Arnold Kling  

The Future will not be Civil

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Morning Commentary, Hubris Edi... I Hate This Story...
the new genetics will reveal much less than hoped about how to cure disease, and much more than feared about human evolution and inequality, including genetic differences between classes, ethnicities and races.
That is Geoffrey Miller, who you may recall from my posts on his book Spent. His view is that people have genetic traits and it would be most efficient if we could just reveal them, but instead we go to great trouble and expense to send signals about our traits.

In theory, genetics does not have to bother with classes, ethnicities, and races. Why are we interested in those as units of analysis? Is it because we use them as signals, and so we are interested in how well genetic statistics confirm our hypotheses about signals? Or is it because, if you will forgive the expression, we are genetically programmed to view people through a tribal lens, and so we are just inherently interested in these group tendencies?


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COMMENTS (24 to date)
Thucydides writes:

Maybe it is unwelcome revelations of this sort that will get us back to MLK's idea that we should judge individuals by the content of their character, and away from the present system of politically brokered group entitlements and preferences. And government policies based on what may prove to be false assumption of equal ability finally may be seen to be ineffective.

agnostic writes:

"In theory, genetics does not have to bother with classes, ethnicities, and races. Why are we interested in those as units of analysis?"

What theory of genetics does *not* bother with distinguishing between several populations? In fact, just about any subfield of genetics does.

8 writes:

Geneticists can only help you see more of the material world, where races and ethnicities exist.

This is why some Men imagined the eyes of God, through which can be seen the eternal soul.

The opposition to genetic research comes from those whose world view has no answer for its findings: atheists who believe we're all the same.

SydB writes:

Humans divide into races and classes because we are homo-categorus. It's our nature. In addition, there are identifiable classes (e.g. economic), even if individuals move between them (though limited choices make it difficult to move up). And there are identifiable "races," thought it all depends upon what traits one wants to define as race.

Miller's article is rather empty. There's a crisis looming he tells us. How does he know? He's spoken to the "thoughtful." Ok. I'll go with that. And apparently we've got lots of genetic data on "leisure interests" but little on medical genetics. But--speculation--it'll be solved soon. And then--more speculation--the US won't be involved with it. And then--more speculation--we're going to find grand differences between races and the likes.

What have we learned by reading this article? Nothing.

Dobzhansky points out in his 1973 book that IQ's amongst African Americans are lopsided, with tails on the low end the same as that of caucasians, but the upper end flattened. And the flattenting seems to worsen with age. There is no explanation except nurture, environment.

With that in mind, I think Miller's speculation is pointless.

faber writes:

Or is it because, if you will forgive the expression, we are genetically programmed to view people through a tribal lens, and so we are just inherently interested in these group tendencies?

Good question. You should ask Kevin MacDonald.

razib writes:

In theory, genetics does not have to bother with classes, ethnicities, and races.

in practice probably you still want to control for population because alleles may respond differently to different genetic backgrounds. if you're an omniscient god it wouldn't matter, because you know all the implications of gene-gene interactions due o population history, but we're not gonna be there in the near future. IOW, population history matters because that is what shapes 'genetic background,' which is the prior against which SNPs effect variation.

R. Richard Schweitzer writes:

A step forward might be made if ALL would use the term differentiation instead of inequality.

Philo writes:

Studying ethnicities and races gives us insight into the pre-history of the human species, which is just as important/unimportant and interesting/uninteresting as history itself.

Steve Sailer writes:

Because racial descent is how genes are transmitted.

A racial group is merely an extended family, an extended family given a higher degree of coherence and continuity through time than most extended families through some degree of endogamous breeding.

Much of the confusion in modern intellectual discourse could be cleared up if people only grasped that definition of race.

For a fuller explication, see:

http://www.vdare.com/Sailer/presentation.htm


SydB writes:

"Because racial descent is how genes are transmitted."

Wrong. Genes are transmitted through sexual reproduction.

"A racial group is merely an extended family, an extended family given a higher degree of coherence and continuity through time than most extended families through some degree of endogamous breeding."

The correlations are actually quite poor. See Dobzhansky 1973.

"Much of the confusion in modern intellectual discourse"

unnecessary meaningless boilerplate

Blackadder writes:

Dobzhansky points out in his 1973 book that IQ's amongst African Americans are lopsided

Which book?

SydB writes:

"Genetic Diversity and Human Equality the Facts & Fallacies in the Explosive Genetics and Education Controversy"

In it he points out that equality is a legal concept (e.g. equality before the law), calling people equal in a genetic sense or in terms of abilities is nonsense, and he looks at the correlation data for human geographic populations, explaining how some quick drop-offs geographically can be defined as "race" if one so desires.

He also addresses the significant asymmetry in African American IQ data that is best explained by nurture. In particular, IQ variances are reduces in lower socioeconomic classes, of which many blacks are members. If genetics and IQ were the explanation, variances would be similarly spread across economic conditions. But they aren't because those in lower socioeconomic conditions have less opportunities to realize their natural abilities.

He also points out that blacks up until recent times were a separate caste, not race, in this country. He finds little use for the race concept.

Stephen Z writes:

Quote: "He also addresses the significant asymmetry in African American IQ data that is best explained by nurture. In particular, IQ variances are reduces in lower socioeconomic classes, of which many blacks are members. If genetics and IQ were the explanation, variances would be similarly spread across economic conditions. But they aren't because those in lower socioeconomic conditions have less opportunities to realize their natural abilities."

Sounds like question begging to me.

SyB writes:

"Sounds like question begging to me."

Not at all. There is absolutely no genetic explanation for these compressed variances. Genetics doesn't work that way. Hence it has to be nurture.

How is that question begging?

Blackadder writes:

In it he points out that equality is a legal concept (e.g. equality before the law), calling people equal in a genetic sense or in terms of abilities is nonsense

Equality may be a legal concept, but it's not just a legal concept (it's also a mathematical concept, for example).

IQ variances are reduces in lower socioeconomic classes, of which many blacks are members. If genetics and IQ were the explanation, variances would be similarly spread across economic conditions.

Suppose that lower SES were partially caused by lower IQ rather than low SES causing low IQ. Wouldn't you get the same lower variance at low SES levels?

If you read the APA Task Force's 1996 report Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns, it says that the racial gap in IQ can't be accounted for solely by differences in SES. Given that this report was released several decades after Dobzhansky's book, it would seem to be a more accurate representation of the current state of knowledge.

Blackadder writes:

Also, my understanding is that while the gap between the average IQ of whites and blacks is lower at low SES levels than at high SES levels, there is still a substantial gap at lower levels (10 points instead of 16). So even assuming that this means part of the gap is explained by environment, it wouldn't show that all of the gap is due to environment. Unless I'm missing something.

SydB writes:

"also a mathematical concept"

Correct but that has nothing to do with the current discussion. The current focus is inequality and equality of humans. Humans are physically/mentally unequal but equal before the law.

"Wouldn't you get the same lower variance at low SES levels?"

The African American variance is squashed at the upper end of IQ (compressed to the left), particularly for those of lower economic status. This lopsidedness cannot be explained by genetic factors. Genetics doesn't work that way.

The paper you referenced says the following:

"Environmental factors also contribute substantially to the development of intelligence, but we do not clearly understand what those factors are or how they work."

That's the point Dobzhansky makes. Not much has changed. The paper, as far as I can tell, doesn't even address the compression I refer to.

Problem is: There's no there there. There are huge holes in all this stuff, hence leading people to make nonsensical statements like "racial descent is how genes are transmitted." That is a phrase written by someone who doesn't understand genetics.

SydB writes:

"So even assuming that this means part of the gap is explained by environment, it wouldn't show that all of the gap is due to environment. Unless I'm missing something."

It means the environment is doing something to compress IQs and until we address that we can't say anything more at all--because we don't know the extent.

The environment is doing something.

Blackadder writes:

The current focus is inequality and equality of humans. Humans are physically/mentally unequal but equal before the law.

If all you meant was that people should be equal before the law regardless of their different abilities and capacities, then I fully agree. It sounded like you were saying that it was nonsensical to speak of people being unequal in abilities.

The environment is doing something.

I don't think anyone doubts that the environment is doing something. Even Arthur Jensen, for example, thinks that 20-50% of the black/white gap is due to non-hereditary factors. The controversy, as I understood it, was about whether environmental factors were sufficient to explain *all* of the gap, not whether they could explain any of it.

Here is what I was referencing from the Task Force report re SES and IQ:

Several specific environmental/cultural explanations of those differences have been proposed. All of them refer to the general life situation in which contemporary African Americans find themselves, but that situation can be described in several different ways. The simplest such hypothesis can be framed in economic terms. On the average, Blacks have lower incomes than Whites; a much higher proportion of them are poor. It is plausible to suppose that many inevitable aspects of poverty-poor nutrition, frequently inadequate prenatal care, lack of intellectual resources- have negative effects on children’s developing intelligence. Indeed, the correlation between “socioeconomic status” (SES) and scores on intelligence tests is well-known (White, 1982).

Several considerations suggest that this cannot be the whole explanation. For one thing, the Black/White differential in test scores is not eliminated when groups or individuals are matched for SES (Loehlin et al., 1975). Moreover, the data reviewed in Section 4 suggest that- if we exclude extreme conditions-nutrition and other biological factors that may vary with SES account for relatively little of the variance in such scores. Finally, the (relatively weak) relationship between test scores and income is much more complex than a simple SES hypothesis would suggest. The living conditions of children result in part from the accomplishments of their parents: If the skills measured by psychometric tests actually matter for those accomplishments, intelligence is affecting SES rather than the other way around. We do not know the magnitude of these various effects in various populations, but it is clear that no model in which “SES” directly determines “IQ” will do.

frankcross writes:

It is perfectly reasonable to explore genetic differences by race, I think the point is that they are vastly exaggerated in importance, even assuming that some difference exists.

And the research on race is probably a good thing. We have statistics now but they are terribly confounded by environmental factors. If we can find an actual intelligence gene(s), then we can compare different groups and find a true answer rather than all the jibberjabber today, which is inevitably based on weak evidence, given the confounders.

SydB writes:

"no model in which “SES” directly determines “IQ” will do."

Dobzhansky makes it very clear that IQ has a strong genetic component and that IQ is well correlated with success in life. Thus I would never say that SES directly determines IQ. That's far too blank slate.

The rest of the text in the quote you provide above doesn't tell us too much. Lots of "suggests" and "cannot be the whole" and similar speculation. Mainly they say they don't know, and that's fine. We don't.

My basic opinion is that the lopsided nature of variance tell us that environment is doing something. And I think those folks who are interested in family values should ask themselves what happens to a population that is ripped up, mixed up, oppressed, and broken up for several hundred years. I think it would introduce many problems uneasily extracted given the nature of nurture.

v writes:

"...African American IQ..." Did they define the race before the test? I get confused by these ideas. If an alien came (like the cool blue ones in Avatar), I'm pretty sure they can't tell one race from another. Maybe biological male/female they could figure out. I feel like the order should be using genetics to split (if possible) people into "races" and then run IQ tests. If it's true that you can't tell race (currently defined using colors and other random descriptors) from genes, then what business do we have keeping those labels?

Andrew E writes:

SydB,

I assume your familiar with Charles Murray's work on IQ. Here's his recap of the present state of the science that was published in 2005:

http://www.aei.org/article/23075

SydB writes:

I read it (skimmed parts). His main argument: (1) If you say something controversial, people might not like you. (2) People are afraid to say something controversial. (3) There is evidence that IQ and abilities are "intractable." He backs away from "innate." (4) IQs seem malleable but if he retreats to "g" he can argue they aren't. (5) Something horrible will happen to society if "elites" think it might be possible to increase participation of women and blacks in particular areas. He's not too clear on what that horrible outcome might be.

I'd love to see him address the issue of blind auditions in Orchestras in which participation of women rose from 5% to approximately 36%. The good old boys network just couldn't stand the thought of women sitting next to them until it was pointed out how biased they were.

I have a daughter studying mathematics at Berkeley. You would not believe the number of people throughout the years who went out of their way to describe to her how girls don't do mathematics. It continues. This has an effect on some kids.

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