May 23, 2008

National Review on "The Fallacy of Genetic Determinism"

Blogger and software executive Jim Manzi (who, to my surprise, is not the software executive Jim Manzi who headed Lotus Development back in the days of the 1-2-3 spreadsheet) has a cover story in National Review rehashing the conventional wisdom, "Undetermined: there is danger in assuming that genes explain all." Unfalsifiability, eugenics, the Holocaust, etc etc

There's much in it that's true (e.g., "Correlation is not causality"), and maybe a thing or two that is new, but I didn't see anything significant that's new and true, and quite a bit that will be misleading to people who haven't thought hard about the issues.

I'll respond at length elsewhere.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

22 comments:

rightsaidfred said...

>>>>I'll respond at length elsewhere.

You're such a tease.

What I usually notice in these types of discussions is that emotions and statistics don't mix. When people get emotionally defensive, they start thinking in terms of 100% true or false; one counter example negates the whole premise. Thus it becomes difficult to discuss the relative contribution of nature or nurture.

mansizedtarget said...

I hate when people say "correlation is not causation" without any explanation. It's true. Sometimes there is another cause, such as socio-economic differences. In the case of university graduates, higher IQs drive wage differences more than the degree itself. But today it's piously intoned as if something useful is being said, when in fact something important is obscured: often, in social sciences, correlation is the chief proof of causation and, when coupled with a common sense narrative, the end of the discussion.

Anonymous said...

I've just been noticing a small wave of anti-IQ-genetics articles popping up around the web.
Some stating that immigrant African's are overall more accomplished in college than whites and asians, while gleefully dismissing asian "brainiacs" as a completely false stereotype being carried on at the expense of the recognition of sterling African achievement.
Good to know African's are absolutely dominating in our Ivy League schools.
I was concerned.

Anonymous said...

Blogger and software executive Jim Manzi (who, to my surprise, is not the software executive Jim Manzi who headed Lotus Development

Surprising in the sense that the two are both software executives who happen to be named "Jim Manzi." Not surprising in the sense that Jim Manzi v1.0 was/is a big-time liberal, while this one is connected to National Review.

Wonder if they're related? If so, what does that say about his theory that genes aren't all that important?

TGGP said...

"even though correlation is not causation, as everyone quickly learns on the Internet, correlation requires an explanation. And more importantly, it invalidates all worldviews that predict that no such correlation would exist."
Ilkka Kokkarinen

Regarding immigrants, there is a very strong degree of selection going on.

Anonymous said...

i imagine we can expect a wave of such articles like the 'war on christmas' editorial wave of the last couple of years - a frantic attempt to cover up truth by honoring it in the breech.

dearieme said...

"Determinism" is a bit of a straw man, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Manzi presumes to lecture conservatives on the dangers of overestimating genetic contributions. Yet he fails to mention the tens of millions who have died because leftist societies strove to create a "new soviet man" who made a revolutionary break from human nature.

I believe the body count for leftist extreme environmentalism is higher than that of extreme genetic political movements.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone really think there was chance the tide was turning against the race deniers? The race deniers are just getting warmed up. They are going to take their game to a whole new level. Their intellectual and political assaults will become bolder and even more aggressive.

The Neo-Trotskyites will never stop their permanent revolution. They are targeting the remaining holdouts on the Right on the crucial question of race and purging all political incorrect voices from positions of authority. This is the true heart and soul of Neo-Conservatism.

Jonah Goldberg is advocating that McCain pick a Democrat VP in the same magazine. That is called controlling the spectrum of acceptable political discourse. The plan has always been to have two leftwing parties "argue". The mission is nearly accomplished.

Anonymous said...

Jim Manzi here (no relation to the "other" Jim Manzi, to answer a question raised by a commenter).

A quick comment on "correlation is not causality". It's obviously a truism, and was only a section head for one part of the article, rather than being presneted as some huge insight.

Mansizedtarget et al, the questions about the relationship between correlation and causality are deep ones (in my view). I'll simply summarize by saying that I think there are many, many instances of "correlation plus common sense narrative" fooling very smart people into thinking they have found causation, when it really wasn't there.

I also did not pick the title with the word "detrminism", and I agree, that taken literally is a bit of a strawman. Hopefully you will see that I was careful to always discuss genes-plus-environment.

I'll make a deal with everyone here. If you read the article, I'll try to respond to any questions that I can about it.

If interested, there is already a fairly long Q&A discussion at The American Scene on it that includes Steve. It also has some back-and-forth between me and Razib on some of the more technical / mathematical parts of the argument.


Best,
Jim Manzi

testing99 said...

Isn't there a lot of evidence to suggest that historically speaking, genes are a lot more malleable than we think?

If you look at say, the transition of Northern European inhabitants, from say 300 AD to 1500 AD, over 1200 years you see a huge change in behavior.

Far more cooperation. "Bourgeois" attitudes of self-control and "professionalism" and so on. Vast increases in literacy and marriage/family patterns completely transformed.

People stopped being pagan Germanic tribesman looting the Romans and became ... stolid German burghers conducting business in stolid Lutheran fashion. If there were genetic components to the behaviors of the people there in AD 300 and AD 1500, they sure changed significantly over historically little time.

Anonymous said...

to testing99

Please keep in mind that we know little about the folk-ways of the Germanic tribes on the periphery of the empire. Do we not mostly read accounts written by their enemies? And these were a self-adsorbed lot similar in some respects to our own leading classes, excepting the fact that many of the ancient Romans possessed personal courage and abilities in trades other than fraud and propaganda.

Mostly the vicious Germans resisted noble Roman intrusions until they were uprooted and finally driven into the imperial holding by the Huns, the real catalysts of the end of the classical world.

Likely as not the Germans were largely subsistence farmers adapted to a cold climate where living day-to-day was not an option. They did seem to have an admirable attachment to local institutions and places that persisted into modern times.

Ron Guhname said...

After many years of seeing hundreds of studies conducted with the shoddiest methods accepted hook, line and sinker by social scientists, government officials, and the public (Freudianism is a great example; social stratification--i.e., race, class, and gender--a more recent one), the idea that now we can't trust genetic research because its methods are not up to snuff is laughable.

David said...

We can't trust genes because that would be undemocratic and lead to another Holocaust. All the good people are against genes. Join the bandwagon! (Oh yeah, if I rummage around long enough, I'll come up with some "technical" "science" to help support this. Such as, "correlation isn't causation," and "the exception doesn't prove the rule.")

Any horse breeder knows better. Why don't we apply the same principles to humans? We used to; it was called "eugenics" and before that, "good breeding."

Now the mainstream culture positively encourages BAD breeding.

For one has two choices: breed up, or breed down. If one denies that there is any such thing as good breeding, one has chosen door number two by default.

Mencius Moldbug said...

Manzi's article is defending a proposition by attacking its converse as insufficiently supported.

The problem is that the converse is much better-supported than the original proposition. If Manzi, who is not dumb, were to compare the two side by side, he'd see this instantly.

The original proposition: genetic variation is not a plausible cause of the observed differences between human subpopulations.

Manzi, who again is not dumb, may say that he does not believe this proposition. He probably doesn't. There is certainly little or no evidence for it. There is plenty of evidence for the converse.

But most intelligent people believe the proposition, not the converse. So why, if Manzi's intention is to enlighten his readers, is he arguing against the converse?

Anonymous said...

So evidence of previous shoddiness makes you MORE likely to accept current questionable things? That is the attitude of the debater, not the scientist. Or of the little child who beleives that tit for tat (lie for lie) is acceptible.

Mark said...

Here is the debate between Steve Sailer and Jim Manzi that is currently IN PROGRESS over at The American Scene:

http://theamericanscene.com/2008/05/23/undetermined

rast said...

Jim Manzi v1.0 was/is a big-time liberal, while this one is connected to National Review.

So they're the same person?

(This is, after all, the same national review that just endorsed lieberman for VP)

Anonymous said...

So evidence of previous shoddiness makes you MORE likely to accept current questionable things? That is the attitude of the debater, not the scientist. Or of the little child who beleives that tit for tat (lie for lie) is acceptible.

It's the attitude of one who knows leftists are liars, hypocrites, fantasists, or occasionally, all three.

Svigor

vinteuil said...

Mr. Moldbug makes exactly the right point here:

"Manzi's article is defending a proposition by attacking its converse as insufficiently supported.

"The problem is that the converse is much better-supported than the original proposition...But most intelligent people believe the proposition, not the converse. So why, if Manzi's intention is to enlighten his readers, is he arguing against the converse?"

Precisely so. What we have here is a disputable empirical question, where *most* of the available evidence - but not *conclusive* evidence - favors side A.

However, strangely enough, the consensus of interested parties not only favors side B, but treats those who favor side A as moral and intellectual pariahs.

So why enter the lists on behalf of the relatively weakly supported position - i.e., side A - which is *already* the consensus view of the great & the good?

If one's intention is to enlighten one's readers?

Anonymous said...

Actually, we do know quite a bit about biochemical correlates to behavior. For example, relative lack of serotonin-2 receptors (or lack of activity of these receptors) in the ventromedial prefontal cortex (VPC) in the brain has been linked with lack of adaptive social behavior. This link has been found in both humans and other primates. Interestingly, monkeys with low serotonin activity in the VPC have also shown poor grooming habits; a classic sign of someone who is "off" and socially incompetent is poor hygiene and dress (this is probably why employers don't like people coming into job interviews looking less than sharp). Both humans and animals who have serious damage to this sector of the brain show grossly inhibited social behavior--for example, people with such brain damage have consistently been unable to hold jobs (even if they were previously good workers in high positions). See Antonio Damasio's Decartes' Error. This is speculation, but the effectiveness of Ritalin (methylphenidate) and other stimulants in alleviating ADHD and promoting docility may have more to do with their (greatly) increasing the availability of serotonin than with their greatly increasing the availability of dopamine.

Anonymous said...

I'm following the debate over at TAS. Even if I were a blank slate-ist I'd still have to read this blog every day:

Sailer:"What planet in what year does your article describe? Bizarro World? htraE in the year 8002 D.A.?"

That's a LOL right there. I wouldn't have been able to muster a fraction of the forbearance you are displaying.