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Conservatives have taken to "reconfiguring" science to agree with their ideology. The creationists relabeled their beliefs to "intelligent design" and festooned it with pseudo-scientific garlands. They constructed Potemkin villages from falsehoods to deny the science of climate change. Their latest venture is the rebranding of racism under the oh-so scientific-sounding label "Human Biodiversity", or HBD. Herewith an explanation of yet another ideological foray into science.

Ever since the amassing of data from IQ tests in the 20s and 30s, people have noticed a strong, clear difference between the scores of Caucasians and blacks. The difference is typically about 15 points, or one standard deviation. Statistically, there is absolutely no question that blacks score poorly on these tests.

This has always served as an embarrassment to the designers of IQ tests, and they have made many efforts to revise the tests to diminish that difference, but despite many decades of effort, have never succeeded in this endeavor.

Why the difference? There are some obvious explanations: environment, pre-natal health conditions, educational opportunities, and so on. But the explanation that won't go away is genetics: could it be that blacks are genetically predisposed to poor IQ test scores?

William Shockley helped invent the transistor and shared a Nobel Prize for his achievement. In the 1960s and 1970s, he used IQ test data to claim that blacks constituted a eugenic threat to humanity and should volunteer for sterilization. Racists piled onto the bandwagon he built, but society in general rejected him as a nutcase.

1994 saw the publication of The Bell Curve, which again argued that different IQ test scores demonstrated low intelligence in blacks. The authors provided more scientifically sophisticated arguments, and explained a number of other issues arising from human genetics. It generated considerable controversy.

For every action...
The ideologically-driven "science" of these efforts generated an equal and opposite reaction in the form of an ideologically-driven rejection of ANY genetic component in human behavior. The eminent scientist E.O.Wilson was the world's leading authority on the behavior of ants when, in the 1970s, he proposed that evolutionary selection pressures acted on behavior as well as the body, leading to genetic factors in behavior. His work with ants demonstrated the basic concept beyond question, but when he extended his ideas to humans, he triggered a shitstorm of outrage, and was treated quite badly. Wilson's work was impeccable, but because it was distantly analogous to the racist IQ claims, his ideas (which he termed "sociobiology") were lumped together with that odious ideology.

In the 70s and 80s, a strict intolerance for the racist abuse of science mushroomed into something entirely different: an ideological rejection of the notion that genetics played any role in human behavior. This school of thought was so dominant that many scientists were frightened away from any research remotely related to such matters.

But you can't deny reality. As one scientist wrote, "Evolution didn't stop at the neck." Human mental evolution was strongly influenced by selection pressures, which manifested themselves in human behavior. Genetics really does influence behavior, but it took a while for scientists to re-assert that basic principle. Two scientists, Cosmides and Tooby, began an extremely rigorous program of experiments that demonstrated beyond question that there were oddities of human cognition that could not be explained by any environmental factors. They christened their field of research "evolutionary psychology". For many years they attracted considerable opprobrium, but their research was flawless and now evolutionary psychology is a respected field of research.

In 2002 the renowned scientist Steven Pinker published The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, which forcefully attacked the ideological belief that all human behavior is determined by environmental factors. In terms of "nature versus nurture", he came down hard on the notion that it's all nurture, arguing with overwhelming evidence that nature constitutes an important component of human behavior.

In the scientific community the "all-environment" school has pretty much been annihilated and the doors have been opened to extensive research on the genetic components of human behavior. Much has been learned, much of which will come as a surprise to the general public. To boil down volumes of research into a single grand overstated generalization, about 50% of human behavior is determined by genetic factors. Obviously, this statement fails to include a great many intricacies, qualifiers, and exceptions, but for the purposes of this short essay, it's adequate; an explanation of all those intricacies, qualifiers, and exceptions would drag on for hundreds of pages.

I must emphasize that the great bulk of this work has been rigorously vetted by a properly ferocious peer review process. Most of these results are genuinely reliable.

However, riding on the coattails of this respectable work is the HBD movement, populated mostly by eager amateurs rather than professional scientists. The HBD movement covers a broad range of ideas, from the genuinely scientific to the nakedly racist. At the scientific end of the range we have people like HBD Chick, who aggregate lots of evidence on matters anthropological and genetic as they relate to human behavior. At the other extreme we have Steve Sailor, a conservative who promulgates racist ideas.

There's an easy way to differentiate the scientific side of HBD from the racist side: fixation on IQ. These people love to wring the IQ data for every ounce of scientific justification they can find for their racism. They analyze IQ scores by race, religion, gender, national origin, and lots of other factors; I wouldn't be surprised if one of them hasn't calculated the correlation coefficient of IQ score with aversion to broccoli. They triumphantly trumpet the results that support their prejudices and quietly ignore results that undermine their prejudices, such as the finding that national IQ scores are correlated with GDP per capita.

I caution the reader that the science surrounding IQ test scores is immensely complicated. On the one hand, it is unquestionably predictive of academic and financial success in Westernized nations. On the other hand, there's plenty of evidence that cultural factors strongly influence IQ scores. And there are hundreds of other hands to consider as well.

My greatest objection to the use of IQ scores is that human cognitive performance cannot be adequately measured in a single dimension. The cognitive talents that make a great violinist are in no wise comparable with the cognitive talents that make a great mathematician. Yet most of the IQ aficionados are certain that a single number -- sometimes they call it "g" and sometimes they call it "gma", but when speaking loosely they call it "intelligence" -- does a good job of explaining most cognitive performance.

The concept of intelligence is akin to the concept of physical strength. It is certainly reasonable to argue that a man in his 20s is stronger than he was in his childhood, and stronger than he will be in his 80s. But a weightlifter is not necessarily a good runner; a gold medal Olympic discus thrower is not likely to be a great swimmer. Strength arises from different muscle groups and strength in one muscle group does not necessarily imply strength in any other muscle group. And what are we to make of physical performance requiring the tight integration of all muscles, such as gymnastics? Would Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime have done well against Nadia Comăneci on the balance beam?

Moreover, cultural factors remain a crucial confound in any discussion of IQ scores. On this matter, the IQ aficionados demonstrate their sophomorism. They know everything about the statistical analyses, but the differences between Asian styles of thinking and Western styles of thinking are beyond their ken; their cultural backgrounds are so narrow that they simply cannot conceive the notion that other people can think in ways unlike their own and still be intelligent.

But of course, racism is always born of stupidity.

Finally, I caution the reader to subordinate personal preference for scientific objectivity in this question. I fervently believe that "All men are created equal", but I am willing to entertain the hypothesis that some men are born with lesser cognitive talents than others. If solid evidence arises that blacks are cognitively less capable than whites, then I shall accept the hypothesis and move on to asking how we reconcile scientific conclusions with political theory. So far, however, the evidence I have seen is completely inadequate to support the hypothesis.

Epilogue, January 15th:
Commentary has died out, so I think it useful to summarize the discussion that took place in response to this essay. Basically, there were four categories of response. First, there were lots of people tossing in minor comments, additions, corrections, and assorted other commentary that made for interesting reading. Second, there were a few "blank slate" people who deny that genetic factors have any influence on inclinations to behavior. Third, there were three HBDers who showed up to defend their field. Finally, there was me; I wrote a LOT of responses to the attacks coming from both sides.

Here's my characterization of the three-way debate between blank slaters, HBDers, and me:

The blank slaters were absolutely sure of themselves, rather uncivil, and didn't feel much need to cite evidence to support their claims. For the most part, they simply dismissed counterarguments with varying degrees of vitriol.

The HBDers were quite civil and often presented evidence to support their claims. They argued their case pretty well, In My Arrogant Opinion. In fact, within the confines of their case, they did a great job. Their weakness lay in the fact that the confines of their case are quite narrow. While they've really nailed down a vast amount of information about IQ tests, they are quite blind to anything else. For example, when I challenged them about such things as intuition or social reasoning, they simply declared that these things most certainly conform to their theory, even though they could offer not a shred of evidence that IQ tests measure intuition or social reasoning. They also demonstrated little knowledge of linguistics, anthropology, or history whenever these subjects were raised in conjunction with the discussion. When I raised points about the differences between East Asian thinking styles and Western thinking styles, their silence was telling. My overall impression is that they know a great deal about very little, and suffer from severe sophomorism in thinking that their IQ tests span the space of human cognitive behavior. Ultimately, they simply gave up and disappeared or, in one case, ended up stoutly defending a personal version of science that the commentator felt was superior to the science promulgated by all those, you know, ignorant professional scientists.

So, is HBD really racist? I stick with my original characterization: much of HBD is solid science, but when you get to the subfield devoted to IQ test scores, you run into people who are "gentleman racists". They don't hate blacks, they simply consider them inferior. They'd have no reservations about taking a black out to lunch, and they happily acknowledge that some blacks are smarter than some whites, but all in all, they see blacks as a group to be less intelligent than whites as a group. The dead giveaway comes when value-laden terminology slips into their writings. They absent-mindedly let slip a comment that whites are "superior" to blacks in IQ scores. A scientist would use more objective wording: "whites tend to score higher on IQ tests than blacks".

A last telling note: I offered to debate one of the HBDers on his own site, presenting the argument I present here for open debate. He chose not to accept my offer.

Originally posted to Erasmussimo on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 09:27 AM PST.

Also republished by Black Kos community, RaceGender DiscrimiNATION, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  interesting, but heading the wrong way (26+ / 0-)

    First, IQ tests were originally designed as measures of the efficacy of educational systems, and they predominantly reflect education.  Human genetics has not changed in 100 years, but IQ scores have gone up by something like 20 points over that time.

    More importantly, this statement invokes just a wrong conceptual model that explains why people are so confused.

    To boil down volumes of research into a single grand overstated generalization, about 50% of human behavior is determined by genetic factors.
    Organisms express genetics in a particular environment which means that virutally all traits are the result of the interaction of both.  Even in terms of the quantitative genetics from which such estimates are derived have three terms:  genetic differences, environmental differences, and the interaction term.  (This is how the statistcial models are designed)

    Important to recognize is that if you change the range of environments understudy, or the population under stdy, the apportionment of those three elements will change  THus, the proportion of traits attributable to genes, environment, or the interaction is in large measure dependent on the environmental conditions under which they are studied.  

    For human behavior, which is an stunning array of traits which may vary massively in their environmental influences, what the relevant environment even is is extraordinarily difficult to assess, since it is largely a social environment.

    Long story short, I have this to say about these estimates:  if you start with a totally flawed concept of how the universe works, you end up with a meaningless, or at worst harmful answer to a ridiculous question.

    Interesting diary, though I suspect you are going to get some flaming.  We shall see.

    Hay hombres que luchan un dia, y son buenos Hay otros que luchan un año, y son mejores Hay quienes luchan muchos años, y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida. Esos son los imprescendibles.

    by Mindful Nature on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 09:49:34 AM PST

    •  I disagree (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      themis, linkage, chantedor, cynndara, StrayCat

      with your assertion that the gross oversimplification I presented is a "totally flawed concept of how the universe works". Yes, it's flawed -- I made that abundantly clear. But you are arguing that it's worse than an oversimplification. The problem here is that I'm explaining something in layman's terms, and those terms are necessarily simplified.

      I could have explained the point in greater detail, incorporating your point, but that would have lengthened an already verbose essay. Even your short explication has a few confusing elements in it.

      By way of analogy, consider Newtonian physics. It's wrong; quantum mechanics and special relativity have demonstrated that Newtonian mechanics is conceptually wrong. But it's an excellent approximation at most of the scales we work with; it works well. In the same manner, my gross oversimplification is conceptually wrong, but still works adequately for non-technical reader.

      •  Unlike Newtonian mechanics, quantitative genetics (12+ / 0-)

        Is that it communicates a false understanding of how genetics works and what "caused by genetics" actually means. Yes, quantitative genetics is gret for breeding new strains of corn, but in terms of developing a political understanding it creates te idea that something with a genetic cause is immutable, which is dangerously wrong.  As a professor of mine used to say, bad eye sight may have a genetic component, but this does not mean we do not know how to make eyeglasses.  

        Similarly, saying that behavioral differences are "genetic" communicates a false impression that they are immutable, or even proximal it cause by genes, neither of which are necessarily true or even likely to be true.  All it says is that two populations with different genetic makeups are different, which is a radically different statement that. How people understand it.  We must be careful not to reinforce public misconceptions

        Hay hombres que luchan un dia, y son buenos Hay otros que luchan un año, y son mejores Hay quienes luchan muchos años, y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida. Esos son los imprescendibles.

        by Mindful Nature on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 10:21:19 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I suggest (7+ / 0-)

          that you know the subject so thoroughly that two ideas that look far apart to you are indistinguishable to the non-technical reader.

          Every time you write something about science, you have to carefully gauge the likely level of knowledge of your audience, then aim the level of the presentation towards the lower middle of the range. In the process, you'll attract the tut-tuts of the more knowledgeable and the "huh?"s of the less knowledgeable. It is a perennial problem.

          •  SUre (7+ / 0-)

            Before going any further I do want to make clear how much I enjoy your writing and your raising the issues.  I look forward to more of it.   Be back soon

            Hay hombres que luchan un dia, y son buenos Hay otros que luchan un año, y son mejores Hay quienes luchan muchos años, y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida. Esos son los imprescendibles.

            by Mindful Nature on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 11:57:13 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  The problem here (10+ / 0-)

            which is not unique to this diary is that the concept of heritability is inherently confusing to people without training in quantitative genetics but understanding what it means is crucial and central to any use of it in these kinds of arguments.

            As Mindful Nature points out a heritability is measure of the proportion of the variation in a characteristic (e.g. IQ) in a particular population at a particular point in time.

            Most importantly (and utterly and completely crucially) a heritability value for a trait tells you nothing about the extent to which genetics plays a role in differences between 2 different populations.  Hypothetically you could have a heritability of zero in each of two populations (no genetic variation within each population) but all the variation between populations could be due to genetics.  Or, alternatively, you could have a situation in which the trait is completely genetically determined within each population (zero environmental variation) but the difference between populations is solely due to the environment.

            Of course these are unlikely extremes but all these arguments about genetic differences in IQ among races are not supported by the data, even if you were to assume that a) IQ is a valid measure and b) that the heritability is accurately estimated.

            "We are normal and we want our freedom" - Bonzos

            by matching mole on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 03:36:47 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Ecological fallacies (8+ / 0-)

              generally come down to pretending that group averages or other aggregates statistically behave the same way as do individual measurements. There is no logical reason that they should; between-group variation and within-group variation are two completely separate phenomena and if they have the same causes, it's only by coincidence.

              In particular, even if you can establish a causal relationship between, say, an individual's IQ score and his performance on some other measure, you cannot assume the same relationship will hold if you replace the individual's IQ score with the average IQ score of, say, his racial or ethnic group. If you stop and think about, you can see how absurd that assumption is because the individual can belong to any number of groups, all of which have different average IQ scores. Which one do you pick?

              Classic illustration due, I believe, to Lewontin: you plant a bunch of corn of different varieties (contrary to popular belief, corn is not a monoculture or even close to one) in both high- and low-introgen soils. In each type of soil, almost all the variation in the height of the plants will be due to the varying strains (within-group variation) but the high-nitrogen plants, regardless of strain, will on average be taller than the low-nitrogen plants (between-group variation).

              Writing in all lower-case letters should be a capital offense

              by ebohlman on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 04:37:01 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Control for environmental variables - still differ (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                JayManHBD

                The thing is that hereditarians are well aware of this. Hence various studies which control for socio-economic factors, and looking at whether there is some 'x-factor' that is depressing scores in one group. See David C Rowe's work in this regard.

                Group differences still remain. And I don't see why the existence of these differences is a surprise? There is ample evidence that different cultural and geographic environments can favor different physical and behavioural traits - that could lead to population changes over time (see 'The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution' or economist Greg Clark's work on pre-Industrial England).

                •  You're right (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  MichaelNY

                  The differences that we see are not a surprise, but not for reasons of genetics. I believe that the differences we see in IQ test scores arise from the assumptions about intelligence that are built into IQ tests. If we had tests that measured a person's facility in discriminating figure from background in images, we'd also see group differences -- but they would not be predictive of success in academia. They'd be predictive of something else. In like fashion, if we had tests that measure the perspicacity of one's intuitive reasoning skills -- whatever that is -- we'd also get big group differences. But in the end, do any of these tests really amount to anything significant?

                  •  Those other skills (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Erasmussimo

                    that you refer to could also be due to genes or selection for different environments. Here's an example - Australian Aborigines have very good visual memory. And it turns out they have particularly large visual cortex:

                    Sherilee has an astonishingly accurate visual memory. She scores 100 per cent on tests designed to measure how much individuals can remember of what they see. The only clue to the cause of her remarkable ability is her race: she is an aborigine, and aborigines have a proven ability to remember the exact location of objects that far exceeds that of other ethnic groups. They can find their way across deserts, locate water holes and identify animal lairs with an uncanny accuracy. They also perform about 50 per cent better on visual memory tests than, for instance, Caucasians.

                    What is the aborigines’ secret? To some evolutionary psychologists, the answer is relatively straightforward. The aborigines were, for about 4,000 generations, or 80,000 years, hunter-gatherers in the deserts of Australia.

                    That is enough time for natural selection to have worked on increasing the accuracy of aborigines’ memory, because if you could not find your way through the desert, or to the waterhole, you would starve, and so would your children. In the competition to stay alive, an accurate memory would – to put it mildly – have been an advantage.

                    Are today’s aborigine children the inheritors of that process? It has certainly been speculated that their extraordinary visual memories are the result of genes selected over thousands of years by evolution.

                    By Clive Harper, a professor of pathology in Sydney, may have discovered evidence that it is more than just a theoretical possibility. He found that the visual cortex – the part of the brain used in processing and interpreting visual information – was about 25 per cent larger in aborigines than in Caucasians.

                    http://www.goldenageproject.org.uk/...

                    In terms of your question, I think that on the one hand tests and group comparisons are harmful if people are using them to put others down. In terms of social science though and understanding societal outcomes I think they clearly have some use. For example, in terms of educational outcomes should we expect all groups to have similar stats? It doesn't seem realistic. But people invariably make these comparisons and you then have to look at causation.

                    An alternative would be to not look group outcomes (eg. I understand in France they don't collect ethnic data)?

                    •  Good point (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      MichaelNY

                      I was unaware of the matter of visual memory in Australian aborigines, but it makes perfect sense to me. I certainly have no problem at all with the concepts of evolutionary psychology and the idea that human cognitive skills evolved in response to environmental challenges. My beef is with the notion that all human cognitive capability can be measured with the results of a single test.

                      I'd much prefer a test that discriminated among the various mental modules: one test for spatial reasoning, another for verbal reasoning, and so on. IQ tests already straddle these, but they amalgamate the results; I think we'd learn more if we treated them separately.

          •  True, but misleading (0+ / 0-)

            "that you know the subject so thoroughly that two ideas that look far apart to you are indistinguishable to the non-technical reader."

            That's technically true, but it is highly misleading, because it doesn't excuse your rather blatant mischaracterization of the facts.

            It's always wrong to say that "the Sun goes around the Earth" no matter how non-technical you're trying to be.

            •  Quibble away (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              MichaelNY

              You are seriously wasting electrons on a quibble over the use of the word "genetic"? And you claim that my statement, which I declared to be a "grand overstated generalization" is misleading? I'd love to see how you expand on that statement without contradicting many of your own writings.

        •  twin studies and blind from birth show (6+ / 0-)

          that behavior can indeed be completely genetic.
          Twins put up for adoption from birth show similar likes and dislikes as adults.  Blind people (from birth) show almost identical facial expressions and habits.  So genes do certainly influence behavior that has nothing to do with environmenht.

          "Attempting to debate with a person who has abandoned reason is like giving medicine to the dead." - Thomas Paine

          by liberalconservative on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 04:10:11 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  identical to their parents or siblings (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            linkage

            "Attempting to debate with a person who has abandoned reason is like giving medicine to the dead." - Thomas Paine

            by liberalconservative on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 04:10:52 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Blind Relatives Prove Facial Expr... Are Inherited (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              northsylvania, MichaelNY, FarWestGirl

              "Attempting to debate with a person who has abandoned reason is like giving medicine to the dead." - Thomas Paine

              by liberalconservative on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 09:10:14 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  Yeah, but... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              MichaelNY

              ...much of our behavior is imposed by society.

              If I separate Black male twins who grow to be deep-voiced and 6 feet tall, they will spend their lives getting treated as tall Black men get treated -- with all the cultural baggage that implies. They will show a "genetic propensity" to get frisked by police in certain neighborhoods.

              If the twins are redheaded, green-eyed females, they will get treated differently.

              15 years later, my longitudinal "study" shows that my redheads have a "like" for green sweaters and a "dislike" for occupations that involve being out in the sun all day.

              Did you know that White Males have a genetic predisposition for leadership? After all, a White Male child is much more likely to become a CEO, General, or Political Leader than a Black Female. (/snark)

              Nurture trumps nature. We know it's true, but we don't want to believe it -- because believing it means we have hard work to do. And nobody likes hard work!

              •  It's the degree that concerns us (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                FarWestGirl

                Yes, of course social factors strongly influence behavior. And genetic factors also influence behavior. The issue is, what is the degree to which genetic factors influence behavior. The best guess these days is that 50% of behavior is influenced by genetic factors. However, as I note above, this is a grand generalization that grossly oversimplifies a complicated matter.

                •  Here is where I might be having trouble. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  MichaelNY

                  It's with the "50%" figure.

                  This is an actual number that is being used to describe a qualitative condition, "behavior".

                  What does 50% mean? Does it mean that a given behavior is 50% likely to be due to a particular gene? Is it from a regression output?

                  If a kid gets sent to the principals office, are we saying that if his genes have been average (for a homo sapien) he would have had a 50% chance of not being sent?

                  I am reacting badly to this (otherwise interesting diary) because the precision of a number is being mixed with our imprecise measures of "behavior". Our dependent variable is pretty fuzzy:

                  1) That guy over there has "behavioral issues".
                  2) You have "personality traits".
                  3) But me? I got style, baby!

                  And since nobody is looking at DNA strands, we don't even have an independent variable!

                  What does the 50% mean?

                  •  Remember, it's a generalization (0+ / 0-)

                    The truth is, as I wrote, vastly more complicated. I'll repeat here a link I gave a moment ago elsewhere to an article describing genetic influences on career choices. That provides just one specific example. There are many more; hence my generalization. But each instance is different in some manner.

              •  Nurture trumps nature? (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                FarWestGirl

                MM...Prove it.

                Gene expression is limited by environmental influences....What you are talking about is changing human attributes through Pavlovian conditioning experience. Genetics affects a great deal of our human condition. Misguided interventions can in fact do more harm than good.

                Educational experience based on non-consensual behaviorism is authoritarian mind control.

                by semioticjim on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 03:36:31 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Of course Nurture trumps Nature. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  MichaelNY

                  The US has a high murder rate compared to other rich countries.

                  Do you think this is because of our genetics?

                  Maybe the geneticists can find instances where tiny, unimportant behaviors are slightly influenced by genetics. But the Big Stuff is all about what your Momma taught you...

                  •  Let's not get sloppy here (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    MichaelNY

                    To say that "nurture trumps nature" is a vague and unscientific expression. Because this subject is important, I think it important that we express ourselves carefully. FarWestGirl made some excellent suggestions regarding this; let's think in terms of "inclination to response" rather than vaguely insinuating terminology.

                  •  All behavioural traits (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    JayManHBD

                    are heritable. As Steve Pinker writes:

                    To study something scientifically, you first have to measure it, and psychologists have developed tests for many mental traits. And contrary to popular opinion, the tests work pretty well: they give a similar measurement of a person every time they are administered, and they statistically predict life outcomes like school and job performance, psychiatric diagnoses and marital stability....

                    The most prominent finding of behavioral genetics has been summarized by the psychologist Eric Turkheimer: “The nature-nurture debate is over. . . . All human behavioral traits are heritable.” By this he meant that a substantial fraction of the variation among individuals within a culture can be linked to variation in their genes. Whether you measure intelligence or personality, religiosity or political orientation, television watching or cigarette smoking, the outcome is the same. Identical twins (who share all their genes) are more similar than fraternal twins (who share half their genes that vary among people). Biological siblings (who share half those genes too) are more similar than adopted siblings (who share no more genes than do strangers). And identical twins separated at birth and raised in different adoptive homes (who share their genes but not their environments) are uncannily similar.

                  •  My wife started behaviorial training with... (0+ / 0-)

                    ..my son to clean up his room when he was a toddler and he still cannot keep his room clean and he is 19. Big stuff is heritable...your statement falls flat.

                    Educational experience based on non-consensual behaviorism is authoritarian mind control.

                    by semioticjim on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 10:23:38 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

          •  I think Flynn (?) wrote something about this (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Cedwyn, cynndara, Erasmussimo, FarWestGirl

            and pointed out that yes, genetics do play a large role in potential, but that identical twins who have been adopted into different families and then studied have not been adopted into radically different cultures. Their upbringings have been more similar than dissimilar. So it's still pretty hard to sort out.

            Okay, I'm going to have to stop commenting because I don't have time to look up my sources and link to good documentation. That above was purely from memory. If I have time tomorrow, I'll try to look it up again.

      •  I call "bulls--t". (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY
        "To boil down volumes of research into a single grand overstated generalization, about 50% of human behavior is determined by genetic factors. "
        If we take identical twins and raise one in a wealthy suburb and the other in a third-world slum, they will have very different behaviors.

        Look at all the environmental factors that have massive effects on IQ scores:

        - Pre-natal exposure to alcohol
        - Lead paint
        - Single-parent households
        - Number of books in the home
        - Hours of television watched

        Lastly, as I need you to show me the actual genetic markers. You claim to have found "genetic factors" that can account for 50% of behavior -- fine. List the actual genes and the proteins they produce along with double-blind studies documenting the "behavior" (how the F-CK do you measure "behavior"?) of the people with these genes.

        I don't think this has been done.

        •  Call it what you want (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY, FarWestGirl

          But the scientific evidence here is solid. I want to emphasize that I think that the HBDers go too far here, but there's a mountain of evidence supporting this general concept; there's also a mountain of controversy about the details.

          You ask "how do we measure behavior?" Over the decades, psychologists have devised a large number of tests of behavioral patterns, and some of these tests, after considerable refinement, have been accepted by psychologists as reliable proxies for particular behavioral traits. These tests are the instruments by which psychologists measure behavior.

          Your demand that the actual genes be identified would not be indulged by geneticists. After all, Mendel's studies of peas never identified the specific genes at work, but they definitely established the concept of heritability.

          Lastly, I suggest that providing evidence is more effective that "calling bulls--t".

          •  I need to see the genes. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MichaelNY

            Mendel's pea-plants did not teach their offspring how to behave. Humans do.

            I was once teaching a kid from a Russian family. When he did a good job, I gave him a "thumbs up" sign with my hand. He ran to his mother complaining that I had mad an obscene gesture.

            (Apparently where this family was from, the "Fonzie" thumbs- up means something different).

            Now are Russians genetically disposed to hate that gesture? If you count humans like Mendel counted peas, you would think so!

            I know that real studies use controls like separate twins, double blinds, etc. But the social/environmental effects are so powerful that there is no way that they are eliminated.

            I will admit that there must be genetic factors which influence behavior. Our brains are full of chemicals and genes produce chemicals. But 50% is pretty high.

            Here is a thought experiment. You and I are going to each pick teams for a IQ competition.

            You get to pick 1000 sets of parents, but the kids get raised in random US households, and have the commensurate chance of lead exposure, domestic violence, drugs, and Justin Bieber that all American kids have.

            I get 1000 random (lead-free, alcohol-free) babies and have them adopted by wealthy two-parent families where both parents have advanced degrees. The families will be rich enough so that one parent can devote nearly full time to child-care. These kids go to private schools with student-teacher ratios of 14:1 or better.

            Do you really think your kids (on average) will beat my kids on any test? Your only hope of wining this bet is to pick all white kids and hope the Pygmalion Effect tricks their (overworked) public school teachers into giving them extra attention.

            There are so many powerful, well-documented environmental effects that I felt compelled to use a non-scientific term (bulls--t) to describe any theory that attempts to discount 50% of them. It is on a level with saying the climate gets hotter because the sun is hotter. Maybe the sun is hotter, but the big problem is the carbon not the sun.

            In IQ, the Big Problem is environment, not whatever minor, hard-to measure, can't-even-show-me-the-gene effect that the geneticists claim to have found.

            •  I think you misunderstand (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              FarWestGirl

              what the science is saying here. First off, none of the scientists are denying the role of culture in influencing IQ scores. So pointing out that culture affects IQ scores doesn't add anything to the debate.

              The question concerns just how much genetics affects IQ scores. The rigorous question we ask is:

              "What is the numeric value of the heritability of IQ scores?"

              and the empirical evidence produces the answer "about 50%"

              plus, numerous other studies have established some correlation between IQ scores and other cognitive behavioral traits. However, I wouldn't read too much into these findings, because we're looking at a two-link chain of correlation -- not terribly reliable unless both correlation coefficients are close to 1.

              You claim that Mendel's work is not applicable here because we're talking about behavior instead of morphology. But that distinction is not the key point at issue; what's at issue is the heritability of IQ test scores, which is no different from the concept of heritability of pea traits.

              •  IQ scores aren't the same as behavior (0+ / 0-)

                So where do you get the 50% number on genetic heritability of behavior?

                Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

                by MichaelNY on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 11:39:38 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  It's a generalization (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  MichaelNY

                  As I wrote elsewhere, psychologists have developed a battery of tests that they have standardized as proxies for behavioral traits. They then statistically compare IQ test scores with results from these other tests to establish the correlation.

                  I agree that 50% sounds counterintuitively high, and I expect that this number will get scaled down with further research, but it's the best available number so far.

                  •  It seems like too neat a number (0+ / 0-)

                    to be really scientific. I mean, couldn't it be 48.560391%? And the fact that it can't be exactly quantified makes it not very hard science, right? Or am I misunderstanding something?

                    Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

                    by MichaelNY on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 12:11:34 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  it's an approximation (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      MichaelNY

                      No empirically determined number has perfect precision. The 50% figure is not meant to mean 50.0000000000%. The general rule in science is that the precision is roughly indicated by the number of significant digits. In this case, then, the statement means that the true value is somewhere between 45% and 55% -- and I suspect that even that range is too narrow.

                      •  Your dialogue is with Pavlovians.... (0+ / 0-)

                        ...ask them about the importance of rewards and punishments for children who don't do their homework.

                        Educational experience based on non-consensual behaviorism is authoritarian mind control.

                        by semioticjim on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 04:09:12 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

        •  Let's generalize to 'inclination of response' and (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY, Erasmussimo

          try working from that instead of 'behaviors'. I think that shorthand may be causing some of the difficulty here.

          Individuals have innate biases towards, say, fight or flight, and will respond to stimuli from that bias. Then experience and training is layered on top of the bias and shapes behavior. That interaction and the accretion of experience modify behaviors over time, but the initial bias remains.

          But- suites of biases will, in aggregate, tend to fall out in fairly consistent patterns, so those starting out with an identical or very similar set of genetic biases will tend to respond in ways more similar than unrelated individuals who do not share as many of the same innate biases.

          So- if you take identical twins and raise them in radically different environments, yes, you are going to have different behaviors, manners, culture, etc, but those twins will still be more likely to have the same affinities and reactions to certain types of stimuli than unrelated individuals in the same radically different environments.

          Let me change tack and give a couple of nonhuman examples. Most puppies of one of the pointer breeds will, from a very young age, 'point' when they get a nose full of bird scent. It's fascinating to watch. They stop, sniff, look puzzled, sniff again and stiffen with a front paw drawing up and holding very still while staring at the source. The pup has never seen or smelled a bird before, but they have that response to the stimulus. And the more strongly they respond, the more likely they are to be selected to breed and pass on that innate response. In cutting horses, foals as young as a couple of months will start to 'lock on' and start following or bossing cattle, dogs, ducks, children, anything that moves in certain ways. You can damn near see the 'target acquisition complete' light go on, lol. I once had a little buckskin yearling (maybe 500 lbs), that used to go to the fence line where the 2200 lb bull in the next pasture would be messing with the fence looking to get into the horse pasture. She knew he didn't belong in her pasture and damned if she was going to put up with him trying. She'd pin her little ears flat back, give him the stink eye and cut that bull up and down the fence line for five, ten minutes, sometimes more.  Until he'd give up, stick his tail in the air and pretend that he hadn't really wanted to get through that fence anyway. None of the other horses paid him any attention at all. But they weren't bred to cut, her sire was a really good cutter and enjoyed his work. She got cow sense from him.

          Wish to hell I'd had a video camera back then, it was very instructive on top of funny as hell to watch.

          Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

          by FarWestGirl on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 04:49:10 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Great comment, but a quibble (11+ / 0-)
      First, IQ tests were originally designed as measures of the efficacy of educational systems, and they predominantly reflect education.  
      True, but not true. Binet originally developed the IQ test because the French school systems were overcrowded and each school needed a way to separate those students who needed extra attention (read, special ed, which came with it's own host of issues) from those who didn't. Before the standardized IQ tests, those decisions were left to the individual teacher and school. It was never about efficacy. That is a US bastardization that occurred after WW1.

      I agree with your overall point and add this - the 'nature-nurture' question is the one philosophical question we've actually answered. And that answer is that we asked the wrong question in the wrong way. Any research psychologist worth their degree knows this. I think the disconnect is that when people hear 'genetic influence,' they think pre-determinism.

      To the diarist - great diary, and damn you for making me think about work on a Saturday:)

      The only thing harder than speaking truth to power is speaking truth to stupid.

      by themis on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 10:09:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  IQ tests were designed (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY, glorificus, FarWestGirl

      to be predictive of future success in educational systems, not reflective of the efficacy of education received-- achievement tests are designed to be reflective of the efficacy of education.  And IQ tests generally don't do too bad a job of doing that, they just don't do a perfect job of measuring the abstract concept of "intelligence".    And of course in the case of Learning Disabilities, by definition the IQ tests do not predict the actual achievement accurately (since that is basically how LD is operationally determined, a significant gap between IQ and Achievement standardized scores).  

      But basically the first biggie- the Stanford-Binet, was developed to determine/predict which children would not achieve in the regular classroom and needed special educational approaches for cognitive disability (i.e. low IQ).  

      •  I heard different. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY

        I know that the college admissions tests (not necessarily IQ tests) were designed to weed out people who were racially/culturally dissimilar from the ruling class.

        Originally they targeted Jews.

        I have the same suspicion of IQ tests. If I can classify someone as mentally inferior, I can gain all sorts of moral authority to deprive them of political, economic, and social power. The stakes for these tests are high.

        Given these high stakes, I find it difficult to believe that any test designer would not design the test to that he (and people like him) scored at the top.

        •  history lesson: (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY, Erasmussimo

          Alfred Binet-Wiki

          Alfred Binet (July 11, 1857 – October 18, 1911) was a French psychologist who invented the first usable intelligence test, known at the time as the Binet test and today referred to as the IQ test.[2] His principal goal was to identify students who needed special help in coping with the school curriculum. Along with his collaborator Théodore Simon, Binet published revisions of his intelligence scale in 1908 and 1911, the last appearing just before his death.
          And in reality, it may be hard to assess whether more good has been done than bad with IQ tests.  Without them, you are left with the individual prejudices of the child's teacher to determine who needs special instructional methods and an alternative curriculum.  With them you have false positives (misdiagnosis), racial/cultural bias, etc.   But the original intent of Binet was to help children who could not function in the regular classroom be identified so they could receive more appropriate instruction.  And at the more extreme levels of IQ, it is pretty plain to see that this is an appropriate goal--someone who has an IQ of 45 needs special education and in our country an Individualized Education Plan.  That plan should include inclusion with typical children as much as possible, but it is clear that someone with Down syndrome and an IQ of 40 doesn't need to be sitting in regular high school chemistry/algebra etc classes all day long, there are other things they need to be learning to function in the community.  And that same person with Down syndrome with an IQ of 58 should not be left out of a reading curriculum as I've seen done, because they are capable of learning some basic reading skills most of the time.   To ascribe some malicious intent to the developers is inaccurate, and I might say of the paranoid school of thought.  

          A good school psychologist is trained to select, administer,  and interpret tests in light of cultural/linguistic/ethnic issues.  That doesn't mean it is always going to happen.  IQ tests are a useful tool, we just need to be vigilant in how they are used.  

        •  Weed people out? (0+ / 0-)

          Except that Ashkenazi Jews have always had the highest average IQ scores (see 'A Natural History of Ashkenazi Intelligence' 2006). Similarly, East Asians outperform Europeans on average.

          The tests also have various neurobiological correlates (see Paul Thompson & Jeremy Gray's 2004 article in Nature on the Neurobiological Basis of Intelligence).

    •  interactions among genes and environment (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY

      Is this the science of epigenetics?

      •  Not in this context. Epigenetics is where the (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY

        physical environment affects how genes, (of many types), express in an individual. Such as- variations in prenatal testosterone exposure can affect the ring finger to index finger length ratio. Sometimes those effects can be passed down to offspring, but often they're just expressed in the one person.

        What they're taking about here is totally different, how an individual's genes affect their behavior and how much of someone's behavior is affected by their individual genetic makeup. :-)

        Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

        by FarWestGirl on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 04:59:14 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Population changes in quantitative traits (0+ / 0-)

      Different environments (physical and cultural) may favor different physical and behavioural traits over time. I'm not sure why this is surprising?

      In fact, Bruce Lahn & Lanny Ebenstein had an article in Nature in 2009 suggesting we should "Celebrate Human Genetic Diversity". Similarly, Professor Jonathan Haidt has pointed out in Edge that recent evidence of accelerate human evolution with the advent of agriculture would lead to greater ethnic differences. Professor Robert Weinberg has pointed to this in his final lecture in Biology 7.012 at MIT.

      These differences are statistical and don't imply much about individuals, but they do suggest that populations are likely to differ on average. This has implications in terms of educational results for instance, East Asians are likely to continue to do well academically.

    •  Environmental influences (0+ / 0-)

      The behavioural geneticist David C Rowe looked at whether there was some special x factor that made scores in some groups lower. He couldn't find one. Also, heritability seems about the same across groups. When you control for socio-economic factors there are still average group differences.

      I'm surprised it's being suggested that HBD in terms of IQ is somehow fringe. The Snyderman & Rothman survey found that of 661 researchers only 15% thought group differences were purely environmental. A far greater percentage (45%) considered them to be the result of genetic and environmental factors.

      •  There's a difference (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY

        between accepting
        1) the truth that inclinations to certain behaviors are the result of both genetic and environmental factors

        and

        2) the claim that there are general and fundamental differences in intelligence between different racial groups.

        In order for the second claim to be supported, it is necessary to come up with a definition of intelligence that addresses all forms of human behavior. No such definition exists, and IQ tests most certainly do not come remotely close to any such thing.

        •  Researchers look at general intelligence or g (0+ / 0-)

          This is a complex heritable trait similar to height. The definition or methods of determining g seem to work pretty well (see Hsu's presentation).

          As noted here by Hsu:

          Even with only a fraction of total additive variance identified, one can still make estimates of breeding value for groups by simply computing the prevalence of known associated loci in each group. How indicative these (large effect/MAF) loci are of the actual breeding values can't be answered a priori, but I would bet they are a good indicator, and this seems to be the case for height.

          3. If the results on selection hold up this will be clear evidence for differential selection between groups of a quantitative trait (as opposed to lactose or altitude tolerance, which are controlled by small sets of loci). We may soon be able to conclude that there has been enough evolutionary time for selection to work within European populations on a trait that is controlled by hundreds (probably thousands) of loci.

          4. With luck we might get to this level of analysis for g in the next 5-10 years. (I originally wrote 3-5 years but one of my more sober collaborators convinced me that would be quite unlikely!)

          5. Understanding the evolution and distribution of quantitative traits like height and g at this level is an important milestone in scientific history.

          •  Careful! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MichaelNY

            Josh, I agree that g has a solid definition and that we have good values of g for various groups. I further agree that g is correlated with SOME other behavioral traits, and that it is predictive of academic and financial success in Western societies. But the interpretation of g is fraught with difficulties that fall far beyond the scope of the simplistic mathematical analyses that have been achieved so far.

            As I have pointed out numerous times, there are many important cognitive inclinations to behavior that are not addressed by g. To list just a few: skill at mothering, intuitive reasoning, social reasoning, empathy... And how about wisdom? Creativity? Judgement? Are these mental traits measured by IQ tests? Are they significant to an understanding of human mentation?

            As I have mentioned before, I agree that there is a mental process that might be called a generalized cognitive skill, but I do not believe that it comes close to spanning the range of cognitive behaviors, nor do I believe that it is large.

            Human cognitive performance is multi-dimensional and any factor analysis that reduces it to a single dimension (such as g) necessarily throws away much information about that performance.

    •  IQ is similar in heritability to height (0+ / 0-)

      The genetic component is approximately linear in effect (additive heritability .6 out of .8 total) - see BGI presentation or GWAS studies.

      And like height you could compare frequencies of alleles relevant to traits across groups?

    •  Great Rebuttal (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY

      This is a pretty good response to the article, and touches well on the wrong-headedness of the author's statements, particularly the statement "about 50% of human behavior is determined by genetic factors," which is incoherent.

      (Of course, a more accurate thing to say that >50% of the variance in human behavioral traits is due to heritable factors, at least when a certain level of background environmental variation is considered).

      My blog:

      JayMan's Blog

      •  Perhaps you didn't read the article (0+ / 0-)

        Here's the part that you say is wrong-headed:

        "To boil down volumes of research into a single grand overstated generalization, about 50% of human behavior is determined by genetic factors. Obviously, this statement fails to include a great many intricacies, qualifiers, and exceptions, but for the purposes of this short essay, it's adequate; an explanation of all those intricacies, qualifiers, and exceptions would drag on for hundreds of pages."

        Now, please tell me how this overall statement is wrongheaded?

        •  Read the post... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY

          I already did.

          One time, I will repeat:

          "Of course, a more accurate thing to say that >50% of the variance in human behavioral traits is due to heritable factors, at least when a certain level of background environmental variation is considered."

          What I said is profoundly different from what you said (which is nonsensical).

          Visit my blog:

          JayMan's Blog

  •  I'm not a scientist. (17+ / 0-)

    I always meant to read the Pinker book, but it's gathering dust in a pile of other good reads I haven't gotten to.

    Your essay is very interesting and certainly it's good as a lay person to know in advance about the next political distortion of science I'm likely to encounter. But I must question an example you used:

    The cognitive talents that make a great violinist are in no wise comparable with the cognitive talents that make a great mathematician.
    In fact you have stumbled upon two fields that do seem to have a cognitive connection: mathematics and music. I'm not talking about the "play Mozart for your kid and s/he'll do better at math" stuff, but rather that there is a relationship between inborn mathematical talent and inborn musical ability. This little article seems to point towards that.

     They seem much more closely related than, say, inborn linguistic (multilingual) talent and inborn math talent, to pick a random example.

    "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."........ "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." (yeah, same guy.)

    by sidnora on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 10:45:45 AM PST

  •  I recall a researcher (27+ / 0-)

    administered some pictorial version of an IQ test to some African tribespeople and initially got poor results - instead of grouping like items together they would match a tool with the object the tool would be applied to, etc.  After some discussion one said, "Oh! You want us to group things as a fool would do, not as a wise person".

  •  So, can we empirically say that the HBD crowd (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    themis, mwm341, kaliope, glorificus

    are just the KKK in Armani suits?

    Never heard of "HBD" before, I guess it's just another pseudo-scientific bastardization of real academia being pushed as something worth the electrons it takes to light up my screen.  What a shame; it's probably going to get funded by those morons on the House Science Committee now or some other depressing thing like that.

    Thanks for the diary!  Interesting and informative.

    A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward fanaticism. -Carl Sagan

    by jo fish on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 01:14:53 PM PST

    •  Not quite KKK (8+ / 0-)

      Remember, I'm talking only about the "dark side" of HBD; there are some people on the "bright side" who are more interested in science than prejudice. I think that a more precise way of saying it is that there are racists riding on the coattails of HBD.

    •  Can HBD be useful? (0+ / 0-)

      As noted understanding HBD, or ethnic differences, has benefit in medical research. But there are also social questions asked, such as why do groups perform differently academically on average. If society wants to look at those questions then doesn't HBD need to be factored in and investigated? Peter Singer has written about this in a Darwinian Left for instance.

      •  The "Dark Side" of HBD (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY

        As I pointed out in the original post, work in HBD covers a broad range of topics. At one end of the range there is plenty of solid scientific work. However, HBD also has a "dark side" in which racists hijack the science to advance their racist beliefs. I think that the clearest defining trait of such "subverted science" is the emphasis on IQ as a measure of general intelligence that can be used to differentiate between races.

        •  Group inequality demands (0+ / 0-)

          that people look at though doesn't it? Particularly, if inequality is going to be blamed on others or unfair institutions? For example, if people point to a lack of some groups in colleges like MIT or Oxford and say that's evidence of discrimination or unfairness, you need to look at the causes?

          Linda Gottfredson discusses these dilemmas in various multicultural societies.

          Gottfredson, L. S. (2005).Implications of cognitive differences for schooling within diverse societies.Pages 517-554 in C. L. Frisby & C. R. Reynolds (Eds.), Comprehensive Handbook of Multicultural School Psychology. New York: Wiley.

          Gottfredson, L. S. (2006). Social consequences of group differences in cognitive ability (Consequencias sociais das diferencas de grupo em habilidade cognitiva). In C. E. Flores-Mendoza & R. Colom (Eds.), Introducau a psicologia das diferencas individuais (pp. 433-456). Porto Allegre, Brazil: ArtMed Publishers.

          •  So what you're saying is (0+ / 0-)

            universities properly discriminate against blacks because they are less intelligent as a group, right? And you're putting a veneer of alleged science over that. This is exactly what Erasmussimo is calling the new style of psuedo-scientific racism.

            Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

            by MichaelNY on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 02:50:23 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  That's a second-order issue (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MichaelNY

            The many tests on IQ clearly show strong environmental influences. Yes, you can control for these influences to show a remanent non-environmental factor, but let's not forget that the environmental influences are still greater in magnitude. If we truly are concerned about optimizing societal performance, then is it not obvious that we should address the largest problems first? If you wish to use IQ test scores to inform policy making, then the most important conclusion you can draw is that every child should enjoy the same environmental benefits as those that have been shown to produce maximum IQ test scores. Quibbling about admissions policies is a waste of energy, either way.

  •  Map of Ethnic Diversity of World.. (7+ / 0-)

    Getting genotype diversity mapping is a chore but this makes for a fine proxy.

    Note: Where ethnic diversity AIN'T: Not so much in Europe.

    In point of fact, I'd say HBDchick's tee-up comments slamming Arabs and Chinese equally slam Europeans.

    Odd, how South Asia (high level of cousin marriage, per HBDchick) is in fact quite biodiverse. What's up with that oversight?

    And I saw few if any comments cheering on the success of democracy in biodiverse Africa.

    Funny how eurocentrism can up an ruin a party like that.

    In fact, I see little or no correlation between this map and where democracies are and are not. Perhaps conservatives shouldn't talk science, not ever again.

    •  What Is an Ethnos, Though? (5+ / 0-)

      I see that the former states of Yugoslavia have higher "ethnic" diversity. But the population is almost entirely white -- and the ethnic groups there, though maybe "diverse" are very closely related. I guess the Albanian population is the exception. Ethnos is a cultural, rather than biological term.

      Is this supposed to reflect genetic diversity?

      "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

      by bink on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 05:07:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  not what I said. (0+ / 0-)

      @cskendrick - "Odd, how South Asia (high level of cousin marriage, per HBDchick) is in fact quite biodiverse. What's up with that oversight?  And I saw few if any comments cheering on the success of democracy in biodiverse Africa....  In fact, I see little or no correlation between this map and where democracies are and are not. Perhaps conservatives shouldn't talk science, not ever again."

      but i've never said that cousin marriage≠ethnic diversity or that ethnic diversity=successful democracy.  i don't know where you're getting that from.  i'm sorry, but you've seriously misunderstood me.

      try this.

  •  There is an easy argument to make (6+ / 0-)

    If someone believes in that stuff, they also have to admit that there is a wide, overlapping range of actual results.  That means that if they haven't taken an IQ test recently it is possible that they are on the low end of white intelligence.  The level of African American intelligence above them may be fairly significant.  If they are racist that should make them uncomfortable.

  •  The Mismeasure of Man (17+ / 0-)

    Stephen J. Gould's book The Mismeasure of Man is still the best history of intentional and unintentional bias in IQ testing ("Man" in the title was a choice Gould made to underscore the bias against women in IQ tests).

    One question Gould asks is Do we really think the multifoliate richness of human intelligence can be reduced to a single number?

  •  And... (11+ / 0-)

    As Dobzhansky pointed out long ago, the mean of a population does not tell you what any individual can or cannot do -- it simply gives you a probability.  While there are numerous methodological issues with the entire subject of race-based estimates of intelligence and capability, the most profound I think is simply this: to deny a person opportunity based on the expectations for the classification to which they belong is unfair and a lie,  based and on a lack of numeracy and failure to understand the nature of genetic distributions.

    We legislate issues like affirmative action because of prejudice directed at classes of people.  There is still in every case the requirement that the person both meet the stated qualifications for the position and overcome the implicit biases of the person or group accepting or hiring applicants, that is, they must still demonstrate individual capabilities specific to the situation (plus more).  Even if everything the race and IQ crowd said were true (which is extraordinarily unlikely for many excellent reasons), it would have NOTHING to do with how an individual, who can fall anywhere along such a distribution, might score, how well he or she would perform, or what their individual capabilities are.  Implicit in all arguments about race or gender and IQ or skill strengths is the fallacy that the mean of a distribution should be applied to opportunities offered to individuals, who could lie anywhere along that distribution.  It is an argument that would be rejected out of hand for other kinds of categories, but the racists and sexists seem to ignore this happily, and embrace the fallacy.  Their eagerness is an argument by itself.

    ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

    by jessical on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 01:49:51 PM PST

  •  The shortcoming present in discussions of race/IQ (10+ / 0-)

    most commonly is the failure to properly define the construct of race prior to addressing the relationship between race and IQ.

    Data from many sources have shown that humans are genetically homogeneous and that genetic variation tends to be shared widely among populations. Genetic variation is geographically structured, as expected from the partial isolation of human populations during much of their history. Because traditional concepts of race are in turn correlated with geography, it is inaccurate to state that race is "biologically meaningless." On the other hand, because they have been only partially isolated, human populations are seldom demarcated by precise genetic boundaries. Substantial overlap can therefore occur between populations, invalidating the concept that populations (or races) are discrete types.
    The reason I selected and highlighted this particular argument from an article in Nature Genetics is that while there is genetic homogeneity based on geography, this finding is not applicable to the US. We are not now, nor have we truly ever been a country that was geographically isolated in the history of the world as were Europe, Asia or Africa where it is at least a plausible argument to search for distinctions in IQ based on race. The legacy of slavery as well as the more voluntary immigration patterns that have shaped the US mean that it is quite unlikely that the US has the clearly demarcated genetic boundaries that would underlie relevant racial distinctions for IQ.

    Genetic variation, classification and 'race'

    Nature Genetics, 36, S28 - S33 (2004)  
    Jorde and Wooding,

    It's the Central Limit Theorem, Stupid!

    by smartdemmg on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 02:07:01 PM PST

    •  An interesting argument... (4+ / 0-)

      ...though both the rate and nature of such boundaries seems likely to me to be difficult to predict.   As does total confusion about what we are measuring as IQ and a depth of confounding variables.   Depending on immigration date, non-indigenous people here are in F10 or less, and there's some fixed rate of blend...one could do the math based on various pictures of what the genetics might be ( along differential equation changing with what genetic mechanism you posit)  but with everything confounding it, I can't see how it would be meaningful.  A racist could still argue for linked alleles or expression mechanisms which serve their hypothesis, and since their measure of "intelligence" is basically mush, in a soup of culture, they will fish out the stinky bit they want so badly.

      We don't seem to be able to differentiate, as a society,  between genetically meaningless and meaningless in terms of social interactions, individual brilliance, civil rights and everything else.   It could easily turn out in the long run that groups which are heavily disadvantaged in some way by  scarcity are actually much smarter, on the average, than groups which have relative abundance.  Or that white people do indeed have a unique and profound social marker, for prevalence of sociopathy.   If one wants to study speciation, beetles or birds seem like a much better bet.

      ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

      by jessical on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 02:42:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  One need only remember (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY

      the "black" descendants of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, finally acknowledged just in the last two decades.

    •  On that basis species don't exist either (0+ / 0-)

      after all, they aren't discrete types. That is basically a strawman that Dobzhansky addressed decades ago (see Sesardic 2010).

      In fact you get pretty clear clusters in the US and accordingly, there is potential that genes relating to traits may occur in different frequencies across those groups.

  •  Your diary is interesting (7+ / 0-)

    And I will rec and tip it, but with a pretty large misgiving, and it's here:

    If solid evidence arises that blacks are cognitively less capable than whites, then I shall accept the hypothesis and move on to asking how we reconcile scientific conclusions with political theory.
    We differ here. Any time there's a claim that people of color are inherently less intelligent than white people, I assume bias in the design of the study or/and someone's interpretation of it. Imagine the alternative: Do you think Americans would readily embrace claims that scientists had discovered black folks are inherently more intelligence than white folks? Such claims are pretty unthinkable, right? So why should the converse be any more acceptable to anyone? It is certainly possible that a greater level of exposure to lead in childhood or other environmental factors could lead to a lessening of intelligence among more black than white children in the US, but that's not at all the same as a deficit of inherent intelligence, however one defines that.

    Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

    by MichaelNY on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 02:21:32 PM PST

    •  Politics versus Science (6+ / 0-)

      MichaelNY, I am willing to go where ever the data takes me. I agree with you that any outcome that declares blacks to be "inferior" to whites would be highly suspect, and I would attend such a result with extreme skepticism. However, in the highly unlikely case that such a result were confirmed by rigorous peer review, then I would hoist up my pants, take a deep breath, and ask myself, "What the hell do we do now?" I emphasize that I'm talking hypothetically; I very much doubt that I'll ever face such an unhappy situation. But my sense of intellectual integrity demands that I subordinate my personal preferences to the truth, however much I may dislike it. In like fashion, should evidence refuting the science behind anthropogenic climate change were to appear, and the evidence was found to be solid, I'd have to let go of many of my beliefs, but I'd do it. That's the difference between me and the deniers.

      •  What would it matter? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY, atana, worldlotus

        ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

        by jessical on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 02:48:46 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  sorry didn't finish the comment (5+ / 0-)

          ...to extend it, soon, barring social meltdown,  we'll be able to know if you and your heirs are going to be predisposed to be smart, at what, and how those characteristics will propagate (and with whom).  This information will follow you almost as completely as skin color does now.  Whether the racists are right in positing some broad mean difference in  an ill-measured variable (IQ) over a handful of phenotypic markers (race), we will soon know, with much more likelihood of being correct, some important genetic components of ability for your social security number and that of your children and close relatives.  

          And given that, what are the political and human rights implications?  I'd argue that it is a moral choice based on what being a homo sap is, what we are willing to broadly extend our fellows.  

          ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

          by jessical on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 02:56:05 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Global warming (5+ / 0-)

        Yes, if it were convincingly proven that global warming is not caused by release of hydrocarbons, etc., I would accept that. But the record of racist pseudo-science is so long that, to borrow a legal term, it deserves "strict scrutiny," at the very least.

        So again, I tip your erudite remark, but I'm sure you'd agree that in evaluating claims based on IQ and similar measures of intelligence, we need to keep in mind the ugly history of eugenics, racism, and sexism and not look only to the present and future in evaluating even seemingly scientific claims about inherent intelligence of non-whites.

        Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

        by MichaelNY on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 03:02:49 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Absolutely! (6+ / 0-)

          Yes, the long history of racist misuse of science demonstrates a strong proclivity in that direction. More alarmingly, the HBDers occasionally slip and reveal their inherent racism. For example, in one conversation I had with one of these people over IQ scores, he described the results as demonstrating that whites are "superior" to blacks in intelligence. No real scientist would phrase such a concept in so judgemental a manner; instead, the phrase would be something like "higher mean test scores" that closely represents the actual data. By making the leap from numbers to "mental superiority", they show their true stripes.

          Another indicator is their short tempers. They do NOT like being contradicted; they regard honest disagreement as merely a form of trollery.

          •  It seems that the HBD racists are still using the (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MichaelNY, Andrew F Cockburn

            "ladder of progress" as a conceptual model, even though science has rejected that notion for over a century; it's a philosophical/theological construct that's proven useless in explaining the diversity of nature.

            Writing in all lower-case letters should be a capital offense

            by ebohlman on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 04:48:30 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, but at what point do we determine (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY

        that we've reached Eureka! "The Truth," final for all times?

        With so many variables to run through, and so much politically racist hanky-panky to combat, realistically, Erasmussimo, you'll never get there. Nor will any of us commenting. Nor will anyone ever. We live on a dying earth, and we as a species will not survive our ecological-biological-intellectual ignorance.

      •  There is almost certainly... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY

        ... a genetic component to mental ability. But so what?

        The problem is that we have no clue how to accurately measure mental ability.

        Even if we have an accurate measurement, we don't know why the numbers are different. If a Black kid scores high on a test is is because:

        - He didn't have lead paint in his house
        - His mom didn't drink?
        - His dad is still with his mom?
        - Both his parents have doctorates and they played Mozart in his crib?

        ...or is it because of a particular gene he inherited from some wise Cro-Magnon shaman who lived in 2,500 BC?  If so, which gene?

        Scientists like to do Science and they will spend decades figuring this stuff out. Maybe there is something there.

        But for now, we need to work on getting the lead out of these ghetto houses and encouraging two-parent families. We need to keep pregnant women away from alcohol and we need to make sure that Moms and Dads can (and do) provide safety, food, shelter and love for the kids.

        That stuff will get as a good 15-20 IQ points right there!

        •  I agree (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY

          Yes, we surely do not know enough about human intelligence to start basing any policy on it. And we do know enough about what cripples human intelligence to make policy decisions to improve pre- and post-natal environments for children. Me, I'd like to have automatic free health insurance for everybody under 18 -- why should their health depend on their parents' wealth?

          But we should definitely continue this line of research. Someday it might yield results that can be usefully translated into policy, and for now, it is certainly shedding some light on human cognition.

    •  extraordinary claims (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mwm341, Andrew F Cockburn

      require extraordinary evidence.

      Claiming that whites have some intrinsic mental advantage would be an extraordinary claim, and lacking extraordinary evidence, should be rejected.

      But if by some chance such extraordinary evidence became available, the claim would stand.

      Ditto for men vs. women and a host of other putative divisions.

      •  I literally cannot imagine such extraordinary (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JMcDonald

        evidence, and I don't think anyone should be contemplating it.

        Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

        by MichaelNY on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 03:41:43 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  understandable (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY, cynndara, dragonlady

          It would be pretty low on my research priorities as well.

          But there are known differences among groups for things such as lactose intolerance, celiac disease, sickle cell anemia, Tay Sacks, etc., so it's not completely far fetched that there might be differences among groups in something such as mitochondrial efficiency, that might affect some areas of intelligence.  Having said that, I would not hold my breath.

      •  Nobody understands statistics (4+ / 0-)

        That hypothetical extraordinary evidence, if found, would not mean what people would think it meant.

        A difference in mean test scores would still mean that the group with lower average scores would produce geniuses, just not as many. Would also mean that almost any person in the group with higher scores would be outclassed by many from the other group.

        •  It would mean that (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cynndara

          if you believe test scores demonstrate much more than ability to take such a test.

          Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

          by MichaelNY on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 06:37:05 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  what does the research show about that? n/t (0+ / 0-)

            "I have more than two prablems" - The Coach Z

            by AaronInSanDiego on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 07:55:37 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Please expand on your question (0+ / 0-)

              I can't figure out what you're referring to.

              •  I was referring to Michael's comment. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                cynndara

                Rather than looking at a persons belief about it, I'm wondering whether research indicates that test scores demonstrate more than the ability to take such a test.

                "I have more than two prablems" - The Coach Z

                by AaronInSanDiego on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 08:07:39 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Somewhat... (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  MichaelNY, ManhattanMan

                  IQ scores are well-correlated with academic performance and lifetime income. Many other correlations have been found, but these correlations are weaker, subject to greater variation, and more easily challenged due to other factors. For example, there's a correlation between IQ scores and mathematical talent; there is also a correlation between mathematical talent and musical talent. Some people therefore claim that there's a correlation between IQ scores and musical talent. The problem with that reasoning is that the correlation is being extended over two steps, which weakens the net correlation. I myself don't think that the evidence is convincing, but some people do.

        •  true, but... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY, jessical, cynndara

          If you're given two normal distributions, with the mean of one even moderately above that of the other, the ratios between them at the extremes (both high and low) can be quite large.

          E.g., say you could split the U.S. into two even groups, each normally distributed for some property, but with the mean of one a full SD higher.

          Then about 1 in 3 million of the people from the higher distribution would be +5 SD within their distribution, or about 50 such individuals  (150M / 3M).

          But people from the other distribution would need to be +6 SD for their group to reach the same score.  And that would have a frequency of only 1 in a billion, so you'd expect to find none in that population (150M / 1000M).

          A similar thing can happen if the means are the same but there is more variance.  E.g., if men tended to have a higher variance on intelligence than women, then even if the two groups had the same mean, you'd expect to see many more male geniuses and also many more severely handicapped males.

          All of which ignores the problem that "races" are largely fictional, since everyone is a bit of a mix, and even things such as male/female show a bit of a continuum, so it's not always clear how to even decide on the independent parameters that would give you distinct populations.

    •  As a matter of fact, whites are not on top (7+ / 0-)

      Consistently, East Asians average higher IQ scores than whites.

      The policy response has not been to set up separate drinking fountains for whites and for Asians, or to defund white schools, or to dismiss white poverty as inevitable.

      The same wisdom should be applied if the bell curve for some other ethnic group peaks lower than it does for whites.

    •  Standardized psychometric testing is simply... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY

      ...culturally biased and there are powerful interests entrenched in their positions who will not admit it.

      Educational experience based on non-consensual behaviorism is authoritarian mind control.

      by semioticjim on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 04:53:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  An absolutely superb diary about an incredibly (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Andrew F Cockburn

    sensitive subject. I have read a good deal of the work on both sides of this issue, from Lynn to Lewontin, and find myself in a frustrating state of indecision. I believe that phenomena such as the Flynn effect show that there is a clear link between environment and IQ, and I believe that the more subtle effects of racism in our culture have a huge effect on human performance.

    I would disagree somewhat with your statement that a single measure of human intellectual performance is inadequate. It seems to me as though IQ is linked to so many positive outcomes that it is difficult to dismiss the idea of "Spearman's g factor," a single measure of human intelligence.

    •  How do you deal with the history of bias (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      atana, kaliope, elginblt, cynndara

      in testing results vis and vis women, for example? I find the idea that IQ is some kind of unimpeachable standard bizarre. Multiple intelligences is a concept that makes a heck of a lot more sense to me than the idea that matching a bunch of shapes demonstrates much. Maybe it's particularly important for measuring skill in skills like engineering; that possibility always exists.

      Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

      by MichaelNY on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 03:06:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Moreover (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY, kaliope, elginblt, cynndara

        multiple intelligences is more consistent with the foundation of evolutionary psychology than single intelligence. It's really difficult for me to imagine an evolutionary force that selected for "general intelligence".

        •  The correlation is thought-provoking though (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY

          Subject to all the myriad limitations on the meaning of correlations, they can suggest further research.

          Your point is solid: why should there be a correlation between scores on different kinds of intelligence?

        •  reply (0+ / 0-)

          Evolution is all about adapting to new environments so a general intelligence would be infinitely more useful over the long run, then specific talents useful in only specific situations.

          •  You misconstrue evolutionary processes (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MichaelNY

            At no point did any gene or nature say, "Gosh, humans would be better off if that a single intelligence that could solve any old problem." Evolution doesn't work that way. Instead, a specific environmental challenge creates an opportunity for those who just happen to have a trait that handles the challenge to expand their place in the gene pool. Except for spandrels, it's ALWAYS a matter of response to a challenge.

            The substance of evolutionary psychology is that the brain evolved in response to specific environmental challenges by recruiting existing abilities and specializing them to cope with those challenges. Your claims are in violation of evolutionary psychology.

            •  Environments change (0+ / 0-)

              Someone with exceptional ability to adapt to rapidly to changing situations and circumstances would be more successful than someone who is cognitively specialized (on average).  Idiot savants are a good example.  Despite being super geniuses in specific domains (music, art) they can virtually never earn a living, even in their specific domain, let alone get rich.  

              Specific abilities would get highly selected in specific environments, but once the environment changes they would become unselected or even negatively selected.  By contrast general abilities would be slightly selected in every environment, and slow and steady wins the race.

              •  They don't change so rapidly that (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                MichaelNY

                the ability to cook up solutions on a moment's notice can be important. Remember, humans developed culture as a way to more quickly respond to environmental challenges, and culture handles that job rather nicely. Moreover, humans developed a crucial behavioral trait: play. Play is to behavior as genetic mutations are to evolution. It's a form of random behavior that explores many possibilities, occasionally hitting on something useful. You don't have to be smart to play well, you have to be playful. Have IQ tests been correlated with playfulness? I suspect that any such attempt would founder on the definition of playfulness.

                The kind of selection effect you propose would require an environment changing too rapidly for cultural response; that situation obtains only in the last few decades in the West.

                •  Play would probably be likely to result in lowered (0+ / 0-)

                  IQ scores, because by playing with the test-giver, you'd be likely to give "wrong" answers.

                  Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

                  by MichaelNY on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 02:07:42 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                •  You're missing my point (0+ / 0-)

                  Any time a specific type of problem solving evolves (i.e. spatial problem solving), it's going to consist of both specific functions (spatial visualization) and general functions (logic, reasoning).  Both the specific and general abilities will increase to maximize spatial problem solving.  However when the environment changes, and suddenly social skills become important, once again both specific abilities get selected (empathy) and general functions (applying that empathy logically).  So over a wide range of environments over millions and millions of years, the specific abilities cancel each-other out, while the general abilities keep getting repeatedly selected.  

                  •  That's not how evolution works (0+ / 0-)

                    There's absolutely zero benefit for any evolutionary development to have general functions. There is ALMOST never any completely new environmental challenge that has nothing to do with anything that the creature has ever experienced before. The great majority of environmental challenges can be somehow addressed with an existing trait, albeit poorly. Sometimes a merely analogous trait is recruited to address a completely new challenge; the classic example of this is the recruitment of bones in the fish jaw to a completely new use in the structures of the ear.

                    A generalized capability requires more metabolic resources than a dedicated capability; that requirement has negative survival benefits for the organism.

                    Other than homo sapiens, there is no history of any organism developing generalized cognitive capabilities in response to selection pressures. In man, my own belief is that what generalized thinking processes we do possess are derived from the unification of separate mental modules by language.

                    •  adaptations (0+ / 0-)

                      Other than homo sapiens, there is no history of any organism developing generalized cognitive capabilities in response to selection pressures.

                      Virtually every animal has the cognitive ability to learn.  What could be more general than that?  Primitive organisms rely on specialized instinct (fly South in the winter) but more advanced organisms can change their behavior in response to novel stimuli.

                      Evolution is all about adaptability.  Primitive organisms adapt genetically by having such a short life cycle their gene pools evolve in a single century, but complex animals like humans who live almost a century don't have that option so we adapt by altering our behavior to take advantage of changes in our environments (intelligence is just whatever mental abilities mediate that process).  

                      Humans requires so many different mental skills (spatial IQ for tool use, linguistic IQ for culture, social IQ for attracting mates and achieving wealth/status) that it would be metabolically expensive indeed to evolve entirely separate cognitive systems for each of them, especially when some are of vacillating importance.  Much more efficient to evolve general capacities like abstract thinking that can be applied to specific problems.

                      Lower life forms like bacteria survive by adapting their gene pools, chameleons survive by adapting their skin color and humans survive by adapting our behavior.

                      •  Post-facto argument (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        MichaelNY

                        You write:

                        Humans requires so many different mental skills (spatial IQ for tool use, linguistic IQ for culture, social IQ for attracting mates and achieving wealth/status) that it would be metabolically expensive indeed to evolve entirely separate cognitive systems for each of them, especially when some are of vacillating importance.  Much more efficient to evolve general capacities like abstract thinking that can be applied to specific problems.

                        The problem with that reasoning is that it applies after the fact. Yes, the hodgepodge of mental modules in the human mind is a mess and it would all be so much more efficient if it were instead one big general-purpose computer. But at any given point in the phylogeny of the human brain, there was no "grand strategy"; there was just "this problem right now". At no point was there selective benefit in replacing a dedicated module with a more generalized system.

                        Perhaps the best evidence of the modularity of the human mind is the fact that none of us know what's really going on inside our heads; that portion of ourselves that we are consciously aware of is time and again shown to be just a small part of our overall mentation.

                        •  no need to invoke grand strategies (0+ / 0-)

                          The problem with that reasoning is that it applies after the fact. Yes, the hodgepodge of mental modules in the human mind is a mess and it would all be so much more efficient if it were instead one big general-purpose computer. But at any given point in the phylogeny of the human brain, there was no "grand strategy"; there was just "this problem right now".

                          You don't need a grand strategy.  Let's say two individuals are competing.  One (who by chance genetic variation) was born super talented in several specific domains, and the other (by some freak genetic mutation) was born super talented in general intelligence.  Both individuals will be equally successful in solving the problems of their immediate surrounding, but the domain general brain (being less metabolically expensive) will probably have more surviving offspring because he (and his offspring) require less calories.  And if the environment changes in a few generations, the offspring of the domain generalist will be better able to adapt.  

                          •  Key assumption (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            MichaelNY

                            You assume that the amount of general intelligence required to solve a specific problem is less than the amount of dedicated intelligence required to solve the same problem. That's backwards. Generalized solutions are always bigger than dedicated solutions. A CPU chip that can carry out 8-bit integer arithmetic requires more silicon than a dedicated ALU. Computer programmers know well that a dedicated chunk of code will be faster and smaller than a general solution, but that the general solution is more readily adaptable to changing requirements, so they often go to the extra work to build the general solution. Of course, genes can't anticipate the future as programmers do.

                            The same thing applies in the biological world. The koala has a highly specialized metabolism that enables it to survive on eucalyptus leaves. If you tried to make a "general-purpose koala" that could prosper on grass as well as eucalyptus leaves, it simply wouldn't work.

                            Anatomically, the liver and the kidneys both serve to remove waste products from the blood. Why isn't there one general-purpose blood-cleansing organ? Because the two organs operate on different basic chemistries. Two specialized organs outperform one general-purpose organ.

                            And although I'm sure you've used a screwdriver as a hole punch or crowbar, I'm sure you appreciate the superiority of dedicated tools.

                          •  general vs dedicated (0+ / 0-)

                            You assume that the amount of general intelligence required to solve a specific problem is less than the amount of dedicated intelligence required to solve the same problem. That's backwards. Generalized solutions are always bigger than dedicated solutions

                            But the reality is in any complex environment you would need multiple dedicated talents.  For example humans need social IQ to get along with others, spatial IQ to drive to work, math IQ to manage our money, verbal IQ to communicate etc.  Much more efficient for an organism in any complex dynamic environment to just evolve general IQ.  So while a single general IQ may be metabolically more expensive than a single specific IQ, it's metabolically cheaper than MULTIPLE specific talents.

                            And while genes can't anticipate the future, environments are multidimensional in the present, and even when they are static in the present, the moment they change, natural selection favors the generalist.  That's why we see a march up the evolutionary ladder to more and more general cognitive functions.  Lower forms of life depend on instinct (specialized problem solving); higher forms of life depend on intelligence (general problem solving).

                          •  You repeat the mistake (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            MichaelNY

                            of ignoring the incremental nature of evolutionary change. You are using a post-hoc analysis: "In retrospect, general intelligence is more efficient than dedicated intelligence". But genes can't do retrospect. They can only respond to the situation at a single point in time. The organism faces an environmental challenge and the only genetic response available is to THAT PARTICULAR CHALLENGE -- for which a dedicated response is always more efficient than a generalized response.

                            Another point: where in IQ tests is there a section that measures "social IQ"? I suspect that you make the mistake of assuming that IQ = intelligence. That's an assumption you unconsciously make that belies your scientific objectivity. In like fashion, your reference to an "evolutionary ladder" suggests a serious misunderstanding of evolutionary processes.

                            While I do not recommend Gould's work on nature vs nurture issues, his explanations of evolutionary theory would be of great assistance in improving your appreciation of evolutionary theory. And his writing is edifying to any aspiring writer.

                          •  General vs specific (0+ / 0-)

                            Gould was correct about evolution not being a ladder, but what both you and Gould failed to appreciate is that evolution is a tree and some branches are higher than others and as you move up to higher branches you find organisms with adaptIVE behavior (general cognition, intelligence) while lower branches are dominated by adaptED behavior (specialized cognition, instinct)

                            I understand your argument about genes only evolving to the immediate challenge,  however even specific solutions selected for specific problems will include components that transcend the specific problem.  For example when our ancestors evolved the ability to make tools, we were selected for tool making talent.  Tool making talented consisted of both specific abilities (motor control, spatial acumen) but also general abilities (logic, abstract reasoning).  

                            Later when we mutated the physical capacity for speech, we were suddenly selected for linguistic ability.  Linguistic ability consists of a specific talent for words and grammar, but it also requires a general ability for logic and abstractions.  So as you can see,  even though, the specific abilities are hyper-selected in specific circumstances,  the general abilities enjoy mild selection CONSISTENTLY so in the long run, they win out,  because you never find an environment where logic and abstract reasoning are completely useless, but there are plenty of environments where spatial, linguistic and social problem solving are useless.

                          •  Still value-laden (0+ / 0-)

                            You continue to see science in terms of your own values. You talk about "higher" and "lower" branches of a tree. Inasmuch as cladistic diagrams are nowadays drawn as circles, it is more appropriate to talk in terms of "inner regions" of the cladistic diagram (representing ancient organisms no longer extant) and the "outer regions" representing modern organisms. Viewing a cladistic diagram in this manner contradicts your statement that "higher branches you find organisms with adaptIVE behavior (general cognition, intelligence)". Indeed, inasmuch as homo sapiens are the only species with genuine general cognition, your statement amounts to little more than "Ain't we just the grandest thing on earth?"

                            Your statements ascribing general intelligence to toolmaking are not only speculative -- they're wrong. Tool-making started about two million years ago and the basic tool types did not change for hundreds of thousands of years. If toolmakers were possessed of general intelligence, surely they would have been smart enough to design new tools.

                            Lastly, your comments on the development of language are ill-informed. I warn you that this topic has accumulated a vast literature and without some appreciation of current knowledge, it is far too easy to engage in false speculation as you have done. To put it bluntly, it didn't happen that way.

                            I do accept that there is a kind of general intelligence, but as I have said many times, it is smaller than most IQ aficionados think, and its phylogeny is entirely different from what you describe.

    •  Yes, there is a SMALL "g" (4+ / 0-)

      I agree that there is something like "g" in the human mind, but I think most HBDers vastly overestimate its importance. To put it simply, I see the human mind as a bundle of disparate cognitive abilities loosely connected by language, which in turn creates a kind of "cognitive commons" that is the source of "g". But that cognitive commons is smaller than the separate cognitive abilities.

      That's my own speculation, of course.

  •  OK. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Andrew F Cockburn, kaliope, cynndara

    So you're saying white people are doomed to be bad dancers? Bummer.

    You can do whatever you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America.

    by Eric Stratton on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 03:17:11 PM PST

  •  If the racists want to play that game then they (6+ / 0-)

    should welcome their Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese overlords with open arms as these groups have significantly higher IQs in the US than Caucasians.

    If... the machine of government... is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. ~Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobediance, 1849

    by shigeru on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 03:18:41 PM PST

    •  They didn't always, BTW (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY, kaliope

      There's actually a reason why Down originally referred to the effects of Trisomy 21 as "mongolism". A pretty ugly reason, and one that would seem astonishing to contemporary people, but a (bad) reason nonetheless.

      Writing in all lower-case letters should be a capital offense

      by ebohlman on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 04:53:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  In the US it is pretty well established if (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY, kaliope

        one goes solely by race. E.g. No subdivision of white by Jew, Scot,, Dutch and so forth. Also the Asian IQ in home countries is somewhat lower and white IQs in Northern Europe somewhat higher. See below:
        http://www.8asians.com/...

        However, the discussion of IQ by race is pointless and one should treat people as people. In fact without the Ashkenazy Jews and Scots, white IQ would be a point lower than it is in the US.

        If... the machine of government... is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. ~Henry David Thoreau, On the Duty of Civil Disobediance, 1849

        by shigeru on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 05:17:22 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  High IQ scores don't necessarily mean intelligence (4+ / 0-)
    Organisms express genetics in a particular environment which means that virutally all traits are the result of the interaction of both.  Even in terms of the quantitative genetics from which such estimates are derived have three terms:  genetic differences, environmental differences, and the interaction term.  (This is how the statistcial models are designed)

    Important to recognize is that if you change the range of environments understudy, or the population under stdy, the apportionment of those three elements will change  THus, the proportion of traits attributable to genes, environment, or the interaction is in large measure dependent on the environmental conditions under which they are studied.

     

    While I believe there are some genetic factors which influence IQ scores, that doesn't necessarily correlate into intelligence.  It's been shown through time how supposedly more intelligent societies have crumbled and died under their own hubris.  This was documented by Jared Diamond in the book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, in which he explained how the supposedly intelligent settlers of Easter Island decimated its natural resources, leaving behind some rather impressive statues but nothing else, and how the Vikings who settled into the southern coastal areas of Greenland tried to recreate their farming habitat in an area that wasn't suited for it and looked down upon the Inuit people who cohabited the area as savages and refused to adapt to their hunting and fishing lifestyle.  Their resistance to adapt led to them making the land barren and ultimately starving themselves out of existence.

    Likewise I think of many people who have high IQ scores that are not necessarily intelligent. Or as some family member may say, "They may know the history of aviation inside and out, but you wouldn't trust them to book a flight."

    •  Bottom line (5+ / 0-)

      there is no significant difference between races. That is settled science and the Baggers and Medievals should not even be humored on this one.

      •  there do seem to be more intellgent (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jessical, Erasmussimo

        people in Genetically diverse populations... also more less intelligent at the other end of the chart.. and the middle average is more spread out... and the opposite for populations with lower genetic diversity... with fewer total numbers percentage wise that are unusually above or below average but first the differences overall are not huge and all the numbers and statistics are swamped by factors like maternal nutrition and childhood diet that will skew the whole graph far more than the genetic diversity associations.

        So racist boosters of HBD would not like to admit the implications of a properly analyzed bell curve: that with all other environmental things being equal in a given population of randomly chosen recent or current African ancestry there would be more above average intelligence and geniuses than an equal number of randomly chosen European heritage people...

        They might prefer to highlight the accompanying slight statistical increase at the below average side of the more diverse group while ignoring the linked conclusion that Whites are statistically more average than Blacks... it works both ways... and the racists are very selective in their use of any findings... and cherry pick only that which fits their agenda.

        If there is any conclusion it is that there are somewhat more competent plodders in a less genetically diverse White population with not quite as many below or above average as well... while in black populations that are more genetically diverse there are more standouts at the gifted end... with the middle more spread out and a balancing number of some extra below average at the other end.

        It is worth noting that as a species were are less diverse than the other higher primates and far less than most species of monkeys and other larger mammals. And that people with mixed ancestry have a "hybrid vigor" effect and have a greater chance of being a person with above average potential.

        But the wider conclusion is that just like we are all descended from peasants for the most part and not nobility or famous people, we are all no matter what group we may be labelled as being part of... far more likely to be "Average"... in the middle... and that is not bad or good... that is what the most of us are but it does demand that we all get the opportunity to try and achieve something close to the best potential that we were born with.

        Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

        by IreGyre on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 06:22:48 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Here's a simple question: (6+ / 0-)

    In all those IQ tests that measure racial differences, how was the race of test takers determined? Blood tests? DNA analysis? Detailed reconstruction of ancestry?

    The answer is: none of the above. The answer is the same as how you know President Obama is black: he looks black or he says he's black. You can't even assume he has 50% African heritage, because you don't know that his father was 100% racially pure, or that his mother didn't have African ancestry somewhere along the line. In fact racial purity exists almost nowhere, except in the minds of certain European political factions of the 1930s and their successors.

    You don't even have to ask if IQ measures anything meaningful (although it doesn't). You just have to know that anyone who claims to have divided IQ test takers on some racial basis in any way that matters is just making shit up.

    And that isn't science.

    In Soviet Russia, you rob bank. In America, bank robs you.

    by badger on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 04:29:45 PM PST

    •  President Obama's mother (5+ / 0-)

      did have measured African ancestry - I think I recall reading that she was descended from, or at least related to the first African brought to what's now the US in slavery.

      Of course, if you go back far enough, all of us have African ancestry, without exception.

      Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

      by MichaelNY on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 04:36:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Exactly (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY

        In Soviet Russia, you rob bank. In America, bank robs you.

        by badger on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 04:47:02 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  yes but it was in the 1600s... a negligible (0+ / 0-)

        amount of ancestry given all the generations since. This interesting story is more important as a way to widen perceptions and understanding.

        Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

        by IreGyre on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 06:24:56 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The main point (0+ / 0-)

          is that "whites" have lots of "black blood" and "blacks" have even more "white blood." This is one known example.

          Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

          by MichaelNY on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 10:11:12 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  that is a counter myth to the older one. (0+ / 0-)

            From a pretense in the south that there was little or no mixing... there is a newer one that we are more mixed than we actually are... (but there is truth to that too)

            The reality is that White people statistically have not all that much black heritage... sure there are plenty who do and know they have and many others who have mixed ancestors they do not know about. But DNA tests on populations show that the mixing varied and a lot, probably the majority of Whites do not have any appreciable black ancestry if any.

            And yes African Americans do have more White ancestors but by no means most...  even with slavery the more numerous field hands were "kept" black since their value as a slave was higher for field hands if they were darker and more "African" looking, so owners preferred to have all-African replacement generations as much as possible in general and for resale value since the belief was that they would work harder and longer in hot weather.

            Other slaves who were house servants were more often "mixed" and had children of their masters more often plus had valuations based on other criteria (but also their relative "Whiteness"). But in general, for slaves who were artisans or workers in other fields... crafts, manufacturing, experienced livestock handlers, women who were talented seamstresses etc, color and "African-ness" was secondary to their talents and what they could do...

            But beyond known family histories both White and Black, how good is DNA testing at verifying these heritages or finding unexpected ancestry? DNA testing has a harder time coming up with specific ancestry the further back an ancestor is. And determining "Race" usually requires a number of related race associated markers and over generations the matrix of determinate genes from a distant ancestor of a different race might be completely swamped by the more numerous other ancestry. And it is worth mentioning that only some markers are definitive enough by themselves to track back a long distance to a particular place and a likely ethnic group related to that...

            Some genes on the X and Y chromosomes are conserved over many generations but  for most genes that vary in humans, as time goes by we lose more and more of the contribution of specific ancestors the expanding number of grandparents the further back they are. Each generation back doubles the number of Grandparents to the point that nobody can say for sure if say one of a person's 4096 grandparents in the 12th generation back (in say 1650) might have been black. Over a handful of generations there would be fewer and fewer of of the genes they contributed being passed on to each succeeding generation.

            So even people of one race who can trace back to one ancestor who was of a different race it is possible that if it was far enough back that effectively little or no genes made it into the genome of a living descendant... within a population with more shared genes the next question would be from which ancestor did a particular gene come from and the answer would be it was impossible to know... since it could have come from many. Now on the other hand if a person had several definitively "African" genes and they could trace their ancestors back with photos etc and then prior to that with reliable records and even portraits and could find no African Ancestor... then they would have to conclude that they still definitely had an African ancestor who predated the existing records... so an unnamed ancestor would be proven to be black...

            But again the further back we go the less actual meaning it has either way and we lose DNA links with each succeeding generation... if the ancestor was in 1650... that means they amount to 1/4096th of a present day person's ancestry.
            The slave owners and slave societies had a lot of problems labeling the relative Blackness and Whiteness of their slaves and mixed freemen and had a lot of carefully but ultimately meaningless names for the degree of African... Quadroon, Octaroon... (quarter black, eighth black etc.) and in the end it was pointless since people would not be reliably blacker or whiter with each degree up or down the scale and many chose to hide their black ancestry and did so successfully. But they were and are still a minority...

            And in the end just how important is it to nail down the percentage of Whites who have some Black ancestry or what percentage of Blacks have White ancestry? And as we know at times some more "African looking" people are actually more White than other African Americans who appear outwardly to have more European traits... Tiger Woods  for instance actually has a bit more White ancestry than Black.

            The really important fact is that the entire human race has less genetic diversity than even other higher primates and most other non endangered larger mammals (but even some endangered species have more genetic diversity than humans!). That is, we have far less genetic difference between us than we realize.

            Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

            by IreGyre on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 06:44:20 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I believe the figures they came up with (0+ / 0-)

              were around 30% of white Americans have "black blood" and 50% of black Americans or more have "white blood." I'm not propagating a myth; I read reports on the results of a DNA study. I did a web search but I'm having trouble finding relevant articles. I believe this was reported somewhat widely in the mainstream press within the past couple of years.

              Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

              by MichaelNY on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 07:15:36 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  IQ tests are bunk. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    badger, kaliope

    "Til you're so fucking crazy you can't follow their rules" John Lennon - Working Class Hero

    by Horace Boothroyd III on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 04:53:59 PM PST

  •  What Are IQ Tests Supposed to Measure? (5+ / 0-)

    Do we understand them to implictly take into account how motivated a particular student is to score well on them?

    I remember taking achievement tests in high school. I was insanely interested in getting a high score. Most students were just not all that interested. I think our scores reflected this as much as aptitude.

    "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

    by bink on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 05:08:45 PM PST

    •  Good point. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pedmom, MichaelNY

      I always took tests seriously -- well, actually they were a lot more interesting than sitting in class waiting for the teacher to get down to saying something I didn't already know from reading the book while dodging paper airplanes and trying to suppress the riot in the back row.  So I gave tests my full attention and effort.  Homework, meh.  I generally ignored it until five minutes before it was due and then dashed something off.

      My witch-mother on the other hand did a lot of independent research on natural sciences while she was in high school (about when I was reading lots of bad anthropology).  But she had test anxieties and math phobias and was engaged in a permanent state of war at the "treatment school" to which she had been packed off as a "problem child".  She told me that when SHE took standardized tests in school, she decided to draw a picture with the filled in dots, and filled in whichever one created the dinosaur or dragon she was drawing.  On general testing for grades, all effort went, not to learning the material, but to perfecting the "click-code" by which her comites communicated, tapping their pencils and clicking their ball-point pens up and down to transmit answers from one to the other.  I find it hard to consider such a highly technical and concerted group-effort "cheating".  It was rather a superb example of cooperation and teamwork of the sort that served them better in later life than anything they didn't study for the test.  Neither technique, however, would yield valid test results.

  •  The "gap" as fiction (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY, kaliope, jessical

    When we look at a performance gap, we are ostensibly looking at a separation of full and less full performance toward capacity. This is different from the IQ fools who believe,
    a) the concept of the test is valid,
    b) the instruments are valid,
    c) all populations perform equally toward their internal capacities.

    So long as students do not equally approach the "real" child's intelligence, the testing is not valid, and we have been chasing that horizon for decades.

    All of this time, the believers in "race" were unable to demonstrate the gap they sought in Africa. They were only able to hang onto it in the United States, where power differentials are at play. It points to what should be our first response, I think, "What do you mean by Black? What is white?" There is no such thing as race, except as a social construct.

    As for the test itself, it's crazy to believe in. On the mathematically heavy Iowa tests, I was at about 105. Later, I got given a verbally oriented one, and I went up to 135. That is not supposed to happen, but when I took the Iowa test I was simply ushered into the cafeteria and told to take a test that, we were told, would not give us a grade and would not matter.

    People complain about dirt, but I'd like to see them make some.

    by The Geogre on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 05:47:20 PM PST

    •  Back in the Dark Ages, at age 6, I took my (5+ / 0-)

      first IQ test, the questions read by the teacher and for which the answer sheet showed 3 possible cartoon-pictorial answers. I failed it.

      Among other gems, the question I remember most (for having gotten the purported answer "wrong") was: "What do we drink in summer?"

      The cartoons offered as possible answers were also labelled out loud by the teacher as (1) a cup containing "hot coffee" (a curl of steam shown rising from the cup); (2) a glass of milk; or (3) a glass of iced tea.

      Well, I was 6 years old, growing up in the "sticks" in a huge family of tightly limited means...so coffee not an option (mom wouldn't permit us kids to drink coffee, the "adult" drink), milk expensive (so mom let us kids have it only as part of breakfast cereal and it always came to me in a bowl) ... and tea was seldom served and in any case always served hot and only when we were ill with fever. Impossible choices for someone from my background.

      The "correct" answer was "iced tea", of course. Well, at age 6 the kitchen chez nous had an icebox (instead of a refrigerator) into which the ice man delivered a big ice block twice a week (hah, kids today can't identify an ice pick!). I had never seen ice cubes floating in tea, let alone served in a glass. Tea required cups, fer cryin' out loud.

      I was placed in the slow learners class and moved forward in the school system in that "section" until I entered fourth grade. First day of class my new teacher announced to the class that she knew my older brother and sisters, so she knew I was very intelligent. Changed my life.

      IQ tests are cruel.

      •  Well, I took IQ tests in California (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cynndara, pedmom, kaliope

        in 6th grade... tests in Maryland in High school and also by a private psychologist... and later as a guinea pig in front of a University class in Washington DC who had to grade my responses.

        I tested as low level genius in all of them... nice but that and a couple of bucks would get you a cheap latte in a coffee chain... which I don't drink anyway. Well read, well informed college dropout that I am...

        I think the tests do have some validity but they have many limitations.

        I do think we all have many overlapping areas of intelligence that are missed by the categories in the tests. Many people have areas of intelligence that make them achieve great success and be invaluable in their societies and not test all that highly on a standard IQ test. The tests are just incomplete. We will someday have a higher and wider understanding of what intelligence is and better ways to reliably measure it... but there will still be a problem coming up with an overall number to distill all the results into.... for most people it will be a reasonably meaningful number to use in comparisons etc... but like today it will still make some people appear to be smarter or more effective overall and some less so and not really do them justice.

        Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

        by IreGyre on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 06:33:58 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Cruel and strange masters (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cynndara, MichaelNY, kaliope

        The "genius gap" in the tests is one that the test defenders know about. In high school, in the late 1970's, test folks had woken up to some of their blind spots, and some of the critics had come forward, but the blanks for "special talents" just. . . remain.

        I had a friend who is, and I make no bones about this, a mathematical super genius. He has the achievement to match that claim, too: nuclear physics MS at MIT in a year (with his supervisor out of town the whole time), etc. On the IQ tests, he probably got ever "math" question right. I probably got every logic/verbal right (I'm actually strongest in analytic skills; curiously, liberal arts success is better matched with that than verbal pyrotechnics). He could have gone to 50/50 on those questions, but the test was looking for "general intelligence." I probably could have gone 50/50 on mine.

        He did not do very well with verbal. I did not do very well with mathematical. I know I did horribly with space relations. Thus, we both ended up with "lightly special" ratings. We had another friend, though, and he was constantly in our shadow in every area. His career has matched that, too. -Corporate office filling, for the most part.- Now he got 10/10 on every area, and so he was the one who was rated the super high IQ.

        Thus, the tests are not merely strange and wicked masters, but they are not serving their masters, either.

        People complain about dirt, but I'd like to see them make some.

        by The Geogre on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 06:48:41 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  This raises an interesting point (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          pedmom, MichaelNY, kaliope

          IQ tests are divided into sections that address different skills, the most notable being the math versus verbal areas. But how are we to weight these two skills? You can rig the tests to favor either skill. That's pretty devastating to the claim that IQ tests measure some higher form of intelligence.

          •  Absolutely Q.v. Sputnik freak out (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            kaliope

            "Meta" analysis of America's fascination with empirical assessment of intelligence and scholastic performance tends to show,
            1. White privilege,
            2. Power,
            3. Contemporary political values struggling with
            (imagine two angled lines to suggest a dialectic)
            a. resistant liberal         b. persistent market/business
            interests.

            So, if you took the Iowa tests, you got a bigger cookie for being a Scientist. If you took the Schlossen (?), you got a bigger cookie for being a critical thinker.

            (Def. terms: the liberal philosophy is that each child is a tabula rasa and equally capable of competency; "market" has either pressed for "give us numbers so we know who to hire" or "give us a full inventory of the person's brain.")

            People complain about dirt, but I'd like to see them make some.

            by The Geogre on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 11:11:32 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  IQ still an excellent tool for predicting school (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    performance based on measurements of something like 13 different factors. That's what it was intended to do and after decades of refinement, that's what it continues to do. Absolutely first-rate tool for that purpose. Outside of that, its use is sketchy.

    Unfortunately, decades of popular misunderstanding / misinformation about the nature of the test has resulted in the widespread belief that we have one kind of intelligence, IQ measures it, and your score remains meaningful across your lifespan and even across generations.

    YES WE DID -- AGAIN. FOUR MORE YEARS.

    by raincrow on Sat Jan 12, 2013 at 07:11:51 PM PST

  •  But what DOES IQ testing measure? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY, kaliope

    I'm not stepping into this DK minefield, except to ask the experts:what do the various accepted IQ tests measure? A legitimate, valid and scientific answer to that question could eliminate a lot of the problems with this highly charged subject.

    •  I've always heard the traditional "scientific" (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY, shanikka

      answer is:  It measures IQ.

      No one really ever defines IQ. Speaking of my own reading on the matter, of course. I see it as a useless inquiry and no longer read much on it...but here I am...

      •  One of my professors (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kaliope, IreGyre

        once answered my similar question with "IQ is a score you get on a test. Not much else."

        I think that there's more to it than that, given its demonstrated correlations with academic performance and lifetime income, but then, your grades are also correlated with academic performance and lifetime income!

    •  Controversial (5+ / 0-)

      The notion that IQ tests measure intelligence is highly controversial. In science, when you measure apples, your result is about apples, not oranges. And when it comes to establishing causal relationships where you cannot directly control the independent variable, the only statements you can honestly make concern correlations, not causation.

      For example, we can show that scores on IQ tests are highly correlated with academic grades. To put it more bluntly, people who do well on IQ tests also tend to do well on academic tests. That's really useful if you want to learn about academic performance.

      It has also been shown that scores on IQ tests correlate well with lifetime income in Westernized countries. This doesn't mean that scoring well on an IQ test will make you rich; it means only that people who score well on IQ tests also tend to make a lot of money.

      There are a great many other claims about correlations between IQ test scores and other forms of cognitive performance. However, the correlations for these cases are not as strong as those for academic and income performance, and a number of confounding factors make it difficult to ascribe much meaning to this relationship.

      Lots of people in the HBD community claim that IQ scores reveal "intelligence", but until that term is rigorously defined, such claims are unscientific.

    •  to some extent, perhaps speed and focus (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY, IreGyre

      If you can stay focused and answer questions quickly, you'll do better.  In general, that's a useful attribute in many fields.

      The ability to recognize patterns is undoubtably useful across disciplines.

      And everything else being equal, a vocabulary of 80,000 words will take you further than one of 20,000 words.

      All in all, it does measure something interesting, but it also fails to capture many other crucial traits for success.

    •  IIRC, it also measures the size of working memory (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY, IreGyre

      at least in the tests for very young children.

      I recall being asked to recite long sequences of numbers forwards and backwards.

      And again, if you can keep 8 things in mind at once you'll do better in general than if you can only keep track of 4 things.
      (This is probably redundantly measured by pattern matching tests.)

  •  if human behavior were dependent upon genetics . . (0+ / 0-)

    we'd still be chipping lava cobbles out on the African veldt, not building robots to send to Mars.

    Humans thrived in the evolutionary sense precisely because our behavior is NOT dependent upon genetics---we are enormously plastic creatures who are able to adapt quickly, through purely behavioral means, to virtually any situation.

    Genetics may determine if a particular person is "more aggressive" or not.  But the outcome of that "aggressiveness"---whether that person becomes a general or a politician or an emperor or a bishop or a blacksmith or a horse trainer or a gladiator or a football linebacker--is entirely cultural and behavioral, not genetic.

    •  Careful... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY

      First, we have to be careful about exactly what we mean when we talk about genetics and human behavior. No behaviors are "determined" by genetic factors. We can talk only about genetic "influences" on behavior, and even then, we're talking only in statistical terms, not individual terms. We cannot declare than any particular male's sexual behavior is the result of any particular genetic influence, but we can state with confidence that, in general, male promiscuity is strongly influenced by genetic factors. It's a strictly statistical concept. Even the exciting new discoveries in human DNA are indicating that behavior is seldom localizable to single genes; the suspicion is that the genetic influence on behavior is the result of a constellation of genes.

      Given this, there are a number of studies that produce disturbing results. For example, the evidence strongly suggests that the role of parenting in shaping future behavior is minimal (except in cases of outright abuse). I find this evidence hard to swallow, but the problem here is that we cannot readily disentangle behavior from genetics. We all agree that good parents raise good children, and that bad parents raise bad children -- but are people good parents because they inherited "good parenting" genes from their own parents, or because they learned how to be good parents? That's a difficult question to answer.

      There is no question that genetic influences play a large role in human behavior. That rough, cosmic generalization I presented in the original post -- that genetic factors are responsible for perhaps 50% of human behavior -- is supported by a lot of evidence, although I think that the actual value is a bit lower.

      •  as I noted, the only thing that CAN be (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY

        genetically influenced are the broad swathes of general behavior, things like "being more aggressive than others" or "being more shy than others" or "being more risk-averse than others".

        Anything particular is, by definition, cultural and learned, not genetic (unless you are prepared to argue that "being a gladiator" is 50% genetically determined--in which case I will ask you where all the gladiators are today).

        So all the vaunted "lot of evidence" shows is that genes determine broad behavior.  To which I can only reply "no shit, Sherlock. So what?".

        •  there are structural and developmental (0+ / 0-)

          differences in the brain that are linked to genetics and of course the environmental factors that exist while the genes are expressing during gestation, early childhood and then adolescence.

          The balance and functioning of different brain cells does depend on genes we are born with.. the way they interconnect is a function of both development and then usage. We are born with far more cells and those that do not end up being connected up are removed during development in the womb and for the first years after birth. An enriched environment with a lot of loving human interaction will of course mean many more connections and a brain with more brain cells retained... There are many many interacting signalling and structural variations that are part genetic.. and even the rate that cells are removed can vary according to genes... some people may have a very efficient removal system to weed out under-performing or unused cells sooner... brains are very demanding metabolically and getting rid of unused capacity is a vital survival mechanism.... but equally those who leave more cells for longer will have more connections... this is just one of many many operational variations that have the nature-nurture woven into our development.

          As a parallel to the brain cell apoptosis function some people break down muscle tissue much faster than others when they get less exercise while others gain and retain muscle mass more easily and can even end up over muscled with not a lot of exercise while others find it very hard to gain and then keep it... this pattern in variation of tissue maintenance and or replacement is found in many different tissues...regardless if they are fast turnover cells like skin, digestive tract lining etc or slower or apparently static like brain cells...

          Once we gain our mature peak we do not allegedly gain any or even few of them. But as recent studies have shown the brain is not as static as we once thought and there is variation in how well we protect our brains metabolically and also the rate that new cells are created... we do actually grow new cells in our brains... some more actively than others and this would vary between individuals as well.

          Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

          by IreGyre on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 06:49:36 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  and again I say, "so what?" (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MichaelNY

            All you've argued is that everyone's brains are different, and people vary individually in such behavioral traits as "willingness to accept risk" or "aggressiveness" or "shyness".

            That does not equal "genetic behavior".

            •  You misunderstand (0+ / 0-)

              "Genetic behavior" is not the term I have used. I prefer "genetic influence on behavior".

              •  call it whatever you want (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                MichaelNY

                it doesn't change the fact that it can only operate at the broadest and most general of levels.  It can decide if someone is shy or not, or risk-averse or not.  It can't decide if someone will be a general or a linebacker or a schoolteacher.

                Which makes it utterly pointless.  All you are declaring is "people are different".  No kidding.  So what?

                And the biggest can of worms is the one we haven't even gotten to yet-----not only is there NO correlation of any particular "influence on behavior" with "race", but there is not even any genetic basis for the social construct of "race"--there is NO suite of genes that uniquely delineate different human "races".  Humans are polymorphic, like salt marsh snakes. There is no biological division of Homo sapiens into "races"--only cultural and social divisions.

                •  To contradict you... (0+ / 0-)

                  I suggest that you read

                •  Ack! (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  MichaelNY

                  I clicked the wrong button in my previous comment. To continue:

                  I suggest that you read this article about a twin studies regarding career choices. Would you agree that career choice is not a high-level, overly generalized behavioral trait? It appears to have some heritability.

                  Thus, your statement:

                  It can't decide if someone will be a general or a linebacker or a schoolteacher.

                  is demonstrably incorrect. Moreover, by using "decide" instead of "influence", you make it doubly incorrect.

                  •  garbage in, garbage out (0+ / 0-)

                    No matter how many times you say it or how many different ways you say it, it's the same.  (shrug)

                    All you are saying is "genetics makes people different from each other".

                    No shit.

                    So what?

                    •  I agree with your skepticism (0+ / 0-)

                      But I think you are going overboard. There could be some genetic predisposition for certain types of careers; it's just that the exact nature of the career will be time-, place- and culture-bound.

                      Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

                      by MichaelNY on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 01:08:03 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  that's exactly what I'm saying (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        MichaelNY
                        There could be some genetic predisposition for certain types of careers; it's just that the exact nature of the career will be time-, place- and culture-bound.
                        Genetics  decides whether someone is an introvert or an extrovert; whether they are aggressive or passive; whether they are a risk-taker or a risk-avoider.  All of those make one better suited for this job rather than that one, but that does not mean "behavior is decided by genetics" except in the broad sense of basic personality traits. All that genetics takes place within particular historical and social circumstances, which decide all the details. In other words, the only claim that can be supported is "genetics give us each different personality types". To which I can only respond again, "No kidding.  So what?"

                        There's no "there" there.

                    •  You're not going to read it, are you? (0+ / 0-)

                      You cling fast to your beliefs and refuse to learn. Nothing will change your mind. I'll not bother reasoning with you henceforth.

        •  Not that vague (0+ / 0-)

          Mr. Flank, the evidence on genetic factors is not restricted to vague overarching behavioral tendencies; there is evidence that some more specific aspects of behavior are also influenced by genetic factors. One of these, I believe, is career choice. I have a personal experience in this: it was not until I declared my college major to be physics that my father informed me that his degree was also in physics. Nature? Nurture? I don't really know, but the anecdote is striking to me personally.

          I once challenged some HBDers as to whether nose-picking was also subject to genetic influences, to which they replied with a confident affirmative. I very much doubt that they have empirical evidence to support their claim. I wouldn't claim that genetic influences reach that far down into specific behaviors.

          I do recall seeing a big table presenting overall results of twin studies on heritability of a long list of behavioral traits, some of them surprisingly specific. You can see it here. I warn you, the author of this blog is definitely on towards the racist end of the HBD spectrum, is loudly and proudly conservative, and has no qualms about mixing his politics with his science. If you want to get a taste of the pseudo-scientific writings of a true HBDer, this is an excellent source. I'd advise against commenting there -- he's quite short-tempered with those who disagree with him.

          The title of his blog entry is "All Human Behavioral Traits Are Heritable", which pretty much summarizes the extremity of his position. The table lists mostly higher-order behavioral traits, such as the Big Five (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism), but also includes right-wing authoritarianism, religiousness, and alcoholism.

          •  How much of career choice is genetic? (0+ / 0-)

            How much is environmental, based on exposure to similar circumstances? And how much of it is circumstantial, given that there are a limited number of possible types of careers, and some of them are time- and place-bound? I mean, OK, you may have genes favoring being a shepherd but you live in New York City, so what then? And do you suppose there was a gene for electrical engineering in 2000 BC? This just seems like a pretty big stretch, when you really think about it.

            Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

            by MichaelNY on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 10:18:02 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  nonsense (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MichaelNY

            Whether one is a Roman General or an NFL quarterback is entirely cultural, historical and societal.  It's not genetic, except in the broadest swathe.

          •  A Black HBD'er, JayMan, Speaks (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MichaelNY

            I am the blog author Erasmussimo mentioned.

            Since, unfortunately, this comment will not rank too highly on the comment pile, I know that not too many readers will see this, but readers here may notice that I comment regularly over at HBD Chick's.

            I'm having a hard time figuring out exactly how Erasmussimo came to the conclusion that I am "loudly and proudly conservative," as anyone who reads my blog can see the exact opposite on quite a few occasions.

            Of course, my position is only as "extreme" as the evidence warrants. I discuss the evidence in depth. I welcome Daily Kos readers to visit my blog and feel free to comment, I do not at all shun honest discourse.

            Visit my blog here:

            JayMan's Blog

            I look forward to any discussion.

            •  I apologize (0+ / 0-)

              for getting your political leanings wrong; I was frantically shuffling around from HBD blog to HBD blog and must have gotten your blog confused with another blog. We both agree, however, the most HBDers are politically conservative, which in itself says something about just how scientifically objective HBD is.

              I am surprised by your claim that you do not shun honest discourse, as you threatened to ban me for failing to agree with your claims. I suggest that a more appropriate phrasing would be "I do not shun honest discourse that I agree with."

              •  Thank you (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                MichaelNY

                "I apologize for getting your political leanings wrong"

                Thank you, I appreciate that.

                It is however generally good form to be as accurate as possible in your statement about people and the facts, especially when making bold proclamations about them.

                "We both agree, however, the most HBDers are politically conservative, which in itself says something about just how scientifically objective HBD is."

                Most HBD bloggers are politically conservative yes, but this statement of yours, technically, is an ad hominem. Attacking the messenger doesn't invalidate the message. All that matters -- in any science -- is the evidence, and the evidence for heritable human differences is plentiful and robust.

                "I am surprised by your claim that you do not shun honest discourse, as you threatened to ban me for failing to agree with your claims."

                I only said I would subject your comments to moderation. Invoking logical fallacies, as you just did, isn't honest discourse. I simply don't have the time for that.

                Visit my blog:

                JayMan's Blog

                •  You misconstrue the meaning... (0+ / 0-)

                  of ad hominem. An ad hominem argument requires that the advocate attack a claim by asserting that the person promoting the claim is a bad person. I'm not saying that conservatives are bad people per se, I'm saying that, because HBDers are mostly conservatives, there is apparently a political agenda at work.

                  I must say, you certainly have a penchant for founding your arguments on fine points of semantics. You loudly decry me for a self-declared grand oversimplification because I wrote that genetic factors determine a portion of behavior, where you insist that they only apply to variance in behavior. Meanwhile, on your website, the essay that you give priority to is entitled "All Human Behavioral Traits are Heritable". I'm sure you have some clever semantic argument to reconcile this apparent inconsistency.

                  Similarly, you proclaim that you didn't threaten to ban me, you merely threatened to subject my comments to moderation. Yeah, right; how generous of you. You also made a comment insinuating that I was a troll -- but no, you didn't threaten to ban me.

                  And designating arguments you disagree with as "logical fallacies" -- without actually presenting your reasoning -- is intellectual narcissism. It's one thing to attack a particular argument as fallacious, and present the reasoning behind that claim; it is entirely another to simply dismiss out of hand arguments you disagree with, as you did.

                  But I'll make an offer: if you'll agree to give me unrestricted opportunity to make my case, I'll gather my thoughts from what I've learned here and present them as a guest post on your blog, then defend my claims against the assaults of you and yours. Are you up to a genuine debate with somebody who disagrees with you?

                  •  OK (0+ / 0-)

                    Let me make you a little counter-offer:

                    You go ahead and write what you'd like me to post, e-mail it to me, and I will post it, as-is, citing it as a special guest post by you on my blog.

                    In return, I will write a post describing just what is HBD, discussing the evidence for it, and clearing up the misconceptions around it. You will post it here on the Daily Kos, as-is, citing me.

                    Just give me about a week to send me what you'd like me to post, as I'm currently working on getting out a new post out. Thanks.

      •  a more difficult question to answer is (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY
        We all agree that good parents raise good children, and that bad parents raise bad children -- but are people good parents because they inherited "good parenting" genes from their own parents, or because they learned how to be good parents? That's a difficult question to answer.
        "What IS a good parent?", since that is entirely dependent upon culture and social conditioning. One culture's definition of a "good parent" is totally different from another's.  Were the Spartans "good parents"?

        Unless of course you have an objective measurable and repeatable definition of "good parenting" to offer us . . . ?

        That's the real problem with deciding that "good behavior" is or isn't genetic---there's no objective definition of "good behavior" to begin with. It's all cultural and social, and learned.

        •  You're quite right (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY

          I should have qualified my statement with a restriction to American culture.

          •  Which then calls genetic arguments into (0+ / 0-)

            great question.

            Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

            by MichaelNY on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 10:18:23 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  No, WITHIN the culture (0+ / 0-)

              Within American culture, where the definition of good parenting is more settled, we definitely see strong genetic components at work here. By the way, the evidence suggests that parenting as a behavior has NO effect on how the child turns out. I myself do not accept those results, both because they are so counterintuitive and because their definitions of "how a child turns out" are problematic.

              •  this is just silly (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                MichaelNY

                "America" is a mishmash of genetics from all over the world.  There is no "American" genetics, and no "possible "genetic component" "within the culture". Especially since "culture" itself varies enormously even within the USA----Cuban family culture is not the same as urban Philadelphia family culture or southern aristocrat family culture.

                If behavior varies by culture, than it is not genetic.  QED.

                •  Bad logic (0+ / 0-)

                  You're approaching the issue in simplistic black-and-white terms. Behavior is not determined by culture, nor is it determined by genetics. It is influenced by varying degrees of both. For example, male promiscuity varies across cultures, but it's still pretty much genetic in foundation.

                  •  more nonsense (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    MichaelNY

                    You simply support my own argument---"genetics" only "influences" "behavior" in the widest and most general of ways.  Genetics can decide whether I am shy or not, or whether I am promiscuous or not, or whether I am aggressive or not.

                    Genetics do not decide whether, because of that shyness or promiscuousness or aggressiveness, I become a general or a union organizer or a hermit or a porn star or an anarchist or a knight or a samurai or an NFL quarterback.  Those are societal and cultural.

                    All you have demonstrated is that genetics makes people generally different from each other.

                    No shit.

                    So what?

              •  I think I can punch a big hole in this (0+ / 0-)
                Within American culture, where the definition of good parenting is more settled, we definitely see strong genetic components at work here.
                How about, people within certain subcultures are judged as wanting in parenting because of biases within the dominant American culture, and this bias can be reflected in genetic statistics?

                Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

                by MichaelNY on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 11:24:40 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  That has not been measured (0+ / 0-)

                  I am not aware of any such study. I am referring to standards of good parenting only as reflected in laws addressing child endangerment, child abuse, and so forth. Those are the culturally established standards.

                  •  culturally established standards (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    MichaelNY

                    And those are objective how, again . . . ?

                    All you have shown is that people tend to raise their kids within their own culturally established standards, and some people are better at that than others.

                    So what?  This is a surprise to you?

                    If you want to show that is GENETIC in nature, then you better be able to explain why humans in DIFFERENT cultures with OTHER culturally established standards, follow THOSE standards instead.  

                    Are they genetic mutants?

          •  YOU are quite right . . . (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MichaelNY

            the whole question depends enormously on what culture one is in.

            Which indicates pretty conclusively that it's NOT genetic.

            Unless you want to argue that Americans have different genetics than everyone else . . .

  •  Pure anecdote here (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY, Erasmussimo, elginblt

    Sorry. But I do think it's illustrative of problems with trying to figure out a child based on a test that's still pretty well rooted in the ones that were developed as a quick means to sort soldiers into different jobs during WWI.

    Once, right after my daughter had taken an IQ test in during her second grade year, she was talking to me about some of the questions. She said one of them showed a picture of a bald man and asked what was missing. Then she went to on to say, "I know they wanted me to say 'hair' but I think it's okay to be bald, so I said nothing was missing."

    Did the examiner ask my child why she answered the way she did? Of course not. So, you could look at the results on paper and think you know something about my kid based on her answer, but would you really? The way my mind works is that I'm more interested in why someone gave the answer they did instead of what answer they gave.

    My daughter's answer gave me some information about her. Even in second grade, she already had a sense of celebrating and accepting differences in physical appearance, and wanted to stand up for the underdog.

    Tests can be standardized, but children can't.

  •  it's something i've wondered about in the past (0+ / 0-)

    We're quick to accept positive stereotypes about black people. (stronger, faster, have more rhythm) but quickly cry racist if we suggest anything negative. Seriously why would the evolution that made our skin and many body features different just stop when it comes to the brain? There's huge differences in environment between Africa and Europe. There's the amount of sun for instance. Africans needed dark skin to prevent skin cancer, Europeans needed lighter skin to get the vitamin D. With the weather Europeans needed clothes year round, Africans not so much. The weather made long term planning more necessary as well as cooperating in larger social groups  in Europe. Larger social  groups means larger scale war and needed discipline in order to conduct. etc.

    There's just a ridiculous number of environmental and social pressures that could not only make physical differences but also mental ones

     When we say that everyone is born equal we mean in equal dignity (which isn't much considering your buck naked and covered in fluids crying and having a doctor slap your ass) this doesn't guarantee equal outcomes. Not by a long shot.

    •  Do you think blacks are of African blood (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The grouch, smartdemmg, elginblt

      and whites are of European blood? Time to stop. If you recognize the fact - and it's a conclusively documented fact - that black Americans have lots of European ancestry and white Americans have lots of (relatively recent) African ancestry, all the other stuff you're talking about quickly becomes pretty irrelevant.

      Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

      by MichaelNY on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 01:12:29 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Some suggestions (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY

      First off, I'm not "quick to accept positive stereotypes about black people". The only stereotypes I accept are those demonstrated by rigorous scientific tests. You're correct that our society is riddled with stereotyping, both positive and negative; I suggest that we dismiss ALL stereotypes as folk mythology.

      You're absolutely right in insisting that evolutionary principles shaped the human mind, but I suggest that you're using too short a time frame. Remember, the hominid line is about 5 million years old; on that time frame, the events of the last 10,000 years are a blip. Indeed, most human evolution took place in subsaharan Africa.

      There are a lot of great books on evolutionary psychology. If you want to get started on the web, here are a few resources:

      An online academic journal
      An excellent primer by the pair who created the field
      An interview with Cosmides and Tooby

      Among the many books on the subject, my favorite is The Prehistory of the Mind, by Steven Mithen. I still have a soft spot for The Moral Animal, by Robert Wright, even though it's now dated. And Steven Pinker's book, The Blank Slate, is something of a classic.

      •  Last 10,000 years? (0+ / 0-)

        Humans left Africa 70,000 years ago.

        •  I'm referring to civilization (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY

          Many people believe that civilization changed everything, but civilization has been around for much, much less time than hominids.

          •  cause or effect (0+ / 0-)

            Only after our wits had been sharpened by the last ice age did Eurasians become sufficiently intelligence to develop agriculture and build civilizations.  

            •  Are you claiming that Eurasians (0+ / 0-)

              built the first civilizations? Are Egyptians Eurasian to you?

              Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

              by MichaelNY on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 12:12:26 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  Hoo boy (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              MichaelNY

              I suggest that you read some books on the rise of civilization. Your speculation that civilization arose only because human intelligence was increased by the experience of the Ice Age is utterly devoid of evidentiary support.

              I'd like to broaden my point. One of my strongest objections to HBDers (I don't know if this applies to you) is that they know a great deal about a tiny subject, and almost nothing about any other relevant subject. Over and over I have seen HBDers making statements that reveal gross ignorance of history, language, or anthropology.

              •  by the way (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                MichaelNY
                Your speculation that civilization arose only because human intelligence was increased by the experience of the Ice Age is utterly devoid of evidentiary support.
                The species that adapted most thoroughly to the Ice Age was the (white-skinned and red-haired) Neandertal. It went extinct.

                The vast majority of H sapiens never lived in Europe and barely felt the Ice Age.

                And no "European" gene has ever been linked to "intelligence".

                Our racist friend here should go back to school and study some biology. He'd sound a lot less like an uneducated Klan buffoon.

                •  I think the Neaderthals didn't become extinct (0+ / 0-)

                  as much as they intermarried with homo sapiens. Or, rather, some of them intermarried and others were killed off. But then again, a lot of this is speculative on my part. I wasn't there. There seems to be good evidence that modern human beings have some Neanderthal DNA, however.

                  Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

                  by MichaelNY on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 01:12:49 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  depends on who you ask (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    MichaelNY

                    Other geneticists have concluded there are no Neandertal genes in human DNA and we didn't interbreed.

                    But either case kills our racist friend's assertion----the most successful adaptations to the Ice age came from Neandertals---and there are no more Neandertals. Which kinda makes me think they probably didn't become the Master Race through adaptation to the Ice Age--and neither did we.

                •  Neanderthal (0+ / 0-)

                  Neanderthals probably went extinct because of anatomical inferiority, not because of low IQ:

                  http://news.softpedia.com/...

                  •  they were white and had red hair (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    MichaelNY

                    So you're telling me the white Europeans produced by the Ice Age were an inferior race?

                    •  Physically inferior (0+ / 0-)

                       They were physically inferior, yes.  But also keep in mind that despite evolving in a rigorous environment, they were an archaic form of humanity and thus predictably lost out to newer forms that came from Africa.  However today it is Africans that are the old form of humanity.

                      •  Again the values judgement! (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        MichaelNY

                        Calculator, you have a proclivity to replace scientific terminology with value-laden terminology. Terms like "inferior" are value judgements having no objective content (except in certain technical usages). Moreover, you are flat-out wrong in declaring Africans to be an "older" form of humanity. Evolution didn't stop in Africa after some Africans departed. Rather, selection pressures in other parts of the world were different. Not better, not worse, just different.

                        Your proclivity to use value-laden phrasing rather than scientific terminology is strong evidence that your motivation here is racist, not scientific.

                        •  Not racist at all (0+ / 0-)

                          Calculator, you have a proclivity to replace scientific terminology with value-laden terminology. Terms like "inferior" are value judgements having no objective content (except in certain technical usages).

                          I agree that the term superior is problematic.  While it's valid to say some races are more evolved than others, it's speculative to equate more evolved with superior,  although it is valid to say some races are superior in certain traits.

                           Moreover, you are flat-out wrong in declaring Africans to be an "older" form of humanity. Evolution didn't stop in Africa after some Africans departed. Rather, selection pressures in other parts of the world were different. Not better, not worse, just different.

                          This shows a very superficial understanding of evolution.  Obviously evolution continued in Africa but did it continue to the same degree as elsewhere?  Obviously not.  Africans stayed in the ancestral environment and thus preserved more of the ancestral human phenotype than populations who migrated to radically different environments.  We know this because Melanesians, who left Africa some 70,000 years ago have virtually the same phenotype as modern Africans so obviously that phenotype has existed for at least 70,000 years.

                          Your proclivity to use value-laden phrasing rather than scientific terminology is strong evidence that your motivation here is racist, not scientific.

                          If you think I'm a racist, then your social IQ is not high because you've misjudged my motives.  I'm motivated by genuine interest.  I can't think of any other topic more fascinating than an evolved racial hierarchy.  And I certainly don't think my race is the most evolved.  Mongoloids are superior on advanced traits (brain size, IQ, morals, mental stability, life span), negroids are superior on primitive traits (genitalia, breasts and buttocks, sexual success, personality, rhythm) and my race (the caucasoids) are not superior at anything.  We rank in the middle on all those traits.

                          •  We seem to be bottoming out (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            MichaelNY

                            Calculator, despite many attempts to get you to appreciate that scientists do not inject value judgements into their work, you seem determined to stick to your "Calculator's Values" version of science. You're welcome to it, but genuine scientists prefer objectivity and therefore avoid the use of value-laden terminology. Your notion of evolution having an "up" and a "down", a "more evolved" and "less evolved" is vociferously rejected by the vast majority of working scientists.

  •  IQ Tests themselves are the problem (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The grouch, elginblt, MichaelNY

    They were invented to predict how a certain group would do on a certain, narrowly defined set of tasks. They are basically rubbish. If the tool and the number are almost meaningless in the total contexts of culture and career, why even talk about it.

    There are many kinds of intelligence. All an IQ test really predicts is how the subject will do on the next IQ test. They are culturally biased, require a heavy component of language (syntax) knowledge and "test wiseness"--knowing how the test developer thinks.

    I have some heavy background in this. An IQ test won't predict whether an engineer can design something that works, whether a doctor can actually listen to the explanation of symptoms a patient is giving, or whether a kid on the street can think his way out of a paper bag.

    So the basic assumptions of all of this are so flawed it's not worth talking about.

    Read Stephen Jay Gould's book "The Mismeasure of Man." Not new, but the basics of all this nonsense.

    •  Well said. Pls read my comment below. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY

      I wish I had read yours first, it would have saved me some heavy typing. ;^)

    •  I'm sympathetic, but (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY

      I wouldn't go as far as you, because there has been an enormous amount of research on IQ tests and they definitely generate information that is scientifically interesting. I am confident in my belief that the HBDers ascribe too much significance to them, but I cannot dismiss them out of hand as you do. I agree that the results of these tests have been misused in socially injurious ways, and that we must be especially cautious in their interpretation. But again, they do provide us with huge volumes of data, that, properly interpreted, has some scientific value.

      Ah, but what is "proper interpretation"? There's the rub.

      •  To be scientific (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY

        we look at the "predictive validity" of IQ tests. They tend to predict success in some college programs, but NOT success in life in general.

        (Of course, there's an asterisk. An IQ of 70 indicates the subject cannot function in a structured, verbal test and there are so many reasons for that...)

        IQ tests only predict success on similar tasks--period.

    •  LOL! (0+ / 0-)

      Stephen Jay Gould was a joke.  He set back the science of intelligence by 30 years.  Virtually everything in his book has been discredited:

      http://www.debunker.com/...

      •  Untrue (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY

        Mr. Gould's book did raise some controversy, but it was most certainly NOT debunked, and the article to which you link does not convince me. I do not accept all of Mr. Gould's arguments in that book, and I think he went to far in his denial of human nature, but that book made many useful contributions to the debate.

  •  Tests test test taking. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Erasmussimo, elginblt, MichaelNY

    I was a pretty good test taker, as a young person. My IQ scores were consistently around 138, on the SATs I scored 737/719 back in the late 60s. (I gather the system has changes since) and even hit 800 on the Chemistry achievement test.

    I am not terribly smart. I have stumbled through life achieving nearly nothing. I would be a horrible scientist, doctor, or anything else. As my "scores" would put me in the top 5% I have frequently found myself in the company of people who surely would test out much lower. In a myriad of areas, they have proved smarter than I am.

    "Stupid is as stupid does", and I don't think that testing has achieved anything like certainty in defining what "smart" is. While I'm sure poverty and cultural differences make up a big chunk of the perceived variance, I see test taking as a separate skill from real intelligence.

    •  I agree (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY

      Test-taking is indeed a separate skill. In my case, the effect has been, I think, positive. I was always impatient with my coursework and didn't care that much about getting good grades, so my GPA was generally about 3.5. However, I aced IQ tests, SAT, and GRE, which were the only things that got me through the critical barriers. So in my case, the tests were beneficial and, I think, served a kind of social justice. But I'm sure that, for every person like myself, there was an equally bright person whose career was impeded by poor test scores.

      •  I did quite adequately on ETS tests (0+ / 0-)

        But they did not reflect the high level of my schoolwork, which was much more predictive of how I did at higher levels of education - and that makes sense, if you consider that the kinds of work I was assigned in college, and then in grad school, were more similar to the kind of work I was assigned in high school than they were to any ETS test. I scored high enough on my GREs for a musician that those scores helped me get a Javits Fellowship for my last 4 years of graduate study, though. But I still think ETS tests are unfair and don't measure what you actually were supposed to have learned in school. Here in New York State, we had Regent's Tests, which I though were much fairer and could be used as a blueprint for national tests, if anyone wanted to substitute a single Federal standard for today's private monopolies, which I consider nefarious.

        Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

        by MichaelNY on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 10:27:36 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  2 bell curve comparison details that are (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jessical, Erasmussimo, cynndara

    missed by superficial analysis. It is understanding the nature nurture balance hidden in the stats. First - Genetic diversity is greater in Africa. People who have recently migrated from Africa or are only a few generations removed from Africa have greater genetic diversity than the descendants of migrations in pre-history.

    So what would this imply ahead of looking at a simplified bell curve for many different abilities and traits? The lower diversity group would be expected to have more in the middle of the bell curve which would be higher in the middle and have a steeper fall off on either side to below average or to above average... a statistically more noticeable bulge in the middle in other words.

    And equally the bell curve for a more diverse group genetically would have a lower peak in the middle with a longer slope to below and above average in traits and ability. A minority of the usually below average and unusually above average would be found at either end of both bell curves.

    And that is what the two bell curves show.

    Now add a layer of socioeconomic boost to the less diverse one (better overall education, nutrition etc.) and a negative factor of the opposite to the other more diverse one and what happens? The center of the bulge for the less diverse group will shift somewhat to the higher ability direction and to somewhat less or lower testing results for the more diverse group.

    Even with that economic stunting effect in operation there will still be a thicker tapering off in the more able direction for the more diverse group.. they will still have a potentially good number of physical and intellectual standouts; athletically and cognitively above average... BUT with the added degrading of the average and the Bell curve shift in the less gifted direction there would be even more statistically shifted from the middle to the lower IQ, lower health, physically less able group... and in any social setting where one group is blamed and demonized it is their less able members whose numbers are increased due to poor maternal and childhood nutrition and substandard education on top of an already slightly larger percentage wise that get pointed to as somehow being representative of the entire group... ignoring the still sizable number who are superior athletically and intellectually at the other end who are kept from their full potential, hampered by the additional social and legal restraints imposed on them.

    So White America has a built-in strong average ability along with somewhat fewer but gifted at one end with more chances to reach to their potential and equally somewhat fewer un-gifted at the other who will have trouble ever being average. AND a sizable socio-economic advantage for the more numerous in the middle... slightly below average, average and somewhat above average... who come closer to being able to reach their potential. They are running with the wind, swimming with the current to try to get where they want to go... while African ancestry minorities are swimming against the current, and running into a strong headwind to try and reach their potential and carrying an additional weight or wearing a hobble. And even then standouts in the still thicker longer tapering off at the gifted end of the bell curve do succeed in realizing a lot of their natural potential in spite of the impediments.

    But as is typical in any racist stereotyping... the below average in a group are pointed to as being representative of that group... and ignoring the wider truth that no matter what bell curve that measures tested ability  is being looked at the actual differences are minor... and most people test in the middle and there are fewer at each extreme... and that things like poor access to good education and developmental stunting from poor nutrition in the womb and in childhood swamp any other differences measured.

    And both groupings would have the middle bulge of average shift towards the more gifted with more potential IF their mothers had more ideal nutrition, they continued to be fed a healthy nutritious diet in childhood and adolescence as well as living in a rich learning environment with excellent education both in school and in life.... but our current corporate dominated political landscape continues to deny that reality to everyone... while still leaving some advantages to the majority... while eroding some hard fought gains among them and even more on minorities.

    Pogo & Murphy's Law, every time. Also "Trust but verify" - St. Ronnie (hah...)

    by IreGyre on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 05:54:08 AM PST

    •  Add in the simple effect of numbers. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY

      The majority IS the majority, meaning that all other things being equal (and they are not), if by definition three out of a hundred of two hundred million are outstanding, you have 6 million outstanding individuals, whereas of the minority the same 3% of fifty million gives you only 1.5 million.

      But even statistically, all other things are not equal.  In my book collection I have a number of medical textbooks going back to the 1940's.  And one thing that stands out is that in an imperfect environment, perfectly healthy development is the exception, not the norm.  There are a lot of ways for children to end up stupid -- everything from head injuries caused by accidents and abuse, to thirty different kinds of malnutrition, to emotional and intellectual lack of stimulation or basic education.  Smart, not so much.  Ending up in the near-outstanding range of "smart" mainly consists of having nothing go wrong.  The Bell curve of intelligence isn't equal.  Low intelligence is a lot more common than really high intelligence, because a brain is a very delicate organism, and a lot can go wrong in its development.

  •  Here is what I observe: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Erasmussimo, jessical, MichaelNY

    There are different kinds of intelligence.

    This culture places a high value on literacy, and so that is often the benchmark of intelligence, and the defining factor in testing scores.

    I have relatives and friends however, who are not and probably never will be much more than barely proficient readers, if that.

    But they are incredibly bright, talented, intelligent people, who are often given the short end of the stick due to this one lack in their skills--being a good reader.

    These people show incredible mechanical aptitude, they can think in three dimensions, four if you count time, when imagining how a machine works. They grasp numerical concepts with ease-- and yet if we were to look at their academic record, one would think these people barely capable of using indoor plumbing.

    Which is to say, misleading at best.

    I might be a very talented reader, and I can write, and I can find anything in a library or archive. But I cannot do what they do.

    Am I truly the only person, or one of a few people who can see that these people are powerfully intelligent, but simply not necessarily predisposed or gifted with a knack for literacy as we label it?

    I have also noticed these people often have more than adequate vocabularies and are capable of defining the words, conceptualizing them, just not necessarily into reading them or spelling them.

    People, humans in general adapt. And if we deny people some resources they often find a way around those gaps. How is that less important in the greater scheme of things?

    And why do we insist on dividing labor into classes? Doesn't that say just as much about our lacks as a society, as say, overt racism?

    Show me one job that is genuinely UN-Skilled Labor, that one does not have to learn new routines, and learn how to anticipate or adapt to situations that occur outside of described training scenarios.

    I perceive this issue of testing to be about a variety of *isms.

    Racism, sexism and classism.

    •  My version of your point (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GreenMother, MichaelNY

      was something I learned in my forties. I have always been an idolatrist of rationalism, and I'm pretty good as a rigorous logical thinker. Then I met a woman who was all intuition. We became friends and had many long discussions. She could outthink me on some matters. Specifically, she could detect very subtle logical flaws in my reasoning. I was befuddled; how could this arational person think so well? When I demanded to know how she accomplished such feats, she would shrug her shoulders and say that it just came to her.

      From that point forward I realized that there are cognitive capabilities far beyond the ken of my rationalist approach. And I very much doubt that an IQ test plumbs those depths.

      •  Actually (0+ / 0-)

        IQ tests do a great job measuring intuitive thinking.  Many IQ tests require pattern recognition which is an intuitive lateral thought process quite distinct from linear logic.

        •  You REALLY don't get intuitive thinking! (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY, GreenMother

          Although the term "intuition" is not well defined, I can assure you that I have met many people with powerful intuition, and many people with very little intuition. In general, my experience has been that math-science males are particularly weak in intuitive skills, compared to other groups.

          •  intuition (0+ / 0-)

            Well if you can ever figure out how to measure your definition of intuition in a reliable objective way, try correlating it with a conventional IQ test in a large representative sample.  I suspect intuition will be g loaded, just as every other mental ability ever scientifically investigated.

            •  Suspicion is not science n/t (0+ / 0-)

              Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

              by MichaelNY on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 12:14:45 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  No it's not science, but that doesn't preclude (0+ / 0-)

                intuitives from being correct, and not just by chance either.

                There are some people who are very much in touch with their subconscious in a way that enhances conscious thinking processes.

                So their "pattern recognition" may also be enhanced because they are able to observe and correlate deeper, minute, pieces of data when considering a problem, situation, etc., They are often not even fully Aware of all the minutia being digested and correlated.

                •  Yes, this is exactly what I mean! (0+ / 0-)

                  Intuition is a deep process in which a great many disparate factors are unified into a single conclusion. There is no question that the process is real; nor any question that it sometimes yields astoundingly accurate conclusions. Yet it remains completely outside the ken of IQ tests.

            •  Intuition can't be measured (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              MichaelNY

              You're quite right in pointing out the difficulty of measuring intuitive capacity. So, does this mean that you deny intuition as a cognitive capability?

              •  Intuition is real (0+ / 0-)

                I do regard intuition as a real cognitive capacity that is important to intelligence, however until we have a valid way of measuring it, your theory that it's unrelated to IQ or g, is unfalsifiable speculation.

                •  True (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  MichaelNY

                  but your suspicion that "intuition will be g loaded" is no less speculative. In the interim, is there anything in IQ tests that you can point to that addresses intuition? I think not. While we cannot define intuition quantitatively, we know enough about it to be able to characterize it, and I think it's obvious that nothing in IQ tests addresses that characterization.

      •  I agree whole heartedly. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY

        How much talent and potential is squelched in this culture, due to this rigid dogma regarding the quantification of intelligence?

    •  One of the most brilliant people I ever knew (0+ / 0-)

      was a great bomoh (healer) in Malaysia. He wasn't very literate in terms of reading and writing, but he knew dozens of great epics by heart and could expound for hours with great wisdom and internal logic on matters of cosmology, health, and symbolism that an uninitiate couldn't have even imagined.

      Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

      by MichaelNY on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 10:56:37 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The debate about nature and nurture is old (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    and contentious, but it is some of both. We adult humans are products of nature and nurture working together, and there is a name for that process. It is called Evolution—Evolution by Natural Selection to be precise—Charles Darwin’s Theory.

    Furthermore, it divides our species into two groups with different and competing natural behaviors.

    If Charles Darwin were still alive, I think that he would say that Edward O. Wilson is one of those “naturalists having sound judgment and wide experience,” that we should listen to. Wilson has written many important books on various topics concerning evolution. His latest, The Social Conquest of Earth, may well be his most important. In it, he explains how human evolution has resulted in a fundamental conflict between behaviors that favor the success of the individual human and behaviors that favor the success of groups of humans. He says that these two conflicting behaviors have a genetic basis:

    Alleles (the various forms of each gene) that favor survival and reproduction of individual group members at the expense of others are always in conflict with alleles of the same and alleles of other genes favoring altruism and cohesion in determining the survival and reproduction of individuals. Selfishness, cowardice, and unethical competition further the interest of individually selected alleles, while diminishing the proportion of altruistic, group-selected alleles. These destructive propensities are opposed by alleles predisposing individuals toward heroic and altruistic behavior on behalf of members of the same group. Group-selected traits typically take the fiercest degree of resolve during conflicts between rival groups.
    Wilson’s conclusion is that this conflict, this struggle between two kinds of humans, has only one outcome:  
    An unavoidable and perpetual war exists between honor, virtue, and duty, the products of group selection, on one side, and selfishness, cowardice, and hypocrisy, the products of individual selection, on the other side.

    … In summary, the human condition is an endemic turmoil rooted in the evolution processes that created us. The worst in our nature coexists with the best, and so it will ever be. To scrub it out, if such were possible, would make us less than human.

    I can think of no better description of our present predicament. The Darwinian struggle has long been with us.  In fact, Darwin foresaw that the struggle could be violent even among relatives. In the third chapter of Origin he included this section heading:
    Struggle for Life most severe between
    Individuals and Varieties of the same Species.
    The best we can do is to do our best. We must work for the common good.

    Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

    by hestal on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 08:07:59 AM PST

    •  I gobble up E.O.Wilson's books (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hestal, MichaelNY

      He's written a lot, all of it good. I agree with you that The Social Conquest of Earth is his best; he just keeps getting better and better, and gives me hope that my own mental skills might not fade so badly as I age. I was surprised at his direct assault on the rejection of group selection, but he makes a compelling case.

  •  50% of human behavior (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    I don't know what "genetic factors are responsible for perhaps 50% of human behavior" means. IQ is a quantitative measure. "Human behavior" is not.

    I am very cautious about stepping into the realm of genetic determinism when it comes to behavior. This was scientific dogma throughout most of the 19th and early 20th century. It became disreputable in the 1930s, for a couple of reasons. First, there was an increasing appreciation of cultural diversity and the degree to which human behavior is shaped by culture: a learned tradition that is passed down through teaching and early experience, not genetics. Second, there was a huge reaction against the Nazi "science" that emphasized a strong form of racial determinism (this was bogus for all kinds of reasons, among them that there was never any clear definition of race, which isn't really a scientific concept: many human populations that are commonly considered as homogenous groups are diverse in origin and genetics).

    So you have to be sensitive about the history of this idea and its ramifications. It was really easy in the past to first of all, take genetic determinism for granted, and second, to slide from there into social policy prescriptions based on it. Still there are people who want to go there.

    •  Yes, but (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY

      You're right that genetic determinism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was a blight on science and society. That led to a overreaction that was less injurious, but still crippled scientific study of human behavior. Only in the last few decades have we finally opened up our thinking on these matters. And of course, the racists have exploited this openness to promulgate their ugliness.

      Yes, my gross oversimplification was, well, grossly oversimplified. But when you get into the details, there's definitely a signal in that noise.

      •  I think however the 50% is misleading (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY

        I don't think it is consensus at all that if you know someone's genetic makeup you have a good chance of predicting their behavior. Sociobiology has always been on the fringe.

        •  Woah! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY

          First off, sociobiology is no longer an active field of research. Nowadays research goes on in evolutionary psychology, which has earned respect through the rigor of its methods and is now taught in almost all university psychology departments.

          You're right in denying the claim that "if you know someone's genetic makeup you have a good chance of predicting their behavior". But I'm not making that claim nor do any genuine scientists. Instead, they talk about "heritability", which is a much more subtle concept than what you describe. It is statistical in nature, concerned with distributions of traits in groups rather than traits in an individual. And we have lots of evidence regarding the genetic influences on such distributions.

          •  Well, that is lost a bit in your diary (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MichaelNY

            and I am coming at it from a social science perspective (I have an advanced degree in that field). Evolutionary psychology is controversial there.

            •  Yes, there are holdouts (0+ / 0-)

              and they're concentrated in some of the social sciences, but in psychology itself, there's no controversy because the evidence is compelling.

              •  There has been quite a bit of controversy. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Erasmussimo

                It's a big field and there's lot of sub-topics in it and not everything is equally controversial. But in particular there was quite a storm last year about Santoshi Kanazawa's online claim that black women are less physically attractive. And a similar one about Jesse Bering's musing about the adaptive value of homophobia. I don't claim these are representative of the field in general but they show that pitfalls and the potential for racist exploitation of the science extend beyond IQ studies.

  •  Here's irony for you (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    I just noticed that the "From the Web" band just above the comments section here includes an item about "the smartest dog breeds". There's a presumption there (justified, I think), that intelligence is heritable for dogs. But not for humans?

  •  Not racist, just facts (0+ / 0-)


    Why the difference? There are some obvious explanations: environment, pre-natal health conditions, educational opportunities, and so on.

    The fact that the 15 point IQ gap between blacks and whites in the United States has remained constant since WWI, and has not decreased at all (when one looks at the totality of the data) with the end of segregation and and half a century of affirmative action, makes it unlikely that environmental facts explain the gap.  Further in the Minnesota trans-racial adoption study, where blacks, whites and mulattoes were all adopted at an extremely young age into upper-middle class white homes, the full black-white IQ gap remained with mulattoes scoring intermediate, just as a genetic explanation would predict.  And since the mulattoes were born in white wombs, racial differences in prenatal heath conditions explains nothing.

    But the explanation that won't go away is genetics: could it be that blacks are genetically predisposed to poor IQ test scores?

    Obviously.  Intelligence is extremely genetic (how else would it have evolved) and the biggest genetic difference in the human species is between Africans and non-Africans.  Further, differences in cultural achievements are as old as recorded history.  Virtually every major innovation in human history came from caucasoid or mongoloid populations.  Furthermore, the differences in intelligence are paralleled by differences in brain size.

    People have known that the races differ in intelligence for thousands of years, it's just that after WWII such thinking was discredited by Nazi Germany and the research has been suppressed and stigmatized ever since.  

    But to anyone with even a hint of critical thinking skills, it's completely obvious that higher intelligence evolved as humans left Africa and were forced to adapt to colder climates.  They needed innovative problem solving to figure out how to build shelter, make fires, make clothing, make sharp tools for hunting large animals (since vegetation was not edible in the winter).  This is just common sense.  Through tens of thousands of years of natural selection, genes for high IQ became common in Northern populations.

    Of course within every race, there is ENORMOUS variability.  About 16% of African Americans are smarter than the average white American, and there are some blacks who score in the super genius range.  Meanwhile 16% of whites score lower than the average African American and some whites score in the severely retarded range.


    As one scientist wrote, "Evolution didn't stop at the neck." Human mental evolution was strongly influenced by selection pressures, which manifested themselves in human behavior. Genetics really does influence behavior, but it took a while for scientists to re-assert that basic principle.

    Not only does evolution NOT stop at the neck, but the brain is where most of human evolution occurred.  Brain size roughly tripled since our ancestors left the trees.  It's ridiculous to think it would stop when humans left Africa, because entering a novel environment you must adapt to is exactly when intelligence is most needed.


    I caution the reader that the science surrounding IQ test scores is immensely complicated. On the one hand, it is unquestionably predictive of academic and financial success in Westernized nations. On the other hand, there's plenty of evidence that cultural factors strongly influence IQ scores.

    Not true.  Within the united states, cultural factors have virtually zero impact on adult IQ.  While the IQ's of children can be influenced by their family upbringing, by middle age IQ is entirely explained by genes and the BIOLOGICAL environment.

    My greatest objection to the use of IQ scores is that human cognitive performance cannot be adequately measured in a single dimension. The cognitive talents that make a great violinist are in no wise comparable with the cognitive talents that make a great mathematician.

    IQ tests are not designed to measure every conceivable mental talent (that's impossible), but they do measure an overall mental ability to adapt.  If you are good at math then you are good at logic which is useful in almost every situation, so math aptitude is often measured by IQ tests.  Musical talent however is useful only in very specific tasks so it is ignored by tests measuring overall problem solving abilities.  But because all mental abilities (including music talent) are by definition, influence by g (general intelligence), by measuring g IQ tests predict music acumen indirectly (and countless other talents too).

    The concept of intelligence is akin to the concept of physical strength. It is certainly reasonable to argue that a man in his 20s is stronger than he was in his childhood, and stronger than he will be in his 80s. But a weightlifter is not necessarily a good runner; a gold medal Olympic discus thrower is not likely to be a great swimmer. Strength arises from different muscle groups and strength in one muscle group does not necessarily imply strength in any other muscle group. And what are we to make of physical performance requiring the tight integration of all muscles, such as gymnastics? Would Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime have done well against Nadia Comăneci on the balance beam?

    It's an empirical fact that all mental abilities are influenced by a single general intelligence factor.  Whether all physical abilities are influenced by a general athletic factor is an empirical question, and asserting that factor to be "strength" is dubious.

    •  Are you a racist? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jessical, MichaelNY

      I ask the question because, while the great bulk of your comment is well-phrased and scientifically informed, you slip once or twice into nonscientific statements that I believe reveal an underlying racism. Most striking was:

      But to anyone with even a hint of critical thinking skills, it's completely obvious that higher intelligence evolved as humans left Africa and were forced to adapt to colder climates... It's just common sense.

      Your "common sense" is not supported by any scientific evidence, and the fact that you would inject so unscientific a speculation into your comment suggests to me that you want to believe that blacks are not as intelligent as whites -- a serious lack of scientific objectivity.

      To rebut your particular points, you argue that the gap has not been closed despite advances in racial integration collapses when we take into account the strongly-established effects of wealth on IQ scores. The fact that blacks are clearly poorer than whites confounds your claim.

      Your claim that intelligence is "extremely" genetic is contradicted by the actual studies, which find a 50% heritability for IQ scores. Unless you think that "extremely" = 50%

      People have known that the races differ in intelligence for thousands of years

      No, for thousands of years people of one social group have always believed that people of another social group are not as smart as they are. Are you able to recognize that this must be chauvanism, not truth?

      It's ridiculous to think it [human cognitive evolution] would stop when humans left Africa

      Yes, and it's equally ridiculous to think that human cognitive evolution stopped for humans who remained in Africa.

      Within the united states, cultural factors have virtually zero impact on adult IQ.

      I suspect that you're using a different definition of "cultural". For me, a black kid raised in a slum is in a different cultural environment than a white kid raised in suburbia.

      But because all mental abilities (including music talent) are by definition, influence by g (general intelligence)

      Yes, you certainly can define your false beliefs to be true. But I prefer evidence and reason to asserted tautology.

      It's an empirical fact that all mental abilities are influenced by a single general intelligence factor.

      No, it is not. Show me the empirical results for measures of good intuition. Show me the empirical results for measures of social intelligence. I could go on and on...

      •  reply (0+ / 0-)

        I ask the question because, while the great bulk of your comment is well-phrased and scientifically informed, you slip once or twice into nonscientific statements that I believe reveal an underlying racism.

        I'm exceptionally unracist, which is why I'm secure enough to face the truth about race.  It's those who are secretly racist who must overcompensate by adopting extreme politically correct Marxist philosophies, similar to how men who are secretly gay must become outwardly Macho and homophobic to compensate.  

        People who hate blacks as individuals overcompensate by saying positive things about blacks as a group.  It's easy to complement a race in the abstract.  I on the other hand love and honor blacks as INDIVIDUALS and thus have enough respect for them to tell them the truth about their group, in sharp contrast to your condescending paternalism.

        And by the way there are many ways HBD predicts blacks are genetically superior to whites (large sexual anatomy, musical rhythm, more sociable personalities, superior muscle and athleticism).

        Your "common sense" is not supported by any scientific evidence, and the fact that you would inject so unscientific a speculation into your comment suggests to me that you want to believe that blacks are not as intelligent as whites -- a serious lack of scientific objectivity.

        Being objective doesn't mean you toss common sense out the window.  To me it's intuitively obvious that a very cold climate is more cognitively demanding than a warm climate, and all scientific theories begin with a speculative hunch.  Now if I continued to cling to that despite evidence to the contrary, then that would be subjective racism, however the fact is I'm supported by the data: Measured brain size and IQ are higher in colder climates and the archeological data show more complex tool use.

        To rebut your particular points, you argue that the gap has not been closed despite advances in racial integration collapses when we take into account the strongly-established effects of wealth on IQ scores. The fact that blacks are clearly poorer than whites confounds your claim.

        There's no question that blacks are culturally disadvantaged compared to whites, but to make a false equivalency between the racial inequalities today, with racial inequalities in the Jim Crow era is not only disingenuous, but insulting to the civil rights movement and insulting to blacks who endured the worst of the 20th century.

        Your claim that intelligence is "extremely" genetic is contradicted by the actual studies, which find a 50% heritability for IQ scores. Unless you think that "extremely" = 50%

        Heritability is nearly 50% in children, nearly 70% in adolescents, and nearly 80% in later maturity.

        No, for thousands of years people of one social group have always believed that people of another social group are not as smart as they are. Are you able to recognize that this must be chauvanism, not truth?

        That's not really true.  Many of the early Caucasoid explorers were stunned by the high intelligence found in China, but both Islamic and Christian explorers reached the opposite conclusion about sub-Saharan Africa.

        Yes, and it's equally ridiculous to think that human cognitive evolution stopped for humans who remained in Africa.

        Primates had been adapting to sub-Saharan Africa for some 60 million years.  Humans had pretty much conquered that environment and needed new challenges for intelligence to evolve to the next level.  Intelligence is the cognitive ability to adapt and solve NOVEL problems, so it's generally when when a species enters a new niche that we see explosive growth in brain size.  One example is when proto-birds began to fly.  Other examples are when primates left the trees to become human, or when humans left Africa to become Caucasoid.  

        I suspect that you're using a different definition of "cultural". For me, a black kid raised in a slum is in a different cultural environment than a white kid raised in suburbia.

        But when blacks and whites are both adopted into suburbia, the full 15 point IQ gap between them remains.  

        No, it is not. Show me the empirical results for measures of good intuition. Show me the empirical results for measures of social intelligence. I could go on and on...

        It's always possible to endless define new mental abilities that have not yet been studied, but in terms of what we have been able to scientifically measure in a reliable way, ALL mental abilities are positively correlated.

        •  you could have just said "yes" (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY

          I'm going to go wash my eyes now.  Before I do, because this is a forum that tries not to trash people (though you are about to get it, unless I'm mistaken and you are ignored instead), I'm going to say...as a person who values logical evaluation...have you ever asked yourself why your view of race is so perfectly in accord with the grossest of stereotypes?  I'd suggest to you that may not rest with the intuitive brilliance of past racists, or the deep wisdom of folklore, but with confirmation bias so vast it cannot see its own ass in the mirror.

          Mileage varies.

          ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

          by jessical on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 12:13:27 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  I'm sorry, I can't read past this (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jessical
          And by the way there are many ways HBD predicts blacks are genetically superior to whites (large sexual anatomy, musical rhythm, more sociable personalities, superior muscle and athleticism).
          If you don't realize that these are classic racist stereotypes, you are so unconscious that it's almost unfathomable. Your thinking is 19th-century.

          Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

          by MichaelNY on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 12:16:43 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  19th Century Observations & evidence (0+ / 0-)

            Actually, if you look at empirical evidence on the subject you'll find that there are indeed average group differences on behavioural traits like those outlined. Note that relates to large samples, individuals are going to vary.

            More generally why would anyone expect different cultural and physical environments to favor the same physical and behavioural traits? It's entirely plausible that you could get average differences over thousands of years. See Professor Robert Weinberg's final lecture in Biology 7.012 at MIT (2004)
            for example.

            •  If you are able to read calculator's posts (0+ / 0-)

              in this thread without concluding that calculator is a racist who's peddling a bunch of archaic, bullshit stereotypes, I have to wonder about you.

              Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

              by MichaelNY on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 07:17:19 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  (yawn) what tommyrot (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jessical, MichaelNY
          And by the way there are many ways HBD predicts blacks are genetically superior to whites (large sexual anatomy, musical rhythm, more sociable personalities, superior muscle and athleticism).
          Oh, for crissakes . . . . . . .

          You're too dumb even for the Klan.

        •  A word of appreciation (0+ / 0-)

          I'd like to express my appreciation for the calm manner in which you have responded to my sometimes harsh phrasing. Unfortunately, I have an errand to run, and I want to do some background research before responding, so it will be a while before I'm back.

          Good luck dealing with MichaelNY. I feel caught between in irresistible force and an immovable object.

          •  OK, I'm back now (0+ / 0-)

            and I've done a little research. First, I don't deny the well-known fact that blacks in this country score about 15 points lower than whites. However, there are a great many confounding factors that rob this fact of applicability to studies of genetic influences on intelligence. I'm sure you know them: the wealth effect, pre- and post-natal influences, cultural issues, education, and so forth. Yes, I know that there have been a number of studies that attempted to correct for these biasing effects, but there have been other studies that only lead to confusion on the matter. You cite the studies that support your position, but you overlook the numerous studies that undermine your position. For example, here's a ridiculously technical one with the intimidating title "Moderation of breastfeeding effects on the IQ by genetic variation in fatty acid metabolism", which suggests an intimate combination of environmental and genetic influences at work.

            I was quite impressed with the care and thoroughness that went into the Wikipedia article on race and intelligence. They do an excellent job of summarizing the many considerations at work here.

            If there were just a handful of confounding factors, and they were all carefully controlled for, I'd be more receptive to the significance of the 15-point difference in IQ scores, but there are dozens of confounding factors, many of which have never been addressed.

            But the most compelling argument for me is the impossibility of fitting an IQ test to the environmental context of every subject. IQ tests do a fairly good job of estimating how well a subject will perform in modern Western culture. But I do not accept the assumption that modern Western culture is the only culture of significance. I suspect that an IQ test that is well-predictive of the success of equatorial Africans in their own cultures would show at least a 15 point lead for Africans over white Americans.

            Here's an interesting conjecture: how well do you think Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle would do on a modern IQ test? My guess is that Socrates would come out well below average, Plato only about average, and Aristotle only slightly above average. Why? Read their stuff. Socrates' dialogues are chock full of logical bloopers. Plato's Republic has some, er, logical infelicities that any undergraduate can pick up on. And Aristotle, for all his brilliance, made some mistakes that held back Western thinking for several centuries. If these three men, commonly held to be among the greatest minds of Western civilization, would have shown lackluster performance on our IQ tests, what does that say about our IQ tests?

            Of course, this is mere conjecture, but there's an underlying point: few people recognize just how recent the very concept of logical thinking is. Did you know that most of the complex logical conjunctions (nevertheless, notwithstanding, etc) that are part of rigorous logical thinking only entered the English language about 800 years ago? That the very concept of "proof" in legal trials was not embraced in English law until the early 18th century? That Chinese thought had nothing in the way of logic until just recently? Our Western way of thinking is mighty peculiar, in the sense of being unnatural and uncommon in the broader picture of human cognition.

            And when we use that style of thinking as a measure of intelligence, we are surely missing a large part of what really goes on inside the human mind.

            Lastly, I would like to again express my admiration for the grace and civility you have shown in responding to the comments here. My own comments were too often marred by ungentlemanly phrasing; for that I apologize. I still disagree with you, but I do so respectfully.

            In contrast, we have some other correspondents here who betray their recognition that they are wrong with lots of angrily assertive talk. I offer my sympathies.

            •  confounding factors (0+ / 0-)

              However, there are a great many confounding factors that rob this fact of applicability to studies of genetic influences on intelligence. I'm sure you know them: the wealth effect, pre- and post-natal influences, cultural issues, education, and so forth. Yes, I know that there have been a number of studies that attempted to correct for these biasing effects, but there have been other studies that only lead to confusion on the matter. You cite the studies that support your position, but you overlook the numerous studies that undermine your position. For example, here's a ridiculously technical one with the intimidating title "Moderation of breastfeeding effects on the IQ by genetic variation in fatty acid metabolism", which suggests an intimate combination of environmental and genetic influences at work.

              Environment can influence IQ, but obviously not very much (within countries) because IQ (at middle age) is nearly 80% heritable.  You accept that IQ differences among individuals are SUBSTANTIALLY genetic so the default hypothesis should be that IQ differences between races (who are just aggregated individuals) are also substantially genetic.  If races differ substantially on physical traits, why wouldn't they differ on mental traits?  The brain after all is just a physical organ, and one with a history of evolving far more than other organs.  It violates OCCAM'S RAZOR to treat racial differences or intelligence differences as a special case, and the only reason you do so is because you've been conditioned by the cultural values of your time.

              Modern anthropologists jump through logical hoops to avoid declaring one race more intelligent than another, but all those arguments fly out the window when they look at extinct humans.  When anthropologists discover a homo erectus skull, they have no problem saying its small brain and primitive tools means it genetically less intelligent than modern humans.  I've never heard an anthropologist say "maybe homo erectus wasn't breast fed enough or maybe it grew up in deprived environments" but when it comes to differences in brain size and technology, not to mention IQ scores, of LIVING human populations, suddenly all these arguments are unleashed.

              As someone who prides myself in being objective, I can't endorse the double standards.

    •  I think this is nonsense (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jessical
      the biggest genetic difference in the human species is between Africans and non-Africans
      And if it is, much of the rest of your long post is also nonsense. So give us some scientific data defending your tendentious claim.

      Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

      by MichaelNY on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 11:05:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  his claim is nonsense (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MichaelNY

        There are no "non-Africans".  All humans, every single one of us, is descended from African ancestors.  "Africans" today still contain over 90% of all human genetic diversity. And there is NO genetic dividing line between "races"---there is NO genetic suite that delineates one "race" from another.Humans are polymorphic. The division into "races" is cultural, historical and societal, not genetic. There is NO suite of genes that identifies someone as being of one "race" or another.

        Our racist friend here flunked Biology 101.

        •  Lewontin Fallacy (0+ / 0-)

          Actually, there are human varieties or races just as there are races or sub-species in other species. And this has implications for pharmaceutical and medical research.

          See 2004 Curt Stern Award winner for outstanding contributions to genetics Neil Risch's paper on thisbiology.com/2002/3/7/comment/2007.

          As Steve Hsu, involved with the BGI Cognitive Genomics Project writes:

          There are readily identifiable clusters of points, corresponding to traditional continental ethnic groups: Europeans, Africans, Asians, Native Americans, etc. (See, for example, Risch et al., Am. J. Hum. Genet. 76:268–275, 2005.) This clustering is a natural consequence of geographical isolation, inheritance and natural selection operating over the last 50k years since humans left Africa.

          This leads us to two very distinct possibilities in human genetic variation:

          Hypothesis 1: (the PC mantra) The only group differences that exist between the clusters (races) are innocuous and superficial, for example related to skin color, hair color, body type, etc.

          Hypothesis 2: (the dangerous one) Group differences exist which might affect important (let us say, deep rather than superficial) and measurable characteristics, such as cognitive abilities, personality, athletic prowess, etc.

          Note H1 is under constant revision, as new genetically driven group differences (e.g., particularly in disease resistance) are being discovered. According to the mantra of H1 these must all (by definition) be superficial differences.

          A standard argument against H2 is that the 50k years during which groups have been separated is not long enough for differential natural selection to cause any group differences in deep characteristics. I find this argument quite naive, given what we know about animal breeding and how evolution has affected the (ever expanding list of) "superficial" characteristics. Many genes are now suspected of having been subject to strong selection over timescales of order 5k years or less. For further discussion of H2 by Steve Pinker, see here.

          The predominant view among social scientists is that H1 is obviously correct and H2 obviously false. However, this is mainly wishful thinking. Official statements by the American Sociological Association and the American Anthropological Association even endorse the view that race is not a valid biological concept, which is clearly incorrect.

          As scientists, we don't know whether H1 or H2 is correct, but given the revolution in biotechnology, we will eventually. Let me reiterate, before someone labels me a racist: we don't know with high confidence whether H1 or H2 is correct.

          Finally, it is important to note that group differences are statistical in nature and do not imply anything definitive about a particular individual. Rather than rely on the scientifically unsupported claim that we are all equal, it would be better to emphasize that we all have inalienable human rights regardless of our abilities or genetic makeup.

    •  um, how do you explain the fact that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY

      ALL humans, every single one of us without exception, are evolved from African ancestors that lived about 200,000 years ago . . . . . and that Africans today still have over 90% of all human genetic diversity.

      Since you are just as African as Nelson Mandela is, where'd your smart genes come from, Kimo Sabe?

      •  If all humans evolved from Africans (0+ / 0-)

        Then we should expect Africa to be the most genetically primitive region of humanity, because throughout evolution, life forms that appear early are less advanced than life forms that appear later.  Humans are the newest type of primate and we are the most intelligent.  Primates are the newest type of mammal and the most intelligent.  Mammals themselves are newer and smarter than the small brained reptiles that predate them.  Evolution is progressive.  Among humans, mongoloids are the new and improved race, with the largest brains, smallest genitalia and least rhythm.

        •  Problems (0+ / 0-)

          No, the greatest genetic diversity is to be expected in oldest population, because it has had more time to become more complex. Lots more random variations accumulate into a larger gene pool. Moreover, the many tropical diseases require a large gene pool that can respond adequately. A large gene pool is least important in polar conditions where disease is less prevalent.

          Also, your notion of intellectual progress in evolution is considered archaic. It's called "The Great Chain of Being"; Steven J. Gould had some excellent essays explaining why that concept is so inappropriate to evolutionary theory. Evolution makes trees, not lines. There is no "superior" species, there are just species well-adapted to particular environments. You and I would be total failures as barnacles. We can't even breathe underwater!

          •  great chain of being (0+ / 0-)

            Also, your notion of intellectual progress in evolution is considered archaic. It's called "The Great Chain of Being"; Steven J. Gould had some excellent essays explaining why that concept is so inappropriate to evolutionary theory. Evolution makes trees, not lines.

            I read Stephen Jay Gould's disccusion of the topic and I find his arguments very superficial.  Other scholars have more interesting perspectives.  E.O. Wilson for example has noted that life on Earth has become progressively more complex over  evolutionary time and outlined 4 major stages: First primitive prokaryotes, followed by eukaryotes, folowed by multicellular organisms with complex organs like eyes and brains, and finally, the human mind.

             Scientist John Bonner agrees, noting that there has been a progression from the bacteria of billions of years ago to the large complex organisms we see today.  He even feels one can speak of higher and lower plants that differ in antiquity.

            Paleontogists even suggested that if dinosaurs were still alive today, they would have evolved into big brained bidepal creatures.

            Scholars like the late Phillipe Rushton mapped the concept of evolutionary progress onto the human races, noting that mongoloids (big brain, small genitalia) are the youngest and most advanced race, negroids (small brain, big genitalia) are the oldest and most primitive race, and caucasoids are between both extremes.

            •  Decreasing entropy (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              MichaelNY

              It's certainly true that, when we look at the evolution of the biosphere, we see a large-scale reduction of entropy. That is the obvious result of harvesting sunlight. But it's a trickier business applying that grand-strategic trend at the level of an individual species. There are plenty of cases in evolution in which species lost complexity in order to cope with new environmental conditions. This typically happens when the negentropy available to the species is reduced; again, the logic of the response is obvious.

              More important, however, is the huge difference between negentropy and intelligence. This is reflected in genome sizes. If homo sapiens were the pinnacle of evolution, it would have a larger genome containing more negentropy, right? I suggest that you peruse the statistics at this site; it's pretty humbling. In terms of genome size and complexity, mammals are put in the shade by protozoa, salamanders, lungfishes, frogs, crustaceans, insects, flatworms, angiosperms, gymnosperms, pteridophytes, and algae. In other words, your genetic complement is smaller than that of any salamander. How's that for humiliating?

              These other species are complex in ways completely different from homo sapiens, and in those ways they are MUCH more highly developed than homo sapiens. We're talking orders of magnitude greater complexity.

              So set aside this parochial pride in intelligence. By any objective measure, it's not so big a deal.

              •  Is genome size relevant? (0+ / 0-)

                Well I haven't looked at the data but it sounds like genome size is not a valid measure of evolutionary progress, or perhaps you're just cherry picking examples to make it look like it's not.  What we do know is that more evolved organisms have larger brains (adjusted for body size) and more behavioral adaptability than less evolved organisms (on average).  We even saw this with the dinosaurs.  Their brains got progressively larger over evolutionary time.

                Of course every trend has its exceptions and evolution can and has gone backwards too.

                •  Science isn't about personal values (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  MichaelNY

                  You continue to inject personal values into your comments. You talk about "evolutionary progress" -- I challenge you to define that term. Is a panda less evolved than a human? You couldn't survive on bamboo shoots, so the panda is better adapted to its environment than you are. Does that make it more evolved?

                  And how do you address the organism that is so perfectly adapted to its environment that any change would be detrimental to its continued survival? Consider, for example, the single-celled organisms found in Antarctic lakes. They are optimized to utilize the extremely low available negentropy in that environment; any mutation away from that optimum would be killed off. So are they "inferior" to you? You couldn't survive in the environment they survive in!

                  If you really want a quantitative measure of evolutionary "progress", it would have to be negentropy, which is best expressed in the size of the genome. By that measure, you're "inferior" to a flatworm.

                  If you wish to understand the significance of negentropy, I suggest that you read up on thermodynamics and life.

        •  it's not an "if". the question is settled. (0+ / 0-)

          Every shred of evidence shows that H sapiens evolved in Africa. You are an African.  Descended from Africans with black skin. Sorry if you don't like that.

          As for this drivel:

          throughout evolution, life forms that appear early are less advanced than life forms that appear later.
          it's simply not true.  The archebacteria were the first forms of life, and they are still here (and still the real dominant form of life on earth).

          You don't understand how evolution works.  It's not a ladder.  There is no "higher and lower".

          PS--birds appeared after mammals.  Are birds the Master Race?

          Please take your idiotic racist drivel elsewhere.

          •  Recent human evolution (0+ / 0-)

            The thing is that groups continue to evolve in response to new cultures and environments. You get physical changes and also selection for different behaviours depending on what rewards reproductive success (see 'The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution').

            Steve Hsu discusses how you could get a significant change in a quantitative heritable trait over 1000 years. There are examples for instance of demographic change in England and China where there was selection leading to demographic change (see Greg Clark's 'A Farewell to Alms' for instance).

            •  Accelerated evolution (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              MichaelNY

              I'm chary of claims of super-rapid evolution. The classic E. Coli experiment on rates of change demonstrated that you need roughly a hundred generations to get a new gene fixated in the gene pool.

            •  that is all irrelevant to my point (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              MichaelNY

              Evolution is not a ladder. Evolution has no direction. No product of evolution is "better" than any other. EVERY human population is still evolving.  None is "more evolved" or "more advanced" than any other. Particularly today given the fact that genes dance from one end of the world to the other, and there is no separate human gene pool anywhere on planet earth. Even the white racists certainly have African, and very likely also have Jewish and Latino genes, in them. (Remember our nazi friend Mr Rockwell?)

              The racist kookers prove every day that they don't understand evolution or how it works.  Their very idea of a "genetic master race" is based on the notion of a genetic monoculture, a single set of super-duper best genes----and any farmer knows that a monoculture is the WEAKEST population, evolutionarily.

          •  birds (0+ / 0-)

            You don't understand how evolution works.  It's not a ladder.  There is no "higher and lower".

            Actually it's you who doesn't understand how evolution works.  It's true that evolution is not a ladder, but it is a tree, and some branches are higher than others.  We don't have have to give the higher branches a value judgement like "superior", but it's an objective fact that they are more evolved than the lower branches and are typically more intelligent.

            PS--birds appeared after mammals.  Are birds the Master Race?

            Birds are an ambiguous case because cladistically they group with reptiles (dinosaurs) which are a very ancient, primitive form of life.

            •  I'll grant that (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              MichaelNY

              organisms that existed hundreds of millions of years ago could be characterized as probably having smaller genomes than current organisms. But when you talk about "higher" and "lower" branches, I think you are making the mistake of conflating two very different concepts: "earlier" versus "later" and "adaptively suboptimal" with "adaptively optimal". If you draw an evolutionary tree on a piece of paper, the fact that a branch containing homo sapiens is higher on the paper than a branch containing flatworms is entirely arbitrary; the same tree could just as easily have been drawn with flatworms on a "higher" branch. This is why cladistic diagrams are nowadays drawn in a circular diagram.

              And no, there is no correlation whatsoever between how far out the diagram you go and intelligence. That ant crawling around on the ground is just as "evolved" as you are.

              •  he's wrong (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                MichaelNY

                Bacteria have much larger genomes than humans do.  So do flatworms and salamanders.

                And EVERY living organism has evolved exactly as far from life's last common ancestor as every other living organism has.

                Our racist friend here doesn't know diddley about biology or evolution.

              •  You're making the same mistake Lenny Flank makes (0+ / 0-)

                You, Gould, Lenny Flank...a lot of very bright people can not grasp the concept of evolutionary progress.  I've met Nobel prize winners with IQ's as high as 150 who couldn't get it.  Above 150, almost everyone gets it.

                The mistake you guys all make is measuring evolution by time and thus assuming that because all life on Earth has been evolving from a common ancestor for the same amount of time, all life is equally evolved.  Most scientists share this view but it's completely wrong.  If you want to know how evolved a type of organism is, you don't look at how long they've been evolving,  you look at how long ago they branched off the main trunk of the evolutionary tree.  Organisms that branched off prematurely are (generally speaking) less evolved than organisms that branched off recently.  This is because the main trunk is by definition where most of the evolutionary action is and once you diverge from it, your evolutionary progress begins to stagnate.  A good analogy is once you get off the highway you're probably close to your destination.

                Very difficult concept to grasp because it appears to contradict the blind random nature of evolution so many scientists love to invoke and because below IQ 150 it's hard to parallel process and thus think of different evolutionary tracks evolving simultaneously

                •  You're quite a VIP, aren't you? (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  MichaelNY

                  So now you're claiming to be superior in knowledge than all those stupid scientists and anybody else who disagrees with you. How convenient. You are descending into absurdity.

                  And your explanation is absurd. You measure "how far an organism has evolved" by "how recently it branched off from the main branch". Question: how does one define the "main branch"? Humans branched off from the simian branch; does that mean that we are 6 million years worth of non-evolution?

                  Speciation is taking place all the time. It is absurd to argue that a newly-developed species is somehow "more evolved" than the parent species, especially if the newly-developed species later goes extinct while the older species remains healthy. Is the saber-tooth tiger "more evolved" than a flatworm? It's extinct and the flatworm isn't!

                  There is no "destination" in evolution. It is a process of adapting to changing environments, nothing more. There is no guiding purpose.

                  And you REALLY ought to look into the concept of entropy and its relationship to living organisms.

                  •  The main trunk (0+ / 0-)

                    The main trunk of the evolutionary tree is wherever the most branching occurs.

                    Let's say you have population A which splits into populations B and C and then C splits into populations D and E.  The line leading to D and E is the main trunk, because it has branched more than the line leading to B. So D and E are more evolved than B.

                    Of course more evolved doesn't necessarily mean superior, more adaptable or successful (though I suspect there's a correlation); it just means your ancestors have experienced more evolutionary developments.

                    •  OK, then how about this: (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      MichaelNY

                      Consider the HIV virus. It is less than one hundred years old. Therefore, by your definition, the HIV virus is more evolved than homo sapiens. It contains much less DNA, would surely score zero on an IQ test, yet is more evolved than we are.

                      Then we have insects. Lots of research shows that these organisms evolve quite rapidly. Obviously, the most recent species are much more "evolved" than we are.

                      Perhaps you meant to say that the degree to which an organism has evolved is only in comparison to other organisms in the same genus. But why so arbitrary a distinction? Why couldn't the comparison be made at the family level? Order? Class? Phylum? Where's the "true" point at which we make comparisons?

                      Not a terribly useful definition you have there, is it?

                      •  Taxanomical levels (0+ / 0-)

                        Yes, as you very astutely inferred, the model only makes sense if you're comparing at the same taxonomic level, so you can compare say different races of humans, or different species of homo, or different classes within the animal kingdom, but you can't really say that a new species of bacteria is more evolved than a human, because although as a species it branched off late,  the kingdom it belongs to branched off early, and kingdom trumps species.

                        •  Your definition makes chimps more evolved (0+ / 0-)

                          Your definition of "more evolved" is based on how recently a species broke away from a main branch, and you define a main branch to be the branch containing more species. Very well, please examine the cladogram for apes -- they're readily found with a google search. You will observe that about 5 million years ago there was a separation into two geni, resulting in the Pan genus and the Homo genus. The Pan genus then split into two species, Pan troglodytes and Pan paniscus. Since this branch has two species and the Homo genus has only one, your definition leads us to conclude that the Pan genus is the main branch. Homo broke away from that main branch about 5 million years ago. Pan paniscus broke away from that main branch much more recently.

                          Your definition therefore leads us to conclude that Pan paniscus is "more evolved" than Homo sapiens.

                          Don't you see how absurd this whole thing is? Why do you insist on preferring your personal beliefs over the judgement of just about every reputable life scientist on the planet?

                          •  You're comparing apples and oranges (0+ / 0-)

                            You will observe that about 5 million years ago there was a separation into two geni, resulting in the Pan genus and the Homo genus. The Pan genus then split into two species, Pan troglodytes and Pan paniscus. Since this branch has two species and the Homo genus has only one, your definition leads us to conclude that the Pan genus is the main branch

                            But as we discussed above, you have to compare at the same taxonomical level, and you're mixing the species level with the genus level.  Now if Pan had split into two different geni instead of just two different species, then it would be valid to say the 2 geni that Pan gave rise to are more evolved than any Homo (including humans) but that's not what happened.

                            Also, the Homo genus may have only one LIVING species, but it has several extinct ones.

                            Don't you see how absurd this whole thing is? Why do you insist on preferring your personal beliefs over the judgement of just about every reputable life scientist on the planet?

                            Because it seems to yield good results.  Most of the life forms that the general public would consider primitive would probably be considered primitive by my methodology too.  It has what's called "face validity".

                          •  Not scientific (0+ / 0-)

                            You like your system "Because it seems to yield good results." And "good results" are what match popular expectations; they confirm folk wisdom.

                            That's fine by me, but please don't call any of your beliefs "science". You reject scientists and you prefer a system that works for non-scientists over a system that works for scientists. Again, that's fine by me, but it most certainly is not scientific.

                            Scientists don't try to prove that Homo sapiens is superior to other species. Scientists don't impose their personal values onto their scientific findings. Scientists don't think in terms of "better" species or "worse" species.

                            Your approach is entirely nonscientific.

                          •  Scientists measure (0+ / 0-)

                            Yes, but scientists DO measure variables on an objective scale, so quantifying the degree of evolutionary development seems like a worthy scientific pursuit, especially when subjective terms like "superior" are ommitted.  Scientists don't like the idea of a chain of being with humans at the top because it seems self-serving, not objective, and because it reminds them too much of religion, and when you combine that with the "everything is equal" relativism of the 20th century, it's not surprising scientists reject such ideas.  But the fact that this model yields results that confirm "folk wisdom" suggests the concept may have external validity and may even help us make predictions about the future of evolution and how evolution may have turned out on other planets.

                          •  No (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            MichaelNY

                            Scientists do NOT refrain from injecting values into scientific research because of any "everything is equal" relativism. They reject the injection of values into science because science is supposed to be objective, not subjective. The insistence on objectivity is fundamental to rationalism. I'm not demanding that you be rational, but I do condemn falsehood, and mixing your values into science is fundamentally anti-rational and anti-scientific. Feel free to call your beliefs religious, or personal, or a matter of taste. Just don't call them scientific.

                            And citing "common beliefs" as evidence is almost as bad. Science is not based on opinion polls.

                          •  Please keep an open mind (0+ / 0-)

                            Yes, I conceded the point that value judgements like "superior" are problematic, however the concept of "more evolved" is not a value judgement, it's an observable, measurable, falsifiable scientific concept, and I just explained how it can be measured.

                            As for opinion polls, once again that's science too because public opinion is observable, measurable, and falsifiable.

                            When one measure of evolutionary development (level of branching) is correlated with another measure of evolutionary development (public opinion) then that means that what I'm measuring has a certain degree of external validity.  Ideally one would want far more sophisticated confirmation than public opinion, but you have to start somewhere.

                            You're far too influenced by what the majority of scientists think.  Scientific consensus can change and has many, many times in the past.  

                          •  Open? (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            MichaelNY

                            You assert that "more evolved" is measurable, but you ignore two obvious measurable quantities: genome size and negentropy. Both of these observables are more rigorously defined than your own and both of them are solidly based in scientific research and widely recognized. Your personal definition, by contrast, is your own concoction, has never undergone study, and is riddled with flaws (for example, how does your definition cope with a branching into one genus and a separate species, or similar mixed branchings?).

                            You ask others to accept your personal version of science over well-established scientific measures. That's not going to work.

                            If you think that the science on this question will change, then make it happen: write up your research on the matter and submit it to a peer-reviewed journal. In the absence of such an effort, asking others to accept your own version of science is futile.

                            Lastly, you misuse public opinion. It's reasonable to use public opinion to learn about public attitudes, but that's the only thing that such polls establish: what the public believes. It says nothing about scientific truth. If an opinion poll establishes that the sky is red, that doesn't make the sky red. Measuring the light coming from the sky is what decides its color.

                            Look, Calculator, I think we've bottomed out; we're just butting heads now. I appreciate the civility with which you have conducted yourself, but I think it's time to call an end to this discussion. I offer you the last word.

  •  Tipped and Recc'd (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jessical, Erasmussimo, MichaelNY

    For the seriousness with which you not only approached this subject but your even handedness in discussing it (derivative tips from the commenters I've read so far, who have also been extremely reflective.)

    I do not agree with this part of your diary--chalk it up to my Black but very high-IQ-scoring bias or something else, but I urge you to reflect upon the unstated assumptions about the fluid nature of "race", the fluid nature of "intelligence" and the inability of science to ever truly reach conclusions that would be robust enough to be applied at more than the individual level EVER:

    If solid evidence arises that blacks are cognitively less capable than whites, then I shall accept the hypothesis and move on to asking how we reconcile scientific conclusions with political theory.
    You cannot have "solid evidence" of any correlative relationship between variables that are fluidly defined even on a good day in indviduals and the outcomes shown collectively.  That you are open minded to the idea that someone might be able to find a "difference in cognitive ability" based upon "race" suggests to me that you are still having trouble letting go, within yourself, of the myth of racial difference and Black inferiority that we have all been taught by this culture even as you are indeed working on it. My view is that if you had truly let go of it, science would have left you with no conclusion but to conclude that we can never talk about "intelligence" when it comes to groups larger than a few people at a time in a collective fashion.

    But thank you for the diary and, as I said, the seriousness and good faith with which you approach the subject.

    •  Thanks (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY

      I knew I was going to get into trouble with that statement about accepting such results. Again, I emphasize that this arises not from any residual racism, but from a strict sense of intellectual integrity. I am prepared to entertain any hypothesis, and will accept any hypothesis that is supported with compelling evidence. If somebody were to show compelling evidence that I'm worm snot, then I'd shrug my shoulders, look in the mirror, and say "I'm worm snot."

  •  Claims about 'objective' intelligence measures (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Erasmussimo, MichaelNY

    keep bringing me back to Bateson:  Objectivity is choosing to look very hard at what we choose to look at.  The relative goodness or badness of science can only be judged if we first agree upon standards of measurement, and when it comes to complex social phenomena (like intelligence) we most certainly don't all agree.  Thus, some measure one thing, and some measure another (mathematical aptitude, versus language facility, versus emotional intelligence, etc.), and even within categories such as math, there's spatial vs. algebraic vs. fractal aptitudes (all of which vary from culture to culture, and person to person).  

    Even within a culture, a math "savant" like Britain's Daniel Tammat, whose synesthesia and particular autistic talents allow him to see primes as shapes and colors, and who can beat a calculator in adding and dividing and squaring enormous sums, describes himself as "bad at algebra" because, to him, numbers are "real" while algebraic placeholders are too abstract.  Euclidean geometry is easy for western school students to grasp, but west African students may find fractal geometry more "natural" -- this is likely far more related to the cultural heritage than to innate mathematical ability (see Eglash's African Fractals, for instance).

    When it comes to making pronouncements about society and culture, time and again, "science" has proven to jump the gun.  I put "science" in quotes here because much that is passed off as science is simply rationalization -- context bias is a powerful thing, and if you start by assuming and looking for differences in intelligence between "races" (vexed already, as a category) or tying traits to phenotypes, you're more likely to influence your results in the direction you want them to go, than you are to "discover" anything new.

    I say this not because I have a bias against science -- I don't. I have a positive and strong affection for scientific method, and I make my living editing scientific papers and working with their authors to make them better and stronger.  What I do have is a dislike for over-reach, the fact that negative results are usually ignored, and the celebration of any results that seem to affirm our own suspicions and beliefs regardless of the rigor with which the measurements were taken.

    Just like we find tobacco research produced by tobacco companies suspect, both in what it claims (how the studies are structured) and what it ignores (all the studies that seem to show that tobacco is bad for your health), I find comparative intelligence research suspect in a society that is demonstrably racist and sexist.  What gets picked up by the media, what gets funded, and what is accepted by journals is as influenced by social beliefs as any tobacco company research.  Negative results are far less likely to see the light of day than positive results.  And many (perhaps a majority) of published results are in error.  (I'm not making this up -- everyone from the British Journal of Medicine to Nate Silver is talking about this.)

    So we're a long way from being able to come up with "solid evidence" about "intelligence" at this point.  And we're going to see a lot of awful misinterpretation of study results (as in the relatively recent study that "proved" women prefer pink and men blue). It's impossible to isolate that study from the reaction to it (mention was made in practically every newspaper in the English speaking world). The positively gleeful tone with which reporters assured us that women were "naturally"... well... "feminine" for "biological" reasons was notable, and particularly notable to feminists, who had every reason to resist the tendency to naturalize women's cultural roles. Similarly, civil rights and antiracist advocates do not fail to note the way that alleged differences in intelligence or capacity are trumpeted everywhere when they seem to confirm racist presumptions.

    Personally, I'd like to see the funding that is currently going to research on "intelligence" turned to better use -- research on the effects of poverty on health and lifespan, or the efficacy of  preventative health measures, etc. In other words, I'd like to push us to look at things that might improve the living conditions of all human beings, rather than to look at things that will in all likelihood be used to justify the power one group holds above another. Science may be defined by its objectivity (agreed upon standards of measurement).  But what we study is all too often influenced by existing prejudices and power structures.

    "If you fake the funk, your nose will grow." -- Bootsy Collins

    by hepshiba on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 10:26:28 AM PST

    •  I strongly but do not completely agree (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY

      Your comment is very well-reasoned and stated, and I emphatically agree with your statement that intelligence is too multi-dimensional a concept to be quantified. I confess to occasionally using that word when I should be using measurable terms involving specific behaviors.

      My one quibble is with your recommendation that we desist continued exploration of these issues. IQ tests continue to have utility for educational purposes, and we have accumulated so much data on them that I'd hate to turn away from all of it. Despite the fact that these data are constantly being abused to justify racism, they retain some objective scientific value. In particular, I'd very much like to see a rigorous analysis of how cultural factors affect IQ scores.

      •  I agree in principle, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Erasmussimo, MichaelNY

        but I don't think such an analysis is possible in fact.

        Research on IQ tests has shown that those who score high on the tests tend to be pretty good at what the tests test.  But it's far less clear that people who score low are of inferior intelligence. And IQ tests tell us nothing about what is not being tested. This is most true for word problems, verbal and reasoning questions, and those comprise the bulk of IQ tests.

        I agree that the effect of different cultural practices on intelligence (and on the development of specific forms of intelligence) should be studied rigorously, but that's easier to say than to do.  How would we start? I think a good way would be to study the in-culture markers of intelligence first -- we can't develop cross-cultural scales until we understand each culture's standards of measurement, and compare it to the others.  

        In one culture, brilliance might be measured in the ability to, say, walk a songline -- a kind of geographic virtuosity that requires a particular combination of observational, mathematical, astronomical, deductive and mnemonic skills.   In another culture, brilliance might be measured in the ability to memorize and recombine 2500 different stories, and to map their application onto current life situations.  Another culture might respect the genius of cool judgment in solving social problems and preserving the integrity of the community.  Yet another might produce sailors who can navigate a thousand miles of open ocean by mapping tides with stick patterns.

        Too often, we in the west define these things as outside the realm of intelligence, as if we did not learn to do the smart things we do by practice and exposure, too -- as if there can't be intuitively brilliant fractal mathematicians in West Africa.  Or a kind of genius that only training in calculation and precision in calligraphy can foster.  Or cartographic brilliance in Polynesian cultures. I am, of course, exaggerating these cultural differences for effect, and in the contemporary world none of these cultures are untouched by the others, but in my estimation that makes cross-cultural measures of intelligence more difficult to construct rather than less.

        There were a couple of good volumes that came out to debunk The Bell Curve, and they described the problems with intelligence testing and its analysis pretty well. And yet, the popularity of the Bell Curve continues unabated in Republican (and too many  Democratic) circles.  As an example of truly terrible analysis of cross-cultural intelligence, see Richard Lynn's racist, eugenicist reinscription, The Global Bell Curve.  

        In my estimation, a preoccupation with intelligence testing (even if we hope for rigorous cross-cultural analysis) is a part of the racist and sexist system I, personally, would like to see entirely dismantled.  Before we can respect the intelligence of people from other cultures, we actually have to respect other cultures.  Currently, there's no sign that we do.  Maybe later, if we can master that skill, we'll be able to talk intelligently about intelligence across cultures.

        Our own culture is so heterogeneous we can't even devise tests that work fairly for measuring the capacities of people from different classes, social backgrounds, subcultures, etc.  Instead of leading to advances in education, IQ testing has led to tracking of minority students into classes for low-performance students (without improving their performance), and serves as a justification for the privileged remaining privileged as they continue to consume the majority of resources.  A belief in standardized tests (IQ and other standard measures) has not done U.S. education a service, and has abetted the Republicans in their successful quest to destroy public education.  This is why I argue against a form of inquiry which, under the current conditions, can really only be performed as a pseudoscience.  And we need less of that sort of quackery, rather than more.

        I think, as scientists, we deeply want to believe that there's a sound method for studying pretty much anything.  It's hard to admit that the method is beyond our ability to devise at present, and it's true that the lack of such a method is not a reason to give up thinking about how we might do it.  But until we can figure out how to do these studies well, the damage we cause by doing them is not offset by the knowledge we (fail to) gain when we perform them....

        "If you fake the funk, your nose will grow." -- Bootsy Collins

        by hepshiba on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 01:27:09 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You make an excellent case (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY

          and I agree entirely with almost everything you say. I concede that you have a strong point in the use of IQ tests to prop up cultural parochialism; my impression is that America has the most culturally uneducated Western society. Nevertheless, I am loth to the idea of shutting down an area of research. I agree with your point that current IQ tests are too culturally biased to be of broad use, but I think that they have value for cultural (as opposed to human) studies. The fact that IQ is heritable strikes me as an important angle on cognitive performance that deserves further investigation. But extending it beyond this culture (by which I mean WASP culture) teems with problems.

          Ultimately, I suppose that the judgement turns on the balance between two desirables: the desirability of avoiding abuse of science by people like the HBDers, versus the desirability of furthering properly executed scientific research. I have no quibbles with the fact that our subjective answers to this question differ; de gustibus non est disputandem.

          •  I'm pretty sure that intelligence, (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MichaelNY, Erasmussimo

            however you measure it, is heritable. Across cultures, skills are believed to run in families, however such skills are defined.  But how heritable they are is a matter of debate, since in all cultures the children of families where such skills are expected have a notable advantage over the children of families where they are unexpected.

            And while in spirit I agree with you, I think you'd find it a challenge to devise (or to find) an example of "properly executed scientific research" in the field of intelligence measurement.  Though if you do have examples you like, I'd be very interested in learning about them....

            Thanks for the excellent conversation!

            "If you fake the funk, your nose will grow." -- Bootsy Collins

            by hepshiba on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 02:01:13 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Culture and IQ (0+ / 0-)

            Note that there are a number of neurological correlates, such as thickness of the pre-frontral cortex, myelination integrity, even brain size (eg see Thompson & Gray in Nature www.yale.edu/scan/GT_2004_NRN.pdf) .

            Also, East Asian and Ashkenazi Jewish groups tend to have the highest averages and this is predictive of academic results (this applies also to East Asian adoptees). The tests seem to have cross-cultural validity.

            I don't understand why anyone would be surprised that different physical and cultural environments would favor different physical and behavioural traits over time? It would be incredible to me for populations to all have identical distributions of heritable quantitative traits like cognitive ability.

            You can get a 1 standard deviation change in 1000 years, so there is plenty of time for these differences to arise.

  •  epigenetics: how nurture affects nature (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jessical, MichaelNY

    Or rather how your parents' and grandparents' environments have shaped your genetics, even before you were conceived, by affecting the expression of their genes, which were then passed on to you.

    "Nature" and "nurture" both matter.  I definitely have an intellectual bias towards the "nature" side of things, but definitely not because I think I'm superior (quite the opposite in fact), but then that's also why I'm a progressive: I believe in trying to free people from the chains of their genetics.

    Racism (also classism, sexism, etc.) and its socioeconomic implications by way of policy choices are based on a self-fulfilling prophecy: systematically deny the target group education, self-determination, security, and even adequate nutrition, then point to the obvious physical and mental deficiencies that result from this neglect as proof that you were right to neglect them ... since your privilege makes you take it for granted that everyone rises as high as they are able.

    Something's wrong when the bad guys are the utopian ones.

    by Visceral on Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 11:44:47 AM PST

    •  an observation (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MichaelNY

      I believe in trying to free people from the chains of their genetics.

      I share your belief; and we cannot free such people when we flat-out deny the existence of such chains. They're only part of the story, but they deserve to be taken seriously.

  •  Racism = stupidity (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    A very well written and crafted article, right up to the very end, which stated, "But of course, racism is always born of stupidity."
    This one remark might suggest that racism is rooted in a lesser IQ.
    A more correct statement would tie racism to ingorance, which has less to do with IQ, being more related to environmental/nurturing factors.
    The unfortunate choice of this one word therefore dragged the overall quality of an otherwise interesting read down by more than a few notches.  

    •  That's a good point (0+ / 0-)

      A lot of very intelligent people have nevertheless been bigots of various kinds (racists, anti-Semites, and definitely quite a few gay-haters, among many other kinds of bigots).

      Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

      by MichaelNY on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 04:25:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Stupidity is not ignorance? (0+ / 0-)

      I didn't write that racism is born of low IQ, I wrote that racism is born of stupidity. If you insist that racism is born of ignorance, how can you differ with the statement that racism is born of stupidity? The semantic volumes of the two words contain a lot of overlap.

      •  Haven't there been lots of racists (0+ / 0-)

        who were absolutely brilliant? Racism was an extremely dominant ideology in the US and Europa during much of the Industrial Revolution, wasn't it? Was Ford a smart guy? He was a virulent anti-Semite, yet he did a lot to create the worldwide automobile industry. And was Hitler himself not a kind of evil genius?

        Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

        by MichaelNY on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 12:35:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I wouldn't call Hitler a genius (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MichaelNY

          He failed totally. I can imagine few historical figures who failed as disastrously as Hitler.

          Let's be careful about retro-projecting our own knowledge into the past. I was just reading some of the Thomas Jefferson's letters, and in one he talks about negroes, wondering aloud if they wouldn't be just as smart as whites if they were given the same upbringing. He didn't have the information available to us, so he wasn't sure. Can you fault him for living in an era when racism was still intellectually feasible?

          •  One can be a stupid genius (0+ / 0-)

            Genius is usually defined as extraordinary talent in a specific domain (i.e. music, literature) while intelligence is an overall cognitive capacity to adapt your environment to your advantage.  Hitler was a master manipulator and probably had a spectacular social IQ, but seeing as he couldn't figure out how to use his talents to achieve his ultimate goal, his overall IQ and g might not have been high.  

          •  Not on that basis, no (0+ / 0-)

            I can fault him for having slaves when others didn't, though. But I stand by my basic point. It is quite possible to be brilliant in one's field while being a bigot.

            Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

            by MichaelNY on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 05:23:37 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  When IQ tests were first developed (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MichaelNY

    The girls outdid the boys very badly.

    They altered the tests so that the boys would do better, to justify the idea that males were "smarter" than females, and that's what we have had to this day.

    That says it all - that the tests are biased to favor boys, especially white boys. They don't take into consideration all kinds of intelligences, like EQ, physical intelligence, and creativity.

    To base your judgement of the value of anyone on their IQ is to be very narrow in your value judgement.

    This is from someone that has been tested as fairly high in IQ.

    Oh, and they keep resetting the tests on a regular basis, because children these days test higher than their ancestors did, so by that criteria IQs are going up in everyone.

    Women create the entire labor force. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

    by splashy on Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 09:58:52 PM PST

  •  hbd is not "a movement." (0+ / 0-)

    @erasmussimo - "However, riding on the coattails of this respectable work is the HBD movement...."

    hbd, or human biodiversity, is not "a movement."

    hbd (to quote another blogger named nelson) is simply:

    "The set of biological and genetic differences between (and within) groups – specifically, the study of such differences."

    a slightly wordier definition (a combination of half sigma's definition with some bits thrown in my me) is:

    "The acknowledgement and study of how humans differ from each other on both individual and group levels due to variations between individual genotypes and average differences between population genotypes, these differences arising via evolutionary processes. These differences include, but are not limited to, personality traits, athletic ability, intelligence, height, health, and physical appearance."

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