Charles Murray’s *Human Diversity*

His new book is coming out in January, and the subtitle is The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class. I will get to the details shortly, but my bottom-line review is “Not as controversial as you might think,” but do note the normalization at the end of that phrase.

Here is one bit from p.294 toward the end of the book:

Nothing we are going to learn will diminish our common humanity.  Nothing we learn will justify rank-ordering human groups from superior to inferior — the bundles of qualities that make us human are far too complicated for that.  Nothing we learn will lend itself to genetic determinism.  We live our lives with an abundance of unpredictability, both genetic and environmental.

Most of the book defends ten key propositions, laid out on pp.7-8.  The first four of those propositions concern differences between men and women (“Sex differences in personality are consistent worldwide…”) and I do not find those controversial, so I will not cover them.  The chapters on those propositions provide a good survey of the evidence, and a good answer to the denialists, though I doubt if Murray is the right person to win them over.  Let’s now turn to the other propositions, with my commentary along the way:

5. Human populations are genetically distinctive in ways that correspond to self-identified race and ethnicity.

True, but Murray’s analysis did not push me beyond the usual citations of lactose intolerance, sickle cell anemia, adaptation to high altitudes, and the like.  That said, pp.190-195 offer a very dense discussion of target alleles for various traits, such as schizophrenia, and how those target alleles vary across different groups.  I found those pages difficult to follow, and also wished that discussion had been fifty pages rather than five.  Toward the end of that discussion, Murray does write (p.194): “…proof of the role of natural selection for many genetic differences will remain unobservable without methodological breakthroughs.”  With that I definitely agree.

On p.195 he adds “It is implausible to expect that none of the imbalances will yield evidence of significant genetic differences related to phenotypic differences across continental populations.”  That returns to my core point about this book not shifting my priors.  You could agree with that sentence (noting the ambiguity in the word “significant”) and still have a quite modest vision of what those differences might mean.  In any case, nothing in the book pushes me beyond that sentence in the direction of the geneticists.

And here the contrast with the chapters on men and women becomes (unintentionally?) glaring: those biological differences are relatively easy to demonstrate, so perhaps hard-to-demonstrate biological differences are not so significant.  That too is just a conjecture, but there are multiple ways to play the “absence of evidence” and “how to interpret the residuals” cards, and I wish those had received a more extensive philosophy of science-like discussion.

Now let’s move to the next proposition:

6. Evolutionary selection pressure since humans left Africa has been extensive and mostly local.

That one strikes me as a miswording or misstatement, though I do not see that it corresponds to any actual mistakes in the broader text.  You might think that general, non-local evolutionary selection for all humans has been quite large over the millennia, relative to local selection.  I genuinely do not know the ratio here, but Murray does not seem to address the actual comparison of “across all human groups” vs. “local” as loci of selection pressures.

Next up:

7. Continental population differences in variants associated with personality, abilities, and social behavior are common.

Clearly true, but note this proposition does not claim biological roots for those differences.  The real question comes in the next proposition:

8. The shared environment usually plays a minor role in explaining personalities, abilities, and social behavior.

Here I have what I think is a major disagreement with Murray.  If he means the term “shared environment” in the narrow sense used by say twin studies, he is probably correct.  But in the more literal, Webster-derived conception of “shared environment” I very much disagree.  Culture is a truly major shaper of our personalities, abilities, and social behavior, and self-evidently so. For my taste the book did not contain nearly enough discussion of culture and in fact there is virtually no discussion of the concept or its power, as a look at the index will verify.  The real lesson of “twins studies plus anthropology” is that you have to control almost all of a person’s environment to have a major impact, but a major impact indeed can be had.  I behave very differently than my Irish potato famine ancestors, and not because I am genetically 1/8 from the Madeira Islands.  That said, within the narrower range of environmental variation measured in twins studies…well those studies seem to be fairly accurate.

9. Class structure is importantly based on differences in abilities that have a substantial genetic component.

Correct as stated, but I see those differences as much less genetic than Murray does.  For instance, IQ is to some extent heritable, but how much does that shape economic outcomes?  It is worth turning to Murray’s discussion on p.232 and the associated footnote 17 (pp.428-429).  His main source is what is to me a flawed meta-study on IQ and job performance (Murray to his credit does also cite the best-known critique of such studies).  I would opt more directly for the labor market literature on IQ and individual earnings, based on actual measured wages, which shows fairly modest correlations between IQ and earnings (read here, here and here).  So, at the very least, the inherited IQ-based permanent stratification version of The Bell Curve argument is much more compelling to Murray than it is to me.

10. Outside interventions are inherently constrained in the effects they can have on personality, abilities, and social behavior.

Clearly this is literally true, if only because of the meaning of “constrained.”  But mostly I would repeat my remarks on culture from #8.  Cultures change, and over time they are likely to change a great deal.  For instance, early in the 20th century, Korea, Japan, and China often were described as low work ethic cultures.  As cultures change, in turn those cultures can shape the personalities, abilities, and social behaviors of subsequent generations, in significant ways albeit constrained.  So while Murray is correct as stated, I believe I would disagree with his intended substantive point about the weight of relative forces.

Overall this is a serious and well-written book that presents a great deal of scientific evidence very effectively.  Anyone reading it will learn a lot.  But it didn’t change my mind on much, least of all the most controversial questions in this area.  If anything, in the Bayesian sense it probably nudged me away from geneticist-based arguments, simply because it did not push me any further towards them.

Murray of course will write the book he wants to, but my personal wish list was two-fold: a) a book leaving most of the normal science behind, and focusing only on the uncertain and controversial frontier issues, in great detail, and b) much more discussion of the import of culture.

Most of all, I am happy that America’s culture of achievement is inducing Murray to continue to produce major works at the age of 76, soon to be 77.

You can pre-order here.


One not very controversial but interesting nature vs. nurture question is how much has height changed over the generations. For example, South Koreans have shot up in average height in recent decades. So you could say there has been a big Flynn Effect on height in South Korea. In contrast, the Japanese now lag the South Koreans by quite a lot in height: one MR commenter's list of average heights has South Koreans as being more than an inch and a half taller than the Japanese at present. So there hasn't been as big of a Flynn Effect on height in Japan.

This is curious because the Japanese have had a first world economy longer than the South Koreans, and because Koreans are probably the closest racial relatives to Japanese.

It might be useful to compare changes in ranking for national average height and national ranking for national average IQ scores. South Korea has come up a long way in both over the last half century or so.

Netherlands has emerged as one of the tallest countries in the world since WWII, but has it climbed to the top of test score rankings as well? Or is it just another smart Northern European country?

I wouldn't be surprised if there has been more churn over my lifetime in height rankings than in IQ rankings, which is fairly puzzling. I probably would have bet on relative national average IQ being more likely to change than relative national average height.

I would expect kimchi consumption to be closely correlated with changes in average height, which is exactly what we've seen in East Asia. And, yes, it is causative. However you slice it, this all comes down to the race gene.

Koreans eat a lot of beef. Japanese eat small amounts of pork. But lately Japanese have been eating more beef. The local mall food court (Tokyo suburb) has a new "Ikinari Steak" fast food outlet. Beef steaks of various sorts by the gram cooked to your order, on a plate. Young women are scarfing this stuff down.

This must have been building up over time, since I used to tower over all Japanese, at 5'10", and nowadays I often see young women my height wearing flat shoes ( yes I check that immediately).

More, and more diverse, food is the result of industry that has put more lead and mercury in the environment.

Recently I heard a story on rickets which is still a problem, but far less, since the "cure" was part of public health globally about a century ago. As a kid, 50s and 60s, getting vitamin D was an issue with milk widely advocated to "build bones" with all milk fortified. I looked at the "milk" I consume now, mostly half and half, and was surprised it had no vitamin D. My parents were focused on ensuring we got it in food from seeing problems as kids.

I just assumed this was a solved problem "forever". Note this was "caused" by industry which is out of the sun, cities, etc. I notice "solved problems" return because their solution is no longer promoted and widely adopted, often called an evil government plot by evil (liberal) elites to control the masses. Fortified dairy milk, vaccinations, etc.

Anti-vax and anti-adulterated food is usually coming from progressives, ironically enough. Like most of the political ignorance pushed in western societies, look to the ugly iron eagle of progressivism.

Nope. Anti-vax sentiments are spread across both political groups. Pro-vaccine people have looked at this (when you are getting data threats you get interested in this stuff) and neither side has a monopoly. Both the left and right have anti-government radicals. That said, it is more prominent in GOP leadership. A GOP lead Congress brought in anti-vac speakers to push their POV and Trump is probably an anti-vaxxer.


The number of actual leading politicians of either party who are against vaccinations is zero.

Get real, both of you.

Personal anti-vax sentiments are different than anti-vax policy positions. The latter are more important for policy makers and it is clearly more a GOP issue than Dems. Come on.

Most anti-vaxers are upper class, white, and live in large metropolitan areas - Hillary voters.

Ya got any, uh, evidence for that, bub? I am not saying you are necessarily wrong, but I'd like to see the data.

In any case, what I am talking about is policy maker sentiment, as that has the most potential effect on population level health outcomes. And that is more of a GOP issue, at least based on public statements and trends articulated in the article I posted.

Well, that was from memory, but I got this:
"“Refusal rates were highest in the states of New York at 8.4 percent, Washington at 7.0 percent, Oregon at 6.8 percent, New Jersey at 6.5 percent and Arizona at 6.4 percent.”

Several areas around New York City had especially high rates of vaccine refusals."

California passed a law to stop non medical exemptions, so good on them. Guessing they were bad enough if they had to do that, but they also have a lot of immigrants.

18-Year-Old Women: Greatest Gains In Height In Inches (1914-2014)

1. South Korea........7.4 inches
2. Japan....................6.3
3. Czech Republic...6.2
4. Serbia..................6.2
5. Croatia................6.1
10. Netherlands.....5.5
13. Mexico..............5.3
15. Singapore.........5.2

Thanks. This is somewhat stylized data, right? I imagine they don't actually have data points for 1914 for each modern country, I'm guessing, but instead they are taking whatever data points they have and fitting a curve to them going back to 1914.

Here's the study:

"Trends in men’s height have been analysed in Europe, the USA, and Japan for up to 250 years, using data on conscripts, voluntary military personnel, convicts, or slaves.... There are fewer historical data for women, and for other regions where focus has largely been on children and where adult data tend to be reported at one point in time or over short periods."

It would be useful to create a similar stylized database of changes in national average IQ from 1914 to 2014 and then see how average height and average IQ correlate, and which are the exceptions where they most deviate.

Wouldn't that be rather useless as IQ measurements are regularly tuned to stay on a 100 point average?

Right, you would de-adjust for the Flynn Effect driving up the raw scores. Or you could just look at global rank ordering.

But that's not impossible to do, although it's a fair amount of work.

But it would seem like a useful step. Similarly, you could see how changes in IQ scores by country correlate with changes in life expectancy, decreases in child mortality, GDP per capita, calories consumed, years of schooling, and other obviously good things.

My guess would be that national average IQ correlates with most other Good Things, but you might find something interesting by looking for exceptions.

Japanese armor in museums is really tiny. Perhaps estimates could be made from that. Also helmets are small, and more recently older felt hats and bowlers on the Japanese Yahoo Auctions website are quite small and thus go for cheap prices because nobody can wear them. This is the same with all the old size 6 and change fedoras on the US vintage market.

Hat sizes are an interesting data source.

21st Century brain scans have found modest positive correlations between brain volume and IQ, but the correlations are weak the cruder your tool for estimating, with presumably hat size at the bottom. Still, the claim that hat sizes have been increasing is an interesting one.

Skull size is of course a key variable in the difficult birthing process for humans.

Wow, that's some impressive gains. A 7.4" average gain in height makes a modern tall Korean women a giant compared to her ancestors from 100 years ago.

"The Flynn effect in Korea: Large gains"
Jan te Nijenhuis et al, 2011

"Secular gains in IQ test scores have been reported for many Western countries. This is the first study of
secular IQ gains in South Korea, using various datasets. The first question is what the size of the Flynn
effect in South Korea is. The gains per decade are 7.7 points for persons born between 1970 and 1990.
These gains on broad intelligence batteries are much larger than the gains in Western countries of about
3 IQ points per decade. The second question is whether the Korean IQ gains are comparable to the Japanese IQ gains with a lag of a few decades. The gains in Japan of 7.7 IQ points per decade for those born
approximately 1940–1965 are identical to the gains per decade for Koreans born 1970–1990. The third
question is whether the Korean gains in height and education lag a few decades behind the Japanese
gains. The Koreans reach the educational levels the Japanese reached 25–30 years before, and the gains
in height for Koreans born 1970–1990 are very similar to gains in height for Japanese born 1940–
1960, so three decades earlier. These findings combined strongly support the hypothesis of similar developmental patterns in the two countries."

Nigeria has a National Common Entrance Examinations for college admissions, with huge differences by state:

The top scoring state is Anambra in the southeast, which is 98% Igbo by ethnicity. The lowest average score is in Zamfara in the Muslim northwest, up near Niger.

I know very little about Nigerian test scores, but this suggests culture can play quite a big role.

The question nobody is too interested in pursuing is whether African-American culture, which is world conquering in the pop culture realm, is bad for its practitioners. Instead, over the last half-dozen years, the conventional wisdom has become that African-Americans don't win _enough_ pop culture prizes and that African-Americans should be less required to follow the same rules as everybody else: e.g., the Obama Administration's crusade against school discipline.

"the Obama Administration's crusade against school discipline."

Quit making shit up.

It specifically refers to rates of discipline. If the discipline rates vary from the race composition it would be subject to investigation.

It has been alleged that the net result was to not discipline unruly children.

If you take seriously Tyler's argument for the importance of culture, the logical implication is that American society ought to impose stricter discipline on African-Americans for their own good. But the zeitgeist instead says that we must ease up on disciplining blacks.

Not sure where you get your rep, you're coming across kind of stupid

I know there is a knee jerk reaction to this type of thing, but read what I posted, and read up on the effects. This is a real issue for schools.

I'm a white boomer who grew up with "school discipline" but never saw a cop or anything like them and knew no one arrested in school. I had classmates "investigated" by the FBI because our high school chemistry experiments going extracurricular ended up on railroad trestles because they were high and out of the way. Knives, etc, confiscated in school. And others injured in fights after games with rival schools, so we weren't saints. Half the boys shot rifles of some sort, with hunting common.

Having kids arrested, handcuffed, by police is not school discipline, but institutional class warfare.

There is an element of "leave it to the professionals" specialization in this—that discipline should be handled by trained law enforcers, counseling by a staff of trained counselors, instead of whatever assistant principal is handy dealing with the kid who was disrupting class and then chatting with another whose brother died.

Private schools often name the offensive line football coach or some other guy with a neck thicker than his head as the Assistant Principal for Discipline because he just lives to put punks in their place, thus allowing the sensitive literature teacher to off-load disciplining the most recalcitrant trouble-makers onto a specialist.

Public schools, in contrast, tend to fear creating a paper trail that could be used in a lawsuit to demonstrate racial disparate impact of their discipline behaviors, so they tend to want classroom teachers to handle everything themselves, often with phone calls to parents.

mulp, I too am a white boomer who grew up with school discipline, and I can tell you, that if some of the bad white boys I knew in high school had been handcuffed and thrown into jail early, they wouldn't have gone on to be the murderers, enforcers and thieves that they soon went on to become. Lives would have been saved.

The only danger would be that some borderline bad boys, like myself, might have been caught up in the dragnet.

I grew up in the rural south in the 70s and 80s. Main thing I remember after high school is that students who became police offers were also huge assholes.

Thankfully, this comment section is a safe space for you, considering that when you wrote that sentiment about stricter discipline, you received a lot of criticism from people you may have considered friendly to your perspective.

Prior is back.

Not sure why he keeps changing his handle. Amazing that he hasn’t talked about GMU.

The Department of Education's Obama-Era Initiative on Racial Disparities in School Discipline: Wrong For Students and Teachers, Wrong on the Law

If you take seriously Tyler's argument for the importance of culture, the logical implication is that American society ought to impose stricter discipline on African-Americans for their own good.

One implication is that the USA should be recruiting educated blacks from across the world to immigrate to the USA!

I don't agree with either. Why recruit people because they are black? Also, subject them to the same disciplinary rules as everyone else.

I meant it as a response to Sailer's comment. The lines are hard to follow.

I take it this would be an attempt to change African American culture to educated black immigrant norms? But what if educated black immigrant children instead assimilated to african american norms. It would also help if society explicitly prosetlyzed that the black immigrant way was better.

Right. It's an interesting empirical question. I wouldn't bet against the power of African-American pop culture to convert black immigrants' children and grandchildren to African-American norms, especially when our society increasingly ignores and demonizes critics of African-American culture.

For example, the Washington Post recently ran a vast article of maybe 5000 words on the huge racial gap in ultra-liberal Shaker Heights HS outside of Cleveland. It was all the fault of white people because reasons.

Strikingly, there was no mention whatsoever that around 20 years ago, Shaker Heights school district had famously hired the Nigerian-American social scientist John Ogbu to investigate the same problem and he concluded that African-Americans should work harder and study more (like Nigerian-Americans tend to do).

That kind of critique of African-American culture that was common in the 1990s is increasingly being memoryholed. Today, articles are more likely to blame bad black behavior on, say, FDR's redlining in 1939. For example: the NYT just this week blamed Los Angeles's big problem with homelessness on New Deal redlining:

Here's my critique of the 2019 Washington Post article on what used to be called The Shaker Heights Effect, before African critiques of black American culture got memory-holed:

"This trail-blazing suburb has tried for 60 years to tackle race. What if trying isn’t enough?

"By Laura Meckler, OCTOBER 11, 2019

"SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio — It’s an article of faith in this Cleveland suburb: If any place can navigate the complex issues of race in America, it’s Shaker Heights."

Thomas Sowell mentions the Ibo and attributes their rise as being similar to Jews in becoming traders (from being farmers) who did not possess any distinct advantage in skills or wealth but rather developed a distinct culture that has served them well.

He also agrees that gangsta culture (aka "defining deviancy down"), aided and abetted by left-wing intellectuals, is a bad development, but contrary to our resident "race realists," he notes the striking similarities between gangsta and redneck culture: "Even such a modern ghetto creation as gangsta rap echoes the violence, arrogance, loose sexuality, and self-dramatization common for centuries in white redneck culture, and speaks in exaggerated cadences common in the oratory of rednecks in both the antebellum South and those parts of Britain from which their ancestors came."

Here's my 2005 review of Sowell's "Black Rednecks" book:

"Following Grady McWhiney's book Cracker Culture, Sowell attributes much of "redneck culture" to the Scotch-Irish, those bellicose Protestants from the violent Scottish-English border region and their descendents who had settled Ulster.

Even more damaging to Sowell's hypothesis, the Scotch-Irish tended to stay away from the blacks. They went to the highlands, both because disease was less of a problem for Europeans in the cooler uplands than in the lowland South, and because they disliked having to compete with slave labor. ...

Today, the state with the least educated whites is the prototypical hillbilly state of West Virginia, which had so few slave-owners that it seceded from Confederate Virginia and joined the Union during the Civil War. ...

Instead, African-Americans may have assimilated more of the lowland Southern quasi-aristocratic prejudices, such as for grandiloquent multi-syllabic words (e.g., Jesse Jackson's style of speaking) and against manufacturing and shopkeeping, than they inherited Scotch-Irish populism.

Consider Liberia. Freed slaves who were sent to Liberia reproduced the Southern lowland social structure—with themselves as the slave-owning aristocrats and the native blacks as the slaves.

I’m guessing Murray doesn’t give trans folks much thought, but does the text spell out personality differences based on sex at birth, or after allowing for possible personality changes due to later administration of hormones? Any differences in how the research handles trans women vs trans men?

Tyler has addressed trans issues thoughtfully in the past, just wondering how uncontroversial those sex differences actually are in the book.

Here's an amusing 1999 New York Times article from back when you didn't have to be totally sanctimonious and credulous about ex-men:

"Helen McCloskey admired her husband’s achievements, which she associated with maleness, and she sees in Deirdre the same ”steely male intellectual quality” that her husband had, and Donald, too.

Maybe Murray needs to learn about X and Y chromosomes before writing nothing we learn will lend itself to genetic determinism? Particularly in light of the fact that the first four of his propositions concern differences between men and women.

Though considering America’s culture of achievement and its ability to spur people to new heights, maybe it can induce Murray to get pregnant at at the age of 76, soon to be 77.

Until someone can point out how brain wiring is controlled by the SrY gene, or some yet undiscovered genetic switch, brain wiring related to sex/gender can't be called binary. Of course, a new sex gene in addition to SrY would destroy sex as binary, and make it at least 3 states.

Note, SrY can act even if riding on a chromosome other than Y, or even X, but in such cases the person is definitely not male or female. Would Murray argue they are not human?

Of course it could be hormone related rather than directly Y chromosome related.

The funny thing is that the most prominent ex-men, such as Jenner, McCloskey, Pritzker, Clymer, etc etc, tend to be and remain extremely masculine mentally. The guy I went to MBA school with who is now said to be "America's highest-paid female CEO" was the most arrogant son-of-a-gun in the entire B-school.

But he had a lot to be arrogant about: he had an extremely high IQ and big plans for how he would make his fortune off of Outer Space, like a Heinlein hero, which he did. Later he made a second fortune when one of the several children he has fathered came down with a rare disease, he ... INVENTED THE CURE.

He is John Galt personified.

...and you can't use the correct pronoun for her. Sad.

He uses the pronoun the person was identified with when he knew the person.

My personal feeling is that we should "get beyond the binary". There is "have male parts and always felt like a male", or simply male. There is "have female parts and always felt like a female", or simply female.

Then there is another few percent. Some people grew up with male parts but feel female and are now trying to live as females. Since they grew up with male hormones , it would be unfair for them to compete as female wrestlers or runners.

The guy I knew at MBA school who is now America's leading female captain of industry was not at all feminine, not in the least. And he wasn't feeling oppressed by society: he was extremely arrogant and insulting to anybody with a lower IQ than him, which was 99.9% of humanity.

Many such examples among famous ex-men.

IQ has the advantage of being reliably measurable, meaning that it gets attention. But otherwise I don't find it particularly of interest except as one among others to measure someone's fitness to a task.

But there are obvious differences in small population groups. Even within a relatively small geographic area there are characteristics of a town or part of a town, which often show up in educational achievement levels and income. It seems unmeasurable for some reason.

But back to IQ. At one point in recent history, maybe 3 or 4 generations ago, it became common practice and policy to look for exceptional individuals throughout the population and collect them in either commercial or educational environments. Rarely do they go back to where they came from, likely due to lack of opportunity. Some places that are particularly bad almost force anyone with any ambition to leave. Does this change the IQ or other indicators over time?

If I wanted a dog that was really smart about getting sheep from here to there, I would select individual dogs that had the prey drive and intelligence and breed them. In a few generations I would have a breed like a border Collie, and if I maintained the breeding program to select for those working traits I would get those traits at a predictable rate.

Rarely are there natural experiments like this because fitness for humans isn't a single characteristic. A working community needs strong backs, fertile women, and a few intelligent individuals, along with someone who can sing and dance, someone who remembers everything, etc. So a single trait usually doesn't get selected for as in a dog breeding program.

The natural experiments that have occurred are usually ugly; slavery, war, diseases, etc. where there isn't a working community to sustain, but certain specific traits allow survival.

But there are a few natural experiments around. One is the native communities in Canada, where all the normal functions of a community were and still are broken or dismantled by the state, and the people outside the communities are discriminated against but with different dynamics. The results have been horrific. There are enough generations for genetic factors to start having an effect. The populations started with the characteristics that could survive in a rather harsh environment.

I wonder if the Chinese have examined the Canadian Indian Act as an effective means of neutralising a population and are using it on their Muslim citizenry.

Recent years have also been very bad for American Indians as well, although their tragic trends have gotten very little attention here (compared to the sizable amount of media attention Indians have received in Canada) because African-Americans dominate press attention. In the U.S., vastly more attention has been devoted to the pressing question of why black movie stars should win more Oscars than why American Indian NAEP and SAT test scores are dropping like a rock.

1. Great, informative review.

2. Many high IQ people go into jobs that are intellectually fulfilling but not that financially rewarding: mathematicians, scientists, academics in general. Partly for this reason, I’d guess high IQ explains/predicts not being poor much more than being rich. (Other reasons are that high wealth seems to require high stamina, extroversion, and many other important but non-cognitive qualities.)

3. It is unlikely the correlation between IQ and wages will stay the same over time. Instead, I would bet that skill-biased technological change is making IQ more valuable in the labor market. Thus, IQ will increasingly correspond to class, albeit still less than the sum of non-cognitive factors.

4. It makes sense that you give high explanatory and predictive power to culture, broadly defined, considering (among other things) (1) “all thinkers are regional thinkers,” (2) protestantism, Mormonism, and religion more generally are adaptive, and this isn’t entirely or perhaps even mostly selection, and (3) a stronger culture of entrepreneurialism (rather than demographics) better explains why America’s startup formation rate is so much higher than, say, France’s.

5. That said, I think one’s base rates for population differences in personalities, abilities, and social behavior being substantially genetic should be higher. When explaining human behavior, we tend to overrate culture and underrate biology, and a priori, why would we think different groups evolved to be very different physically but very similar mentally?

6. Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night.

"a stronger culture of entrepreneurialism (rather than demographics) better explains why America’s startup formation rate is so much higher than, say, France’s."

It is?


" Instead, I would bet that skill-biased technological change is making IQ more valuable in the labor market. "

I think that's highly likely. We are still at the start of the digital age. Software/communications is a giant multiplier for intelligence because it's effects are wide spread to potentially millions of devices and small changes are cheap to roll out. Whereas a very smart handyman (or even doctor) generally only effects one thing at a time. Previously, a smart person could write a book, but the costs of publishing were high enough and the medium restrictive enough that the multiplier effects were relatively small compared to the modern internet, (youtube, etc). The same was true of television, newspapers or other centrally produced communications.

"We are still at the start of the digital age."

The understatement of the "decade" - as you humans call them.

Nobody is genetically anything from the Madeira Islands, as a quick wiki perusal shows - The history of Madeira begins with the discovery of the islands by Portugal in 1419. There is no record of anyone living on the islands at that time. Portugal began colonizing the island in 1420.

Madeira is a rare example from the Age of Exploration of European adventurers discovering a perfectly nice place with nobody already living there. The discovery of Madeira was an example of Pareto optimization: it made the discoverers better off without hurting anybody else (other than the non-human biodiversity of the island: the Portuguese quickly burned down island's thick forest and converted it to farmland).

Peak Sailer. More of this, less of the crap.

When you don't like the message, you attack the messenger instead of scrutinizing the message based on scientific method and accuracy of falsifiable claims.

I could hypothetically claim that African Americans have less empathy than white Americans. You probably would call that crap, however, this is a perfectly falsifiable claim that can be proven or disproven with psychology experiments.

It is not a perfectly falsifiable claim, because as Steve Sailer would point out (well, whenever it is convenient, that is), there is no single group that is African American.

Which is basically one of the fundamental criticisms of such claims - the group you are selecting is conveniently defined to justify the claim, and whether it is provable or not is at best secondary.

Mass incarceration on the Murray policy model comes to mind.

The U.S. government relies upon self-identification for its voluminous racial statistics. You are whatever boxes you check. E.g., on the 2010 Census, the President asserted that he was black and only black and refused to indicate that he was multiracial or had any non-black ancestry.

About 20 years ago I decided to prove that this system was fatally flawed and that the reality was much more complicated and convoluted than the government's system made it seem.

I managed to collect a number of amusing conundrums and anecdotes to support my original thesis. But, in the end, I wound up concluding that the government's system of self-identification was good enough for government work.

For example, Harvard geneticist David Reich found a few years ago that Americans who self-identify as (non-Hispanic) black in 23andMe's DNA database are 385 times blacker by genetic ancestry than people who self-identify as (non-Hispanic) white:

One does not need to tell you know that various governments in the U.S. used to assign racial classifications until fairly recently. That was the point of Loving vs Virginia, and miscegenation laws in general.

If you wish to argue that such classification was simply a social construct, it would be worth a chuckle or two. Especially considering the distinctions you love to make between various African-American groups, such as those African Americans who are relatively recent immigrants from the West Indies.

The first way to play this game is to define your group to prove the point you wanted to make in the first place.

Personally, I use what the government uses.

No you don't, as the definition clearly has not been constant. For example, at the time of his birth, in 17 states Obama would have been have classified as black at birth to decide who he could legally marry, and he would have had absolutely no recourse to change that classification on his birth certificate. (And in 8 states, you still need to declare your race as a legal requirement for marriage, it seems.)

You simply use whatever suits you best at the time, and depending on what audience you are attempting to reach.

No, actually I'm not engaged in a complex conspiracy to cherrypick only certain definitions of American racial groups to support my sinister biases while ignoring all the other data that would totally undermine my arguments.

That would be way too much work for me. I'm not that energetic.

I just make use of whatever data on race is produced by the U.S. government and by social scientists and corporate researchers, who normally follow the guidelines of the Office of Management and Budget.

The OMB periodically makes small changes in racial terminology, such as creating the multiracial category for the 2000 Census, splitting off Pacific Islanders from Asians also around 2000 (?), and reclassifying South Asians from Caucasian to Asian in 1980. But the government bureaucrats have an interest in maintaining comparability of their numbers over time for tracking trends.

I see these kind of assertions all the time implying that the racial gaps in the kind of things that get people hot under the collar like test scores and homicide rates must be the product of my sophisticated statistical finagling and that if only I used some slightly different definition of "white" and "black" the numbers would come out totally different. But the reality is that the reason you get angry about the numbers is because the gaps are so big that your definitional quibbles are just squid ink. There's no reasonable way to change the definitions of white and black that would make the gaps disappear.

The point concerns shifting government definitions, not whether you cherry pick data. The various government definitions were not based on self-identification in the 1960s, and the data from the 1970s and 1980s is much closer to standards of the 1960s than the standards of 2010.

The fact is that government data that spans even a single life time of a person like Obama or former Secretary of State Powell has been subject to a variety of changes over the last 5 decades.

Even your attempt to hand wave away the fact that government classifications have significantly changed falls flat, to be honest. Government bureaucrats in the 1960s were profoundly interested in assuring their categories were accurate and comparable. The major shift is we no longer unquestionably accept the idea that the race listed on a birth certificate is immutably a determiner of who someone can marry or where they are legally allowed to live.

And who would want to change the definitions to suit their arguments? OK, you like to, when talking about African-Americans as not being a single group - as noted by the West Indies connection regarding someone like Powell - or they are indeed a single group requiring stricter discipline for their own group.

What is truly bizarre is your apparent belief that I care about whatever gaps exist, or in trying to make them disappear. The point was when discussing groups, the matter of defining the group is the fundamental point.

For example, we could talk about poverty using a simple definition, but the very first step is creating a group called the poor to begin with. A group that we will always have with us, according to a generally respected source.

This is a sad example of the sort of inane semantic argument that always seems to arise. If your goal is to confuse the reader, you are succeeding. I can always tell a prior post by a complete failure to make a point. "No one can talk about the poor, because no one can define who they are!!"

Right. Note the failure to give examples of how this kind of semantic quibbling would substantially affect our understanding white-black gaps.

I have thought of a possible example where a better understanding of the implications of the system of self-identification by race could affect the numbers in an important way. As I pointed out above, test scores for American Indians are lately in a freefall. Nobody seems to know why: one theory is reservations are ravaged by meth lately.

Another hypothesis is that Native American test scores used to be substantially buoyed by Elizabeth Warren-types who identified as Indian princesses. Perhaps lately, this tendency for highly white people to identify with their very limited Indian ancestry has gone out of fashion?

So, these kind of semantic quibbles could have real world implications at times. Unfortunately, nobody much cares about what is happening to American Indians when we are faced with the #OscarsSoWhite crisis keeping blacks from winning enough Oscars.

The only person talking about white black gaps is you.

This exchange started with simply pointing out that stricter discipline for an entire group depends on how the group is defined. Sometimes African Americans are treated monolithically, other times they aren't. Such as making distinctions between recent West Indian immigrants and those African Americans who can trace their ancestry using slave records back more than a century and a half. You should be familiar with that distinction, after all. Perhaps you can provide even more links to unz and vdare.

This entire thread started out with the observation that there is absolutely no such thing as a genetic Madeiran, a term was taken at face value by seemingly all commenters. How you define a group is the first step in all of these discussions.

That Tyler feels that race can be socially constructed would normally be the sort of thing that would cause a certain uproar among all those people who reject such a thing. Even when by the standards of such rejectionists, it is absurd for anyone to take seriously the claim of being any percentage of genetic Madeiran.

Unless one feels human evolution creates distinct genetic groups in 6 centuries. A truly testable claim subject to being shown as true or false, unlike whether an actually amorphous group described as African-American need stricter discipline, the actual point that led to my first comment. How we define groups is the foundation of such discussions and how to evaluate such claims. Tyler is 1/8 genetically Madeiran, at least as a self-description. A self-description that is clearly not correct, even if he believes it accurate. Just as all claims based on him being 1/8 genetically Madeiran are clearly not correct.

So, back to the classification point - how do we treat children who are only 1/8 African American? 1/4? 1/2? 1/32? Until recently (well apart from Louisana in a certain French/Spanish speaking sense), such distinctions were not recognized at all by the government.

How you define the group is the start of such discussions. No one is discussing any broader policy based on Tyler and others like him being 1/8, 1/2 or 100% genetically Madeiran.

Unless one feels human evolution creates distinct genetic groups in 6 centuries.

A small isolated population would probably be genetically distinct in the first generation ("founder effect"). If it increased in numbers but stayed isolated, it would stay genetically distinct.

Tyler is implying that one-eighth of his ancestors at some stage on his family tree were born in Madeira. Where they came from before that is not disclosed, and may well be unknown and perhaps unknowable.

I am referring to the Obama Administration's campaign to lessen school discipline on black students because, they reported, blacks were suspended 3x as often.

The Obama did not choose to break out this statistic by black subgroups.

As usual, I am using the statistics that the government uses.

"For example, Harvard geneticist David Reich found a few years ago that Americans who self-identify as (non-Hispanic) black in 23andMe's DNA database are 385 times blacker by genetic ancestry than people who self-identify as (non-Hispanic) white:"

I bet that is higher than the results for self identified sex and gender, two separate metrics, vs 23andme genetic results.

But sex and gender are brain wiring functions heavily influenced by the brain's environment in a VAT of chemicals, mediated by the environment of brain's robotic vessel interacting in its environment.

A recent report found five genetic variations "significantly" correlated to having reported same sex relationships for a sample of half a million subjects, with 75,000 23andme volunteers.

The "strength" is it's based on reported activity.

The weakness is it's not based on reported gender identity, reported sexual preference, both of which are suppressed by cultural stigma, oppression, and legal consequence into non-action.

Of course, "black" is associated with a region of the globe, while sex and gender are not. A significant effort has created thousznds of genetic samples highly correlated to parts of Africa. Nothing close has been done for the map of sex and gender diversity.

If you sampled the DNA of the ten most famous ex-men in America, from Jenner on down, I doubt you'd find much evidence of feminine cognitive tendencies. Instead, you might find evidence of masculine tendencies, such as aggressiveness and powerful logical abilities. Perhaps these ex-men would tend to be high-functioning Aspergerery types.

Class structures, certainly in the European sense, have never been based on wages or the labor market.

They are based on being in a position to rule those who labor so as to benefit their betters. Which clearly is the natural order based on a proper understanding of genetics, even if the rabble keeps talking about equality.

And maybe in the early 20th century East Asians were described as having a low work ethic, but then, East Europeans Jews were also considered to be intellectually inferior. Why should anyone care about whatever fashionable nonsense racists believe?

"East Europeans Jews were also considered to be intellectually inferior"


Really - "The arguments, outlined in Madison Grant's 1916 book The Passing of a Great Race, held that older immigrants were skilled, thrifty, hardworking like native born Americans and recent immigrants from southern and eastern Europe were unskilled, ignorant, predominantly Catholic or Jewish and not easily assimilated into American culture. Madison Grant and Charles Davenport, among other eugenicists, were called in as expert advisers on the threat of "inferior stock" from eastern and southern Europe, playing a critical role as Congress debated the Immigration Act of 1924. The act attempted to control the number of "unfit" individuals entering the country by lowering the number of immigrants allowed in to fifteen percent of what it had been previously. Existing laws prohibiting race mixing were strengthened as well."

Two years before the 1924 immigration act, Harvard took steps to stop the inexorable increase in the percentage of Jewish students who qualified for admission, so I think it is an exaggeration at best to say that WASPs considered Jews intellectually inferior. Protestant Americans back then were more dismissive of the intellectual abilities of Catholics like Poles and Croats and Orthodox like Serbs.

You cannot be unfamiliar with the writings and work of Madison Grant. However, assuming you know little of history, he divided people into various groups, with one at the pinnacle. Clearly, if his theories place a group at the pinnacle, every other group must be underneath them.

Odd how forgetful some people can seem to be of history, even as they swim in precisely the same river.

Lat year, I read five excellent biology books...Plomin Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are ...Nicholas A. Christakis Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society...David Quammen The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life...Innate: How the Wiring of Our Brains Shapes Who We Are Kevin J. Mitchell...Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live Rob Dunn

Is the Murray book supposed to be in this league? What's his expertise?

Other favorite books on other topics....George Will The Conservative Sensibility...Matt Stoller Goliath: The 100 year war between monopoly power and democracy...Adam Gopnick A Thousand Small Sanities: The Moral Adventure of Liberalism ...Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime Sean Carroll ...

All of my picks are for general readers, like me.

Hey DP, I am guessing you made a brain fart when you ask what's Murray's expertise, unless you're being ironic, after citing a number of popular recent books on DNA. As any schoolchild knows: "Charles Murray and his decades-old work on IQ and race, published in his 1994 book The Bell Curve, is back in the news ..."

Ray, He's not an expert on genetics, while all the authors I mentioned are among the top experts in their field. He is an expert in social science research, and the author of one of my favorite books entitled In Our Hands, which is on a guaranteed income. A lot of people who talk about genetics are not in any position to do so, other than referring to the work of others.

Most of the nature vs nurture arguments have been by social scientists, who seem to be pretty well qualified to take advantage of experimental data to get results. Murray isn't exactly trying to identify which set of genes contribute to intelligence.

Even experts mostly "refer[] to the work of others." Perhaps you mean that experts have done some work themselves and have a graduate degree in the field. But if that is your definition, people like Jared Diamond are not experts in most of what they write about.

TMC & Roger, What I'm saying is that there have been a few excellent books recently by top line researchers on genetics, inheritability, etc., and Charles Murray is not one of them. Of course, he can mention the work of others. One of the books I mentioned is on Arnold Kling's list. This is a topic that invites a lot of questionable use and I do wonder if people are drawn to his book by something other than an interest in current biological research.

If you want to know my opinion about Murray, I agree with his main social science position as I read him, which is that we can influence IQ, but it would be incredibly expensive and involve unacceptable intrusion into other people's lives. Hence, we're limited to trying to discover policies that can only solve the problem slowly by trying to find real world effective programs. If that's not his position, I apologize to him, but its mine.

It's good you mentioned Diamond, because I would raise similar questions about his new book. But I will read Murray's book, now that I've shot my mouth off, and some aspects of his research certainly impinges on biology. But give these other books a scan if the subject really interests you, was my main point.

For what it's worth, I've read the Plomin, Christakis, and Mitchell books. I'd recommend them all. The others look interesting.

You might enjoy Richard Wrangham's The Goodness Paradox: The Strange Relationship Between Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution. Wrangham is an expert in part of the book and an explorer in other fields in the rest.

Roger, I own that one too. I will move it up on the list. Cheers, Don I also enjoyed a book entitled Becoming Human by Michael Tomasello, which compares Humans and Chimpanzees. There were a lot of good science titles this year.

You may well have read it but Ed Yong's I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life was one of 2018's very good biology books.

Roger, Once again, I own it, but haven't read it. I'll move it on up. It looks a lot like the Dunn book, from which I learned that we need to be careful about which organisms we kill. Thanks again. These are all well-received books that I'm being recommended, and I like being nudged into books I own but haven't read. Right now, I'm reading a book about Felix Rohatyn and Lazard Freres that's been on my Kindle for years called The Last Tycoons by William Cohan. So far, it's very good.

Answer: Murray is not in the league. AB in History, and Phd in Poly Sci, which qualifies him for genetics. It qualifies him for political writing.

You might also add to your list of good books: Stanford Economist Matthew O. Jackson's book: The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs and Behavior. Good discussion of network position, genetics, and poverty traps within networks.

Thanks, Bill. I just bought it on Kindle.

Then you owe it to yourself to check out "Who We Are and How We Got Here." Very much in the popular science vein. Reich occupies an unenviable position, as both the human biodiversity deniers and proponents find him "problematic." The former's comments can be found anywhere fine mainstream opinions are sold; interesting (and far more detailed) examples of the latter at the blog West Hunter, where the writer did a sort of read-along.

But Reich's book itself, whatever its errors and blind spots in regard to the work of other disciplines than genetics, works just fine as the history book you never knew you were missing until now.

Peri, That book I already have on my Kindle, but I'll move it up on my reading list because you mentioned. I appreciate getting book recommendations, so thanks to you and Bill.

"For instance, early in the 20th century, Korea, Japan, and China often were described as low work ethic cultures."

That doesn't jibe with late 19th Century agitation in California by white workers to shut down immigration from Japan and China. Americans at the time saw East Asians as extremely hard working for their pay, so Capital wanted more of them to immigrate and Labor wanted fewer.

Similarly, here's Francis Galton's 1873 letter commending the work ethic of the "industrious, order loving Chinese:"

Maybe it depended who they were working for.

Or whether the Chinese were actually seen as valuable labor in the later 19th century, or the yellow peril as was the prevalent view in the early 20th century.

It is correct that Japanese were considered by Western visitors to be lazy. But that was before the Meiji (1868-1912) reforms kicked in (compulsory education and military service). Between the Sino-Japan War and the Russo-Japan War the image had changed due to the the influence of compulsory education and military service (etc.), and deliberate efforts of the foreign ministry to manipulate foreign public opinion.
Koreans were considered by foreigners (Europeans and Japanese) to be lazy, irrational, backward, disorganized, unconscientious, and undisciplined. Most of these stereotypes were shared by Koreans themselves as late as the early 90's according to research conducted at that time. In that research Koreans compared themselves to Americans and Japanese, who were essentially the only people Koreans had opinions about).

Style points for naming your nym after one of Socrates' pupils. If your anecdote is correct, Koreans were indeed lazy compared to their Japanese colonists.

8 is key. Relatively small environmental differences (say between growing up at the 20th versus 80th percentile of Americans) are less important than genetics, but large enough environmental differences (say growing up in America versus South Sudan) overwhelm genetic differences. A lot of people on the left err by believing that environment is always more important than genetics thus ignoring the many twin studies, while a lot of people on the right err by extrapolating from the twin studies to a far larger range of environments than they tested.

Simple and true, +5 internet points

Yes, +1 to Zaua and Tyler for #8.

#9 is good too.

+1, good point

Twin studies on a smaller level illustrate the point.

1) Twins have very similar IQs, but they are slightly lower than the population average.
2) Twins where one twin dies very young, the surviving twin ends up with a higher IQ. (Genes held constant, but parental care is not divided.)
3) First-born children have higher IQs on average than their siblings.

Genetics and environment both matter.

Adoption studies tend to be constrained by the adoption agencies screening out obviously unpromising adoptive parents. Adoption agencies tend to prevent adoptions by, say, career criminals, drunks, the mentally ill, etc.

>I behave very differently than my Irish potato famine ancestors

What about your parents? What line of work are/were they in? Education status?

> You might think that general, non-local evolutionary selection for all humans has been quite large over the millennia, relative to local selection. I genuinely do not know the ratio here

Example of large local selection of bad alcohol metabolism gene ADH variant ADH1B*2 (which is the main cause of uncurable esophageal cancer, from gnomAD dataset, freq in Europeans vitually nil, in EastAsians substantial. ADH1B*2.T must have some large local advantage while in the rest of the world it is almost evolved out. ADH1B*2.T variations among the EastAsians are significantly correlated to average nationa IQs, thus I speculated that its existence might be due to the Chinese style imperial court exams for selecting officials adopted in various EastAsian countries. ADH1B*2.T is one of the positive effective SNPs in the GWAS Edu Attainment 3 study, dispite the sample is totally European Whites with limited ADH1B*2.T variation range.

Pop | ADH1B*2.T %Freq
ALL | 6.1
EastAsian | 72.0 <---
Ashkenazi | 24.8 <---
Americas | 5.9
European | 3.2
African | 1.3
Fin | 0.3

Freq of regional esophageal cancer:

Country|Region|City|AdjInci(Million)|AdjInciFreq(per 1000?)|RelX|RelY|Ref
China|Beijing|NULL|17.57|6.75|7.55|7.85|Zou et al. 2002
China|Shanghai|Shanghai|15.7|7.7|7.85|7.25|Parkin et al. 1997
China|Jiangsu|Yangzhong|114.13|106.61|7.77|7.31|Guo et al. 2001 <---
China|Hebei|Cixian|146.88|105.29|7.437|7.587|Zou et al. 2002 <---
China|Sichuan|Yanting|115.78|88.56|6.96|7.27|Chen et al. 2005 <--- land of hot chilli
China|Henan|Linxian|100.73|72.21|7.409|7.567|Zou et al. 2002
China|Fujian|Nanan|86.8|58.23|7.65|6.911|Ye et al. 1996
China|Zhejiang|Xianju|85.89|53.44|7.8|7.14|Zhang 1991
China|Gansu|Minqin|86.46|40.59|6.86|7.76|Zhang et al. 2005
China|Inner Mongolia|Yakeshi|22.56|3.08|7.75|8.47|Wang et al. 2005
China|Guangdong|Dongguan|9.87|NULL|7.418|6.804|Wu & Li 2006

Russia|NULL|NULL|8.0|NULL|4.5|9.5|Stewart & Kleihues 2003 <--- dispite their drinking culture
UK|England|Birmingham W.Midlands|14.6|9.5|1.2|8.8|Parkin et al. 1997
UK|England|Oxford|10.2|7.1|1.25|8.7|Parkin et al. 1997
India|NULL|Bangalore|5.3|5.3|5.5|6.45|Parkin et al. 1997
Israel|NULL|Jews from Eu&Am|7.3|4.0|NULL|NULL|Parkin et al. 1997 <--- Ashkenazis just dont drink much ??
Finland|NULL|NULL|4.6|3.9|2.6|9.7|Parkin et al. 1997
Japan|Nagasaki|NULL|14.0|2.7|8.25|7.4|Parkin et al. 1997 <--- dispite their drinking culture
Singapore|NULL|Chinese|6.9|2.6|NULL|NULL|Parkin et al. 1997 <--- dispite most ancestry from Fujian
Canada|Quebec|NULL|4.8|1.7|16.7|8.6|Parkin et al. 1997
France|Bas-Rhin|NULL|19.1|2.0|1.73|8.47|Parkin et al. 1997 <--- wine producing region??
Germany|Saarland|NULL|9.6|1.9|1.7|8.55|Parkin et al. 1997 <--- German beer did little damage

USA|CA|Central Vally|5.4|2.1|14.35|7.55|Parkin et al. 1997
USA|CA|LA Chinese|4.0|1.4|NULL|NULL|Parkin et al. 1997 <--- freq < White ??
USA|CA|LA White|5.6|3.4|14.3|7.45|Parkin et al. 1997 <---
USA|CA|SF Chinese|5.3|1.4|NULL|NULL|Parkin et al. 1997
USA|CA|SF White|6.7|3.1|14.1|7.65|Parkin et al. 1997

Ancestry of most CA legacy ChineseAmericans are from Guandong with low esophageal cancer rate. The average provincial IQ of Guandong is also below national average.

> For instance, IQ is to some extent heritable, but how much does that shape economic outcomes?

Surely by definition that depend on the level of meritocracy adopted by the society. Just look at the level of under-employment (graduates workin in jobs that do not require university degrees) for some US university majors, dragging down the median salary, and on average only for those graduates the median salary is not dependent on the entry SAT/ACT scores. That diluted the overall effects and the diluted results have been taken as the gospel truth, a sleight of hand tactic.

The ADH1B*2.T also has the puzzling correlations with overall IQ (positive), Math IQ (positive) and Verbal IQ (negative). That might explain the relatively higher math ability and lower verbal cognitive ability of the EatAsians.

Yes, culture is very important. There is more to literacy than the provision of a sharable and long-lasting public record, though that in itself is valuable. Literacy also supports a cognitive architecture, if you will, more attuned to abstract thought and to thinking about thought. Language, after all, is it self a rather direct expression of thought, which implies that when you've got big chunks of it written down, you can examine it in a way that's difficult to impossible without that record.

Consider this passage from an essay David Hays and I published some years ago:

General categories such as "plant" and "animal" are very rare at this level [preliterate cultures] and even categories such as "bird," "beast," and "fish," are not routinely used (Berlin et al. 1973). The commonest categories are at the level of "oak," "eagle," and "trout," with some subcategories, "white oak," "bald eagle," and "rainbow trout." Rank 1 peoples certainly have a practical knowledge of differences between plants and animals—they don't set snares for plants or expect animals to stay in the same place, but the conceptual basis of that practical knowledge is not made explicit in their systems of categories.

To illustrate this, let's consider an example recorded by the Russian psychologist A. R. Luria. In 1931-32 Luria made observations on the effect which literacy training had on the thought processes of Uzbekistani peasants. The following exchange took place with an illiterate thirty-eight year old adult (Luria 1976: 81-82).

What do a chicken and a dog have in common?
"They're not alike. A chicken has two legs, a dog has four. A chicken has wings but a dog doesn't. A dog has ears and a chicken's are small."
You've told me what is different about them. How are they alike?
"They're not alike at all."
Is there one word you could use for them both?
"No, of course not."
What word fits both a chicken and a dog?
"I don't know."
Would the word "animal" fit?

Immediately after this exchange the subject was asked about fish and crow. When the subject denied that they had anything in common he was asked whether one word could be used for both. He replied, "If you call them animals, that wouldn't be right. A fish isn't an animal and a crow isn't either. A crow can eat a fish but a fish can't eat a bird. A person can eat a fish but not a crow."

While the subject is acquainted with the word "animal," he doesn't thoroughly knows its meaning. It took a great deal of prompting for him to agree that chicken and dog were both animals and, having so agreed, he was unable to apply the term to fish and crow. The concept clearly was not one he routinely used. The subject's comments about the difference between chicken and dog suggests that he cannot form a generalization which covers both. That is, there is no easy way to eliminate extraneous detail from his concepts of dog and chicken so that the same conceptual core remains in each case. The similarity between wings and forelimbs is not at all compelling to this peasant, nor would it be to any but a biologist or those whose view of the world has been informed by the biologist's thought.

Notice further that in justifying his account of fish and crow the subject talked about the roles which "fish," "crow," and "person" can take with the verb "eat." This is the sort of consideration which generates ontological categories, but this subject clearly couldn't get to a meta level from which he could explicitly grasp this categorization.

The Luria is a classic in what I suspect is still a small comparative literature: Luria, A. R. (1976). Cognitive Development: Its Cultural and Social Foundations. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

The essay I'm quoting: William Benzon and David Hays, The Evolution of Cognition, Journal of Social and Biological Structures. 13(4): 297-320, 1990,

Dat's racism dude, but good anecdote. I recall back in the 1970s hearing that for some primitive African tribe, they could not distinguish any three-dimensional shape in any 2D photograph shown, despite extensive prompting. It kind of shows intelligence is cultural. That said, having recently hunted in the mountains of Greece (wild boar) and found it very difficult (even with highly trained dogs with GPS collars), I suspect these African natives could probably outhunt most people reading this, so their 'hunter IQ' would be much greater than their 'office IQ' or 'math IQ'.

Bonus trivia: 00 buckshot is literally 10x more expensive in the EU than the USA.

The photograph stuff is well-known and has been replicated. About, 'hunter IQ', of course.

Dan Everett, the linguist, spent almost two decades among the Piraha in Brazil, so he was no tourist or hunter passing through. But still, the Piraha would routinely and casually spot things in the jungle that were invisible to him. On more than one occasion they saved him. Here's a passage from his recent Dark Matter of the Mind: The Culturally Articulated Unconscious:

In the rainy season, jungle paths flood. Snakes exit their holes. Caimans come further inland. Sting rays, electric eels, and all manner of creatures can then be found on what in the dry season are wide, dry paths. It is hard to walk down these paths in daylight during the rainy season, covered as they are by knee-deep, even chest-high water (though I have had to walk for hours in such conditions). At night, these paths become intimidating to some of us. As I walk with the Pirahãs, I am usually wearing shoes, whereas they go barefoot. Two memories stand out here. The first was me almost stepping on a small (three feet long) caiman. The second was me almost stepping on a bushmaster (there are many other memories as dangerous). In both cases, my life or at least a limb was saved by Pirahãs who, shocked that I did not or could not see these obvious dangers, pulled me back at the last moment, exhorting me to pay more attention to where I stepped. Such examples were frequent in my decades with Amazonian and Mesoamerican peoples. And each time, they were astonished at my apparent blindness. (141-142)

When you are born, raised, and spend all your life in a certain environment your senses and mind become 'shrink-wrapped' around it. That close fit simply cannot be duplicated by someone raised in a very different world no matter how much time they spend in your world.

P.S. There's more than one of those anecdotes in Luria's book. There are dozens of them.

I'm a believer in the weak form of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, as exemplified by Orwell's appendix to "1984" on Newspeak: if you don't have a term for something, it's hard to notice it.

For example, I started using the term "hate hoax" back in 2004 to characterize the large number of stories in the national press about supposed hate crimes that turned out never to have happened. People who don't possess the term "hate hoax" to complement the term "hate crime," in contrast, tend to be gullible because in their mental architecture there are just "hate crimes" and then random forgettable information that they can't remember because they don't have a name to categorize it.

I don't believe the New York Times has yet used the term "hate hoax" since 1851.

@SS - why are you posting here, at this sub-post? Makes no rational sense. Anyway, what you are referring to is, not coincidentally iMO given your background, a propaganda technique known as "priming". Happy New Years!
from D. McRaney - "You're Not So Smart" : The emotional brain, Lehrer argues, is older and thus more evolved than the rational brain. It is better suited for complex decisions and automatic processing of very complex operations like somersaults and break dancing [COMPLEX he said, note that SS--RL], singing on key and shuffling cards. Those operations seem simple, but they have too many steps and variables for your rational mind to handle. You hand those tasks over to the adaptive unconscious. Animals with small cerebral cortices, or none at all, are mostly on autopilot because their older emotional brains are usually, or totally, in charge. The emotional brain, the unconscious mind, is old, powerful, and no less a part of who you are than the rational brain is, but its function can’t be directly observed or communicated to consciousness. ...Businesses discovered priming before psychologists did, but once psychology started digging into the mind, more and more examples of automaticity were uncovered, and even today it isn’t clear how much of your behavior is under your conscious control

Indeed. That's that Simler' and Hanson's Elephant in the Brain is all about. (Similar: Mercier' and Sperber's Enigma of Reason).

I wish Murray had addressed IQ and political preferences, because they do seem to correlate. But the correlation also seems subject to change: today's Republicans are not your grandfather's Republicans. Culture seems to play a large part in political preferences (or more so today than yesterday). Yesterday's Republicans included a large share of blacks and high achieving whites. Today's Republicans include almost no blacks and few high achieving whites. Yesterday's Democrats included a large share of low achieving whites, but today they have shifted their allegiance to Republicans. It would be interesting to track IQ and political preferences. I suspect that too has shifted. My view is that the shift is attributable more to culture than intelligence. I know dumb Republicans and dumb Democrats, although they are dumb in different ways. I know smart Republicans and smart Democrats, although they are smart in different ways. The shift in political preferences has been so dramatic that one might think that Murray would find it a subject worth exploring. Even the evolutionary psychologists seem nonplussed by the shift.

Yesterday Cowen suggested that supporting Trump might be a form of weird. But that makes no sense to me: MAGA hat wearing Trump supporters are intolerant of differences (i.e., weird), so intolerant they will physically attack someone different (weird). Maybe Cowen was being ironic. May he considers intolerance a form of weird.

Is this irony? It does seem like irony here. rayward, you're back off the rails.

I know, the left is intolerant. Intolerant of intolerance. Now that's ironic.

The modern left is intolerant of anything they can't control. Very high on the authoritarian scale. At least back in the 60s the hippies were against the man telling them what to do, until they became 'the man'.

While I agree that there are genetic differences among human populations, 6 is patently untrue and is quite dangerous. Class is not based on genes. There are many cases we know of what happened when, after some revolution or political upheaval, working-class students were allowed to get a university education. Think about a lot of the brilliant US scientists whose parents were Eastern European Jews with very little education. Or some of the brilliant Soviet scientists whose parents were illiterate peasants.

I think Tyler is concerned with the long-term effects of assortive mating. You are probably right that too easy to think of such things stylistically. If I may be so bold, people are getting it on for a lot of reasons and a sort of mating is just one.

lol, I trusted voice input too much on that one. "a sort of mating"

The oppression of specific minority groups or.l castes aside (Jews in europe, African Americans in US, serfs in Russia) the evidence runs the other way.

Clark and Cummins, Son also Rises, etc.

Even the cultural revolution couldn’t keep the same families from reappearing in the elite once Mao’s mass murder stopped.

And women having the economic freedom to make their own life decisions is not something to be worried about, it’s something to be celebrated.

2+2=4. Hitler was a wise and morally upright man. String theory is true. Not as controversial as you might think. I am wondering why clearly fairly intelligent bloggers make vacuous statements.

Culture is a truly major shaper of our personalities, abilities, and social behavior, and self-evidently so.

People generate culture, and it's the feedback loop for genetics. It's not a stand-alone phenomenon that just drops down on people at random.

You can't prove it isn't the other way around

@Andy - "While I agree that there are genetic differences among human populations, 6 is patently untrue and is quite dangerous. Class is not based on genes" - didn't Gregory Clark write one or more books making this claim patently true? A Farewell to Alms comes to mind.

Bonus trivia: style points for using the term "patently" in a sentence.

A few observations about the relationship between IQ and income:

1. The correlation is significantly greater for lifetime income than for a single year's income. On a related note, due to measurement error, actual cognitive ability is likely more strongly correlated with income than is IQ.

2. Even if the correlation is modest, the effect size is quite large. That is, while you cannot predict the income of an individual with great confidence simply from knowing his IQ, you can be quite confident that a large sample of individuals with IQ 125 will have much greater average income than a large sample of individuals with IQ 90.

3. Watch out for inappropriate controls! Because the effect of IQ on income is partly mediated by educational attainment, controlling for educational attainment will cause you to underestimate the causal effect of IQ on income.

4. Noncognitive personality traits matter quite a bit as well, but these are also highly heritable.

Surprisingly, I have never been able to find a good twin study on the heritability of income in an American context. There was that Finnish study you linked earlier this year, and a Swedish study I saw some time back with similar results, but of course shared environments are somewhat more similar in Sweden and Finland than in the US, so it's not clear how well that generalizes.

It was one of Damasio's big themes that you need cognitive ability to identify risk, but then you need the emotional factor that you care.

A couple patients were described who were high functioning on tests, and could analyze risk in interviews, but who went bankrupt in real life because .. I didn't really bother them.

They had damage to the prefrontal cortex iirc.

I guess I'm more benign way to say this is that in order to accumulate wealth you have to value wealth.

Being in the 1% (net worth > $10M) and interacting with billionaires on occasion, I think the *creation* of wealth is a function of being risk-loving rather than of IQ. You can have a high IQ and be poor (unless you inherited your wealth like I did) if you don't have a risk-loving personality. There's also survivorship bias in the mix. IMO and based on my lifelong observations. Being smart is neither necessary nor sufficient, IMO, to *create* wealth, but being risk loving is necessary (ex post). Some of my relatives are incredibly dumb but willing to speculate wildly, often successfully (buying a stock on a rumor, buying a house sight unseen, having a unbalanced portfolio and so on). Plus what I'm finding out now, having inherited wealth and finally being allowed to call the shots, is that to make money you need to have money, but that's another story. IMO the idea of a talented genius who gets rich from the full coin of their mind is VASTLY overrated (patent / inventor / lone genius meme - fairy tale)

That rings true.


But now you're just back to inherited IQ + inherited non-cognitive traits + culture (Including peer effects as culture).

If that’s your position it doesn’t seem fundamentally different from Murray’s, or even Sailers for that matter.

Straussian Cowen post of the year.

Not really, because I think these dispositional factors are all over the map, even between siblings.

A very good piece, with which I mostly agree. In fact my only quibble is very minor:

"If anything, in the Bayesian sense it probably nudged me away from geneticist-based arguments, simply because it did not push me any further towards them."

I think you do these people a favor by calling them "the geneticists." From my reading, the population geneticists agree with you, and not the (more commonly amateur) "hbd" fringe.

You've got the Nature and National Geographic position, and to their credit, they have yours

When "Nature," "National Geographic," and "Teen Vogue" all agree, how can Charles Murray possibly be right?

Speak that we may know thee, Steve.

Human being: a fruit or vegetable with animal aspirations and a mineral destiny.

Doesn't "Guns, Germs and Steel" provide a pretty comprehensive refutation of #8? The role of environment in shaping culture is relatively clear by now, and the reverse, shared culture shaping similar reactions, true as well, although individual and small group variations will exist.

Have you read any critical commentary on that book? It seems an odd statement to argue that a pop science book has comprehensively refuted a scientific hypothesis, but I'm pretty sure that one doesn't.

Yes, I have read, and some of it is pretty potent. But it doesn't disprove the underlying thesis, which is that animals that can be domesticated, ground that can be tilled, etc, has a powerful influence in shaping culture. Is the reverse really sustainable?

It's almost as if Nature and Nurture are both important ...

If environment is potent, and it actually is, there will be an evolutionary response over generations. I don't think Diamond defends his thesis in open debates anymore.

Noticing "Viking" above reminds me of one of my insomnia puzzlers, whatever happened to them? I guess we're supposed to believe that those folks with their hygge and their "welfare" state and their mostly dwindling demographics are the same guys who a thousand years ago were still going around the globe pillaging?

I guess some of them ended up being "Russian" and "Norman" and "Italian," so maybe the remaining Scandinavians are the ones who didn't have as much gumption.

An interesting data point on the importance of culture is that immigrant blacks seem to change the behavior of native blacks enough to greatly reduce crime rates in cities like New York and Miami FL.
I would guess that they will also influence native blacks to do better in school also.

Darwin begins The Origin of Species talking about selective breeding. People breed steers that produce the most meat and cows that produce the most milk. Those that don't aren't allowed to reproduce. Over time, steers become meatier and cows milkier. The same is true for other useful animals and plants.

He then presents the idea that Nature does the same thing. Deer that can run faster are "selected" because they are more likely to outrun predators. It is wonderfully convincing because most everyone knows how crops and farm animals have improved over the years.

I suspect that Murray is doing something similar. Most people will find that it is easy to believe that there are inherent differences between men and women. They may then find it easier to accept that there are similar differences between human populations.

`“…proof of the role of natural selection for many genetic differences will remain unobservable without methodological breakthroughs.” With that I definitely agree.'

This is exactly the kind of claim about which non-experts should be hesitant to state an opinion.

I think it's fair to consider .. if people spend decades of their lives looking for something they can't prove exists .. what was really their motivation?

Why did they *want* it to be true?

Are you talking about the architects of America's social programs? That's a question worth pondering.

I think there are people who have authentic pro-social, or anti-social, impulses. And then there are grifters who pretend to have either, for the profit in it.

Tyler needs to read the Gene Illusion by Jay Joseph.

"my personal wish list was two-fold: a) a book leaving most of the normal science behind, and focusing only on the uncertain and controversial frontier issues."

Most of academia rejects even the "normal science" of these areas.

"proof of the role of natural selection for many genetic differences will remain unobservable without methodological breakthroughs"

If those methodological breakthroughs happened, would they make the world a better place? Honest, and important, question.

I think you're wrong on 9. Focusing on IQ is missing the forest for the trees. There is compelling evidence from twin studies that permanent income (and implicitly SES) is strongly heritable. That means, at least intra-group, that social hierarchy is very likely to replicate itself inter-generationally. Unless the traits that society chooses to reward with status and income shift much more than I think is plausible.

My criticism of Murray is that he's too focused vindicating himself and rebutting his ideological adversaries (who at times have critiqued him unfairly). And less focused on things that will truly advance public debate. Talking about "intergroup" differences is absolutely anathema to the left. But it's not clear to me that there are actually testable hypotheses in that space, that his hypotheses being confirmed would actually change our minds about anything meaningful, or how the sorts of differences he hypothesized would have actually come to be (all else equal intelligence would seem more useful to a hunter gatherer than a farmer) . None of this is to necessarily defend his critics, some of who's world views are so warped that they are unable to accept aspects of objective reality. But focusing more completely on the impact of genetics on social stratification, which Murray is perhaps uniquely suited to do, would have been a much more productive use of his time than re litigating old battles about race and iq.

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