Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hidden Selection

Stein, R. (2008). Abortions hit lowest number since 1976. Washington Post. January 17, 2008. Available online:

As someone who believes in the equal worth of every human person, this is good news:

The number of abortions performed in the United States dropped to 1.2 million in 2005 -- the lowest level since 1976, according to a new report.

The number of abortions fell at least in part because the proportion of women ending their pregnancies with an abortion dropped 9 percent between 2000 and 2005, hitting the lowest level since 1975, according to a nationwide survey.

Some data:

The total number of abortions among women ages 15 to 44 declined from 1.3 million in 2000 to 1.2 million in 2005, an 8 percent drop that continued a trend that began in 1990, when the number of abortions peaked at more than 1.6 million, the survey found. The last time the number of abortions was that low was 1976, when slightly fewer than 1.2 million abortions were performed.

The abortion rate fell from 21.3 per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 in 2000 to 19.4 in 2005, a 9 percent decline. That is the lowest since 1974, when the rate was 19.3, and far below the 1981 peak of 29.3.

The abortion rate varies widely around the country, tending to be higher in the Northeast and lower in the South and Midwest. The rate in the District dropped 20 percent but remained higher than that of any state at 54.2. Virginia's rate fell 9 percent, to 16.5, while Maryland's rate rose 8 percent, to 31.5.

The proportion of pregnancies ending in abortion also declined, falling from 24.5 percent in 2000 to 22.4 percent in 2005 -- a 9 percent drop and down from a high of 30.4 in 1983.

It'd be interesting to see the source of these numbers in more detail.

On first glance, it would appear that abortion is a highly effective informal genetic selection program against political liberals and those of low general intelligence.

Certainly the article implies that "blue states" have higher abortion rates than "red states," and I would guess the politically conservative (who tend to oppose abortion as a lifestyle choice) practice it less than the politically liberal (who tend to support it as a lifestyle choice). Likewise, as a commonly cited reason for abortion is necessity, I would imagine that abortions are more common among the poor than the rich. As wealth correlates with general intelligence, abortion is thus a eugenics program that increases societal general intelligence across generations.

Friday, December 14, 2007

What if evolution works 15,000 times faster than we imagined?

It was only eighteen months ago that I wrote a post titled "The implication of evolution after the dawn of agriculture." At the time, I was startled by the idea that there may have been evolutionary change within the human population in the last four centuries. Also at the time I was highly impressed by Evolutionary Psychology evolutionary functional analysis, and the concept of the Era of Evolutionary Adaption.

Not this quick. But quicker

Since that time I have learned more about how biology informs the social sciences. It appears that evolution is faster than I thought, and Evolutionary Psychology is weaker than I assumed.

Go fast

Up until recently, the theoretical maximum speed for one gene to replace all other variations was one every 300 generations. It now appears the rate among humans is 2 every year. If this result holds up, this has important implications.

Two dynamics appear to be driving the acceleration of natural selection among humans: larger population size (more mutations are given a chance to rise up) and the even quicker evolution of culture (preventing the establishment of an equilibrium optimal genetic state).

Evolutionary Psychology is wrong because there is no species-wide "Era of Evolutionary Adaption." Indeed, one wonders if the term "Era of Evolutionary Adaption" even makes sense. If it does, are EEAs of populations that had possessed agriculture for a very long time (say, the peoples of the fertile crescent, and Chinese and Indians of the great river valleys) far more agrarian than the EEAs of traditionally hunter-gatherer societies?

Further, as both cultural complexity and breeding population (both in numbers in and genetic diversity) vary historically, might one say that the Era of Evolutionary Adaption of Australian Aborigines is tens of thousands of years deeper in time than that of Indus River Valley dwellers?

Both the population of man and the culture of man have been growing at faster and faster rates. The implication of this is clear.

The 19th century saw more natural selection in our species than any other century, ever.
The 20th century saw more natural selection in our species than any other century, ever.
The 21st century will see more natural selection in oru species than any other century, ever.

And that's not counting genetic engineering.

(Thanks to Sean, DMH, Fulwider, Doug, and others for not letting me get past this discovery without thinking it through.)