Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Blacks, whites, genes and disease

An amusing dance around the point below.  It is the whole of an article just out in JAMA, a leading medical journal.  It says things that the Left do not want to hear.  But it says those things in verbose academic language that hides the point. So let me translate:

* The poor get more illness and die younger
* Blacks get more illness than whites and die younger
* Part of that difference is traceable to genetic differences between blacks and whites.
* But environmental differences -- such as education -- explain more than genetic differences do
* Researchers often ignore genetics for ideological reasons
* You don't fully understand what is going on in an illness unless you know about any genetic factors that may be at work.
* Genetics research should pay more attention to blacks

Most of those things I have been saying for years -- with one exception:

They find that environmental factor have greater effect than genetics.  But they do that by making one huge and false assumption. They assume that education is an environmetal factor.  It is not.  Educational success is hugely correlated with IQ, which is about two thirds genetic. High IQ people stay in the educational system for longer because they are better at it, whereas low IQ people (many of whom are blacks) just can't do it at all.  So if we treated education as a genetic factor, environmental differences would fade way as causes of disease.  As Hans Eysenck once said to me in a casual comment:  "It's ALL genetic".  That's not wholly true but it comes close

So the recommendation of the study -- that we work on improving environmental factors that affect disease -- is unlikely to achieve much.  They are aiming their gun towards where the rabbit is not. If it were an actual rabbit, it would probably say:  "What's up Doc?"

Some problems are unfixable but knowing which problems they are  can help us to avoid wasting resources on them. The black/white gap probably has no medical solution

Genomics, Health Disparities, and Missed Opportunities for the Nation's Research Agenda

The completion of the Human Genome Project occurred at a time of increasing public attention to health disparities. In 2004, Sankar and colleagues1 suggested that this coincidental timing resulted in an inappropriate emphasis on the contribution of genomics to health disparities, conflating racial patterns of disease with genetic ancestry, and distracting attention from the large and compelling body of scientific evidence pointing to social determinants of health disparities.2 For example, genomic research has emphasized discovery of genetic contributors to diabetes risk, but the recent increase in the prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes, which disproportionately affects minority populations, cannot be attributed to genetic changes and rather reflects social forces affecting diet, food access, and patterns in physical activity. The introduction of new genomic health technologies could also exacerbate disparities in access to high-quality health care, if specific genomic testing improved health and was only available to those who were affluent. Nonetheless, the claim persists that genomic research can reduce health disparities—if only participation by minority populations in genomic research could be increased.3

The source of this claim is an idiosyncratic usage of the term health disparities that may result in missed opportunities for the nation's health research agenda. Health disparities are generally understood to refer to systematic differences in health effects resulting from social disadvantage, but the term is often used in genomics to refer to differing health outcomes associated with population genetic variation. This usage arguably stems from the US focus on the association of health disparities with race/ethnicity (vs socioeconomic status), together with a growing body of knowledge about population genetic variation. Compounding the problem is a tendency in the United States to conflate health disparities and health care disparities, perhaps based on the erroneous assumption that improved health care will resolve health disparities.4 The misunderstanding about the causes of health disparities leads to confusion about fruitful lines of research and potential remedies.

A causal association between social position and health is well established.5 This association has been documented in both developed and developing countries and dates back to the earliest records, despite substantial change over time in the principal causes of disease. A broad array of health conditions across the lifespan follows a social gradient, wherein better health and longer lifespans track with increases in social advantage. This pattern holds whether measured by proxies of social class, such as education, income, and occupation, or by race/ethnicity.5 In the United States, health disparities are significant and widening and have attracted considerable attention among policy makers and the general public. Yet this large body of knowledge is absent from genomics discourse, which remains largely focused on biological causes and biomedical interventions.4

Health care plays a crucial role in decreasing morbidity and mortality once disease processes are under way, but accounts for only a minor portion of population health status. A study comparing the major determinants of health estimated that only 10% to 15% of premature mortality could be prevented by improved or more medical care.6 The limits of health care were demonstrated in a statistical experiment, comparing deaths potentially averted if people were to have a college education vs those potentially averted by advances in health care technology and an 8-fold difference was found favoring education.7 Moreover, the kind of health care that makes the largest difference to population health is access to universal high-quality primary care, distinct from the specialty or high-technology care to which genomics is most likely to contribute.

Genetic susceptibility influences which individuals within a particular group experience a particular disorder. Genetics can help to explain why some African American, Native American, or Latino individuals develop diabetes, heart disease, or other common conditions whereas others living in similar environments do not, just as genetics contributes to individual variation in populations not experiencing health disparities. Research to clarify the genetic contributors to disease etiology has many potential benefits. It may help to elucidate disease mechanisms and could inform genetic tests and drug development. Inclusion of diverse populations in genetic studies will enable identification of a fuller range of genetic variation contributing to various health outcomes, potentially leading to improved genetic tests that are applicable to all populations. Well-designed gene-environment studies across multiple populations may also help to delineate important environmental modifiers of disease. All of these considerations point to the potential health value of genetic research. However, these efforts will not provide strategies for addressing the more substantial contributors to health that are rooted in social, material, and environmental conditions.

Given population genetic variation, it is to be expected that genetic effects will sometimes augment, and at other times run counter to, the effects of social disadvantage. For example, African Americans with chronic kidney disease on average progress more rapidly to end-stage renal disease than European Americans with chronic kidney disease. Two variants in the APOL1 gene, seen in people of sub-Saharan African descent, contribute to this disease progression.8 Nevertheless, a comparison of African Americans with and without APOL1 risk genotypes with European Americans demonstrated that the APOL1-associated risk, although significant, accounted for only about 10% of excess incidence of albuminuria (a marker of risk for end-stage renal disease) among African Americans; a disparity remains between African Americans with low-risk genotypes and European Americans.8 In this case, the higher risk of albuminuria appears to be due to a combination of social and genetic determinants. Conversely, the incidence of acute lymphoblastic leukemia in African American children is less than half that of European American children, due in part to a difference in the prevalence of 2 risk variants. Yet survival from this malignancy is lower in African American children. This survival disparity is eliminated in a clinical setting characterized by high-quality care, aggressive case management, and financial support that eliminates out-of-pocket costs.9 In this case, the genetic determinants lead to lower disease risk, but social determinants lead to worse outcomes for those African American children who develop the disease. These examples support the value of understanding the health implications of population genetic variation—but also illustrate that social determinants consistently reduce health outcomes in disadvantaged populations, independent of genetic risk.

Characterizing health disparities as a challenge for genomics, rather than as a challenge for health and social sciences more generally, generates several problems. It justifies studies that focus on genetic causes of complex diseases with the goal of developing medical interventions, rather than studies that assess genomics within the context of social and environmental contributors to disease. Genomics research could make a positive contribution to the elucidation of causal mechanisms of health disparities and development of potential remedies, but that dividend is likely only if such contributions are integrated into, rather than emphasized over, broader social models of disease and interdisciplinary research methods. Viewing health disparities as addressable by medical care also focuses translational science on health care innovation rather than on community-based health promotion and intersectoral policy approaches. In so doing, attention and resources are diverted away from approaches that are more likely to reduce health disparities, such as efforts to increase education levels, reduce income inequality, promote community-based dietary and exercise initiatives, and ensure universal access to primary care.

Importantly, an approach primarily based on the development of innovative health care also threatens to sideline genomic research that might offer more substantive benefit for populations experiencing health disparities. An emerging body of preliminary data related to epigenetics, the microbiome, and genetic modifiers of response to the environment points to a range of opportunities for genomic tools to elucidate the causal pathways of health disparities. Promising findings on epigenetic changes related to childhood adversity, for example, point to ways in which genomics could contribute to a better understanding of how social disadvantage is embodied and expressed. Research efforts of this kind might ultimately help policy makers to weigh priorities when allocating resources to address social determinants of health.

Health disparities are complex and multifactorial. Reducing health gaps in the United States will require researchers and clinicians from many disciplines who share a common understanding of key terms and the role of social determinants of health to work in close collaboration with affected communities. Resolving a fundamental misunderstanding about the relationship between genomics and health disparities may create new opportunities for research collaborations, allowing large research investments in genomics to be leveraged for promising population health research. Failure to do so has the potential to deepen mistrust of scientific research and health care among those populations most burdened by health disparities.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Why the high intelligence of Indian Americans?

I reproduce below a well-informed answer to the above question.  I disagree with his conclusion that it is all due to nutrition however.  Other work finds only 5 IQ points attributable to nutrition.  The suggestion of 15 IQ points is therefore startling.  So I think we need to look at other possibilities.  I think that the Indian advantage is probably a compound of several factors. 

The treatment of Indians as a single group is of course absurd.  Almost any Indian will regale you with stories about the great gaps between the castes.  And the castes do seem to have a racial and historic origin.  A Brahman and a Dalit are worlds apart in all sorts of ways, including skin color. And it is usually held that the differences arose from the Northern  Brahmins being in fact late "Aryan" invaders on top of an original Dravidian population.  So we would expect Brahmins to have higher IQs.  And Brahmins seem well-represented in Indian immigrants to America.

Everything in the above paragraph is however subject to controversy so how much caste accounts for higher IQs in Indian Americans remains "under study".  Something that would reveal the effect (or not) of caste would be a study of Indian diaspora populations in places such as Fiji, where the Indians there are the descendants of coolies imported to act as agricultural labourers.  If they have high IQs, there is no caste effect.  But I can find no data on such populations.  It is however true that Indians run just about everything in Fiji these days.

The next possibility is related to the one above:  A general selective effect of immigration.  Diaspora populations are not always brighter than the home population but when we are looking at poor countries they probably are.  To get yourself out of a poor country to a rich one surely requires brains.  So regardless of caste, diaspora Indians should be brighter.

The third possibility is one shown up by the Flynn effect:  Education.  Education does have an effect on at least some measures of intelligence.  How that works is speculative but the most plausible explanation is that doing tests and exams in the course of a long education develops test-taking skills (e.g. guessing when uncertain) that generalize to IQ tests. And the Indian education system is woeful so a transition to the less woeful U.S. system should confer an advantage.

A fourth factor that is rarely mentioned in these discussions is regional differences within India.  The Indian South seems to be much brighter, particularly where mathematical ability is concerned. The great concentration of Indian IT knowledge is in Bengaluru (Bangalore), which is in the South.  And it was almost entirely Southern engineers who were behind the quite remarkable Indian Mars shot. 

I am not going to say much about why the Southerners are smarter but I note that they hate one-another.  Keralans despise Tamils, for instance.  And that is related to the long history of warfare between them.  And dummies are the least likely to survive wars.  So warfare has dragged up the average IQ of most of the South.

But getting back to Indians in America:  I have seen no figures on it but I gather that a huge proportion of Indians came to America to work in IT.  If that is so, they would mostly have come from the South -- because that is where the IT ability is.  So the Indian immigrants to the USA came from a (Southern) population that was ALREADY pretty high on IQ.  So from that starting point, the various advantages (already mentioned) of life in the USA could easily have added one third of a standard deviation -- which could explain what we see.  It could in fact explain the whole of what we see.

And regardless of where they come from in India, being employed to work in IT is a HUGE selective pressure.  To code easily in languages like C and its derivatives requires an IQ within about the top 2%. If that doesn't bring up the average, nothing would.

So I would summarize that the high IQs of Indians in the USA is the combined effect of nutrition, education, caste, an immigrant effect, an effect of regional origin and an effect of occupation.

Given the extraordinary difference in average IQ between Indians in India and Indians in America (well over one standard deviation) I think a multifactorial explanation has to be strongly indicated.  But all answers at this point are speculative.

One of the great mysteries in IQ research is why Indian Americans are such super achievers despite the fact that India reportedly has an IQ of only 82 according to the book IQ and Wealth of Nations.

And yet Indians in North America are known for their high intelligence and scholastic achievement, and despite being new to America, are already slightly over-represented on Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans. In some parts of Canada (particularly the maritime provinces like Newfoundland) if you’re Indian, all the white will people will assume you’re a doctor.

So how can Indians in North America be so smart when India’s average IQ is not great? Many people in the HBD-blogosphere invoke the theory that India is nation of many micro-races (castes) and that largely the smartest castes migrate to America, but the truth is usually much simpler.

Of the 2.8 million Indians in America, probably no more than 25% (700,000) are the ones who initially gained immigration (and the remaining 75% are the spouces, siblings, parents, and children, who came alone for the ride). But these 700,000 who actually gained immigration for themselves and their families are probably roughly the most occupationally successful 700,000 Indians out of a population of nearly 1.3 billion. In other words, they are above the +3.3 standard deviation mark in occupational status, and are on on average +3.5 SD. Since occupational status (mostly a function of education and income) correlates 0.7 with IQ, we should expect their IQ’s to be 3.5(0.7) = 2.45 SD higher than the average Indian (assuming Indians have a mean IQ of 82 and an SD 15, those who initially gain immigration to America should have an IQ of 119).

But because the IQ correlation between a parent and his adult offspring is about 0.45, the children of these high achieving immigrants from India should regress precipitously to the Indian mean:

0.45(119 – 82) + 82 = 99

Thus we should expect second-generation Indians born in America to have IQ’s around the U.S. average which is inconsistent with their incredible achievements. Can their achievements thus be explained by Tiger Moms? According to excellent Jamaican American blogger JayMan, parenting has zero impact.

So how do we explain the high achievements of second generation Indian immigrants? Nutrition. Blogger Steve Sailer was perhaps the first to notice that even un-mixed black Americans who have lived in the United States for centuries are several inches taller and about 13 IQ points smarter than black Africans. This suggests that first world nutrition adds about 13 IQ points (and several inches of height) to people of third world ancestry.

More HERE 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Academics are hugely Left-leaning.  Is it because they have higher IQs?

One explanation that has been put forward to explain the overrepresentation of individuals with left-wing and liberal views in academia is that they tend to have higher intelligence. The theory is that academic advancement requires very high intelligence, and since few individuals with right-wing and conservative views possess very high intelligence, such individuals are comparatively scarce within the academy (Solon 2014; Solon 2015; Charlton 2009; Gross 2013).

Several recent studies from the US, where the academy also has a sizable left-liberal skew, have concluded that intelligence does not contribute much to explaining the tilt (Gross & Fosse 2012; Gross 2013; Fosse et al. 2014). On the other hand, using a slightly different method, Carl (2015b) found that intelligence may account for more than fferent method, Carl (2015b) found that intelligence may account for more than half of the overrepresentation of socially liberal views, but may not account for any of the overrepresentation of economically left-wing views. His finding is consistent with evidence that cognitive ability is positively related to both socially liberal beliefs and at least some measures of economically right-wing beliefs (Carl 2015a).

Unfortunately, there do not appear to have been any surveys of British academics asking about specific policy issues, either economic (e.g., nationalisation of industry) or social (e.g., immigration). Only the distribution of party support among academics is available, which as noted above points to an overrepresentation of both left-wing views and liberal views.

To see whether intelligence contributes to explaining the left-liberal skew of party support among academics, I calculated the distribution of party support for individuals within the top 5% of IQ, using data from the Understanding Society survey. This is shown in Table 3, along with the distribution of party affiliation within the general population and among academics, also calculated from the Understanding Society data.

Note that the distribution within the general population differs from the outcome of the general election; this is probably due to the phrasing of the question posed in Understanding Society, to the sample being slightly unrepresentative, to the timing of the data collection, and to differential turnout by party.

However, what is of primary interest is the comparison between the figures for the general population and those for the top 5% of IQ, which were both calculated from the same data.

Conservative supporters are about as well represented within the top 5% of IQ as they are within the general population, Labour supporters are slightly underrepresented, UKIP supporters are underrepresented, Lib Dem supporters are overrepresented, and Green supporters are overrepresented. Overall, as Figure 2 illustrates, the distribution of left/right orientation within the top 5% of IQ is relatively similar to the distribution within the general population.

While intelligence may account for some of the underrepresentation of UKIP supporters among academics, and some of the overrepresentation of Green supporters (Deary et al. 2008), it cannot account for the substantial underrepresentation of Conservative supporters. To the extent that the Conservatives are a less socially conservative party than UKIP, the figures in Table 3 are consistent with Carl’s (2015b) finding that intelligence may contribute to explaining the underrepresentation of socially conservative views in American academia, but not necessarily the underrepresentation of economically right-wing views.

Somewhat surprising is the relative scarcity of Lib Dem supporters among academics, given their overrepresentation within the top 5% of IQ. This may be attributable to the fact that, as noted above, the Lib Dem party was until recently dominated by its classically liberal wing, which espoused comparatively more right-wing policies, which may not have been appealing to academics. On the other hand, it may simply be due to sampling error.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Charles Murray's Crime: Telling Liberals They Are Making Things Worse

Do you know the higher education version of the dog-ate-my-homework excuse? It is: "outside agitators." We heard it from Berkeley at the beginning of February, and now we just got it from the president of Middlebury College, who has written that she was shocked, shocked that activism was taking place on her campus on the occasion of a visit by libertarian intellectual Charles Murray. But not to worry:

    "We believe that many of these protestors were outside agitators, but there are indications that Middlebury College students were involved as well"

So that's all right.

The rest of us are waiting for the arrests, expulsions, suspensions, and general disregard for due process that apply when, e.g., a conservative student dares to publish a video rant by his class teacher.

On the other hand, there is nothing like flat-out liberal injustice to keep the Trump brigade in full fighting trim.

It is appropriate, of course, that the lefty social justice warriors at Middlebury College would want to shut up Charles Murray. His life work is a searing indictment of liberal welfare state policy. He is saying, in every sentence: Hello liberals, your grand plan isn't working. In fact, you are making things worse.

I looked at my bookshelf and found four of Murray's books immediately. Let's quickly rehearse what they argue.

In Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980 Murray argues that liberals were so confident that their Great Society programs would succeed that they instrumented them with social science research. But when the science settled out it showed that the programs didn't work. The liberal response? Bupkis.

In The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life Murray worried that our current educational and cultural system was segregating people by intelligence, and this was favoring the intelligent against the not-so-intelligent. Murray got into trouble because he pointed out that African Americans tested low on IQ tests. You are not allowed to say this in America and so Charles Murray must be a racist. If what he was saying were true it would mean that liberals were making things worse for African Americans. QED: Murray is a racist liar.

Then Murray did something really racist. He wrote Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010. If he was not allowed to write about blacks, then he would rewrite The Bell Curve for whites only. People of Color need not apply. In Coming Apart Murray argues that the top 25 percent of whites is doing fine, with great careers and merger marriages; the middle half of whites is doing only fair; and the bottom 30 percent, living in places like white-working-class Fishtown in Philadelphia, is in trouble: the men don't work much and the women don't marry much. Remember, this is just about white people. Nothing to do with People of Color.

Of course, there's more. In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State speaks for itself. Murray proposes a curious mechanical idea, to give adult Americans a basic income of $10,000 per year instead of welfare. The idea is to attach money to useless young men. This would encourage young women to marry the fathers of their children, and then start playing "Why Don't You Do Right" to hubby over the smartphone.

With By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission Murray gets radical. He proposes to mount a frontal attack on the administrative state and its regulations. All he needs is a billionaire to fund a foundation to hire lawyers and make life miserable for the middle-level bureaucrats that put out the regulations that have strangled the U.S. economy during the Obama years. These middle-level lifers want a quiet life. Murray's Rottweiler lawyers will make that impossible.

Golly, that is five books already and I haven't even mentioned Human Accomplishment which I also have floating around here somewhere.

You can see why Charles Murray must not be allowed to infect Middlebury College and pollute the special snowflakes that teach and study there. Why, a man that spends his life writing Wrongthink books like Losing Ground, The Bell Curve, Coming Apart, and the rest is just not who we are. And so the only thing to do is to bring in the outside agitators and then be shocked, shocked when the resulting demonstrations are only "mostly peaceful."

I suppose that this is a good sign for conservatives. With their hysteria and their "mostly peaceful" protests liberals are unwittingly telling us they are out of ideas.

The problem is that if liberals won't sit down and at least give a respectful hearing to a gentlemanly scholar like Charles Murray and his judgements on their policies then the only way to reverse the liberal failures will be through more robust methods of less gentlemanly folks.

Which is why we have President Trump.