January 23, 2008

Accelerating human evolution

Anthropologist Peter Frost has been writing on his Evo and Proud blog about the implications of last month's big paper by Cochran, Harpending, Hawks, Moyzis, and Wang on the recent acceleration in the rate of human evolution. Frost's topics include understanding just how different human races really are:

The rising curve

Thoughts on the EEA

The 99.9% truism

The 85% truism

Why I have no answer:

In my last two posts, I argued against two widespread truisms:

1. The human genome is 99.9% the same in all people.

2. If we look at the 0.1% that does vary, 85% of this variation exists only between individuals and not between populations.

Both truisms are at best superficially true. They don’t mean what many seem to think they mean. Moreover, they’ve been known to be misleading for some time; in the case of truism #1, from the moment it was first presented.

So Mr. Smarty Pants, how much do genes really differ within our species? And how much of this difference clusters into recognizable populations?

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

30 comments:

Roger Clemens said...

he means canards or something. not truisms. you dont argue against a truism.

roger clemens' denial of steroids said...

Many of Frost's comments are silly. People don't care about hair color? Tell it to all those women buying hair products! People don't care about eye color? Come on, now. Even genetic differences in general: people do care about kinship, at least in their families - and non-westerners certainly do care about kinship ethnically.

And westerners *should* care.

Frost shouldn't project his own uncaring personal attitides towards physical appearance, evident on his blogsite, to others who feel differently.

Anonymous said...

This kicker is:

"Evolution is a double-edged sword. What evolution cares about is that I have more offspring. If you can do it by charming and manipulating, and I'm a hardworking farmer that's going to feed the kids ten years down the road, then you're going to win. Hit-and-run, irresponsible males are reproducing more. That isn't good for anyone except those males, but that's evolution. (Keim, 2007)."

With the technology to protect us from our selves and social evolution of the welfare state (both created by the elites and sustained by the middle class), it seems the winning reproductive strategy is for the lowest classes who irresponsibly father as many offspring for others to care for.

fifi said...

"2. If we look at the 0.1% that does vary, 85% of this variation exists only between individuals and not between populations."

This makes no sense to me. Is there some Evolution for Dummies that explains these concepts rather than expecting the reader to be in the know. Otherwise, I have a hard time following the arguments.

Robert said...

Frost wrote about the variations within European hair colors and eye colors. He said that this was possibly a product of a much larger female population to male population a one point in European history and the women having to stand out to attract males. Could this be possibly where clothes and makeup needs of women started? I mean that in the history of European culture, women have used makeup to accentuate their good points and hide their bad points. I think that this is not as prevalent in other cultures, and if it is, it is usually an influence inported from Europe. Could this be a thing that started during the period when women outnumbered men in Europe, and became so ingraned in the European behavior, that it carried down to modern times?

Svigor said...

Fifi, it didn't make sense to me either, until a righteous Jew explained it to me:

http://www.vdare.com/misc/060221_goldberg.htm

It's simple race-denier semantics. It was so facile I couldn't get my head 'round it either (I thought it was beyond me, when it was actually beneath me).

Anonymous said...

Evolution is a double-edged sword. What evolution cares about is that I have more offspring. If you can do it by charming and manipulating, and I'm a hardworking farmer that's going to feed the kids ten years down the road, then you're going to win. Hit-and-run, irresponsible males are reproducing more. That isn't good for anyone except those males, but that's evolution.

Interesting. In the context of the very high African fertility rates, does having a high IQ gives you an evolutionary advantage or is it just the opposite?

Anonymous said...

What's buried in Frost's comments is the implication that culture matters A LOT for evolution.

If social controls constrain women's choices, the hard working farmer has more descendants than the irresponsible Alpha Male. If those controls are removed suddenly then the irresponsible bad-boy Alpha Male wins.

Which means that the evolutionary effect can be quite rapid, based on culture. Which makes sense given that the social environment of humans is at least as large in many cases as the physical one.

Different groups of humans will have different social adaptations to the problem of very intelligent and social animals living closely together and managing the competition for mates.

Anonymous said...

@ roger clemens' denial of steroids:

It seems you misread Frosts's comments; he's not claiming that people don't care about hair color--quite the opposite. Copying from his blog:

"And how important are hair and eye color? At one time, these color traits were under intense selection. Do they matter to us today? I suspect most people would say ‘no’ if asked. They would probably affirm that only ‘inner qualities’ matter, i.e., the soul, personality, intelligence, etc. Yet this viewpoint might change once they’re in a drugstore, especially the hair products section or the magazine counter"

fifi said...

" I think that this is not as prevalent in other cultures, and if it is, it is usually an influence inported from Europe."

Oh really? Where did the make-up come from?

"Kohl is a mixture of soot and other ingredients used predominantly by Middle Eastern, North African, Sub-Saharan African, and South Asian women, and to a lesser extent men, to darken the eyelids and as mascara for the eyelashes. Kohl {from Arabic كحل kuḥl) is also sometimes spelled kol, kehal (in the Arab world), or kohal, and is known as surma or kajal in South Asia. It is the etymon of "alcohol"[1].
Kohl has been worn traditionally as far back as the Bronze Age(3500 BC onward)."

"Henna has many traditional and commercial uses, the most common being as a dye for hair, skin and fingernails, as a dye and preservative for leather and cloth, and as an anti-fungal.[5] Henna was used as a hair dye in Indian court records around 400 CE,[6] in Rome during the Roman Empire, and in Spain during Convivienca." - wikipedia

Tammy Faye, notwithstanding, there are still some Christian sects that discourage women from wearing make-up. The practice in Europe probably grew along with leisure time and money for clothing. Many women don't need make-up until their 30's anyway so they would've been able to attract men without much effort.

If you do some research, I think you'll find that women from the upper classes were the ones who wore make-up long before the lower classes found it acceptable or affordable. Make-up was associated with prostitution for a long time in our history. Japanese women caked white powder on their faces long before European women started wearing blush, lipstick or mascara.

It's only recently that women would wear make-up to disguise their flaws or hide their age. What planet are you from, Robert?

jack strocchi said...

Slightly off topic, but on the subject of evo-bio wunderkinds, has anyone come accross the work of Dr Satoshi Kanazawa? This guy is evo-bio's answer to Stephen Leavitt, except he deals with substantial issues, and he is on the mark in the big picture.

Below are some of his articles in Referred journals. Well worth checking out.


Kanazawa, Satoshi. 2007. "Big and Tall Soldiers Are More Likely to Survive Battle: A Possible Explanation for the "Returning Soldier Effect" on the Secondary Sex Ratio." Human Reproduction. 22: 3002-3008. (pdf)
Yamagishi, Toshio, Shigeru Terai, Toko Kiyonari, Nobuhiro Mifune, and Satoshi Kanazawa. 2007. "The Social Exchange Heuristic: Managing Errors in Social Exchange." Rationality and Society. 19: 259-292. (pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi 2007. "The Evolutionary Psychological Imagination: Why You Can't Get a Date on a Saturday Night and Why Most Suicide Bombers are Muslim." Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology. 1: 7-17.(pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi. 2007. "Beautiful Parents Have More Daughters: A Further Implication of the Generalized Trivers-Willard Hypothesis (gTWH)" Journal of Theoretical Biology. 244: 133-140. (pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi. 2006. "IQ and the Wealth of States." Intelligence. 34: 593-600. (pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi. 2006. "Mind the Gap... in Intelligence: Re-examining the Relationship between Inequality and Health" British Journal of Health Psychology. 11: 623-642. (pdf)
Takahashi, Chisato, Toshio Yamagishi, Shigehito Tanida, Toko Kiyonari, and Satoshi Kanazawa. 2006. "Attractiveness and Cooperation in Social Exchange" Evolutionary Psychology. 4: 315-329. (pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi. 2006. "Why the Less Intelligent May Enjoy Television More than the More Intelligent", Journal of Cultural and Evolutionary Psychology. 4: 27-36. (pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi. 2006. ""First, Kill All the Economists....": The Insufficiency of Microeconomics and the Need for Evolutionary Psychology in the Study of Management" Managerial and Decision Economics. 27: 95-101. (pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi. 2006. "Where Do Cultures Come From?" Cross-Cultural Research. 40: 152-176. (pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi. 2006."Violent Men Have More Sons: Further Evidence for the Generalized Trivers-Willard Hypothesis(gTWH)" Journal of Theoretical Biology. 239: 450-459. (pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi. 2005. "An Empirical Test of a Possible Solution to "the Central Theoretical Problem of Human Sociobiology."" Journal of Cultural and Evolutionary Psychology. 3: 249-260. (pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi. 2005. "Who Lies on Surveys, and What Can We Do about it?" Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies. 30: 361-370. (pdf)
Yamagishi, Toshio, Satoshi Kanazawa, Rie Mashima, and Shigeru Terai. 2005. "Separating Trust from Cooperation in a Dynamic Relationship: Prisoner's Dilemma with Variable Dependence." Rationality and Society. 17: 275-308. (pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi and Deanna L. Novak. 2005. "Human Sexual Dimorphism in Size May Be Triggered by Environmental Cues." Journal of Biosocial Science. 37: 657-665. (pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi. 2005. "The Myth of Racial Discrimination in Pay in the United States" Managerial and Decision Economics. 26: 285-294. (pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi. 2005. "Big and Tall Parents Have More Sons: Further Generalizations of the Trivers-Willard Hypothesis." Journal of Theoretical Biology. 235: 583-590. (pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi and Griet Vandermassen. 2005. "Engineers Have More Sons, Nurses Have More Daughters: An Evolutionary Psychological Extension of Baron-Cohen's Extreme Male Brain Theory of Autism and Its Empirical Implications." Journal of Theoretical Biology. 233: 589-599.(pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi. 2005. "Is "Discrimination" Necessary to Explain the Sex Gap in Earnings?" Journal of Economic Psychology. 26: 269-287. (pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi. 2004. "Social Sciences Are Branches of Biology." Socio-Economic Review. 2: 371-390. (pdf)
Savage, Joanne and Satoshi Kanazawa. 2004. "Social Capital and the Human Psyche: Why is Social Life "Capital"?" Sociological Theory. 22: 504-524. (pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi and Jody L. Kovar. 2004. "Why Beautiful People Are More Intelligent." Intelligence. 32: 227-243. (pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi. 2004. "General Intelligence as a Domain-Specific Adaptation." Psychological Review. 111: 512-523. (pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi. 2004. "The Savanna Principle." Managerial and Decision Economics. 25: 41-54. (pdf)
Yamagishi, Toshio, Shigehito Tanida, Rie Mashima, Eri Shimoma, and Satoshi Kanazawa. 2003. "You Can Judge a Book by Its Cover: Evidence that Cheaters May Look Different from Cooperators." Evolution and Human Behavior. 24: 290-301. (pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi. 2003. "Why Productivity Fades with Age: The Crime-Genius Connection." Journal of Research in Personality. 37: 257-272. (pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi. 2003. "Can Evolutionary Psychology Explain Reproductive Behavior in the Contemporary United States?" Sociological Quarterly. 44: 291-302. (pdf)
Savage, Joanne and Satoshi Kanazawa. 2002. "Social Capital, Crime and Human Nature." Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice. 18: 188-211. (pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi. 2002. "Bowling with Our Imaginary Friends." Evolution and Human Behavior. 23: 167-171.(pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi and Rebecca L. Frerichs. 2001. "Why Single Men Might Abhor Foreign Cultures." Social Biology. 48: 321-328.
Kanazawa, Satoshi. 2001. "Why Father Absence Might Precipitate Early Menarche: The Role of Polygyny." Evolution and Human Behavior. 22: 329-334. (pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi. 2001. "De Gustibus Est Disputandum." Social Forces. 79: 1131-1163. (pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi. 2001. "Where Do Social Structures Come From?" Advances in Group Processes. 18: 161-183.
Kanazawa, Satoshi and Mary C. Still. 2000. "Why Men Commit Crimes (and Why They Desist)." Sociological Theory. 18: 434-447. (pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi. 2000. "Scientific Discoveries as Cultural Displays: A Further Test of Miller's Courtship Model." Evolution and Human Behavior. 21: 317-321. (pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi. 2000. "A New Solution to the Collective Action Problem: The Paradox of Voter Turnout." American Sociological Review. 65: 433-442. (pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi and Mary C. Still. 2000. "Teaching May Be Hazardous to Your Marriage." Evolution and Human Behavior. 21: 185-190. (pdf)
Kanazawa, Satoshi and Mary C. Still. 2000. "Parental Investment as a Game of Chicken." Politics and the Life Sciences. 19: 17-26. (pdf)

VG said...

Thanks for that link to Kanazawa. I was browsing through a few articles and they are very interesting indeed

fifi said...

"It's simple race-denier semantics. It was so facile I couldn't get my head 'round it either (I thought it was beyond me, when it was actually beneath me)."

Thanks, Svigor. I guess it's one of those turns of phrase to keep the fanatics away but it can be hell on the uninitiated, quite the zen koan. Meanwhile, I'm looking for books that counter Darwinian theory just so I can be hated by every faction on the planet. I'm sure it's a personality disorder that drives me to do these things. I tell you I just made a feminist angry with the use of the term "feminazi". No hope for me at all. ; 0)

Marc said...

I agree with Fifi though that there needs to be some kind of population genetics/human biodiversity for dummies resource out there (there may already be one... if so, please point me to it) for people who are interested in the subject but don't have the appropriate background.

Personally, I'm fascinated by the debates and discussion, but I was an English major in college, for Christ's sake. (Hangs head in shame...)

Peter Frost said...

"he means canards or something. not truisms. you dont argue against a truism."

I'm an academic, not a propagandist. When one begins to advance an argument, one shouldn't assume to be proven what one still hasn't proven.

When I wrote that post, I was looking for a word that means "something that most people genuinely believe to be proven beyond reasonable doubt." The word 'truism' seems to fit the bill.


Fifi,

The 85% figure comes from Lewontin's analysis of variance. He found that human populations account for only 15% of human genetic variation. The rest -- the residual, if you will, -- is scattered among individuals.

fifi said...

Thanks, Mr. Frost. That helps.

And there is an Evolution for Dummies available for pre-order on Amazon.com. More importantly, I found Wine Made Simple during the same search.

Cheers!

David said...

human populations account for only 15% of human genetic variation. The rest -- the residual, if you will, -- is scattered among individuals

Wow, that IS obscure. Of course genetic variation is scattered among individuals. Who else exists?

What we're seeking is a comparison of the genetic qualities of the average person of one race with that of the average person of another race, for all the races.

The gobbledegok quoted is trying to suggest...something. Does it mean there is more variance among individuals within a race than there is among individuals of...? At this point close reasoning breaks down. It sounds nuanced and sophisticated, but on analysis it means nothing. (Of course it's supposed to suggest that "there is no such thing as race.")

Robert said...

fifi, I am from this planet where Western women doll themselves up and other cultures aren't so superficial. And if you would research it a little you would find that in many cultures it is the men who put on makeup and jewelry even to an extent that Western tastes would find effeminate. Japan may be an exception to that rule.

ben tillman said...

Fifi,

The 85% figure comes from Lewontin's analysis of variance. He found that human populations account for only 15% of human genetic variation. The rest -- the residual, if you will, -- is scattered among individuals.


Fifi, this is why you can't grasp Lewontin's 85%/15% split -- it isn't (and indeed couldn't be) true.

Frost's explanation changes the formulation radically from "85% of variation is intraracial" to "85% of variation is among 'individuals'".

fifi lives in hell said...

"I am from this planet where Western women doll themselves up and other cultures aren't so superficial."

You must live on the coast, Robert. Here in the middle west women don't wear make-up unless they're gettin' married or somethin'. It has gotten cold enough that more than a few of us have skipped a few baths as well but I digress.

fifi said...

"Lewontin's 85%/15% split -- it isn't (and indeed couldn't be) true."

"It sounds nuanced and sophisticated, but on analysis it means nothing. (Of course it's supposed to suggest that "there is no such thing as race.")"

Will EVOLUTION FOR DUMMIES clear this up or just provide deceptively reassuring paragraphs full of double-speak?

And I thought the liberal arts had suffered the most from being hijacked by Marxists.

Peter Frost said...

"The gobbledegok quoted is trying to suggest...something. Does it mean there is more variance among individuals within a race than there is among individuals of...?"

Lewontin found that much more genetic variation exists within human populations than between them. Frankly, I'm dumbfounded by the number of commenters who are dumbfounded. What's so hard to understand? I learned analysis of variance in my first-year university courses. Is this no longer the case?

ben tillman said...

Lewontin found that much more genetic variation exists within human populations than between them. Frankly, I'm dumbfounded by the number of commenters who are dumbfounded. What's so hard to understand?

What Lewontin means by "variation".

bentillman said...

I learned analysis of variance in my first-year university courses.

But how is variance relevant?

fifi said...

"Frankly, I'm dumbfounded by the number of commenters who are dumbfounded."

Obviously there is some level of controversy even among those with expertise in the subject of Evolutionary Biology.

Questions I have are:

When you talk about variance within a population are you just comparing the set of traits that would be typical of that population versus a different set of traits common to another population?

Are you grouping males and females together so that part of the variance is due to sexual dimorphism?

What are the traits being compared i.e. face shape, height, bone density, body fat, or something else?

I realize eye color and hair color vary widely in some populations but hardly at all in others so discussing relative variations between and within populations without clarifying this would be comparing apples and oranges, wouldn't it?

Steve Sailer said...

Let's take this example:

Say the average SAT score at Harvard is 1500 and the average SAT score at Northwestern is 1400, so the difference between the two is 100 points. But the average variation between students at Northwestern is, say, 200 points. (Let's skip for the moment the question of how to measure variation within student bodies.)

Therefore, according to the conventional wisdom in interpreting Lewontin's argument, the difference between Harvard and Northwestern is of negligible importance.

Of course, it apparently didn't seem that way to Lewontin, who chose to be a Harvard professor, nor to the many people endorsing this interpretation of Lewontin's argument, who regularly mention that Lewontin is a Harvard professor.

fifi said...

"Of course, it apparently didn't seem that way to Lewontin, who chose to be a Harvard professor, nor to the many people endorsing this interpretation of Lewontin's argument, who regularly mention that Lewontin is a Harvard professor."

Ok, so it's just a trick to deceive people who don't understand the math. This is data that's been completely abstracted into numeric analysis far beyond comparing each population on each individual trait? Or can you give a more concrete example that isn't comparing numeric variation on a numeric test score but rather numeric variation on a trait or gene?

ben tillman said...

Steve, why do you think your illustratiion illustrates Lewontin's claim? I understand what you're syaing, but I don't think it's what he was saying.

Anonymous said...

Frost (and some commenters here) seems to be confused about the 85%-15% variability statistic, often referred to as Lewontin's fallacy. It does not reveal anything about the actual genetic distance between two populations, as it ignores important correlations that would be revealed in a clustering analysis (using a metric on the space of genomes).

Many people incorrectly interpret the 85-15 statistic to imply that two genomes chosen at random from the same cluster (e.g., two Europeans) will be no more similar to each other than to one chosen from another cluster (e.g., an African or Asian). This is simply not true, as has been confirmed by detailed, high statistics analysis.

The 85% number comes from counting frequencies of different gene variants in different groups. Lewontin's original study did this at a limited number of loci. But anyone with some mathematical sophistication can see that a simple measure of variability like the 85-15% number hides the effect of correlations. It is perfectly possible to have drastic phenotypical differences between two populations even if all gene variants are found in both populations and the 85-15 statistic is satisfied.

For a detailed exposition (I hope Frost reads this), see here:
http://www.gnxp.com/MT2/archives/lewontindebunked.pdf

Related discussion here:

http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2008/01/no-
scientific-basis-for-race.html

http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2007/01/metric-on-space-of-genomes-and.html

fifi said...

"Many people incorrectly interpret the 85-15 statistic to imply that two genomes chosen at random from the same cluster (e.g., two Europeans) will be no more similar to each other than to one chosen from another cluster (e.g., an African or Asian). This is simply not true, as has been confirmed by detailed, high statistics analysis."

Thanks for the detailed explanation. This part especially. Sailer's recent article on Vdare has some good sources as well as the Goldberg article Svigor told me about.