among females, since these have separate dominance hierarchies. I am not clear from Flack et al.'s paper whether this is the case.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

What the barmaid said....   posted by Razib @ 2/02/2006 06:42:00 PM

From the mouths of barmaids.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A World of Difference: Richard Lynn Maps World Intelligence   posted by Jason Malloy @ 2/01/2006 07:12:00 PM

A review of Richard Lynn's Race Differences in Intelligence: An Evolutionary Analysis
(Click here for summary chart. Warning: 20 page review.)

The generally listed "peak" age for scientific creativity and productivity is around the surprisingly young age range of 30-40, but the same exact age doesn't apply to all scientific disciplines. The peak in fields that demand greater doses of pure reasoning, such as mathematics, theoretical physics, and molecular biology, appears to be somewhere in the twenties. So, for instance, James Watson discovered the double helix at 25 and then dropped off the radar as anything but a nerd celebrity. In contrast are fields such as evolutionary biology, where years of collecting and assimilating large amounts of data can be required for original analysis. So, for example, Charles Darwin was 50 years old when he published his landmark The Origin of Species, not to mention 62 for The Descent of Man and 63 for The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. What's true for evo-bio may also be true for the often belittled field of psychometrics, or the measurement and analysis of human intelligence, and for much the same reasons. So, to take some more obvious examples, we find that John B. Carroll published his seminal work, Human Cognitive Abilities, at the age of 77, while Arthur Jensen was similarly 75 when he published The g Factor in 1998 (This spring, in fact, Jensen releases his treatise on mental chronometry, Clocking the Mind, at 83).

Richard Lynn, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Ulster, is surely another example. Now 76, Lynn has released a large number of papers and 5 books since his "retirement", 4 of them since 2001, starting with 1996's Dysgenics, 2001's follow-up Eugenics, 2001's The Science of Human Diversity, 2002's IQ & the Wealth of Nations, and now Race Differences in Intelligence. Richard Lynn appears to be a surprising exception as a modern hereditarian researcher who has not had to fight an exasperating battle with his institution, but his reputation in the media has been characterized by much the same turbulence as his colleagues' - most prominently during the Bell Curve backlash of the mid 1990s. Thus Leon Kamin's review of the book in Scientific American included:

I will not mince words. Lynn's distortions and misrepresentations of the data constitute a truly venomous racism, combined with scandalous disregard for scientific objectivity. But to anybody familiar with Lynn's work and background this comes as no surprise . . . It is a matter of shame and disgrace that two eminent social scientists . . . [would cite the work of] Richard Lynn . . .

Similarly, New Republic senior editor Charles Lane used Richard Lynn as his launching pad for two jeremiads against The Bell Curve in the invidiously titled (and argued) Neo-Nazis! published in The New Republic , and an expanded version of this article which appeared in The New York Review of Books, titled The Tainted Sources of The Bell Curve, featuring Lynn as the eponymous "tainted source". While these and similar articles in the popular press may have helped solidify Lynn's reputation as a "fringe" researcher among certain segments of the literate public, his reputation as a scientist in differential psychology remains secure and respectable. Little known, for instance, is the book review of Richard Lynn's Dysgenics (about the genotypic decline of socially valued traits) by the late scientific legend William Hamilton in the Annals of Human Genetics. This review is still available free at the journal's website as a tribute, because it was actually Hamilton's last published piece, submitted just two weeks before his tragically premature death in 2000. In comparison to Kamin's recriminations, Hamilton had nothing but good words for Lynn's character and work, calling Dysgenics a "brave and fertile book", and Lynn himself "brave, thick-skinned, and very persistent to swim against. . . popular antirealistic currents." and that "Lynn. . . does an excellent job with the facts". The contrast between interchangeable talking heads rebuking Lynn as a crank in popular magazines with Hamilton, possibly the most eminent evolutionary theorist of the 20th century, praising him in a prestigious journal at about the same time, could hardly be more ironic. (Meanwhile it is actually Kamin himself who can most convincingly be charged with data distortion and heavily compromised objectivity, see Mackintosh 1998 pp 78-79, 98-102)

Lynn's follow-up book Eugenics (about remedying the genotypic decline of socially valued traits) received similar praise in the American Psychological Association Review of Books (Lykken 2004) as "[an] excellent, scholarly book . . .one cannot reasonably disagree with him on any point unless one can find an argument he has not already refuted.", as well as by the journal Nature (Martin 2001) as a "comprehensive histor[y]" and a welcome one, "given the importance of the topic" of dysgenic trends. Lynn's third recent book, The Science of Human Diversity, a hagiography of the Pioneer Fund, also received supporting words in the APARoB from the psychologist Ulric Neisser (2004), who was also chairman of the APA's Taskforce on Intelligence (that was convened largely to counter the proliferation of scientific misinformation against IQ in the Bell Curve aftermath). Despite Neisser's repeated ostentatious and inappropriate insults against his hereditarian colleagues (such as saying that Lynn and Rushton's work on race "turns [his] stomach"), he ultimately couldn't avoid agreeing with Lynn's main argument: "Lynn's claim is exaggerated but not entirely without merit: "Over those 60 years, the research funded by Pioneer has helped change the face of social science"". Neisser tellingly concludes in agreement with Lynn (and against William Tucker's Pioneer book, also reviewed) that the world was actually better off having the Pioneer Fund: ". . . Lynn reminds us that Pioneer has sometimes sponsored useful research - research that otherwise might not have been done at all. By that reckoning, I would give it a weak plus" (These words coming from the APARoB should come as some news to certain 'watchdog' outfits which are still attempting to anathemize this same position. Pehaps all these journals and scientists mentioned above should now be added to the list of 'hate groups'?).

Lynn's fourth recent book, along with Tatu Vanhanen, IQ & the Wealth of Nations, received more mixed reviews in academic journals, but this should be taken as a sign of its controversial importance. Heredity, for instance, hedged its bets and printed a hostile review back to back with a sympathetic one (Richardson, Palareit 2004), as is sometimes done with controversial books (APARoB did the same thing for The Bell Curve, The Nurture Asumption, etc.). Unfortunately, much of the criticism in the journals, as is common in the popular press, centered around an obsessive focus with and antipathy towards the book's hereditary position on racial differences, far outstripping its relevance to the book's thesis that national IQ is a major cause of differences in national wealth. Worse still, many negative reviewers were deeply ignorant of the subjects that made them most angry. Some economists were outraged in stereotypical form, over use of the "discredited" IQ measure. Almost nobody was qualified to understand the race research, which Lynn specializes in, though it deeply unsettled almost all of them. So, for example, most reviewers took offense at the reference to race and brain size but none had informed or adequate scientific ways to critique it. To date though, the book is already generating a surprising amount of original commentary and research given this radioactivity, (Barber 2005; Dickerson, in press; Hunt & Williams, in press; Jones & Schneider, in press; Jones 2005; McDaniel & Whetzel, in press; Voracek 2004), and it is clearly Lynn's most important contribution to date. Also, while not referenced directly it is also influencing international policy. So, for instance, 2004's international panel of economists in league with Britain's Economist magazine, known as the "Copenhagen Consensus", ranked improving micronutrient levels as the second most important action to help the developing world. The impact of nutrition on intelligence was a prominent part of their argument, with 54 references to the word "cognitive" and 10 references to "IQ" (Jones 2005). These issues and recommendations are quite clearly taken from IQ & the Wealth of Nations.

While Lynn has made valuable and original contributions to a number of psychometric issues, IQ&tWoN, and his recent work with sex differences, confirms that group differences in intelligence are clearly his forte, and since so few other researchers dare to touch the issue, the field is mostly wide open for discovery. Which brings me to Lynn's fifth recent and latest book, Race Differences in Intelligence, which Lynn himself describes as ". . . the first fully comprehensive review that has ever been made of the evidence on race differences in intelligence worldwide". (p. 2) In contrast to IQ&tWoN, RDiI does not contain a newly created thesis. This is not to say it is unoriginal, many of its ideas (and much of its copious data) certainly originates with Lynn himself, but the theory, its basic outline and many of the key references of this book were almost all first presented 15 years ago in Lynn's Mankind Quarterly article 'Race Differences in Intelligence: A Global Perspective' and its companion piece 'The Evolution of Racial Differences in Intelligence', while an even more basic version appeared in his 1978 chapter 'Ethnic and Racial Differences in Intelligence, International Comparisons' in the book Human Variation.

The main strength of RDiI is just how much data Lynn has collected, totaling 620 different IQ studies from around the world and 813,778 tested individuals. While IQ&tWoN, published only a few years ago, presented data from 81 countries, RDil has boosted that number up to 100 different countries (additions include Cameroon, Central African Republic, Estonia, Iceland, Jordan, Kuwait, Laos, Lithuania, Madagascar, Malta, Mozambique, Pakistan, Samoa, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Yemen, and a few others), amounting to 137 newly referenced IQ studies. RDiI is seventeen chapters; the first 2 are on the concepts of race and intelligence. The next 10 chapters cover the psychometric data on 10 different racial groups: Europeans, Africans, Bushman and Pygmies, South Asians and North Africans, Southeast Asians, Australian Aborigines, Pacific Islanders, East Asians, Arctic Peoples, and Native Americans. The next chapter discusses the psychometric justifications for these results, while the last four chapters discuss the environmental and evolutionary nature of these differences according to Lynn's assessment.

Chapter 1 & 2: Intelligence and Race

These chapters are small and polemical. IQ&tWoN had a similarly abbreviated, but fully adequate chapter on IQ and I recommend that one instead. Lynn's chapter on race benefits less by squaring old scores with Ashley Montagu than it would by focusing more on the rapid advances in genetics. Lynn, for instance sourly demonstrates that Ashley Montagu and L.L. Cavalli-Sforza have continuously contradicted themselves trying to strategically deny that populations exist and are genetically differentiated even while ultimately admitting that they do. But these conceits ridicule themselves; Tan (2005) and Rosenberg (2002) , which both go sadly unreferenced, help illustrate and justify the use and meaning of Lynn's clusters far more than years-old absurd quotes from race-deniers, which are already well on their way to becoming little but historical oddities. On the other hand, Lynn can't be blamed that his book was published too late to catch the latest paper by Rosenberg in the December 05 issue of PLoS Genetics which again concludes, in the face of recent challenges stating otherwise, that:

. . . if enough markers are used with a sufficiently large worldwide sample, individuals can be partitioned into genetic clusters that match major geographic subdivisions of the globe. . .

Finally, as a tertiary complaint, Lynn also states:

In the 1830s, Samuel Morton (1849) in the United States assembled a collection of skulls, measured their volume, and calculated that Europeans had the largest brains followed by Chinese, Malays, and Native American Indians, while Africans and finally Australian Aborigines had the smallest brains. He concluded that these differences in brain size accounted for the race differences in intelligence.

This of course was also Stephen J. Gould's argument in Mismeasure of Man. Both mens' assertions should be read in light of science historian, William Stanton's more qualified judgment that: "Morton himself never equated cranial capacity with intelligence" (Stanton 1960, p. 30), and that Morton's collection was ethnographic in its aim.

Chapter 3: Europeans

Lynn first looked at European IQ in his 1978 chapter - it listed 14 studies from 13 different countries including the European repopulated territories of America, Australia, and New Zealand. Lynn found that they mostly scored extremely similar, with an average IQ of about 100. He also noted that results from Spain and Greece in Southern Europe were lower, although Italy was not. By 1991 the number of European countries covered was 23 with 35 studies. In comparison RDiI now lists data for 36 majority European countries, as well as data for European peoples in 6 mostly nonwhite nations, for a total of 112 different studies and a combined sample of 175,950 people. Since IQ&tWoN, much valuable new data from Europe especially comes from the recent book Culture and Children's Intelligence. The median IQ of European peoples is now listed as 99, and this mostly holds for rich countries in the North and poor ex-Communist ones in the East, as well as white Americans, Australians, etc., and whites in six different Latin American nations. But there also appear to be some differences too - Ireland, Portugal and Lithuania all have IQs, unlike their neighbors, in the low 90s. Multiple studies give similar results showing the scores are 'reliable' if not 'valid' (Ireland for instance has three studies with large standardization samples showing very similar results). Secondly, while Southern Europe does not score poorly as a block (Spain and Italy score "normally"), Southeast Europe does reflect a regional trend of lower scores that extends from the Balkans into Turkey and the Near East (so for instance Romania 94, Bulgaria 93, Croatia 90, Serbia 89, Greece 93 [5 studies], and Turkey 90). Lynn also compares 4 different regions of Europeans (including North America) on IQ and brain size, finding that North American whites have the largest brains and highest IQs (perhaps because of selective migration?) and Southeast Europeans the lowest test scores and brain size. Of course if there is a decline in the Balkans, Lynn's Flynn reduced estimate of 99 for Europe is incorrect, and needs to be dropped probably even a few more points.

While Lynn looks at adoption studies for evidence of heredity for other races, he unfortunately does not consider it for this major difference within Europe, even though it would seem like an even more suitable test, since these adoptees are not visibly racially distinct, controlling for the possible social effects of e.g., racism or stereotypes. Also, I know that there are, in fact, a number of IQ studies of Romanian children adopted into American and British homes. It was unfortunate that they were not reviewed. My superficial impression is that they indeed show a lower IQ than other adoptees.

I don't expect any of this to go uncontested, and Lynn's accuracy and care with the data is a fitful concern. Lynn and colleagues go back and forth over differences of up to 5 points in the technical literature all the time, and these debates are resolved slowly as more literature accumulates on the controversial/disputed difference, but no one has 'exposed' Lynn fraudulently manufacturing a conclusion, as is sometimes hinted. As with Africa, Asia, and sex differences, Lynn seems adept at building up the case for his controversial estimates with more data over time. But getting overly concerned with values of several points in single European countries is probably unwarranted, as Lynn himself notes, it's more helpful to concentrate on the general patterns.

Chapter 4: Africans

Lynn first looked at Sub-Saharan African IQ in his 1978 chapter - it listed 7 studies from 4 different countries including 1 Diaspora territory: Jamaica. By 1991 the number of African countries covered was 6 with 11 studies. In comparison RDiI now lists data for 23 majority black countries in and outside of Africa, as well as data for Diaspora blacks in 5 mostly nonblack nations, for a total of 155 different studies and a combined sample of 387,286 people.

References to the subject from the 60s and 70s typically gave Africans an IQ much like African Americans, thus Jensen (1973) wrote: "We do know that studies of the intelligence of Negroes in Africa have found them to average at least one sigma below Europeans on a variety of tests" (p. 66). Lynn (1978) is no exception. It wasn't until 1991, that Lynn had revised this estimate dramatically to minus 2 standard deviations, which has been the source of much anger and controversy ever since. Well, the current volume drops it a little bit lower even, to an IQ of 67 as the median score from 57 studies collected from 18 different African countries. Similarly, the average IQ of black populations from 6 locations in Latin America and the Caribbean is 71. This is virtually the same as the score for Ethiopians in Israel. In developed, predominately white countries, a second cluster of scores emerge for black Africans. African-Americans, of course, score about 85, while the median IQ from 20 studies of blacks in Britain is 86. Similarly, West Africans from the Dutch Antilles living in the Netherlands were found to have an IQ of 85. Although an older reference, Lynn also leaves out an IQ study of an established black population in Canada, descended from US migrants (Tanser 1939, 1941) - the measured IQ was about 87. Given that the scores have not changed a bit in America for 100 years, the age should not matter, and the educational gap of blacks in Canada is still discussed as a problem and mystery to this day.

More than Asia, Europe, and other areas of the world, the accuracy of such a low IQ for Africa is popularly questioned, but more with reflexive incredulity than adequate methodology. A typical comment is that it is hard to believe that half of Africa is mentally retarded. It is also hard to believe that 16% of African-Americans are "mentally retarded", but 16% of African-Americans do have IQs below 70, and the APA recognizes this as an accurate and factual reflection of ability - IQ tests are not biased against African-Americans (the criticism is fairly ignorant to begin with since diagnosing mental retardation is mostly orthogonal to the intelligence test, See Mackintosh 1998, p. 177). While this is not controversial now, among scientists, it certainly was as shocking to believe for many back in the 1970s as the 2 SD difference is to many today. While the logic of test bias has been around since at least the 1960s, a turning point in the scientific consensus on African-American IQ certainly came with Arthur Jensen's Bias in Mental Testing (1981) which exhaustively laid out the tools and methods for accurately discerning bias in IQ test results. In principle these same methods can be used to answer if 70 is or is not a spurious estimate for Africa.

Lynn unfortunately is less than thorough and rather unconscientious on this topic, and since the estimate was his to begin with he should be the most careful and aggressive one defending it. Lynn skips the issue of internal test validity entirely, even though there are some key references from Africa that stand repeating, and speak directly to commonly raised issues such as, e.g. language bias. Key references for external validity are also omitted, though Lynn's chapter 13 shows that IQ certainly doesn't underpredict African academic performance where countries are included for International comparisons. So for instance, while African countries like Nigeria and South Africa may score 2 SD below European nations on IQ tests, Lynn shows that international indices of math and science performance between the 1960s and 1990s reveal an even more dramatic gap of about 2 and a half SD. (It was noted in the Wall Street Journal, for example, that in South Africa: " . . . barely 1% of black high school students pass higher grade math"). Since East Asian nations score even higher than Europe, the gap approaches three standard deviations between Africa and Asia, consistent with earlier reports showing that there was almost no overlap between the highest and lowest scoring countries, e.g. TIMSS 2003 (PDF):

"Singaporean students had the highest average achievement at both grades, with their average eighth-grade performance exceeding performance at the 95th percentile in the lower-performing countries such as Botswana, Ghana, and South Africa."

Lynn also reviews data of so-called Elementary Cognitive Tasks from Africa, such as reaction time tests (how quick you process and react to a lit button on a console), and EEGs, which monitor how quickly the brain responds to a stimulus, confirming the general picture of African IQ. Jensen's upcoming book should have interesting things to say on this topic; a combined battery of ECTs correlate with IQ tests just as well as standard IQ tests correlate with each other (Detterman 1999), indicating that the pen and paper IQ test, as well as most attendant concerns about culturally biased tests, might very well become soon obsolete.

The issue of brain size is similar to that of test bias; I would think Lynn would want to up the arms race against his critics since this issue received so much attention in reviews of IQ&tWoN, despite being such a small and irrelevant part of that book. And yet brain size is prominently used to defend controversial hereditarian arguments in many chapters of this book, so it was unwise that key references are similarly omitted like with test bias. So, for instance, there is no discussion of the importance of, or tests for, a functional relationship between IQ and brain size, even though this is critical to the argument. And such research exists and would have made his argument much stronger and more immune to glib dismissal. Lynn does attempt to resolve one "contradiction" - that women have smaller brains but do just as well as men on IQ tests - by presenting data for his own theory that women actually average 5 IQ points below men. But since the difference between races is larger than the sex difference in IQ, and the brain size differences smaller, I don't see what has been resolved, even if we accept the still controversial sex difference in IQ.

Particularly interesting (not only for Africans, but for other racial groups reviewed as well) isn't just that racial groups score similarly on intelligence tests across an improbable number of different countries, but also have the same profiles (or "multiple intelligences" if you will) on these tests across nations as well. In the US, for instance, if we take poor and rich whites and look at their relative strengths and weaknesses on various test sections we will find the same pattern of strengths and weaknesses. Same for poor and rich US blacks, who have distinct strengths and weaknesses. African blacks show the same test profile as US and Jamaican blacks, for example with strengths on perceptual and short term memory tasks and weakness on tests of abstract reasoning (this is for matched total IQ, remember). The visuospatial profile that also distinguishes women and men and European and Asian/Amerindian populations has also long been noted by research of blacks in Africa and the United States, but this difference is not analyzed by Lynn.

For the first time I've seen, Lynn also reviews tests of "MQ" or musical intelligence for black and white Americans. While blacks score lower on almost all the items, commensurate with the fact that IQ correlates with musical ability, they also do much better, on average, than whites on rhythm items - Lynn calculates a rhythm IQ for Af-Ams of 106, though no cross-cultural results are presented, this has been recognized in a number of societies through time. Since Sub-Saharan Africans have been musical innovators across a number of different countries, this topic should have more attention.

Based on the IQs of transracially adopted black children, Lynn decides that the 1 SD IQ difference of American blacks (same as in Britain and the Netherlands) is 100% genetic, given the lack of any convincing environmental theory or data for the gap. Based on this he decides that poor nutrition primarily is depressing the African (and mostly identical black Latin-American/Caribbean) IQ about 13 points. Indeed, incredulity that African IQ could be any lower than African-American IQ is belied by known drastic comparative disadvantages of Africans on variables known to affect IQ. These include things such as higher lead exposure (which can lead to IQ reductions of 4-7 points) and micronutrient deprivation, such as iodine deficiency (reductions of 10 points). Indeed, critics are incredulous over the wrong gap! - after all, it is the 15 points between American blacks and whites that is hard to account for, not the 15 points between American blacks and Africans. 5 additional IQ points between African-Americans and African-Africans, Lynn attributes to the white admixture of American blacks. Lynn puts the level of white admixture in African-Americans at 25% based on references from 1971 and 1992, and northern black admixture at 50% (based on pure conjecture) and concludes from IQ studies that African-Americans gain 1 IQ point for every 5% of white admixture. Lynn's estimate is compromised because his admixture references are outdated and his estimate of northern admixture is contradicted by the data. Parra et al. (1998) put the latest estimate of average admixture at 17%, not 25%, and don't even find admixture higher than 23% in any sampled US region. It's difficult to guess why he is using the obsolete reference, when he himself has previously cited the Parra paper and the 17% estimate (Lynn 2002).

On a final note, I will say that Lynn is especially talented at bringing new references to the table, so that while his 1991 report featured only three references of black IQ in Britain, this book delivers 20 - all in support of a black IQ in Britain typically much lower than all other ethnic groups, and much like that of blacks in the US. This is no small ability since critics are terrible at knowing or caring about the literature. But more important is this - Lynn should expand his research ability to cover a broader range of data points. An over-reliance on IQ tends to minimize just how strong these international racial patterns are because it limits the argument to just one kind of data. A book like Lynn's, in my opinion, would be much more effective if it started with the race and worked up to the IQ data, where available, instead of vice versa. So for instance, a more thorough picture would be available of racial patterns if, instead of cataloguing nations where we have black IQ, we first catalogue nations that have blacks, and chart what we know about their comparative situation in each country up from that fact, given whatever data is available, be it IQ or educational or economic data - or even anecdotal (journalism/anthropology) reports or local viewpoints, if that is all that's available. The point is that IQ data is limited and working up to the data from the people would make the patterns even more unavoidable. I have in mind the structure of Thomas Sowell's Migrations and Cultures or Amy Chua's World on Fire which didn't even use IQ data, but demonstrated ethnic patterns through economic, political, and educational data. A merge of style and data between these books and Lynn's would paint an even more persuasive picture of the differences that do, more or less, rather reliably follow race, and perhaps uncover which ones don't as well.

Chapter 5: Bushmen and Pygmies

In Frank Miele and Vincent Sarich's Race, an account is given by Henry Harpending of a resourceful young Bushman who repaired his Jeep by jumpstarting it with a rope, like a lawnmower. Harpending and his colleagues concluded that Bushmen were smarter than other Africans: "All of us have the impression that Bushmen are really quick and clever and are quite different than their neighbors . . . I expect there will soon be real data available from the Namibia school system" (p. 227). On the other hand, Lynn lists the average IQ of Bushmen, estimated from 3 studies, as 54! Lynn decides that this is a reasonable score by considering that it is equivalent to the average score of an American third-grader: " An IQ of 54 represents the mental age of the average European 8-year-old child, and the average European 8-year-old can read, write, and do arithmetic and would have no difficulty in learning and performing the activities of gathering foods and hunting carried out by the San Bushmen" (p 76). Lynn's estimate is not new, the same studies and same average IQ were listed in the 1978 chapter, the only thing that has changed is Lynn's opinion, who then wrote: ". . . it strains one's credulity that a population could long survive the rigors of the Kalahari with a true mean IQ around 55". This should not serve as a "gotcha", because I agree that the 'age' comparison is more appropriate than the 'mentally retarded' comparison for thinking about lower IQ population (such as the 16% of Af-Ams who score below 70). At the same time this also demonstrates a theoretical deficit in intelligence research of distinguishing exactly how an average child with an age unadjusted IQ of 63, a below-average non-retarded adult with an IQ of 63 and a mentally retarded adult with an IQ of 63 all differ in what are fairly considered intellectual abilities (real world indicators of independent self care and adjustment). Suggestions that these are just "personality' differences are rather specious, especially when Lynn gets to the point of comparing young children and apes as well as humans and extinct hominids on the same linear IQ dimensions. Although I agree that test bias literature also confirms important aspects of intelligence are being captured across diverse groups.

Lynn notes there was a Pygmy intelligence study, but says that it does not permit an average IQ, though he does suggest it is lower than other Africans. Since no new data has been collected for Pygmies and Bushmen in over thirty years, these assessments are dead ends. As one caveat, I have to object to Lynn's statement that " Pygmy children up to the age of puberty have normal height, but when they become adolescents they do not have the growth spurt of other peoples because of their low output of the insulin-like growth factor 1" (p. 77). This fact is outdated, a mixed longitudinal study from 1991 found that Pygmies were much smaller than other populations at birth and up until age 5, indicating a suite of adaptations for smaller size.

Chapter 6: Near East and South Asia

Lynn first looked at the Middle-East/South Asia region in his 1978 chapter - it listed 5 studies from Iraq, Iran and India and an average of 86 was given. Except for one study for India, this region was not addressed in the 1991 review. RDiI is pretty much the only survey of Middle Eastern IQ to date, now listing data from 15 predominately West/South Asian countries as well as data on these populations living in European countries for a total of 98 studies and a combined sample of 65,855. The median IQ is 84. 40 studies are also given for South Asians living in a variety of African, Asian and European countries - the median IQ for Indians in India is listed as 82, in South Africa as 86, and in Britain as 89. South Asian Americans have not been tested to my knowledge, but data from income and education indicate they probably have IQs significantly higher than average - this is likely due to selective top-tier migration. Unfortunately, no data for IQ diversity within India is discussed, even though some data probably exists right now and probably contains some fascinating information on caste and ethnic differences. In my opinion South Asia (the Indian subcontinent) should have been a chapter apart from West Asia (the Middle east), highlighted more by the fact that Lynn also lists a score of 89 for the Near East and 82 for South Asia, suggesting the 84 score is misleading.

Lynn argues for a partially environmental explanation for lower West/South Asian IQ with reference to nutrition as he does with other regions, but argues that since these populations perform much lower even in Western nations and have a lower brain size, that there are genetic causes too, which in his evolutionary framework is said due to their more limited exposure to two little Ice ages than Europeans and East Asians. Lynn leaves out an important genetic issue as well, one mediated by cultural events. While the prevalence of cousin marriage is less than 1% in Europe and its Diaspora nations, and low in much of Eastern Asia as well, the Middle East has the highest rates of inbreeding in the world, running to 20-50% of all marriages (see the work of Alan Bittles for more). Jensen (1998, p. 194) lists 14 studies of inbreeding depression on IQ, many of them done directly within the Middle East, and finds the typical cost of cousin marriage is 7-8 IQ points. It is doubtful that this is a major source of the average IQ difference between Europe and the Middle-East, though, since all, or even a majority of, the people of this region do not engage in cousin marriage, making the real effect, at maximum, only a few IQ points. Also most of South Asia, which has much less inbreeding, does not appear any higher.

While Lynn's book lists the IQs of blacks, Asians, Indians, and other groups living as internationally dispersed minorities, this is not done for Ashkenazi Jews, who are largely - sadly -neglected, though a few examples are given to indicate they score highly in America and Britain. Earlier discussions of Israel's IQ, when it was listed as 94 in IQ&tWoN treated it as a suspect score, because Ashkenazi Jews are thought to score 1 SD higher than other Europeans. Of course even if this were true (and Lynn himself (2004) estimates the IQ as only about 107), Ashkenazi Jews represent only about 40% of Israel's population, and Oriental Jews and Arabs, who make up the majority, are thought to score nearly as far (if not more) below Europeans as Ashkenazi Jews score above them, so the estimate actually wasn't unreasonable at all (although '95' in a country with a distinct, high scoring population is qualitatively different than a '95' country with a single bell curve). Lynn lists 8 studies for Israel with IQs ranging between 89 and 97 and with a median of 95, but none of the studies are broken down by ethnic background to provide direct estimates of the IQs of Oriental and Ashkenazi Jews. So Lynn uses population percentages (40% Ashkenazi, 40% Oriental, 20% Arab), results from one direct study of Israeli Arab IQ (86), and knowledge from several Israeli studies that indicate that Ashkenazi Jews score 12 points higher than Oriental Jews, to give indirect weighted estimates of 91 for the IQ of Oriental Jews and 103 for Ashkenazi Jews in Israel. No direct studies are given or listed for these groups in Israel, and if Lynn is correct that Jewish-American IQs are really only about 107, then that really isn't different enough from his Israel estimate, in my opinion, that we can rule out their scores being identical in each nation - the estimate just isn't that precise. Another puzzle left untouched is that the listed Oriental Jewish IQ is also 3-7 points above the regional average. Is it possible that for reasons of cultural and/or genetic amalgamation, the two populations are meeting each other in the middle; one being pulled up and the other being pulled down? Lynn does believe Ashkenazi Jews have some genes related to higher intelligence, which he attributes to medieval persecution. At his book's cost, Lynn makes absolutely no mention of Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending's Ashkenazi paper at this point, which I find curious.

Chapter 8: Australian Aborigines

Lynn first looked at the Australian Aborigines in his 1978 chapter - it listed 3 studies, and he estimated their intelligence, much like Sub-Saharan Africans, as 85. In 1991 the same three studies were listed, and there is no suggestion Lynn lowered his estimate. When Ed Miller examined studies of Australoid intelligence in 1996, he too suggested something like 85. In comparison RDiI now lists data from 29 studies of Australoid populations, including those of New Guinea for a combined sample of 4,785. Since that time Lynn has dropped the Australoid IQ average a dramatic 23 points, down to 62. This is considerably lower than all previous estimates have suggested, but Lynn's review also highlights just how neglected this populations intelligence has been, even by Lynn, until now. Small admixture and adoption studies exist for Australian Aborigine intelligence and both suggest something hereditary. These populations have had some of the lowest technological development of all populations and also have the smallest brains of any living population. An exception is the visual parts of the cortex, which are much larger than in Europeans. Interesting given their much lower intelligence, then, that their visual memory abilities are substantially superior - one researcher found a visual memory IQ of 119. Genetics are further suggested because the advantage is also true for very young children and for aborigines born into modern urban settings.

Jared Diamond famously stated that he believes the populations of New Guinea to be more intelligent, on average, than Europeans. The median of 5 intelligence studies in New Guinea is reported as 63, no different than Australian Aborigines. It seems that if what Diamond asserts is true, at the very least children from this stock raised in white homes should be able to, on average, reason through a Piagetian conservation of water volume problem as well or better than their environmental siblings, which is not what we find.

Lynn offers the opinion that the Australoids have lower intelligence than Africans because their population numbers were lower, and thus less likely to accrue advantageous chance alleles (he applies this theory to a number of other populations, such as the Mongolians, Eskimos, Polynesians and Amerindians). The rate at which these genes could spread is interesting in the light of Bruce Lahn's ASPM and MCPH1 (also unmentioned!), which may be related to cognitive function, rising to high frequency among these populations but not among Africans. Especially the more recent ASPM, whose range across the entire span of Eurasia in 6000 years does not agree with Lynn's estimate that an advantageous allele would spread only 800 miles per 25,000 years (p 222). Also interesting, if these alleles are related to increased brain size (possible, though yet to be demonstrated), that they exist in such high frequency in these populations.

Chapter 9: Pacific Islanders

As with the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Australoids, very little has been written to summarize the intelligence in Polynesian regions before this book. RDiI reviews 29 studies and a total sample of 7729 from the Pacific Islands.

In his 1938 book, Heredity and Politics, written largely as a riposte to the noxious racial politics of Nazi Germany, J.B.S. Haldane devoted two chapters to what evolutionary biology, or more specifically the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis, implies for racial differences in man. Much of what he says is level-headed. On the issue of race and intelligence, Haldane specifically compares the ability of Pacific Maoris with that of Australoids. For instance he cites Maui Pomare, a Maori who had actually for a time served as Prime Minister of New Zealand:

We cannot, I think, deny a very considerable difference in the behaviour of the Maoris and the Australian black-fellow, and we can ask whether it is due to nature or nurture? That is an exceedingly difficult question to answer. But I find it very hard to rule out nature. (p. 141)

Haldane's assessment of ability finds support in intelligence tests. By world standards, Maori are bright, and perform much higher than Australoids. The median IQ of 15 studies of Maori from New Zealand is 90. This is probably higher than other Polynesians, as the median IQ of 14 additional studies from 6 non-Maori Polynesian territories is 85.

Chapters 7 and 10: Southeast Asians and East Asians

Starting in the late 1970s with Singapore and Japan, Richard Lynn discovered that East Asian countries obtained higher scores on IQ tests than the Western populations these tests were standardized on (See the picture from the 1982 Discover Magazine cover story on Lynn's findings here). In 1978 he reviewed 5 studies from Singapore, Japan, and Taiwan. It wasn't then expressly stated that East Asians had higher IQs, although Lynn noted that the result of 107 for Japan "appears to be the highest mean IQ ever recorded for a national population". By 1991 Lynn had raised his number of studies to 15 from 4 countries, and integrated it into his climactic evolutionary theory to argue that East Asians had evolved higher intelligence than Europeans, with a mean IQ of about 106. A number of notable critiques of Lynn emerged in the academic realm since his first studies in the 70s, including an early charge by Stevenson and Azuma (1983) that Lynn's Japanese IQs were inflated by socioeconomic and urban bias. Stevenson (1984) cast further doubt on Lynn by conducting a large international IQ study of his own, finding equal scores between a group of Chinese, Japanese, and Minnesotan elementary school kids. Finally, in Asian Americans: Achievement beyond IQ (1991), unusually principled hereditarian challenger James Flynn reanalyzed 100 years of IQ scores of North American Asians, which scholars had previously judged to average about 106. Although Flynn agreed with Lynn that IQs in Japan were higher than in America, he argued that earlier American studies were uncorrected for the secular increase in intelligence (the Flynn Effect), artificially inflating Asian-American IQs. In other studies, he argued, the Asian samples were not representative. Flynn re-estimated Asian-American IQ down to 98. All of these critiques (save aspects of Flynn's) didn't have much to stand on, even at the time they were leveled, much less now when the contrary data has grown exponentially. For instance, in a response to Stevenson and Azuma (printed on the same page as their critique) Lynn (1983) adjusted for the problematic demographic factors and found most of the difference was retained. As for Stevenson's study that found no difference, this is not surprising since Minnesota whites score higher than any other US region, with scores identical to Lynn's average for East Asia. And of course these same Asian countries with higher IQ scores also score higher on international records of math and science achievement than Western countries (see review of 'test validity' chapter below - these measures are almost perfectly correlated with IQ). As for Flynn, Flynn's results only applied to the pre-1980's - several studies from after that (coincidentally?) showed IQs much like what had previously been reported.

Whatever the merit of these previous challenges, Lynn has clearly upped the ante in Race Differences in Intelligence in defense of his argument of higher East Asian IQ. Lynn now presents 101 different studies of East Asians and a combined sample of 128,322, giving an average IQ of 105. From 5 different Asian countries alone (China, Japan, S. Korea, Singapore, Taiwan), we are presented with 59 studies - 4 times as many studies from East Asia as Lynn presented in 1991. 34 of these new just since IQ&tWoN! The median IQ from these studies is 105. In responses to Flynn's earlier book, Lynn reanalyzes 27 studies of Asian-American IQ. In contrast to Flynn's 98, Lynn finds a slightly higher average IQ of 101 for Asian-Americans, from 9 studies previous to 1950 (consistent with their higher academic and professional accomplishments at that time). For 9 studies since 1950, Lynn finds an IQ of 104, virtually identical to countries in East Asia. Additional studies show similar East Asian IQ in Canada, Britain, the Netherlands, Brazil, and Malaysia. Though educational and economic data not included in the book would paint a similar picture in over a dozen other countries from Jamaica to Russia.

In defense of a hereditary explanation, Lynn presents data from 4 studies of East Asians adopted into white homes, showing higher IQ scores. In fact here the data is even stronger than what Lynn presents - more IQ studies exist than what he presents, as well as other supporting evidence. In a month or two on GNXP I will present the first comprehensive investigation of international transracial adoption literature (a large expansion off this post), presenting much data not included in RDiI, particularly for East Asians.

Lynn also included an earlier chapter on Southeast Asians, but given an issue with their relationship with East Asians I've decided to review them together. The only native country from Southeast Asia to appear in 1978 was Indonesia, and, like the Middle-East, little data existed for this region until IQ&tWoN. RFiI lists data for 6 Southeast Asian countries in 18 studies for Southeast Asians living both in Asia and abroad for a total sample of 13,433. The median IQ is listed as 87. It is suggested based on brain size and scores abroad that these scores are partly genetic. As with the other chapters, Lynn justifies his racial division of East and Southeast Asia by reference of L.L. Cavalli-Sforza's History and Geography of Human Genes, but Lynn does not order his countries how they should be arranged according to this reference. This book tells us that South China lumps closer genetically with Southeast Asia than North China: " Northern and southern Chinese are substantially different genetically" (p 100); ". . . the South Chinese . . . are more closely related to Southeast Asia than to Northeast Asia" (p 229). This is significant because many of the high IQ scores Lynn places in the 'East Asian' chapter are from various South Chinese populations, such as the Hong Kong studies, as well as much of the over-seas Chinese scores from America and Southeast Asia. This creates a potential problem for a genetic theory of either East Asian high ability or Southeast Asian low ability, as noted by Ed Miller over ten years ago:

The importance of this finding of a relatively large difference between the North and South Chinese is that much research is done on American or Canadian born Chinese (Vernon, 1982), which are predominantly of South Chinese descent, coming from Hong Kong, Canton, or their vicinity. It may be risky to generalize from this to the whole of Han China.

For those interested in behavior and economic development, the resemblance between South Chinese and the Filipinos, Malays, etc. presents a problem. The South Chinese generally do well on intelligence and academic tests whether tested in the US or in Hong Kong, often better than Caucasoids. Filipinos generally don't do as well. Within Malaysia, the Chinese test much better than the Malays. Within Southeast Asia, the overseas Chinese generally do much better economically than the Malays (Sowell 1994). Thus, it is surprising to see the small genetic differences between the South Chinese and adjacent populations.

In a related criticism, one of the adoption studies that Lynn uses to support a higher genetic East Asian IQ, (Clark & Hanisee 1982) is actually mostly comprised of Southeast Asians, about half the sample being Vietnamese. Lynn resolves this by asserting that most of the Vietnamese in this sample were actually Chinese-Vietnamese, but I see nothing in the original paper to indicate this, and since most of the higher achieving overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia are from the Southeast Asia genetic cluster anyways, I hardly see how this resolves anything. While one might posit a cline in IQ scores (and scores do seem to drop off from Thailand into Malaysia), the South Chinese show absolutely no deficit in ability or differentiated profile from East Asians. This makes an interesting contrast between Southeast Europe and the Middle-East where we see a cline in ability follow a genetic cline across a stark cultural boundary, suggesting genetics. Instead here we have another cline in genetics, but a stark difference in ability following a stark cultural boundary, suggesting environment. This might mean that underperforming Southeast Asian-American groups, such as the Hmong, have hidden potential after all. Then again, selection could have occurred in China independently for this trait, long after the formation of the races, but modern selection and subracial populations are at odds with the theoretical structure of this book. Likely much more data is required before simplified assumptions and approaches can relax.

Finally, at the risk of being too trivial in my criticisms (which I offer in benign spirit), Lynn asserts " Only one study has been published on the heritability of intelligence in East Asians (Lynn and Hattori, 1990)" (p. 145), citing his own study from Japan. This is not correct. In the International Handbook of Intelligence, a group of Japanese psychologists write: "Since the beginning of the history of psychology in Japan the issue of the heredity of intelligence has been a major focus of inquiry. We can find a notable twin study in the very first volume of The Japanese Journal of Psychology" (pp. 310-311), and they go on to discuss several studies of heritability from Japan published in both American and Japanese journals stretching back to early in the 20th century.

Chapter 11: Arctic Peoples

The general consensus among the few scholars interested has long been that arctic groups, though living 'primitive' hunter-gatherer life-styles (much like some of the other extremely low-scoring groups reviewed here) do unusually well at IQ-type tests - in fact not much different than Europeans. The earliest discussion of Eskimo intelligence that I know of (incidentally, not cited by Lynn) is in Robert Marshall's Arctic Village (1933). Marshall gave all the Eskimo children in the small settlement town of Wiseman, Alaska the Stanford-Binet, and found them to outscore the American norms. Marshall commented that the ". . ..startling record shows these little Eskimos to far better advantage than normal American white children" (p. 79). Of course by that point the record was very small: Florence Goodenough found similar results with her Draw-a-man tests on a handful of other children, and Marshall discusses several other tests showing similar performance but does not clarify if this was his sample or another. With the advantage of 40 more years of data, John W. Berry (1971) indicated this view had not changed in his review of studies of Eskimo intelligence in the 1970s:

Probably the most interesting consistent finding is that Eskimos differ very little from [white] norms on tests involving perceptual skills or those abilities tapped by "perfornance scales" of conventional intelligence tests. It is often found, of course, that non-western peoples (e.g. in Africa and among American minority groups) perform significantly lower on these tests, and so this northern result is in many respects a unique finding.

Richard Lynn appears to be the first person to challenge this in his 1978 review, where he argued that one of Berry's studies actually showed an IQ in the 80s instead of 100, due to an inappropriate age comparison. He also presented one more study showing a score in the 80s, although he allowed that another study did show comparable scores. RDiI, in contrast, includes 15 studies of Arctic populations and a total sample of 2,690 people. Lynn concludes that they are the (distant) third most intelligent racial group reviewed, with an average IQ of 91.

Even in Marshall's book there is discussion of the Eskimos ability to draw detailed maps from memory. Like the Australian Aborigines, with whom they share a recent hunter-gatherer lifestyle, Lynn shows the Arctic people have an elevated visual memory IQ of 106. Although it is not shown that this likewise present in Eskimos removed from the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, it is also a feature shared by related groups such as East Asians and Native Americans.

Chapter 12: Amerindians

Several studies of Native American intelligence were discussed by Lynn (1978), though no exact average was given. By 1991, 15 studies of North American Indians groups were discussed and a median IQ of 89 was provided. In contrast, RDiI now discusses 63 studies of Amerindians with a total sample of 37,304. For 21 studies of North American Indian groups Lynn finds a median IQ of 86, and for 11 studies of Latin American Indian groups across five different countries, Lynn finds a median IQ of 86. Additionally, 20 studies of (mostly mixed race) Hispanic Americans reveal a median IQ of 89, identical to the meta-analysis by Roth (2001). Small hybrid and adoption studies are also presented.

In World on Fire Amy Chua describes the relationship between economic status and "Indian-blood" throughout Latin America: "Latin American society is fundamentally pigmentocratic: characterized by a social spectrum with taller, lighter-skinned, European-blooded elites at one end; shorter, darker, Indian-blooded masses at the other end . . ." (p 57). As an example she describes her experience in Mexico:

Almost without exception the Mexican officials, lawyers, and business executives we dealt with were light-skinned and foreign educated, with elegant European names. Meanwhile, the people doing the photocopying and cleaning the floors were all shorter, darker, and plainly more "Indian- blooded." While considerable social fluidity exists in Mexico, it is also true that lightness of skin correlates directly and glaringly with increasing wealth and social status. (p 59)

The trends Chua observes within Latin American countries also appear to operate between these countries, with countries with mostly European populations, like Chile and Uruguay, being the most economically developed and countries with largely Amerindian populations, such as Bolivia and Ecuador being the least economically developed. Coblogger emeritus Godless Capitalist once compared 12 South American countries and found a correlation of .96 between GDP-per-capita and percentage of the population that is white.

Lynn's data confirms this general picture with intelligence as well. Both with between country differences (e.g. Uruguay (96) and Chile (99) score like European countries, while Ecuador's IQ scores range within the 80s), and within country differences; to use Chua's Mexico as an example, last year Lynn tested a representative sample of 920 in Mexico with the Standard Progressive Matrices and found that whites had an IQ of 98, Mestizo (mixed race) 94, and Native Indians 83 - all compatible with Chua's observations of a "spectrum" of "social status" by amount of "Indian-blood".

Chapter 13: Validity and Reliability

I covered some of this topic prematurely in the Africa section, but this chapter deals with the appropriateness and accuracy of these cross-cultural IQ results. 'Reliability', in this case, is how replicable an IQ score is within each nation - telling us if a score is capturing something that can be fairly generalized. Despite the Flynn Effect, reliability is very high. If a nation is tested a second time or third time, the second and third score will look much like the first one - the cross-cultural reliability of the scores is .94. As an example, I noted last year that a 1997 test of almost 4000 Thai children (not included in RDiI) found an IQ the same as the only earlier result from Thailand, a much smaller sample from 1989. Evidently Thailand has an IQ about 8 points lower than the West. The second question though is if the replicable score reflects a replicable ability or just a replicable test score - is 92 an unfair reflection of Thai ability? That isn't to say, "is it permanent or genetic", just "is current performance in other domains in agreement with the measurement". 'Validity', in this case, is if an IQ score predicts the same real world outcomes for one population as it does the reference population. For this Lynn looks at five data sets of international math and science performance, which span 30 years (Other IQ researchers have started matching up national scores with these data sets as well; Hunt & Wittman, in press). All the data sets correlate with the IQ measurements from .8 to .9, and Lynn even suggests that correction for attenuation gives them a perfect relationship. Typically the differences appear even larger on these scholastic measures than they do on the IQ measures, so while the difference in IQ between East Asian and European countries is about 0.33, or a third of a standard deviation higher, their achievement scores are 0.44 higher. And while Africa falls 2 SD lower in IQ, math and science achievement scores taken from West Africa, East Africa, and Southern Africa are 2.44 SD lower than European nations. These scores are, of course, related to national wealth as well, as demonstrated in IQ & the Wealth of Nations, where the correlation between IQ and economic development was .73. Lynn doesn't mention that Jones & Schneider (in press) also found IQ to be the best international measure of economic human capital, better than all educational variables, all but a single one of which didn't even pass a significance test for GDP growth between 1960 to 1992. Lynn gives a correlation of .51 between IQ and GDP growth between 1950 to 1990. The IQs were high before many of the rich countries got rich, suggesting a cause not a consequence of growth (Jones 2005). Jared Diamond (2004), quite inadvertently, illustrates the consequences of economists ignoring intelligence with this quote:

". . . around 1950, when South Korea, Ghana and the Philippines were equally poor, most economists predicted that resource-rich Ghana and the Philippines were on the verge of wealth, whereas South Korea was doomed to remain mired in poverty. The result, of course, has been the opposite . . ."

Chapter 14: Genes and Environment

While genes may have been mostly irrelevant to the main arguments of IQ&tWoN, the same could hardly be said about this book where genetics are freely stressed. This chapter again reviews the evidence for genetics, including that the same patterns reappear across numerous nations, admixture and adoption studies. But here Lynn also covers what aspects of the environment are likely causing racial differences too, which Lynn is able to do with more accuracy and sophistication than critics who are more concerned with protecting taboos than figuring out sociological puzzles. Many of the popular and politically acceptable "answers" such as aspects of the shared family and education fail direct and adequately controlled tests (Lynn does believe education has an important impact on achievement, if not intelligence, and has written a book on this topic, which was also adapted into a National Review cover story). Lynn focuses here on his own hypothesis - nutrition. Before any other psychologist Lynn (1990) had proposed and supported the hypothesis that nutrition is responsible for the Flynn Effect. He has also demonstrated previously why it the best supported environmental explanation for certain racial differences. In this chapter Lynn compares NGO reports of four different signs of severe malnutrition - underweight, anemia, wasting, and stunting - for five developing regions. This shows that Latin America suffers the least malnutrition, followed by the Middle-east, Asia/Pacific, Africa, and finally South Asia, which suffers the worst malnutrition of any region. Lynn decides half the African deficit is due to malnutrition, but that it can't account for any of the American gap, where blacks show no other physical signs of malnutrition. But here Lynn doesn't mention breast-feeding, which as Arthur Jensen has shown (1998, pp 506-507) is practiced almost three times as much among white Americans than African-Americans and has been associated with IQ gains of nearly 10 points. It is likely that effectively encouraging breast-feeding would have a positive impact on the next generation of African-Americans.

Chapter 15-17: Climate, Brain size, Intelligence and Evolution

These three, closely related last chapters, which begin with a summary of the work and theories of Harry Jerison, regarding intelligence, evolution and brain size, cover Lynn's evolutionary theory of racial differences. As with most evolutionary psychology, as well as evolutionary anthropology of humans, the theory and its assumptions will remain controversial. Lynn's main agent of racial differences in intelligence is relative exposure to two recent ice ages, one 77,000-50,000 years ago, and another, more severe one 28,000-10,000 years ago, which he argues increased the intelligence of Europeans and East Asians significantly above other world populations.

But is this theory plausible? Well, let's ask that with several more specific questions, a) Does intelligence follow a pattern consistent with this theory? b) Do the differences look genetic?, and c) Is there evidence to suggest this evolutionary pressure?

As to the first question, the answer has long been regarded as 'yes'. It has been noted since the 18th century that the more wealthy regions existed in the temperate regions with the poorer regions in the tropics/subtropics, something that economists and sociologists have also considered during the 20th century (see also David Landes). Evidence used to support Lynn's theory, is often just indirect ways of restating this same fact. So for instance the upcoming paper by Templer & Arikawa (in press) is presented as evidence which finds that national IQ is strongly related to lowest national winter temperature, -.69, and that skin pigmentation (mostly a record of evolutionary latitude according to recent evidence) has a very strong correlation with intelligence, .92. These relationships hold within and between continents. The most notable example of this, though, is brain size. With several minor reversals, the 10 populations in Lynn's book, stack almost in the exact same order on brain size as they do with IQ. Most people, even so-called "scientists", deal with this uncomfortable fact by simply denying any association between brain size and intelligence, either in humans or across the evolutionary record, something clearly and overwhelmingly contradicted, in both cases, by the scientific evidence. The same folks, interestingly, often hedge their bets by also denying any race differences in brain size. This too has turned more and more desperate as the studies pile up. The same folks, interestingly, often hedge their bets by also saying the differences, which don't matter and don't exist, are probably not genetic. Since this is not likely either, the most scientific objection (compatible with these three well supported premises) is that the race differences in brain size are just yet another way of stating that high IQ/wealthy populations occupy the temperate zones and low IQ/poor populations, the tropics/subtropics. Bergmann's rule states that animals in colder climates tend to be larger and rounder to conserve body heat, while ones in warmer conditions smaller and thinner to help shed excess heat more efficiently. On the one hand while this may be true for the heads of our races, it isn't exactly true for the bodies, as head and body measurement data from the US shows that East Asians have much larger heads than African-Americans, but smaller, thinner bodies (Rushton 1997), which complicates the Bergmann explanation. In other words East Asians and Europeans don't just have larger heads, they have larger Encephalization quotients (EQs), or brain size controlling for body size - which also tracks changes in intelligence across the evolutionary record, so Rhesus monkeys have an EQ of 2.10, chimps 2.60, Australopithecus 3.70, Homo habilis 4.30, Homo erectus 5.00, and the average modern human 7.5 (while average IQ of modern humans = 90). Before the second most recent ice age, Lynn reports, the Europeans had an EQ of 7.3, which had inflated to 8.1 by the end. So apparently current differences in EQ between human populations are comparable to differences between species, which also correlate with transfer index scores and performance on other animal intelligence tests.(e.g. chimpanzees outscore rhesus monkeys). Unfortunately, Lynn does not help disentangle possible confounding between climate and intelligence by calculating EQs for the various groups, or detail if these scores are different from the raw sizes. And it matters for the evidence that suggests climate instead of intelligence. For instance, the head sizes continue to increase with latitude, while intelligence does not; the largest human head sizes of all are at the frigid southern tip of Tierra del Fuego and among the arctic populations such as the Eskimos. Interestingly here, Lynn may have undermined one of the best possible evidences for his theory, even if not completely. After all, scientists had long thought that the arctic group was the only group living a 'primitive' lifestyle that scored anywhere close to (much less the same as) white European populations on IQ tests. Lynn is the first one to dispute and revise the Eskimo score as such, down to 91, even though he is the biggest proponent of cold increasing intelligence. Still, though, the actual IQs of Eskimos and related groups still support Lynn's theory as much as they undermine it, as they are still the third highest scoring population on earth behind Asians and Europeans (even if they cluster with the other populations). Even if northern brain sizes are entirely due to climate instead of selection for intelligence, it's possible that, while other neurophysiological processes can modify intelligence independent of brain size (and Lynn puts this at some 75% of existing differences), increased intelligence in some measure is a likely by-product of brain expansion, given their intimate developmental associations. This is still consistent with what we find with larger-brained, higher IQ northern latitude populations. Interestingly the pattern may be even more consistent with Lynn's theory than he himself recognizes. Take Amerindians - Lynn argues (pp 242-243) that North American Indians should have higher intelligence than South American Indians due to greater exposure to the second ice age, but he also decides that both groups have an IQ of 86. But this is due to Lynn's method of taking the median, which doesn't always appear to be the best average. It gives equal importance to throw-away studies with 20-30 people and demographically controlled standardization samples with 1 and 2 thousand people. Lynn's number of 86 for North American Indians, for instance, is significantly lower than what was found by the largest study yet of Amerindian intelligence - the Coleman Report, which tested nearly 5000 Native-Americans and found an IQ about a half a standard deviation above African-Americans. When we take the weighted average of all the American groups, using the numbers in Lynn's book, we get an IQ of 90 for the Arctic people, 88 for North American Indians, and 86 for South American Indians. Since the sub-Arctic Indians living below the Eskimos scored almost as highly, perhaps there is a cline in intelligence down the continent, that may have reversed approaching the frigid area of Tierra Del Fuego, where brain sizes again inflated.

As to the second question, 'are race differences in intelligence genetic', this is not one question but a different one for each race. Again, since adoption studies are perhaps one of the best clues for this in the existing literature, hopefully I'll be able to provide some original insights to this shortly. Right now, the least convincing, I would say, are the low intelligence of other Eurasians, such as Middle Easterners, South Asians and Southeast Asians (this isn't to say not convincing). Most convincing, at this point (due to the most data) would be that sub-Saharan Africans score somewhat below Europeans, and that East Asians score somewhat above Europeans for reasons relating to genetics. Intermediate levels of evidence also suggests Australoids and Amerindians are somewhat less intelligent.

I put Southeast Asians in the 'least convincing' category for reasons discussed above, and Middle Easterners and South Asians (as well as Southeast Europeans) partly for some studies I have not mentioned here. But another important reason is that Lynn is chronocentric. The Middle East and India are relatively underdeveloped today, but have been ahead of Europe in the past; the Middle East relatively recently even. While it's possible that both these groups changed through time, this still seems to contradict Lynn who pushes the differences back deep in evolutionary time. According to Lynn, the Middle East and India never had high IQs (i.e. 100), because they were never exposed to the business end of ice age winters. But how to explain the times in semi-recent history when Islamic civilization, science and scholarship, was at a more advanced stage than Christian Europe? I suppose parallels exist even today, when a higher IQ Chinese population is temporarily more underdeveloped than the West, due to bad governance, etc. Still it's doubtful both that all intelligence differences are genetic, and that all the ones that are genetic have stood still for over ten thousand years. Lynn rightly points out that differences across space is a basic expectation from evolutionary theory, but differences across time are as well, and that all the major differences were formed when Lynn hypothesizes, requires us to believe that intelligence would stand still all that time after the evolutionary pressures of the last ice age, despite culture and environment creating many new selection pressures. Why should this be so, when Lynn demonstrates major genotypic selection in Dysgenics, just during the 20th century? I would put the major candidates for either change through time or "totally" environmentally depressed in central Eurasia, where history provides notable counterexamples and novel genes could flow as freely as the ancient trade routes.

Third, is there evidence that life in Northern Eurasia would require more intelligence? If we know the pattern exists and have better reasons to suspect genes than to suspect not, it is reasonable to reverse engineer the problem.

Consistent with the relatively higher intelligence we find with Eskimos, one of Lynn's best pieces of evidence that more intelligence is required in the northern latitudes than in tropical/subtropical ones are the tool kits manufactured by the hunter-gatherers in these respective latitudes. Hunter-gatherers in the latter group have on average about 10-20 tools, while the former have 25-60. These tools are also more complex, involving assembly of parts. This appears to be due to two main domains of challenge not faced in the tropical latitudes, warmth and hunting. Warmth of course, requires that iconic "caveman" challenge, of making and maintaining fire, more challenging in the cold snowy environment. It also requires making clothes for adults and infants and when necessary shelters. Where plant foods are available year round in the tropical/subtropics, diet consists almost entirely of gathering supplemented with minor hunting, while the opposite is true up north. Hunting required novel tools and techniques such as tracking and trapping large prey, as well as food storage.

Tools and tool complexity at least add a quantitative dimension to an otherwise verbal plausibility argument (of which Jared Diamond has provided more such evidence for his narrative). And as far as this goes we must ask why the cold is thought to raise intelligence, when it is the African environment, not the European one, that rapidly boosted and created human intelligence. Similarly, nowhere does Lynn mention a challenge in the Neanderthals who populated Europe. Neanderthals were not our ancestors, but our cousins. They were a non-human species (we know this through direct genetic evidence), but they had a recognizably human intelligence. They made skilled tools, and were excellent hunters. They made clothes, built fires and shelters, cared for their sick and buried their dead, and perhaps played music as well. They too migrated from Africa and became adapted to the European environment. While the Neanderthals may have been roughly equally intelligent, there is little reason to believe the frigid environment they were well adapted to had made them smarter than their African human counterparts, even though they could adequately do all the things Lynn argues Europeans later needed additional cognitive abilities to do. In fact the African humans moved up into the unfamiliar environment during conditions which had pushed down previous waves, and quickly displaced Neanderthals who had evolved in these conditions. The migrants had trade routes, which the Neanderthals did not, and their more sophisticated tools were copied by the retreating Neanderthals, not vice versa. So it would seem that the Africans immediately mastered these tasks, such as hunting, cloth and fire making, etc, that were supposed to increase their intelligence later, with intelligence they already had. And this intelligence evolved in the lower latitudes. Lynn's argument seems much smaller now since the important selective difference must not be between Africa and Europe, but between Europe and even colder Europe. Did making clothes and fire, storing food or trapping prey become even more complicated during the second ice age, because we know they already needed to and were able to do these things, with surprising superiority, before hand. Of course another genetic possibility is that these initial migrants were not a representative group, as they were able to move up into the Levant during an advancing ice age when previous groups of modern humans were unable to withstand these conditions. Richard Lewontin has argued that the high heritability of intelligence suggests that these between-individual differences, as relevant as they are to real-world outcomes today, haven't been much of a fitness characteristic in our evolutionary history and that they may have not been expressed the same or at all in ancestral environments. If this is true, genetic drift could be an even more likely explanation, if not a particularly romantic one.

As Steve Pinker recently pointed out in the 2006 Edge question he submitted, as an idea that's dangerous because it's probably true is that males and females and races differ in their abilities. And he has already cast his lot with Greg and Henry's Ashkenazi theory. Pinker highlights, as Charles Murray did in Commentary several months ago, that the tools now exist to test racial differences and they will probably be tested in this next ten years either directly or inadvertently. If even one well-done study finds a racial difference in cognitive ability, and this is likely, we can count on Lynn's work and others like it, including this book, getting an immediate flood of attention, as curiosities are piqued, taboos crumble and ambitious researchers fill the newly opened niche and quickly educate themselves on the topic with the best information available. And like it or not, on this score Lynn remains one of the only games in town. But it's a big topic for only a few scientists to take on by themselves and it is unlikely that they would get everything right as the first lonely ones to take a stab. So let's invite a lot more research on this topic, and the data will become cleaner, more sophisticated and more accurate. Something all of us should want.

Fig. 1

This chart summarizes the data available in RDiI. It is my approximate tally. The 'Majority' vertical column contains information on populations taken in countries where they form the basic majority. For example, Lynn lists 59 studies of East Asians taken in 5 different Asian countries such as Japan and Taiwan. The 'Minority' vertical column contains information on these same populations taken in countries where they form minorities. So Lynn lists 42 additional studies of East Asians done in 7 other (mostly Western) countries such as America and Britain. The third vertical series of columns are the combined values (they don't always add up perfectly because of coding issues. For instance admixture studies appear in the final tally but not the Majority/Minority columns because this complicates the issue). For Africa, 'Western' indicates the developed countries where blacks score about 85, and 'Non-Western' the developing countries (primarily in the Caribbean and Latin America) where they score about 70.

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Matt Yglesias on the Pigmentocracy   posted by TangoMan @ 2/01/2006 03:45:00 PM

Matt Yglesias takes issue with the declaration that "The most attractive face of globalization is the idea that the great universities are creating a color-blind meritocracy that doesn't care where you're from as long as you did well on the SAT." In order to contest the fairness of this position he tosses out the following: "We should try and create an intelligence-blind pigmentocracy that doesn't care how you did on your SAT as long as your skin is pale. Would anyone sign on for that?"

He proceeds to build a case and states: "If it's wrong for the dark-skinned to experience poor living conditions on account of their hue, it's equally wrong for the low-scoring to experience poor living conditions on account of their test scores."

His conclusion:

My point is a more far-reaching one. Some people are smarter than others. Some people are less smart. The less smart don't just deserve a "fair chance" to succeed, a chance they're bound to squander due to lesser ability. Instead, insofar as they're willing to work hard, contribute to society as best they can, and abide by the rules of the game, they deserve a fair share of society's wealth -- the highest standard of living we can manage to arrange for them.

This whole argument goes off the rails by ignoring an elementary difference between the two examples he's using as counterpoints. In a meritocracy, your intelligence, skill, talent, work ethic or other attributes that lead to success are judged to be of worth to others in the marketplace and what you create with your talents benefit others so that they are willing to reward you for your efforts.

The pigmentocracy he throws out provides us with just a superficial similarity to a meritocracy, in that both provide a sorting mechanism, one by talent and the other by pigment. Where the analogy breaks down is that there is no mechanism in place that equates pigmentation and economic worth. Pigmentation, by itself, doesn't provide greater intelligence, talent, work ethic or any other attribute valued in the market by others.

A meritocracy creates economic wealth and a pigmentocracy does not. By accounting for this glaring distinction Yglesias' conclusion crumbles, in that it matters little how willing a less able member of society is to work hard, what matters is what his talents allow him to produce output that other people value. It matters little that he tries to contribute to society as best he can, what matters is what he does indeed contribute to society and what value others attach to that contribution. It matters little that the less able member abides by the rules of the game, what matters is that they play the game and win more often than they lose. Life has winners and losers and winners are rewarded for their talents and not their good intentions, which don't distinguish them in any fashion from all the other players with good intentions, nor do good intentions improve the lives of others. Good intentions are immaterial to claiming a fair share of society's wealth, what matters is that your contribution to society is valued by others.

Simply put, your talent will enrich my life, but your pigmentation won't, so I'll reward you for your talent and not your pigmentation.

Harrison Bergeron.

Bell Curve for Doctors. Here is a medical system run on pigmentocracy:

From the beginning, King/Drew was to be something special — a hospital that reflected African American achievement and power, a model for urban hospitals nationwide.

But within three years, it had become clear that, for all the aspirations the hospital represented, it was falling far short. At times, instead of healing its patients — almost all of them black and Latino — it was killing and maiming them....

IQ and Health   posted by DavidB @ 2/01/2006 03:55:00 AM

A forthcoming article in the British Medical Journal provides evidence that IQ affects long-term health prospects, even after controlling for socio-economic factors, though these also have some independent effect. An abstract of the article is here. I think this research may already have been mentioned somewhere (I noticed it in today's London Times, but it seemed vaguely familiar), but it can do no harm to mention it again.

Added: I didn't mean to imply that this was the first research to show a link between IQ and health. As several people have pointed out, there are previous studies. But this one may be unusual in covering people fairly late in life (up to age about 70).