June 18, 2005

The NYT runs another rave review of Freakonomics

After Jim Holt's softball review last month, Roger Lowenstein says the same old same old all over again, accepting Levitt's abortion-cut-crime theory without demurral or the slightest evidence that he ever spent ten minutes Googling the subject.

Aren't these NYT tongue-baths of Freakonomics getting a little unseemly? After all, the NYT now employs Levitt and Dubner to write a regular column for the NYT Magazine. Does the term "conflict of interest" come to mind?

Okay, okay, I know a lot of economists are shocked, SHOCKED by my insinuations that some of the puffery associated with the Freakonomics fad is a bit self-interested, so forget I ever said that... I admit, it's utterly beyond belief that anyone associated with economics could ever be motivated by financial gain.

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

U.S. Open: Pinehurst #2

This North Carolina golf course is perhaps the dullest looking great course on TV, because television cameras have a hard time picking up its unique feature: all the relatively small undulations around the dome-shaped greens. Watching Pinehurst on TV can be more fun than normal because the golf balls don't behave the way you'd expect because you can't really see the ups and downs. Shots land on what look like flat greens and then roll in crazy paths right off the green. It would be more fun to see in person, where your naked eyes can pick up all the complex slopes and you can understand the challenges, both mental and physical, that the golfers face: not just the hitting the green, but of picking out the right spot on the green to land the ball to get it to roll close to today's pin placement, and then executing the shots from 100 to 200 yards away.

Pinehurst served for decades as the winter home of the most prolific architect of the Golden Age of design, Donald Ross. When the Depression largely ended the golf architecture business, Ross retired to Pinehurst and puttered for years at turning the resort's #2 course into his masterpiece. Oddly enough, though, the most distinctive feature of the course, the dome-shaped, "inverted saucer" saucer greens that tend to shed all but the perfect shot apparently weren't intentional. Pete Dye claims that years of greenskeeping, piling fertilizer and the like on the greens, inadvertently raised their ground level and that Ross was thinking about shaving them down when he died in 1948.

Here's my article on golf course architecture as an art form -- now with 25 photos.

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

If Stephen Jay Gould were alive today, he'd spinning in his grave

Gould devoted a lot of space in his 1981 bestseller denouncing IQ research The Mismeasure of Man to claiming that 19th century researchers into the relationship between brain volume and smartness cooked their data. For some reason, lots of people have considered this a crushing rejoinder against 21st century IQ science. In truth, the old scientists didn't cheat, but even if they did, that doesn't seem much more relevant to today's research than asserting that modern astronomy is fraudulent because astronomers used to believe the sun went around the earth.

Well, it turns out that Gould was not only irrelevant, but wrong -- the old physical anthropologists were right about the correlation between brain size and brainpower.

"Big-Brained People Are Smarter" says researcher Michael McDaniel of VCU:

The relationship between brain volume and intelligence has been a topic of a scientific debate since at least the 1830s. To address the debate, a meta-analysis of the relationship between in vivo brain volume and intelligence was conducted. Based on 37 samples across 1530 people, the population correlation was estimated at 0.33. The correlation is higher for females than males. It is also higher for adults than children. For all age and sex groups, it is clear that brain volume is positively correlated with intelligence.

That's not a huge correlation, but for female adults it is 0.41 and for male adults it is 0.37. It's usually said in the social sciences that a correlation of 0.2 is low, 0.4 is medium, and 0.6 is high.

These brain volumes are typically measured with MRIs or the like. The correlation between IQ and hat size is quite low, although it is positive.

The best-known proponent of the IQ-brain volume link in recent years has been J.P. Rushton, which would drive Gould even more crazy.

Gould was a classic example of the kind of charismatic egomaniacal workhorse scholar who has done so much damage going back to Marx and Freud. You can get quite rich these days telling the intellectual class what it wants to hear. From a news report on the malpractice suit filed by Gould's widow against his doctors:

The lawsuit does not specify the damages being sought, but says that Dr. Gould earned $300,000 a year from speaking engagements alone, that "a seven-figure income was his norm" and that when he died he was about to enter into a book contract for more than $2 million.

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

Tom Cruise announces he has proposed to Katie Holmes

My guess is that Cruise is normally hypomanic -- that desirable state where you have tremendous energy while still maintaining self-control (Teddy Roosevelt is the classic hypomanic). But, now Cruise appears to have slipped from hypomanic into a manic phase in which, after years of playing the publicity game like a master, he can't resist self-destructively responding to adverse public reactions by constantly upping the ante.

Hopefully, while he's in this phase, he won't do something truly destructive, like giving all his money to the Scientologists.

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

Important article confirming science of human biodiversity

Important article confirming science of human biodiversity: An old joke says that the difference between a psychotic and a neurotic is that a psychotic says "Two plus two equals five," while a neurotic says "Two plus two equals four, and I just can't stand it." In terms of public discussion of the science of race, we are slowly leaving the Age of Psychoticism and entering the Age of Neuroticism.

The new science of race


From Toronto's Globe and Mail

Henry Harpending is about to titillate the world's conspiracy theorists with one of the most politically incorrect academic papers of the new millennium.

Why, he and his colleagues at the University of Utah asked, have Jews of European descent won 27 per cent of the Nobel Prizes given to Americans in the past century, while making up only 3 per cent of the population? Why do they produce more than half the world's chess champions? And why do they have an average IQ higher than any other ethnic group for which there's reliable data, and nearly six times as many people scoring above 140 compared with Europeans?

Prof. Harpending suggests that the reason is in their bloodline — it's genetic.

The 61-year-old anthropologist's explanation is not easily dismissed, but it crosses into the territory scientists fear most.

... Two U.S. journals refused the paper, an unusual experience for this widely published scholar. “We finally had to send the paper to England, where they're not so obsessed with political correctness,” Prof. Harpending said.

The danger of bolstering bigots is what has scientists so nervous. If a complex trait such as intelligence can be inherited, for instance, and you say one ethnic or racial group tends to have more of it than others, does it follow that another group has less?

Ever since the eugenics movement a century ago, which led to forced sterilizations in Canada and the United States to improve the racial stock of the human species, and then the horrors of Nazi Germany, such questions have been taboo.

Funny, I was always under the vague impression that Hitler was responsible for the horrors of Nazi Germany ... But now I've learned that it was all Sir Francis Galton's fault. Silly me.

University of Western Ontario psychologist J. Philippe Rushton was internationally condemned 15 years ago for claiming to discover differences in brain size, intelligence, sexual habits and personality between whites, blacks and “Orientals.”

Yet the role of race in genetics is a subject scientists now believe they can't ignore. The future of medicine may depend on it.

Oh, so, Rushton was right... Well, I'm sure the apology to him from international opinion must be in the mail.

In fact, a massive international effort, which includes many Canadian researchers, has been quietly under way for nearly four years to catalogue and compare the genetics of people with African, Asian and European ancestry.

It is called the Haplotype Project. You may not have heard a word about it before now. But by the end of this year, society may have to start facing its implications.

It was not supposed to be this way.

When the Human Genome Project was completed in 2000, its most touted result was that it showed no genetic basis for race. In fact, some scientists went so far as to dub race a “biological fiction.”

... The map indicated that humans as a species are 99.9 per cent genetically identical — that, in fact, there are greater differences between two frogs in a pond than between any two people who find themselves waiting for a bus....

It was a message of harmony: Hardly a hair of code separates us.

But five years later, one of scientists' main preoccupations has become to chart the genetic variations between and within racial groups — to parse that 0.1 per cent. These differences arise through mutations, which all begin as one-time flukes, but become more prevalent in a particular place if they offer a survival advantage, carriers have more children or they result in a trait a society finds desirable.

Now, teams are panning for gene types to help explain why West Africa produces the fastest runners in the world. A University of Toronto researcher is hunting the gene types that account for skin colours.

A Pennsylvania State University scientist is teasing out the biology behind other variable physical traits, such as height or hair texture.

More crucially, it has become obvious that the 0.1 per cent may add up to the difference between sickness and health.

In Canada, researchers from McMaster and McGill Universities are breaking down heart disease by nationality to understand the interplay of genes and environment. The answers may explain why South Asians suffer high rates of high blood pressure, why heart attacks hit Middle Eastern men 10 years earlier than Europeans, or why the Chinese seem to boast the trimmest waistlines in the world.

The genes discussed in Dr. Harpending's team's paper, meanwhile, are known to be the ones that account for the high Ashkenazi rates of breast cancer, the neurological disorder Tay-Sachs and other conditions. The mystery is why these traits have persisted at high rates over generations. The Utah group's conclusion (to be published in the Cambridge University Press Journal of Biosocial Science) is that the diseases are a tragic side effect of genes selected for their role in boosting brain function.

Given the explosion of research in race and genetics, Francis Collins, a former leader of the Human Genome Project, had to admit in the journal Nature Genetics last fall that “well-intentioned statements” about the biological insignificance of race may have left the wrong impression: “It is not strictly true that race or ethnicity has no biological connection. It must be emphasized, however, that the connection is generally quite blurry.”

Alan Bernstein had warned him. In the fall of 2000, the president of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research heard Dr. Collins speak at Harvard about there being no significant differences between races. “That's going to come back at you,” he said.

According to Dr. Bernstein, 0.1 per cent is actually far from an insignificant difference in the genome's chemical sequence. In fact, he said, the genetic distance between humans and gorillas is not much greater. “It's silly to try and be politically correct about it.” What matters, Dr. Bernstein said, is to treat it scientifically.

I pointed that out years ago in VDARE.com, quoting Harpending and Cochran to show the Human Genome flacks were yanking our chains.

The most organized effort to do that to date is the International Haplotype Project. Scientists in Canada, the United States, Britain, China, Japan and Nigeria are spending $185-million to chart the genomes of people from Tokyo, residents of Beijing, the Yoruba in Nigeria and Americans of Western and Northern European descent — 270 people in all.

Using these maps to find genetic differences between ethnic groups could lay the groundwork for new treatments and cures. It might help predict a person's response to a given drug, and allow for tailor-made medications with fewer side effects. It could bring the medical advances genetics has long promised.

On the other hand, the knowledge may raise more questions about the meaning of racial differences than anyone cares to answer.

Actually, a few people believe that the truth is better for the human race than lies, ignorance, or wishful thinking. Not many, I'll grant you, but a few ...

..."From one drop of blood, you can do hundreds of thousands of tests,” Dr. Tom Hudson enthused. From one drop of blood you also can discern the ethnic background of the person being tested with fairly good certainty.

So it is here, where technology has shrunk costs to just pennies per test, that major sections of the Haplotype Project's “HapMap” are being generated.

The project was born in the summer before Sept. 11, 2001. At first, it seemed destined for obscurity. Scientists at the University of Toronto, McGill and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had been hunting gene mutations that increased the risk of Crohn's disease in 200 Toronto-area families of mostly European heritage — British, Polish, French and Greek.

In the process, they stumbled on a remarkable discovery. The genome's three billion chemical letters appear to be arranged in blocks — like paragraphs in a text. Some are longer, some shorter, but all have fairly clear beginnings and ends.

The pattern seemed to make sense. In the genetic mix and mingle of conception, the mother's and father's DNA are passed down to the next generation in these kinds of heritable chunks. Researchers estimate there are 100,000 such blocks in each person's genome.

What's more, gene mutations within those blocks seem to fall in the same places, even in different families. It's like a library in which every book contains a typo in the first paragraph on the second page, or the fourth paragraph on every fifth page. The misprints might be different, Dr. Hudson explained, but they occur in the same locations. For finding genetic mutations, the pattern seemed as good as an index: Instead of scanning the whole book, you could flip straight to page 2 or page 5.

The discovery seemed to cry out for a new map of the human genome, one that would show the haplotype blocks and highlight each paragraph in the book of life.

“Everyone knew this was important,” Dr. Hudson said. “But there was no big press release.” Coming out a month after Sept. 11, the discovery of haplotype blocks attracted little initial attention. But for scientists it couldn't have come at a better time.

Traditional methods to find mutated genes in family studies and remote populations had hit a wall. Yes, they could find the lone mutation that led to a rare disorder such as Huntington's disease or cystic fibrosis. But trying to find the dozens of mutations that increase the risk of common diseases like cancers or asthma would simply require too many patients and too much data crunching.

With a haplotype map, they would be able to search the genomes of huge numbers of people with a particular disease, in search of a common typo in a particular paragraph.

First, however, the HapMap researchers had to find out if their theory would apply to the genomes of people around the world. The maps provided by the Human Genome Project would offer little help, because they had been rough compilations based on various people, with little regard for ethnic background.

In large measure, one person: Craig Venter.

The next question was, whose genomes should they use?

When HapMap scientists met in Washington in 2002 to discuss the issue, Dr. Hudson — a 44-year-old, buttoned-down geneticist much more comfortable with technical issues than social ones — was taken aback at the incendiary debate that broke out. It was the kind of battle that seems bound to become more frequent as scientists continue to explore this sensitive area.

“As Canadians, we are not used to the high emotions around race, as they are in the U.S.,” he said. In that two-day meeting and others to come, African-American community leaders, ethicists and philosophers unleashed their fears and frustrations.

“There were two points of view,” Dr. Hudson recalled. “One of them is, ‘You're only going to be studying Caucasian chromosomes, clearly, because you only want to find tests for North Americans and U.S. people with money.' ”

But if Africans and other populations were included in the map, there was serious concern that any differences found in their genomes might leave them open to another tier of discrimination, perhaps from health-insurance companies.

Gregory Cochran and I have kicked around the issue some, and we don't figure genetic discrimination in health insurance will be a major threat: typically, if an individual's immune system is strong at resisting infection X, it's weak at resisting infection Y, so it would be hard to predict a person's future health from knowing his genome. (This assumes Cochran's theory that most diseases aren't directly genetic in origin.) Thus, a law outlawing genetic discrimination in health insurance wouldn't have a massive downside, even to insurance companies.

In the United States, where the mortality rates for a range of diseases are higher among blacks than whites, such disputes are common. For example, scientists and sociologists continue to argue over whether African Americans' high rates of hypertension are due to genes or to environment.

Knowledge of racial differences in genes is a good thing: it tells blacks that they should be extra careful to limit salt intake, that they should get checkups for prostate cancer, that they should imitate Jews with their Tay-Sachs disease testing and find out if they are heterozygous for sickle-cell anemia, etc.

One contentious theory suggests African Americans descend from those slaves who were able to survive the dry and hungry trip from Africa thanks to a genetic quirk that enabled them to retain moisture and salt — which also can contribute to high blood pressure.

This is one of those theories, now being pushed by Steven Levitt's protégé Roland Fryer, where the direction of the effect is correct but the magnitude is insignificant. Sure, lots of blacks died from diarrheal diseases on the Middle Passage and ones who retained salt better were more likely to survive, but diarrheal diseases were also a major killer in West Africa for hundreds of generations before then, and continue to be so today. African-Americans' genomes are much more selected for salt retention by their ancestors living in hot, sweaty Africa for thousands of years than by the one generation that came over on the ship.

But others say it is due to diet and stress. As New York University sociologist Troy Duster told The New York Times last fall, “If you follow me around Nordstrom's and put me in jail at nine times the rate of whites and refuse to give me a bank loan, I might get hypertensive.”

In the end, the HapMap team decided to include African chromosomes, along with those from Japan, China and the United States. It was a diverse enough sampling to tell them if the haplotype theory would hold up, but selective enough for their limited budget.

At the same time, ethicists joined the project to ensure that all DNA donors would be aware of the risks of participating — namely, that any dramatic genetic differences the project discovered could end up stigmatizing their communities.

“Certainly,” Dr. Hudson said, “there's enough examples already of racism in the world — before genetics, during genetics and after genetics — that there's no doubt someone would try to use the information for genetic discrimination.”

Despite the long and ugly social history of race, there is no clear-cut definition for the term.

Actually, there is an extremely simple but useful definition of a racial group: "a partly inbred extended family."

Is a person's race defined by skin colour, that most visible of markers? By language, country of birth, the food they eat or the religion they practice? Not even scientists can agree.

It's all relative: it's who your relatives are. Everybody has lots of relatives, so everybody belongs to multiple racial groups, just as everybody belongs to multiple extended families. If you want something more clear-cut than that, well, too bad, you aren't going to find it because that's the nature of sexual reproduction.

“If you have a [genetic] sample from Nigeria, can you really say that it represents Africans? Is that the same as African Americans? [In some studies], Jews are white, sometimes they're not. Sometimes they're compared to Caucasians,” said Celeste Condit, a professor of speech communication at the University of Georgia who specializes in biomedical issues.

“The scientists have been irresponsible for not developing a language for this,”

That is very true, which is why I've developed the definition for them.

An ethnic group, by the way, are people who share common traits that are often passed down within biological families, but that can also be spread other ways -- e.g., language, religion, cuisine, etc.

These definitions of mine match well with how the U.S. Census Bureau uses "race" and "ethnicity" on the Census form.

Prof. Condit said. “Usually scientists are very careful in developing their technical vocabulary. But it's hard to describe the geographic dispersion of people properly — and they have these easy [racial] terms in their heads.”

Of course, geneticists already know that since people have ancestors from all over the world, no one fits neatly into any one racial box. We are all of us mixed, even if our complexions suggest otherwise. There also can be greater genetic differences within racial groups than between them.

You hear this all the time -- I run into people saying stupid things based on this like, "A black man and a white man are more genetically similar than two whites." -- but it's based on an apples to oranges comparison. What is actually true is that the individual genetic differences between two members of one racial group can be greater than the average difference between two racial groups. When phrased correctly, it turns out to be a pretty boring statement, which doesn't say what the race-deniers hope it says.

But since no one now has the resources to uncover the secrets in every patient's DNA, both science and medicine are using “race” as an easy, if dangerous, shortcut.

“Until we can scan the genome of every individual,” said Tim Caulfield, director of the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta, “race has become this rough proxy.”

Yet HapMap researchers are indeed finding that the genetic lines between their groups are terribly blurry. In fact, the block structures are similar in all of them.

“Humans as a species are just so young there hasn't been enough time for the genome to alter that dramatically,” Dr. Hudson said. (Frogs, on the other hand, have a few more millennia behind them than people.)

As expected, they are finding the most variations in the DNA of donors from Africa, where modern humans are believed to have arisen 150,000 years ago. It is thought that the rest of the planet's populations are all descendents of a small group who only wandered out of Africa roughly 60,000 years ago, so there has been less time for those genes to mutate in the rest of the world.

You find the most variation in Africa in neutral genes (a.k.a., junk genes), genes that aren't subject to Darwinian selection because they have no function, they just occasionally mutate. Too many people, such as Malcom Gladwell, get hung up on the misconception that Africans are more diverse in terms of functioning genes, when there isn't much evidence for that. I suspect that when we eventually figure out what all the active genes do, it will turn out that South Asia, not Sub-Saharan Africa, has the highest level of functional genetic diversity. I explained this back in 2000 in "Seven Dumb Ideas about Race."

What they do know, Dr. Hudson stressed, is that the mutations they are cataloguing — the 10 million or so most common ones — appear to exist in all populations. Just not at the same frequencies.

It's all relative. Humans have a hard time dealing with the relativistic nature of nature. We want hard and fast laws, dammit! But reality is what it is.

“Almost all the differences you see in people in North America are differences you see in Africa, are differences you see in Asia,” he said. “It's very rare to have something you only see in [one place].” And when you do, he said, it's uncommon even in that population.

One stunning example is a gene variant that makes 1 per cent of Caucasians (and an estimated 10 per cent of Ashkenazi Jews) immune to HIV infection. It blocks receptors on the surface of cells where the AIDS virus would otherwise enter. Scientists suspect the trait was passed down from Europeans who survived medieval smallpox plagues thanks to the same mutation.

Another variant known to be fairly exclusive to a particular people is the “Duffy null” mutation in people from sub-Saharan Africa. Penn State genetic anthropologist Mark Shriver explained that it likely became prevalent there because it offered protection against a particular type of malaria, “but it didn't spread widely outside of Africa.”

Yet Dr. Shriver, who by all outward appearances is a white man, happens to carry it. A scan of his genome suggests that while he is predominantly European, he is also about 11 per cent West African and 3 per cent native American.

When I interviewed Shriver three years ago, he claimed his tests showed he was 22% black. It made for a great story, but I shouldn't have fallen for it, because that meant that one of his grandparents was 87% black, yet passing as a white man, which seems implausible. I'm glad to see he has refined his estimate. But let that be a warning to not take autosomal genetic test estimates on faith. (I discuss the strength and weaknesses of Shriver's tests here.)

“Race just doesn't exist in a critical line,” he said. “It's more of a gradient.”

Dr. Shriver applauds the information flowing in from the HapMap project (which is freely available on-line), calling it “a revolutionary tool” for science. But others are not so impressed.

“Basically, it is a total waste of money,” Columbia University geneticist Joseph Terwilliger said. Dr. Terwilliger argued that by focusing on the most common genetic mutations, the project would overlook the most specific differences to be found in any group. It would make “populations look systematically more similar to one another than they really are.”

In other words, there's even more racial genetic diversity than the HapMap will find.

Medically important traits — such as the HIV-resisting gene type — could be missed if researchers do not deliberately hone in on the rarer quirks in each particular racial group. “Different populations have enormous differences,” Dr. Terwilliger said. “If this were not true, then there is no way we can determine how we are related and how populations migrated historically.

“You cannot put people neatly in a small number of meaningful categories like black, white or Asian. That said, Koreans and Chinese are genetically vastly more similar than either are to Germans.”

As I discussed recently in VDARE.com, there's nothing ultra-special about "continental-scale racial groups," such as Caucasians than makes them the only size of racial group worth discussing. It's just that intercontinental travel was long difficult, so people tend to inbreed within their continent. But there are perfectly reasonable smaller groups, and larger super-continental groups too (such as East Asians and Amerindians).

The controversy around the scientific meaning of race is already spilling over from the lab to the medical clinic. Researchers continue to debate definitions, but the age of race-based medicine is upon us.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the world's first “ethnic” medication last fall, a heart-failure drug for African Americans known as BiDil. Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca is developing marketing plans for a lung-cancer drug that flopped in Caucasians but seems to work for Asians.

No one yet fully understands the actual genetic traits that make these drugs effective in these groups. And scientists have every reason to believe people other than blacks or Asians may carry these traits. But for now, prescriptions for such medications are to be based on little more than physical appearances and questions about a patient's heritage.

And this, Prof. Condit argued, could lead to significant risks. Doctors may end up denying a drug to Caucasians who might benefit from it, because it is touted to work only in South Asians. Or they might prescribe a pill to a black person who actually would benefit from some other treatment. (For example, research has found that as many as 30 per cent of African-American men have a white male ancestor, a fact attributed to the sexual politics of slavery.)

Prof. Condit has tried to bring the inherent dangers of race-based science to the attention of the researchers involved. She has published journal articles, held focus groups and arranged meetings that few scientists leave their labs to attend. Without careful consideration and communication, she warned, modern medicine could set race relations back decades.

She offered this scenario: Imagine a drug marketed only for blacks, a simple pain reliever, prescribed in the millions. Now imagine that, like a certain now-notorious pain medication, it turns out to have the horrible side effect of increasing the risk of heart attacks. Result: Tens of thousands of North American blacks — and only blacks — die.

“What happens if you get a Vioxx situation with one of these drugs? And the likelihood of this happening is very high,” she said. “But until there's a catastrophe, people don't want to deal with it. You are playing with fire.”

Those watching the field of modern racial genetics explode are already concerned.

There's an obvious logical fallacy in this. Discuss among yourselves...

“If genes predispose groups to certain diseases or health conditions, might we also find information that hints at more socially loaded conclusions?” the University of Alberta's Tim Caulfield wondered.

Last summer, Prof. Caulfield was surprised to read an article in the prestigious journal Science titled, “Peering Under the Hood of Africa's Runners.” It noted that all but six of the 500 fastest times for the 100-metre dash have come from sprinters of West African descent, which includes most U.S. blacks. Kenyans, meanwhile, dominate world records in long-distance races.

Prof. Caulfield was shocked, SHOCKED to read in a scientific magazine that West Africans are better sprinters and Kenyans better distance runners!

According to the report, Swedish physiologists trying to penetrate the “Kenyan mystique” compared runners from Africa and Scandinavia on treadmill times, lung capacity, heart rates and body weights. Limb measurements indicated that the Kenyans carried 400 grams less flesh on each calf. The report referred to their “birdlike legs,” explaining how Kenyan runners squeeze more power from their oxygen intake, since “they need less energy to swing their limbs.”

Research on West Africa's sprinters, meanwhile, revealed a body type of heavier “fast-twitch” muscles, versus the lighter “slow-twitch” muscles of endurance runners, as well as denser bones, narrower hips, thicker thighs, longer legs and lighter calves. Efforts are now under way to decode the genetics behind all these traits.

Like Prof. Harpending's paper on Ashkenazi Jews, the report on African runners presented a positive picture of its subjects, albeit a stereotypical one. Yet it seemed eerily reminiscent of ugly 19th-century efforts to gauge racial differences with calipers and cranial measurements.

Maybe it's time too stop demonizing the great physical anthropologists of the past.

Prof. Caulfield, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, was mostly concerned about where such research would lead. Already, he said, an Australian company is cashing in on the notion that some people are born to run, offering to test a child's genes for fast- or slow-twitch muscles — “so you know which sport to put your kid in.”

What an amazing waste of money. Why don't you just watch and see whether your kid is a faster or slower runner than the other kids at various lengths? You need a genetic test for that?

While he said he loathes the idea of restricting scientific research in a free, democratic society, Prof. Caulfield described the race-based search for disease genes as a Pandora's box.

Studies are sure to appear on genes linked to complex characteristics in racial groups, such as athletic or cognitive ability or even criminal behaviour. But these traits, he stressed, are anything but a simple story of genetics.

“It's like beauty,” he said. “Being beautiful will involve the interplay of thousands of genes and social factors that dictate at a given time what is beautiful. It's a very complex story, it involves culture, socio-economic class, experience. . . . So how do you handle that information?”

Like other information, in the free marketplace of ideas.

As Penn State's Mark Shriver put it, “It's not that genes for IQ, athletic ability and musical ability don't exist. But you just can't tease apart the affect of environment in shaping these abilities.”

No, it's difficult (you need expensive tools like twin and adoption studies), but you can make a lot of progress toward finding out the truth.

If people are starting to overestimate the role genes play in shaping human health and behaviour — and underestimate the huge impact of experience, environment and social forces — Columbia's Joseph Terwilliger said that scientists must share the blame.

How about first sharing the blame for lying to us about how race didn't exist?

“In many ways, scientists over-hyped the information in the genome, or at least what we know about it, to the point where now people are getting unnecessarily nervous about societal implications,” he said.

“The fact is that to get the funding they sold genetic determinism, which of course is nothing close to reality. And now they are paying the price.”

As Cochran pointed out years ago, the Human Genome hypester got the truth exactly backward -- they implied that genes cause most diseases but denied that genes cause differences in capabilities among races.

This year, the journal American Psychologist devoted an entire issue to the impact race and genetics could have on its field, raising a list of the difficult questions ahead. It included three papers on the controversial issue of intelligence, including one commentary arguing that genes should get more attention in studies of racial intellectual differences.

That was "Under the Skin," written by the late David C. Rowe while he was dying of cancer, and intended as his last paper.

For Dr. Harpending, who admitted he would never have “even muttered in public” his theories about Ashkenazi Jews and intelligence were he not a senior professor with tenure, this type of conversation cannot come soon enough.

“There is this massive disconnect between public and private discourse; between what's said in the public arena and what your neighbour tells you [about racial groups] over the fence,” he said. “Some of those things are wrong and bigoted, but some of those are right.”

Perhaps. But would Prof. Harpending dare match his Ashkenazi study with one of India's lowest Hindu caste, the so-called untouchables, who like European Jews have historically been an isolated society — except, in this case, relegated to centuries of cleaning latrines?

“One is the mirror image of the other, I suppose,” he admitted. “I would personally find that distasteful. But if I had a theory about it, I would hope that I would publish it.”

If the race debate in science seems sticky now, it's only going to get worse.

"Worse" is apparently used here to mean "more public, better-informed, and with less demonizing of the honest."

This summer, scientists from all over the world are gathering to discuss plans for yet another map of the human genome. This one is based again on a discovery involving Canadian research — and in scientific terms, it is hard to overstate its significance.

Geneticist Steve Scherer, a senior scientist at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, working with colleagues at Harvard University, discovered last August that the basic model of simple genetic inheritance science has clung to for 100 years is wrong: Mom and dad don't always make equal genetic contributions in the creation of a child's genome.

Instead, some people might end up with three, four or even more copies of a gene from one parent, instead of the single copy of each gene scientists thought each parent always contributed.

The implications could be huge. There might be greater genetic differences between individuals — and certain populations — than anyone imagined. Certainly, there are more than the HapMap is charting, Dr. Scherer said.

Might one ethnic group, for example, carry an overload or an underload of genes for a particular trait?

“I think it was premature to say that the difference between people might only be 0.1 per cent,” Dr. Scherer said. “Based on what we know now, it is probably in the 0.2 per cent range. And in the end it may even be as high as 1 per cent.”

Dr. Scherer spent two days last August fielding media calls when the news first broke. He did most of the interviews by phone, but in a few cases it was easiest to respond by e-mail.

Then came a call from his Harvard collaborators informing him that one of those e-mail interviews had been with a writer who worked for a neo-Nazi website. The writer spun the news as scientific proof of genetic differences between races — without even misquoting or twisting Dr. Scherer's words.

The horror, the horror of being quoted accurately! Perhaps if the mainstream press didn't constantly tell us not to believe our lying eyes that race exists, individuals wouldn't listen to wackos as much.

“As a geneticist,” the 41-year-old Dr. Scherer said, “it's your worst nightmare.”

The politically correct might think about cutting off your funding. That's a big reason that population geneticists like the great Cavalli-Sforza have been blowing smoke for so long about race not existing, when C-S proudly puts on the cover of his magnum opus his summary map showing the main races of the world.

The HapMap's Tom Hudson in Montreal has had the same one. A colleague recently referred him to an Internet hate site that declared the HapMap would finally prove the biological basis of race.

Any bets on which one is being smeared as a "hate site"? A Google search on "HapMap" shows GNXP.com coming up as the first website other than official institutional ones. I think it's time to change the term from "hate site" to "hated site," since it's the people who are calling Gene Expression a "hate site" who are the true haters.

There is a lot of hate in this world, and a remarkable fraction is directed toward truth-tellers. As Cochran says, they don't hate you for lying, they hate you for telling the truth.

“It made me queasy, because they actually name the name of my friend, my colleague in Boston. And they actually say, ‘He's going to prove us right.' “I didn't understand what I was reading when I first read it,” Dr. Hudson said. “I never read something that was so disgusting.”

"Disgusting" apparently means "honest."

It wasn't an isolated incident.

Morris Foster, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Oklahoma and one of the HapMap's leaders, said researchers are tracking racist sites for references to the HapMap, which logs 20,000 downloads a week from its public database. They have amassed quite a collection.

Not only do the hate[d] sites keep abreast of what HapMap information has become available (such as recent data on Japanese and Nigerians), but they anxiously await findings that will help unveil genetic traits linked to such things as crime and cognitive ability by race.

“Once it is scientifically demonstrated,” one web contributor writes, “that will be the beginning of the end for the Marxist-egalitarian argument over race. Personally, I can't wait.”

Can you imagine? There are twisted, sick individuals out there who don't agree with the "Marxist-egalitarian" view! Here is the comment thread in which that supposedly reprehensible quote was placed. I sure can't find any hate.

Even Western Ontario's infamous J. Philippe Rushton has seized upon modern genetics as an opportunity to make his case again, in the company of Arthur Jensen, a University of California psychology professor who argues that race determines IQ.

This month, the unpopular scholars have the lead article in the journal Psychology, Public Policy and Law, presenting 60 pages of evidence arguing that genes explain 50 per cent of the IQ differences between races, in which Asians rank higher than whites and whites higher than blacks. (The publisher, the American Psychological Association, invited scientists to rebut the paper in the same issue.)

And yet, despite all the social hazards of modern genetics, Dr. Scherer said scientists should not “have to fear discussing their results of their research, so long as they are open-minded and listen to criticisms and comments from others, including the public.

“I always wonder what Darwin would have done in today's world.”

The ultimate test, Dr. Harpending pointed out, lies not with researchers, but with the public.

He described projects under way involving genes potentially associated with controversial behaviours such as sexual promiscuity, adultery and family abandonment.

“A number of things are coming down the pipe,” he said, “that we are going to have to figure out how to cope with as a decent and moral society.”

Carolyn Abraham is The Globe and Mail's medical reporter.


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

June 17, 2005

How to be a celebrity

First, be an African-American or a white American.

Forbes has published its top 100 global celebrities listing for 2005, which ranks celebrity's "power" on pay and web, press, and TV coverage.

I count 82 Americans, although I'm probably off by a bit.

I come up with 58 white Americans and an impressive 16.75 African Americans (I count Tiger Woods as 0.25 black and Kimora Lee Simmons, rap impresario Russell Simmons's part Asian wife, as 0.5 black).

That's about 50% more African-Americans per capita than white American make the Forbes list.

I come up with 8.5 Jewish-Americans, which is about four times the national average per capita, but perhaps fewer than you might guess. I imagine, though, that I'm missing some mixed ethnicity people or Jewish celebrities with Anglicized names.

The only Asians on the list are mixed: Tiger, Kimora, and the Van Halen rock band brothers.

I could be off by a few in these counts, especially of white people -- I'm especially likely to assume Canadians are white Americans. Plus some people are just hard to characterize -- is Mel Gibson an Australian or an American?

I come up with five Brits, plus a few Australians, Kiwis, and Canadians. It's a definite plus to speak English.

There are six Europeans, although Wolfgang Puck and Annika Sorenstam are pretty Americanized by now. And there are three Brazilians.

The Hispanic list is harder to count: Leaving out the three Brazilians (two supermodels and a soccer player), there are 6.7. (The "Desperate Housewives" cast gets counted as a unit on this list, an one actress is Mexican-American -- and magician David Blaine is half Puerto Rican and half Jewish).

But two of those 6.7 are blue-eyed Hispanics in surname only -- movie actress Cameron Diaz and TV actor Frankie Muniz. That leaves two baseball players (Alex Rodriguez and Mannie Ramirez), Jennifer Lopez from Puerto Rico; and boxer Oscar De La Hoya, who is the only Mexican-American on the list by himself.

This African-American to Mexican-American ratio of 17.75 to 1.2 shows the radical difference in impact on popular culture of the two largest minorities. Despite all the hype you read about how Mexican-Americans are making "vibrant" contributions to American popular culture, the numbers tell a different story.

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

June 16, 2005

DNA Ancestry Testing too politically incorrect for neocons

In an unsigned editorial, the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board asks:

Is DNA testing just snake oil?

... there is no DNA test that can magically pinpoint anybody's distant or "deep" ancestry, Zulu or otherwise. Even so, many Americans--including some who would rather die than have the FBI know what books they bought--are busy sending their genetic blueprint to companies and organizations that offer ancestry tests...

As impressive as that may sound, a geneticist we asked said it was gobbledygook and basically meaningless. So is much of the ancestry testing game. As true scientists in the field of genetics know, human beings are very similar genetically, and the variations that do exist can be found in virtually all populations. The best that could honestly be said to test-takers is, for instance, that they might have an ancestral connection to a certain region of the world. Given the limits of current hard science, DNA testing can offer less reliable information than old-fashioned genealogy and family trees.

That's regrettable especially in the case of Americans whose ancestors arrived as slaves, leaving no helpful records at Ellis Island or elsewhere. But there may be an upside to not paying for testing, too. No matter how much confidentiality the companies promise, there is no way to be sure that your sample won't be used in unauthorized ways.

Maybe by hackers, the same way they steal and sell your credit-card information. Maybe someday by others with more sinister designs. Dr. David Valle, a professor with the McKusick-Nathans Institute for Genetic Medicine at Johns Hopkins, notes that while "human variation is something that many of us treasure and celebrate...history has many examples where human variation has been used for very evil purposes."

I suspect that this is intended in a round-about way to discredit the Cochran-Harpending hypothesis of Ashkenazi intelligence without actually deigning to mention it in the WSJ: if everybody's genes are the same, then Ashkenazi Jews couldn't possibly be a hereditary group, and their genes couldn't be any different from anybody else's.

Genetic racial testing is an interesting and rapidly improving, but by no means flawless, technique. I've written quite a bit about what it can do and can't do:

- Here's my interview with Howard U. geneticist Rick Kittles who sells Y-chromosome (direct male line) and mitochondrial DNA (direct female line) tests to African-Americans.

- Here's my quick blog item on AncestrybyDNA's autosomal test that can tell you your overall racial admixture.

- Oxford geneticist Bryan Sykes offers female line testing of Europeans.

- The most famous example of Y-chromosome testing: the discovery that Genghis Khan is the direct male line ancestor of 16 million Asian men: Have the Genes of the World's Greatest Lover Been Found?

- Q&A w/ Jon Entine on Exploring Jewish History through Genes

The New Genetic Understanding of Race:

Part 1: Race Is Not So Black or White

Part 2: How White Is the Average Black? How Black Is the Average White?

Part 3: What Happened to Mexico's Blacks?

- Q&A w/ Jon Entine on Exploring Jewish History through Genes

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

"Nobody knows anything"

Slate summarizes a 55 page meta-analysis by three B-School profs on the economics of the movie industry, but misses the key questions of "How can you tell whether a movie is going to be good or not? And how can you tell whether it's going to be a hit or not?" Consider Ron Howard's last three movies:

A Beautiful Mind -- Good / Hit

The Missing -- Not good / Not a Hit

Cinderella Man -- Good / Not a Hit

I'm obviously over-summarizing here (I didn't much like "A Beautiful Mind," but it's reasonable to say it was well-made; "The Missing" isn't bad, but it seemed to be missing something.)

Back in the early 1980s, screenwriter William Goldman pointed out that "Nobody knows anything" about whether a movie will work or not. Obviously, that's an exaggeration. Everybody knows that a movie made by high-priced talent is likely to be better and do better than one made by nobodies who are financed by their rich grandparents. But we already knew that, so how do we get beyond that to determine whether the latest Ron Howard - Russell Crowe - Akiva Goldsman movie will be or do better or worse than the last one?

I put a fair amount of thought into this because I'm constantly trying to pick out ahead of time which movies will catch the educated reader's interest and make him or her want to read my review. That way, I don't have to go see every single movie that's released. But, it remains almost a complete crap shoot.

Most things that are interesting to us are difficult to predict: the nightly news has a weather forecast, not a forecast on whether the sun will come up in the east or west tomorrow.

I suspect that the quality of movies is particularly difficult to forecast because each one is a one time only operation where the interaction effects are at least as important as the individual contributions.

Furthermore, the popularity of sub-genres goes in and out of fashion in mysterious ways. For example, "Seabiscuit" made a sizable amount of money in the "inspirational Depression true sports movie" subgenre. So, when "Cinderella Man" came along two years later, with at least equal critical and audience responses, it had to do at least as well, right? But apparently the audience decided it was sick of that subgenre...

In sum, nobody knows anything.

P.S., the bigger economic mystery is why so many people buy DVDs rather than rent them for a quarter of the cost. Hollywood takes in a lot more these days from DVD sales than from tickets. Do people really re-watch movies over and over enough to make paying about four times the rental cost worthwhile? Sure, it's economical to buy "Peter Pan" for your three-year-old, but are grown-ups really going to want to watch "Anger Management" five times, the minimum number needed to make purchase more economical than rental? Or do people just like to buy and own stuff? Do they buy "Anger Management" instead of rent it because they want to give more money to Adam Sandler. That's sounds weird, but I think there's some truth to the idea that people get pleasure out of wasting resources to worship their gods, kind of like burning a goat to honor Jehovah.

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

Richard Cohen on Ashkenazi Intelligence:

In "Aptitude Adjustment" in the Washington Post, Cohen writes:

It said that scientists at the University of Utah had linked certain genetic diseases found only among European Jews with "natural selection for enhanced intellectual ability." In other words, Jews are smarter because over about a thousand years they adapted to discriminatory practices that limited their livelihood to a restricted range of commercial occupations. Those who succeeded tended to have more children and so, over time, European Jews in general improved their intelligence.

Some scientists find the theory credible; some do not. As for myself, I am immeasurably comforted by it. Jews are smart. This does not mean that all Jews are smart and that no Jews are dumb. It only means that, in general, the proposition holds. Among other things, American Jews -- about 2 percent of the population -- make up 27 percent of this country's Nobel laureates. Something's going on here.

I cannot be certain that Lawrence Summers, the president of Harvard, has read the article. But if he did, I bet he wondered why it is possible to suggest that certain Jews are smarter than other people but not remotely possible to suggest that women might not be as brilliant in science and engineering as men... But if Jews could adapt to their environment in a certain way, why couldn't women or men?...

The reason the Utah study of Jews produced no outcry is that it suggested Jews were, like the children of Lake Wobegon, above average. The reason Summers got into trouble is that he wondered if, so to speak, women were below average. But if one is possible, why not the other? The answer escapes me -- and it cannot be, as we all know from the Utah study, because I'm dumb.


But one other reason for the lack of organized outrage is that Gregory Cochran has no money, while Larry Summers presides over a $20 billion endowment, out of which he has already promised to pay $50 million, with assurances of more to come.

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

They Saved Einstein's Brain!

Interesting article from the LA Times on McMaster U. psychologist Sandra Witelson, who has been dissecting hundreds of brains (after their owners no longer need them, I'm glad to report). She finds strong sex differences. Does that mean Larry Summers can take back the $50 million in other people's money he's promised to make up for his gaffe?

By the way, Dr. Witelson has chopped up Einstein's brain and finds it to have been, no fooling, a "one in a billion brain."

Back when I was a kid, while Einstein's brain was still floating in a jar undissected, and you could only look at the outside of it, my fourth grade teacher explained that Einstein's brain was extra-wrinkled, which shows that every time you learn something new, you get a new wrinkle in your brain. But the new article is unaccountably silent on the Wrinkled Brain Theory.

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

June 15, 2005

Pod the Lesser out to anathematize the Derb again

TO SUM UP, THEN... [John Podhoretz]

...Mr. Derbyshire a) blames the administration for not being serious about nuclear proliferation, b) expects a pullout from Iraq and a civil war, c) is happy Michael Jackson has been acquitted and d) supports euthenasia.

What magazine's website is this again?

Posted at 04:26 PM

An increasingly boring one, ever since Pod Jr., that human exemplar of regression to the mean, showed up to impose the Party Line.

John Derbyshire's civil but devastating reply is here.

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

"Batman Begins"

A quite respectable summer blockbuster, although perhaps a little lacking in inspiration when compared to Tim Burton's original in 1989.

Batman features the usual color-coding by the male actors' hair color. Christian Bale as the Dark Knight has dark hair. You can tell that Rutger Hauer as the chairman of Wayne Industries is going to turn out to be bad because he's blonde. Liam Neeson as Bruce Wayne's mentor in the ninja arts is in-between in hair color, so you can't tell for sure if he'll be good or bad.|

Morgan Freeman plays a computer nerd, making him the latest and perhaps least likely in a long line of black male computer nerds in movies (such as Ving Rhames in "Mission Impossible"). But at least that's better than Morgan Freeman playing a saintly janitor, because here he gets to use his wicked sense of humor. Michael Caine is also quite funny as Alfred the butler.

I hadn't realized why everybody was giving Tom Cruise such a hard time for publicly dating Katie Holmes, who plays a district attorney (I mean, other than the usual with Tom): she looks like she's 14. She is one creepy-looking little gal.

As for the usual with Tom -- is he gay or not? -- I have no idea. Most people over the age of 25 or so develop enough gaydar to be able to tell from all the little mannerisms that tend to distinguish a straight man from a gay man. I've never seen Cruise seem gay, but he is an excellent actor, and he has that amazing energy, which might allow him to play the role of a straight man 24/7. Further, he used to have the PR muscle to mold his image the way the old studios molded their contract stars' images, but a year ago he fired his very scary PR flack Pat Kingsley and appointed his sister to run his PR, and that family loyalty appears to be backfiring for him now.

As for rumors, normally I assume that where there's smoke, there is probably fire. The one big exception I've found, however, is that rumors that extremely handsome men are gay often don't pan out. A lot of them just turn out to be gay fantasies.

So, I'm totally agnostic on the question.

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

Michael Jackson and me

We're the same age, and his troubles reminded me than when we were eleven and I was still in my he-man-girl-hating phase (I invited girls to my 6th and 7th birthday parties, but for the next four or five years after that couldn't recall what madness had ever made me like girls), I felt sorry for him because his family wasn't letting him enjoy his "latency period" (as the Freudians called it). I figured, even then, that forcing him to sing love songs to girls at that age would lead to trouble. (In contrast, I highly approved of his hit "Ben," from the movie "Willard," which was a much more age-appropriate love song to a pet rat )

Jacob Weisberg, the editor of Slate, feels the same way today (not about girls, I mean, but about Jackson's upbringing). In "Arrested Development," he writes:

People tend to throw up hands at Michael Jackson's multifarious bizarreness. But is it really so strange? The boy was forced to work by a cruel and physically abusive father starting at the age of 7. (If he'd been sent into a factory or coal mine, instead of onstage, we'd have more compassion for him.) As a boy, he was denied what even most abused and underprivileged children have: school, friends, and play.

Instead, Michael was made into a performing sexualized freak, a boy whose soprano voice kindled passion in grown women. He was made to witness adult sexuality at an age when it can only have been terrifying and incomprehensible to him. By 10, he was performing in strip clubs and hiding under the covers in hotel rooms while his older brothers got it on with groupies. At 11—the age at which his psyche seems frozen—he was a superstar. "My childhood was completely taken away from me," he has said. Almost everything that seems freakish about him can be explained by his poignant, doomed effort to get his stolen childhood back.

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

June 14, 2005

Best estimate yet of Hispanic-American IQ

Everyone across the political spectrum admits that the white-black test score gap is a major social problem, but nobody is thinking about the white-Hispanic test score gap, even though we have much more influence through immigration policy over whether Hispanics will be a large or huge proportion of the American population in the future. Fortunately, the facts are available, but they take a lot of digging to uncover.

Here's the best estimate I've yet seen: A 2001 meta-analysis of 39 studies covering a total 5,696,519 individuals in America (aged 14 and above) came up with an overall difference of 0.72 standard deviations in g (the "general factor" in cognitive ability) between "Anglo" whites and Hispanics. The 95% confidence range of the studies ran from .60 to .88 standard deviations, so there's not a huge amount of disagreement among the studies.

One standard deviation equals 15 IQ points, so that's a gap of 10.8 IQ points, or an IQ of 89 on the Lynn-Vanhanen scale where white Americans equal 100. That would imply the average Hispanic would fall at the 24th percentile of the white IQ distribution. This inequality gets worse at higher IQs Assuming a normal distribution, 4.8% of whites would fall above 125 IQ versus only 0.9% of Hispanics, which explains why Hispanics are given ethnic preferences in prestige college admissions.

In contrast, 105 studies of 6,246,729 individuals found an overall white-black gap of 1.10 standard deviations, or 16.5 points. (I typically round this down to 1.0 standard deviation and 15 points). So, the white-Hispanic gap appears to be about 65% as large as the notoriously depressing white-black gap. (Warning: this 65% number does not come from a perfect apples to apples comparison because more studies are used in calculating the white-black difference than the white-Hispanic difference.)

Source: Roth, P. L., Bevier, C. A., Bobko, P., Switzer III, F. S. & Tyler, P. (2001) " Ethnic group differences in cognitive ability in employment and educational settings: a meta-analysis." Personnel Psychology 54, 297–330.

This fits well with lots of other data. For example, Hispanics generally do almost as badly on the National Assessment of Educational Progress school achievement tests as blacks, but that average is dragged down by immigrant kids who have problems adjusting to English. The last time the NAEP asked about where the child was born was 1992, and Dr. Stefan Thernstrom of Harvard kindly provided me with the data from that examination. For foreign-born Hispanics, the typical gap versus non-Hispanic whites was 1.14 times as large as the black-white gap. But for American-born Hispanics, the gap between non-Hispanic whites and American-born Hispanics was 0.67 times as large as the gap between non-Hispanic whites and blacks, very similar to the 0.65 difference seen in the meta-analysis of IQs.

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

Best estimate yet of white-Hispanic IQ gap

I've been doing a lot of research on this subject lately because, frankly, it's shameful and alarming that America's elites are carrying out a vast social experiment by emasculating enforcement of the laws against illegal immigration, yet almost nobody is discussing the facts about what kind of new version of America they are creating. Everyone across the political spectrum admits that the white-black test score gap is a major social problem, but nobody is thinking about the white-Hispanic test score gap. Fortunately, the facts are available, but they take a lot of digging to uncover.

Here's the best estimate I've yet seen: A 2001 meta-analysis of 39 studies covering a total 5,696,519 individuals in America (aged 14 and above) came up with an overall difference of 0.72 standard deviations in g (the "general factor" in cognitive ability) between "Anglo" whites and Hispanics. The 95% confidence range of the studies ran from .60 to .88 standard deviations, so there's not a huge amount of disagreement among the studies.

One standard deviation equals 15 IQ points, so that's a gap of 10.8 IQ points, or an IQ of 89 on the Lynn-Vanhanen scale where white Americans equal 100. That would imply the average Hispanic would fall at the 24th percentile of the white IQ distribution. This inequality gets worse at higher IQs Assuming a normal distribution, 4.8% of whites would fall above 125 IQ versus only 0.9% of Hispanics, which explains why Hispanics are given ethnic preferences in prestige college admissions.

In contrast, 105 studies of 6,246,729 individuals found an overall white-black gap of 1.10 standard deviations. So, the white-Hispanic gap appears to be about 65% as large as the notoriously depressing white-black gap. (Warning: this 65% number does not come from a perfect apples to apples comparison because more studies are used in calculating the white-black difference than the white-Hispanic difference.)

Source: Roth, P. L., Bevier, C. A., Bobko, P., Switzer III, F. S. & Tyler, P. (2001) Ethnic group differences in cognitive ability in employment and educational settings: a meta-analysis. Personnel Psychology 54, 297–330.

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

June 13, 2005

Nothando Dube Mania!

For reasons that remain inexplicable, thousands of people have visited iSteve today via Google searches for "Nothando Dube," a ninth-grader who recently became the 12th bride of the King of Swaziland. Why?

I must say though that King Mswata III could give Phil Spector a run for his money in the 'fro department.

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

June 12, 2005

Charismatic Intellectual Leaders

As I've said before, I am not dismissive of the Kevin MacDonald-Neocon theory of eugenic breeding for scholarship among medieval Jews. I just think that now that MacDonald's theory has become the favored alternative among Jewish intellectuals to the Cochran-Hardy-Harpending theory of greater survival among the children of the wealthy, it's time for the MacDonald theory's supporters to show how much quantitative evidence can be assembled in its favor. It's not enough just to indicate that the direction was favorable for the evolution of intelligence, but some effort must be made to show that the magnitude of the eugenic affect was large enough to matter.

Still, there is a sense in which the MacDonald-Neocon theory of eugenic breeding to produce argument-winning rabbis has some intuitive plausibility in that Ashkenazis don't seem adapted just for business success but also for the kind of intellectual combat that is sometimes inimical to making money. I'm not sure that we see that combination in other middle man minorities with a talent for business, such as the Armenians. This Ashkenazi tendency is probably just cultural, but it sure is long lasting.

Personally, I find this Jewish "culture of critique" highly appealing. The inevitable question, it brings up, though, is whether Jewish cultural tendencies should be the only ones completely excluded from any critique by outsiders. I can understand the argument that Jewish vulnerability should mean that Jewish cultural traits must remain above analysis, but in the 21st Century that stance seems historically obsolete.

MacDonald, for all his sins, does point out something highly important for understanding the modern world, something extraordinarily obvious but which I had never noticed before reading his account a half decade ago: the importance of extra-rational charisma in the appeal of egomaniacal, messianic intellectuals like Marx and Freud to younger Jewish students. Over the last 150 years, secular Jewish intellectuals have repeatedly reproduced the traditional brilliant rabbi-student relationship in launching powerful cults. Among the more recent examples have been Ayn Rand (see Murray N. Rothbard's hilarious 1972 article "The Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult"), Susan Sontag (see Terry Castle's hilarious 2005 article "Desperately Seeking Susan"), and Leo Strauss (see the unintentionally hilarious 2003 article "What Leo Strauss Was Up To" by two true believers, William Kristol and Steven Lenzer).

Kristol, who seems like a non-wacko on TV, and Lenzer wrote in the normally level-headed Public Interest about how only Strauss possessed the secret decoder ring to understand what the great philosophers of the past actually meant.

"Strauss set himself a remarkable task: the revival of Western reading, and therefore, of philosophizing. Strauss claimed that he had rediscovered a forgotten kind of writing, and that for almost two centuries the proper manner of reading the greatest works of the past had apparently disappeared. If Strauss in fact rediscovered the art of writing, then he made possible the revival of Western letters. If Strauss's work is sound, he made it possible for us today to appreciate great books in the spirit and manner in which they were written. And the almost universal vehemence with which his rediscovery was initially denounced and ridiculed by the scholarly world demonstrated just how completely this art had been lost. No passage of Strauss's more vividly captures what was entailed by this rediscovery than his account of Machiavelli's art of writing:

"'Time and again we have become bewildered by the fact that the man [Machiavelli] who is more responsible than any other man for the break with the Great Tradition should in the very act of breaking prove to be the heir, the by no means unworthy heir, to that supreme art of writing which that tradition manifested at its peaks. The highest art has its roots, as he well knew, in the highest necessity. The perfect book or speech obeys in every respect the pure and merciless laws of what has been called logographic necessity. The perfect speech contains nothing slipshod; in it there are no loose threads; it contains no word that has been picked up at random; it is not marred by errors due to faulty memory or to any other kind of carelessness; strong passions and a powerful and fertile imagination are guided with ease by a reason which knows how to use the unexpected gift, which knows how to persuade and which knows how to forbid; it allows of no adornment which is not imposed by the gravity and the aloofness of the subject matter; the perfect writer rejects with disdain and some impatience the demand of vulgar rhetoric that expressions must be varied since change is pleasant.'"

In other words, if there is anything that seems imperfect in the writings of famous old philosophers, it's not really imperfect. It's all part of the plan. It's actually part of a secret code that Strauss alone has decoded to discover the philosophers' inner meaning.

Where have you heard this kind of thing before? In chain e-mails offering you a new way to ferret out the secrets of the Bible or Nostradamus or the Great Pyramid! It's the kind of thing that led Madonna to the Kabbalah. In short, Strauss was a charismatic crackpot.

Strauss's claim that from 1750 onward the great philosophers' secret technique of writing was understood by nobody (and "nobody" includes some fairly sharp guys like Schopenhauer and Nietzsche) except of him is crackpottery of the highest order. So is his insistence that the great philosophical books of the past were written in "perfect speech." C'mon, they were written by human beings. Indeed, some of Aristotle's most important works may not even be written by him, but are merely compilations of his students' notes on his peripatetic lectures. They sure don't sound perfect when you read them. Further, the vast majority don't exist in original form. All we have are transcriptions by monks and Arabs.

Strauss could have been a character from a Jorge Luis Borges short story. That he was instead a life-changing influence on a group of men as influential as Kristol Jr. seems worthy of its own Borges story about a crackpot scholar whose bizarre take on reality takes on a reality its own.

What's actually odder, though, is the hunger you see in Kristol Jr. and other worldly, powerful neocons to be true believers in the Strauss cult.

A reader writes:

A good book I don't think I've ever gotten anyone else to read is Stanley Rothman and S. Robert Lichter's "Roots of Radicalism: Jews, Christians, and the Left." It's basically about where the '60s radicals came from. They break it into two groups, leaders and followers. Did the studies, has statistics, etc. And he shows pretty convincingly that nearly all the leaders were Jewish kids, while most of the followers were Christian kids.

If I remember right, the Jewish kids came from mommy-dominated households that usually supported the kid's political activities. Many of these families turn out to have had backgrounds in Communism or extreme leftism of one sort or another, so the kid wasn't breaking with family tradition, he was doing what they always did. Rothman's pretty convincing when he writes about how leftism and radicalism served these families as replacements for the Judaism they'd lost, and he paints a picture I found convincing of millennia of Jewish experience -- shtetls, persecutions, fervent Orthodoxy, argumentation, etc -- suddenly finding itself in America, where it's free, and they aren't persecuting it. So you had all these wild-eyed, charismatic, brilliant people, suddenly without the compression of traditional life. What to do with all that fire and brilliance? Answer: Marx, Freud, civil rights, etc.

Interesting that he doesn't talk about the Jewish kids or families being smarter than the Christian kids, just more fiery, Messianic, charismatic, and supported by their families in it all. I came away with a picture in my head of these brilliant Jewish kids kind of performing for the family and the ethnic group, and (probably without thinking about it) somewhat at the expense of ... America. (Rothman's view of this isn't far from Macdonald's, even though Rothman is Jewish.) Feeling they were doing America a favor by taking her apart.

My friend XXX XXX certainly had a lot of these qualities -- was charismatic, funny, brilliant, a born performer. And had a kind of messianic-therapeutic, "transformative" view of what art could or should be. It was very galvanizing, looked like loads of fun, you wanted to go and do likewise and ask XXX's opinion about everything, including yourself -- but if you followed XXX's advice, you'd inevitably wind up in a terrible state. Your life would fall apart.

My experience with therapy in NYC was similar. I wanted some practical advice, but wound up in this long wrangle with everything and then some. The idea seemed to be that you had to dismantle your entire personality, and that this would liberate something, and then you'd go be a big success. I found that the approach just left me inert. (Of course, the therapist was doing quite well for himself.) All of which does make me ever-so-slightly sympathetic to the idea that these brilliant Jews give out advice that's almost designed to cripple the people it's given to. All the while claiming it's for everyone's good, and charging a pretty penny for doing so. I could never accuse them of being anything but well-meaning. But I had to learn to see through the posing, the fiery eyes, and the preaching. My wife and I often joke that what therapy is really about (and what it's genuinely good for) is letting Jewish clients talk about themselves for an hour, and then get back to being workaholics. Not a model that meant anything to me!

Many of the Jewish radical kids went on to do very well for themselves. Rothman says that the '60s Christian radical kids by contrast were earnest. They came from Daddy-dominated households, and the families were usually ticked off by the kids' rebellion. Which meant that the kids weren't performing for the family's approval; they were acting out their own drama, and many of them wound up cut off from their families. (I seem to remember that that's where a lot of New Age Christianity came from -- hippies who'd lost their way, basically, and who needed to establish a relationship with a new Daddy.) Cut off from money and advantages too: many of the Christian radical-kids wound up not doing well for themselves.

Anyway, I found "Roots of Radicalism" a fabulous and enlightening book. Made more sense of the '60s for me than anything else I've ever read or seen.

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