Thursday, May 08, 2014

Nicholas Wade interview: A Troublesome Inheritance

Leonard Lopate interviews Nicholas Wade (veteran genetics correspondent for the NYTimes) about his new book A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History. The interview is slow at first but the second half is good.



Update: Another interview (May 9), with CBC, that gets right to the point regarding "social construction" -- the convenient but incorrect legacy of anthropologist Ashley Montagu (Israel Ehrenberg). The second guest, Stanford anthropologist Duana Fullwiley, foreshadows the counterattack on Wade.

See also this well-written essay in Time, adapted from the book.


I received a copy of A Troublesome Inheritance from the publisher. My initial impressions:

(1) The first part of the book covers well-established science concerning the genetic clustering of human populations. Some of the results will be surprising to those who have not followed the last 10 years of progress in genomics. See, e.g., here and here for my thoughts on this subject.

(2) The second part of the book covers controversial topics such as genetic group differences in behavioral and cognitive predispositions. Wade is mostly careful to present these as speculative hypotheses, but nevertheless his advocacy leaves him vulnerable to easy attack.

It will be interesting to see how this book, by a prominent science writer (indeed, the chief genetics correspondent for the paper of record), is received by the intelligentsia, the punditocracy, and actual scientists.

Additional remarks:


Below I have excerpted from the first link in (1) above, a post I originally wrote in 2007. I think these remarks are quite relevant to Wade's new book; note specific comments in brackets [ ... ].
... Two groups that form distinct [ genetic ] clusters are likely to exhibit different frequency distributions over various genes, leading to group differences. [ One does not require a more precise definition of "races" to get immediately to the thorny questions: two groups that differ in allele frequencies may differ statistically in phenotype! ]

This leads us to two very different possibilities in human genetic variation:

Hypothesis 1: (the PC mantra) The only group differences that exist between the clusters (races) are innocuous and superficial, for example related to skin color, hair color, body type, etc.

Hypothesis 2: (the dangerous one) Group differences exist which might affect important (let us say, deep rather than superficial) and measurable characteristics, such as cognitive abilities, personality, athletic prowess, etc.

... As scientists, we don't know whether H1 or H2 is correct, but given the revolution in biotechnology, we will eventually. Let me reiterate, before someone labels me a racist: we don't know with high confidence whether H1 or H2 is correct.

... it is important to note that group differences are statistical in nature and do not imply anything definitive about a particular individual. Rather than rely on the scientifically unsupported claim that we are all equal, it would be better to emphasize that we all have inalienable human rights regardless of our abilities or genetic makeup. [ Consider individuals, who are clearly unequal in their gifts: greater abilities should not confer greater rights! ]

... Clustering makes it possible that H2 is correct, because the alleles (genetic variants) affecting a particular phenotype will tend to have different frequencies in different groups. The average value of the trait might or might not be the same in different groups. In the case of height, enough is known to suggest that variants which lead to increased height are more frequent in northern Europe than in the south, and there is evidence that this is due to selection, not drift. [ i.e., this is evidence of recent selection driving group differences in a complex trait, controlled by thousands of loci. Wade: “Human evolution has been recent, copious, and regional.” ]

... I think it's especially important to be epistemologically careful in thinking about these matters, because of our difficult history with race. [ By articulating so many speculative theories in the second part of his book, Wade risks being perceived as not careful. ]

... I would much rather live in a world where H1 is true and H2 false. But my preference alone does not make it so. (I would also much rather live in a universe created by a loving God, and in which I and my children have eternal souls; not a cruel Darwinian universe in which our species arose merely by chance. But my preference does not make it so.)

72 comments:

Ken Condon said...

What happens when science meets logic? The aforementioned is of course true.


Dogs come to mind. Some swim, some fetch, some retrieve, some fight, some run very fast, and I suppose-it's true---some think. And some have beautiful coats.


Dogs can-- and are-- genetically predetermined for physicality and intelligence….. Why are not humans exempt?

Butch said...

http://nextbigfuture.com/2014/05/kl-vs-gene-makes-up-six-iq-points-of.html
The article above describes the KL-VS gene which is touted to be responsible for six IQ points, this gene has only recently had it's findings published.
if you had the time could you give any thoughts?

botti said...

In a discussion thread about the book on a UK legal site, one response was "it sounds like a eugenicist response to Guns, Germs & Steel." Apparently, that is how some people in the UK have been indoctrinated to respond to the suggestion genes have played a role in human history and civilizational development :D

Magnusmaster said...

The problem if H2 is true is that the only reason all humans have equal rights is due to the assumption all differences are superficial. Deep differences between groups make slavery, genocide and segregation morally acceptable (among most people). I doubt people who believe in H2 ("racial realists") would give the same rights to whites and blacks. Not to mention the inevitable embryo genocide, or god forbid, sterilization of people who don't have that KL-VS allele recently discovered.

steve hsu said...

"we all have inalienable human rights regardless of our abilities or genetic makeup"


This is a moral stance I support for living humans. Perhaps not so much for zygotes comprised of only a few cells (cf the usual abortion debate). Not everyone will agree with me, as you note.


Do Neanderthals deserve equal rights? Homo Erectus? Chimps? ...

Magnusmaster said...

Well, humans weren´t deliberately selected for specific traits like dogs. There is no reason to think humans are exempt, except our races aren´t as well defined as dog breeds. A better comparison would be with wolves. But using the dog example, sometimes violent breeds such as pitbulls are banned. If this were applied to humans it would be inmoral. Pretty much all of Social Darwinism is inmoral, and any policy based on H2 would be at least morally questionable. Gene therapy (both kinds) would be nice, but it seems science is moving in the direction of embryo selection.

Richard Seiter said...

Where the line is drawn makes for an interesting (and sometimes difficult, as you observe) question. Especially so if we ever enter the science fiction world of "uplifting" other species (like David Brin's chimps, dolphins, etc.).

On another note, does anyone have % variance explained data for the PCA plots above? I wish including that was a part of the convention for display of PCA plots.

steve hsu said...

For panel A, PC1 = 20% of the variance, PC2 = 5%, and PC3 = 3.5%. For panel B, PC1 = 11%, PC2 = 6%, PC3 = 5% and PC4 = 4%.

http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2010/08/connect-dots.html

Richard Seiter said...

Thanks! I hadn't realized PC1 in panel A was so large a % of variance (is data available for how many PCs are needed to explain different % of variance? and how many total PCs?). I find that rather shocking. Does Wade discuss that in his book (and has realization of what that implies made it into the non-academic zeitgeist of this topic)?

steve hsu said...

Wade's discussion is too primitive for this (circa 2002--2005 or so). You have to look in the literature. There are many papers analyzing large samples for population structure (unbeknownst to "experts" on "race and ethnicity" who seem to only be aware of the early papers and cannot understand the mathematics well enough to see how far this must have advanced just given sample sizes reported in the newspaper). Actually, it is a nuisance for GWAS -- you have to correct for population structure as a possible confound for the real effect you are looking for.

Even the papers I link to below are slightly out of date.

http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/v38/n8/abs/ng1847.html
http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2008/11/european-genetic-substructure.html
http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2008/12/resolution-of-genetic-population.html

aseuss said...

The problem with these popular science books is that they have to exaggerate in order to create a sensation, which is the whole point because they want to sell millions of copies. But it's particularly reckless in this case because not only are you talking about science, but you're talking about race. And unless Wade makes some exaggerations, goes a little overboard in his conclusions about race, he's not selling any books. But we're not talking about polar bears or time travel here--we're talking about an issue that has led to wars, atrocities, etc.
So if there are going to be popular books about this topic, they should be written by scientists. Mr. Hsu, perhaps it's time for you to switch your screen from your blogspot to Word, and start penning an actual book on the topic. I don't agree with everything you say, but you couch treat these issues on genetics in the measured and precise fashion of a scientist, rather than the compelling and often sensational tone of a writer who makes his living selling articles and books (like Wade). You don't shy away from using statistics and charts to convey the true complexity of the science. Any reader must come away with your analysis knowing that reality, as represented by science (the closest approximation of reality), is far too complex, the data often ambiguous and incomplete, for us to justify the awful treatment of one group against the other. From what I have read about Wade, he makes an appearance of being fair and nuanced but is really not. It's clear that he places far too much emphasis on genetics than historical and political factors. For instance, one could go back to the 1960s, and wonder why South Korea was a Third World country, with no clean or running water, while Japan was a wealthy First World nation with a bullet train. Genetics? Obviously not--South Korea's companies are now giving Japan's a run for their money. The same is true for a lot of poor countries now that are now recording double digit growth. 20 years from now, what will Wade say?
But Wade says about Southeast Asia what someone would've said about South Korea 50 years ago. His blunt conclusions follow from the fact that he is not a scientist, and also because his career depends on writing popular books. That's where you come in, Mr. Hsu: you have a day job. You don't have to write about science to make a living, so you won't care if you're book only sells 50k copies. At least it'll help set the record straight.

Jon Claerbout said...

Presenting 3-D data, an easy kludge is to blink back and forth between two pictures, say left eye, right eye. It is really easy to do this in a few lines of javascript, a slight variation on html. If you type your own html, I can only suggest you copy from an example I'll try to link to
http://sep.stanford.edu/sep/jon/family/jos/memories/andrew2.html

In Chrome browser, then View--->developer--->view source.

pat said...

Steve, I'm convinced that you are worth reading but I'm not so sure about Wade. Tell me straight out. Is there anything new in Wade's book? Or is this just another rehash of information and arguments that most of your readers have understood for decades? I appreciate that these ideas have now reached the New York Times. I get the historical significance, but does he actually have anything to add?
Pat Boyle

5371 said...

It's actually utter nonsense that the study of human heredity has led to "wars, atrocities, etc."

Richard Seiter said...

I don't have access to the full text of the Nature paper, but the abstract immediately raises the question in my mind of how to account for the possibility of "real effect" alleles being part of the population PCs. Sounds like a difficult problem to me (and one that differing solutions could provoke controversy about what results imply).

Your blog link on European Genetic substructure (I had missed both of those blog links in my perusal of your blog, thanks) has PCs accounting for ~1% of variance which emphasizes how big a difference 20% (and 11% for PC1 in panel B) is. Is it justifiable to compare these as a measure of "difference" along a given axis for different samples?

The Resolution of population genetic structure link gave figures of (for European populations) of ~100 statistically significant PCs accounting for a total ~few % of variation. The referenced paper gave the first 10 eigenvalues for a 12 population sample but I did not see a conversion to % variance explained (though the first 3 eigenvalues were similar to panel A % so perhaps they are normalized?).

mandongo said...

but that's the % of a small variance.

as species of mammals go, humans are homogeneous.

it's not even possible to identify the race of a skeleton without the facial skeleton.

mandongo said...

you're right richard.

it's a paradox of behavioral genetics especially that in order to find alleles which may have an effect the population has to be fairly homogeneous. this is the case both at genetic and behavioral/phenotypic level. for example, an iq test or personality test may be meaningless for a group like the sentinelese.

mandongo said...

it is true that the breeds have personality traits.

but humans have culture. dogs don't.

there aren't 7000+ living dog languages. there's only one.

mandongo said...

if someone has interests in certain topics that someone can usually be identified as belonging to a certain class of people.



this is just reality.



"all i talk about is race, but i'm not a racist..." really?

mandongo said...

if someone has an interests in certain topics that someone can usually be identified as belonging to a certain class of people.



this is just reality.



"all i talk about is race, but i'm not a racist..." really?

steve hsu said...

Here's a good answer to your question from the discussion at Tyler Cowen's blog (he reviewed the book):

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/05/nicholas-wades-a-troublesome-inheritance.html

1. You are not going to learn any new Science

2. You are going to learn what happens in your society when a distinguished and relatively prominent Science journalist publishes a prominent book in which he shows a bit of courage and gets as close as possible to promoting an unorthodox and taboo truth without risking utter ostracization.

3. You will learn who cannot risk publicly aligning with that position in order to maintain their position and current and future influence. And you will learn the techniques they must employ in order to walk the narrow path between sacrificing their integrity promoting the erroneous orthodoxy itself, and supporting the accurate contrarian position. Don’t hold anything against Prof. Cowen, he’s doing good work, but sometimes he writes a post the purpose of which is not to be a reflection of his genuine understanding or position, but, essentially, to allow Sailer to write in the comments section and do the actual updating of priors. Asking why people successfully avoid the subject and remain respectable by constantly talking about the Flynn Effect just might be relevant to this lesson.

Learning the topology of PC and influence in your society, and observing the consequences, is in fact very important. Reading the book itself will tell you whether the negative reviews are giving Wade a fair shake or not, and if they’re not, that’s revealing, and the answer to ‘why not’ is extremely enlightening. And also depressing. Learning how to achieve success in life by walking the line, not sacrificing your integrity, but leveraging your popularity, esteem, and status to occasionally promote truth-tellers, is also a very valuable thing to learn.

Another thing to learn is the answer to the question of, “What the point of Wade’s book if it has to be so mellow?”

The point is to very gently walk up to the question of the origin of disparities between human population groups (don’t get hung up on the semantics of ‘race’, just concentrate on genetic relatedness). Right now, the PC-orthodox theory of the origin those disparities is 100% discrimination, oppression, privilege, historical legacy, etc. The orthodoxy says that all human population groups are neurologically uniform in the distribution of various cognitive talents and abilities. That argues for both the necessity and moral imperative of even extremely obnoxious government interventions in countless circumstances involving personnel selection and redistribution of resources.

If, on the other hand, a large fraction of that disparity is fairly attributable to genetics instead of social injustice, then bigotry and discrimination is not a good explanation for the disparity, and thus the government crusade against discriminating employers and coercive disparate impact policies are unjustified. Also, if the ‘test score gap’ cannot be closed by any reasonable government policy, then we should stop slandering decent educators doing the best they can with the materials they have as ‘bad teachers’ who fill ‘bad schools’.

Indeed, if those who are influential and persuasive over the elites in the political class who craft policy could adopt even a 50/50 nature-nurture model of the origin population group disparity, then the implication is a complete upheaval and revolution in government policy, the positive benefits of which cannot be overstated.

As an opening salvo in that ‘So What?’ war, Wade’s cautious eggshell-walking, and Prof. Cowen’s snippy review, are unfortunate deviations from the ideal due the oppressive ideological environment, but they are nevertheless to be commended.

James Hedman said...

Stephen Hsu: why do you find H2 "dangerous?"

James Hedman said...

"any policy based on H2 would be at least morally questionable."


Why? If H2 is true then we are wasting our collective resources to a criminal extent in trying to ignore, nay fight, reality.

James Hedman said...

50 years ago both Taiwan and South Korea were rapidly industrializing albeit starting from a very small base.

Felix Hall said...

If there are differences between groups it is of course easy to suggest that one group is inferior to another one. and such thinking never ends well.

steve hsu said...

>> how to account for the possibility of "real effect" alleles being part of the population PCs

You can always restrict analysis to a sample from only one group at a time. Results thus far show robust replication -- size and sign of effect tends to replicate across populations. This is true for height, lipid levels, blood pressure, etc. Sorry I don't have all the links handy. Note this is all supportive of an additive or linear genetic architecture.

http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2013/10/beanbag-genetics-blood-pressure.html



Once you know the full genetic architecture you can just compute population averages ("breeding values" in the plant/animal terminology) for each group. You might indeed find that frequencies of loci affecting a particular trait are correlated with population structure PCs.

Magnusmaster said...

Doubly true if those differences are in IQ.

James Hedman said...

Yes, but that's what everyone thinks already! LOL

Magnusmaster said...

Because if H2 is true your choices for dealing with reality are slavery, segregation a la apartheid, genocide, forcibly sterilizing those who don't have the genes you want, embryo selection or gene therapy. The last one is the only one who isn't morally questionable, but we are decades away from it. Embryo selection will be used instead, but maybe only after the really abhorrent stuff from 20th century eugenics (which even went as far as gas chambers, which was the inspiration for Hitler's "final solution" though Hitler didn't seem to properly understand genetics, let alone eugenics).

steve hsu said...

Even if H2 is true population distributions will overlap significantly on every quantitative trait. If you set a threshold for the trait then there will be people of all ancestries above and below the line.

dxie48 said...

Interesting podcast from BBC,
"Intelligence: Born Smart, Born Equal, Born Different"
http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/intelligence

James Hedman said...

All depends on the threshold. Here is an article that shows why (under current standards) we might expect a female Fields Medalist in math to emerge only once per century:
http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/math.htm

steve hsu said...

I doubt even the most extreme cognitive elitist wants to eliminate everyone dumber than a Fields Medalist ...

James Hedman said...

What about affirmative action policies that eliminate Asian medical students in favor of black ones with lower scores? Taken to its logical conclusion we have seen a "barefoot doctor" under Mao's Cultural Revolution tie off someones urethra instead of his vas deferens during a vasectomy.

Josh said...

Steve, could you explain what the difference is between cluster analysis and principal component analysis in relation to genomics? I read somewhere that, in principal component analysis, one does not need to preset the number of clusters.

adplatt126 said...

No, it isn't the proposition itself but the certitude with which it is held, combined with the politics of the era, that make an ideology really dangerous or not. Without certitude and power, this far-reaching totalitarian Political Correctness regime, resembling Soviet ideology, wouldn't have taken root. Rights are like dignity. They are basic obligations we owe one another irrespective of anyone's abilities. And they thrive on tolerance, doubt, uncertainty, and the codification of basic restraints on what one can do to others, like strip them of their property because they said something uncouth (Sterling), or shoot them because you perceive them to be subhuman (Goebbels). That racism is really always and everywhere, to any degree evil, is simply absurd, given the tremendous worth it has had in protecting civilizations historically from foreign incursion and in driving evolution. That it is always more dangerous than anti-racism is contradicted both by the hard egalitarian ideologies underlying most Marxist regimes of the 20th century and of course the current environment that has infected the West, where racists have been marginalized absolutely, politically and socially and thanks to modern laws economically as well, even when they make valid points or can serve positive influences, and leftist social Marxists who are hell-bent on abolishing all reason on certain subjects have successfully done so in the name of a false human equality.

adplatt126 said...

Such thinking has been the thinking of virtually every society throughout human history with only a few exceptions (Greeks, Romans, Persians, Chinese, English, German, Jewish). All human societies have ended horribly? Huh? On the contrary, many quite racist societies (including our own) have been quite successful, perhaps in part due to their racism. On the other hand, no hard egalitarian society, which seeks to rectify every inequality between groups has ever been successful. These ideologies seemingly always lead to conflict or collapse. Where such ideas have been attempted, they have failed universally. The operative issue is the strain and degree of racism. Excessive racism can sow discord and yield conflict, but a moderate amount of it is perfectly healthy. In fact, if you observed a population of people that didn't have some pride in their accomplishments and heritage, I'd hope you would immediately think this unnatural and that in all likelihood they are under the domination of a totalitarian regime of sorts. After all, excessive egalitarianism can compel atrocities as well, and in fact, generally does, more frequently really than moderate racism. People don't want to be watched at all times in order to ensure they don't say anything racially insensitive. They don't want a perfectly egalitarian world where superior people aren't recognized as such or don't receive some advantages for their superiority or their contributions, or where very bad, essentially worthless types aren't either neutralized or wholly discarded. And for good reason. If parasites are permitted to proliferate with no check, you get the society wide equivalent of Wall Street.

David Eaton said...

This may interest you, although I am not sure if you have already seen it.

According to a new study, modern personality differences between the northern and southern Chinese may be based upon whether the region in question used to grow rice or wheat. The Chinese in the wheat-growing regions, which tend to be further north, were more European in their outlook; however, latitude by itself does not appear to be relevant. If my memory serves, you previously quoted early European explorers as describing the northern and southern Chinese as having separate personalities.

The abstract is as follows:

"Cross-cultural psychologists have mostly contrasted East Asia with the West. However, this study shows that there are major psychological differences within China. We propose that a history of farming rice makes cultures more interdependent, whereas farming wheat makes cultures more independent, and these agricultural legacies continue to affect people in the modern world. We tested 1162 Han Chinese participants in six sites and found that rice-growing southern China is more interdependent and holistic-thinking than the wheat-growing north. To control for confounds like climate, we tested people from neighboring counties along the rice-wheat border and found differences that were just as large. We also find that modernization and pathogen prevalence theories do not fit the data" [1].

Since I do not have access to the paper itself, I do not know if the authors considered genetic factors for the outlook differences. A decent press coverage is available at [2] below; another is available at [3].

Also, I am sure you will be interested to know that a gene has been found which may account for 6 IQ points among White Americans [4].

Finally, can you give us an update about the BGI study?

[1] http://www.sciencemag.org/content/344/6184/603
[2] http://www.psmag.com/navigation/books-and-culture/two-cultures-china-western-interdependence-individualistic-independent-81078/
[3] http://time.com/92627/in-china-personality-could-come-down-to-rice-versus-wheat/

[4] http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21601809-potent-source-genetic-variation-cognitive-ability-has-just-been

millermp1 said...

Good stuff as usual.

Totally unrelated - do you think Huanming Yang's visa to a recent synthetic biology symposium was denied for political reasons or just par for the course for China visa applicants?

brackdirdo said...

But my preference does not make it so.

This isn't exactly right, unless one supposes that there is no moral law, morality is an invention of men. As Kant observed the moral law requires the supposition of an afterlife just as science requires the supposition that the phenomena under investigation are rational.

I think it's especially important to be epistemologically careful in thinking about these matters

But Steve is very far from that.

brackdirdo said...

The average value of the trait might or might not be the same in different groups...Results thus far show robust replication -- size and sign of effect
tends to replicate across populations. This is true for height, lipid
levels, blood pressure, etc.


Not that robust. Lipid
levels and blood pressure can be changed at will, though some have more will than others. There's too much variation in norms of reaction for such variants to ever explain a large part of the heritability.

"If everyone smoked. Lung cancer would be a genetic disease."

In the end this research will amount to nothing. The real motivation behind it is racism.

Felix Hall said...

fair enough. What kind of checks would you suggest on parasites?

yulva said...

Alfred Clark in Occam's Razor has a roundup of reviews:
http://occamsrazormag.wordpress.com/2014/05/06/roundup-of-book-reviews-of-nicholas-wades-a-troublesome-inheritance/

Magnusmaster said...

The problem is rights, like dignity, to a great extent ARE respective of people's abilities, at least in practice. Of course this isn't noticeable with people who are close in intelligence, but you can see this with people with very low intelligence.

Magnusmaster said...

So you are defending Social Darwinism because it's natural? That's a good reason why we should use gene therapy to get rid of the atrocities inherent in natural humans, who exploit and murder to "solve" every problem.

chinerpeoprestink said...

stee ri.

no chiner peopre on supreme cour. they no ha verbar abirity enough.

pseudoerasmus said...

question for ste

pseudoerasmus said...

question for steve :

I frequently see population geneticists or biological anthropologists categorically demanding to see the genomic evidence for claims about the biological origins of racial or ethnic variations in some behavioural trait, like IQ or time preference or whatever. "What alleles have been isolated and what traces of selection have been identified?" That's of course a very tall order since, as Razib points out, it's difficult to tease out the genomic correlates of a complex physical trait like height.

But do such critics make the same demands for all evolutionary speculations ? The evolutionary literature high & low has always brimmed full of speculations about selection mechanisms. Hell, Richard Dawkins has had a whole career coming up with just-so stories of natural selection. While sex-selective arguments in evolutionary pschology have been a wee bit more controversial, they still don't meet the kind of heated resistance from scientists that racial & ethnic arguments seem to do. Can you even have theoretical biology without inferences from phenotype ?

So I've always thought there's an egregious double standard applied to racial & ethnic variation in behavioural traits.

Besides, it's not like the inferences are entirely without evidence. Behavioural geneticists (who are psychologists, not geneticists) using twin & adoption studies have been able to make pretty reasonable inferences about the heritability of numerous traits. It's a pretty solid finding of theirs, that the "shared familial environment" is small to nonexistent, depending on the trait. Yet no one has come up with a workable model of a cultural transmission of traits for the still viable part of the environmental variance (the non-shared environment) -- despite its frequent occult invocation. In fact is there a workable model of cultural transmission of traits, at all ? Cultural transmission is just ad hoc, usually.

As you know, behavioural geneticists sometimes get criticised for supposedly confusing narrow-sense & broad-sense heritability. In such critiques phenotypes should be seen as a non-linear function of genes & environment (GxE) rather than, as behavioural geneticists model it, G + E (linear). But even if the behavioural geneticists have overestimated narrow-sense heritability by assuming that the coefficients of broad-sense heritability = narrow-sense, there is still a striking pattern of correlations (in IQ, for example) rising with the degree of genetic relatedness : Identical twins raised in same family (~0.85) > Id. twins raised separately (~0.75) > fraternal twins in same family (~0.55) > siblings in same family (~0.45) > parents & biological children living together (~0.4) > fr. twins raised separately (~0.35) > siblings raised separately (~0.25) > parents & biological children given up for adoption (~0.2) ≈ adoptive parents & children in same family (~0.2) > cousins (~0.15) > unrelated children in same family (~0.05)

So is there a double standard in criticising research based on "inferences from social phenotype" ? Or is there a cultural-methodological gulf amongst theoretical evolutionary biology, inferential social science, and empiricists who put more stock reams of genomic data or controlled observations of fruitflies in the lab ?

steve hsu said...

"I think it's especially important to be epistemologically careful in thinking about these matters, because of our difficult history with race."


Yes, it's a double standard -- but there are good reasons for it.

Magnusmaster said...

Scientific racism was based on early studies of human heredity and at the very least it justified atrocities such as apartheid.

yulva said...

"It will be interesting to see how this book, by a prominent science writer (indeed, the chief genetics correspondent for the paper of record), is received by the intelligentsia, the punditocracy, and actual scientists."

"Nicholas Wade, a British-born science reporter and editor for more than 30 years with The New York Times, is no longer with the newspaper — just days after the release of his latest book..."

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2014/05/10/30-year-new-york-times-science-writer-out-after-writing-book-about-genetics-race/#ixzz31RYca4lN

Shawn said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqwsXsKaSjg#t=1961

Shawn said...

He said in the interview he was not fired.

Michel Bourder said...

Forced egalitarianism also justified atrocities, e.g. at the hands of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot etc. So slippery-sloping "scientific racism" to atrocities is like slippery-sloping welfare benefits to atrocities.

Michel Bourder said...

Is it really the case that humans (should) have equal rights only because of the assumption that "all differences are superficial"? I don't think so; that assumption is obviously false, and the differences are anything but superficial. And yet being aware of that fact doesn't make me any more likely to see "slavery, genocide and segregation" as morally acceptable. Most people would agree that killing retarded people just because they are "different" is a terrible and deeply unjust idea; indeed, most people would agree that the less-able need more help, and that it's society's duty to help them when it can. So if science one day conclusively proves that the differences between some groups are (largely) genetic in nature, I don't see how that will make people more eager to enslave or exterminate that "different" group, just as ascertaining that someone is retarded is unlikely to lead to more willingness to exterminate that retarded person. The main benefit of getting to the bottom of where these differences come from is that a lot of unfair blame will be removed -- the tendency of blank-slaters to reflexively and falsely attribute these differences to bad teachers, evil politicians, bad media, etc.

Michel Bourder said...

"humans weren´t deliberately selected for specific traits like dogs" - today's humans do that by selecting their mates, based on considerations like intelligence, affability, hotness, etc.

Michel Bourder said...

"if H2 is true your choices for dealing with reality are slavery, segregation a la apartheid, genocide, forcibly sterilizing..." -- why do you keep saying that? H2 *is* true, and yet when I look out the window I don't see any genocide or forced sterilizations taking place. I think people already intuitively get, and always have done, that these differences are real and substantial, despite what a vocal minority of lunatics at e.g. Salon.com might say, and yet people deal with it. They get along, as best they can, and try to thwart excesses like genocide and overt discrimination where they can. So I think you exaggerate the consequences of what a global "H2 epiphany" would be. Sure there's still genocide and other terrible things, but they are just as easily attributable to extreme left-wing socialist ideologies as they are to extreme right-wing ideologies, or to ancient tribal quarrels, or voodoo, or what have you.

anew said...

The atrocities inherent in natural humans?



You egalitarians are sick. Inequality is good!


If gene therapy ever advances to a precise science that is universally available, the result of this utopia, in which all people are (pretty close to) exactly the same (make no mistake, they would be), will be a world in which most people will lose the will to live. Men will not only have no way of distinguishing themselves from others, they will have separated themselves from their creations (their children, who are not really even their children anymore). Life at this point is not just pointless in the sense that it is going to end, or that our world is going to end, it is completely pointless. I suppose we'll be genetically programmed to enjoy our own fruitlessness.

Felix Hall said...

"You egalitarians are sick. Inequality is good!"



as long as your part of the ruling class I suppose....

dwbudd said...

I presume the question of Professor Hsu was meant to be rhetorical I suspect that anyone reading this particular blog knows more or less autonomously what the reaction of the "intelligentsia (and) the punditocracy" is going to be.

Anyone who reads and understands it, in any case.

anew said...

as long as your (sic) part of the ruling class I suppose....

This does not follow from my post, and even if it did, the motivations of the arguer have no bearing on the merits of the argument.

Perhaps one day scientists will be able to swap-out your illogical and non sequitur promoting genes, and replace them with ones that code for a basic understanding of formal logic.

Stevie Mac said...

I agree with you Steve about preferring H1 to be true. However, I've got a sneaking suspicion H2 is. How far off do you think we are from knowing?

yulva said...

Yes, that was clarified today.

brezhnevseyebrows said...

I listened to both interviews.

In the CBC interview Wade's opponent utters "ek cetera".

But in the WNYC interview Wade utters "no one criteria".

This is sufficient to dismiss both as not worth listening to.

Felix Hall said...

my apologies. I meant no offense. looking back my last post made indeed no sense whatsoever.

Magnusmaster said...

Maybe I´m a pessimist but I don´t think people will behave so well when there is scientific confirmation of our intuitions.

Magnusmaster said...

Yes, but it´s more of a subconcious process.

Magnusmaster said...

Perhaps, but scientific racism proved to be far more slippery than welfare.

Magnusmaster said...

Inequality, like everything, is good in moderation. But I think inequality should be the product of our actions, not something determined at birth.

Magnusmaster said...

Most people have a natural tendency to get rid of people with low intelligence, to put it lightly, at least on a subconcious level. Most people would gladly abort babies will Down syndrome. And those people who do want to take care of people with low intelligence only do so because they are pets (like those people who have chimps as pets). IMHO, the only way to help less-able people, is to somehow make them more able. But I think people will try to get rid of them instead, it´s cheaper, easier, and most importantly, we have the tecnology to do it, whereas we aren´t even sure gene therapy will ever work. I think the reason the left likes to abort so much is because to them it´s an acceptable method of eugenics.

anew said...

No worries. I get it now.

Intrinsic said...

Just a note: pitbulls are no more violent than terriers or working breeds. "Violent breeds" should be in quotes, because it is inaccurate. Certain breeds may be popular with dogfighters & abusive owners who want a dog that looks & acts mean, but they are not inherently violent as a breed. (Honestly, Jack Russell terriers have a higher rate of attacks on humans than pitbulls - but nobody labels them "violent" because they're smaller & less popular with the thuggish sorts.)

Otherwise, your post is fairly accurate.

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