Genetic Crossroads

The intersection of biotechnology, reproduction and society

Predicting the IQ of Future People

The resignation of Jason Richwine from the Heritage Foundation raised the profile of racist views about IQ. Expect new publicity soon for genetic claims about intelligence, as Chinese scientists try to find genes that affect intelligence. Read More

Unforeseen Consequences

It's long been known that intelligence has a depressive effect on testosterone production (and thus libido) and birth rates. If the average IQ in a given populace is 100, that indicates that 1 in 1000 citizens will have an IQ of 140 or more. The problem is that those populations best-suited to produce those citizens will naturally be inclined to reproduce the least; indeed, the only Western nations producing at or near replacement rate are Ireland and France, with the former having a national IQ of 92 (so, considerably lower than 100), and the latter having arguably the most generous welfare state in the entire world. Basically, it's a law of nature; the ones with the highest IQs will reproduce the least, gradually dying off. This will be compensated for by slightly less intelligent (but still of average intelligence) populations reproducing more (and thus an equal number of geniuses in the end by sheer virtue of statistical inevitability), the Flynn Effect continues with those populations progressively getting more intelligent as their living standards and nutrition improves, and then their birth rates also decline.

One could accept the inevitable (that humanity will be OK, even with "undesirable" immigration). The alternative is that we could tax like France taxes, and also set up 24/7 government-funded daycares as pronatalist policies. For some reason, I don't feel like the phrenology-loving conservatives would be amenable to 100% tax hikes....

Intelligence and gifted

Intelligence and gifted persons are found more in the introverted group (I've read this often). But we mock them for not living up to the extroverted ideal or for those who can't seem to fake it...we crucify them.

In western society people don't like math ---there is no social status in that field... sociability and social skills are more prized. You can't be a 'cool geek' either; geek seems to apply just to technology right now. You'd be just a plain nerd...probably hated and picked on in these times...loner.

In highschool i was friends with this girl who was brilliant in math, and at 16 years old she went on to university to major in it...she was the epitome of nerdiness... she was soft-spoken, unfashionable,appeared clumsy, and she wore these thick Coke glasses, her eyesight was 13.0!!!

It also doesn't help that bully vs. victim is often an extrovert vs. introvert respectively.

Hispanics are very social-able and happy-go-lucky people,EXTROVERTED....So, what is there to complain about??? You cant win them all! Picky, picky! or IGNORAMUSES. If they were WHITE, people would not be colour makes a difference.

Pete, How did you, possibly,


How did you, possibly, get a PhD?

You say: "The fallacy may not be that Hispanics (who, ahem, are a cultural community not a race) are dumb, or Jews ... But suggesting that this embryo has brilliance while this one does not"

As for the statement above, why would the type of category that groups belong to matter when it comes to mean differences in a trait e.g., psychometric intelligence? Would you also say that Hispanics could not be darker in skin tone than Jews, on the grounds that neither are typically described as races? I don't know what the mean tone of the global Jewish population is, but I would bet that, on average, "Ashkenazim Jews" are lighter then "Central American Hispanics". This statement of yours was really imbecilic. Were you being sincerely idiotic or just disingenuous? As for Richwine, his "offensive" statements concerning mean differences -- at least in the US - were factual. In terms of psychometric intelligence, the Hispanic mean is lower than the non Hispanic White mean. The same holds for skin tone. How is this possibly possible given that we are dealing with heterogeneous groups? Well, that reflects a remarkable property about means.

You say: "But suggesting that this embryo has brilliance while this one does not … that could become a very significant problem."

Obviously, embryos substantially differ in genetic potential for brilliance. And once the genetic architecture of general intelligence is better understood, to-be-parents will be able to select for more fit offspring using preimplantation genetic profiling. PGP is already used in other instances, so this will just represent an extension of current practices.

You quote: "Will someone claim they can make your unborn child more intelligent? Of course they will. But it's not technically possible now and won't be for decades," Zhao says."

It's as if you are clueless about what's going on. The fellows at BGI openly talk about the plausibility (and reasonability) of using PGP to select for desired traits. Because of the great variability within families in genetic potential, you don't need genetic engineering -- the possibility of which is still far off. You can just create numerous embryos, assess their genetic profiles for traits x, y,and z, and then select the most desirable. Now you are correct that there is an intimate connection between Richwine's immigrant selection policy and the embryonic selection policy discussed at BGI. Yet you fail to grasp what that is i.e., trait selectionism.

In my opinion, the crazed, frothing at the mouth when not idiotic (i.e., "uh, duh, hispanics aren't a race") reaction to Richwine's sensible dissertation, a reaction coming from many otherwise intelligent persons, is probably the best argument that can be made against his proposed policy: there is more to cognitive competence than psychometric intelligence; and the former is what should be selected for.


Apologies for delayed response — I was away camping, ahead of the Memorial Day crowds. This post was essentially about the social reactions to claims about the predictability of the "intelligence" of certain groups or individuals. Such claims have been made for generations, and every time they are disproved they pop up again in new variants. I find it heartening that the recent response to Richwine's widely refuted claims was so strong. I note, however, that we can expect similar controversies to arise again, and these comments support that contention.

You state: "Such claims have

You state: "Such claims have been made for generations, and every time they are disproved they pop up again in new variants."

I don't know what you mean by "such claims". Claims about group differences are specific to the groups in question. As such, "refutations" are non transitive. For example, Lysenkoists were decisively refuted with regards to their position on individual differences, intelligence, and genes. But this doesn't entail a refutation of their position on, say, race, intelligence, and genes. Imagine, in context to this discussion, I said: "Well, the claim that genes don't significantly contribute to differences in intelligence i.e., general mental ability is made now and then only to be debunked, so..." This would be silly (or dishonest), because we are discussing different differences.

Let's start this way: What claim of Richwine's do you think was "disproved" or "refuted"? To help you out, I will quote Richwine (2009): "No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against….The totality of the evidence suggests a genetic component to group differences in IQ, but the extent of its impact is hard to determine … The degree to which IQ differences are due to environment versus genes does not imply anything about how long the differences will continue …The primary concern from immigration policy is that differences persist — for whatever reason."

It's trivially true that, in the US, Hispanics perform, on average, worse than non-Hispanic Whites on measures of general mental ability. And that this situation holds across generations. So, for example, fourth generation self-identifying Hispanics have g scores about one half of a standard deviation below self identifying non Hispanic Whites in the NLSY97. So I am not sure what you mean by "disproved" and "refuted". Could you clarify?


On Richwine's thesis, this is the most detailed of several critiques I've read:
I suggest you also read the work of Paul Lombardo, Daniel Kevles and many others on the eugenics movement. Online, see
I wish you well with your further research.

Based on that Think Progress

Based on that Think Progress link, there appears to be a great deal of assuring the readers that Richwine is wrong and bad, but not much actual critique of his study. Disappointing. The one interesting point is about the merits of Hispanic as a genetic category. Clearly the government considers it a legitimate category. So let me untangle this deeply mysterious issue. Hispanics are a group of people as defined by government data. They have average characteristics. They have genes. Hispanic is a cluster in thingspace . They tend to have both European and Amerindian descent---like Mestizos in other words. That is how they are genetically different from whites. The mixture varies of course, Brazilians have more African admixture, high-status Mexicans are often almost completely European, but the point remains.

That you would consider the

That you would consider the arguments made in the linked thinkprogress article to constitute a refutation of Richwine (2009) most assuredly calls into question your analytic ability. Let me briefly run through the key arguments:

A. Definitional Arguments:

Argument 1. "Hispanic" is poorly operationalized, therefore the research is invalid. (Quote: "There’s enormous debate about just what “Hispanic” means and who counts as one in any meaningful sense")

Fallacy: Terminological inconsistency does not imply conceptual inconsistency. Just because terms such as "Hispanic","ethnicity", or "race" can refer to different concepts or to different operationalizations doesn't imply that the concepts or the operationalizations referred to are themselves inconsistent or meaningless. Richwine operationalizes "Mexican" and "Hispanic" in accordance with the common practice in the social sciences --specifically, individuals are assigned to ethnic and national categories according to self or parental reported identification. This is a scientifically valid form of operationalization insofar as it is self consistent, which it is: Hispanic adults are adults who ID as Hispanic; Hispanic children are children whose parents ID them as Hispanic. More than just being a fallacy, the argument here is grotesquely dishonest because when it comes to "affirmative action", "adverse impact", "closing the achievement gaps", the same people making this argument have no problem with the very same operationalization of ethnicity and race. For example, ThinkProgress has articles such as: "The Quiet Crisis: Major Achievement Gaps Between Minority and White High School Graduates" -- in which the "Latino" -White NAEP "Achievement Gap" is discussed, where in the NAEP group membership is delineated by self and parental ID.

Argument 2. "Hispanic" is poorly defined, therefore the research is meaningless. (Quote: "Because Hispanic identity is so hotly contested..)

Fallacy: This is a variant of the fallacy above. Richwine's "Mexican" and "Hispanic" is no less well defined than is the federal government's "Mexican" and "Hispanic", since, for the body of his analysis, Richwine relies on the government's NLSY surveys and the definitions explicitly or implicitly employed therein. Since these same surveys are employed by countless of other researchers who also analyze "Hispanic" and "non-Hispanic" outcome differences, Richwine's definition is no less meaningful than that commonly used in the social sciences. Researching and discussing mean IQ differences is not principally different from researching and discussing mean income, educational, employment, etc. differences. As such, you can't rationally reject IQ-difference research, on these grounds, without also rejecting all outcome-difference research. That is, arguing that the definition of "Hispanic" is invalid invalidates all research on "Hispanics". What makes the employment of this fallacy egregious is that those who make it understand what is meant by "Hispanic"; they are, after all, not objecting to Richwine because he discussed differences between nonsense groups e.g., "Gripanics" and "non-Gripanics" -- and could one ever refute the claim that there were said differences between such groups? -- but because he discussed differences between meaningful categories of peoples. If "Hispanic" is said to be a meaningless classification, then there are no grounds to be upset about claims concerning members of this class.

Argument 3. "Hispanic" is an arbitrary classification which groups together heterogeneous sub populations. One can't make generalizations about such classifications. (Quote: ... that means both providing a clear account of why people from an arbitrary set of geographic locations are homogenous enough for generalizations about them are meaningful, controlled social science. Richwine fails to do so.)

Fallacy: Double fallacy. In the first part of the fallacy "generalizations", which require conceptual consistency, is juxtaposed with "arbitrary set[s]". The hidden false premise is that "arbitrary set[s]" are conceptually inconsistent sets. Obviously, one can make generalizations based on consistently, but arbitrarily defined sets e.g., "tall people tend to buy longer length jeans than do short people". In the second part of the fallacy "generalizations" are juxtaposed with heterogeneity. The hidden false premise is that heterogeneity precludes "meaningful generalizations". The reasoning underlying this false premise is not clear. Possibly, "generalization" in the formal logical sense of extracting the common from the specific (e.g., fish are animals is a valid formal generalization because every fish is an animal) is being conflated with "generalization" in the ordinary sense of moving from specific from general (e.g., fish have scales is a valid ordinary generalization because most fish have scales) -- and it's being argued that Hispanic individuals share nothing in common with respect to IQ differences. Possibly. But this doesn't make sense because we are talking about mean group differences. Obviously one can make formal generalizations in context to mean group differences regardless of trait heterogeneity e.g., Hispanics are darker than non Hispanic Whites would mean all Hispanics belong to a group which is has a mean ....

Argument 4. Richwine (2009) does not specify his operationalization and definition of Hispanic; therefore his analysis is meaningless. (Quote: Without a proper definition of what he means when he says Hispanic...Put differently, in order to know whether and how being Hispanic matters for IQ, we need to know what it means to be Hispanic...Someone may disagree with these arguments. But, according to von Vacano, they require a response. Richwine simply pretends they do not exist.")

This is a misleading criticism, because Richwine (2009) employs the commonly used definition and operationalization of "Hispanic". Likely the majority of papers in the social sciences on the various "Hispanic" -- "non Hispanic White" outcome gaps his does not spell out that "Hispanic" means "a person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race" (with some ambiguity about Brazilians) and that Hispanic is operationalized as "a person who identified as Hispanic". Richwine refers to this understanding in various places: Quote: "Over 56% of immigrants living in the US in 2006 were Hispanic -- that is, born in either Mexico...Central American and the Caribbean ... or South American." Fanning obliviousness to common practices in the social sciences is no argument. This is more selective "uh, duh, what is Hispanic?" As for the last sentence this just demonstrates the vile perfidy of the author -- Richwine doesn't address these issues for the same reason that the vast majority of researchers on ethnic and racial outcome differences don't. Because everyone knows -- or can readily figure out -- what's being discussed.

B. Arguments by insinuation and ad hominems

Argument 1. According to professor X, good researchers should do x, y, z. Richwine didn't do x, y, z, therefore he is a poor researcher and therefore his argument is poor. (Quote: "....Depending on the importance of these criticisms, this could be a serious problem. “If you’re on the dissertation committee, and you say ‘you’ve gotta change this, this, and this,’ and the student doesn’t do it,” Professor Drezner told me, “then that is a red flag.”"; "... Von Vacano sees this as fatally inadequate. “Any serious work at the doctoral level on these issues (even if mainly quantitative or policy-oriented),” he told me..."

Ask three different advisors how to conduct an analysis and get four different replies. Let's focus on the results and arguments, not on professor X's idiosyncratic views concerning good research practices.

C. IQ denial

Arguments 1. The APA's 1996 taskforce statement was incorrect. (Quote: " Richwine cites a 1996 American Psychological Association (APA) report called Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns as representative of a “general consensus” about the “fundamentals” of IQ, but fails to cite or respond to subsequent criticism of the APA report by relevant experts. This is a particularly troubling omission. ")

This is another argument by insinuation. These arguments work by creating a distorted mental impression by implying x without actually saying x and, thereby, precluding direct refutation, for example: 'Environmental leaning researchers have frequently claimed that genes don't substantially condition differences between individuals and between groups. As it is, genome wide association studies have demonstrated that genes account for a substantial portion of phenotypic differences in contemporaneous populations. These recent studies show that this environmental position is no longer defendable.'

Regardless, you will note that the author didn't give a specific example of an APA taskforce statement that was incorrect. It is merely craftily insinuated that the APA's statement was dated e.g., " Professor Diane F. Halpern is the only person to have coauthored both the 1996 report and a 2012 paper attempting to revise its conclusions to reflect the last 15 years of research on intelligence". It's notable that the paper cited, which was written by a groups of self identifying "environmentalists" who are known for their hard-line positions was ripe with omissions. The authors, for example, thought it best to not discuss the breakthrough Genome-wide Complex Trait Analysis Method, despite it being recognized that this method established that human intelligence is highly heritable and polygenic. As another example, in discussion of the Flynn effect, they also neglected to mention the finding of measure noninvariance e.g., that scores across time aren't comparable. Of course, doing this latter would have precluded them form explicitly ignoring the well recognized as fundamental distinction between test scores, latent ability (stratum I-III), and general mental ability -- and this in term would have made the problems with their discussion of their pet theories obvious.

Argument 2. There is a new consensus concerning the relationship between intelligence and genes, therefore Richwine's reliance on the APA statement proves that he was giving a biased presentation. Quote: “It seems safe to conclude that low socioeconomic status limits genetic contributions to intelligence....Some of the most persuasive research supporting this new consensus comes from Professor Eric Turkheimer."

The first problem is that there was no old consensus in regards to heritability x environment interactions. The second problem is that there is no new consensus. In regards to the latter point, Halpern is multilevel wrong. The results of all studies on the relationship between SES and heritability were reviewed in: Hanscombe, et al. (2012). Socioeconomic Status (SES) and Children's Intelligence (IQ): in a UK-representative sample SES moderates the environmental, not genetic, effect on IQ. The results are inconsistent and investigation is ongoing. The third problem is that, contrary to the claim above (argument C1), Richwine does cite -- page 12 -- subsequent criticism. Quote: "Studies that have attempted modeling -- e.g., Feldman et al. (2000) and Daniels et al. (1997) -- have generally found lower genetic heritability estimates in the 0.35 to 0.45 range, although the estimates vary considerably depending on the model specification. Even it the APA has underestimated the environmental contribution of IQ by excessive reliance of twin studies, no one claims an insignificant role for genes. " The forth problem is that this issue is not directly relevant to any of Richwine's claims. It might be relevant if the heritability of IQ in the Hispanic population was significantly depressed relative to that in the non Hispanic White population. Might -- of course -- because low within population heritability does not imply the absence of genetic differences between populations.

Argument 3. But heritability and SES again! So there!

The article continues: "Turkheimer and company found that among poor twins, virtually no variation in IQ could be attributed to inherited traits, but among wealthier ones, a significant portion was. This suggests that poverty and material deprivation uniquely overwhelm any genetic component to IQ, artificially depressing IQ among disadvantaged children .....[Richwine] dismisses this potentially damning critique of his persistent IQ gap — after all, most Hispanic immigrants to the United States are from far poorer countries

So based on the Hanscombe, et al. paper, using the 7 non redundant samples in table 1 which included h^2 coefficients (17, 7, 15, 13, 8, 14, 10), we get a weighted average heritability of .41 and .52 for the low SES and high SES groups (median age 12). And adding the results from the TEDS study doesn't change this. But, of course, the situation is worse than this. By the authors arguments since Hispanic h^2 varies by SES h^2, and low h^2 accounts for why there is a large gap, then high SES Hispanics should have high h^2 and exhibit smaller gaps. And yet they don't. Rather the gap increases with increasing SES. Which is what you might expect if you posited a genetic hypothesis.

Argument 4. IQ isn't everything, therefore new Hispanic children will not have low IQs. (Quote: or IQ doesn’t matter nearly as much as Richwine thinks. But instead of grappling with this work, which obviously presents a serious challenge to his core thesis that “new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children,”.)

These aren't even claims that you can argue with. They are statements wrapped in falsehood from which non sequiturs are drawn. The author is a scurrilous rat. The fact is that IQ and IQ differences are seen as socially important. Number 4 on the social sciences's 2010 top 10 list of foundational and transformative challenges is: "How do we reduce the ‘skill gap’ [a.k.a intelligence gap] between black and white people in America?" Number 4! Everyone recognizes that IQ isn't everything -- it is nonetheless everyone agrees that it's important, especially, in a high tech society.

Argument 5. IQ doesn't explain group differences. (Quote: Richwine blames low IQ for everything from high crime rates among young “Hispanics” to increased rates of social distrust between Americans to labor market disruptions....)

And yet the research overwhelmingly supports the IQ-centric position. Luminaries such as Roland Fryer, James Heckman, and Charles Jencks have come to the same conclusion. Nisbett writes: "If such a difference were wholly or substantially genetic in origin, the implications for American society would be dire. It would mean that even if the environmental playing field were leveled, a much higher proportion of blacks than whites would have trouble supporting themselves, and a much lower proportion of blacks than whites would be professionals and successful business people." Everyone who is familiar with this topic now agrees with the basic conclusions in the Bell Curve, except with regards to genetics. This is why we have federal program after federal program aimed at narrowing the "achievement gap". People who argue against the importance of general cognitive ability need to take their arguments to sociologists who obsessively discuss this topic just using euphemisms such as skill, achievement, human capital, cognitive ability.

Argument 6. IQ doesn't substantially influence life prospects. (Quote: there’s simply no reason to think IQ matters enough to provide the juice for sweeping theories about the life prospects of entire groups of immigrants.)

And yet this issue has already been largely settled. The social, educational, epidemiological, psychological, and criminological correlates of g are well known: Work: Rhee, J.M., Carretta, T. R 22K. In: Ones, D. S., & Viswesvaran, C. (2002). Introduction to the special issue: Role of general mental ability in industrial, work, and organizational psychology. Human Performance, 15(1/2), 1-2. Social behavior: Gottfredson, L. S. (2002). g: Highly general and highly practical. The general factor of intelligence: How general is it, 331-380. Health: Deary, I. J. (2009). Introduction to the special issue on cognitive epidemiology. Intelligence, 37(6), 517-519. Crime: Levine, S. Z. (2011). Elaboration on the association between IQ and parental SES with subsequent crime. Personality and Individual Differences, 50(8), 1233-1237.
The racial-outcome IQ differences are mostly explained by g differences. So one can use these difference to judge the importance of other subpopulation difference. Are these racial outcome differences important?

The author continues, quoting Nisbett, “There was no excuse for saying that kind of thing in 2009,” whose intellectual dishonestly overdoes itself in his latest paper. A good review Nisbett's 2009 is Lee's "Review of intelligence and how to get it: Why schools and cultures count, RE Nisbett. Norton, New York, NY (2009). Personal. Individ. Differ, 48, 247-55." Lee notes: I show that Nisbett’s arguments are consistently overstated or unsound. And this is because they are. That said, it would be nice is specifics were focused on. Instead we are treated to more misdirection and insinuation.

Continuing: "[James Heckman] wrote a paper with Tim Kautz last year called, “Hard Evidence of Soft Skills,” reviewing the last several decades of research on the topic. As you might guess from the title, it’s not good for Richwine."

Of course, Zack Beauchamp doesn't actually say that "it's not good for Richwine", he just say's "you might guess". Heckman is quite cognizant of the importance of IQ. He has shifted focus because to other traits because after much struggle he came to agree with Charles Murray that IQ differences were stubborn.
None of Beauchamp's pseudo argument makes sense. Sure personality matters but this don't mean that IQ doesn't. But why focus on IQ? Because IQ matters to a greater degree in more ways than any other known behavioral trait. Sure the big five can predict GPA somewhat but can it also and equally well predict: occupation, education, income, health, criminality, religiosity, fertility rate, illegitimacy, unemployment status, ability to handle job complexity, analytic style, eminence, memory, reaction time, craftwork, musical ability, height, longevity, obesity, breadth and depth of interest, marital partner, sports participation, tendency to lie, military rank, ability to perceive brief stimuli, field-independence, myopia, practical knowledge, social skills, accident proneness, and motor skills. Yes, there's a reason that "intelligence" is so highly socially valued. And the more the better: e.g.,

Who Rises to the Top? Early Indicators

Youth identified before age 13 (N = 320) as having profound mathematical or verbal reasoning abilities (top 1 in 10,000) were tracked for nearly three decades. Their awards and creative accomplishments by age 38, in combination with specific details about their occupational responsibilities, illuminate the magnitude of their contribution and professional stature. Many have been entrusted with obligations and resources for making critical decisions about individual and organizational well-being. Their leadership positions in business, health care, law, the professoriate, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) suggest that many are outstanding creators of modern culture, constituting a precious human-capital resource. Identifying truly profound human potential, and forecasting differential development within such populations, requires assessing multiple cognitive abilities and using atypical measurement procedures. This study illustrates how ultimate criteria may be aggregated and longitudinally sequenced to validate such measures.

(Kell, H. J., Lubinski, D., & Benbow, C. P. (2013). Who Rises to the Top? Early Indicators. Psychological science, 24(5), 648-659.)
And of course, the less the worse. Let's put it this way, increasing what other behavioral trait 1SD would give you the same all a round benefit as increasing g 1 SD? Now I think there are more important fitness traits such as "health", but focusing on behavioral traits, what?

D. Miscellaneous.

1. Richwine's samples were small, so he cited questionable research to bolster his position. (Quote: "We could get into the fact that his samples of Hispanic immigrants are rather small, leading him to supplement with national-level estimations of Hispanic IQ — principally from Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen).

This is yet another gross misconstrual. Richwine cited Borjas' theory of immigrant selectivity as an explanation for the immigrant IQ patterns and then he cited L&V as an alternative possibility for why Hispanics immigrants -- say as compared to Asian immigrants -- had persistently low IQs. The concerns the origin of the difference. As for further evidence of the existence of a difference in the US, he cited Roth et al.'s massive meta-analysis which had an n in the millions. His specific analyses concerned not of the origin of the differences or the presence of these differences but their intergenerational transmission. And to investigate this he looked at no less than 4 count them 4 nationally representative samples. Beauchamp is just being a swine again in mischaracterizing the situation.
I could keep going on ....

Wow! This comment is more

Wow! This comment is more than four times the length of my original post. I hate to disappoint you, but I shall not read it. "Let me briefly ..." you began, and I wish you had. "I could keep going on ..." you close, and I am sure you can. Good luck with that.

Pete, My point was that these


My point was that these are nonsense rebuttals. Demonstrating this is easy. Generally, the IQ-genetic ancestry question is still open. And the embryo-brilliance one is largely settled -- but contrary to how you imagine.

Appreciating the above has relevance with regards to what you wrote. You give the impression that proponents of group differences are hopelessly conceptually confused. And that discussion on this and related matters continues only because of this confusion. If this is what you think, you are woefully wrong. And I will be happy to explain why, point by point, if you wish.

Understanding this error, in turn, is important, because doing so allows you to appreciate that the larger disagreement isn't largely conceptual or empirical but is moral. This is why I commented. You should have picked up on the issue of "selectionism". You should have recognized that "selectionism" is rational in the sense that it is a logically defensible paradigm. You should have seen that proponents of selectionism are theoretically well grounded. And then you should have discussed this paradigm in context to your (apparently anti-eugenic) worldview. But you failed to do this because you misunderstood the situation. Instead you treated us to: "That's almost certainly true—but no real reason for comfort. The researchers will find something. And someone will abuse the findings."

As Steve Hsu of BGI has noted, "It seems likely that the technology will arrive well before our political leadership and punditocracy have a firm understanding of the consequences." Your musings about this issue seem to confirm this position.

The "embryo-brilliance one is

The "embryo-brilliance one is largely settled."

Well, that may be true if neural development stopped at the embryonic level, but it doesn't. The question of whether culture or origins of ancestry will never be settled because there is no place on earth where genes exist independently of culture. It is a fact that spanking a child can cause an IQ loss of 5 points. It is also a fact that consuming iodine in vitro can cause IQ gains of 3 points. In contrast, male baldness, a largely genetic phenomenon, was correlated to an IQ difference of just two points. In addition, once you control for poverty and family structure (children from single-parent households score significantly lower on cognitive tests), the much-vaunted black-white IQ difference lowers to a statistically insignificant 3 points:

In addition, recent research shows that the brain shows considerable plasticity in the teen years, which is why I pointed out the importance of prosocial cultural messages:

Sorry but I've scanned your novella-length post that you made earlier and given the evidence to the contrary, I remain thoroughly unconvinced.

Sorry, whether culture or

Sorry, whether culture or origin of ancestry is more influential**

You said: "The question of

You said: "The question of whether culture or origins of ancestry will never be settled because there is no place on earth where genes exist independently of culture."

You are confusing trait development with trait differences. When it comes to trait development, there obviously is a necessary interplay between genes and environment -- DNA doesn't actualize itself in a vacuum; this isn't the case, however, when it comes to individual (or groups) trait differences. Please stop saying silly stuff like this.

You say: "It is a fact that spanking a child can cause an IQ loss of 5 points. It is also a fact that consuming iodine in vitro can cause IQ gains of 3 points".

You would want to look at meta-analytic reviews and to look at the psychometric characteristics of the differences in question. See, for example, this paper: "The Causes of Group Differences in Intelligence Studied Using the Method of Correlated Vectors and Psychometric Meta: Analysis" http://lesacreduprintemps19.files.wordpress(dot)com/2013/05/metzen-2010.pdf That said, there is substantial room for environmental effect, especially in childhood, when genetic potential is not fully manifest i.e., the variance explain by composite environmental factors can be over 50% at young age.

You say: "In addition, once you control for poverty and family structure (children from single-parent households score significantly lower on cognitive tests), the much-vaunted black-white IQ difference"

Stop conflating within group heritability with between group heritability. The extent to which between race differences are genetically conditioned is not know; the case is different when it comes to within race differences. As for the B/W gap, statistically explaining is not the same as experimentally explaining a.k.a. correlation does not logically imply causation. SES, etc. differences within races are partially genetically conditioned, so controlling for SES, etc. between races controls for an indeterminate amount of genetic influence. Also, biometrically informed studies, which take within race genetic influences into account, indicate genetic differences. See: Rowe, D. C., & Cleveland, H. H. (1996). Academic achievement in blacks and whites: are the developmental processes similar?

You say: "In addition, recent research shows that the brain shows considerable plasticity in the teen years."

I can't believe that you referenced this article. Do the math. Go read a book on intelligence. The change is utterly consistent with the heritability estimates which I noted. And is utterly typical. See Brody 1992 concerning the longitudinal stability of IQ at different ages and points in time.

This back and forth is getting tiring. If you are interested in following up on this or if you are interested in citations, expositions, or refutations, you can email me at J122177@hotmail(dot)com. Suffice it to say that factually, on this matter, I am right and you generally are wrong.

I think you miss the point

I think you miss the point that Pete is alluding to, which is that following your eugenicist worldview to its natural conclusion results in a world not unlike the ficitional one depicted in "Gattaca" and that is pretty much 100% morally indefensible.

If, according to you, the sole determinant of IQ differences occurs at the embryonic level, then we have what is essentially a capitalist meritocracy right now, at this moment. This would mean that the people best-suited for breeding (as well as the people best-suited for holding high-powered positions, as well as the people best-suited for general labour) are all fulfilling their respective roles appropriately at this juncture in time and no further goading or external interference is required.

You say: "its natural

You say: "its natural conclusion results in a world not unlike the ficitional one depicted in "Gattaca" and that is pretty much 100% morally indefensible."

I would maintain that a "Gattaca-esque" situation is inevitable. Pro-Eugenic norms will first stabilize in more hereditarian friendly regions, such as the PRC, and then radiate out. Moral rationalizations will follow. As for Pete, he implied that this type of Eugenics is a fancy based on conceptual confusion. My reply was that this is a horrible misunderstanding. A "Gattaca-esque" situation is a very live possibility because the theory is sound and the technology is soon to be available.

You say: "If, according to you, the sole determinant of IQ differences occurs at the embryonic level"

Strawwoman! Genes -- at the embryonic level -- account for approximately 75% of the (with population) variance in general mental ability by adulthood. By definition this isn't genetic determinism, just strong genetic influentialism. To put this another way, the correlation between the totality of environmental effect and g is 0.5, while the correlation between genotype and g is 0.87, so, per unit, genes are a better investment.

You say: "This would mean that..."

Well, that would depend on the correlation between g and the various outcomes in question. For background, read the classic paper: Rowe, et al. (1998). Herrnstein's syllogism: Genetic and shared environmental influences on IQ, education, and income. But, I would imagine, based on the extensive biometric research, that genetic ancestry in totality accounts for the lion share of inter-individual outcome differences in totality.

Overlooking the fact that

Overlooking the fact that race is a social category that is almost entirely subjectively defined (so much so that the ethnically Chinese are classified as "black" in South Africa and Middle Easterners are classified as "white" in the United States), I see few of the pro-eugenicists acknowledging the fact that even if we assume that intelligence is correlated to phenotype (which is taking a lot for granted since scientists have not identified an intelligence gene which we could then prove is more common in any one particular group), and even if we also then assume that white people possess more of it (again, a bit of a fallacy since Caucasian as a phenotype spans India as well as Northern Africa as well as much of Latin America), we are then still left with the conundrum that white people would then lack self-preservation instincts and would naturally die off. Higher-than-average intelligence is not a feature that favors self-replenishment; indeed, geniuses (defined as those having an IQ of 140 or more) have depressed testosterone levels. So who is to say that such a group is intended by nature to survive? Darwinists make this argument for why less money should be "wasted" on those who cannot help themselves (the poor). But the exact same rationale can be applied to a group naturally lacking reproductive instincts.

Anonymous Female, Were your

Anonymous Female,

Were your first statement true concerning race, why would you need to overlook it? Generally, the social construction of race tends to increase the number of possible avenues by which genetic differences can arise — and so increases the a priori probability that there are such differences, given within population differences and knowing nothing else. Take “Hispanics”, a very socially constructed group, as an example. “Hispanic” is a US construction. It refers to those individuals of Latin American Ancestry who migrated to the US and who continue to self identify as Hispanics. In terms of Human Capital, this is an unrepresentative group of all Latin Americans i.e., not a representative sample. Also it's known that for this group there is negatively selected ethnic attrition i.e., the smarter assimilate into the White population. One plus one adds up to two if aptitude is non trivially heritable within the Latin American and US Hispanic populations.....So congenital race differences are questionable, to the extent that they are, not because race is an arbitrary social construct but because race is delineated in terms of something specific — in terms of geographic ancestry — and because the idea that the traits in question would congenitally vary by this variable — geographic ancestry — is questionable. Is it? Sure. This is why race differences are not assumed to be like social class differences — and how much more socially constructed can you get then social class — and so not assumed to be partially genetically conditioned. You and everyone else have it reversed. Think about it.

As for dysgenic fertility, this is a recent phenomena; for example, historically, the lower classes in Europe and N.E. Asia didn't replace themselves but were largely replenished by the less successful of the upper classes. See Gregory Clark's discussion of this with regards to England. As for the contemporaneous situation, there are two complementary dysgenic forces; more of the less able survive courtesy of the welfare state and less of the more able reproduce; this latter is largely driven by smarter women sacrificing reproductive years for higher education. Generally, this topic have been extensively discussed in the HBD sphere. The reality of dysgenesis in the advanced world is why pro-eugenicists are pro-eugenic. It seems morally questionable to be anti-dysgenic (e.g., in the sense of sterilization) so the choice is to encourage positive eugenic behavior e.g., encourage more intelligent women to have more intelligent and productive kids, to ignore the situation (but see here: Stearns, et al. (2010). Measuring selection in contemporary human populations), or to hope environmental effects can continue to outweigh any dysgenic effects.

As for your last point, I'm not sure that many pro-eugenicists are or ever were social Darwinianists in the sense advocated by Herbert Spencer. The eugenic concern is maintaining a fit, functional population not realizing some evolutionary teleos. So I guess the rational could be applied by -- but so what?

"Geographic ancestry" is

"Geographic ancestry" is rarely insular and cannot be determined solely by phenotype, so that is one major point that you seem very dismissive of. What exact percentage of one's "geographic ancestry" has to originate in Asia in order for a person to be considered Asian, as opposed to Hispanic or white? Ignoring both the practical and ethical limitations of their policies, these are questions that eugenicists simply cannot answer. An analysis of Nobel laureate (who made racially-charged statements) James Watson's genome sequencing revealed him to have 9% Asian ancestry and 16% African ancestry, which would be consistent with him having had a great-grandparent who was African. Unless we have rigid criteria by which we can determine ancestry, the entire eugenicist argument becomes a moot point. It's been attempted before (are you familiar with the term "octaroon"?) with abysmally failed results. Yes, race is a subjectively-defined social category, and yes, social categories have real-world implications on things like culture, privilege and access, but culture is malleable and also subjective. Flatly, people can choose which culture to gravitate towards, just as they can choose which racial category to identify with.

As for dysgenic fertility being a recent phenomena, indeed this may be the case, but so is The Flynn Effect and rapid height increases in human populations. Never before has society has such an abundance of nutrition and external stimuli. Humans have seen huge gains in height, weight, and intelligence over the course of the last century, and their behaviour is adapting accordingly. While it may be ethically sound to remove the impediments that prevent women who want children from having them, I don't think it's ethically sound to attempt to limit women's access to contraceptives that impact their reproductive choice or sexual health; furthermore, I think this practise would lead to the very dysgenesis the "pro-eugenists" claim that they are trying to dissuade as countless unwanted one-night-stand babies come into the world (to single mothers unequipped to nurture them correctly).

If you truly don't think that many pro-eugenicists were ever social Darwinists, I encourage you to visit any nationalist site. "The
eugenic concern is maintaining a fit, functional population" - and they make quite obvious their disdain for the poor and phenotypically dissimilar who they are convinced thwart their efforts to do so.

Allow Me To Elaborate

Anonymous Female wrote:
Flatly, people can choose which culture to gravitate towards, just as they can choose which racial category to identify with.

To clarify this point, one solution that is actually feasible (where a eugenicist approach is not) would be to promote cohesive, intelligent and stimulating content as mainstream so that proscial behaviour, practises and characteristics become aspiractional rather than destructive ones (examples: music with complex arrangements and positive messages as opposed to promiscuity-promoting and woman-degrading rap and misandric pop; happy couples and intact families as opposed to "Married With Children" and "hookup culture," etc.)

Anonymous Female, I am

Anonymous Female, I am rightfully dismissive of the dismissal of mean racial/ethnic differences. To understand how race qua geographic ancestry is being conceptualized look at figure 1 in: Zakharia,et al.(2009) "Characterizing the admixed African ancestry of African Americans". For a discussion of the conceptualization, see: Risch, et al. (2002) When it comes to mean differences, individual accuracy isn't horribly important. In the US, people who ID as African American tend to be darker than people who ID as European American. Why? In part because they tend to have more Black African Ancestry. What am I missing? It's funny that few challenge, say, affirmative action on the basis of instances of discordance between individual ID and actual genealogy (the practice being frequently justified as remediation for historic injustices), but so many challenge genetic explains on the same grounds. Just meditate on the concept of "mean" and you will get it eventually, maybe.

To address your specific question: "What exact percentage of one's "geographic ancestry" has to originate in Asia in order for a person to be considered Asian, as opposed to Hispanic or white?" In the arguments phase of the recent Affirmative Action case, the government recently clarified this issue: Race is defined in terms of ancestry and operationalized in terms of self ID; in principle, people can ID as they want. Again, with regards to the origin of mean differences, individual discordance doesn't matter since we are discussing means. What matters is that there is a mean difference in the distribution of ancestry. Return to figure 1 in Zakharia,et al.(2009). I really don't understand why this is so difficult.

You continue: "[t]hese are questions that eugenicists simply cannot answer". Refer to my long comment on the goofy thinkprogress piece above. To maintain this line of reasoning -- e.g., imprecision in racial assignment invalidates categories -- you must be willing to reject virtually all social science research on race. Is this what you are proposing? Question: "Why do Hispanics tend to speak Spanish more frequently than non Hispanic Whites?" Answer: "Can't know -- because ethnic ID is not quantified."

You continue: "Watson's genome sequencing revealed him to have 9% Asian ancestry and 16% African ancestry." As for Watson's ancestry, I'm not sure about the reliability of the test used. The more loci the more reliable. Whatever the case, the illustrates my point: Watson is predominately of White European Ancestry, as you would guess by looking at his phenotype. Again, mean differences. Getting to the meat of your argument, you continue: "Unless we have rigid criteria by which we can determine ancestry, the entire eugenicist argument becomes a moot point." What, according to you, is the "eugenicist argument". Eugenics is a practical science which is only tangentially related to race. Race only possibly enters the equation insofar as there are hereditary differences in a desired trait between so defined races. What you must mean is that: "the entire eugenics arguments with regards to race -- whatever that is e.g., outlawing/promoting miscegenation -- logically depends on a 'rigid criteria by which we can determine ancestry'". But this is silly, because it wouldn't so depend. Eugenics is concerned with raising mean averages in a trait; in that way it's like any other intervention; it just works by individual selection, not individual improvement. Maybe we need to start from the beginning and clarify what is and what is not being argued/discussed.

You continue: "Flatly, people can choose which culture to gravitate towards, just as they can choose which racial category to identify with." Sure, people can choose which race qua social category they ID with. As I noted in the comments above, this increases the a prior probability of congenital differences between races (since a large chunk of the variance between random individuals within races is congenitally conditioned and since racial self ID is not random). That said, there are nonetheless mean differences in genetic ancestry between the races qua social categories in the US.

Moving on, you say: "but so is The Flynn Effect and rapid height increases in human populations."The Flynn Effect largely doesn't represent an increase in "real" intelligence. Refer to: Wicherts, et. (2004) "Are intelligence tests measurement invariant over time? Investigating the nature of the Flynn effect". General intelligence isn't measured on an absolute scale as height is; this makes comparisons between dissimilar groups difficult, though not impossible. Generally, secular differences in IQ scores don't have the same meaning as individual difference in IQ scores. The same is probably true with regards to differences between some cultural groups e.g., regional variance in IQ scores, but not with regards to others e.g., the B/W gaps in the US, for which MI has consistently been found to hold. Anyways, the point is that IQ comparisons are tricky. That's why I noted in a comment above that you can't generalize across groups.

You continue: "I don't think it's ethically sound to attempt to limit women's access to contraceptives that impact their reproductive choice or sexual health". What do you think about Pre-implantation genetic screening and selective abortion? Personally, my views on this issue are complex -- for background, I had three sisters who died of a horrible genetic disease, SMA, but who also lived because they were not aborted -- even in the case of the last when the conditioned was recognized early on. On the other hand, my wife, being a Mainland born Han, is all in favor of what I call "abortive eugenics" -- she wouldn't hesitate to abort any child she perceived as being a defect.

Misunderstanding my point, you said: "If you truly don't think that many pro-eugenicists were ever social Darwinists..." Your obviously using "social Darwinian" in a different sense than I am. I would call what you now call "social Darwinianism" negative eugenics or preventative eugenics e.g., sterilization. This would be distinct from the philosophical view expressed by social Darwinianists, proper, concerning, to use your previous characterization, "what nature wants". Eugenicists are concerned with, as you note, "maintaining a fit, functional populations" not with realizing "nature's" ends. As such, they would happily try to improve a socially degenerate population e.g., what's left of the contemporaneous White West.

Chuck: To give a little bit

Chuck: To give a little bit of context, I know a number of people personally who identify as "white," despite actually being multiracial (as far as "geographic ancestry" is concerned), and given their respective phenotypes, (one of them, my first cousin, having pale skin and blue eyes), it is appropriate for them to do so. I don't think theirs is a unique story. Don't you find it rather interesting that the "white" collective IQ has increased sequentially with the ethnic label also growing to include more people of various ancestry?

"Don't you find it rather

"Don't you find it rather interesting that the "white" collective IQ has increased sequentially with the ethnic label also growing to include more people of various ancestry?"

You might be interested in a couple of the posts over at the HBD blog, "Human varieties". Generally, within the African American population, which is, from a taxonomic perspective, a hybrid population, it's found that indices of ancestry e.g., parental reported ancestry, self reported ancestry, and skin color correlate with psychometric intelligence. Also, individuals who report mixed ancestry and individuals who have mixed parentage, exhibit scores and skin tones intermediate to the parental populations. Generally, racial admixture, offers a neat method of testing genetic hypothesis. Google scholar search "admixture mapping". No one is willing to apply this frequently used method to IQ differences i.e., it's impossible to get IRB approval. See, for example, In short, admixture isn't a problem for genetic hypotheses.

As for your more substantial point, I don't see why you are having trouble with this. We can reasonably understand race qua geographic ancestry in a taxonomic sense while also having a understanding of race in a social sense. That is, we can have multiple senses of "race" (even race qua speeded competition) -- and query as to the relationship between them. There is no need to "reify" the term "race" and ask which sense is right. As for race in the taxonomic sense, see Quayshawn Spencer's deft defense. Quote: "Specifically, I will argue that given a referentialist account of the meaning of ‘race’, a genuine kind account of biologically real kindhood, a fuzzy graph-theoretic account of populations, and the landmark results from Noah Rosenberg et al. (2002; 2005) on human population substructure, one can fashion a respectable account of race as the “B-partition” of metapopulations in a species (or “BPM race theory”)." Granting this conceptualization, we can then ask about the correspondence between race socially defined in some region at some time and taxonomic race. Now, you implicitly understand this. For example, you say "I know a number of people personally who identify as "white," despite actually being multiracial (as far as "geographic ancestry" is concerned)". This statement acknowledges the validity of these two different understandings of race and makes note of the discordance between them.

Data in Science

You might be interested in this new article in Science:
GWAS of 126,559 Individuals Identifies Genetic Variants Associated with Educational Attainment
If you have a subscription you can find it easily (first author is Rietveld). If not, there is a summary here:

I suspect that it will rapidly provoke discussions elsewhere that both Chuck and Anonymous Female might find stimulating and informative (or, perhaps, exasperating).

There's not much new here,

There's not much new here, except:

"An asymptotic upper bound for the explanatory power of a linear polygenic score is the additive genetic variance across individuals captured by current SNP microarrays. Using combined data from STR and QIMR, we estimate that this upper bound is 22.4% (S.E. = 4.2%) in these samples (5) (table S12)."

A recent massive international meta-analysis found a kinship heritability of EA of 0.4. (See: Branigan, et al. Variation in the Heritability of Educational Attainment: An International Meta-Analysis.) So, half of the kinship narrow heritability is "missing" -- i.e., either is not captured by SNPs or is overestimated. Whatever the case, even by the kinship estimate, the h^2 of EA is only modest. Moreover, the variance explained by the more directly modifiable shared environment is about 0.4, which suggests large room for practical social interventions (in contrast, shared environment explains close to zero percent of the population variance in g by adulthood).

From a policy perspective, then, putting practical and moral considerations aside, EA, unlike g, is not a particularly good target for genetic selection.

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Pete Shanks is the author of Human Genetic Engineering: A Guide for Activists, Skeptics, and the Very Perplexed.


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