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September 06, 2003


I noticed an article in the Guardian newspaper this week about English population trends. Based on data from the 1981, 1991, and 2001 Censuses, the main figures of interest were as follows:

Ethnic group: [in thousands]
South Asian.....................1,031..........1,487...........2,102
Chinese & other Asian.........414..............626..............825

The article points out that ethnic minorities as a whole have grown by 40% per decade, while the white population had barely changed. The British-born white population has in fact fallen, but this was offset by substantial white European immigration. The increase in ethnic minorities is due to a combination of continuing immigration (mainly ‘families joining earlier immigrants’ - hmm, does this include brides imported from South Asia?), younger age structure, and higher birth rates.

The figures seem broadly correct, but there is one statistical booby-trap: the author appears to have counted ‘mixed race’ in with ‘black’, which will tend to shift the black growth-rate upward and the white growth-rate downward.

The most interesting point (to me, anyway) was the large amount of white European immigration, which I have suspected on the basis of personal observation but seldom seen referred to in print. This prompted me to look up the 2001 Census Report. For further fascinating info....

The 2001 Census Report for England and Wales is available free online from the Office of National Statistics. The main page on the Census is here, and downloads are available here. The main Report is in four PDF files totalling about 4Mb.

Table S015 gives the population of England and Wales broken down by country of birth. Key figures, in thousands, are:

All origins...........52,042
of which...
Other West Eur.........750
East Eur...................240

of which....
Mid East...................217
Far East...................372
South Asia............1,005
of which....


New Zealand...............54.

Table S101 contains data on ethnicity (NB: the answer ‘English’, as distinct from ‘British’, was not available). I will give the main groups in percentages:

White British..........................87.5
White Irish...............................1.2
White Other.............................2.6

White/Black Caribbean...........0.5
White/Black African................0.15
Other mixed..........................0.3

Asian or Asian British:

Black or Black British:
Black Caribbean....................1.1
Black African.........................0.9.

No huge surprises here, except perhaps the large number of ‘White Other’, which includes West and East Europeans, US and Canada, Australia and NZ, and a few other odds and ends.

The number of people born in Ireland and/or classifying themselves as Irish has declined substantially since the 1970s, due to improved economic conditions and a lower birth rate in Ireland, and a consequent reduction in the ‘supply’ of Irish migrants.

Of course, all this assumes that the Census data are accurate. There is bound to be some general under-reporting, which the ONS have adjusted for, based on sample surveys. But there will also be more specific under-reporting of certain categories of people, such as the homeless, and illegal immigrants. Probably at least 50,000 should be added to the African and Asian totals to allow for this.


Posted by David B at 06:25 AM | | TrackBack

September 05, 2003

Behold, and the Lord God Muddled the Mind of Man!

Dear readers, I have decided to become a Creationist, I am just dazzeled by this incredible and original argument for irreducible complexity. Only the Mind of God could conceive of brilliances such as Brain Fertilizer. Ah, my head hurts so much, I need to cry & sleep...why can't I be privy to such insights....

Ah, the clarity:

If evolutionary theory is correct, all the species on the planet evolved separately and fully down the various branches. Meaning, we didn't descend from apes, that apes are just as fully developed, specialized and evolved down their track as humans are down ours.

The irony:

I'm not insisting on an alternative, I'll leave you to make your own conclusions. I'm just saying that it seems to me that if the theory of evolution were actually the truth of how we came to be, the people with the ability to ignore logic and common sense enough to believe in it would have been eliminated from the gene pool by the evolutionary process itself

The humility:

I brought up a few points that are not generally addressed by the theory of evolution. If there are any evolutionary scientists who think they can answer just the questions I raised about the eye, I'd love to hear their arguments.

The originality!

Posted by razib at 03:37 PM | | TrackBack

September 04, 2003

SES and IQ Heritability

Earlier godless posted about the fascinating new study which appears to show that IQ heritability varies significantly with socioeconomic status (SES). Here are my thoughts...

Back-to-school pop quiz:  Why do poor children, and especially black poor children, score lower on average than their middle-class and white counterparts on IQ tests and other measures of cognitive performance?

That's the lead question in a Washington Post article about a new study by researchers at the University of Virginia.  This study appears to show that IQ heritability varies significantly with socioeconomic status (SES):

Until recently, [lead researcher Eric] Turkheimer and others said, research had indicated that the "heritability" of IQ - that is, the degree to which genes can explain the differences in IQ scores - completely dominated environmental influences.

But it turned out that virtually all those studies on the heritability of IQ had been done on middle-class and wealthy families.  Only when Turkheimer tested that assumption in a population of poor and mostly black children did it become clear that, in fact, the influence of genes on IQ was significantly lower in conditions of poverty, where environmental deficits overwhelm genetic potential.

Specifically, the heritability of IQ at the low end of the wealth spectrum was just 0.10 on a scale of zero to one, while it was 0.72 for families of high socioeconomic status.

The study itself used 320 pairs of twins.  Twin studies are great for this kind of research, because comparing the correlation of IQ between identical twins, which share environment and genes, with fraternal twins, which share environment but not genes, allows the degree of heritability to be accurately determined.

This would be a very important finding if true - and would go a long way toward explaining the surprisingly low average IQs of many third-world countries (see IQ and Populations for more).  It would also give hope to those who feel improving living conditions in poor countries would enable them to become competitive in the global workforce.

However, it is worth pointing out that this study contradicts earlier studies looking for the same thing.  The WP article mentions Robert Plomin, a behavioral geneticist with the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College of London, who has been seeking genes linked specifically to intelligence.  Plomin said his own unpublished work involving 4,000 pairs of twins has not produced the same results as Turkheimer's.  Similarly, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth study famously used as the basis for many of the conclusions drawn in Richard Herrnstein's and Charles Murray's classic book The Bell Curve did not find these correlations, despite specific efforts to correlate SES with IQ.

The U of V study does differ from other work in one important aspect.  Instead of seeking correlation between SES and IQ directly, the researchers were seeking correlation between SES and the heritability of IQ.  Why is this different?

Well, if SES and IQ correlate, and IQ is substantially heritable, then it implies that poor populations are stuck in a sort of vicious circle.  Their poorness implies low average IQ, and their low average IQ implies a low average IQ among their children, which in turn implies their children will be poor.  (That's an over-simplification, but first-order this is the result.)  That's a pretty tough circle to exit, especially if the poor populations also have a higher-than-average birthrate.

On the other hand, if SES and heritability of IQ correlate, then in poor populations IQ is not significantly heritable (the heritability figure of 0.10 means essentially there is no correlation from one generation to the next).  This would break the vicious circle.  Poor populations might indeed have a low average IQ, but their children need not if their socioeconomic conditions are improved.  This conclusion supports efforts such as Project Head Start, which attempts to improve the lot of poor young children by giving them food, books, and exposure to positive learning environments.

Despite this hopeful conclusion, it should be noted that studies which have attempted to validate the effect of Project Head Start have invariably suggested it is not helpful.  But again, these studies have measured correlation to IQ, not correlation to heritability of IQ.

As the article indicates, this research suggests a fruitful avenue for future study:

The next big challenge is to find out what it is about socioeconomic status - a measure that includes not only income but also parental education and occupational status - that contributes to [heritability of ] IQ, so social programs can more effectively boost those factors.

The WP article is balanced and well worth a read.  I'm going to try to get the study itself to learn more...


Posted by ole at 09:45 AM | | TrackBack


Last month I commented (here) on the Handicap Principle of Amotz Zahavi. The Handicap Principle maintains that the high cost of producing a signal (such as a mating display) may contribute to its success, and may even be necessary for ‘honest’ signals to evolve.

Since my earlier post I find that there is a flourishing field of research on signaling theory in both biology and economics. A good non-technical introduction is here.

It seems now to be generally accepted that the Handicap Principle is valid, in the sense that costly signals can be selected for in some circumstances.

There is more debate about whether honest signals must be costly. (Of course, all signals require some expenditure of energy or materials - the point at issue is whether they must be costly over and above what is necessary for effective transmission of information.)

There is a theoretical proof by Maynard Smith that honest signals need not be costly where there is no danger of conflict of interest between sender and receiver. Examples would be communication between clonal organisms (including parts of the same body), or species recognition markings which help different species avoid infertile matings with each other.

But more usually there is a danger of conflict of interest. In sexual selection, for example, it is in the interests of a fit male to inform females of his fitness, but it is also in the interests of unfit males to pretend that they are fit. To convey reliable information the signal must therefore be of a kind that costs more to a dishonest signaler than to an honest one.

There remains an argument about whether it is ncessary for the cost to fall on both honest and dishonest signalers, or whether it is sufficient if dishonest signalers pay a penalty when they are found out. The latest view seems to be that the ‘penalty’ system can be sufficient if the danger of discovery is high enough, or if there is collective punishment of the offender.

All of this has obvious implications for human communication. On the face of it human speech is a very low-cost system of signals. This may be an oversimplification - it takes time to talk, and a con-man, seducer, preacher or politician may have to invest a great deal of time and effort in convincing his victims.

But no doubt a lot of human speech is genuinely low-cost. Much routine speech falls into the category of ‘no conflict of interest’. In all kinds of team effort, individuals stand to gain from the success of the team, so they have no interest in disrupting its efforts.

This still leaves a wide range of communication, especially between strangers, where there could be conflicts of interest. So it is an interesting question what mechanisms exist to avoid deception, and how effective they are. One key mechanism is that of reputation. In many societies a man’s good name is his most precious possession. (There is a quote from Shakespeare somewhere, if only I could remember it!) A single instance of dishonesty destroys a reputation, and it is virtually impossible to rebuild it.

But different societies attach different degrees of importance to honesty, or they may apply it selectively. In 18th century Europe an aristocrat was expected to keep his word to his equals, but could cheerfully cheat his social inferiors. There are also implications for communications between different cultural or ethnic groups, with possibly different standards of honesty.

Not much of the recent work on signal theory has yet reached the popular domain, but I predict that it will before long. A book on Animal Signals by John Maynard Smith and David Harper is scheduled for publication later this year.


Posted by David B at 04:57 AM | | TrackBack

September 03, 2003

California Legislature Passes Driver Licenses for Illegal Aliens

California is now one step closer to giving legal driver licenses to illegal aliens. In a near-party line vote (one Democrat voted against the bill), the Assembly passed the legislation 44-30, and Gray "Gumbi" Davis promises to sign the bill.

This bill is naked pandering to the Latino vote, and (I would think) an encouragement of voter fraud, since illegals could more easily attempt to register to vote as part of the "Motor Voter" bill. I also believe the bill is unconstitutional and illegal, since the state of California is now aiding and abetting the violation of federal law.

I can't believe that California is giving driver licenses to illegal aliens when the budget is already out of control thanks in large part to rampant illegal and unskilled immigration. California now may become an even bigger magnet for costly illegal aliens. The bill is also a major national security threat, since terrorists and criminals who are here illegally will now be able to have valid identification, making it easier for them to evade law enforcement and immigration authorities.

One of the most outrageous comments on the opposition to the bill from an assembly member (I don't remember the exact quote) was that terrorism is caused kind of "racism and bigotry" that makes people refuse to support driver licenses for "undocumented immigrants." No...terrorism is made easier by people who refuse to make a distinction between those who are here legally and those who are not, a considerable number of whom are terrorists.

Posted by bb at 10:21 AM | | TrackBack

Reality check?

Africans Outdo Americans in Following AIDS Therapy:

On average, he said, American patients tell their doctors that they are doing 20 percentage points better than they really are — that is, a patient who says he takes 90 percent of his pills will, when tested with unannounced home pill counts or electronic pill-bottle caps, turn out to be taking 70 percent.

A study of 29 Ugandan patients found that, on average, they estimated that they were taking 93 percent of pills and proved to be taking 91 percent.

I wouldn't have predicted this at all. I was wrong, though I've seen another article or two suggesting similar findings in Botswana, so I can't say I'm shocked and surprised. I'm glad I was wrong to some extent-but I wish the Americans weren't so stupid about their medications too. Though, one thing to note is that selection bias might be an issue here-a much bigger cross-section of the populations of these African countries are HIV positive than in the United States or Western Europe.

Posted by razib at 12:13 AM | | TrackBack

September 02, 2003

Admin post II

I know that the site is slow.... A few points.

  • Mozilla/Netscape is faster since it doesn't wait for all the data packets to be received before outputting the page. In other words, IE tends to wait until every packet is received, so it takes a million years.
  • Bloggers on GNXP, the HTML page itself is rather a large file (around 160 K right now) sans images, etc. We need to reduce the size. We can do this by using the "extended entry" field more! Also, we should nest our images into this field as well. This isn't a hard & fast rule, use your judgement, but the proliferation of text is part of the problem.
  • I am switching webhosts this month-I already have a new account

Also, Aziz has my second post up on India & Islam & devil-oops, Hinduism, up ;)

Posted by razib at 03:06 PM | | TrackBack

Fun With Etymology

It is a given that any term used to describe those whose cognitive ability falls below the norm will, no matter what the original intent of the apellation, eventually be turned into an term of abuse by schoolyard children. In the late nineteenth and early 20th century, children whose learning progress lagged behind that of their peers were said to be, "of ‘retarded mental development’--terms corresponding to the ‘Enfants arriérés’ of French writers...and the ‘Tardivi’ of the Italians."[1] The word eventually came to be applied to anyone whose I.Q. fell below the mean. Of course, the combination of two liquids and three dental stops rather lent itself to becoming a term of abuse, as the very sounding out of the word suggested the ill-formed stuttering of one who had trouble grasping basic speech.

We now try to cover up the nature of the retarded by saying that they are "special." Sadly, though, all that this misplaced sensitivity will do is ruin the use of the word special throughout the English language until it comes to be applied solely to the feeble-minded. There is, after all, precedent for such. In old English, the word "sæl" originally meant "time," "season," "occasion," or "prosperity." Thus, if someone or something was "sælig," it was timely or fortuitous. Eventually, "sælig" came to signify more than simple good fortune and came to take on the meaning of "blessed." It is not much of a jump then, to see that, eventually, the term "sælig" was eventually applied to children who were less than bright. In the same way that we hear "Timmy is the 'special' child," and immediately understand without the need to resort to terms that hurt the feelings, so too would English people refer to a child with intellectual impairments as "blessed."[2] From there, it was not much further until "saelig" came to mean "simple minded" exclusively, and, as you have probably figured out, "sælig" shifted to "sely" in Middle English, which then, in modern English became "silly." That "silly" has its roots in "blessed" should indicate to us that no matter what term we will apply to the low-IQ, it will always be a term meaning, to be blunt, stupid. There's a lesson in here about deep structure[3], but I really haven't the time to go into it.

On another etymological note, for thousands of years, the accepted etymology of "Cyclops" was that it came from "wheel-eye," i.e. from the Greek words "kyklos" (from which we get "cycle") and from the root "op--". It has lately, though, been suggested that the original etymology may have been closer to "cattle rustler," coming from a combination of the Indo-European word that eventually came to be "Kuh" in German and "cow" in English. The second half of the word came from the root "klep--" from which Greek "kleptes" meaning "thief" come. [4] This of course would seem to make more sense, since the "wheel eye" etymologies have a sense of back-constructed etymologies of the pre-modern world which find their best expression in the wild and zany writings of Isidore of Seville. Moreoever, if one looks at the lifestyle of the Cyclopses, one notes that they are pastoralists, "having neither laws nor assemblies," and who "do not raise plants nor plow." (Homer's Odyssey, Book IX, lines 108-112) Such imagery comes from the dark times of the Greek "Age of Heroes," and indicates the cyclopses seem to be more of a representation of the barbaric pastoralist outsiders than Star Trek monster which it rather later became. Thus it is that your Greek in the ninth-millenium B.C. would more be thinking of a cattle rustling nomad that raids your crops than an exotic monster.

[1]"Retarded." The Oxford English Dictionary. http://www.oed.com

[2]As a brief digression, there was more to the apellation of "blessed" for simple-minded than desire to offend. There were also theological implications, as St. Paul says in the 1st Chapter of Corinthians that the wisdom of the World is foolishness before God and the foolishness of the world is wisdom before God. Such thinking eventually leads to the idea of the holy fool, which IMHO survives in disguised form in most cinematic representations of the retarded, who are portrayed as simple, and yet somehow more saintly and blessed. Such nonsense eventually results in things like the Supreme Court ruling that the retarded cannot be executed.

[3]Noam Chomsky was a brilliant linguist back before the brain eater got him, and we would do well to remember the words of Frodo concerning the fallen Sauraman: "Even now I will not wish him harmed, for he was once of so great an order that none of us would have dared raise a hand against him." (quoted from memory)

[4] I do not have a cite on this, though, as it merely came up in a conversation with a friend of mine who is an Indo-Europeanist and I really don't feel like doing a journal crawl to find the cites, so sorry.

Posted by schizmatic at 08:06 AM | | TrackBack

September 01, 2003

Muslim kill Muslim?

Some people held in the Bombay bombings were part of something called the Gujarat Revenge Force. Need I say that if this group is successful tens of thousands of Muslims will die?

Posted by razib at 11:43 PM | | TrackBack

Blind Watchmakings

long-horned beetles

from the Insect Company
(click for larger view)

blind watchmakings
Blind Watchmakings
from Richard Dawkins
(click for larger view)

I recently discovered The Insect Company website, which has fascinating photo galleries of beautiful and interesting insects.  [ via Boing Boing ]  An example is shown at right; Cerambycidae are long-horned beetles, and this gallery shows the variations from different countries.  I was awestruck by these wonderful examples of Darwinism in action; for me this was a religious experience.

In paging through these photos, I was reminded of the amazing software Richard Dawkins wrote to accompany his 1986 classic, "The Blind Watchmaker".  (If you have not read this book, then STOP, do not pass go, and immediately order it.  You will thank me.)

Chapter 3, Accumulating Small Change, is an in-depth exploration of a synthetic organism-producer Dawkins developed to try out the ideas behind the book.  This is a Macintosh application which generated "biomorphs", 2D black and white organism-like configurations of pixels which were generated algorithmically from a set of variables ("genes").  From any biomorph "children" are generated by mutating the variables.  You then select which children survive to generate children themselves, and thereby "breed" generation after generation of evolving biomorphs.

BTW, I just ran the Mac application again.  This 17-year-old program still runs!  (OSX emulating OSn and PowerPC emulating 68000.)  Pretty nice GUI, despite being black and white, and awesome functionality.

An example of biomorphic evolution is shown at right.  Each of these "organisms" differs from the previous by a single mutation in one of the "genes".  The visual similarity to the beetles is profound, and to my mind not coincidental.

There is one big qualitative difference between the beetles and the biomorphs; the beetles are naturally selected, while the biomorphs are not.  In each generation of beetles the fittest survive to have offspring.  The variation among beetles from different countries presumably reflects different environments (food, predators, habitat, weather, etc.).  In each generation of biomorphs the program user performs the selection, using morphological similarity to actual organisms as a measure of "fitness".

Or based on visual similarity to some other target; when the book was first published Dawkins offered a $1,000 prize for anyone who could "breed" an image of a chalice, "the Holy Grail".  To his surprise, a Caltech student claimed the prize within a year.  Subsequently a new prize of $1,000 was offered for breeding an image of a human, but this has not to my knowledge been claimed.

Biomorphs are generated from sixteen variables ("genes"), each with a range of 20 values ("alleles").  There are thus 16^20 possible biomorphs.  Mimicking biology, one of the genes controls the magnitude of mutation which can occur in one generation (variation in alleles), and another the range (number of genes which mutate).  These genes can of course themselves mutate, so that some biomorph populations are relatively stable from one generation to the next, while another might vary wildly.  The capacity of the program to surprise you from one generation to the next will, er, surprise you.  Fans of Stephen Gould will also note the "hopeful monster" mode, in which an entirely new biomorph is randomly generated!

Great stuff.  What is most amazing is that evolution has resulted in creatures sophisticated enough to generate algorithmic models that mimic evolution!


Posted by ole at 11:25 PM | | TrackBack

more IQ and Populations

If you found IQ and Populations interesting, and especially if you're curious about the derivations of the National IQ figures, please see this post from Steve Sailer in which he discusses "IQ and the Wealth of Nations"...

The IQ structures of the two giga-countries, China and India, demand more intense study, in part because the future history of the world will hinge in no small part on their endowments of human capital.  The demography of India is especially complex due to its caste system, which resembles Jim Crow on steroids and acid.  By discouraging intermarriage, caste has subdivided the Indian people into an incredible number of micro-races.  In India, according to the dean of population genetics, L.L. Cavalli-Sforza, "The total number of endogamous communities today is around 43,000…"  We know that some of those communities - such as the Zoroastrian Parsees of Bombay - are exceptionally intelligent.

He also considers the Flynn Effect, nutrition, and the remarkable gap in IQ figures between Americans of African descent and present-day Africans.


Posted by ole at 07:59 PM | | TrackBack


Rand Simberg pointed me to this article about In the Blink of an Eye, a book that expands on Dr. Andrew Parker's contention that the appearance of the eye explains the Cambrian Explosion. I'm going to read the book and get back to you, but here are some good reviews....a Dutch biologist and another by a non-specialist. By a strange coincidence Creationists like to work the "design" of the eye and the Cambrian Explosion into their paradigms. I won't be surprised if Intelligent Design Theorists or Theistic Evolutionists spy The Hand of the Creator in the genesis of the trilobite eye. The resultant evolutionary race that led to our species can surely be shoe-horned into some teleology.

Posted by razib at 06:21 PM | | TrackBack

The confession of crime?

While doing my research for the guest blog for Aziz over @ unmedia I came across this article from India Today. It is reports on the concentration of Muslims in the criminal sector of West Bengal. The Numbers are pretty stark-25% of the population contributes about 50% of the prisoners and fewer than 1% of medical and engineering students. One point to note is that it is plausible that the Muslim middle class in the west left for East Bengal (East Pakistan, later Bangladesh) after 1947 just as the east's Hindu elite (including Jyot Basu, former PM of West Bengal) fled to Calcutta. But, I am skeptical that Hindus are disproportionately found in the jails of Bangladesh, my father claims when he was a student at Dhaka University in the 1960s around half of the students were Hindu[1] and even today there is an overrepresentation of the minority religious community.

fn1. The number of Hindus in East Bengal has dropped from 25-30% in the 1950s to 10-15% today.

Posted by razib at 02:24 PM | | TrackBack

Immigrants less diverse?

I'm on the Center for Immigration Studies e-mail list and just got a bulletin about how immigrants are becoming less diverse. They have a study out on this and I've attached the bullletin below about the publication details & a press briefing that some of you might be curious about.

[FYI: A new report, and a briefing on it Friday, September 5, in
Washington. The report will be on line Friday at www.cis.org, and a
transcript of the briefing will be posted the following week. -- Mark

Mexico, Latin America Account for Growing Share of Foreign-Born

WASHINGTON (September 2003) -- During the 1990s, America's immigrant
population grew by 11.3 million, faster than at any time in our history, and at the same became significantly less diverse. One country -- Mexico -- and one region -- Spanish-speaking Latin America -- have come to dominate U.S. immigration. This is true not only nationally but also in most of the states.

These findings are from a new report by the Center for Immigration Studies, using newly released data from the 2000 Census. The report, entitled "Where
Immigrants Live: An Examination of State Residency by Country of Origin in
1990 and 2000," contains detailed information for the nation as a whole and
for each of the 50 states.

[The report is available to the media on an embargoed basis through
Thursday, September 4. The report is embargoed until midnight, Thursday
night/Friday morning, and may be used for Friday a.m. newspapers. For
an embargoed copy of the report, contact Steven Camarota at (202) 466-8185
or [email protected]]

The Center will host a briefing on the report on Friday, September 5,
at 1:30 p.m., at the National Press Club's Lisagor Room. The author of the
report, Center for Immigration Studies Director of Research Steven
Camarota, will discuss the results and their implications. The briefing
is free and open to the public.

# # #

The Center for Immigration Studies is an independent, non-profit,
non-partisan think tank which examines the impact of immigration on the
United States.

Mark Krikorian, executive director
Center for Immigration Studies
1522 K Street N.W., Suite 820
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 466-8185 fax: (202) 466-8076
[email protected] http://www.cis.org

Posted by razib at 01:38 PM | | TrackBack

Retention-not flunking

Talk of the Nation 's second hour is about retaining students who do not pass a standardized test and phasing out "social promotion." Some are accusing the test of being racist because black students tend to fail them at a higher rate. The audio will be available at 6 PM EDT.

I am having some concerns about this nation-wide craze for standardized tests. I'm not the only one who isn't coming from the bleeding-heart-Left. The above link reports reservations about the Washington Assessment of Standard Skills (WASL). A few years back I was at my parents when my little brother was taking the fourth grade WASL. He spent his days studying for the test, and was supposed to spend the evenings studying for the WASL. Actually, he ended up playing his Playstation 2, it was just a big vacation for him. He did well, and let me be honest and state my siblings are "above average" like all the children in Lake Wobegon, but my sister told me that a lot of kids fail this test. It seems that the No Child Left Behind philosophy is really starting to get out of control. Students at both ends of the bell curve are not really going to benefit from these tests. Some could pass them half-asleep, while some will never be able to grasp the concepts (or memorize the facts) that are being drilled into them.

Godless comments:

A few observations:

1) I prefer the much derided "teaching to the test" than not teaching at all. Sufficiently rigorous tests (e.g. the AP in high school) are quite worthwhile. However, a test must be combined with accountability: if you do not pass, you fail. If standards based assessment was combined with an end to social promotion, we'd be ok.

2) The problem is not standards based assessment per se . The problem is that it is biologically impossible for no child to be left behind. As Dick says in comments:

I am convinced that [the] No Child Left Behind Act is going to rub the US nose in g, heritablity, and racial difference. They have set up a highly g-loaded test, insisted that all children pass it, and established severe penalties for schools that fail to make that happen. Something's got to give. First up, cheating scandals. And after that?

Dick is right, but we will probably not see ideological collapse: the "axiom of equality" will endure. When jobs are on the line, we will see twisted statistics and eventually a recourse to non-g-loaded tests. After all, there are literally thousands of hits devoted to the idea that standardized test scores are "racist". The eventual endpoint will be to build affirmative action into the scoring procedure itself:

It was a false alarm for the SATs, for right now anyway.

The Wall Street Journal reported incorrectly on Aug. 31 that Educational Testing Service was instituting a new program aimed at promoting social equity, called "Strivers," into the SATs. While there is no such program, ETS is currently researching ways to incorporate information on a student's background with the SAT, and The Wall Street Journal's report triggered discussion about the possibility of such a program.

The Wall Street Journal reported that ETS had developed a "statistical equation that will generate an expected SAT score for every student based on 14 different categories. … The Strivers score is the difference between the actual SAT score and the expected score. Anyone who scores 200 points higher than the expected score is considered a Striver. "

This particular "innovation" has not yet been adopted, but explicit race-norming cannot be far off. As I've said before, the whole "No Child Left Behind" business is entirely Soviet, and even has five year plans:

If a school fails to make adequate yearly progress for a fifth year, the school district must initiate plans for restructuring the school. This may include reopening the school as a charter school, replacing all or most of the school staff or turning over school operations either to the state or to a private company with a demonstrated record of effectiveness.

There will be no gulags, of course, but the idea that humans are biological blank slates to be blasted clean and remade by federal fiat is the driving ideology here , as it was in the USSR and every communist state. The truth is something like this:

In my view, we can expect most children to learn basic literacy and arithmetic. Beyond that, we start hitting g-correlated barriers. Perhaps we will see a push for vouchers, an end to mandatory property taxes, and a long-overdue privatization of education...but as Sailer has observed, that brings its own problems.

That said, vouchers remain political poison for Republicans, no matter what the free market ideologues say. The reason 97% of these poor parents in Cleveland chose religious, primarily Catholic, schools is because they were the only ones who'd take the vouchers. Secular private schools and exclusive suburbs don't want a flood of impoverished kids wrecking their schools' shiny test scores. Voucher programs that extend beyond inner cities are anathema to suburban homeowners, who don't want their property values driven down by having their precious local schools jammed with slum kids waving vouchers. If the GOP alienates its natural base of suburban homeowners, it's doomed.

I'll be frank, the biggest reason why "bad schools" are bad and "good schools" are good is the quality of the students.

If I was a parent, I would try to send my kid to a magnet school or a private school, or somewhere where math & science education was still revered and where there were no metal detectors in the hallways. The problem with educational assessment is that the left blames society and funding, while the right blames the teachers and the parents. No one identifies the real problem: kids who just aren't that smart.

Posted by razib at 12:29 PM | | TrackBack

Move along now....

I have a series of posts with installment one over a unmedia now. I ended up with a 64 K HTML file and 34 footnotes just to give you a vague idea of the length (Aziz is breaking it down for me). The topic is "Islam, India & Interfaith relations."

And yes, I am tweaking with the format, over time, I'll change all the sub-pages. I have redesigned the CSS from the ground-up for the front page so I'll do it one page at a time rather than wasting the whole day changing class names & formats. Also, you can change the text size in your browser!

Finally, my TAC piece it out, you can find it on page 22 under "Old Europe's Obit." It's the September 8th issue in print (not online yet).

Posted by razib at 10:50 AM | | TrackBack

IQ and Populations

The other day I came across this table of National IQs for all the countries in the world.  (Drawn from Richard Lynn's and Tatu Vanhanen's "Intelligence and the Wealth and Poverty of Nations", via Gweilo, via razib.)  This is fascinating information, particularly when combined with population growth rates.

For the purposes of this discussion, let's stipulate that someone's IQ is just something you can measure, which may or may not have some correlation to anything else you can measure.  Whether it has anything to do with intelligence or any particular cognitive ability will not be addressed.

The U.S. Census Bureau has a terrific website called the International Data Base (IDB).  This includes a facility to create a table of National populations for any year between 1950 and 2050.  Let's assume that countries are (first-order) self-breeding and that measured IQ was/will be stable in each country during the 100 year period.  Combining all these data yields the following graph:

world IQ over time

The dark blue line is the average IQ of the world.  I've also plotted the population growth of the five most populous countries, India, China, the U.S., Indonesia, and Nigeria; the average IQ of each of these countries is in parenthesis.  (Nigeria is currently ninth, with Brazil (87), Pakistan (81), Russia (96), and Bangladesh (81) intervening, but by 2050 it will be fifth.)  As you can see, in a 100 year period the world's average IQ will have dropped from 92 to 86, a change of 6%.  That is pretty darn significant.  And all because of differential population growth.

I extrapolated the population growth of each country another 50 years to the year 2100 (lightly shaded region of graph).  At that time the world's average IQ will have dropped below 84.  Within this time period of 150 years, extremely short by any evolutionary standard, an incredibly significant change in this key metric will have occurred.  And there is no sign of the trend bottoming out, because the growth rate of countries with lower IQs exceeds the growth rate of countries with higher IQs.  The most populous country today is China, which has a high IQ (100), but its growth is actually projected to be negative because of their "one child" policy.  After about 2030 India will be the most populous country, and it has relatively low IQ (81).  At current growth rates by 2100 Nigeria will be the third most populous country, and it has a low IQ (67).

If you're interested in playing with these numbers yourself, here's the Excel spreadsheet with all these data.  If you publish further analysis or commentary, I would appreciate it if you'd link back to this page.

There were two assumptions we made up front, and I'd like to revisit them.  First, we assumed countries are self-breeding.  With modern vehicles and opportunities for travel this is becoming less and less true, but for the bulk of the world's population it is definitely a safe assumption.  The two largest countries, China and India, are both relatively undeveloped and by-and-large people do not travel in or out of them.  The third largest country, the U.S., is the only possible exception to this assumption, because so many people immigrate into the U.S. (in 1990 8% of the U.S. population was foreign-born).

The second assumption is more interesting; we assumed measured IQ was/will be stable in each country.  The Flynn Effect predicts this is false, and that measured IQ will increase over time.  (Historical data provide significant evidence for this.)  Many explanations have been offered for this effect, including steady improvement in testing procedures, and there is some evidence that in recent years the Flynn Effect has diminished.  If the overall world IQ changes due to differential birth rates among populations with different IQs (that is, separate countries), then it seems plausible that a country's IQ could change due to differential birth rates within its sub-populations as well.  In most countries and under most circumstances the birth rate of poorer and less educated people is significantly higher than the birth rate among wealthier and more educated people.  (China is the primary exception; due to their "one child" policies the birth rate within all sub-populations is essentially the same.)  Given the positive correlation between measured IQ and wealth, and between measured IQ and education, these differential birth rates would suggest that individual countries' IQs would decrease as populations expand.  If true, this would obviously accelerate the overall decrease in world IQ over time.

There are other factors at work.  For example, AIDS is presently the most common cause of death in Nigeria, which is one of the most populous and fastest growing countries.  Wealthier and more educated people are less likely to become infected by AIDS, because of awareness of the known transmission mechanisms and available protections, and also more likely to survive infection, because of availability of treatment (at least to the point of having and raising healthy children).  Because of this the effective birth rate among wealthier and more educated people in Nigeria is probably higher than poorer, less educated people.  There is a substantial correlation between wealth, education, and measured IQ.  Thus the AIDS epidemic may have the effect of raising the average IQ of Nigerians.

The human race has been in existence for approximately 150,000 years, during which time natural selection has incrementally increased human intelligence and cognitive ability.  It is not possible to give IQ tests to humans from 100,000 years ago - at least not yet :) - so we can only surmise that there would have been a corresponding increase in measured IQ as well.  Only recently - within the last 10,000 years or so - has this trend been halted, primarily by organized agriculture which enabled a small group of humans to provide food for a larger group.  It now appears that very recently - within the last 100 years or so - this trend has been reversed.  I call this Unnatural Selection, since it appears that societal rather than evolutionary effects are at work.  The consequences of this overall decrease in world IQ have yet to be quantified, but they are bound to be significant.

More ruminations on this to follow, please stay tuned...


Posted by ole at 12:03 AM | | TrackBack

August 31, 2003

Look at the trees-not the forest

Over at TechCentralStation a writer complains that India shouldn't be between Haiti & Nicaragua socioeconomically. Well, he should point out to non-Indians that there are large regional variations, the southern cone is having its "tryst with destiny" while the north wallows in neo-feudalism and political turmoil.

Posted by razib at 07:44 PM | | TrackBack

Autism & the pod-people

This article in Newsweek is pretty interesting, it focuses on how boys are more prone to autism and affiliated diseases like Asperger's Syndrome. This old article in Wired suggests that assortive mating between people who have some tendency toward this disease is causing the emergence of a whole sub-section of society where Asperger's is not only endemic, but accepted as something of a norm. The Bell Curve concerned itself with assortive mating by g, but it seems today's America as depicted by David Brooks is being further segmented along lines of ideology and a host of myriad preferences (race, religion, etc. still being important, but being joined by a constellation of identities and orientations). In The Blank Slate Steven Pinker points out that many beliefs that we assume are based on conscious thought and logical analysis have psychological underpinnings that are heritable. Twins raised apart studies seem to suggest that religious faith, political orientation and other subsets of human personality begin with a genetic substrate.

How these traits are confounded, which are just correlated vs. causatively linked, perhaps via a common factor, is an academic debate. But, back to the initial thrust of the article, how do we deal with the coming sociological diversity? American schools are designed to produce citizens, so despite district & state differences, our goal is to inculcate all children with the same values that will foster the continuance of our democracy. But in the case of children with autism, or boys vs. girls, or even white vs. blacks, it seems that some groups respond positively to different stimuli and environments. How is our society going to respond to this? Certainly Brooks seems to be pointing to one answer-we are segregating into values & personality enclaves, adding more dimensions to our prior self-conceptions based on race, religion and geography. And you thought one hyphen was a bit much.....

Posted by razib at 05:51 PM | | TrackBack