Ever See An African With A Hobby?

Greg Cochran writes about David Reich’s new book:

The people Reich dumps on are saying perfectly reasonable things. He criticizes Henry Harpending for saying that he’d never seen an African with a hobby. Of course, Henry had actually spent time in Africa, and that’s what he’d seen. The implication is that people in Malthusian farming societies – which Africa was not – were selected to want to work, even where there was no immediate necessity to do so. Thus hobbies, something like a gerbil running in an exercise wheel.

He criticized Nicholas Wade, for saying that different races have different dispositions. Wade’s book wasn’t very good, but of course personality varies by race: Darwin certainly thought so. You can see differences at birth. Cover a baby’s nose with a cloth: Chinese and Navajo babies quietly breathe through their mouth, European and African babies fuss and fight.

Then he attacks Watson, for asking when Reich was going to look at Jewish genetics – the kind that has led to greater-than-average intelligence. Watson was undoubtedly trying to get a rise out of Reich, but it’s a perfectly reasonable question. Ashkenazi Jews are smarter than the average bear and everybody knows it. Selection is the only possible explanation, and the conditions in the Middle ages – white-collar job specialization and a high degree of endogamy, were just what the doctor ordered.

Watson’s a prick, but he’s a great prick, and what he said was correct. Henry was a prince among men, and Nick Wade is a decent guy as well. Reich is totally out of line here: he’s being a dick.

Now Reich may be trying to burnish his anti-racist credentials, which surely need some renewal after having pointing out that race as colloquially used is pretty reasonable, there’s no reason pops can’t be different, people that said otherwise ( like Lewontin, Gould, Montagu, etc. ) were lying, Aryans conquered Europe and India, while we’re tied to the train tracks with scary genetic results coming straight at us. I don’t care: he’s being a weasel, slandering the dead and abusing the obnoxious old genius who laid the foundations of his field. Reich will also get old someday: perhaps he too will someday lose track of all the nonsense he’s supposed to say, or just stop caring. Maybe he already has… I’m pretty sure that Reich does not like lying – which is why he wrote this section of the book (not at all logically necessary for his exposition of the ancient DNA work) but the required complex juggling of lies and truth required to get past the demented gatekeepers of our society may not be his forte. It has been said that if it was discovered that someone in the business was secretly an android, David Reich would be the prime suspect. No Talleyrand he.

He doesn’t just slander, he lies. He says “most stereotypes will be disproved.” Want to bet? Most stereotypes are true – true everywhere. In what country do the Chinese disproportionately fill up the special ed classes? If we we’re talking cognition and personality, the behavioral geneticists keep finding that A. genetics matters, and B. The usual suspects, like family environment, don’t matter much.

There may be a few exceptions to ” what you see is what you get”, and understanding them might be very valuable: if some pop appeared to have a lot on the ball ( genetically) but isn’t doing well, there might be another cheap, simple solution, like iodine supplementation. And there will be differences that are fairly subtle and not much noticed, say in liver enzymes or the immune system, that might be highly relevant to disease prevention and treatment.

Reich’s position is that we don’t know anything until someone (him !) has analyzed it with modern genomic techniques. That’s ridiculous. Reich found that on average, given similar diets, northern Europeans are about a standard deviation taller than southern Europeans. But I already knew that, well before Reich was born. Seneca knew it: Tacitus knew it. There’s a reason the Byzantines hired plenty of Scandihoovians (including 7-footer Harold Hardrada) into the Varangian Guard. Mark Twain knew that Ashkenazi Jews were smart: he didn’t need IQ tests or GWAS for that.


* If you looked at the people of medieval Europe anyone could immediately see the differences between the gentry and the peasants. The son of the Lord of the Manor grew up eating meat and fresh vegetables. While the peasant’s son ate gruel and had no toys in his crib. The noble was tall, healthy and smart. The peasant was short,sickly and stupid. Peasants were reviled by the people at court and they were right to do so. Better fed and nurtured people were indeed better people.

* Steve Sailer: By the way, making the Olympics 100m dash men’s finals is not solely a West African thing: a South African sprinter finished 5th in 2016 and back in the 1990s, Frankie Fredericks of Namibia in southwestern Africa won silver medals twice. Everybody who has made one of the eight finalist slots in the last nine Olympics has been, as far as I know, at least half-Sub-Saharan by ancestry

It is true that East African highlander countries like Kenya and Ethiopia that produce a lot of longer distance medalists have not made the finals in the 100m (although Kenyans have medaled in distances as short as 400m).

* SS: But who brings you up has a lot of effect on what religion you follow, what cuisine type you like, a lot of your cultural attitudes and customs, what kind of small businesses you might go into, what ethnicity you identify with…

* SS: Lots of people care about traits other than IQ and personality. Who brings you up, for example, will have a big impact on your class-related behaviors. In Britain, for example, you are unlikely to grow up to speak with a Public School Accent unless your parents are the type who want to pay Public School (i.e., private schools like Eton) tuition.

Similarly, who brings you up likely matters for which sports you pursue.

* SS: My name is George Nathaniel Curzon,
I am a most superior person.
My cheeks are pink, my hair is sleek,
I dine at Blenheim twice a week.

I just learned that these are a genre: the Balliol Rhyme:


* What’s remarkable about Samoans is not that many are fat — lots of peoples are pretty fat these days — but how many are extremely strong, NFL strong. Samoans are vastly over-represented in both pro American football and in pro rugby.

* SS: Germans got really fat from about 1955-1965 or so. It was likely a reaction to the lean years after the war. But after awhile they stopped eating so much more than other Europeans.

* Jayman: In the case of the effects of family environment, the matter is not “absence of evidence.”; there is evidence of absence. Namely, the shared environment component of behavioral genetic studies routinely comes out to insignificant to plain old zero when we look at adults. People who grew up together are no more similar than people who grew up apart, when you take genetics into account.

* I think Greg is mostly talking about heritability estimates from twin studies. A very common finding from these is that the component of variation due to family environment is negligible. (Jayman explicitly mentions this.)

In other words, if you ask “why are people so different with respect to trait X?”, the answer usually is not “because they were raised in different households.” Usually it’s “because they have different genes, plus some residual random effects that we don’t understand.”

Does this mean you can’t have an effect on your child? No. I could depress my kid’s IQ long term, no problem (lead flakes for breakfast). So why doesn’t this contribute to phenotypic variance in IQ in the twin studies? Because lead poisoning is very rare in the US, so it contributes virtually nothing to the differences observed between people. (Raising IQ is a lot harder. I don’t know of any intervention that would do it, long term.)

Nor do these results prove that some new method doesn’t have an effect. If there is some new parenting or teaching method out there that does in fact boost IQ or conscientiousness, but it’s very rare, then it will again contribute approximately 0 to the shared environmental variance. That’s why you need to test particular treatments with randomized studies. (My impression is that nothing has really stuck.)

Question: do adoptees to rich families do better than adoptees to poor families? I’ve seen studies that go both ways.

* Old joke: An economist, a physicist, and a mathematician are taking a train to Scotland. As they cross the border, they see a black cow. “Look, ” says the economist, “the cows in Scotland are black.” “How imprecise,” says the physicist. “All that we can really say is that there is one black cow in Scotland.” “Actually,” says the mathematician, “all that we can really say is that there is one cow in Scotland, and one side of it is black.”

* Tom Wolfe writes somewhere, it’s risky to be ahead of one’s time, even if by just 10 minutes.

* Flynn effect addresses phenotype, not genotype. The genetic raw materials available are getting worse, but we’re helped by the fact that most people e.g. no longer are iodide deficient or starve during critical periods of brain development. Environmental factors mask the dysgenic trend.

I don’t remember seeing many aborigines with hobbies.

Greg Cochran writes:

Graur says “For selection to operate and counteract the effects of random genetic drift, the effective population size should be large.” Well, it would be nice if the effective population size were large, but that is by no means necessary. German Shepherds were created in the 1890s, by interbreeding several breeds of dogs ( and wolves !), followed by selection for desired traits. That didn’t require tens or hundreds of thousands of dogs. Thoroughbreds are the fastest horses in existence: their effective population size is around 100. Dachshunds are smaller than they were in the 1970s – but then everybody knows they’re contrary enough to violate the laws of genetics. Born that way, probably.

I could go on – and on, and on. Every example we have of selection on domesticates is a counterexample to what Grauer is saying here. No farmer he. Does he think that some ancient geneticist corralled a million aurochsen in order to breed the domesticated cow?

…Graur is making a very basic mistake: he is perfectly happy making an argument to which there are many counterexamples. They don’t bother him. Even one counterexample should bother you. As I said, every domesticate is a counterexample to what he’s saying. We know of many genetically caused differences between human populations, such as height, skin color, disease resistance, ability to efficiently utilize certain foods, tolerate high altitude, low temperatures, high levels of arsenic, etc etc. By ‘we’ I mean anyone who can read. Some of those genetic differences are caused by new forms of one or a few genes (like sickle-cell), others by small shifts in the frequency of many alleles that influence the trait.

* Smarter men father about the same, smart women less. The net trend is negative: that’s been known for maybe 60 years. Suspected for at least 90.

* I’ve been reading a tome in which the author says that many of the groups we think of as races are fairly recent formations (a few thousand years ago). Europeans are a mix of three groups ( hunter-gatherers, Anatolian early farmers, and Indo-Europeans off the steppe) that were originally about as genetically distant from each other as Germans and Chinese today. He seems to think that somehow invalidates thinking of Europeans today as a race. Or maybe he’s just blowing smoke. Anyhow, it doesn’t matter at all. Europeans would be what they are, act as they do, be as different and as similar to each other as they are, if they’d been manufactured ( to the right spec) in a test tube 6022 years ago. The same is true for everyone else: Amerindians are mostly a mix of Sibermen and Chinesians (quite a long time ago), but although that is interesting, it hardly means that “Amerindian” isn’t a real category.

* Richard Lynn has an article out claiming that men have a 0.5 standard deviation edge in general knowledge. That fits with what I’ve seen, for example in terms of basic science knowledge. Or back in my College Bowl salad days: I ran into many teams, and very few of the top scorers were women. By ‘very few” I mean 1.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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