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« A Week With Gregory Cochran: Day Four | Main | 14 »

January 30, 2009

A Week with Gregory Cochran: Day Five

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

cochranharpending2.jpg.jpg

It's day five of our week with Gregory Cochran, celebrating the startling and exciting new book that Greg has co-written with Henry Harpending, "The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution." (Buy the book here; explore the book's excellent website here.)


  • On Monday we talked about the fact that human evolution didn't -- as we were once told -- come to a screeching halt 40,000 years ago.
  • Tuesday's topic was culture and its impact on evolution.
  • On Wednesday, we discussed Cochran and Harpending's contention that not only has human evolution continued during the last 10,000 years, it has sped up considerably.
  • Yesterday we considered the possibility that early modern humans and Neanderthals might have interbred.

Today Greg fields some of the questions and comments that visitors have left over the course of the week.


***

A Q&A With Gregory Cochran, Part Five

2Blowhards: Julian Jaynes -- thoughts? Reactions? And what about that "bicameral mind" idea?

Gregory Cochran: I read Jaynes' book years ago and thought at the time that he was deeply, entertainingly crazy. Nowadays, it seems likely that people have changed enough over recorded history to generate noticeable personality differences. That doesn't mean I buy his bicameral mind model: just the idea that people now may have significantly different minds from people then.

2B: One visitor thinks that "the best way to test Jaynes' ideas would be to study some of the uncontacted tribes in the Amazon and New Guinea and see if they are still of 'bicameral' mind." Has anyone bothered to do this?

GC: If someone really believed in bicameralism -- some non-Nebraskan -- sure. I wouldn't myself.

2B: From another reader: "[You say that people will cling to the Blank Slate myth as long as it pleases them to.] The Catholic Church reluctantly stopped believing in the geocentric model of the universe long before there were important practical applications. They had an enormous investment in the geocentric model, but the empirical evidence was too strong. Are you saying that the scientific evidence against the 'Blank Slate myth' will never be strong enough, or that the motivation to cling to the myth is stronger than that for the geocentric model, or perhaps that heresies are suppressed more efficiently nowadays?"

GC: I think people -- some people -- care a lot more about this than anyone ever cared about geocentrism. There are also practical political aspects.

2B: From another reader: "Depiction of trickster gods in West Africa seems a bit positive, at worst morally neutral. In Northern Europe, Loki was a clear-cut villain. Could that contrast come from selection-induced personality differences?"

GC: And yet Bugs Bunny is our hero. I think this line of analysis is about as sound and solid as Citibank.

2B: "I have heard that the wide varieties of thalassemia are the result of reproductive isolation. If populations mixed in Italy, the best ones would be common, and the rest rare. Maybe that was from Cavalli-Sforza? But maybe malarias varied regionally, leading to regional adaptation: there is no best resistance?"

GC: There are lots of places where several hemoglobin mutations (defenses against malaria) co-exist. Modeling suggests that in some cases some variants will eventually be replaced by others, but that process can take a long time -- in some cases far longer than falciparum malaria has existed. Falciparum malaria in Italy (at least in central and northern Italy) is less than 2000 years old: there probably hasn't been time enough for the dust to settle.

2B: "An androgen receptor allele associated with male pattern baldness shows signs of strong selection in some populations. Does the difference have cognitive effects, personality affects, does it increase paternal investment, reduce intergenerational mate competition, socially-mediated personality differences? I have an uh, personal interest in this one."

GC: I have no idea. There are some interesting regional variations in the average activity of the androgen receptor, but the variant linked to baldness is different. I hadn't heard that it looks selected: do you have a reference?

2B: "You say: 'brains have shrunk about 10% over the last 30,000 years, and almost certainly changed in other ways as well.' So, why is that? Is it that we have less need for more generalized brains? Or have genes that lead to more efficient brains predominated? Can we compare brain size between hunters and gatherers (such as are left) or slash and burn types with those who live in complex societies?"

GC: Nobody knows why the human brain has shrunk. It might be increased temperature. There is some indication that the cerebellum has become relatively bigger over this period: this might be a clue. Larger populations would tend to create more mutations, and some might have led to more efficient brains: certainly any change that preserved or improved function while shrinking the brain would be highly favored. As for brain size, Eskimos have larger-than-average brains (and score higher on IQ tests than other hunter-gatherers) while Australian aborigines, Pygmies, and Bushmen have smaller-than-average brains.

2B: "So it turns out that no one has really taken a hard look at interfertility among human population groups. I can't say I'm surprised. What about interbreeding success between dogs? Are there differences? Lions can breed with tigers, but Ligers are infertile, right? So much for the interspecies question. Where intra-species breeding success is at issue, I would assume -- perhaps mistakenly -- that the question would hinge on graduated differences rather than something like on/off. This is why I wonder if there is good data regarding relatively distant dog breeds, which aren't so different from human races."

GC: Female ligers are often fertile, in accordance with Haldane's rule.

As far as I know, all human mixes ever tried have been successful, but I don't think there has been much checking of the rate of miscarriages, measurement of average fertility, etc. There might be a problem or two.

There might also be hybrid vigor. Sometimes the offspring of two particular strains of a plant or animal species are sturdier, healthier, etc than their parents: two populations that have this property with respect to each other are said to "nick." For all we know, there are ethnic groups that have never had members intermarry but would produce really formidable offspring if they ever did.

Of course, the real point of that comment was to suggest an experimental program with, say, 100 ethnic groups, that involved systematically testing interfertility (i.e. making babies) in all 10,000 possible combinations: a vast mating matrix. I would say that we know the results of only one row of that matrix; the Irish and everybody else.

2B: "Of course the elephant in the bedroom is the huge gap between average black and average white IQ. Whites had to grapple with and survive ice age conditions. Blacks didn't. That's the the thinking as to why the gap exists." In other words, is the denial of the idea that substantial differences between population groups exist finally down to people wanting to avoid the black/white IQ difference?

GC: Nobody knows the historical/prehistorical causes of the gap. As for the motivation being a desire to avoid discussing or admitting black/white differences: partly, but there are other drivers, I think.

2B: "Could it be that ancient people before 3000 years ago were simply of very low IQ and that their mental world is thus very unfamiliar to us? Even ancient geniuses like , presumably, Homer, would have lived in a world of very low IQ people in general so they would have been only able to express themselves in ways that made sense to their contemporaries and themselves.

GC: There are only two large groups that average 100 or higher on IQ tests, Europeans and East Asians. No hunter-gatherer group scores that high. This suggests that IQ might have been lower when everyone was a hunter-gatherer.

2B: "I am living in China, a country where there is said to be a high average IQ. But interacting with Chinese people, I feel that a lot of that high IQ is just wasted, because the culture is conformist. Put another way, Chinese people seem to have lazy, intellectually uncurious minds. If you talk to Chinese people about nearly every issue, you tend to find that 99.99% of people just repeat back the Communist Party's views. You could sit a Chinese person down and ask him to memorize the dictionary, and a fair few Chinese would anally plod through, but if you ask his views on a practical question or social issue (from how to mend a broken door to questions of nationalism and democracy), the result is extremely disappointing. It seems Chinese people are intelligent but gormless, if you get the distinction. Why should such a pattern develop/evolve? Why would such a nation need a high IQ if they are culturally constrained from using it?"

GC: They use it, I think. I know people (some of them Chinese) who think that the Chinese are unimaginative, and they certainly haven’t played a prominent role in science and invention over the past 500 years, which is interesting when you consider that they out-invented everyone else in the thousand years before that. I don’t understand these patterns in China: I have notions, but no way to go further, at least not yet.

2B: "Has anyone done any studies on the archetypal enduring, reproductively closed caste of priests, the Hindu Brahmins?"

GC: Not that I know of, but people have considered such a study, using modern genomic methods. Especially for South Indian Brahmins.

2B: "Re: 'Cranial capacity has shrunk 10% in 15,000 years': I have often wondered if hunter-gatherers needed to be cleverer than wheat-growers. If your small band is unlikely to thrive without at least one adult male of IQ, say, 115 (pure speculation), then you'd need a higher average IQ ... to achieve that with high probability. Of course, that would be some IQ-like measure suited to their way of life, which might or might not be much like our paper-and-pencil tests to establish whether you're suited to an abstract education. Fair?"

GC: We have nonverbal IQ tests, and hunter-gatherers generally do poorly on them. When integrated into a larger society, they do poorly in school. I’ve often heard that they’re probably smarter than us when it comes to their own life challenges –- but being a born tracker doesn’t seem to translate into a well-paid modern job. The problem is that machine civilization has won, and you have to be good at that, not something else.

2B: "From the interview: 'Chance would hit all parts of the genome equally.' Somewhere in Las Vegas, a casino owner is smiling. Chance doesn't appear to work that way. Nassim Taleb's 'The Black Swan' immediately comes to mind." Any response to this?

GC: Yes. There are three billion bases in the human genome, embedded in billions of people -- certainly enough that careful statistical approaches can work well. I don’t think the recent financial crash has anything to do with the limitations of the theory of probability, or of our understanding of that theory: more groupthink and corruption.

2B: One reader is skeptical of Nisbett's ideas about eastern and western modes of thinking. He wonders about how fact-based a lot of this stuff is, including yours; about how much speculation is going on' and about how ideologically-driven your own thinking may be.

GC: Your reader seems to be arguing with David Brooks, as much as anything. Fine by me. On the real question -- are there psychological differences between Easterners and Westerners -- I suspect so, as much from my reading of history as from anything Nisbett has said. We do see different patterns in IQ results: East Asians are relatively stronger in visuospatial skills. Years ago I guessed, from that fact, that they might come to dominate billiards if they ever started playing. How’s that going?

But I don't think my suspicions are always correct, and I believe that we don't have solid quantitative measures of personality traits to the extent we do with IQ, so how much can you say right now?

To the extent that such differences exist, they can have genetic causes and they may.

I would also guess that your reader worries a lot more about preventing answers he might not like than actually figuring anything out. He has plenty of company.

2B: "I'd like to know how Dr. Cochran sees the relationship between his theory and the theory of race submitted by Rushton."

GC: Not much in common: he emphasizes stuff that happened tens of millennia ago, but I think we don't know much about those times –- and since genes can change fairly rapidly recent events may be more important. On the other hand, the differences in cranial capacity that Rushton mentions are certainly real.

2B: "What is the Gregory Cochran view on 'Idiocracy'? I.e. the recent phenomenon where rich countries' economic surplus, created by the successful evolutionary adaptation of their population acts nowdays to yield a sizable demographic surplus of gene-carriers of the less successful adapters."

GC: Average genetic IQ potential is probably dropping: something in the range of 0.5 -1.0 pts per generation. The driver is mostly low fertility among women with lots of education.

2B: "Are there any archeological sites in Australia that predate the dingo (thus presumably predating the possible spread of Neanderthal genes), that have a chance of yielding sequencable human DNA? Such direct evidence -- if it exists -- would seem to be helpful in evaluating that portion of the book's theory."

GC: We have no strong prediction of a lack of Neanderthal-genes in early Australians. Ancient DNA from Australians might be interesting, though, if it is in good enough shape. That's somewhat doubtful because Australia is pretty warm.

2B: "Any guesses about the relationship between 'evolved erectus' and modern Asian populations?"

GC: They may have contributed some genes to modern populations: I haven't heard of anyone trying to get DNA out of the few existing skeletons of evolved erectus.

2B: "How many full sequences will we need to get a good genome->IQ mapping? Do you think it's more like 104, 105, 106 or above?"

GC: I have no idea. They've made very little progress so far.

***

Henry Harpending's faculty page is here. Here's the Unofficial Gregory Cochran Site. Harpending and Cochran often make appareances at GNXP.

Here's a site that the authors made for their book. Be sure to visit it; the website provides an excellent overview of the book's contents and includes some well-worth-reading outtakes. Buy the terrific book here.

Some of the buzz around the web:

Back here and here, I interviewed Greg Cochran about the Iraq War.

Please join me in giving a major round of applause to Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending. They have written a terrific book -- and they have also chosen (in these interviews and Comments) to make their brains, their thoughts, and their work available in plain English (and for free!) to all of us interested blog-surfing civilians. Let's not forget to reflect for a sec on what a too-rare quality this is, and how lucky we are to be able to take advantage of it.

Now: Go buy a copy of the book. Let your friends know about its existence. And -- if you're someone with your own blog or Facebook account -- another excellent way to say "Thanks Greg! Thanks Henry!" would be to link back here and help drive some additional traffic to these interviews.

Thanks to all for dropping by.

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at January 30, 2009




Comments

Thanks for a very interesting conversation.

Posted by: Todd Fletcher on January 30, 2009 4:14 PM



> And yet Bugs Bunny is our hero.

Odysseus too.

Posted by: Eric J. Johnson on January 30, 2009 4:28 PM



Bravo to GC. (And MB)

Posted by: dearieme on January 30, 2009 4:52 PM



2B: "Any guesses about the relationship between 'evolved erectus' and modern Asian populations?"

GC: They may have contributed some genes to modern populations: I haven't heard of anyone trying to get DNA out of the few existing skeletons of evolved erectus.

That's what I want to know, as well.

Posted by: Eurasian on January 30, 2009 7:01 PM



Applause and kudos. Wonderful interview and stimulating reading experience.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on January 30, 2009 10:41 PM



I'm looking forward to reading this book. Great interview btw, very interesting and engaging.

Posted by: Maciano on January 31, 2009 4:36 AM



'Chance would hit all parts of the genome equally.'

"There are three billion bases in the human genome, embedded in billions of people -- certainly enough that careful statistical approaches can work well. I don’t think the recent financial crash has anything to do with the limitations of the theory of probability, or of our understanding of that theory: more groupthink and corruption."

My point wasn't about the financial world as such (neither is Taleb's, to my knowledge -- he uses finance as a metaphor, because that's what he's familiar with). It was with the idea that randomness would somehow "hit all parts of the genome equally."

As far as one can observe, chance operates in a far more lumpy fashion than that. It's like the difference between the bark of a jefferey pine and a sawn board of wood.

It's precisely because chance is lumpy (or noisy, or what-have-you) rather than "equal" that the idea of "dueness" creeps in to many people's thinking. Thus the allusion to a casino -- "Bet on 32-black... It's due!"

Posted by: Hal O'Brien on January 31, 2009 7:05 AM



Dr. Cochran, you said " but the variant linked to baldness is different. I hadn't heard that it looks selected: do you have a reference?"

"Genetic Variation in the Human Androgen Receptor Gene Is the Major Determinant of Common Early-Onset Androgenetic Alopecia" http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1226186

"The long range of the associated SNPs implies the presence of a large haplotype block, visible in fig. 2B. In principle, this is not unexpected in a location close to the centromere, where recombination events occur at a relatively low frequency (Nagaraja et al. 1997). To test whether the size of the haplotype block stands out even in comparison with X-chromosomal loci with similar low recombination frequencies, we analyzed average pairwise linkage disequilibrium (LD) (measured by |D′|) between SNPs retrieved from the HapMap Project database in 1-cM–sized windows. Average pairwise LD was found to be inversely correlated with recombination rate (Spearman’s ρ=-0.598; P

Posted by: rob on January 31, 2009 9:02 AM




Hmm. Could have been selected, although there's not an overwhelming case. Let me quote a relevant Chinese proverb: " A good man goes gray, but an evil man goes bald"

Posted by: gcochran on January 31, 2009 12:39 PM



Great interview, Michael! I'm halfway through the book and having fun.

Posted by: Chip Smith on January 31, 2009 1:17 PM



Someone asks:

"Of course the elephant in the bedroom is the huge gap between average black and average white IQ. Whites had to grapple with and survive ice age conditions. Blacks didn't. That's the the thinking as to why the gap exists."

And Greg anwsers this question better in a different answer, it seems to me.

If we are starting to understand that Evolution and Selection have continued to operate down to the present and indeed has sped up, then it simply might be that rather than developing higher IQ during the ice-age, those who went thought those periods developed other adaptations to them.

It could well be that the average IQ differences are due to the other salient differences between East Asians and Europeans on the one hand, and all the other groups. The development of large scale civilizations and their persistence over long periods of time, which seems more likely to me to have selected for higher average intelligence.

Posted by: Richard Sharpe on January 31, 2009 4:00 PM



Or it could be that the Ice Age adaptations led to IQ differentials that then led to the abilities of some races to form large scale civilizations better than others, which increased the IQ differentials even further.

I think there's no reason why the Ice Age theory and the large scale civilizations have to be treated as mutually exclusive, they could both be at play, and if anything, the ability of Europeans to form large scale civilizations in the first play may be due to IQ differences that first developed from Ice Age adaptations.

Posted by: Joey on January 31, 2009 8:10 PM



Seriously, other than the handful of cultists who gather here and at a few other sites I've visited, who's going to buy this book?

Much of the reasoning seems spurious anyway. How can you do this sort of analysis without also being an MD? Perhaps there's some other agenda behind the work...

Posted by: GDI on February 1, 2009 4:27 AM



GDI -

My knowledge of genetics is fairly limited yet I had little trouble following the book. There is a glossary, though it wasn't very useful. What is much more helpful is Wikipedia's quick introduction to genetics.

Posted by: Peter on February 1, 2009 11:34 AM



The bald tend to be hairy and they may they may be more intelligent.

"Dr AG Alias [...} Alias is an expert on certain aspects and implications of the hairiness of men.
"I am fairly certain that the vast majority of hairy/hirsute men, compared to the respective 'much less' hirsute men of the same race and ethnic group, are strikingly more intelligent and/or educated, but only from a statistical point of view."

Wikipedia on Baldness "An additional bald patch may develop on top (vertex). The trigger for this type of baldness (called androgenetic alopecia is DHT, a powerful sex hormone, body, and facial hair growth promoter that can adversely affect the hair on the head . {...} German researchers name the androgen receptor gene as the cardinal prerequisite for balding[7]. They conclude that a certain variant of the androgen receptor is needed for AGA to develop. In the same year the results of this study were confirmed by other researchers [8]. This gene is recessive and a female would need two X chromosomes with the defect to show typical male pattern alopecia. Seeing that androgens and their interaction with the androgen receptor are the cause of AGA it seems logical that the androgen receptor gene plays an important part in its development..

According to psychiatrist Dr Aikarakudy Alias, who has spent an impressive 22 years looking at the relationship between body hair and intelligence, the more a man has going on on his chest, the more he has going on upstairs. Dr Alias examined the chests of medical students in the US – it's a tough job, but someone has to do it – and found that more than two in five were "very hairy", compared to just one in ten men overall. He repeated his research on men in south India and found that medical and engineering students had more body hair than normal workers. When first presenting his findings to the Congress of the Association of European Psychiatrists, Dr Alias acknowledged that people normally associate the hairy man stereotype with sweaty builders. However, he pointed out that while people are used to seeing rows of naked builders, hairy or otherwise, they rarely get to survey a room of topless medical students. Testing his theories further, the professor also looked at the students' academic ranking and found that hairier men tended to get better grades, with the most intelligent having hairy backs as well as chests. In a further test, he had a quick peek down the shirts of 117 Mensa members and found that they tended to have thick body hair.
Posted by: Tod on February 1, 2009 1:43 PM



Here is the unimpressive 2007 Lifestyle & Dating citation for the material quoted above on Dr. Alias. PubMed shows that "Alias AG" has published some papers in psychiatry, but none of them bring up a correlation between hairiness and intelligence.

Posted by: AMac on February 1, 2009 3:18 PM



Dear God...

If I was dubious about this line of research before, the interview has sadly got me terrified of it now.

And not because of Cochran's answers. It's the *questions* that are terrifying. It becomes abundantly clear that people are willing to invent and then believe a million "just-so" stories that make some sort of narrative sense to them without any of the necessary science behind them.

Human genetics may be perhaps the most complex system mankind has ever investigated, we're in the first few years of investigations that might take decades but will probably take centuries, and we're *already* prepared to make massive pronouncements about how mankind developed? (And no doubt, base policy on these fables?)

*Shiver*

Posted by: Tom West on February 1, 2009 4:49 PM



Tom West,

I'm sure the author knows his ideas are hypothetical, and I don't get the impression he is making pronouncements on how society should proceed. I shiver to think how long political correctness has silenced ANY racial IQ or other genetic comparisons, which is about 40 years I would estimate.

How refreshing that sentence about the fact that educated women having fewer children is promoting an idiocracy! We've known it is true but had our tongues cut out by liberals.

Posted by: Nancy Albert on February 1, 2009 7:28 PM



As I said, it's not the author I'm worried about.

2B: From another reader: "Depiction of trickster gods in West Africa seems a bit positive, at worst morally neutral. In Northern Europe, Loki was a clear-cut villain. Could that contrast come from selection-induced personality differences?"

Look, the subtext of this question is pretty obvious - The reader believes that Cochran's research substantiates the idea that blacks are genetically incapable of modern economic conduct (which requires a trust based society, etc., etc.)

The author fire back the obvious

GC: And yet Bugs Bunny is our hero. I think this line of analysis is about as sound and solid as Citibank.

And yet. Is there *any* question in anyone's mind here that the people who believe this sort of garbage aren't going to claim (and believe) that Cochran's work substantiates their claims.

Quite frankly, I strongly suspect that Cochran himself is going to either end up detesting most of his book's most ardent fans or, in the end, joining them. (There's strong internal psychological pressure not to find your strongest supporters contemptible.)

But he'd better be prepared for lots of people categorically claiming that his work supports lots of theories that, at least at this point in time, he probably finds odious.

Posted by: Tom West on February 1, 2009 9:12 PM



> Quite frankly, I strongly suspect that Cochran himself is going to either end up detesting most of his book's most ardent fans or, in the end, joining them.

Before their work does too much damage, I urge Cochran and Harpending to recant. (Fortunately, I've only read a few chapters.)

If I may suggest a phrase of contrition for the offending authors:

"E pur si muove."

Posted by: AMac on February 2, 2009 1:19 AM



Tom,

You think it is just silly that personality variation could lead to some religions or aspects of religions being more or less appealing? You think that converts to Buddhism have exactly the same personality traits as converts to the Church of God?

Do find it totally implausible that people who enjoy watching dog fights are exactly the same as people who enjoy watching ballet?

Posted by: rob on February 2, 2009 7:48 AM



Tom,

You think it's silly that variation in personality could lead to different religions or aspects of religion being more or less appealing? You think that converts to Buddhism have exactly the same personalities as converts to the Church of God?

Is the sort of person who likes watching dog fights the exact same sort of person who likes ballet?

Posted by: rob on February 2, 2009 7:53 AM



Bald may be better, sort of, in some ways. David Przybyla, a researcher at Denison University in Ohio, conducted two studies in which men and women were shown photographs first of bald men, then of the same men wearing hairpieces. They asked for reactions. In a third study, people were asked to rate characteristics of men of more, less or no hair. In all three studies, the bald men were perceived as less attractive and socially skilled — but also as smarter and more likely to have successful careers. Bald men reacted the same way to the photos as other people, said Mr. Przybyla, who happens to be bald.

"Test The Nation" on Fox did an internet IQ test with a huge sample in 2004. It found bald men had higher IQs "IQ of 119 which is above the average man's IQ of 115". (average for those who took the test that is)

From Wikipedia "Other genes involved with hair loss have been found. One of them being a gene on chromosome 3. The gene is located at 3q26[9]. This gene is also involved in a type of baldness associated with mental retardation

Posted by: Tod on February 2, 2009 12:21 PM



Tom,

I think there's probably some truth to your analysis of the guy posing the "trickster" question, but overall, I think you're overreacting.

I've been following the whole HBD debate online for a couple years now, and my impression is that among those interested in this stuff, those who are intelligent and reasonable enough to put HBD related theories in the proper context outnumber those who are not.

Posted by: Mark on February 2, 2009 1:31 PM



Tom West says:


And not because of Cochran's answers. It's the *questions* that are terrifying.

Oh my god. A man who is terrified by questions. What is the world coming to?

Mommy!

Posted by: Richard Sharpe on February 2, 2009 1:40 PM



Tom,

You know what your problem is? You take things way, way too seriously.

There's not going to be a neo-confederacy. Relax.

We're going to learn more and more about humanity and about what makes humans human. All that will help us, decade by decade, to controll our own destiny and manage makind in ways that are not contrary to our nature.

For now, we can just enjoy an interesting and fun book.

Chill.

Posted by: Maciano on February 2, 2009 3:32 PM



From a comment by Jason Malloy at GNXP, two abstracts for talks to be delivered at this April's annual meeting of the American Assoc. of Physical Anthropologists that bear on the subject at hand. (Emphasis added.)

Largely compatible with Cochran and Harpending’s thesis:

Genetic adaptations to spatially- varying selective pressures and the susceptibility to common diseases.
by G. Coop, J.K. Pickrell, S. Kudaravalli, J. Novembre, R.M. Myers, L.L. Cavalli-Sforza, M.W. Feldman, & J.K. Pritchard.
Selective pressures due to environmental variation influence a range of phenotypes in humans, including body mass and skin pigmentation. We previously showed that allele frequencies in genes involved in energy metabolism, which are likely to be central to heat and cold tolerance, are strongly correlated with latitude and climate variables. To test the hypothesis that climate and other aspects of the environment shaped variation in the human genome, we analyzed a genome- wide data set of more than 650,000 SNPs genotyped in the 52 worldwide populations in the Human Genome Diversity Project panel with regard to the correlation between allele frequencies and a broad set of environmental variables including climate, diet, subsistence and ecology. Consistent with the notion that these aspects of the environment reflect selective pressures that acted during human evolution, we find a significant excess of strong correlations among SNPs in genic regions and among non-synonymous SNPs compared to non-genic regions. We also find that many susceptibility SNPs for common diseases are strongly correlated with environmental variables; in particular, some disease phenotypes related to immune response appear to have an excess of risk SNPs associated with signals of spatially-varying selection. We are now using this population genetics approach to detecting genetic variants that influence inter-individual variation in stress response.

Mostly incompatible with the book’s central assertions:

Selection, drift, and geography in recent human evolution.
by A. Di Rienzo, A. M. ancock, D. Witonsky, G. Alkorta-Aranburu, J. K. Pritchard, & G. Coop.
Various observations argue for a role of adaptation in recent human evolution, including selection signals at candidate genes and genome-wide selection scans. Nonetheless, using genome-wide SNP data from the HapMap, Perlegen, and Human Genome Diversity Panel studies, we find evidence that strong sustained selection has been rare in recent human evolution (the last ~70,000 years). There are few fixed or nearly fixed differences between human populations, and most fixation events have occurred in the populations that show the most drift at neutral loci. Moreover, the geographic distribution of putatively selected alleles almost invariably conforms to population clusters identified using randomly chosen genetic markers; this indicates that selected alleles have rarely spread across historical barriers to neutral gene flow. In summary, we propose that the geographic distribution of favored alleles is largely determined by population history and migration, and that the geographic distribution of many SNPs with extreme Fst is best described by a model of relatively weak selection with genetic drift. When humans adapt to new environments it may often be via modest allele frequency changes in multiple genes simultaneously.

An exciting time to be learning about developments in this field!

Posted by: AMac on February 2, 2009 3:54 PM



Nobelist Anatole France's brain was abnormally tiny - two-thirds the normal size.

Posted by: Ned on February 2, 2009 4:32 PM



Ahem. Mercury/Hermes was a trickster god who was not a clearcut villain. Somebody needs to broaden his cultural knowledge.

Clio

Posted by: alias clio on February 2, 2009 6:17 PM



Is the sort of person who likes watching dog fights the exact same sort of person who likes ballet?

Study Ancient Rome and then ask again if the type of mindset that can enjoy higher intellectual pursuits is also capable of enjoying barbarity as well. Barbarity that well surpassed what you find in a dogfight, from animals fighting each other to animals eating humans to armed humans killing unarmed humans for sport to humans used as living torches.

Or just look up the history of intellectuals who have been enamored with boxing, like Hemingway. Basically a dogfight, except with humans who don't kill each other.

Ahem. Mercury/Hermes was a trickster god who was not a clearcut villain. Somebody needs to broaden his cultural knowledge.

Also, one of the characters from 2 staples of classical education, from one of the most admired intellectual societies ever in existence, Odysseus, was basically a cunning trickster who was not a clearcut villain. The Ancient Greeks called this cunning intelligent trickery trait "METIS," and in their stories the characters who have this trait are usually valued above those who don't. METIS was a big part of their society and was valued in intellectual people. You can basically break the gods in Greek mythology down to those who have METIS versus those who don't, whith the former usually faring better.

Even Socrates in the stories of Plato is valued as much for the cunning ways he tricks his opponents in formatting his arguments as for the substantive content of the arguments themselves.

Tom,

You know what your problem is? You take things way, way too seriously.

Oh brother, and the Chicken Littles in the HBD community who act like civilization will fall unless everyone worships at the altar of IQ statistics don't take things too seriously themselves?

Posted by: T. AKA Ricky Raw on February 2, 2009 6:54 PM



Tom and Clio, you will note I compared an African god to a Norse god, not a Greek god. Neither were Romans. Greeks ain't Norse. Geography isn't your strong suit. In fact, Southern Italians today aren't known as a high trust society. But you didn't answer my question, do you think some variation in what people like or dislike is a result of personality differences?

Tom, if you were very introverted, would you be so into pickup?

For all I know, you may be right, and we can learn nothing about people from their literature and myth.

Posted by: rob on February 2, 2009 10:24 PM



"Oh brother, and the Chicken Littles in the HBD community who act like civilization will fall unless everyone worships at the altar of IQ statistics don't take things too seriously themselves?"

Sure they do. I don't think much will change, good nor bad. Maybe in the very, very long run, there will be some change -- for the good, because science works out for the better.

But, on the long run we're all dead.

I don't know what kind of people you talk all day, but most people I know both take race differences as a given and still don't give a crap either way. They just don't. They're not too crazy about immigration, true that, but what sane person is nowadays?

Posted by: maciano on February 3, 2009 4:08 AM



Rob, my point was that Mercury/Hermes were amoral trickster gods who maintained their popularity as the societies in which they had arisen grew more sophisticated. Your post seemed to suggest that the trickster quality of your African god (and the admiration accorded to him) has had something to do with the primitive nature of African societies.

Not talkin' racism here...just trying to suggest that your example isn't as decisive in illustrating the character of a societ as you think. Meanwhile, yes, I think it's perfectly possible that variation in personality could lead to different religions or aspects of religion being more or less appealing.

Also: Modern southern Italians have little connection to the ancient communities of the southern Italian peninsula. Southern Italy and Sicily were overrun by repeated invasions throughout their history after the fall of ancient Rome, straight through to modern times - Moors, Vikings (multiple times), French, Germans, and more. That may have something to do with the lack of trust that their modern inhabitants demonstrate.

Clio

Posted by: alias clio on February 3, 2009 10:12 AM



Tom West said "There's strong internal psychological pressure not to find your strongest supporters contemptible." worrying that Greg Cochran will go over to the dark side.

Don't worry, Greg vehemently disagrees with everyone--he even vehemently disagrees with himself sometimes. He is not about to follow any easy path.

Henry Harpending

Posted by: henry harpending on February 3, 2009 12:57 PM



rob, clio beat me to the point about modern southern italians and their relation to ancient romans, but let me just add that even cochran finds the point flawed and dismissed it rather quickly, so it seems even human biodiversity people don't agree with it. it just seems like an oversimplification and a stretch.

Posted by: T. AKA Ricky Raw on February 3, 2009 2:46 PM



I am typical Chinese as blowheads observation. Most people think me dumb. Yet I beat most those people in term of g loaded test.

Rushton had similar observation in North America. Most Chinese students are quiet in class room. Seems they knew nothing about what proffessors taught. Yet at end, they know better than any one else.

Obviously blowheads are not as intelligent as Rushton to figure this out.

Posted by: AG on February 3, 2009 4:30 PM



You know what your problem is? You take things way, way too seriously. There's not going to be a neo-confederacy. Relax.

Perhaps I take this too seriously - I'll admit it's a bug-a-boo of mine. But it's not the neo-confederacy that I worry about. It's the average person who makes day-to-day judgment calls who is quietly influenced by the 'fact' that's now it's "proven" that blacks... or women...

Another pernicious step that helps cement prejudices that they may have been half-harboring.

So, yes, I do think there's a serious possibility that this sort of research will be misused in subtle ways to deny some people the opportunities they should have had, be it a job or a course of study, or an interest.

(I've worked in education, and there are few things more disheartening than to hear a 40 year old science teacher say that even Harvard had to acknowledge that girls can't do math... *sigh*.)

So, my trivial contribution is whenever I find the topic coming up in blogs I read, I try to remind the lurkers that whitewashing ugly prejudices with a coat of "science" doesn't make it scientific.

Posted by: Tom West on February 3, 2009 9:10 PM



This question is kind of off topic, but in 'Henry and The Cape Buffalo' there is a statement that 'Bushmen never hunted [Cape Buffalo] with their poison arrow and spear technology'. However, in The Harmless People by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas there are several accounts of Bushmen hunting 'buffalo' with poison arrows. It would take 3 or 4 days after being shot with a poison arrow for the buffalo to become weak enough to be killed with a spear.

I always thought that these were Cape Buffalo that were being talked about. Is there some other kind of buffalo that was being hunted or did different tribes of Bushmen have different hunting practices?

Posted by: frost on February 3, 2009 11:41 PM




To Tom West: there are certainly significant, measurable differences in IQ between populations. That is not in question, and observed differences in achievement track with those IQ differences.

The question is, what causes this? Certainly genetic causes are possible: we argue (in the book) that genetic factors are the likely cause of high scores and high intellectual achievement among the Ashkenazi Jews.

Posted by: gcochran on February 4, 2009 1:06 AM



Frost wonders about Bushmen hunting cape buffalo.

I had forgotten that Thomas reported that. I have never seen or heard of anyone hunting a buffalo with poison arrows but there are regional differences in the Kalahari---I will reread what she has to say about it.

Bushmen never hunt elephant either, yet I have had old men give me a detailed description of how to do it. A group yells and waves its arms while a few men run up and stab the elephant in the belly with spears.

Posted by: henry harpending on February 4, 2009 7:47 PM



The question is, what causes this? Certainly genetic causes are possible

I don't dispute the observation. As to the science behind them, I think it's pretty safe to say that we're a long way from getting solid explanations that aren't going to change every few years. (I consider the research at about the the same level of certainty as "lie detection" via MRI. It sounds so attractive that there's lots of people jumping well ahead of the boring, massively complicated science that probably won't provide nice clean satisfying answers.)

However, a question for Mr. Cochran - if indeed a genetic basis for intelligence differences was found, what do you think would be the effect on day-to-day life would be? Could you foresee any positive outcomes at all?

Posted by: Tom West on February 4, 2009 9:02 PM



"However, a question for Mr. Cochran - if indeed a genetic basis for intelligence differences was found, what do you think would be the effect on day-to-day life would be? Could you foresee any positive outcomes at all?"

Mr. West,

Let me turn this question around. Say that IQ is heritable (indisputable, IMO) and the low IQ are breeding more than the high IQ (in 1950 the world was 25% white and 10% black, in 2050 the percentages are expected to switch and as Richard Lynn has shown dysgenics is going on within the white races too).

What are the costs of ignoring these differences? Does not the end of human intelligence and the capacity for civilization scare you at all?

Posted by: Richard H on February 5, 2009 1:23 AM



> if indeed a genetic basis for intelligence differences was found...

This clause could better be written, "since genetic as well as environmental bases for intelligence differences have been found..."

Although very complex and still largely obscure, the picture is coming into better focus with every passing month, it seems. Here, for instance, is a synopsis of a report from this week's NEJM on SYNGAP1. Mutations in this gene may account for about 3% of cases of nonsyndromic mental retardation.

The Blank Slate is attractive, and has fit nicely with the prevailing ideologies of various times and places. However Kuhn or Popper would not have advised practicing Science by starting with a commitment to such a notion. When it has been tried, the results have not been good.

Posted by: AMac on February 5, 2009 9:12 AM



Cochran: "For all we know, there are ethnic groups that have never had members intermarry but would produce really formidable offspring if they ever did."

Africans and Jews, for example: look at Maya Rudolph!

Posted by: luke lea on February 9, 2009 12:16 AM



I wish I had know about this interview back when I could have submitted questions. Having read the book, I wondered by E.O. WIlson,'s theory of culture-genetic co-evolution, which he wrote about back in the early 80's, wasn't mentioned at all. I also wonder if some of the cognitive difference couldn't be explained by Clare Graves' spiral dynamics theory of psychosocial emergence, which proposes stages of psychological complexity in response to changing life conditions. I don't think it denies genetic changes, but it might explain some differences external to those created by evolutionary differences. I also wonder if they are familiar with Wright's "Nonzero," a game theoretic view of world history that answers some of the questions of changing geographies of innovation. There is little question that evolution is still occurring, but I think a broader, more comprehensive picture would be useful -- one that took into consideration brain plasticity, complexity, systems, emergence, game theory, etc.

Posted by: Troy Camplin on February 17, 2009 10:17 AM



Nancy Albert wrote: "How refreshing that sentence about the fact that educated women having fewer children is promoting an idiocracy!"

A key question is _why_ educated (presumably higher IQ) women are having fewer children? Is it merely a choice not to or to delay pregnancy until it becomes difficult? Or do high IQ women have greater difficulty bearing children--whatever their age? I'm a Ph.D. candidate in my early 20s, and among my peers it is fairly common to meet women in their 20s who have had miscarriages, or who have given birth to children with serious, often life-threatening, birth defects.
Yet menial workers whom I have gotten to know all seem to have huge families of not merely healthy, but vigorously robust children. Even women in their 40s often have powerfully-lunged nurslings.
Is this the result of some genetic interlinkage with high IQ, or with the lifestyle of those with high IQ?
It's often said that well-educated women don't really want children. But those I know do.
It could be argued that educated women practice birth control while uneducated women do not. But uneducated women are much more likely to have chronic untreated STI's (which often lead to pregnancy problems, if not outright sterility) than educated women.
Or is the low birth rate not the fault of the women, but of their high IQ sexual partners, who are less fertile than low IQ males? Does that explain why the high IQ woman can't get pregnant by her high IQ college professor husband, but does get pregnant by her average IQ tennis pro or pool boy? Add to this the the high frequency of pregnancy among forceable rape victims. Are violent rapists more likely to have high IQ or low? How about their victims? If a Columbia University grad student takes a walk in Central Park, is she more likely to be gang-raped by males from the Upper West Side or...?
How are genealogical-based "genetic" studies affected by the fact that paternity is a cultural construct, with women very often keeping secret the true father or fathers of their children, not necessarily because of voluntary infidelity but also because of molestation or rape?

Posted by: Wanda on February 17, 2009 1:05 PM



Good Lord! Is it not clear by now that IQ is merely a measure of a particular and limited kind of intelligence? I'd like to see the IQ devotees making a living in the lands of hunter-gatherers.

Posted by: David Quin on February 19, 2009 5:12 PM



The Northern god Loki was not a clear-cut villain. In Norse mythology he is both devious and charming; a bit of a Falsaff and a buddy of Thor to boot. Very similar to West African trickster gods. And to Bugs Bunny, of course.

Posted by: overbye on February 19, 2009 7:11 PM






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