All Hail Dalton Conley

Conley describes his early academic work as “lefty sociology.” His Ph.D. thesis was on the black-white wealth gap and he dedicated his early career to studying the transmission of health and wealth between parents and children.

At N.Y.U., Conley kept getting into disagreements with geneticists, arguing that their methods were dangerously naïve. It seemed to him implausible that studying only twins — the gold standard of genetics research — was enough to teach us the difference between nature and nurture. But over time, he decided that it wasn’t enough to just argue. Conley is an academic, and even within that tortured group he is something of a masochist. At that time he was a tenured professor, the kind of gig most people see as the endgame of an academic career, and yet he decided to go back and grind out another Ph.D., this time in genetics. He went into his program believing that our social environment is largely the cause of our outcomes, and that biology is usually the dependent variable. By the end of his time, he says, the causal arrow in his mind had pretty much flipped the other way: “I tried to show for a range of outcomes that the genetic models were overstating the impact of genetics because of their crazy assumptions.” He sighs. “But I ended up showing that they’re right.”

From the New York Times piece on Geno-Economics (Tyler linked to it yesterday also).


From the article: "Daniel Benjamin [a Harvard economist in training], Conley and several others in the study went ahead and got their own polygenic scores measured. It was for fun, mostly, and no one was unhappy with their results. “But at the moment I did it, I regretted doing it,” Conley says. “It’s a cognitive trap. I immediately realized that at an individual level, it doesn’t predict anything, but it’s human nature to want to know more about yourself. I don’t know …” He pauses for several seconds. “People parse meaningless distinctions.” Benjamin is less conflicted. “I don’t regret doing it,” he says. “But I’m an economist, so I’m trained to always think more information is better.”

That does sound somewhat at odds with the 5-year prediction.

In our lifetimes we will probably be better off asking "show me what you do" rather than some potential you may not have fulfilled.

In the longer-term humanity will have different decisions, probably starting with rich person gene editing.

Genetics has a huge effect on outcomes. But don't under estimate the effect of culture. If your culture tells you that to study hard in school, show up on time for work and work hard for your employer THEN it is more likely you will succeed than if your culture tells you the opposite.

In that case, your employer is more likely to succeed than you are.

You were fired for cause. Get over it.

It's always for cause. Regardless.

I don't know whether it's just me or if everybody elose encountering
issues wih your website. It looks likle some of the wriutten text within your posts arre running off the screen. Can someone else please comment
and let me know if this is happening to them ass well? This
may be a problem with my brwser because I've had this haplpen previously.


“People parse meaningless distinctions.”

He ought to study a little high school Latin to learn what "parse" means. Whether such Latin is easier or more difficult than what he's studied so far he will discover. It's certainly more boring.

Tainted by computer science.

Thanks for that. Mind you, "Within computational linguistics the term is used to refer to the formal analysis by a computer of a sentence or other string of words into its constituents, resulting in a parse tree showing their syntactic relation to each other" is pretty much what "parsing" meant in my Latin class. Armed with those results we'd then work out the meaning of the sentence - that was called "construing".

It seems that the compscis may use the word more accurately than lesser varieties of uneducated intellectuals.

"believing that our social environment is largely the cause of our outcomes, and that biology is usually the dependent variable." So it took him two PhDs to learn a lesson every farm boy knew. We are immersed in decadence.

The first PhD was programming in approved Party doctrine, so of course he came out of it a believer in Lysenkoism.

Lysenko was a farm boy, dearieme. (Wikipedia) "Isaak Izrailevich Prezent, a main Lysenko theorist, presented Lysenko in Soviet mass-media as a genius who had developed a new, revolutionary agricultural technique. In this period, Soviet propaganda often focused on inspirational stories of peasants who, through their own canny ability and intelligence, came up with solutions to practical problems."

Bonus trivia: you cannot grow most western fruit like apples, pears, in the Philippines since they need a cold/warm cycle to produce fruit. An idea stumbled upon by Lysenko. (Wikipedia): "Lysenko worked with different wheat crops to try to convert them to grow in different seasons. Another area Lysenko found himself interested in was the effect of heat on plant growth. He believed that every plant needed a determinate amount of heat throughout its lifetime. He attempted to correlate the time and the amount of heat required by a particular plant to go through various phases of development. To get his data he looked at the amount of growth, how many days went by, and the temperature on those days. In trying to determine the effects, he made a small statistical reasoning error. This is a general trend that can be seen throughout the majority of his works and his major "findings". He was confronted by Maksimov, who was an expert on thermal plant development. Lysenko did not take well to this or any criticism. After this encounter, Lysenko boldly claimed that mathematics had no place in biology.[6] " (Btw, this last sentence is still held true by many modern biologists, sadly).

So what kind of fruit is eaten in the PH

So why did farm boy Nikita Khrushchev get suckered by Lysenko?

Yep. Lots of confidence in the "farm boys" here. I guess those farm boys and girls would laugh you out of town if you'd ever talked to them about Christian free will from God, or the importance of raising children right?

What is more fascinating to me is why there is so much interest in genetics among laypeople.
Why ? Whenever there is some new article about genetics, suddenly there are a dozen blogs like this excitedly chattering away about it, without anyone having any sort of knowledge or expertise.

I think it is evidence of the persistent desire for some form of aristocracy, the lazy mans way to success where our DNA will somehow provide a justification for whatever we want.

Because, fuckwit, people run smack into genetics every day.

Why are my eyes the color they are
Why am I not taller
Why am I not a model
Why is there one person on my team that is so great
Why do some people body build so easily
Why do some people understand math so easily
Why are some people so elequent
Etc, etc, etc.

But somehow our social sciences have go over the deep end saying : you can be who ever you want. Or even worse, you can be whatever you want so long as government gives you a chance. Everyone who has a taste of the human experience rolls their eyes and wonders how the social sciences comes up with their insane models.

I wonder if your genes or your environment make you so cranky!

And you found a way to blame the government, lol.

Likely, yes, my genes are partially if not entirely to blame.

My genes and the genes of the idiots who run rampant in the social sciences. I wouldn't care if they blabbered about their idiotic ideas in their chaotic little minds among themselves. But one of them thought "oh, imposing my will on others sounds great" and another read about robespierre and now we have the modern left.


Took longer than expected to get to the "This is important and true and why is anyone interested in it or allowed to talk about it?" comment.

How many people on this comment section actually understand the underlying science?
Versus just imagining it to validate their membership in the ubermensch aristocracy?

Get stuffed, asshole.

As noted above, genetics is slammed into people’s faces day in day out, no matter what you useless ideology says. This is why no one of consequence gives a rats ass what you say, no matter how loudly you say it.

Very few commentors, I would say, imagine themselves part of the social elite, and few people imagine their genes are better than they are. So your proposition seems unlikely.

If anything, more self congratulatory "meritocrats" who are rather fulsome in attribution of what success they have achieved to their effort, work ethic, upbringing and openness to individual experiences.

The sociology professor thought it important enough to get a phd on the subject, and why should we not be allowed to talk about it? What criteria do you have that subjects should be censored?

I'm just saying that the comments on this blog demonstrate that IQ is the modern day phrenology, that mystical woo that quacks and laypeople use to conjure up just-so stories to justify their priors.

The comparison seems inapt. Phrenology explained nothing at all. IQ frequently explains far more variance in some dependent variable than any other measure. IQ's power is often estimated (e.g. in where an individual is in their society's income distribution, as opposed to their groups within a nation or nation in the world) but there are far more variables that actually failed in the replication crisis that are worthy of the title of the new phrenology (most often "Great White Hopes" of alternatives to IQ).

It seems to be primarily a US obsession. I assume it is mostly because of racism. But thinking about how upset many people in the US seemed to be about the confirmation that human DNA is mostly junk I think there is also religious motivation. I don't think people liked the idea their god could be so sloppy.

There is a European genetics testing company and apparently articles written about it.

Yes. Yes there is. And genetics knowledge is vital to European agriculture, medicine, and brewing. But a popular obsession with genetics does seem to be more of a US thing. I am inclined to think historical events may have something to do with this. But before I go any further, I'll make clear I'm just saying how things appear to me. I haven't carried out any surveys or anything along those lines.

Thanks for clarifying! Until your last sentence I was worried that you had carried out any surveys or something along those lines.

A farm boy tainted by Marxism is a farm boy no longer. Or maybe Russian farm boys were unusually thick.

Or maybe Lysenko, like so many other unscrupulous intellectuals, wanted to advance his career at any cost.

Didn't take too long to break out the No True Scotsman fallacy did it?

Did the Russian farm boys have the stupid gene?

Much respect for Conley's pursuit of knowledge!

I wonder what the dominant political views are among US geneticists and biologists... my guess would be that they are not quite as left-leaning as most other scientists?

A study several years ago showed that engineers are the most conservative, biologists are the most liberal and physicists tended to be moderates. (I can't find the link.)

Conley has figured out some interesting sociological questions that polygenic scores might be useful in testing. For example, is Herrnstein's Assumption (1972) that standard testing for college admissions increased assortative mating among genetically gifted individuals true? Conley points out you can look at genes from really old people to see if assortative mating by polygenic score went up over the 20th Century. I've always found Herrnstein's model plausible, but it's not as if Herrnstein, a New York City boy, had a deep knowledge of American mating patterns out in the hinterland, so it's worth finding out.

Conley's first try at it a few years ago suffered from crude polygenic scores, but as the polygenic scores get better, we might find out some interesting things.

Nice story, but one word of caution. This claim:

"He went into his program believing that our social environment is largely the cause of our outcomes, and that biology is usually the dependent variable. By the end of his time, he says, the causal arrow in his mind had pretty much flipped the other way"

may be correct for some of the relatively homogeneous environments that American sociologists look at, but it's likely not true for explaining income differences between North and South Korea, or even urban America and rural Bangladesh.

Nature vs. nurture? It depends.

+1, very true!

Reading this while listening to NPR talk about heart disease, noting that immigrants quickly see increase in heart disease after moving to US, and to lesser degree EU, their children suffer even more heart disease, and their grandchildren are at the western norm of high heart disease risk.

The only DNA explanation for this is the US and EU cause high rates of DNA damage, perhaps caused by nuclear industry (weapons and power), or DuPont better living through (toxic) chemistry, ...

I think blaming economists makes more sense. Ie, cutting labor costs will create faster job growth because by cutting food prices in half, twice the number of workers will be employed by workers eating four times as much food, four times the calories.

Tyler is quick to fellate this article because he is a neo-eugenicist. Haven't you taken a Straussian reading of this blog yet?

It's a Tabarrok post.

I know but if you write something insulting about Alex he deletes the post. Tyler has deleted my previous comment calling him a eugenics apologist but since this isn't a Tyler post he will not read it.

Bravo, Benny! This is truly tinfoil hat insanity here.

Truth and reality are "insanity" to low life conservatards.

Doesn’t this man that in most cases the poor are poor because of some combination of genetically based low cognitive ability, low capacity for effort, poor impulse control, etc? If that’s the case, what do we owe them?

As far as I can tell the right thinks they intentionally make poor choices and the left thinks it’s all about “the man” keeping them down. What if we show it’s all in the genes?

Tyler Cowen, on the 80,000 hours podcast, says that caring is natural.

The obvious answer to the question to “what do we owe people who are relatively lazy, stupid, and impulsive?” is that we paternalistically owe them an environment that pushes them very strongly to make good choices in spite of themselves, to work, and an environment in which high IQ isn’t a pre-requisite for navigating successfully through life. See Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart”. Also see Tyler Cowen’s “we need more Mormonism for the masses”.

"To whom much has been given, much is expected."

From my perspective, the Right seems to overestimate the role of "free will" in individual life outcomes, while the Left seems to overestimate the role of "structural oppression". Both sides seem to underestimate the role of luck, particularly "genetic luck".

I continue to feel that "hereditarian left" views are underrepresented and underrated in the mainstream political discourse.

such a "hereditarian left" could never exist because they would always be treated by the rest of the left as racist, for not being anti-racist enough.

Well we might try instituting things in society that help people not so blessed by the genetic fairies to more easily make good life choices. Things like making it hard(er) for low impulse control individuals to get their hands on addicting or habit forming drugs or making it trivially easy to gamble for people who cannot grasp that the house always wins. We might also try to institute social structures, like kinship networks and robust marriage protections that help the poor disproportionately to make less bad choices.

Currently society is going full steam ahead on a vision of every adult as being fully capable of managing everything except their healthcare, childcare, and retirement funding on their own ... so let's remove all the guide rails. Be it easy divorce or marijuana legalization, the vast majority of the benefits are for people who can make good decisions and have good work ethic. Those who need help managing major life decisions are left to suffer the effects of their poor decisions.

Frankly, I suspect that we will continue to see policies that burn human capital and then show up on the general budget in other ways. I.e. we discourage child bearing in a variety of ways, that will make elder care vastly more expensive. We make divorce easy and marriage goals lofty, that leads directly to higher housing costs and poorer wealth building. We make marijuana more accessible, so more people die in car wrecks and we likely will have a huge spike in schizophrenic care in the coming decades.

Ultimately it doesn't matter why people make poor decisions. We can either head towards a society where poor decisions are costly to everyone else or one where they are harder to make and less costly when they happen.

So, Trump's near panic over white people drug addiction is misguided because millions of white people are just destined to be drug addicts, and nothing can be done to stop them from over dosing and dying?

Oh there are plenty of options. We could incarcerate everyone remotely related to the drug trade. This is highly effective as evidence by Singapore. It would, however be extremely costly and would not hit all demographics the same. We could periodically require all drug user who require emergency services or incarceration to take long acting extended release naltrexone. We could encourage people to go to church or get married. We could give out free video games.

There are many possible choices with all manner of tradeoffs. The one we are defaulting into is one that is ever more reliant of self control. Those who are winning at life - high status, good jobs, stable social situations - are able to amuse themselves in ever more novel fashions with ever fewer hurdles. Of course, the losers in life - low status, no/poor jobs, unstable social situations - are rarely able to manage things well and end up trading away significant things of value that they prima facie would not.

A libertine society allows people to locally maximize their happiness. Unfortunately that is actually a pretty hard task when you are looking over decades in complex social situations. If people truly are hardwired into making poor decisions we either need a less libertine culture, more resources to pick up the pieces when the least capable fall apart, or a willingness to let people die in the streets.

"We could incarcerate everyone remotely related to the drug trade"
Evidently it won't show up on the "general budget".

"We could encourage people to go to church or get married. We could give out free video games."

Who are "we"? A person talking to his bottoms? Evidently, it is exactly what we need: "low impulse losers" sticking together. I heard they are great parent figures.

About "protecting marriage": I knew it: government can't manage my health plan, but can manage my marriage because it is way less complex (I mean, it will just protect it from bad choices -- finding out who protects a spouse and children from the bad choices of the other spouse is left as an exercise for the reader).

"We could give out free video games."

I am sure it would distract you.
Seriously, the hard left gets funnier and funnier.

"Sure" is the hard left? I think I've lost all sense of direction!

I suggest you work on reading comprehension. The very same paragraph you quote to mock the cost calls that option "extremely costly". I am not sure what else I could do, but please try to read for comprehension rather than looking for quotes to pull out of context for cheap debating points. Yeah the Singapore option is costly, maybe not a good trade off. Personally I lean towards decriminalization rather than legalization outright but I could be convinced by data of a lot of things.

"We" is society. And if we must be specific those of us with enough money, fame, and power that the general populace emulates us. Patients lose less weight if their doctor is overweight. Out of wedlock births rise when celebrities have them.

The biggest things to do for marriage would be along the lines of:
1. Eliminate the penalties to marriage faced by the poor. Making EITC not marriage penalizing is about a 10% income bump for poor families. Food stamps, heating assistance ... pretty much everything that is means tested rewards you for not going through with the marriage ceremony itself.
2. Reduce the ease of divorce, have the instigating party face a penalty in terms of alimony or asset division if they start a no-fault divorce. Maybe introduce some mandatory counseling, fiscal planning.
3. Spend a little less cultural influence on "fulfill thyself" and a little bit more on "be a good spouse".

It is not popular but changing marriage rates, church attendance, and substance use at the margin will do more for than poor than medicine ever could.

Libertine society requires a large amount of self control and self mastery. Most of the bottom rungs of society lack it. We can either try to eliminate such people from society (deportation, incarceration, eugenics) or we can try to structure society in ways that make it less likely that their bad choices will be such massive drags on our finances.

Because for all the petty snark, the status quo is only going to get more expensive with more innocent dead people piling up.

Pretty good post until the last line. 'Innocent'? You go too far treating the poor like children with no agency. I agree with many of your suggestions, but I'm not going to feel guilty that my individual choices result in the death of 'innocents' because other people smoke, drink, eat, and divorce too much. You won't get anywhere calling us murderers of innocents and ignoring the agency and responsibility of all people including the poor.

"I.e. we discourage child bearing in a variety of ways, that will make elder care vastly more expensive. "

No, it won't change future health care costs at all. You wouldn't see any change for 17 or 18 years as that is around the age when children could
start to care for elderly parents. And that would begin in 2036 when the elderly will be far healthier than the elderly today. That is, only at the very end of life would care possibly be needed.

Excuse me while I try to stop laughing.

First having more kids will have more immediate social effects. In a society with more familial support, there are social pressures to provide familial support. In a society where we have universal social benefits to provide for those who lack familial support then we place some very heavy "marginal taxes" on providing familial support and not just throwing into the socialized services. In a nutshell, if everyone expects families to care for their elders then more families will do so. If everyone expects the state to do so, fewer will. Having more children now changes future expectations and current culture.

Beyond that, having a younger generation is good for (great) grandparents. Having grandkids, even if young, is associated with better health. Loneliness is a major issue and having grandkids to watch and enjoy is about as effective as curing cancer at the societal level.

In any event, on exactly what planet do you believe the elderly of 2036 will be more healthy? We have massive reams of data showing that the best things for the elderly are regular church attendance, strong family bonds, stable marriages, and a sense of purpose & belonging. Which of those do you expect to be going stronger in 2036? At best, healthcare determines maybe 25% of your health outcomes, and we are burning up all the easy stuff that kept us healthy back in the day.

Okay, and on the purely medical side. What are the leading causes of morbidity in old age?

Depression. This has an increasing incidence rate (likely due to the social effects discussed above), it will be higher among the elderly in 2036.

Obesity - leads to back pain, CAD, cancer, and essentially everything else. This will also be higher in coming cohorts.

Diabetes - shockingly the Boomers like their sugar and are growing to like their insulin. Maybe we will have artificial pancreases, but we still are going to have insulin insensitivity.

Arthritis - much of this in the elderly is causes by RA. We are not sure why, but other autoimmune diseases have seen a giant increase in the last few decades. Expecting arthritis in the elderly to buck the curve is not a wager I would make.

Dementia - currently we have a handful of treatments. They don't cure it. They don't stop it. They slow how fast it gets worse. Maybe new wonder drugs are just around the corner. We currently have ~100 drugs in trials. Unfortunately only about 5% will make it out of phase III. So we are looking at, if we are lucky, about 5 new drugs in 2036. Odds of them having a major impact are pretty low, after all every single one of the options thus far doesn't even cure dementia.

Worse, we are expecting to save more lives. A 75 year old who has been lucky enough to have no life threatening illnesses until then is vastly cheaper to treat than one who has had stuff that might have killed him at 65 (e.g. CAD). As fewer people die from heart attacks and strokes, we are going to have more people where that which didn't kill them made them weaker.

I do not see how we can expect the elderly of tomorrow to be healthier than those of today.

"I do not see how we can expect the elderly of tomorrow to be healthier than those of today."

Of course you can't see it because you are like Tyler and won't read about current and potential advances that experts are discussing. You are simply saying that by 2036 there will be no cures for depression, dementia, cancer, arthritis, heart failure, diabetes or obesity because there haven't been any but 2036 is 18 years away.

Researchers at Stanford, the U of Arizona and the U of Wisconsin independently think that people who have heart attacks in 2025 won't be weaker afterward as they would get a stem cell mesh (that then dissolves) that significantly improves heart function and without the need for medications anymore. These are almost all elderly patients who would no longer need care for that heart disease. Then there are stem cell advances for stroke victims and 3D printed organs within a decade as well. Look up Tanzi. He may be wrong, but he is quite sure that Alzheimer's disease can be prevented by 2025 through screening people at 50 who might have to take a drug to prevent the development of Alzheimer's, and he isn't the only one talking about this happening in the next decade.

Having more or fewer children is irrelevant. The 25% of health care costs you speculate about is, again, in the present, if even true.

And what would you imagine the health of an 85 year old will be in 2048? Pretty much no change from today?

Oh please.

Last I read, the BAMI trial was not yet completed, the last meta analysis suggested that the data was not conclusive that this would ever work as a general medical procedure. Given where it is the regulatory process, history dictates we assume an ~5% success rate. Most likely it won't work (it will give people cancer, it will cause pathological remodeling) or if it does not be cost effective enough to make it to market. I am willing to quintuple its odds based on the underlying science ... but it is still an odds off bet.

As far as the Tanzi, sure maybe he's right. What drug do you have in mind? If it is not FDA approved or in current clinical trials (preferably phase II or higher), it will not be here by 2036. Drug development is around 15-20 years in this area and getting longer (Alzheimer's is notoriously long to get clinically relevant data).

3D printed organs and the rest all run into the same problems. Regulatory approval is as slow as molasses.

Take Spinraza. The initial lab studies were done in 2003. It received FDA approval fourteen years later. At that was for an orphan disease (i.e. no treatments) that qualified for expedited review and a much lower evidence burden. And it was a muscular atrophy so it is vastly easier to establish clinically relevant endpoints.

All of these treatments, though, are vastly inferior to not getting sick in the first place. Not being obese will easily beat stem cell mesh for keeping the elderly healthy. Being engaged in the local parish and in the lives of your (great) grand-kids will beat most drugs. Because the truth is drugs always have side effects and there are always nonresponsive populations.

The truth is our baseline health continues to fall. If it weren't for medical advances we would be making negative progress. Will tomorrows medical advances overtake the falling baseline driven by loss of social support, purpose, healthy body masses, healthier habits, etc.? Maybe, but I doubt it.

So again, I stand by the 2036 deadline. Having grandkids helps the elderly, it helps give them purpose, helps them socialize, and is generally idiotically effective at lowering mortality and morbidity. Having kids, on net for society, leads to more parents providing care for their own parents. New drugs in 2036 basically need to be in the pipeline now. The current pipelines are very dry. Hopefully we will have another giant surge as new techniques make their way through. Hopefully the abysmal attrition numbers either improve (better targetting) or get abysmally worse (we flood the pipeline with candidates thanks to a shorter/cheaper process). None of those hopes look terribly promising at the moment for the timeline specified.

First, 2036 is the earliest possible year that children would help their parents using today's level of care, a person would not need to care for a parent until he or she was over 40. That puts the year at about 2060.

I don't where you get that "Drug development is around 15-20 years in this area and getting longer." I just looked at an abstract of a paper written in 2016: "Drug development in Alzheimer’s disease: the path to 2025" (Cummings, which states: "Under the current conditions, only drugs currently in late Phase 1 or later will have a chance of being approved by 2025." That is about 10 years, not 15 - 20 years.

The BAMI trial used bone marrow cells - the Stanford U, Arizona U and Wisconsin U trials (only the last two use the mesh technique) do not.

Tanzi's drug is a Gamma Secretase Modulator (GSM) that will be in trials next year and since he seems convinced people will be taking this by 2025, he apparently thinks the trial and approval will be only 5 years, and I'm not sure why he assumes that.

No, the baseline health of Americans has not "continued to fall." There has been two years of slight decline in longevity but that size of a decline has happened every decade. Life expectancy from age 65 in the U.S. has increased from 80 in 1970 to 84 in 2017 although the percent who have diabetes has increased from 2% to 6% over that period.

Anyway, the U.S. birthrate has steady from 1970 and has nothing to do with future health.

I'm enjoying this debate between Dr. 'Everyone is getting sicker and fatter and poor people are children' and Mr. 'Magic pills will make us all immortal in 15 years'.

The 'truth' of course is in the middle, where it usually is. Moderates FTW.

You could try reading about this topic if so interested.

Apparently there's no hurry considering how long I'm going to live

Hopefully, but you're just one guy, not an average of some cohort.

What is interesting is how this post is mistaken:

"In our Nautilus interview, Conley confronted the controversies that infix discussions about race. A recent podcast interview between author Sam Harris and Charles Murray, coauthor of The Bell Curve, the notorious 1994 book that delves into race and IQ, inspired a volley of exchanges. Throughout, Conley spoke with calm conviction, drawing from both biology and sociology, to bolster his view that race is not a scientific category. Genomics, he explained, is now filtering out the myths and misinformation, proffered by both the political left and right, about race, intelligence, and success.

To see the video interview, click the “play” button at the top of this article.

Interview Transcript

You write that “race does not stand up scientifically.” Why?

Race as we treat it in the United States—black, white, Hispanic, other—the one-drop rule, otherwise known as the law of hypodescent, where if you have any black ancestry, African American ancestry, you’re classified as black—these commonsensical notions of racial divisions in the United States really do not map onto genetic clines or ancestry differences in the human population. In fact, those real ancestry differences belie our notions of race."....

"The right just goes off the deep end in suggesting that there are real genetic basis of what we call socially as race or ethnic differences, and that most importantly, that these differences in genetic allele frequencies across groups explain controversial human behaviors like criminality and deviance, cognitive ability and other outcomes that we care about. They’ve really hung their hat on small effects. There’s something called the warrior gene, colloquially, the monoamine oxidase gene, which degrades neurotransmitters so that they can be reused. There’s group-level variation in the alleles in that gene, and it’s been associated with criminal activity, and lo and behold, people are making arguments that race differences in criminality are genetic."

"There is no denying that there is a test score gap between blacks and whites in the United States. What the etiology of that is, is an entirely different story, however. It is too facile to claim that that’s genetically based, that the genetic differences between these two groups explain that test score gap. In fact, there’s plenty of evidence that’s not the case. For example, the test score gap has narrowed since the Civil Rights triumphs of the 1960s. If it was entirely genetically based or even predominantly genetically based, that should not happen, number one."

Here is the link to his June 2017 interview:

Conley: "For example, the test score gap has narrowed since the Civil Rights triumphs of the 1960s. If it was entirely genetically based or even predominantly genetically based, that should not happen, number one."

Conley is correct about the gap showing intelligence isn't 100 percent genetic but not correct saying it also show the difference can't be predominately genetic. It's an empirical question.

Conley also makes it seem that the black-white I.Q. gap has kept narrowing since the 1960s, but it stopped narrowing 30 years ago in 1988.

My point exactly. Conley is saying that race as a genetic determinant of intelligence is not supported.

No, his claim doesn't refute it. The fact that the gap closed for around 10 years - 1978 to 1988 - does refute a 100% genetic cause but doesn't refute a 'mostly genetic' cause if 'mostly' is over 50%. It isn't clear. According to a 2013 of over 200 psychologists who study intelligence, 5% thought 100% of differences is due to genes, 17% thought 100% of differences due to genes while 83% thought both:

17% thought 0% of the differences due to genes.
25% thought 10% to 40% of differences due to genes.
18% thought 50% of differences to to genes.
39% thought 60% to 90% of differences due to genes.
5% thought 100% of differences due to genes.

Todd, Please read his interview. I can pick and choose too, if you want, but the discussion is about what Conley said.

And, besides, Todd, he doesn't say that intelligence is not genetic based, but rather that it is not race based.

It's not race based. That's the point.

Remember, I'm also the guy who insists Asians have terrible personalities and thus deserve to be discriminated against.

Blacks yes, yellows no! The modern liberal battlecry!

I didn't "pick and choose" anything. I just responded to a quote you highlighted: "It is too facile to claim that that’s genetically based, that the genetic differences between these two groups explain that test score gap. In fact, there’s plenty of evidence that’s not the case."

Conley is a sociologist who agrees with the 17% of intelligence experts who think genetic differences don't explain the gap at all but 83% happen to disagree with him. I also explained that the second part of his next statement was illogical - that's all. In the interview he says the Bell Curve was premature because there was no molecular data to analyze but that completely misses the point about nature v. nurture. He says "All we had were twin studies and adoption studies" as if those couldn't reveal anything. And he's at Princeton!

Even if you could accurately determine the "race" of an individual, if there even is such a thing, you wouldn't be able to determine his intelligence on the basis of whatever process you used to arrive at race. Or vice versa.

Yes, sure, the "racial" categories as socially defined in the US do not cleave very well to actual ancestry or genetic similarity. However, that fact does not serve as useful evidence against a hypothesis that racial differences in [given area] are the effects of population-level genetic differences.

For example, to claim "our social definitions of race are unscientific, therefore racial differences in rates of sickle-cell anemia cannot reflect a genetic difference" is obvious nonsense. However poorly our definitions of "race" match actual genetic clines, it is clear that the reason the socially-defined group of "blacks" suffer sickle-cell anemia at higher rates than the rest of the US population is genetic, not a side-effect of slavery, racism, poverty, or any other social ill.

Accordingly, it is nonsense to say "our social definitions of race are unscientific, therefore racial differences in rates of [anything else] cannot be genetic in origin". Whether or not an allele that increases rates of, say, criminality is more common in the socially-defined group of "blacks" than the general population is an empirical matter that is true or not completely independently of whether "blacks" are a genetic cline.

Since it is a simple empirical fact that "blacks" have different population genetics than "whites", those different population genetics are always a plausible hypothesis to explain population-level differences between the two. That doesn't mean correct, of course, merely plausible.


On the test score gap, he similarly engages in nonsense. That the test score gap has narrowed since the 1960s proves that the portion of the test score gap that has narrowed since the 1960s was not genetic in origin; it says nothing about the remaining test score gap.

If one population is malnourished and an average height of four-foot-six, and another population is well-nourished and an average height of six-foot-six, one will expect that the former group will narrow the "height gap" if they become well-nourished. However, it is perfectly possible that underlying genetics mean that no matter how well you nourish the first population, their average height will never equal that of the second. The genetic limit on their height might be five-foot, or five-six, or six-foot.

Indeed, the more you equalize the other conditions, the greater the proportion of the remaining "gap" is properly hypothesized to be genetic rather than environmental, and thus immune to being eliminated by environmental interventions. Increasing equality strengthens the case for those claiming genetic explanations for the remaining difference, even as it reduces the amount of difference.

Probably best to point out the 4 foot 6 population could end up taller than the 6 foot 6 one. Wouldn't want someone taking you the wrong way.

Yes, that probably would have been best, thank you.

"Race as we treat it in the United States—black, white, Hispanic, other—the one-drop rule, otherwise known as the law of hypodescent, where if you have any black ancestry, African American ancestry, you’re classified as black—these commonsensical notions of racial divisions in the United States . .." What a laughable argument. It boils down to 'mah fellow murkins take a bonkers view of race thus proving that race doesn't exist'.

Yes, a lot of strawmen in those quotes.

The point is, America is decadent and can't teach its children. That's why Johnny can't read. As famous American comediant and political commentator Bill Maher pointed out, American adults have become stupid kids.

Go lick the boots of your Nazi president.

He is not a Nazi! President Captain Bolsonaro was a distinguished member of Brazil's Army. Brazil, as opposed to your Japanese friends, fought against the Nazis and helped liberate Italy from the German invaders. So he was actually a distinguished member of an anti-Nazi organization.

President Captain Bolsonaro is a born-again Catholic, and his motto is "Brazil above everything, God above everyone".

Not sure the premises support the conclusions. Genes are correlated with culture in all kinds of ways. Example: I recently read that almost all diners in Manhattan are owned by Greek Americans. (Even if it is not true, it could be.) Greek Americans also probably have a distinctive complement of genes. But I bet that people who have a perfect match for Greek genes but aren't Greek don't own any diners. The correlation could be completely spurious. Does anybody know if they can/do correct for this?

Use within sample variation within Greek Americans and European Americans outside Manhattan, then try and predict diner owning. If the scores based on intra-group variation and out of group (but closely related) variation explains the difference, it's a pop genetic difference. If not, not.

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