Tuesday, February 12, 2008

More Jews than Whites. What?

Once one of the largest races of man? Or just almost no whites?

From Dienekes and gnxp, part of the conclusion of "Analysis of genetic variation in Ashkenazi Jews by high density SNP genotyping" (pdf):

There were small but significant differences in measures of genetic diversity between
AJ [Ashkenazi Jewish] and CEU [Utah whites from the HapMap sample]. Analysis of genome-wide LD structure revealed a greater number of haplotype blocks which tended to be smaller in AJ. There was essentially no difference in global LD decay between AJ and CEU, although there was a tendency for faster decay of nearby SNPs and slower decay of intermediate distance SNPs in the AJ. These data are more consistent with the AJ as an older, larger population than CEU, and would suggest that, depending on regional differences in LD structure, AJ populations may not always provide an advantage for whole-genome association mapping.

I asked:

Re: the population sizes, would a more reasonable non-mathematical rendering be that the smallest AJ bottleneck was larger than the smallest CEU bottleneck, or the average AJ population size was larger than the average CEU population size?

And the Henry Harpending (you may remember him) replied:

Re Dan's question: either answer could be right. Instead of thinking about effective size think of the inverse of effective size, (1/Ne), which is the rate of diversity loss. This inverse can be averaged over time, like any speed. A bottleneck has a much larger effect on the average of (1/Ne) than it does on average Ne.

Will this put an end to the talk about a bottleneck in Ashkenazi history and about Ashkenazi disorders being the result of drift?

This is what is so exciting about widespread genetic testing: not only can we actually get answers for some old questions (are there different genepools within the human race? yes) we can ask questions that never would have occured to us before (what was the last year when Jews outnumbered whites?).

15:41 Posted in Science | Permalink | Comments (6) | Tags: race, jews

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Race Wars

Robert Paterson reports on the horror-show violence in Kenya. Among other problems, Kenya is undergoing a ethnic/race-war between the Kikuyu, the Luo, and their affiliates.

The Master Race?

Racial violence is relatively rare in the Core, but occurs in microgaps, such as parts of Los Angeles and federal prisons.

Racial/ethnic violence is a form of insurgency, attempting to replace the State with "primary loyalties." Race warriors should therefore be classified as insurgents, and (except for those who wear racial/gang insignia) unlawful combatants, as well.

Hate crime laws are probably a good idea, but msinamed, as they fight not crime, but war.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Genetic and Environmental Causes of Human Diversity

Just because a side in an argument uses bad arguments doesn't mean it's wrong. By far, the least logic and most emotional rhetoric I have ever seen was in the newsgroup talk.origins in the late 1990s, where evolutionists were bufeddled and angered by the repleis of the creationists. That doesn't mean that descent with modification by natural selection is a wrong theory. It means that the truth was weaker in its rhetoric than the false.

With that said, Stephen Metcalf's "Dissecting the IQ Debate: A Response to William Saletan's Series on Race and IQ" (hat-tip to The Corner and South Dakota Politics) is awful.

After a lengthy ad hominem attack, Metcalf begins addressing evidence for racial differences in IQ.


Much of Saletan's précis of the rest of the research surveyed in "Thirty Years of Research Into Race Differences on Cognitive Abilities" is highly questionable. His takeaway regarding the "admixture" studies is precisely the opposite of what an American Psychological Association task force concluded the studies show—that more "European" blood in a black American does not make him smarter.

Pay attention here. Metcalf attacks Saletan for citing a peer-reviewed journal article, when a politically selected task force disagreed with its conclusions. No one denies the factual claims of the article: that European admixture positively correlates with general intelligence among African-Americans. Indeed, that alone is not evidence of innate racial differences. But the correlation between miscegenation and g in the population does not go away even when corrected for other variables.


Saletan points up the problems with a favorite study of the environmentalists, into the IQ outcomes of children fathered by foreign soldiers and raised by (white) German mothers. This study showed that kids with African fathers scored the same as those with white fathers. But, Saletan says, it suffers from a fatal flaw: Blacks in the military had been screened for IQ. Saletan concludes, "Even environmentalists (scholars who advocate nongenetic explanations) concede that this filter radically distorted the numbers." But this is flatly untrue. The two most prominent environmentalists, Richard Nisbett and James Flynn, have dismissed this very objection. Both have pointed out that white soldiers were also screened, and so had higher IQs than the general white population.

This regards a study that finds Germans with African-American fathers have an IQ about that of the German population. This might be explained by the fact that the military screens for IQ, rejecting a disproportionately high number of African-Americans for that reason. The counter-argument that European-Americans were also screened is besides the point: the US Army in WWII did not engage in affirmative action. The minimum IQ level for blacks was the same as the minimum IQ level for whites.


Read more ...

13:03 Posted in Science | Permalink | Comments (15) | Tags: race, g, slate

Sunday, December 02, 2007

A Pagan Intuition

Those wacky creationists are at it again:

To Terry Erikheimer, the research itself is morally weighted. Given the complex nature of the fossil record, , Mr. Turkheimer said, “the question is fundamentally impossible to settle scientifically because we can never see people evolve from dinosaurs."

That doesn’t mean research into archeology should be banned, he said, but it should be judged. “What troubled me about posts at Cato” — an exchange Mr. Turkheimer participated in — “and the tone of Saletan’s blog is the assumption that because these papers are labeled as science, they are value-neutral and they’re as deserving of respect as any other scientific hypothesis,” he said of evolutionary theories.

“But you can’t get away from what these people are trying to prove, which is exactly the basis of the atheistic beliefs that informed segregation here for 200 years.”

Of course, the above section is a modified from the original New York Times article (hat-tip to Half Sigma). The research that is wrong, because of its implications, is on genetic differences between ancestral populations.

There are two large anti-science populations in the United States: Creationists and race-deniers. Creationists are far more numerous, but tend to be uneducated and without the power to do much. Occasionally some rally the support to force a school district to include a sticker in a bio book that evolution is only a theory -- which, of course, is true. (Gravity is another famous theory.)

Race-deniers are less numerous but far more powerful. Coming to power in academia with the rest of the Marxists in the 1960s and 1970s, race-deniers share the Creationists' fundamental fear of human biology. Further, they share with the creationists an essentially pagan intuition that if some people are found to be weaker than others, then they are less deserving of human rights. Creationists see evolutionists as social darwinists, eager to prove that the physically weak should starve. Race-deniers see evolutionists as segregationists, eager to prove that the genetically weak should drink at separate water fountains.

Instead of criticizing this paganism, the Creationists and race-deniers quietly accept it as a fact, and seek to modify facts so that they can keep their Christianist outcomes while holding on to pagan hearts.

09:15 Posted in Science | Permalink | Comments (9) | Tags: creationism, race, paganism

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

General intelligence, working memory, and how American Public Schools hurt those who need them most

Colom, R., Rebollo, I., Palacios, A., Juan-Espinosa, M., & Kyllonen, P.C. (2004). Working memory is (almost) perfectly predicted by g. Intelligence, 32(3), 277-296. doi:10.1016/j.intell.2003.12.002.

Andrew Sullivan, Ezra Klein, Half Sigma, and other bloggers of note are going around on the question of the heritability of intelligence in general, and the possibility of biological causes for the differences in general intelligence obsered in different groups. While occasionally people speak carelessly, it's remarkable how far the Standard Social Sciences Model (SSSM) of all human differences being the result of different environments has already collapsed. There are three traditional ways to attack the notion in biologically-driven racial differences in general intelligence

  1. There is no such thing as general intelligence

  2. There are no such things are races

  3. The environmental conditions in which the races tend to exist are unequal

The first two criticism are discredited. One can deny g or ancestry in the same way that one can deny darwinian selection or the old Earth: through determined dogmatism.

The third criticism remains, if only because of the horrifying inequalities in the world today. Of course, environmental inequalities can rapidly turn into biological inequalities. One only needs to look at the Inbred Gap to know that. Yet it's also true that one can be trained to perform better on any subset of tests that are used to measure general intelligence. Thus the Flynn Effect: this or that measure will suddenly deviate from the rest, causing illusionary growth or shrinkage in differences.

One measure that very closely approximates g ("(almost) perfectly predicts," in the word of the paper's excited authors) is working memory.

This article analyzes if working memory (WM) is especially important to understand g. WM comprises the functions of focusing attention, conscious rehearsal, and transformation and mental manipulation of information, while g reflects the component variance that is common to all tests of ability. The centrality of WM in individual differences in information processing leads to some cognitive theorists to equate it with g. There are several studies relating WM with psychometric abilities like reasoning, fluid intelligence, spatial visualization, spatial relations, or perceptual speed, but there are very few studies relating WM with g, defined by several diverse tests. In three studies, we assessed crystallised intelligence (Gc), spatial ability (Gv), fluid intelligence (Gf), and psychometric speed (Gs) using various tests from the psychometric literature. Moreover, we assessed WM and processing speed (PS). WM tasks involve storage requirements, plus concurrent processing. PS tasks measure the speed by which the participants take a quick decision about the identity of some stimuli; 594 participants were tested. Confirmatory factor analyses yielded consistently high estimates of the loading of g over WM (.96 on average). WM is the latent factor best predicted by g. It is proposed that this is so because the later has much in common with the main characteristic of the former.

Working memory allows you to make sense of information, so that you can remember it. It is most important in that it makes it easier to memorize things. This also explains why school appears to lower general intelligence of high-performing populations, such as Chinese: if you are in an environment where high academic achievement is socially punished, excess working memory capacity naturally atrophies. Similarly, this may explain why the heritability of g increases in life: once out of the socialized public schools, an individuals' environment is more under his control, and an individual that enjoys tasks that involve the comprehension of complex materials will strengthen those neural connections more.

If g really is working memory, the educational implications are huge. The soft bigotry of low expectations is especially brutal to those apparently with low working memory capacity. Because working memory does not matter once a task is memorized. Memorization is the way-out of the trap of low working memory. And what's needed for memorization is clear: practice, academic discipline, and practice. Yet who believes that fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education most majority-black schools are models of academic seriousness and discipline?

Even more tragic -- if the link between general intelligence and working memory is strong -- working memory is trivially easy to test. There's no need for race-conscious policies at all to battle what may be the worst racial inequality through education. We could close much of the achievement gap, regardless of average biological differences between races.

Instead, we have America's public schools.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Subtleties of Inheritance

Half Sigma discovers "epigenetics," which is a general term for heritable elements that are not DNA. Maternal cytoplasm is an example of an epigenetic factor, though there probably are more. I assume that epigenetics probably works to exaggerate genetic differences. For instance, if two lands are otherwise equal, except one population is "genetically" higher in intelligence, that population is less likely to experience a famine, and so less likely to be epigenetically stunted.

At the same time, (courtesy of Crooked Timber) Eric Turkheimer of CATO speaks carefully about "innate" differences. Eric post essentially boils down to the fact that genes are expressed differently in different environments. Thus, it's possible to imagine a world, with the same DNA distribution, where sub-Saharan Africans outscore Jews on intelligence tests. And it's even easier to imagine a system where the general factor of intelligence does not correlate with verbal skill, spatial skill, height, etc. Of course, those worlds are not our worlds.

Adam of The Metropolis Times emphasizes that, whatever average group differences are, and whatever their origins, people should be judged as individuals. And human rights belong to all humans, not just who score well on tests.

08:46 Posted in Science | Permalink | Comments (3) | Tags: race, dna, genetics, innate, inheritance

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Never believe it. We've fought too hard.

Courtsy of Half Sigma, an exceptionally good article from Slate.com on liberal creationism. The article is solid and unremarkable, other than for its intended audience. What's most interesting are the comments it generated from Salonists. I lurked in the forum, and found some zingers.

My favorite is so over-the-top I wonder if i is a satire:

I don't care what the "scientific evidence" says - I'll never believe the "truth" that the races aren't equal. We've fought too hard for too long. I also am very disappointed to see Slate publish this pablum - maybe in the National Review or whatever rag Herr Bush reads, but not Slate.

Another clearly disaproves of gnxp:

Jason Malloy is a member of one of the most notorious racist blogs on the Internet -- Gene Expression. The bloggers there claim blacks and Hispanics are geneticially inferior -- a missing link between apes and humans. Ironically, Malloy himself is at least a quarter black, but can pass for white. Hatred of his own ancestry seems to motivate him. He has no background whatsoever in science.

Steveangr takes a pot-shot at christian Creationism while defending his own kind:

Christians go through a phase because they were indoctrinated to sth that is false and now they have either to come in terms with the false bearing or choose the right thing which is different from their upbringing. Believing that there is no inherent genetic trait to intelligence, is not only supported by science -thus far- but it is wrong to thing otherwise, it's yours the pit you have dug there...

The comments I linked to were about average. Some were well meaning but misinformed. Others were emotional and clearly hurt. A few trotted out things they clearly learned in a 100-level class, and authoratively stated that anyone who took a freshman-level class would realize.

All in all, a good read if you're looking for dogmatism.

20:46 Posted in Science | Permalink | Comments (6) | Tags: race, salon, intelligence

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

Courtesy of Gene Expression, a sad tale of an intellectual meltdown over at Little Green Footballs (a right-of-center American blog) against Brussels Journal (a right-of-center European blog). Part of the case was this post:

In this society, everyone has grown up on lies that few are equipped to challenge. The older ones have grown up with plastic called leatherette, with cigarettes as symbols of sex appeal, and with Negroes in the front line in the Army but in the back line at the bus stop. And the younger ones have grown up in a world where a short coffee is “tall” and a medium one is “grande,” and one’s life is ruined for pointing out that the American blacks’ mean IQ of 85, and not racism, is the cause of their underepresentation in the upper echelons of government, business and the professions.

What's odd, of course, is that thinking about current differences in general intelligence (whatever their cause) sheds light on institutional, unjust discrimination in our society.

Consider "retardation" (the hip special-ed term of another day, roughly an IQ score below 70). There are two major categories of retardation

  • familial retardation, where the child's IQ is roughly the average of his parents'

  • organic retardation, where the child's IQ is significantly below the average of his parents

Individuals who are organically retarded have substantial difficulty in leading a normal life. Often organic retardation goes along with poor hygiene, poor grooming, or other general deficiencies in behavior.

Familial retardation, in contrast, pretty much means only that someone does less well in problems that involve spatial and logical reasoning.

Clearly, one's life is better if one is neither. But the problems facing the organically retarded are much, much more severe than those facing the familially retarded. And likewise, care that is appropriate for the organically retarded (a strong focus on basic social skills) would be neglectful for the familially retarded (who may require, by contrast, more intense schooling).

Yet many school systems lump both organically and familially retarded children together in one special education problem. As a consequence, the whole system of special education is biased toward organically retarded (disproportionately white) children who have basic problems with grooming and social interaction, deprivig familially retarded (disproportionately black) children of precisely the sort of intense schooling they need.

Of course, this is not to say that all familiailly retarded students are black, nor that all organically retarded students are white. Nor that most whites are organically retarded, nor that most blacks are familially retarded.

But the larger point remains: ignoring science because it is inconvenient does not make the world a better place. Ignoring inconvenient facts makes the world a worse place.

Ignoring inconvenient facts can lead to racist outcomes.

And such ignorance can cause stupid disagreements. Like LGF's attack on Brussels Journal.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

White Europeans "less intelligent," blogger claims

Via Sean Meade and Kottke, the headline "Black people 'less intelligent' scientist claims" attempts to summarize this:

[Discoverer of DNA James Watson] says that he is “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really”, and I know that this “hot potato” is going to be difficult to address.

Readers of this blog will be familiar with this line of criticism. I have brought it up on June 18th, August 24th, September 6th, September 9th, and September 27th.

Now, Jim Watson may not be a "profoundly evil man," but he is a bomb thrower more interested in outraging his enemies than in converting them to friends. (He shares this traits with Richard Dawkins, a man he agrees with any many issues.)

Therefore, I won't address his anecdotal "evidence" or personal behavior, but Watson is getting at the fact that there are multiple standard deviations between general intelligence in certain populations. For instance, each group in the following list has a mean general intelligence about one standard deviation higher than the group next on the list

  • Ashkenazi Jews

  • White Europeans

  • African Americans

  • Black Africans

It appears, though there is not conclusive proof, that environment, culture, epigenetics (maternal cytoplasm), and genetics (Watson's DNA) all play a role in the difference. (Of course, there are confounding factors which may or may not be relevent -- Black Africans possess the greatest in-group genetic diversity on the planet, while Ashkenazi Jews are genetically one of the most uniform populations.) But the cause is less important than the fact, which is that these large differences in general intelligence exist now.

Two questions, for those of us living in the developed world, are

  • Should the free exercise of a citizen's rights depend on their ancestral group's mean general intelligence

  • Should the free exercise of a citizen's rights depend on his general intelligence

  • Should nation building efforts in other countries depend on the mean general intelligence in that country.

The first two questions are normative, whiel the third is technical. The answers, of course, are

  • No

  • Sometimes

  • Yes

gnxp has a good take on this pseudo-controversy, and also (somewhat relatedly) about inbreeding among Samaritans.

19:24 Posted in Science | Permalink | Comments (14) | Tags: genetics, race, james watson

Friday, October 05, 2007

Forensic Racial Genetics

Newsome, M. (2007). The incovenient science of racial DNA profiling. Wired. October 5, 2007. Available online: http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2007/10/dnaprint?currentPage=all (from gnxp).

The article is extremely cool, first describing a new technology with obvious Sysadmin implications:

In early March, 2003, investigators turned to Tony Frudakis, a molecular biologist who said he could determine the killer's race by analyzing his DNA. They were unsure about the science, so, before giving him the go-ahead, the task force sent Frudakis DNA swabs taken from 20 people whose race they knew and asked him to determine their races through blind testing. He nailed every single one...

"Your guy has substantial African ancestry," said Frudakis. "He could be Afro-Caribbean or African American but there is no chance that this is a Caucasian. No chance at all."

There was a prolonged, stunned silence, followed by a flurry of questions looking for doubt but Frudakis had none. Would he bet his life on this, they wanted to know? Absolutely. In fact, he was certain that the Baton Rouge serial killer was 85 percent Sub-Saharan African and 15 percent native American.

"This means we're going to turn our investigation in an entirely different direction," Frudakis recalls someone saying. "Are you comfortable with that?"

"Yes. I recommend you do that," he said. And now, rather than later since, in the time it took Frudakis to analyze the sample, the killer had claimed his fifth victim. The task force followed Frudakis' advice and, two months later, the killer was in custody.

As the technology gets more advanced, more and more details about criminals will be derivable from scant genetic clues. Imagine being able to derive not just where bombs are going off, for example, but the locations of a country where they are probably being assembled -- all before starting your humint operations.

Of course, anti-science is part of the Standard Social Science Model, so it's no surprise that modern crime-fighting has its enemies:

But even the people one might think should be his biggest allies aren't supporting that, including Tony Clayton, the special prosecutor who tried one of the Baton Rouge murder cases. Clayton, who is black, admits that he initially dismissed Frudakis as some white guy trying to substantiate his racist views. He no longer believes that and says "had it not been for Frudakis, we would still be looking for the white guy in the white pick-up truck." But then he adds, "We've been taught that we're all the same, that we bleed the same blood. If you subscribe to the (Frudakis) theory, you're saying we are inherently unequal."

He continues: "If I could push a button and make this technology disappear, I would."

Online: DNAPrint Genomics

17:05 Posted in Science | Permalink | Comments (1) | Tags: dna, race, forensics

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