July 27, 2010

"Why Do IQ Scores Vary By Nation?"

Newsweek asks:
Global differences in intelligence is a sensitive topic, long fraught with controversy and still tinged by the disgraceful taint of pseudosciences such as craniometry that strove to prove the white “race” as the most clever of them all. But recent data, perplexingly, has indeed shown cognitive ability to be higher in some countries than in others....

Using data on national “disease burdens” (life years lost due to infectious diseases) and average intelligence scores, the authors found a striking inverse correlation—around 67 percent. The countries with the lowest average IQ scores—Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Mozambique, Gabon—have among the highest disease burdens. In contrast, nations with low disease burdens top the IQ list, with Singapore, South Korea, China, Japan, and Italy in the lead.

There's no question that hookworm and many other diseases sap mental energy. But Singapore is as close to the equator and as low in altitude as those African countries, so its inherent disease burden potential is about as bad.

Sociologist Robert K. Merton coined the term the Matthew Effect from the Gospel:
"For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away."

But the passive voice here is misleading. The Singaporeans, under the guidance of their supersmart control freak leader Lee Kwan Yew, weren't given a low disease burden, they earned it. They worked very hard to improve hygiene and health. What would be a more important use for spare IQ points than to fight disease?

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

Southwest China. The provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou and Guangxi have a high disease burden.

Anonymous said...

Some quotes by Lee Kuan Yew:

"Free education and subsidised housing lead to a situation where the less economically productive people in the community are reproducing themselves at rates higher than the rest. This will increase the total population of less productive people. Our problem is how to devise a system of disincentives, so that the irresponsible, the social delinquents, do not believe that all they have to do is to produce their children and the government then owes them and their children sufficient food, medicine, housing, education and jobs...We must encourage those who earn less than $200 per month and cannot afford to nurture and educate many children never to have more than two. We will regret the time lost if we do not now take the first tentative steps towards correcting a trend which can leave our society with a large number of the physically, intellectually and culturally anaemic."

"I am often accused of interfering in the private lives of citizens. Yes, if I did not, had I not done that, we wouldn't be here today. And I say without the slightest remorse, that we wouldn't be here, we would not have made economic progress, if we had not intervened on very personal matters - who your neighbour is, how you live, the noise you make, how you spit, or what language you use. We decide what is right. Never mind what the people think."

Anonymous said...

It is, of course, entirely possible that disease and poor - or inconsistent - nutrition have kept African IQs (relatively) low.

Something has.

However, I suspect Newsweek is suggesting (hoping) that these are temporary and reversible influences, and they may be.

But its not a guarantee that they are.

jack strocchi said...

Steve S. sets up:

But Singapore is as close to the equator and as low in altitude as those African countries, so its inherent disease burden potential is about as bad.

I was going to jump in there with the counter-fact that the Singaporeans are the [equatorial disease] exception that proves the [high-IQ Asian] rule, since they are obsessive about personal hygiene and public health. But I see you were simply holding back the punch line, see below.

Steve S. closes down:

The Singaporeans, under the guidance of their supersmart control freak leader Lee Kwan Yew, weren't given a low disease burden, they earned it. They worked very hard to improve hygiene and health. What would be a more important use for spare IQ points than to fight disease?

Damn.

Anonymous said...

Hmm... What place had the lowest disease burden, historically. It was the pre-Columbian Americas. We know this because we know what happened when they were put in contact with Europeans, they have no resistance, and further, they have almost identical HLA profiles, which indicates they weren't selecting for good immunity.

Were the native Americans the smartest folks? Nope not really, because there is another factor that matters even more, When you started farming. If your people started farming 10,000 years ago, they are very different from people who only started 6,000 years ago.

There are three factors that are important.
1. When your people started farming and building complex societies.
2. Disease burden like the article says.
3. How far north did your people live. Colder climates require ingenuity.

From the study, but not reported because it is very un-PC

We also propose a complementary hypothesis that may explain some of the effects of infectious disease on intelligence. As we mentioned, it is possible that a conditional developmental pathway exists that invests more energy into the immune system at the expense of brain development. In an environment where there has consistently been a high metabolic cost associated with parasitic infection, selection would not favour the maintenance of a phenotypically plastic trait. That is, the conditional strategy of allocating more energy into brain development during periods of health would be lost, evolutionarily, if periods of health were rare. Peoples living in areas of consistently high prevalence of infectious disease over evolutionary time thus may possess adaptations that favour high obligatory investment in immune function at the expense of other metabolically expensive traits such as intelligence. Data do not currently exist on temporal variation of the severity of infectious disease across the world over human history. For genetically distinct adaptations in intelligence to exist based on this principle, parasite levels must be quite consistent over evolutionary time. If this is not the case, then selection would maintain investment in the immune system and in the brain as a plastic (as opposed to static) trait.

Curious Lurker said...

Never thought about it before (and too lazy to look it up myself), but I wonder how many Singaporeans emigrate (to US or elsewhere)? Lee Kuan Yew's "less economically productive... intellectually and culturally anaemic ... irresponsible ... (not to mention intractably noisy, spitting) ... social delinquents" would probably love to emigrate if we shared a border. Of course if we open our borders, Lee Kuan Yew might spring for their airfare.

Anonymous said...

"What would be a more important use for spare IQ points than to fight disease?"

Oh, I don't know. Maybe manipulating a bunch of guilt-prone whites into going along with your agenda?

Anonymous said...

But, but ...there is more (IQ) variation within nations than between them.

The Wobbly Guy said...

LKY's right, as usual. And he's honest.

I've been thinking about the differences between Hong Kong and Singapore, and why the Hongkies can get away with far less intrusive policy than us in Singapore, and yet are just as much, if not more, successful.

In the end, I think the factors are mostly ethnic - Hong Kong is pretty much homogenous, Singapore is not. Hong Kong is surrounded by ethnically identical states, and again Singapore is not.

C. Van Carter said...

It is perplexing! That first sentence is ritual purification.

Curvaceous Carbon-based Life Form said...

"hypothesis that may explain some of the effects of infectious disease on intelligence."

I need somebody to explain something to me: Why IS this study considered PC?

I ask because it seems to me, HBD-denying lefty thinking goes: "See? TOLD you IQ isn't genetic, it's all environmental. It's disease load. Disease in infancy causes you to be low IQ -- which, by the way, IQ isn't real anyway."

OK. So that implies the no-genetic-component-to-IQ left now assumes, as a result of the paper, remove the disease and the IQ jumps, at least for the next generation which is fortunate enought to grow up in a disease-free environment. Right?

So, did they read the study? The study is verbosely telling us that populations that have had high disease load for evolutionarily long time scales LOSE their ability to have a high IQ when the diseases are eliminated.
This study is evidence that it IS all genetic.
So why is this study PC? Did they not read it?

Anonymous said...

I come at this from a different direction than most of you: I think HBD in intelligence is not very significant compared to environmental and cultural factors. But conventional wisdom is so entrenched and rigorously policed that it's forbidden to even raise the idea that some populations might cognitively lag behind others. So from that perspective, the Newsweek article is a major step forward. And once the issue is raised, even an HBDist like Steve acknowledges that there are environmental (micronutrients, better nutrition and prenatal health) and cultural (attacking the anti-education and anti-intellectual cultures of certain groups) things that can be done to make up some ground.

Paavo said...

Brings to mind the Galton proposal of settling africa with chinese.

I hope there still are enough chinese communities in African countries to check what effect africa has in their IQs.

Anonymous said...


And once the issue is raised, even an HBDist like Steve acknowledges that there are environmental (micronutrients, better nutrition and prenatal health) and cultural (attacking the anti-education and anti-intellectual cultures of certain groups) things that can be done to make up some ground.


Even someone with an IQ of 100 is never going to grasp Calculus ... and someone with an IQ of 90 is going to have a hard time with Algebra.

Their reaction to forcing them learn this stuff is "never try to teach a pig to sing! I want to be out there fucking broads!"

Anonymous said...

Hasn't one of those neuro-researcher light show jockeys recently shown that sheer mass of frontal grey matter may be a factor in IQ (or whatever PC term you prefer: 'cognitive functioning, anyone'?).
One of our science geeks should be able to provide the link.
Anyhow, seems those disgraceful Victorian dummy 'pseudoscientists' may have been on to something.

Eric said...

There's no question that hookworm and many other diseases sap mental energy. But Singapore is as close to the equator and as low in altitude as those African countries, so its inherent disease burden potential is about as bad.

I'm not sure how many conclusions you can reasonably draw by comparing a city with more reasonably sized countries. Singapore is without the sort of jungle terrain that produces so many crazy parasites in Africa. And any public health initiatives they try can be pretty easily applied to the entire ecosystem without worrying too much about what the neighbors do.

It's not too difficult to envision Singapore carrying out a mosquito eradication program, for example, but I doubt such a thing could be done in Gabon, even if they had the resources.

Anonymous said...

"even an HBDist like Steve acknowledges that there are environmental (micronutrients, better nutrition and prenatal health) and cultural (attacking the anti-education and anti-intellectual cultures of certain groups) things that can be done to make up some ground."

Even if ground is made up,what is going to happen,since there aren't enough jobs now for educated people.

What if everyone graduated from high school or even college. What does that do, especially in America? Maybe in Africa it will help.

How many untapped engineers do we really have and even if we can produce a 100,000 more,will that help against the H1b's or outsourcing if the gov't doesn't stop this stuff?

TGGP said...

Speaking of pre-columbian native american IQ, Michael H. Hart used their higher IQ relative to Africans in "Understanding Human History" to refute Jared Diamond.

asdfasdfsdf said...

"But the passive voice here is misleading. The Singaporeans, under the guidance of their supersmart control freak leader Lee Kwan Yew, weren't given a low disease burden, they earned it. They worked very hard to improve hygiene and health. What would be a more important use for spare IQ points than to fight disease?"

And Jews weren't given the modern nation of Israel. They built it from scratch from a desert.
And until relatively recently, it was common for people in most non-Western nations to have intestinal worms. I knew this woman from Taiwan who was born in the late 60s. She came to US in the 80s, and told me that as a child she had to take medicine to purge worms from her stomach. In fact, medicine was handed out to everyone in school.
And besides, kids in Detroit don't have hookworms and they eat a helluva better than most Asians and even a lot of Europeans. But, they don't do so good at school.
And if AFricans have no energy, how come they sure have lots of it left over for dancing and singing?

These damn liberals just can't face up to IQ differences in DNA so now they've moved onto diseases. When that idea runs dry, they'll look for other correlations. And around and around we go. It's like Jewish lawyers endlessly prolonging a case through endless legal maneuvers.

We are living in reverse-Kafka world. In The Trial and The Castle, it was the Jewishy character who was locked out of the SYSTEM via endless obstacles, technicalities, details, etc.
Now, it's like Joseph K.s of the world took over the world and driving the rest of us crazy. Jews are IN and we the majority on the OUTSIDE are exiled from the bastions of power and told lies upon lies upon lies.

asdasdasdf said...

So, how are Somali students doing in America? How well are Ethiopian Jews doing when compared to other kinds of Jews? I don't they have much to worry about diseases.

And I suppose why China cannot win the 100 m sprint is because it has too many rice paddies. With all that sticky dirt and mud, Chinese don't get good traction to practice.

Anonymous said...

Just ever-so-slightly off-topic, but if you're in a really masochistic mood, then try to force yourself to read the NY Times's latest: The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers.

But, again, only if you're in a really masochistic mood.

N Ackerman said...

The study actually helps HBD'ers. The Carribean nations have an equal disease burden to the South American ones but still have signifcantly lower scores.

This is consistent with the evolutionary explanation for group differences.

Anonymous said...

From the article:

The study controlled for other potential causes of the IQ gap, such as the aforementioned education, agricultural labor, and income levels, as well as climate (colder lands tend to have higher IQ scores, and some theorists have proposed that lower temperatures may evolutionarily select for higher intelligence) and distance from humanity’s African cradle, which is the notion that unfamiliar lands might have forced migrating humans to become smarter. However, with the exception of this last theory—which has in any case been challenged—it turns out that “infectious disease remains the most powerful predictor of average national IQ.”

The bit about "this last theory" is interesting. It appears to be saying that distance from Africa is an even better predictor of intelligence than disease. But it says this is such an oblique and noncommittal way that I'm sure 99 percent of the readers missed the fact the the main point the article was trying to make had just been contradicted.

B Lode said...

Distance-from-Africa doesn't really work though. In terms of a land route, Australia is quiet far away, but the aborigines don't do that well on IQ tests.

Multigeneration-origin-in-cold-populous-areas is a better theory.

Anonymous said...

Since we're talking about correlations, it's possible for distance from Africa to be the best explanation overall even if it doesn't work for places like Indonesia and Australia.

Anonymous said...

"So, did they read the study? The study is verbosely telling us that populations that have had high disease load for evolutionarily long time scales LOSE their ability to have a high IQ when the diseases are eliminated.
This study is evidence that it IS all genetic.
So why is this study PC? Did they not read it? "

I just had to address this comment because of how incredibly stupid it is- although there's plenty of stupid ideas in this thread, this one just stood out.

This study argues that disease and parasites lower IQ- a well established idea, so I don't understand the interest in this study- by way of divergent metabolic demands in early childhood. That's probably not the only way disease effects mental functioning in early childhood, but probably one way.

And since some people can handle disease better than others, they likewise won't suffer as much as others.

But you take this as saying that some people actually see an increase in IQ- somehow- by simply suffering disease. Where the living hell do you glean that from? This study never said anything like that, only that some relatively longer term adaptions can allow people to suffer less from disease burden. And obviously, disease long affected even places like europe and east asia well up until the massive increase in living conditions and medical technology.

I mean do you have any idea what you're saying? You're implying that some people, when afflicted with disease, don't experience a divergence of metabolic energy from the brain to other parts of the body- somehow, it goes in reverse. I'm pretty sure that's such a maladaptive trait it doesn't exist in any organism on earth.

And when the disease burden is removed, they suddenly get dumber?

My god, you have no reading comprehension.

none of the above said...

Is there a link to the original study in the article? I didn't see it.

Did the original study make a broader evolutionary argument, along the lines of evolution for disease resistance leading to lower intelligence? This seems pretty unintuitive to me, given that until the last couple or three centuries, European cities were cesspits of disease of every kind.

Similarly, explaining IQ as a function of distance traveled from Africa strikes me as mainly capturing race/IQ differences. Australian Aboriginees and South American Indians should otherwise be expected to have high IQs, instead of very low and middling IQs, respectively.

Anonymous said...

"But the Earth does move..."

Anonymous said...

Another Lee Kuan Yew quote (translated from Chinese): "Had we not done the things we've done, Singapore would be another Philippines: Exporting its women to clean the toilets and raise the children of rich people elsewhere."

B Lode said...

[The study implies to the left that you can] remove the disease and the IQ jumps, at least for the next generation which is fortunate enought to grow up in a disease-free environment.

[But in reality the] study is verbosely telling us that populations that have had high disease load for evolutionarily long time scales LOSE their ability to have a high IQ when the diseases are eliminated.


I don't think Curvaceous said anything related to what the last anonymous critic thinks Curvaceous said. Curvaceous was talking about the permanency of disease's effects on IQ, not the direction of those effects. Curvaceous is critiquing a superficial leftist reading which presupposes an ability for a population to magically bounce back from the intergenerational retarding effects of disease.

I myself have no opinion on the study.

B Lode said...

None of the above,

Sailer's article in VDare gives the link to the Eppig study. I tried to click it but it was temporarily unavailable.

Interesting article ... I'll peruse it later. I hope I can see the study itself too.

Doug1 said...

Blacks in America have an average IQ of 85, whites 100. We know that blacks have on average about 20% Euro blood in them (more in the north, less in the south). Therefore under US conditions, with simple algebra, if we back out the white blood, blacks in America would have IQs of 80 if they had no white blood.

West Africans who made up most of the US former slave population, have IQs a bit below 70 on average. Hence it’s not unreasonable to suppose that Africa’s parasite, disease, nutritional deficits and other environmental negative factors account for around 10-12 points of the enormous gap between average black African and average Euro IQs. (North Africa is about 2/3 Caucasian of the Berber and Arab variety, and 1/3 black, w/that distributed lumpily. More blacks at the bottom.)

It takes an awful lot of PC denial to not realize that this huge gap is what’s mostly responsible for Africa’s endemic low end poverty with hardly any non resource based (or white lead) industrial progress, while NE Asia has spurted really fast in world standings since WWII. With China late to the party due to an actually enforced communist state directed economy until about 1980. Some of it could be fixed but some of it can’t be. However, what’s with this enormous white “guilt” compulsion to fix it and equalize all the world’s ethnicities? The Chinese sure don’t share that view.

Anonymous said...

Blacks in America have an average IQ of 85, whites 100.

According to Murray's infamous Footnote #44 [if I understand it correctly], American Black women had an average IQ of 83.7 in 1979, but their children had an average IQ of only 80.2, in 1997, a mere 18 years later.

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