« Conceding the game before it begins | Gene Expression Front Page | Idiot Cloner »
January 04, 2003

Heretical thoughts

While perusing another of my favorite blogs, littlegreenfootballs, I came across a link to this article.

The author writes about the psychological trauma of growing up in the PLO-controlled areas of the West Bank/Gaza.

An excerpt:
"Survival in such a culture necessitates some numbing. But this psychological component might be insignificant relative to the neurobiological effects of being beaten and tortured in childhood. It was Harvard researchers who first revealed that stress hormones released when children experience physical and sexual abuse actually impede development of that part of the brain responsible for empathy and conscience. "

Brain scans of those who suffered through events common in the childhood of Palestinian children reveal an underdeveloped hippocampus and vermis. Among the behaviors associated with this sort of brain damage: impulsivity, sadism, and suicide."

The conditions of the West Bank and Gaza certainly mirror some African societies. So, we come back to the chicken-and-egg question. What part of Africa's woes are genetic and what part are environmental? Which came first? The best "control" we have continues to be the African diaspora--where we still see blacks continuing to do more poorly in measures of cognitive skills. However, they do better in America than their (malnourished) African counterparts living in war-torn countries. What would Africa be like with an "equality of opportunity"? What is the potential? After decades of mismanagement, will some countries like Ghana eventually join the world economy and trade in proportion to its size? After all, Russia's economy is currently size of Holland's after Communism's reign. Or is Africa doomed to labor with a genetically determined cognitive deficit?

Just some Saturday ramblings.

Posted by david at 11:34 AM

one point-there is a big difference between gaza and the west bank-the former is traditionally more deprived than the latter. also, infant mortality is really low in gaza compared to africa-thank you UN (gaza has the world's highest population growth rate)

Posted by: razib at January 4, 2003 11:53 AM

To be optimistic, consider a few things. The average IQ of black Africa is 70, and of American blacks 85. Considering that American blacks only have an average of about %20 white admixture, no more than a 3 IQ point difference is suggested from a genetic standpoint. Also, thanks to the Flynn effect (where worldwide IQ has been rising, supposedly non-genetically, by about 3 points a decade), I'd like to point out that white Americans had an average IQ very close to 85 in 1960. Also of interest, the black illegitimacy rate in 1960 was about the same as the white one of today, and the relative crime rate lower.
What this might suggest is 1) that modern Africans have potenial similar to black Americans. 2)That black Americans are intellectually capable of creating, on their own, a society of similar functionality as the one of 1960's America 3)that black Americans are currently capable of white rates of social (sexual/criminal) behavior, as historically demonstrated.

All of this, not even yet considering how much more environmental changes could effect blacks. Will the Flynn effect keep going? Would a rise in breast-feeding push blacks even closer to a 90 IQ average (the theoretical necessity for a technologically based economy)? I highly suspect this. I also suspect all of this is very much easier said than done, but I'm just pointing out what is highly possible (if not highly probable).

Posted by: Jason Malloy at January 4, 2003 02:03 PM

Read "German Boy: A Child in War" by Wolfgang W. E. Samuel. If anyone should be warped for life it is he and all the other children who survived the same ordeal he did. In fact, he is a fine gentleman.

Posted by: The Old Guy at January 4, 2003 05:26 PM

On David and Jason's comments. First David. It is true that the African Diaspora are doing better than their African brethren, but poorly in comparison to the white majority (and other groups). In respect to their better socioeconomic standing compared to Africa, I suggest this is because many blacks, especially in the US and UK, are, as Jason points out, part white. Additionally blacks in America operate exclusively in a society whose institutions are managed, formerly exclusively now only overwhelmingly by whites. For the same reason, blacks in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Rhodesia before, were able to achieve a higher socioeconomic level than elsewhere in Africa. In the same sense, 100000 whites all of an IQ of 82 were placed in an empty country would flounder, and not maintain the prosperity that they previously enjoyed in a society which the institutions of society and state were developed and maintained by a IQ 120 plus minority. Currently the greatest African success story is Botswana. Its success relative to the rest of Sub-Sahara Africa is due to 1) ethnic homogeneity (79% Tswana(or Setswana, Kalanga 11%, Basarwa 3%, other, including Kgalagadi and white 7%.2)The character of the Tswana people - 'very grave, very sober, very efficient, very law-abiding.'4) Inspired African leadership partially a result of point 1 and 2. 3)The existence of immense diamond resources. 4) And perhaps most importantly, the partnership that the Government has maintained with the white owned De Beers mining company, with the company providing health, education facilities, subsidized anti-retroviral drugs. My source http://www.spectator.co.uk/article.php3?table=old§ion=current&issue=2003-01-04&id=748&searchText=botswana Unfortunately I tend to agree with the author that this success is a result of this unique situation and therefore not reproducible in full elsewhere in Africa. The problem is that you cannot isolate geographic location, race, and culture. Because of the lack of natural selection pressures, perhaps largely due to climate, Africans did not reach the average cognitive level of Whites, who developed to the north, while East Asians who developed in an even colder climate, have a greater still average cognitive advantage and other differences. The different African, white, and East Asian (and Ashkenazi Jewish) cultures, taken as a whole, largely reflect these biological differences; the closer two races are genetically, especially in IQ which is so important in our current technological society, the more important culture, is in determining differences (England as opposed to Russia). The differences between the Bantu and Japanese, is largely determined by race, with their respective cultures a veneer that reflects this. Climate, geography and conditions of state and society continue to shape the culture, limit or provide opportunities. In relation to Russia and the Gaza strip, Russia's position, as alluded before, is cultural. Communist rule for the 74 years warped the mindset of the Russian people as well as destroying the economy. Prior to communism, Russia was still at a disadvantage to the West. Russia is a huge country to govern, with no natural defense. As such it was subject to the murder and rapine of the Mongol Yoke while the West was experiencing a Renaissance. The peasantry was oppressed, only emancipated in 1861, the nobles illiberal. Russia's problems are not due to a racial cognitive deficit; Lynn places Russia's average IQ as 96, Russians are great chess players, have produced some of the finest literature. In relation to the Arabs and the Gaza Strip, I suspect that the Arab’s problems are largely cultural-religious as much as any cognitive deficit. Certainly, the inability of Islam to come to terms with modernity, and Arab resentment at this is a large factor. It nonetheless true that as a result of Arab slavery, as detailed recently in a book by Ronald Segal, 14 million black were imported to the Arab lands over 13 centuries. As such the present Arab is part black. The problems of the Gaza strip as opposed to the general problems of the Arabs, are particular. I suspect that there are many places in Africa, and other places such as parts of South America, the Solomon’s, Papua New Guinea, much of Aboriginal Australia are similar or worse. The Gaza strip has a very high fertility rate, around 7 from memory, to what extent this is conscious I’m unsure, but this is certainly an effective method of changing the demographics of Israel and the surrounding region.
In respect to Jason, firstly I understand that the average American black IQ is more likely to be around 82, although it is often optimistically and conveniently rounded off to 85, or one standard deviation. In the words of La Griffe du Lion, the fundamental law of sociology is the 1.1 plus or minus 0.2 SD American black non-Hispanic white differences on general large-scale tests of reasoning ability. IQ tests however, are more g intensive than most general academic tests, the difference is more like 18 IQ points, 1.2 SD difference. As such, the BW difference in the first generation of the NLSF (from which results the Bell Curve was written) the sample was 16.6 points, or 1.24 SD, and in the second-generation 17.8 points and 1.26. In the first generation the average black IQ was 86.7 in the second it was 80.4.
These results, incidentally, point to the dysgenic affect due to higher fertility rates and short generation cycles amongst the lower socioeconomic and cognitive group, which is driving general IQ down perhaps 1 point per generation, and because the effect is more pronounced amongst minorities, is actually increasing the BW and BH gap. On the possibility of a 3-point genetic difference between African and American blacks, and of course its guesswork; I would suggest an 8-point environmental difference, implying a 4.4 cognitive difference, assuming current white IQ average of 100 and African black IQ average of 70. As mentioned earlier the environmental difference cannot be alleviated easily, as the environment advantage in America is a result of institutions created and maintained by a majority with an IQ average of 100.
The Flynn effect, only apparent on some tests, and may be a result of environmental advantages in obstetrics and general health improvements, has been mostly apparent in a gain on the left hand side of the Bell Curve. As well, it may be, as Chris Brand maintains, partially a result of people better able to answer IQ tests, not an intelligence gain as such. I understand that in recent tests in the last decade the Flynn Effect is not apparent; moreover, it does not seem to gel that we are on average 15 points more intelligent than in the 1960s, if anything slightly the opposite, as one of the largest IQ tests, the NLSY seems to suggest. That the black illegitimacy rate was much lower in the 1960s than today is true, and also I understand the black literacy rate was the same as the white today. This is the result of the degenerate nihilistic culture we live in: the dominance of cultural left-liberalism, the decline of religion, rise of pop-culture, the egalitarianisation of education, the utilitarian psudeo-marxist destruction of the family unit, through liberalization of divorce laws and many other ways. These cultural changes have indeed degraded both blacks and whites in America. But the black white IQ difference has remained at least the same. The only way, genetic engineering aside could black (or white) illegitimacy rates and crime levels return to the levels in the 1960s (really pre 1960s as the 1960s was when things were starting to unravel) would be to return to the values and policies of this period; this is not easy once the genie is out.
I would too like to be optimistic. I consider myself an evolutionary-paleoconservative stretching the territory from Chronicles, View From The Right, Amren, Mankind Quarterly, and isteve. As such I am concerned more about the transcendental than many on this site, and not generally enthusiastic about genetic engineering. However, reading reviews of Richard Lynn's Eugenics: a Reassessment have excited me to the possibility of embryonic selection that could raise IQ by 15 points a generation, which could raise IQ to close to the maximum level in 6 or 7 generations, and could be implementing without adopting a utilitarian view of life, destroying the family unit or ceding authoritarian power to the State. Perhaps this would mean that that blacks in Africa could eventually have an IQ in the 158 (assumption present IQ 70, 10 point environmental difference between present and very advanced society of 158s IQ, 12 IQ points SD,6.5 SD from the mean.) Of course by the 2200s we may be uploading - transferring the mental structure and consciousness to computers - or having computer chips in our brains, however ghastly the prospect is. Moreover it might be difficult for African countries to adopt this technology, and certainly the West at present seems to be opposed to it in its egalitarian mindset.

Posted by: DanB at January 5, 2003 01:35 AM

nice post dan. but a few points

1) black male slaves in the arab lands were usually enuchs, outside of arab africa (morocco to egypt). the female contribution would be more important, but even then, black slaves were given really crappy jobs (white slav and circassians tended to have the cushy "house slave" jobs that involved master-servant contact). turkey had plenty of black slaves, but physically, few turks look black, but many bear the imprint of their slavic forbears (including attaturk, who was probably of albanian and macedonian origin).

2) many of the great russian chess players are jewish (a quibble)

3) i believe that races difference in mean levels of g-but the explainations are much more sketchy. tell someone in africa that it's a less harsh climate than that of england or sweden! different, not harder or easier. amenable to different adaptations. i personally think coevolved pathogens are very important for r vs. K selection strategies.

4) i agree about the idea that lower IQ populations can do well economically within a high IQ society. i will be frank: i believe g is part of the reason that african-americans do not have much wealth generation of their own, and have issues with middle-men minorities running businesses in their own communities. on the other hand, a black middle class has developed around public sector jobs.

Posted by: razib at January 5, 2003 02:42 AM

kasporav is jewish and azeri for instance-not great russian. using russian jews as a barometer for russians is like using tamil brahmins as a barometer for indians.

Posted by: razib at January 5, 2003 02:44 AM

Old Guy,

It is true that many, many children are resilient in the face of gruesome child abuse and grow up to have normal or even heightened empathy. But there's no denying that some children are neurologically damaged in just the way David is saying.

I am one of those outliers and I often wonder why I grew up to be a basically normal person when others who had similar experiences are criminals or in institutions. I think I had some differences in my environment (one loving adult, which they say makes a large difference) and probably some genes for resilience - I'll know for sure about the genes in about ten years, I bet. And I had a lot of help as an adult getting back to normal.

I am glad you make this point, Old Guy, about the individual differences, but ultimately it doesn't change the fact that the childhood trauma has terrible neurobiological consequences.

Posted by: anon at January 5, 2003 04:51 AM

Good point Razib about Jewish chess players, and about Kasparov being half Jewish, as is Bobby Fischer and so many other Grandmasters. I plead prior ignorance, I should have guessed the possibility. It seems that chess master per capita, Russia rates lower than many Eastern European countries, Nordic countries, and of course Israel. One of the reasons why chess is so popular in Russia may be that it was encouraged by Lenin and other communists. Not wanting to nitpick myself I googled a source that said Kasparov's mother is Armenian not Azerbaijani, but the family grew up in Baku Azerbaijan. Still, I think that my general point about Russia's problems being cultural-historical not genetic stands. Look how communism has decimated North Korea, notwithstanding a high average IQ.

Regarding the extent of African intermixture amongst Arabs, you make a good point about eunuchs. However the fact that 'black male slaves in the Arab lands were usually eunuchs, outside of Arab Africa (morocco to Egypt)' and that few Turks look black demonstrates that the Egyptians and Moroccans have more black genes than Turks, and show that the phenomenon is one that differs in degree, not that it does not exist. Turks of course as you pointed out have much Slavic blood, and indeed like Russia, the Byzantine Empire was populated by Vikings in the 10th and 11th century; the royal troops of the palace, the Varangian Guard, were Viking. Of course the extent of Nordic blood amongst Turks is probably quite minimal. I understand that Pharaonic Egyptians were on average more lighter skinned than current Egyptians, and sometimes even had blond hair. This does seem to suggest that Egyptians 4000 years ago had a somewhat different racial makeup. Apart from black slavery, there is also the possibility of aboriginal negrito populations as one in Yemen. See


As a non-science student I'm afraid I don't understand your point about coevolved pathogens, although I do intuitively agree that harshness of climate is unlikely too be the sole selective factor. However the climate during which the evolutionary process formed the Caucasoid and Mongoloid races was different to the current interglacial period. The great glacial sheets in northern Europe started spreading around 300000 years ago. The last great glacial period, the Wisconsin, began 100000 years ago around the time of the African-non-African split. Southern Europe was a tundra, northern Europe uninhabitable ice sheet, while in this dry period the Sahara was larger, the temperate savanna of sub-Saharan Africa was indeed a far less harsh climate than the frigid ice plains of England or Sweden. By the end of the Wisconsin period 11500 to 13000 years ago, the Negroid, Caucasoid and Mongoloid races would have evolved to be largely similar to today.

On your last point Razib regarding a black middle class developing around public sector jobs this is undoubtedly true, although living in Melbourne Australia I'm not speaking first hand. Without turning this into too much of a political discussion, I see this as a negative to the extent public sector employment is the result of affirmative action, based on an incorrect conclusion that socioeconomic disparity between blacks and whites is due to the legacy of slavery and institutional racism, and only places a stigma on blacks who achieve position on their own merit, in addition to many other deleterious consequences. I think a frank understanding of human diversity would better serve all involved, and that in many ways this lack of understanding has only made matters worse for all races/groups.

Posted by: DanB at January 5, 2003 06:51 AM

Most of the black female slaves in the Ottoman empire were the lowest household maids and not part of the harem. An Ottoman grandee wouldn't have slept with one of them, much less the Sultan. The harems were mostly made up of kidnapped European girls and when the European part of the empire fell away, Caucasians. I did once read that there were a few black girls in the Sultan's harem, but when they had children the children were killed. In any case, they would never have become the favorites of the Sultan or the Valida Sultan (mother of Sultan); which is odd considering that Islam prides itself on being assiduously non-racist. Any explanations, Razib? (I have one: phoniness.)

Posted by: Diana at January 5, 2003 08:10 AM

It is silly to say American blacks and African blacks have the same genetic potential. As Terman showed long ago, high IQ tends to go with good physical health and only the heathiest blacks survived the trip on the slave ships. American blacks are the CREAM of African genetics.
There, that surprised you, didn't it?

Posted by: John Ray at January 8, 2003 05:31 AM