Category: Human Biodiversity

Over the course of the past year, I’ve silently admired the emergence of a community of blogs influenced by the writings of Mencius Moldbug who call themselves neoreactionaries.  It’s generally been one of the more creative parts of the dissident Right blogosphere, using many of the concepts pioneered by Moldbug and using them in new ways to look at today’s society.  However, one of the pitfalls of creativity is that it generates bad ideas just as adeptly as it generates good ones.

One of the ideas that has emerged is a cladistic look at ideologies, with a focus on American progressivism in particular, as exemplified in this post by Nick Land and this more recent one from Foseti in which progressivism is treated as a highly modified branch of English Puritanism.  In biology, cladisitics is an approach to categorization of organisms based upon the time since the most recent common ancestor.  I like this approach since the categories it generates reflect the actual relatedness of their constituent species.  For instance, take this example of primate classification from Wikipedia:

CladogramAs can be seen, the old categorical divisions within the order of primates did not reflect the actual relatedness of its species, as tarsiers, classified as prosimians are more closely related to all simian species than they are to the lemurs and lorises that complete the category of prosimians, making “prosimians” paraphyletic.  Another example of paraphyly can be seen further up the tree, as there are two branches labeled as “monkeys”, but old world monkeys are actually more closely related to humans and apes than they are to new world monkeys.  Similarly, this approach shows that grouping together tarsiers and lorises, two big-eyed nocturnal primates, results in pulling two groups from different branches in a single category, not unlike grouping sharks and whales together despite their very different ancestries.

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We Are All Laurasians

Until the discovery of Neanderthal admixture in all non-African populations by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, the most publicly popular narrative of human evolution and settlement around the globe was the Out of Africa model, which posited that all humans descended from a single population of humans originating in Africa approximately 200,000 years ago who proceeded to settle the globe in the subsequent years, completely replacing whatever archaic hominids may have been occupying the lands that they settled.  The model received a further blow after the sequencing of DNA from a fossil finger bone found in Denisova revealed that Melanesian populations had further admixture with the population to which the individual whose finger was found belonged.

The notion that all humans were completely descended from a single population living in Africa 200,000 years ago appealed to the ideological framework of some on the secular left who saw it both as a rebuke to the Creationist narratives that were held by scriptural literalists as well as a possible means of arguing that race itself was a meaningless concept.  Ironically, just as this worldview was disintegrating, Richard Dawkins placed this T-shirt for sale at his site’s store:

But Dawkin’s design is certainly not the only “We are all Africans” T-shirt design.  Here’s one that is cataloged with a set of “Atheist Designs” at Spreadshirt:

Here is one version from Squidoo that actually directly incorporates the Out of Africa model:

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The Galton Inequality

One of the popular signifiers of Christianity has been the ΙΧΘΥΣ symbol, which has been standardized for use on the rear bumpers of devoutly Christian drivers everywhere, sometimes with the Greek written on the belly as can be seen below on the left.  In response, some secularists produced the image on the right showing a fish with legs and DARWIN written on its body as can be seen below on the right.  Since then there have been an explosion of competing bumper logos symbolizing the ideological combat of Darwinians and Christian Creationists made on both sides.

In a similar vein, Glaivester (hat tip: Eugenicist) has made a parody of the equal sign:

While I like the concept, I think that the execution needs some improvement in two areas. The first is that in the inequality sign (≠), the slash runs in the opposite direction. The second is that, though Glaivester’s version seems to be a parody on the logo of the Human Rights Campaign, the formost LGBT* lobbying organization in the United States, it is quite a bit more elongated than the original logo. As such, using the original logo as a template (the blue background version, on the left), I’ve made my own version of the Galton Inequality, as shown on the left.

I’ve also created a Logos page where I have some variations on the graphic for those who would prefer a different color combination.  Feel free to use and distribute these logos as you see fit.

*Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender, for those uninitiated in gender politics

Whither Eugenics

Reuben Hayat posted this 2005 PBS documentary focused around James Watson’s views of genetics and eugenics at his blog Jewamongyou:

If you have an hour of free time, I’d recommend watching it.  As Reuben points out, the narrator of the documentary does not seem especially sanguine about Watson’s views, but in many ways this is meant to balance against Watson, who is given quite a bit of time to speak his mind without much direct criticism of his views.  In light of the views presented in this PBS production, it’s easy to see why Watson’s statements to The Sunday Times caused such a furor, essentially ending Watson’s career.

Watson’s philosophy is essentially a form of eugenics which is focused on the choices available to parents.  He believes that parents should be able to make informed decisions regarding the genetics of their offspring.  For instance, as a simple case, there is a current practice of screening fetus for Down Syndrome.  Given a positive result, the parents would have the choice of aborting the fetus, which happens in the majority of positive screenings.  Watson approves of this, as do I, against the views of the pro-life movement, which can be embodied in Sarah Palin and her son Trig.

Other opponents include those who have already had a child with Down Syndrome and one such family was featured in the film.  While I sympathize with this family and understand their love for their son in spite of the difficulties, I like Watson think that not only should they have had the option to terminate the pregnancy, but that they should have sought to end it if they had screened for Down Syndrome and the test had come up positive.  A child with Down Syndrome can never achieve what a fully functional human can and in essence, when such a child does what would be considered ordinary for other children of his age, it is considered extraordinary.

The father expresses this feeling in a positive light, but the end effect is a child that will never grow up to be an autonomous adult as well as a robbing of resources from the other children of the family, including the prevention of future children.  While the families of children who suffer from this disorder love them deeply, the harsh truth is that they are mostly a burden that makes a family worse off, not to mention the difficulties that the child himself would face compared to a healthy child, one that would be made possible should a family decide to end a Down Syndrome pregnancy.

The program moves toward more controversial and difficult to answer questions when it broaches mental illnesses, with the chosen example being bipolar disorder, which has a significantly heritable component.  Kay Jamison is brought on as a counterweight to Watson’s views.  To my mind, Watson’s answer of leaving it to the discretion of the parents is the best answer.  Parents who are at risk for having children with bipolar disorder are likely to have had relatives with the same disorder and are probably in the best position to determine whether or not they are willing to let their children live with it.

Given that Watson’s views on this topic are outside of the mainstream and that he has already made an enemy of many because of his candor, it’s easy to see why his comments concerning the intelligence of sub-Saharan Africans was a bridge too far.  Not only did it question the notion of equality between the races that has become central to American civic religion since the civil rights movement, when coupled with his views on eugenics, it’s easy to see a stir of fear forming in the minds of those familiar with his point of view.  One can see him attempting to allay that fear in the editorial he wrote in the Independent shortly after his statements caught fire in the media:

Rarely more so than right now, where I find myself at the centre of a storm of criticism. I can understand much of this reaction. For if I said what I was quoted as saying, then I can only admit that I am bewildered by it. To those who have drawn the inference from my words that Africa, as a continent, is somehow genetically inferior, I can only apologise unreservedly. That is not what I meant. More importantly from my point of view, there is no scientific basis for such a belief.

Because it was not a repudiation of his earlier comments, it was not enough to soothe the mob and he was stripped of his post as chairman of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory as a result.

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Sheril Kirchenbaum at her new blog Culture of Science has a post featuring three bar graphs depicting the correct response rate of males and females to three questions on simple scientific topics.  The data (which can be found in Table 7-4 of the National Science Foundation’s Science and Engineering Indicators) shown here comes from the 2008 version (the survey was also conducted in 2001, 2004, and 2006) of a survey done four times over the last four years asking men and women ten questions of scientific relevance, six in the physical sciences and four in the biological sciences.

Physical Science

Respondents were asked six questions regarding the physical sciences.  Five were true or false and the sixth was actually a complex of two questions in which respondents were asked the second question if they answered the first correctly.  Here are the questions with the answers in parentheses

  1. The center of the Earth is very hot. (True)
  2. All radioactivity is man-made. (False)
  3. Lasers work by focusing sound waves. (False)
  4. Electrons are smaller than atoms. (True)
  5. The continents have been moving their location for millions of years and will continue to move. (True)
  6. Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth? (Earth around Sun)
    How long does it take for the Earth to go around the Sun? (One year)

Here are the percentage of correct responses:

As is pretty clear from the chart, the men noticeably outperformed the women on all four questions.  As will be seen, the results for the biological science questions are more complicated. Continue reading

Commenter M.G. Miles posted a link to a map she made showing 2006 GDP per capita in the Eurozone (plus Switzerland and the UK) at the largest subnational level.

Since she offered it up for comparison, I thought I’d show the GDP per capita and PISA maps side by side for both Spain and Italy:

I must say, it is an interesting comparison.  While there is a clear correlation between the test scores and the economic indicator, there are definitely exceptions and outliers.  Furthermore, many of the outlier provinces have interesting characteristics that could act as confounding factors. Continue reading

At her blog, hbdchick has a discussion of the north-south division in Spain where she asks if there are any differences in IQ that show up.  I suggested looking through the 2009 PISA results, which she did.  To follow up, I decided to map out the results for Spain and Italy.  For each map, the pure black is 400 and pure white is 525 (a scale I came up with before I realized that Lombardy had a 526 average science score).  To start, here are the maps for Reading scores:
It is worth noting that PISA did not release the scores for three autonomous communities in Spain: Extremadura, Castile-La Mancha, and Valencia, which form a band immediately to the north of Andalusia and Murcia. I’ve made those three mostly transparent.

While the attempt to trivialize human differences by using cosmic comparisons is largely non sequitur, an attempt to distract from matters close at hand with others far more distant, that does not mean that the motivation for doing so is not a noble one.  Returning to Jill Tarter’s quote, there is a clear double entendre in the bolded section:

As Carl Sagan said, we are all made out of stardust. You are actually made out of the remnants of that star that blew up billions of years ago, and the connectedness of life to the Cosmos and the idea of thinking about, maybe, life somewhere else, I think has the opportunity to trivialize the differences among humans on this planet that we find so troublesome.

Taken literally, it seems that she is arguing to trivialize the differing characteristics of humans.  Certainly this interpretation makes a good deal of sense, particularly since she emphasizes the fact that “we are all made of stardust”, thus highlighting a shared characteristic.  However, at the same time, “differences” can also refer to conflict, and interpretation suggested by the descriptor “that we find so troublesome”.  The second interpretation also jibes with the passage of The Pale Blue Dot that I referenced in my last post.


Here is a sample of the collection of facial averages generated by Dragon Horse.  The ones below are from left to right: West African, English, and Taiwanese.

The contrasts are stark, not just between different geographic locales but also between the sexes.  It is true that all of the individuals whose pictures went into creating these averages consist of roughly the same balance of elements, which were in turn formed in the same collection of stars and supernovae, but it is clear that they are different.  Even when the features of any one individual is lost in an average of co-ethnic peers, strong differences remain.

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