Sunday, December 31, 2017

Matt Ridley is wrong on IQ and designer babies

Matt Ridley is sound on a lot of things.  He is a climate skeptic, for instance.  But he has succumbed to political correctness below and ends up with an illogical argument.

Some of his arguments may be correct.  His point that the polygenetic nature of IQ makes genetic modification to increase it impossibly difficult, for instance.  Such is the rapid pace of progress in science, however that I would not rule out it one day becoming possible.

But his final argument -- that intelligence is a collective thing -- is just plain sleight of hand.   He is using "intelligence" where he should be using "achievement". It is true that scientific progress and human achievement generally is the product of a huge collectivity but one person can sometimes make a major contribution -- Einstein, for instance. And if genetic modification towards high IQ becomes a common thing, high IQ could give us the "great leap forward" that Mao longed for. Though what its end might be one can only imagine

Christmas Day marks the birthday of one of the most gifted human beings ever born. His brilliance was of a supernoval intensity, but he was, by all accounts, very far from pleasant company. I refer to Isaac Newton.

Would you like your next child to have the intelligence of a Newton? It may not be long before this is a consumer choice, according to an ambitious new company founded in America a few months ago. Genomic Prediction initially plans to offer people who use in-vitro fertilisation the chance to identify and avoid embryos that would be likely to develop diabetes, late-life osteoporosis, schizophrenia and dwarfism. The key is the application of smart software to gigantic databases of genomic information from the population at large so as to spot dangerous combinations of gene variants. The founders also talk of being able to predict intelligence from genes, at least to some degree.

It is of course already common practice to screen embryos for terrible diseases, but only those simply caused by single genes: cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease and so forth. The new idea is to extend this capability to disorders caused by the interaction of many genes, each of small effect: and that is most of them.

This is welcome and potentially ethical, but is it also, after many false starts, the beginning of the slippery slope to designer babies? No, it is not. If anything, the new knowledge will cause such a threat to dissolve.

It is true that intelligence is one of the most strongly heritable human traits, like height. In childhood, among people who get sufficient food and a reasonable education, genes account for about 40 per cent of the variation in IQ. Later in life this rises to more like 80 per cent. If this sounds puzzling, consider this friend of mine: left a bad school at 15, worked as a lorry driver for a big company, which spotted his intelligence and paid for him to attend a top university, where he got a first, rejoined the company and is now a global senior executive: his achievement at 45 better reflects his innate intelligence than his achievement at 15. As a child we don’t get to choose our environments, so clever kids often don’t get to read as many books or do as many mind-bending maths puzzles as they would like, while stupid children read more books and get more maths tutoring than they would if left to their own devices. By adulthood, we are choosing and modifying the life that suits us.

Hence it has always been possible selectively to breed for intelligence. Francis Galton in 1869 pointed out that just as it was easy to ‘obtain by careful selection a permanent breed of dogs or horses gifted with peculiar powers of running, or of doing anything else, so it would be quite practicable to produce a highly gifted race of men by judicious marriages during several consecutive generations’.

However, human beings proved surprisingly unwilling to do this, and most governments eventually gave up trying to coerce them to do it, often with horrific eugenic policies. Then along came artificial insemination and test-tube babies, and surely now we would see a rush to have bright babies, by using sperm banks of Nobel Prize winners? But we did not. People used these technologies to have their own children, not those of Newton-like sperm donors. It is curious
how wrong most experts were about where the demand for IVF would come from: mainly from infertile couples wanting their own children, not fertile people wanting other people’s.

Strange as it may seem to academics, not everybody thinks intelligence matters all that much. They would rather have good- looking or athletic or happy or kind children than super-bright ones. And healthy comes first for almost everybody, so if there is any risk of poor health as a result of selecting an embryo for intelligence, people will, and for all we know very wisely, avoid it.

That is the first reason we will not see designer-intelligence any time soon: there will be little demand, especially if the procedure carries risks. For 50 years we have fretted about designer babies every time there is a new reproductive technology: mitochondrial donation and cloning were the most recent reason for dusting off the old canard.

The second reason is that the genes involved are too numerous and too feeble to be of any practical use. For a long time there was a puzzling gap between what studies of twins and adopted children said about the heritability of intelligence (that it was high), and what genetic surveys found (next to nothing). The first genome-wide association studies — or GWAS — came up empty when looking for gene variants associated with high IQ.

That has changed, thanks to much bigger sample sizes, such as the UK Biobank, which has looked inside the genomes of half a million people of a certain age. Thus, a recent study of nearly 80,000 people, published in May, found 40 new gene variants associated with intelligence. Another study  published in Nature of 1,238 extremely gifted intellectuals turned up more gene variants, including three in a gene called ADAM12.

But the more we find, the more ridiculous the idea of selecting for intelligence looks. Each variant seems to have a small effect, so you would need to fiddle with scores of genes to make a child bright, and fiddling with them might have unforeseen consequences for the health of the child. ADAM12, for example, is hard at work in every organ of the body.

As for the concern that genomic selection for intelligence, if it comes, will be available to the rich but not the poor — well, the same is true for good education. Opportunities to buy the best genes for your children will be dwarfed for decades to come by the ability of the rich to buy the best education for their children. If you must do something, do something about that instead: and preferably do so by making all education as good as the best, rather than as bad as the worst.

Finally, staring us in the face is a more obvious reason why intelligent designer babies will not happen soon and if they do, will not matter much. Individual intelligence is overrated. This is partly the well-worn argument that lots of other characteristics determine success, especially energy and diligence. We know people who are too bright to be decisive; or conversely achieve much in spite of their apparent disadvantages.

However, I mean something more than this. I mean that human achievements are always and everywhere collective. Every object and service you use is the product of different minds working together to invent or manage something that is way beyond the capacity of any individual mind. This is why central planning does not work. Ten million people eat lunch in London most days; how the heck they get what they want and when and where, given that a lot of them decide at the last minute, is baffling. Were there a London lunch commissioner to organise it, he would fail badly. Individual decisions integrated by price signals work, and work very well indeed.

And here is the key insight from evolution. Our brains grew big long, long before we achieved civilisation. We’ve had 1,200cc of intelligence for half a million years: even Neanderthals had huge brains. For 99 per cent of that time we were just another hard-pressed species, as bottle-nosed dolphins are today, and around 75,000 years ago we teeter-ed on the brink of extinction.

What changed was not some bright spark of a new gene being turned on, but that we began to exchange and specialise, to create collective intelligence, rather than rely on individual braininess. To put it another way, dozens of stupid people in a room who talk to each other will achieve far more than an equal number of clever people who don’t. The internet only underlines this point. Human intelligence is a distributed, collaborative phenomenon.


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Levin: The ‘So-Called’ Conservative Intellectual Movement Is on Life Support

Levin in fact concludes that "there really is no conservative intellectual movement" and that is right.  But it is right for a good reason. It overlooks what an "intellectual" is.  An intellectual is someone who puts a sophisticated gloss on a simple idea.  And the great headquarters of simple ideas is the Left.  They never think anything through, which is why their policies are always disastrous -- check Obamacare

In fact Leftists have only one idea:  "If people won't behave the way we want, then we will MAKE them behave. Compared to the complexities of libertarian policy proposals, their ideas are childish and unoriginal.

So when someone comes along who can make Leftist thinking sound half-decent, he is greeted rapturously, hailed as an "intellectual" and given lots of publicity.

Conservatives don't need that.  Between the Bible and America's founding documents, they have all the guidance they need to create a good society and a good life for its people.  They already have policies and ideas that work and are well-known. Erudite men like Levin can help publicize those mighty founding ideas and show how they apply in modern times but that is just a badly-needed educative role, not any kind of new discovery.

I can't put it better than Reagan did:
"In all of that time I won a nickname, 'The Great Communicator.' But I never thought it was my style or the words I used that made a difference: It was the content. I wasn't a great communicator, but I communicated great things, and they didn't spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation -- from our experience, our wisdom, and our belief in principles that have guided us for two centuries."

So we can safely leave intellectuals to the Left.  We don't need them.  The average IQ of Leftists and Rightists is about the same but we apply our minds to practical problems and the real world, not high flown theories, speculations and justifications for hate.

On his nationally syndicated radio talk show Thursday, host Mark Levin began his program’s opening monologue on a somber note, suggesting that the "so-called conservative intellectual movement" is "on life support."

"[T]he so-called conservative intellectual movement is very weak right now – very weak," stated Mark Levin. "In fact, I think it’s on life support." Below is a transcript of Levin’s remarks from his show on Thursday:

"From time to time, often actually, I sit back and I watch what’s going on in the news or go on the internet and start reading various stories and so forth, and then I try to think back to history and philosophy and try to think back to our founding and try to make sense of it all.

"The vast majority of what comes across the television, what comes across the internet, what comes across the radio, in terms of news, is about the federal government. Maybe it’s about a congressman, maybe it’s about the Supreme Court, maybe it’s about a tax bill – it’s about the federal government.

"And this really is a massive alteration of what the founders of this country intended, that we would be spending so much time talking about the federal government, fearing the federal government, trying to win elections so we can control the federal government, expanding the federal government. It was never supposed to be this way.

"And you can see the deleterious effects.

"I said yesterday that, as a result of the conservative movement, we’ve had a lot of electoral victories at the federal level, but very few advances in terms of rolling back what the left has done and advancing liberty.

"And I believe that. I believe men and women, most of you, believe in America’s founding principles, believe in Americanism – Americanism.

"I also believe – it’s a sorry truth – that the so-called conservative intellectual movement is very weak right now – very weak. In fact, I think it’s on life support.

"You know, I write books about liberty, and I write books about the Declaration and the Constitution. And I write books about Supreme Court rulings. I write books about natural law and liberty and what all that means.

"The reason that most of these books sell about a quarter of a million copies or more every time I write them – which is by far the largest among conservatives, and yet receives virtually no attention among the fledgling, barely existing conservative intellectual movement – is because there really is no conservative intellectual movement. Or it’s very small, it’s very weak."


Thursday, December 7, 2017

The poor get sick sooner and die younger in both the USA and the UK

In the later age cohorts, poor people are 3 to 4 times likelier to get ill and die than are wealthy people.  And, sadly for the authors below, the wonderful universal health care in the UK made no difference.

Their findings are in fact what always emerges when social class variables -- in this case wealth -- are studied.  Poverty is a major influence on death and all sorts of disease.  But medical researchers fear political incorrectness if they mention social class as an influence on their findings so ignore it for around 98% of the time in their research reports.  So it is worthwhile noting here one of the occasions when they have bitten the bullet.

They have several possible explanations for their findings and all their suggestions probably have some merit.  But they overlook the elephant in the room: genetic differences.  If genetics is not an influence on your lifespan, what would be? 

So what genetic influence could explain the findings?  What widely-influential genetically determined human characteristic do we know of?  At the risk of sounding like a cracked-record, let me mention our old friend IQ again. I am repetitious about IQ because nature is. No matter what you study, IQ very frequently seems to pop up as an influence.  And I just report the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth -- vastly incorrect  though that sadly is these days.

Some people are born more functional in general. All their bits work well, including their brain. So they have high IQs. And it is very well established that high IQ people both live longer and are  more likely to get rich.  The old challenge: "If you are so smart, how come you aren't rich?" is well founded.  So the findings below can be explained as showing that long lifespans are largely inborn and that those so born are also likely to be rich because they will also have high IQs.  We already knew that from IQ research but it is nice to see the same effects emerging in medical research

Wealth-Associated Disparities in Death and Disability in the United States and England

Lena K. Makaroun et al.


Importance:  Low income has been associated with poor health outcomes. Owing to retirement, wealth may be a better marker of financial resources among older adults.

Objective:  To determine the association of wealth with mortality and disability among older adults in the United States and England.

Design, Setting, and Participants:  The US Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA) are nationally representative cohorts of community-dwelling older adults. We examined 12 173 participants enrolled in HRS and 7599 enrolled in ELSA in 2002. Analyses were stratified by age (54-64 years vs 66-76 years) because many safety-net programs commence around age 65 years. Participants were followed until 2012 for mortality and disability.

Exposures:  Wealth quintile, based on total net worth in 2002.

Main Outcomes and Measures:  Mortality and disability, defined as difficulty performing an activity of daily living.

Results:  A total of 6233 US respondents and 4325 English respondents aged 54 to 64 years (younger cohort) and 5940 US respondents and 3274 English respondents aged 66 to 76 years (older cohort) were analyzed for the mortality outcome. Slightly over half of respondents were women (HRS: 6570, 54%; ELSA: 3974, 52%). A higher proportion of respondents from HRS were nonwhite compared with ELSA in both the younger (14% vs 3%) and the older (13% vs 3%) age cohorts. We found increased risk of death and disability as wealth decreased. In the United States, participants aged 54 to 64 years in the lowest wealth quintile (Q1) (≤$39 000) had a 17% mortality risk and 48% disability risk over 10 years, whereas in the highest wealth quintile (Q5) (>$560 000) participants had a 5% mortality risk and 15% disability risk (mortality hazard ratio [HR], 3.3; 95% CI, 2.0-5.6; P < .001; disability subhazard ratio [sHR], 4.0; 95% CI, 2.9-5.6; P < .001). In England, participants aged 54 to 64 years in Q1 (≤£34,000) had a 16% mortality risk and 42% disability risk over 10 years, whereas Q5 participants (>£310,550) had a 4% mortality risk and 17% disability risk (mortality HR, 4.4; 95% CI, 2.7-7.0; P < .001; disability sHR, 3.0; 95% CI, 2.1-4.2; P < .001). In 66- to 76-year-old participants, the absolute risks of mortality and disability were higher, but risk gradients across wealth quintiles were similar. When adjusted for sex, age, race, income, and education, HR for mortality and sHR for disability were attenuated but remained statistically significant.

Conclusions and Relevance:  Low wealth was associated with death and disability in both the United States and England. This relationship was apparent from age 54 years and continued into later life. Access to health care may not attenuate wealth-associated disparities in older adults.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Herrnstein & Murray are still right  -- and very relevant to the healthcare debate

The poor die young.  That is the simplest summary of the latest study looking at the association between wealth and health.  Whenever it is examined, a correlation between social class and health seems to emerge.  The findings surveyed  by Hernstein and Murray are the best known evidence of that but Herrnstein & Murray wrote over two decades ago so it is interesting to see that nothing has changed. Herrnstein died about the time the book was released so was spared the torrent of abuse that was poured out on the scholarly head of Charles Murray when his findings became known.  He survived the onslsaught however and is still making waves.  The attack on him at Middlebury college got a lot of press recently.

There is however a certain vagueness about what you call social class and there are distinct differences between Britain and America in that regard.  And although its importance to social class is generally accepted, wealth is rarely examined in medical research. It is usually considered to be "too sensitive"  for questions about it to be included in surveys.  So the findings below are valuable in filling a gap. The article is titled: "Wealth-Associated Disparities in Death and Disability in the United States and England" and it appeared in JAMA, a leading medical journal.

It will be interesting to see what, if any, reaction the article gets.  It is unlikely that the authors will receive the abuse that was heaped on Charles Murray.  After the first decade or so of huffing and puffing, the Left seem to have bowed to reality.  Mention of class effects on health are these days normally addressed, if at all, as just another example of injustice.  What was once seen as a politically incorrect attack on the poor is now usually seen as an argument for helping the poor in various ways.  The Left ended up assimilating the effect into their "social justice" narrative.

And what cure do the Left advocate for this injustice?  Easy! Single payer health-insurance.  It was one of the arguments behind the agony of Obamacare.  And that makes the study below of exceptional interest -- because it compared American health results with results from a country that has had single-payer healthcare for a very long time: England.  So the poor should do much better in England?  Right?  Wrong!  The wealth effect was similar in both countries.  So this study is exceptionally relevant to one of the most important issues in American politics today.

Academic prose is normally too dense for non-academics to make much out of it but the place where you are most likely to find plain speaking is the set of "Conclusions" at the end of the article.  So let me reproduce in full the "Conclusions" of the present article:

"We found that lower wealth was associated with higher mortality and disability in older adults in both the United States and England. This relationship was apparent from age 54 years and continued into later life. This study found no evidence that providing state-sponsored health insurance from birth (England), or providing state-sponsored health insurance later in life (United States), eliminated wealth-associated health disparities. Our study suggests that policy makers interested in decreasing mortality and function disparities in older adults should take a broad view and consider interventions beyond providing access to health care."

So there was effectively no difference between America and England in health outcomes, including death.  The poor get sicker and die younger in both countries at roughly the same rate.  So the authors are in fact shooting down one of the important talking points of the Left. What they mean by "interventions beyond providing access to health care" is to make the poor richer.  They wisely don't go in to how you achieve that, though. So this is an article of unusual political importance. 

It also has important implications for medical research generally. Probably because of political correctness, epidemiological research in particular simply ignores social class.  If it is mentioned at all, the only index of it used is education.  But my research showed long ago that education misses a lot. You can have highly educated poor people (e.g. the iconic Ph.Ds doing burger flipping in McDonalds) to dropouts making billions (e.g. Bill Gates).  You really do need to examine wealth directly.

But medical researchers just don't do that most of the time. And that very often makes the significance of their findings moot.  If, for instance, you find that big drinkers of pop die young, a medical researcher would normally conclude that pop kills you. They are that stupid. If you happen to know that the poor drink more pop, however, you can say (and I have often said it) that the conclusion is nonsense. If wealth had been included in the analysis, you will probably find that the "effect" of pop on health was in fact the effect of wealth discrepancies.

So I suppose it is a lot to ask for but one hopes that future medical researchers might use the article below to make some mention of what their research was not able to examine.

The authors below do not venture into much consideration of WHY the poor die young but do mention various environmental stressors.  I would add however that genetic influences are at work too. IQ is a much neglected index of social class.  The rich are smarter. The old challenge, "if you are smart, how come you are not rich?, has much justice to it. We can probably all think of exceptions but higher IQ does help you to figure out ways of making money.

Wealth-Associated Disparities in Death and Disability in the United States and England

Lena K. Makaroun et al.


Importance:  Low income has been associated with poor health outcomes. Owing to retirement, wealth may be a better marker of financial resources among older adults.

Objective:  To determine the association of wealth with mortality and disability among older adults in the United States and England.

Design, Setting, and Participants:  The US Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and English Longitudinal Study of Aging (ELSA) are nationally representative cohorts of community-dwelling older adults. We examined 12 173 participants enrolled in HRS and 7599 enrolled in ELSA in 2002. Analyses were stratified by age (54-64 years vs 66-76 years) because many safety-net programs commence around age 65 years. Participants were followed until 2012 for mortality and disability.

Exposures:  Wealth quintile, based on total net worth in 2002.

Main Outcomes and Measures:  Mortality and disability, defined as difficulty performing an activity of daily living.

Results:  A total of 6233 US respondents and 4325 English respondents aged 54 to 64 years (younger cohort) and 5940 US respondents and 3274 English respondents aged 66 to 76 years (older cohort) were analyzed for the mortality outcome. Slightly over half of respondents were women (HRS: 6570, 54%; ELSA: 3974, 52%). A higher proportion of respondents from HRS were nonwhite compared with ELSA in both the younger (14% vs 3%) and the older (13% vs 3%) age cohorts. We found increased risk of death and disability as wealth decreased.

In the United States, participants aged 54 to 64 years in the lowest wealth quintile (Q1) (≤$39 000) had a 17% mortality risk and 48% disability risk over 10 years, whereas in the highest wealth quintile (Q5) (>$560 000) participants had a 5% mortality risk and 15% disability risk (mortality hazard ratio [HR], 3.3; 95% CI, 2.0-5.6; P < .001; disability subhazard ratio [sHR], 4.0; 95% CI, 2.9-5.6; P < .001).

In England, participants aged 54 to 64 years in Q1 (≤£34,000) had a 16% mortality risk and 42% disability risk over 10 years, whereas Q5 participants (>£310,550) had a 4% mortality risk and 17% disability risk (mortality HR, 4.4; 95% CI, 2.7-7.0; P < .001; disability sHR, 3.0; 95% CI, 2.1-4.2; P < .001). In 66- to 76-year-old participants, the absolute risks of mortality and disability were higher, but risk gradients across wealth quintiles were similar. When adjusted for sex, age, race, income, and education, HR for mortality and sHR for disability were attenuated but remained statistically significant.

Conclusions and Relevance:  Low wealth was associated with death and disability in both the United States and England. This relationship was apparent from age 54 years and continued into later life. Access to health care may not attenuate wealth-associated disparities in older adults.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Another squirm about IQ

The Left hate the whole idea of IQ.  It offends against their absurd doctrine that all men are equal.  So when  intelligence becomes a topic, they always do their best to denigrate and misrepresent it.  The article below arises from Trump's assertion that he has a higher IQ than Tillerson. It appeared in "LiveScience", which might as well be called "HalfDeadScience".

The whole aim of the article is to show that IQ score is not fixed and does not matter.  But in claiming those things they show how unscientific they are by not looking at the numbers.  Numbers are the inescapable tools of science.  And that matters.  Psychometricians are well aware that the correlations between different measures of ability are not perfect and that some situational factors can influence an IQ score.  But how strong are those influences?  Could the effect of situational factors be entirely trivial, for instance?

To answer that you have to look at the numbers that have emerged from research into IQ.  And they are revealing.  IQ tests are made up of a number of different types of puzzle that are not obviously related to one-another.  And the whole concept of IQ originated from the observation that some people are good at all sorts of puzzles that are not obviously related to one another. 

So how strong is that effect?  When scores on the different tests are analysed a very strong first eigenvector arises, which shows that scores on all the different tests are strongly related to one-another.  Correlations between the various puzzles run as high as .70, which is a rare magnitude in psychological research.  So there is a single strong trait in existence that we call IQ and which tells us that a high scorer on an IQ test will be good at solving all sorts of problems.

So IQ is real and important.

What about the various influences described below that can influence an IQ score?  Again the numbers are instructive.  Nutrition, for instance, can have an effect.  A person eating a diet that is seriously deficient in important ways will get a reduced score -- but only by about 5 IQ points.  That is not negligible but it is mostly irrelevant in Western society.  Western diets generally do not harm IQ.  Reduced scores on dietary grounds are generally found in very poorly fed populations in India and Africa.  And IQs in Africa are so disastrously low that no feeding would bring them anywhere near European standards.

Let me look very briefly at some more of the influences trotted out below.  IQ correlates with Birth order.  Yes. It does appear to.  The research is not unanimous but that is probably because the effect is so small:  About 1 IQ point.

The Howard Gardner theory of "multiple intelligences" -- eight of them, would you believe? There is a very clear and simple demolition of the whole Gardner theory here -- which points out that the Gardner theory not only ignores the data but that its criteria for calling something "an intelligence" are so loose that sense of humour, sense of smell, musical ability, athletic ability etc could all be called "intelligences". By adopting similar rules I could say that all cats, dogs and horses are birds -- but that would still not make them so.

I could go on but will finish with one outright misrepresentation below.  An article titled "Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ in Predicting Academic Performance of Adolescents" is described below as showing that "IQ scores also change with the test taker's level of self-discipline and personal motivation and grit".  But the article did not show that.  It showed only that academic performance, not IQ, was influencible by grit etc.  That hard workers do better at school is hardly news but it does not vitiate the fact that High IQ scorers also perform well academically.

So the article below is an exercise in deception, not science

The IQ, or the intelligence quotient, is a measure of a person's mental age divided by their actual age, multiplied by 100. So, a person who is exactly as "mentally old" as one might expect for that individual's chronological age would score a perfectly average 100. People who deviate from that score in either direction are considered to be of above- or below-average intelligence. These scores can change with age and can fluctuate from one testing session to another, according to researchers.

But intelligence is a many-faceted beast. While it is colloquially associated with math and reasoning skills, psychologists assert that there are many kinds of intelligence, with Howard Gardner, a developmental psychologist at Harvard University, classifying seven distinct types, including bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, musical, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial and linguistic.

Given that it's so hard to pin down exactly what intelligence is, the task of measuring it with a standardized test is particularly difficult, experts say. One of the standard IQ tests used today is called the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (used for adults and older teens), which measures verbal and nonverbal cognitive skills, or as the psychologist who developed the test put it, the ability to "adapt and constructively solve problems in the environment."

Trump might not get the clear-cut result he's hoping for, since this test and others like it, including the Stanford-Binet test, don't present some unified quantity of a person's "smartness."

Test results are affected by several confounding variables, such as smoking habits, hours spent playing computer games and various aspects of one's personality, according to past research. IQ scores also change with the test taker's level of self-discipline and personal motivation and grit — all things that can change from testing session to testing session — according to a 2005 study that surveyed the IQ test results of 140 eighth-graders.

"Indeed, IQ tests are influenced by many factors," Cornell University developmental psychologist Stephen Ceci told Live Science. "For example, schooling affects IQ test performance," he added, explaining that for each year that a student falls short of finishing high school, there is a drop of between 1.8 and 4 IQ points compared to peers who did finish high school.

In Vietnam, Ceci explained, people who had a higher risk of being drafted stayed in school longer as a means to defer service compared to those with safer draft numbers. IQ testing revealed that those who stayed in school longer had higher scores — not because they were smarter, but because they had greater exposure to the conditions that would help them answer IQ test questions such as "who wrote Hamlet," Ceci said.

IQ test scores even correlate with birth order among siblings, according to two 2007 studies, as reported by The New York Times.

Therefore, IQ tests measure not just intelligence (however that is defined), but also the environment and context of one's life.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Does poverty cause suicide?

That it does is the implicit message below.  And it is true that the poor suicide more.  But is the poverty the cause of the suicide?  In the case of the person highlighted below it would seem to be an hereditary depressive illness.  Many close relatives to him had suicided too.

From my reading of the literature, social isolation and loss of important relationships are the main cause of suicide. We need connectedness with others. So how do we explain the correlation with poverty?

I think we need to see poverty not as a cause but as an effect.  many things can lay you low financially, including mental illnesses such as schizophrenia.  And there is also extravagance, monetary incontinence. If you repeatedly blow all your money soon after you get it, you are going to be long-term poor. And extravagance in turn can reflect deficient impulse control, which is again a mental weakness. 

And a major correlate of poverty is IQ.  Some people just cannot cope with modern work requirements.  Jobs have become more complex as time has gone by.  Digging ditches manually was so simple anyone could do it but few jobs are that simple anymore. So the low IQ person is more likely to be unemployed, often for long periods.  And unemployment is depressing in a host of ways.  And it is ultimately a depressive state of mind that leads on to suicide.

So a more measured and detailed look at people at risk of suicide is what is needed for prevention purposes. Just blaming poverty is irresponsibly simplistic and unlikely to help.  The most officialdom is ever likely to provide is anti-psychotic and anxiolytic medication.  The churches will be the major source of social and emotional support. Neither governments nor Leftist organizations have any track-record in that function.

I was standing inside a tacky "instant cash loan" place in main street, Dandenong, I had just applied for a $200 loan.

"Sorry love we can’t help you today," the Eastern European lady at the loan shop I’ll call CASH NOW EXCITING WOW said.

I was broke and living on a friend’s couch. I went to three other "instant cash loan" places who said no to giving me a loan that day. Plus I’d been into Centrelink and asked for a cash advance — I got rejected for that too.

I also had a bad back and was losing my battle with the insurance company. I’d just borrowed money from a friend earlier that day — she needed it by the next morning for her daughter’s school excursion. CASH NOW EXCITING WOW’s final rejection meant I realised I couldn’t repay her by that night like I promised.

Twelve months earlier I had a well-paying, high-status job; I’d been on TV, the radio, I wrote for magazines — everyone took my call when I was a journalist — most people wanted to be my friend.

After CASH NOW’s rejection I felt disconnected, life seemed pointless; broken beyond repair. I walked for hours plotting ways to die. I eventually followed one street all the way to Dandenong Hospital’s emergency room and told them I wanted to kill myself.

It wasn’t the first time I’d been suicidal. But it was the first time that financial despair had driven me to it.

And the experience turned out to be illuminating in more ways than one — years later, I would start reading and find what is rarely talked about: The link between being on a lower-income and suicide.

Not that long ago terms like "affluenza" and "cashed-up bogans" were freely thrown around. Yes we know that "money doesn’t make you happy", but being dirt poor can drive you to despair — male suicide in Australia was at the highest in the 1930s Great Depression.

Many studies show the link between unemployment and suicide: unemployed men suicide about 4.62 times the rate of employed men in Australia according the latest research by the University of Melbourne.

The latest available ABS figures show Australia’s annual suicide rate is 12 per 100,000 — the highest in 10 years. We know men are more at risk, so too LGBTI people and the indigenous. But since 2002, ABS data hasn’t recorded occupation or income (currently it looks only at age, race, gender) of those who have taken their own life — when it did it showed the unemployed, tradies and labourers were the ones most likely to suicide.

Contemporary figures showing the link between income, class and suicide proved hard to find. But the suicide rate for trades people is 21 per 100,000 and for labourers it’s an astonishing 34 per 100,000 (nearly triple the national average).

Compare that to the suicide rates of male managers of 7 suicides per 100,000, and middle-class professionals of 13 per 100,000.

There are a few aberrations including veterinarians and those working in the medical profession, who have high suicide rates, but otherwise the trend appears relatively clear.

"The main drivers of suicide are disconnection, and a loss of hope and purpose," Alan Woodward Director of Lifeline Australia told

"We know financial struggles and personal indebtedness is a factor that can lead people to feel suicidal ... if you are unemployed there is a strong chance your social network will reduce and you may experience some loss of a sense of contributing to the community."

"Some occupations have some features, less control of the nature of their work, less fulfilment, job satisfaction, possibility to exposure to unsafe areas.

And of course — most of those jobs are male-dominated. "Traditional masculine behaviour and attitudes have been found to relate to reduced and delayed help-seeking for mental health problems," he said.

When I reflect back on the day my financial crisis led to suicidal ideation, I do think about the lack of meaning in my life right then. I had tried to do everything right: I had been studying law, I’d spent most of my life climbing the socio-economic ladder just as my parents had lifted themselves out of their parents’ poverty. There I was — begging for money.

My Dad is on a disability support pension after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder 10 years ago. He has attempted suicide a few times. His Dad had schizophrenia and suicided. My Dad’s brother also took his own life, so did my cousin.

Back at Dandenong hospital the day I was completely broke and suicidal, I ended up speaking with a great psychiatric nurse, who gave me a very good counselling session, an antipsychotic and a bed for the night.

While it didn’t solve my problem, it did help me deal with these issues with a clearer head the next day.

And while mental health is clearly not just all about the individual, I did need to get my head together initially to work out how to solve my problem.

I’m extremely grateful for the help and cherish the fact I have gone to live another seven fulfilling years.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

James Damore: aftermath

Lubos Motl below discusses a video conversation between two people who reject the claim that all men are equal

Prof Jordan Peterson and Stefan Molyneux (both from Canada) are two main individualist YouTube pundits who have previously interviewed James Damore, the former $162,000-a-year Senior Google engineer who became a hero of freedom. So in this discussion, they talked to each other. They covered a lot of ground. You may see that their thinking and values are close enough to each other. But you may still see that they're individualist and they want similar audiences to dedicate time to their videos, so to some extent, this insightful debate still sounds like a competition of a sort.

They discussed optimistic specifics of this Damore story. Damore hasn't backed off, he preferred to talk to independent media such as themselves over the mainstream media. The New York Times wrote a story urging Google to fire its anti-freedom-of-expression CEO Mr Kunda Pםča.

Many events were so similar to those after the 2005 speech by Larry Summers about women in science. But many events were so different. Even though James Damore is basically a shy boy, his public reactions were more self-confident than those of Larry Summers. A part of it may be due to Damore's having received some recommendations from pundits: Don't back off. He could have received such recommendations because the independent media such as Molyneux's and Peterson's talk shows are far more powerful now than they or their counterparts were in 2005.

As they happily noticed, their videos generally get many more views than analogous videos by the "mainstream media". So these very labels – who is really mainstream – is finally getting complicated.

They discussed the harm that Google has done by having fired Damore. I agree with that entirely. Consumers may start to doubt the trustworthiness of Google. And potential stellar employees may be afraid of accepting a job at Google. These are potentially serious problems. And it's possible that not only some centrist and right-wing technology experts could choose a different occupation because of the occasional defective atmosphere in the company that may have grown into the "culture" of censorship and harassment. Some left-wing candidates who are left-wing in a "wrong way" could do the same.

I am personally not going to boycott Google's products because of these matters. I would feel like one of those left-wing childish activists who never really succeed, who abandon meritocracy in favor of ideology, and I am just too conservative. Even if some products were equally good or better than Google's, I have tested Google's products sufficiently to be certain. But I think that if you aren't constrained by these things, you should try alternatives. You should try the Czech Seznam maps instead of Google maps. And you should try Seznam's search engine and Seznam's superfast browser, too! Those products may be better than Google's alternatives. Seznam's owner Mr Ivo Lukačovič has denounced efforts to politically profile ads in his company and vows to keep his company apolitical.

As a consumer, I would actually be afraid of some Google products that are too physical, such as self-driving cars. If writing a totally sensible analysis about women in tech was enough for the Google CEO to fire the engineer, maybe writing bit more right-wing texts than Damore's could be enough for a Google boss to schedule a car accident for your car. They could cover it by exactly the same excuses as now – corporations have the right to trample on the employees' freedom of speech much like they have the right to push the accelerator pedal in your car in front of an abyss – both the employee and the consumer have signed some contract allowing these things, haven't they? Note that it is not the artificial intelligence of the self-driving car that is dangerous for you; it is the malicious humans who may try to hide their crimes behind the artificial intelligence.

According to a common sense understanding of the freedom of speech, the firing of Damore was an unacceptable violation of the basic Western values and the "accelerator push" of a Google self-driving car would be a murder at least informally.

Molyneux and Peterson have discussed lots of things about the growth of wealth since the 1870s, the increasing inequality and decreasing poverty, the Left's self-contradicting attitudes to many good and bad processes and conditions in the society, the correlation of the IQ and success, whether the IQ may be modified by training (no), whether people with the IQ beneath 83 are useful for the U.S. army (no), and many others. It was a very stimulating intellectual discussion and I really recommend you to watch it in its entirety.

I would subscribe at least to some 95% of the things that they have said.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Google Manifesto: Does Biology Explain Gender Disparities in Tech?

An article under the above heading appeared in Live Science, in reply to the claims of James Damore of Google fame.  As one would expect from Left-dominated mainstream academe the answer given is broadly "No". 

What they trot out is all old chestnut stuff that basically aims at a straw man.  What psychometricians assert is only a TENDENCY.  There is no claim that men generally are good at tech and women not.  The research finding is that there is a big overlap in male and female abilities. Abilities differ only at the margins. So the various arguments put forward about exceptional female abilities are pointless. In various times and places you can find women who do math and tech well.  And the "No" article is mainly just a trotting out of such examples.

What is of interest is the GENERAL TENDENCY in mental abilities, not a parade of anecdotes about tribes in India etc. And the way to measure a general tendency is to apply a valid and reliable test of problem-solving ability to a representative population sample. And the finding from such studies is that at the top of the IQ range in Western populations, there are always many more men than women. And if we look at mathematical ability only, the gap is even larger. You can theorize yourself blue in the face about why that is so -- "patriarchy" and all the rest -- but there remains there a clear and firm difference in ability that you have to deal with.

It is perfectly reasonable that some populations somewhere have undergone selective pressures which make females better at the top of the range but that does not alter the reality in Western society.

So on the basis of measured facts rather than a lot of speculation, Damore was perfectly right.  You will always get a substantial number of women who are good at tech and mathemstics but they will be greatly outnumbered by men.

In the circumstances, it matters little if the differences are inborn nor not but the way such differences have consistently shown up for around a  hundred years certainly suggest something inborn -- or at least something very resistant to change.   And the various genetic studies -- now including DNA findings -- do show that most of IQ and its component abilities is genetically determined.

So Google's frenetic efforts to introduce "equality" into its workforce were pushing uphill from the beginning. Such efforts were doomed to failure.  Damore's greatest offence may have been to point that failure out. 

That despite great efforts Google could not equalize the number of its employees in stat/math applications would seem good confirmation of what the tests show.  Despite its great efforts to  swing the results in the way it wanted, Google ended up finding exactly what the IQ and other tests predicted.  A psychometrician would call Google's experiment good validation of the tests.  Google showed that the tests were right.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A Stable Father Prevents the Early Onset of Puberty(?)

Connor Murphy presents below an article that I am broadly sympathetic to but the social scientist in me causes me to have reservations.  He fails to consider that pervasively influential variable:  IQ.  Many people are aware that a high IQ leads to greater educational success but far fewer are aware that it also goes with better health and longer life.

So:  There is no doubt that there is a tendency for girls to mature physically rather earlier than they used to.  There is quite a lot of estrogen or estrogen mimics in modern processed foods so that is really no surprise.  The food freaks are in a constant state of uproar about phytoestrogens, BPAs and the rest in our food. They even warn us that you can get BPAs out of babies' bottles.

But Mr Murphy has other ideas.  He thinks that stress is the culprit.  It may of course be involved but the evidence he adduces for the claim is ambiguous.  He says:

"Boys who grow up in hardship are more than four times as at risk of starting puberty aged 10 than those who grow up in safer, wealthier households. And girls who grow up disadvantaged are twice as likely to start puberty early than others."

But hardship families are very likely to be low IQ families and low IQs are associated with early maturation. American blacks, for instance, arrive at full growth about two years earlier than whites.  And chimpanzee infants go on to reach maturity as early as 8 years of age. So on balance stress has nothing to do with the tendency observed. The tendency is inborn.

Let us go on. Mr Murphy believes that the presence or absence of the father impacts female maturation:

"On average, a girl whose father divorces or separates from her mother and leaves the family home before she is 10 comes into puberty five months earlier than a girl from an intact family."

But absent fathers are by far commonest at the lowest end of the socio-economic scale.  And that is also the low end of the IQ range.  So again we most probaly have an IQ effect.  The finding can parsimoniously be explained by reference to IQ.  Both the absent father and the earlier maturation are explained by one underlying factor:  IQ

Mr. Murphy then goes on to associate the greatly increased divorce rate with earlier maturation.  But he offers no evidence to that effect. Living with a divorced single mother could well be less stressful that living in an unhappy family where parents are hostile to one-another.  Divorce is normally undertaken as the lesser evil and maybe it is in general.

So I share Mr Murphy's concerns and agree that girls benefit from a good relationship with their fathers but I doubt that he has established that.  On purely observational grounds, however, I have recently argued in favour of a similar view

The cult of modernity requires its adherents to believe that civilisation is on a linear upward path of progress and improvement. Coming to harsh conclusions about the degeneracy and sickness of our epoch is not allowed, despite the evidence of steep decline in core facets of existence like social cohesion, happiness, education, health, relationships, fertility rates, wages and governance.

Every now and then though the commissars of thought in the press make a mistake and accidentally report reality without a view to subversion, normally because they don’t realise the ramifications of what they are reporting on.

The Sydney Morning Herald recently published an extract from a book entitled "The New Puberty" by Amanda Dunn, under the title "Something is happening to our kids, and it’s time we talked about it". The subtitle was "We are seeing a major shift in the development of children, particularly girls. We cannot afford to ignore it and hope it will go away".

The extract observes that children, and particularly girls, are reaching puberty earlier. The main cause that the extract discusses is childhood obesity, i.e. previous generations did not have calorie surpluses like children do now, therefore the body is effectively receiving calories at such a rate that it "believes" it has the raw materials to begin the adolescent growth and transformation process and therefore does so earlier. In addition, the evidence indicates that menarche has also gotten earlier due to better nutrition as well, i.e. the additional calories are signalling to the body that it now has the availability of resources to create a baby.

Another article from the Herald observed that there was a clear socio-economic and stress link:

"Boys who grow up in hardship are more than four times as at risk of starting puberty aged 10 than those who grow up in safer, wealthier households. And girls who grow up disadvantaged are twice as likely to start puberty early than others."

The findings suggest that early-onset puberty may be an evolutionary response to trauma and struggle. "When we are raised in sub-optimal living conditions that means we have a higher risk of premature death," associate professor Sun said. "That means maybe we will die before we’re successfully reproductive, so we would choose an adaptive strategy to mature earlier, to have our first baby earlier, and maybe we could have more kids to ensure our genes transfer to the next generation."

This was all logical to me so far, the body is responding to stimulus (more calories and/or stress) and reacting in a manner best suited to achieving Darwinian success by passing on its genes. The thing that piqued my interest though, is that while it is well established and acknowledged that our diets are more calorie intensive and that childhood obesity is a problem nowadays, I don’t seem to recall it being as widely acknowledged that modern childhood is significantly worse or sub-optimal, and much interest in analysis of why that is the case.

Let us start with the potential causes of these more stressful childhoods that we are allowed to discuss. Most people will concede that childhood may be more stressful nowadays due to social media and hyper-sexualisation via fashion and popular culture, but these forces are not unstoppable forces of nature. Children are exposed to social media and hyper-sexualisation because adults are choosing to let them be exposed to it. We could choose not to to expose them if we were so inclined. Given the consequences of early puberty, perhaps we should be inclined, "entering puberty young (before 11) correlates with a host of problems, from teenage pregnancy to depression. Only 2% of those who do so go on to enter higher education, regardless of their parents’ IQ and educational level."

Another major societal change is the large increase in divorce and single mother households. Now this is an area you are allowed to talk about as long as we don’t attribute blame to anyone or to particular social movements:

"On average, a girl whose father divorces or separates from her mother and leaves the family home before she is 10 comes into puberty five months earlier than a girl from an intact family. But the impact of fathers is not limited to whether they are physically present. In intact families, girls reach puberty later if they have a positive rather than a negative relationship with their father; the more he is involved in her upbringing, the later she will have her first period. If the father is absent through illness or work rather than as a result of divorce or separation, the girl’s pubertal age is unaffected. Interestingly, too, an absent mother or a girl’s quality of relationship with her, does not affect the point at which she comes into puberty."

The end of that quote bordered a little bit on thoughtcrime by implying that a father has a role to play that cannot be filled by a mother, but lets press on:

"Overall, the enormous increase in the divorce rate and in single-parent households since 1960 seems very likely to have played a major role in the decreasing age of puberty. However, it is not clear precisely why an absent or emotionally unengaged father should trigger earlier puberty. The strongest clue comes from the fact that if the father leaves the family home before the girl is six, she is twice as likely to have early first periods and four times more likely to start sex early. It suggests that the disruption to the mother, a lack of cash and all the other problems that go with single parenthood, probably make the girl more likely to be emotionally needy and to be eager to be able to use sexual allure as soon as possible to make people love her. The more times a girl’s family environment changes (with the mother taking new partners) in childhood, the greater the risk of early puberty. If there are three or more new partners, a girl is five times more likely to have a teenage pregnancy."

Hmmm it might not be clear to the author of that piece why an absent or emotionally unengaged father might be a trigger, but it stands to reason that children are consciously and subconsciously aware if they are under the care and protection of an adult male, i.e. a patriarch. When they know they are not, they are more stressed as a result.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

More nonsense research on IQ. Are high IQ people more racist?

Maybe I am missing something but I think that the research below has simply shown that people who are good at recognizing patterns are good at recognizing patterns.

It is true that the Raven's IQ test is a test of pattern recognition.  Pattern recognition is a major part of IQ. So the geniuses below did a study in which people were presented with some graphics that were patterned in a certain way.  They then tested the people who had been shown the patterned graphics  to find out if they had seen and learned the pattern in the graphics.  Some had seen it. Some had not.

They found that high scorers on the Ravens pattern recognition test were more likely to have learned the pattern that had been presented to them in the graphics of the experiment. People who were good at detecting one lot of patterns were good at detecting other patterns. In other words, they confirmed that good pattern recognition was part of IQ -- which  we already knew.

So what the heck is going on?  Why did this tomfoolery get published?  It is because pattern recognition is RACIST!  If you see a pattern in people who cry "Allahu Akhbar" when they kill other people and conclude that Muslims might be more dangerous than others, that is PREJUDICE.  I would argue that it is POSTJUDICE -- judging from experience -- but that makes me a racist apparently. Recognizing patterns is BIAS!  You are not allowed to learn from experience

A new study complicates the narrative that only unintelligent people are prejudiced. The paper, published recently in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, suggests smart people are actually more at risk of stereotyping others.

The study consisted of a series of experiments, all of which suggested that people who performed better on a test of pattern detection—a measure of cognitive ability—were also quicker to form and apply stereotypes.

First, researchers from New York University showed 271 participants a series of pictures of red, blue, and yellow cartoon aliens with different facial features, paired with a statement of either a nice behavior (“gave another alien a bouquet of flowers”) or a rude one (“spat in another alien’s face”):

Most of the pairings were random, but two were skewed so that keen observers might pick up on a pattern: 80 percent of the blue aliens were paired with unfriendly behaviors, and 80 percent of the yellow aliens were paired with nice ones. The subjects didn’t know if the statements about the aliens were true or false. In this way, the study tried to mimic how people actually form prejudices about certain groups, like through anecdotes in the media or through portrayals in TV shows.

Later, the subjects were asked to pick which alien had committed a given behavior from a lineup:

The participants then took a test called the Raven’s Advanced Progressive Matrices, a pattern-based exam that’s a common measure of human intelligence.

The participants who were better pattern detectors were more likely to make stereotypical errors: They tended to ascribe the friendly behaviors to the wrong yellow alien, and the unfriendly behaviors to the wrong blue alien. Meanwhile, they were less likely to ascribe the behavior to a different-colored alien.

A second study showed similar results, but for measures of implicit bias. That is, smarter participants were quicker to stereotype the aliens in the course of a word-sorting task, even if they didn’t realize they were doing it.

Next, the researchers tried it with human faces, showing a new set of participants a series of computer-generated pictures of men with either wide or narrow nose bridges:

Here too, 80 percent of the narrow nose-bridge men were paired with friendly behaviors, while 80 percent of the wide nose-bridge men were supposedly unfriendly. The participants were then partnered with a new set of pictures of men for a trust game using fake money. Again, superior pattern detectors gave more money to the characters with narrow nose bridges, suggesting they had learned the stereotype about friendliness and employed it in judging the new men.

These depressing results suggest there’s a downside to being smart—it makes you risk reading too much into a situation and drawing inappropriate conclusions.


Monday, July 31, 2017

Another set of findings showing that IQ scores are firmly grounded in DNA

Note that a particular DNA profile correlated .78 with educational attainment and .86 with IQ. That is about as high as you get in explaining human variation

A genome-wide association study for extremely high intelligence

D Zabaneh et al.


We used a case–control genome-wide association (GWA) design with cases consisting of 1238 individuals from the top 0.0003 (~170 mean IQ) of the population distribution of intelligence and 8172 unselected population-based controls. The single-nucleotide polymorphism heritability for the extreme IQ trait was 0.33 (0.02), which is the highest so far for a cognitive phenotype, and significant genome-wide genetic correlations of 0.78 were observed with educational attainment and 0.86 with population IQ. Three variants in locus ADAM12 achieved genome-wide significance, although they did not replicate with published GWA analyses of normal-range IQ or educational attainment. A genome-wide polygenic score constructed from the GWA results accounted for 1.6% of the variance of intelligence in the normal range in an unselected sample of 3414 individuals, which is comparable to the variance explained by GWA studies of intelligence with substantially larger sample sizes. The gene family plexins, members of which are mutated in several monogenic neurodevelopmental disorders, was significantly enriched for associations with high IQ. This study shows the utility of extreme trait selection for genetic study of intelligence and suggests that extremely high intelligence is continuous genetically with normal-range intelligence in the population.

Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication 4 July 2017;    doi: 10.1038/mp.2017.121

Evolutionary biology:  Three theories

Evolutionary biology is an inherently speculative field and new fossil finds seem regularly to upset such theories. So I am going to concentrate on theories for which we have some solid data -- in the form of IQ scores.  I am going to look at just 3 populations for which average IQ has now been fairly securely assessed: East Asians, Europeans and Australian Aborigines. Why do the scores decline so markedly across those three groups? I think the main key is warfare or the lack of it.

Europeans are an interesting example of balance.  They have had frequent and ferocious wars with one-another but have also had substantial periods of peace. And they seem to have benefited from both.  Wars are often won by guile rather than by numbers  but that is never easy and requires ever-changing tactics.  So a general problem solving ability was selected for.  Europeans developed their IQs to help them win their many wars. A smarter tribe tended to win and therefore prosper, with more children being born for that tribe.

But the periods of peace were long enough for the pursuits of peace to thrive from time to time also.  And one of the most interesting peaceful pursuit is enquiry, scholarship, finding things out.  And because of that scholarship tends to be highly regarded.  Even in ancient Sumeria there is a record of a father bringing a fleece to give to a teacher. Which is something of an advance on an apple but we can see the same motive and the same respect.

So scholarly people tended to be well supported and hence were an economically successful group.  Sadly, many of the European scholars were celibate monks so the effect was probably much less than it might have been. The monks did however help to make scholarship prestigious so that was a useful function.

An interesting special case is the Germans.  For most of history, there was no German nation.  Germany was a geographical concept only.  It was a place where many large and small independent nations lived who all spoke a form of German.  And, ever since the Roman republic and probably before, Germans have always been warlike. And they as often made war on one-another as they did on others.  So they were heavily selected for martial ability.  Only good warriors survived.  And that selectivity did result not only in a healthy IQ but also in other advantageous attributes.  Their average IQ did not become outstanding compared with their neighbors because it was supplemented by other advantages, one of which is extreme: innovativeness.

It was probably the desirability of military flexibility that made Germans into master innovators, something I have written at length about previously. Leftist psychologists go to great lengths to isolate important intellectual abilities that are not captured by IQ tests but their suggested alternatives mostly reduce to absurdity.  So it is amusing that one of the few genuine alternatives is innovativeness.  That Germans are the masters in that attribute must grind a few gears, however.

Hollywood war movies portray German troops as rigid and robotic bunglers so my characterization of them as flexible will no doubt be a surprise to non-historians.  In fact however, flexibility in tactics was preached in Vom Kriege,  that great Prussian bible of military doctrine by Clausewitz, written early in the 19th century.  The big bunglers of WWII were allied troops.

Particularly in the case of the Prussians (North-Eastern Germans), their martial tendencies were channeled in another direction as well:  into a military personality, with self-discipline being a major part of that. For instance, punctuality requires self discipline and Germans are famous for that.

Speaking more generally, it once used to be said that you just had to drop any German into a military uniform and he immediately became the perfect soldier.  And the exploits of the Wehrmacht in WWII were amazing.  Although heavily outnumbered they very nearly won, despite the large handicap of Corporal Hitler's overall inept leadership.

Just to give you the flavor of that, the British air ace with the highest number of enemy aircraft shot down was "Johnnie" Johnson, with 38 "kills". By comparison, Erich Hartmann of the Luftwaffe had 352 "kills". A similar ratio was not unknown in WWII tank battles.

But Germany did have periods of peace so the arts of peace thrived there as well.  It might be noted that the contributions to the arts made by Germans as a group were however very unevenly distributed, with Austria being by far the greatest contributor -- particularly in music -- and Prussia the least. To this day, about two thirds of the classical repertoire in music was composed in Austria (Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert etc.).

So what is distinctive about Austria?  It was a large empire that got big not by war but by intermarriage of its royal family with other royal families.  They did have wars -- particularly with invading Prussians -- but life in the empire was mostly peaceful.  So "useless" but beguiling things like music and literature could thrive.

And up to WWII, Vienna, the capital of Austria, was THE great city.  It was the intellectual capital of the world.  Most of the eminent philosophers (e.g. Schlick, Wittgenstein), psychologists (e.g. Freud, Jung), Economists (e.g. Boehm von Bawerk, Mises) and artists (e.g. Klimt, Klee) were there. And Vienna was also prominent in new music. It was the home of a great new musical artform, the operetta -- with operettas by composers such as Strauss and Kalman generating many perennially popular songs.  Dutch musical entrepreneur Andre Rieu is a great user of songs from operetta.


Compared with Europe, China had long periods of peace under the various dynasties.  So peaceful pursuits could flourish.  And one of those pursuits was scholarship, a much respected pursuit. So China developed its famous civil service examinations, which gave you access to the Chinese elite.  You reached the top in China not by the sword but by the ink brush. And that made scholarship universally respected and aspired to.

And a major factor in scholarly achievement is IQ. So it was the high IQ section of the Chinese population who got all the gravy. They flourished economically and thus tended to have more children.  So IQ was heavily selected for in China over many generations. And so we have the finding today that the Chinese are roughly half a standard deviation higher in average IQ than are Westerners.

And Chinese civilization was much admired in Korea and Japan.  Confucian thinking was adopted there. Chinese bureaucracy, culture, religion, and philosophy were closely studied.  Japan had a particular advantage there.  The Tokugawa shogunate gave Japan over 200 years of peace, an unprecedented achievement. So peaceful pursuits were of particular interest there as well. The Chinese model was largely adopted, with similar results.  So China, South Korea and Japan are closely similar in IQ.

Which leads to an interesting contrast:  Other East Asians, such as the Chinese and Vietnamese do quite poorly on average IQ.  How come?  They all look the same to us!  The Philippines is an easy answer. They are separated from China by rather a lot of ocean.  China did have some influence but the Filipinos mostly went on with their own ways.

And for Vietnam, the problem was the neighborhood bully:  China.  Vietnam was a minor issue in China but China was a big issue in Vietnam.  Little Vietnam kept being invaded from next-door China.  And because China could muster far more troops than Vietnam, Vietnamese had to develop as warriors if they wanted to keep China at bay. And they did.  Like Germans, the Vietnamese became a warrior race -- as both France and the USA found out in the 20th century.  So there was much less scope for peaceful pursuits in Vietnam. Keeping out foreigners became the Vietnamese specialty. And they are still good at that.


And so on to Australian Aborigines, who register one of the lowest average IQs that have been found.  And their unusual situation was very clear: isolation. They had virtually no contact with the outside world for as much as 60,000 years. So they developed with reference to the Australian environment only. And Australia as it was before white settlement tended to be an unforgiving place.  It was hard to make a living there.  For a primitive people the food supply was always precarious.  So the environment was the big challenge and the big shaping influence.  And shape them it did. 

Aborigines are not inferior to others intellectually.  They have just deveoloped different intellectual skills.  The skills they have are a very poor at dealing with IQ tests or modern life generally but are superbly adapted to their lives before the white men came along.  Each tribe usually had a fairly wide geographic range that they wandered over.  They had to.  They were hunter/gatherers, not farmers.  So food was scarce everywhere, particularly in the large dry areas of Australia.  So detecting from afar and creeping up on juicy herbivores was the big requirement for life.

So Aborigines developed a quite eerie ability to "read" and remember the landscape. If a few leaves on the ground had moved in the last day or two, an Aborigine would notice that as a message that there was an animal nearby.  He could probably even say which sort of animal. You have to see it to believe it.  They just have enormous visual abilities and a vast visual memory.

That extraordinary skill was in fact very useful to the white man in earlier days. It was useful in tracking down fugitives and criminals.  So the phenomenon of the "black tracker" arose.  Aborigines were hired by police to find people who would otherwise be unfindable.  An evildoer might think that he had made good his escape and he would be right in thinking that -- UNTIL the police put a black tracker on his trail.  The black tracker would see a clear trail that was invisible to whites.  Just a slightly turned leaf would be enough. So crooks who thought they were safe were often surprised to find police knocking on their door.

I could go on.  The way the environment often underlies human differences is fascinating.  I will forbear from mentioning Africans however.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Diversity doesn't make racial differences magically disappear

The point made below is unusually realistic for The Guardian but the author still has no idea why it is so.  He is perfectly right that minority/majority status does little to make one prosperous or not.  Whites are a prosperous majority in the USA and a prosperous minority in Brazil.  How come?  Shouldn't being in a majority always mean dominance in various ways?  Why are some minorities prosperous?

The fact that majority/minority status does not determine your wealth or other advantage, seriously undermines the common Leftist claim that American blacks are poor only because whites keep them down.

The fact is that it is your personal competence at economic tasks that generally dictates your economic status.  In general, whites are better at doing things that other people are willing to pay for -- so will always be richer than the less economically competent.  And why are whites more competent?  If you look at average IQ scores the answer is plain.  Whites are much smarter in general and they get it from their parents

Short of a race war that will not change.  And majorities don't always win wars either, as the Hutus found out

We can't screw our way beyond racism. Many think mixed-race babies and browner demographics will automatically usher in a post-racial world. They interpret the projections of a "majority-minority" shift in our nation – now set to take place in 2044 – as a sign of guaranteed progress. Changing faces in the US are seen as anti-racist destiny. But don't overestimate the power of this post-racial cocktail.

Jordan Peele's brilliant film Get Out reminds me of the importance of questioning overly optimistic narratives of racial progress. Made by someone who has been open about being biracial and married to a white women, this film creatively uses the genre of horror to depict the persistence of racism through a story about an interracial couple. In many ways, it can be seen as a strident critique of a liberal brand of racism that has blossomed in the post-Obama era.

The perspective that multiracial demographics naturally erode bias and inequality tends to lack historical and global perspective. Consider Brazil. There, white people are a minority – but are still dominant. Despite being outnumbered, their incomes are more than double than that of Afro-descendants; white men are also vastly over-represented in Brazil's new government.

If more mixed people guarantee greater tolerance, then Brazil – and most of Latin America – should be a racial paradise. Although a great degree of 'mestizaje' or racial mixing has taken place since the time of conquest, Indigenous and Afro-descendent people in Latin America remain disproportionately poor, discriminated against, and locked out from opportunity.

Sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, in his book Racism without Racists, has speculated whether the racial order in the US might eventually resemble that of Latin American and Caribbean nations. In this case, white supremacy and racial stratification will continue to operate in the US even as it becomes a "majority-minority" nation.

Even the idea of a "majority-minority" shift obscures the fact that the US will be better described as a racial plurality. It's not as if non-whites constitute one homogenous group.

The legacy of blanqueamiento ("whitening") in Latin America demonstrates that ideals of multiraciality can run alongside white supremacy. This theory, widely adopted and practiced by Latin American nations at the turn into the 20th century, encouraged racial mixing for the sake of moving entire populations towards whiteness. This is a reminder that desires for a mixed future can be, and have sometimes been, grounded in anti-blackness.

To be sure, all of this does not discredit the importance of diversity and the unique perspectives that people of multi-ethnic/racial backgrounds possess because of their social location. Speaking of the consciousness of the mestiza, Chicana thinker Gloria Anzaldתa writes: "In our very flesh, (r)evolution works out the clash of cultures."

People with mixed backgrounds can disrupt notions of purity that undergird race and synthesize vast cultural traditions. People with mixed backgrounds can also internalize and carry out racism.

Instead of reducing mixed people to being inevitable harbingers of a post-racial future, there needs to be an acknowledgement of agency in how mixed people choose to relate to the problem of racism and how society, in turn, chooses to receive mixed people.

Merely looking optimistically into the future erases the past that the US has with multiraciality. The figure of the "Tragic Mulatto/a" arose in US literature and film precisely because our racial architecture is based upon a series of denials. Speaking to the West Indian Student Center in London in 1968, James Baldwin captured this incisively:

"What is really happening is that brother has murdered brother knowing it was his brother. White men have lynched Negroes knowing them to be their sons. White women have had Negroes burned knowing them to be their lovers … the American people are unable to face the fact that I'm flesh of their flesh, bone of their bone."

Baldwin exposes the naןve belief that racial intimacy and mixture are some inevitable bulwark against racism.

Demographics are not destiny. Having a multiracial background may no longer be necessarily tragic but it is not automatically heroic.

What is the racial future of this nation? As a social construct tied to political and economic power, racism has proven itself adept at employing difference to prolong its entrenchment. Notwithstanding Trump's efforts to engineer a white nationalist future, where we go from here is not determined. It's up to us. It depends on what we all decide to do.


Friday, June 30, 2017

Very strong study shows health advantages for high IQ people across the board

This sort of finding emerges so often that I should probably stop putting them up.  But when the Left keep dismissing IQ as meaningless, what am I to do?

Childhood intelligence in relation to major causes of death in 68 year follow-up: prospective population study

Ian J Deary et al.


Objectives: To examine the association between intelligence measured in childhood and leading causes of death in men and women over the life course.

Design: Prospective cohort study based on a whole population of participants born in Scotland in 1936 and linked to mortality data across 68 years of follow-up.

Setting: Scotland.

Participants: 33 536 men and 32 229 women who were participants in the Scottish Mental Survey of 1947 (SMS1947) and who could be linked to cause of death data up to December 2015.

Main outcome measures: Cause specific mortality, including from coronary heart disease, stroke, specific cancer types, respiratory disease, digestive disease, external causes, and dementia.

Results: Childhood intelligence was inversely associated with all major causes of death. The age and sex adjusted hazard ratios (and 95% confidence intervals) per 1 SD (about 15 points) advantage in intelligence test score were strongest for respiratory disease (0.72, 0.70 to 0.74), coronary heart disease (0.75, 0.73 to 0.77), and stroke (0.76, 0.73 to 0.79). Other notable associations (all P less than 0.001) were observed for deaths from injury (0.81, 0.75 to 0.86), smoking related cancers (0.82, 0.80 to 0.84), digestive disease (0.82, 0.79 to 0.86), and dementia (0.84, 0.78 to 0.90). Weak associations were apparent for suicide (0.87, 0.74 to 1.02) and deaths from cancer not related to smoking (0.96, 0.93 to 1.00), and their confidence intervals included unity. There was a suggestion that childhood intelligence was somewhat more strongly related to coronary heart disease, smoking related cancers, respiratory disease, and dementia in women than men (P value for interactions less than 0.001, 0.02, less than 0.001, and 0.02, respectively).Childhood intelligence was related to selected cancer presentations, including lung (0.75, 0.72 to 0.77), stomach (0.77, 0.69 to 0.85), bladder (0.81, 0.71 to 0.91), oesophageal (0.85, 0.78 to 0.94), liver (0.85, 0.74 to 0.97), colorectal (0.89, 0.83 to 0.95), and haematopoietic (0.91, 0.83 to 0.98). Sensitivity analyses on a representative subsample of the cohort observed only small attenuation of the estimated effect of intelligence (by 10-26%) after adjustment for potential confounders, including three indicators of childhood socioeconomic status. In a replication sample from Scotland, in a similar birth year cohort and follow-up period, smoking and adult socioeconomic status partially attenuated (by 16-58%) the association of intelligence with outcome rates.

Conclusions: In a whole national population year of birth cohort followed over the life course from age 11 to age 79, higher scores on a well validated childhood intelligence test were associated with lower risk of mortality ascribed to coronary heart disease and stroke, cancers related to smoking (particularly lung and stomach), respiratory diseases, digestive diseases, injury, and dementia.

BMJ 2017; 357 doi:

Thursday, May 25, 2017

More genes linked to IQ

Because IQ is linked to so much else, psychometricians have long expected it to be polygenetic: Many genes have an input into it.  I have always favoured the view that a high IQ is simply one aspect of general biological good functioning.  The brain is just another organ of the body, after all. So if that is the case, the number of genes linked to IQ should be very large indeed.  So the work below is just a first step.

Various reports of this study distort its results --  with the NYT in the lead on that.  So let me answer them here: 

The NYT says: "These genes do not determine intelligence, however. Their combined influence is minuscule".  That is exactly the opposite of what the study found.  I append the journal abstract below so readers can check for themselves.  The authors found that their 52 genes explained 5% of the variance in IQ.  That per cent of variance explained is about normal in psychological research and has been used to support many claims of causality.  And the 5% will rise as more genes are analysed.

Other reports misunderstood the links to Alzheimers and Schizophrenia.  The study found that people with high IQ genes had LESS Alzheimers and Schizophrenia, not more.  It is interesting, however, that high IQ genes are associated with autism.  As is well known, autistic people often have extreme mental abilities in some fields, so the finding is not too surprising.  Most high IQ people are not autistic, however.

I liked the finding that high IQ people are tall, thin and unlikely to smoke. I am an example of that.  I am 5'10", was very skinny in my early life and have never smoked. 5'10" is not that tall these days but when I was born 73 years ago it was. The average male height in Australia has increased 3" in the last 50 years.

Intelligence is one of the most investigated traits in humans, but so far, only a handful of genes have been associated with the trait.

Now, researchers have made a major advance in understanding the genetic underpinnings of intelligence, uncovering 52 genes for the trait, 40 of which are new discoveries.

In particular they found that many people with these genes are more likely to have other traits, including being tall, thin and unlikely to smoke.

Scientists hope the findings could provide new biological insights into brain function and understanding, and help to define the genetic component of IQ.

The findings also turned up a surprising connection between intelligence and autism that could one day help shed light on the condition's origins.

"For the first time, we were able to detect a substantial amount of genetic effects in IQ," said Danielle Posthuma, a researcher at the Center for Neurogenomics and Cognitive Research in Amsterdam, and the main architect of the study. "Our findings provide insight into the biological underpinnings of intelligence," she told AFP.

An international research team led by Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam studied genetic data from over 78,000 individuals. The data included information on DNA genotypes and intelligence scores, which led the team to discover new genes and biological routes for intelligence.

Despite high heritability estimates of 45 per cent in childhood and 80 per cent in adulthood, until now, only a few genes had been associated with. But the new study uncovered 40 new genes, most of which are mainly expressed in brain tissue.

Professor Posthuma said: 'These results are very exciting as they provide very robust associations with intelligence. 'The genes we detect are involved in the regulation of cell development, and are specifically important in synapse formation, axon guidance and neuronal differentiation.

'These findings for the first time provide clear clues towards the underlying biological mechanisms of intelligence.'

The results showed that people with the genes were more likely to have high educational achievements, and were also likely to be taller, not to smoke, and to have autism spectrum disorder.

In contrast, people with the intelligence genes were less likely to have Alzheimer's disease, depressive symptoms, smoking history, schizophrenia, high body mass index, or obesity.

Dr Suzanne Sniekers, who also worked on the study, said: 'These genetic correlations shed light on common biological pathways for intelligence and other traits.

'Seven genes for intelligence are also associated with schizophrenia; nine genes also with body mass index, and four genes were also associated with obesity. 'These three traits show a negative correlation with intelligence.

'So, a variant of gene with a positive effect on intelligence, has a negative effect on schizophrenia, body mass index or obesity.'

The researchers stress that future studies will be needed to clarify the exact role of these genes in intelligence in order to gain a more complete picture of how genetic differences lead to differences in intelligence.

Professor Posthuma added: 'The current genetic results explain up to five per cent of the total variance in intelligence.

'Although this is quite a large amount of variance for a trait as intelligence, there is still a long road to go: given the high heritability of intelligence, many more genetic effects are expected to be important, and these can only be detected in even larger samples.'


Genome-wide association meta-analysis of 78,308 individuals identifies new loci and genes influencing human intelligence

Suzanne Sniekers et al.

Intelligence is associated with important economic and health-related life outcomes1. Despite intelligence having substantial heritability2 (0.54) and a confirmed polygenic nature, initial genetic studies were mostly underpowered3, 4, 5. Here we report a meta-analysis for intelligence of 78,308 individuals. We identify 336 associated SNPs (METAL P < 5 × 10−8) in 18 genomic loci, of which 15 are new. Around half of the SNPs are located inside a gene, implicating 22 genes, of which 11 are new findings. Gene-based analyses identified an additional 30 genes (MAGMA P < 2.73 × 10−6), of which all but one had not been implicated previously. We show that the identified genes are predominantly expressed in brain tissue, and pathway analysis indicates the involvement of genes regulating cell development (MAGMA competitive P = 3.5 × 10−6). Despite the well-known difference in twin-based heratiblity2 for intelligence in childhood (0.45) and adulthood (0.80), we show substantial genetic correlation (rg = 0.89, LD score regression P = 5.4 × 10−29). These findings provide new insight into the genetic architecture of intelligence.

Nature Genetics. (2017) doi:10.1038/ng.3869

Friday, April 14, 2017

More on politics and IQ

Further to my recent comments on IQ, someone has drawn my attention to a 2014 article by Noah Carl.  Carl recently came to attention for his articles on Leftism among academics. I had some comments on that on March 5 and on March 17.  Carl is clearly something of a bad boy from a Leftist perspective.  The 2014 journal article is as follows:

Cognitive ability and party identity in the United States (2014)

Noah Carl


Carl (2014) analysed data from the U.S. General Social Survey (GSS), and found that individuals who identify as Republican have slightly higher verbal intelligence than those who identify as Democrat. An important qualification was that the measure of verbal intelligence used was relatively crude, namely a 10-word vocabulary test. This study examines three other measures of cognitive ability from the GSS: a test of probability knowledge, a test of verbal reasoning, and an assessment by the interviewer of how well the respondent understood the survey questions. In all three cases, individuals who identify as Republican score slightly higher than those who identify as Democrat; the unadjusted differences are 1-3 IQ points, 2-4 IQ points and 2-3 IQ points, respectively. Path analyses indicate that the associations between cognitive ability and party identity are largely but not totally accounted for by socio-economic position: individuals with higher cognitive ability tend to have better socio-economic positions, and individuals with better socio-economic positions are more likely to identify as Republican. These results are consistent with Carl's (2014) hypothesis that higher intelligence among classically liberal Republicans compensates for lower intelligence among socially conservative Republicans.


So what are we to make of it?  Let us first compare it with two papers by the indefatigable Ian Deary.  Deary has access to some very well sampled British databases so is in a position to report highly generalizable results:


Childhood intelligence predicts voter turnout, voting preferences, and political involvement in adulthood: The 1970 British Cohort Study (2008)

Ian J. Deary


Little is known about the association between measured intelligence and how people participate in democratic processes. In the 1970 British Cohort Study, we examined the association between childhood intelligence and, at age 34: whether and how people voted in the 2001 UK general election; how they intended to vote; and whether they had taken part in other political activities. People with higher childhood intelligence were more likely to vote in the 2001 election (38% increased prevalence per SD increase in intelligence), and were more likely to vote for the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats (49% and 47% increased prevalence per SD increase in intelligence, respectively). The intelligence-Green party voting association was largely accounted for by occupational social class, the intelligence-Liberal Democrat voting association was not. Similar associations between intelligence and preference for the Green Party or Liberal Democrats were found as regards voting intentions, but neither of these associations was accounted for by occupational social class. People with higher childhood intelligence were more likely to take part in rallies and demonstrations, and to sign petitions, and expressed a greater interest in politics (40%, 65%, 33%, and 58% increased prevalence per SD increase in intelligence, respectively).



Bright Children Become Enlightened Adults (2008)

Ian J. Deary


We examined the prospective association between general intelligence (g) at age 10 and liberal and antitraditional social attitudes at age 30 in a large (N = 7,070), representative sample of the British population born in 1970. Statistical analyses identified a general latent trait underlying attitudes that are antiracist, proworking women, socially liberal, and trusting in the democratic political system. There was a strong association between higher g at age 10 and more liberal and antitraditional attitudes at age 30; this association was mediated partly via educational qualifications, but not at all via occupational social class. Very similar results were obtained for men and women. People in less professional occupations-and whose parents had been in less professional occupations-were less trusting of the democratic political system. This study confirms social attitudes as a major, novel field of adult human activity that is related to childhood intelligence differences.



So in the first Deary study above we find that high IQ British voters did lean Left but they leant towards minority Leftist parties, not the major Leftist party, the Labour party.  The Labour party has some repellent union associations so may have been seen as unattractive for that reason.  The two minor parties, however, come across as high-minded.

The second study looked at the correlates of attitudes rather than vote.  And ever since LaPiere in the 1930s we have known that attitudes are at best only weakly related to behaviour.  Deary found greater social liberalism among high IQ people.

And so we come to Carl's 2014 American study. GOP identifiers were found to be slightly brighter on average than Democrat identifiers.

It is of course perfectly possible and reasonable that trends in Britain might not be reflected in the USA -- and vice versa.  That would seem to be the case here. But note that in no case is the major Leftist party favoured. But the association between vote and IQ was in any case weak so IQ is clearly a very minor factor in determining vote.  As I have often argued, it is a miserable personality that makes you Leftist.  See, for instance,  here