Zones of Thought

Most people think that science and math and engineering are found everywhere, like soccer, but actually, they are regional practices, more like hurling or tossing the caber.  In the map, countries are resized according to the number of scientific papers they produce.  Population size plays a role, but average productivity matters more.  Note that Singapore, with a population of 5 million, looks bigger than Indonesia, with 240 million people.

You might think that scientific productivity depends on science funding, rather than regional differences in talent.  But you would be wrong.  It depends to some extent on money, but it depends more on the distribution of talent.  You can get a feel for  the influence of money by comparing China or India and their diasporas in the West. You see far higher scientific productivity in those diaspora populations than in their homelands.  Partly this is due to selective immigration, but much of it has to do with with economic (and cultural) differences).

Like the Chinese and Indians, some ethnic groups show mediocre results in their benighted homelands and better results in Western countries. On the other hand, other groups do poorly everywhere. People whose ancestors are from sub-Saharan Africa  produce very few scientific papers – on average – no matter where they live.   This is also the case (to a lesser extent)  for mestizos from central and South America, for Filipinos and Malays, and most of the Indian castes. You don’t see much out of the Middle East, either –  although Armenians are an exception, and there may be others.  Interestingly, Armenians were generally thought (by themselves and others) to be smarter than the average bear back in Byzantine times.

Generally the pattern is about what you would expect from the world distribution of IQ (note the correlation with latitude), coupled with the notion that science is generated by people out in the tail of the intelligence distribution.  About 2% of  a population with an average IQ of 100 scores above IQ above 130, about 0.1% above 145.  For a population with an average of 85,  only  0.1% will score above 130 – 20 times fewer.  I am, for the moment, disregarding fat tails and some actual population differences in the standard deviation.  The same thing is happening with the Ashkenazi Jews: a modest shift in mean (about 0.8 standard deviation above the European average) causes a big change in the fraction that exceeds a high threshold.

The officially approved theory in the US, and in most other Western countries, is that all these differences are environmentally caused and can be environmentally remedied.  Of course no one has actually managed to do this, anywhere.  In  Malaysia, there is a similar-sized IQ gap (about 15 points) between the Chinese and the Malay majority, but their attitude is different: no one seems to think that anything can be done about it. They may be wrong….

Efforts to change this pattern can be fun to watch.  I know of a mathematician who admitted to a feeling of guilt when his department repeatedly fulfilled its Hispanic affirmative action goals by hiring Ashkenazi Jews from Argentina.

You might suspect that the pattern would change if we raised the bar, looked at more extreme and important examples of scientific creativity, rather than counting every paper.  It does.  If you look at Nobel prizes in the sciences, or Fields medals, the differences become starker.  Whole nations disappear. Single individuals outdo whole civilizations. The only noticeable deviation from the simple IQ-distribution pattern is somewhat lower-than-expected scientific productivity, at the highest levels, in northeast Asians. We will see if this persists as China modernizes.

Some of these patterns are clearer when you look at mathematics, since it doesn’t require expensive facilities, and has a strong tradition of amateurism.   At the limit, you can find people who never had any formal training in mathematics but somehow produced work of the highest quality, like Srinivasa Ramanujan or George Green.  As far as I can tell, these amazing amateurs almost always originate from the same populations that produce large numbers of more conventional scientists.

Lastly, if we look at the demographics, it seems that every population that produces serious scientific players has sub-replacement fertility.

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85 Responses to Zones of Thought

  1. Fred Savage says:

    “Advanced mathematical processing? Shouldn’t that have been missing from the Neanderthal genome?”

    “No, I found that Neanderthals lacked genes linked to successful socialization and management skills. They could count perfectly well, but they couldn’t deal with groups. Socialization genes came from Sapiens”

    “You’re trying to tell me …” I said, but my mental censor blocked the idea.

    “That human mathematical intelligence came from Neanderthals? That’s what the data say. The Cro-Magnons had the social skills. But that isn’t all.”

    I stared at her. I couldn’t tell that to the research council.

    As usual, she couldn’t read the warning look on my face. “The hybridization was successful in the Stone Age, but the environment has changed. I found that modern culture selects for socialization but against the Neanderthal traits for mathematics and intelligence,” she said, and looked down. “I don’t know how you’ll survive when our genes are gone.”

    Stranger than fiction…

    • dave chamberlin says:

      nice link, fun read, too bad it isn’t stranger than fiction.

    • JL says:

      Reading that, I first thought that it was weird that Nature would publish a story like that with its obvious implications, but it seems that it was run before Pääbo et al. published their results. I don’t think they would have published the story after it was found that there’s substantial Neanderthal admixture only in non-Africans.

  2. j says:

    Falkland Islands (near Argentina) seem to be producing lot of science. Mutant or parasited homo sheep? 🙂

    • dlr says:

      A much more straightforward explanation: From Wikipedia “…The population (2,932 inhabitants in 2012) primarily consists of native-born Falkland Islanders, the majority of British descent. Other ethnicities include French, Gibraltarian and Scandinavian.”

  3. The Monster from Polaris says:

    I’d like to see a comparison in tabular form, both of absolute numbers of papers and numbers per capita. The map gives only a rough idea of relative standing in terms of absolute numbers.

  4. dearieme says:

    Since science didn’t exist before (say) 1400 AD, this map couldn’t have been drawn then. Is there some other measure, applicable to 1400, that would have shown broadly the same shapes?

  5. Jim says:

    In mathematics there are huge swaths of humanity with almost no representation among the top guys. Yes, I mean guys, not gals. Michael Atiyah is one unusual exotic. His father was a Lebanese Christian Arab diplomat stationed in England who married a Scottish women. Shortly after his birth his father was transferred to Khartoum in the Sudan where Michael grew up with an Arab father and a Scottish mother in a predominantly black town in Africa. A rather interesting background.

    There seem to be very few Mestizos who have achieved any promenince in mathematics. I saw a picture of Jose Adem on the internet and he looks pretty European. Only the shape of his nose suggests some Amerindian heritage.

    As for the gender difference if I were to make up a list of the top 1000 mathematicians of the twentieth century off hand I can only think of three women to include – Noether, Gurevic, & Young. No doubt I might
    find some others to include but probably less than ten. The top mathematicians of the twentieth century were about 99% men and 30-40% Ashekenazi Jews.

  6. Jim says:

    Oops – I misspelled prominence. Sorry.

  7. Wade Nichols says:

    Kareem Abdul Jabaar has the solution!

    Schools have to STOP exposing students to those dastardly white scientists such as Edison and Bell, and instead inspire the inner city kids with giants such as Latimer, Lawson, and Bath!

  8. says:

    “Lastly, if we look at the demographics, it seems that every population that produces serious scientific players has sub-replacement fertility.”

    I wish more people were willing to say this out loud. OTOH, I worry that people who do say it are taking their careers in their hands.

  9. Rachelle says:

    Interesting, and telling, map.

    You noted in an earlier post that Amerindian civilizations were several thousands of years behind European civilizations in development, but have you ever addressed the current lackluster intellectual achievements of people from those regions? They do not seem up to the level of the Olmecs, Toltecs, Mayans, Incans, and Aztecs. It is almost as if they bred down since that era.

    I don’t fancy being thrown into a cenote or having my heart cut out on top of a pyramid, so I would not want to live in any of their civilizations, but there is no denying that they achieved levels that sub-Saharan Africans [and others] never imagined much less approached.

    Evidence is accumulating that Europeans may have been in the Americas before the Amerindian immigrations, so I wonder if that may be a factor. The Amerindian god, Quetzalcoatl was sometimes portrayed as a white man, and Cortez was originally thought to be the returning god.

    Just daydreaming.

    • teageegeepea says:

      The greater development in the Americas vs Africa despite both having a north-south (rather than east-west) elongation is a major point in Michael H. Hart’s book “Understanding Human History” again Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs, & Steel”.

      Are you referring to the Solutrean hypothesis? Razib on that.

  10. Nanonymous says:

    For comparison, the same kind of the map for “Violent Deaths”:

  11. Jim says:

    The accounts of Quetzalcoatl are mostly post-Conquest. They vary greatly, are full of fantastical details and are containamated with Spanish influence. Quetzalcoatl started out as a human ruler but supposedly ascended into heaven. There is no clear evidence that he ever existed.

    I don’t think that Meso-American culture shows any sign of European influence. It is clear that the giant statues of the Olmecs have a vaguely negroid appearance. But there does not seem to be any other sign of a connection to Africa. Olmec culture generally resembles Maya and Mixe-Zoque both of whom belong to the large Penutian linguistic group which extends back to the Northwestern US. The Olmecs had writing but I do not think that it has been deciphered and we do not know if they spoke a Penutian language.

    Greenberg, who was the world’s leading authority on the languages of Sub-Saharan Africa, in his book “Language in the Americas” never suggests as far as I can recall any relationship of American languages to African languages. As Greenberg was the supreme lumper of all times if he didn’t see any relationship of American languages to African languages there probably isn’t any.

    Greenberg does express the opinion that his big Amerindian group is most closely related to Indo-European. Greenberg places the Eskimo-Aleut languages in his Euroasiatic group. This isn’t particularly controversial as these things go. Resemblances between Eskimo-Aleut languages and Altaic and Yuralic-Yukagir languages have been noted by virtually everybody. I can’t recall if Greenberg expressed any opinion on Sapir’s suggestion that Nadene languages are related to Sino-Tibetan. He was totally clear on the point that Eskimo-Aleut languages and Nadene languages have no trace of any resemblance to each other or to the bulk of American languages. He placed all other American Indian languages in one big group which as I mentioned above he regarded as related to Indo-European.

    There are archaeological remains of Indian cultures in Nova Scotia which have been compared with cultures in Northern Europe. The Romans described the Scots and Picts of the British Isle as painting their bodies and wearing feather headdresses. These are not the Celtic Scots but pre-Indo-European
    people. When I was a boy I recall seeing a painting showing an artist’s conception of a battle between the Romans and the forces of Queen Boadicea. The ancient British people were shown by the author with painted bodies and feather headdresses. In the picture the artist drew they looked just like the popular conception of American Indians. Maybe he was onto something.

    The accounts of human sacrifice from Meso-America are unquestionably horrifying. Sadly over time the
    cultures of Meso-American seem to become steadily more militaristic and practiced human sacrifice on an ever greater scale. On the other hand much of their art and architecture is truly extraordinary. I don’t think Sub-Saharan Africans produced anything to compare with it.

    • Rachelle says:

      “The accounts of human sacrifice from Meso-America are unquestionably horrifying.”

      Come now! Aren’t you being judgmental! It is their culture, after all, and who are we to question their mores? At least that is how we are told to think.

      One thing I particularly liked in Bernal Diaz’ “Conquest of New Spain” [he was a soldier with Cortez] was that none of the men with him had any confusion when it came to dealing with human sacrifice. They suppressed it immediately. But in our more educated and tolerant era I think that many of our modern academics would have to hold multiple faculty meetings before deciding on some sort of soft diplomacy to guide the natives to a ‘better way’ if, that is, they can even conceive of something that can be called a better way.

      • Jake says:

        Our modern era is just as intolerant and judgmental.

        The “better way” today is sodomy, usury, and feminism.

      • Jake says:

        The modern era is just as intolerant and judgmental.

        The “better way” today is sodomy, usury, feminism, etc.

  12. Jim says:

    One curious resemblance between the Maya and the Old World which I have noticed. In the Popol Vuh the account of the Hero-Twins and their travails reminds me of the basic motif of Indo-European mythology – the sacred twins, their disinheritance and their struggles to regain it. Could there be a connection?

  13. Rachelle says:

    I had not suggested that European culture had any influence on Amerindian societies.

    I was wondering if European genes may have had an influence.


    The articles linked mention only some of the more recent hints of an early European presence in the Americas. Anomalous finds in pre-Clovis sites pointing to a prior European presence have been noted for years. Now they aren’t so anomalous. And maybe they had an influence.

    By the way, some while back I read an article in the LA Times bemoaning the fact that Hispanic students were still–despite heroic efforts and money disbursed with front-end loaders–lagging behind whites and Asians. I sent her an email asking if the observed gap applied primarily to Indio Hispanics and asking how Hispanics of European descent fared. I did not get a response. I would like to know the answer though.

  14. Jim says:

    As currently used Hispanic is a meaningless term.

  15. Jim says:

    I think that recent cultural contacts between Northern Europe and the northeastern part of North America are quite possible. Also there has clearly been a lot of contact over the years across the Bering Strait. In one Eskimo archaeological site in Northern Canada a metal cooking vessel was found that was at first considered of Norse origin but later shown to have come from China. Apparently it had been traded up through Siberia across the Bering Strait to arrive at where it was found in Northern Canada.

    I am doubtful that Meso-American cultures have much connection to Old World cultures. Of course everybody in the New World came originally from the Old World. Probably the peopling of the New World was more complex then previously believed.

  16. whatever says:

    The most significant demographic event of the peopling of the New World occurred in 1492. The previous 14 000 years were only a prelude. The map reflects the migration of the Indo-European tribes into Americas starting circa 1492 and their connection to Eurasia. Of course, the peopling of Americas still continues . There can be changes in the map.

  17. JLikens says:

    What is that bulb on the Northern edge of South America? I think it has to be French Guiana, with the map considering French Guiana as part of France’s territory.

    I doubt Venezuela or Columbia is that prolific in terms of the re-sizing criterion.

  18. Dear Mr. Cochran:

    Right now at my blog some of us are discussing a proposal to hold an annual Human Biodiversity Day. We would like your input and hopefully your support.

    I have already contacted Richard Spencer, Steve Sailer, Peter Brimelow, and Dennis Mangan, but no replies yet.


    Olave d’Estienne

  19. ironrailsironweights says:

    What is that bulb on the Northern edge of South America? I think it has to be French Guiana, with the map considering French Guiana as part of France’s territory.

    I would think so too. An earlier comment noted the disproportionate size of the Falkland Islands, no doubt from counting them as part of Britain. And there’s also the relatively large yellow island east of Australia that I presume is New Caledonia being counted as part of France.

  20. ironrailsironweights says:

    You don’t see much out of the Middle East, either – although Armenians are an exception, and there may be others.

    There’s one pretty obvious exception.

    • I understand Israel is above average when it comes to scientific productivity and is also above replacement in fertility.
      One way to look at this is that low fertility is the result of a contagious mental disease and some Jews have developed antibodies.

      • quiv says:

        Unfortunately, nearly all of that population growth is being fueled by ridiculously high fertility rates among Haredi and Arab Israeli women — probably two of the least cognitively productive members of Israeli society. Educated secular Jews everywhere have a total fertility rate that is significantly below replacement level. The difference is something like 1.4 TFR for college educated Jews vs. 9 (yes, that’s the actual figure!) for dirt-brained Lubavitchers.

        In a nutshell, civilization everywhere is doomed.

  21. A Erickson says:

    “The only noticeable deviation from the simple IQ-distribution pattern is somewhat lower-than-expected scientific productivity, at the highest levels, in northeast Asians. We will see if this persists as China modernizes.”

    Obviously we have little to go by on this one other than anecdote and raw conjecture, but any thoughts on this? The global distribution of IQ is pretty well understood on threads such as this one, so I propose that we spend our time discussing something that is more important, as well as more uncertain, than yawn-inducing debates on whether the racial gap in the US (or Malaysia, or Israel, or anywhere else such a gap exists in the world) will decline in the near future. Namely, whether China will start producing the science you would expect from a 1.3 billion-person population with a mean IQ around 1/3-1/2 SD above that of Europe. In pure math, anyway, China is a little like Mexican soccer: they dominate at the youth level (International Olympiads), but they constantly disappoint at the senior level (Fields Medals and the such). From having spent some time studying in China, I would say the memorization machine stereotype is as true as most stereotypes are, but I haven’t the faintest idea how the complex relationship/feedback loops involving genetics and culture are operating. I have read some of the Harpending Cochran stuff on East Asian DRD4 allele frequencies: maybe they have a few ideas worth throwing out in the comments section here? In fields more immediately practical than, say, topology I am confident China entering the global scientific fold will be a boon (if nothing else, the world can never have too many decent engineers), which is nice, because a Chinese person curing your disease means, well, your disease has been cured. The best case for optimism, as Cochran points out, is the success the Chinese diaspora has had in science (and not just in applied fields: there are Chinese-American giants like TD Lee in more abstract/theoretical areas).

    If nothing else, one prediction I have for science in China is that it will benefit from having different taboos placed on it than science in the West. The CCP might frown on HBD when it involves their own political sensitivities (ie Tibetan adaptations to high altitude and the suggestion that perhaps Tibetans and Han have not been living in a Harmonious Tibetan-Plateau Society together since the beginning of time), but it seems likely that research topics that are strictly verboten in the West will receive more attention in China. This certainly seems to be the case with BGI’s genetics of IQ study.

    Oh, and China is definitely the smart bet for first country to attempt/succeed at medium or large-scale human genetic engineering, especially pertaining to intelligence. Judging from the high degree of Philo-Semetism on display in China, I wouldn’t be too surprised if they started by attempting to splice a little Feynman or Von Neumman into the gene pool. If a big grave-robbing story comes out of Westminster Abbey or Princeton along the lines of Cochran’s suggestion, we will know who to blame 😉

    • ironrailsironweights says:

      China today is a dynamic country in pursuit of economic development and world trade, but a little over a generation ago it was basically a larger version of North Korea. Give it time.

    • dave chamberlin says:

      In my opinion it’s just fun science fiction to speculate that we can successfully clone anybody dead who wasn’t frozen, at least for another genberation. BUT who is to say China can’t clone 100 Bruce Lahns, Terence Taos and five hundred other of their best and brightest in the next decade. Can you imagine the shot in the arm in would be to any country that multiplies their best and brightest by one hundred for the next generation? Hell you wouldn’t even have to ask Taos permission, just clean up the floor where he got a haircut. A lot of eyes are on the Chinese company BGI because they are approaching decifering the ultimate rosetta stone the right way. That ultimate rosetta stone is in our hands already, human DNA. We even know exactly where to look. Those genes or the switches in front of those genes that have mutated recently and spread quickly and are involved either in brain development of fetuses and infants or in adult brain function. But life is staggeringly complex, it will take a herculean effort, billions of dollars, and unfortunately for us generations. But no amount of money trumps real human genius. So whoever stacks the deck cloning existing genius first will in all likelyhood get to human revolution number four first. Just as transformative as the first three transformative revolutions in mankind 1)modern intellegence, 2)agriculture, and 3) the industrial revolution will be the revolution that follows when we fix the game of random chance that is evolution and optimize brain function. Real human geniuses are also reliably oddballs. Terence Tao comes into his classes with his shirt tucked into his underwear and commences to scribble equations while babbling incomprehensibly to his UCLA students. Now and then he turns to ask a question in incomprehensible English and when the student just shugs he yells “Ijiot!” and goes back to scribbling on the blackboard. Bruce Lahn is a genius in genetics. He has gone back to work in China because he was the first to discover a Neanderthal gene that had not spread to south of the Sahara and caught holy hell for it. He went to an overnight camping trip with a bunch of other scientists without a sleeping bag or tent, just a jar of pickled eggs. How he planned to stay out all night in the woods and get a good night’s sleep with his jar of pickled eggs is a question only Bruce Lahn can answer. But the big question, the big big big question of how we can optimize brain function is also a question that can only be answered by the likes of thousands of Bruce Lahns given enough time, enough billions of dollars, and enough further advanced super computers. I add the true stories about Lahn and Tao not just to amuse you but to make the point brilliance has it’s drawbacks, great focus makes for larger blind spots, and geniuses aren’t supermen.

  22. Dan Kurt says:

    re: ” Namely, whether China will start producing the science you would expect from a 1.3 billion-person population with a mean IQ around 1/3-1/2 SD above that of Europe.” A Erickson

    Two points:
    1) Question: is the sample of 1.3 Billion Chinese a true representative one that gives the supposed “1/3-1/2 SD” edge to the Chinese? I suggest the samples tested exhibit bias of a significant level. I don’t trust them having spent about a month in China in the mid 1980s seeing communes in the hinterlands. These were not smart people and there were millions and millions of them, something I had not expected to find.

    2) I believe that white males have a 16 point SD and male Chinese a no more than a 10 to 12 SD which explains the “somewhat lower-than-expected scientific productivity, at the highest levels, in northeast Asians [gcochran9].”

    • gcochran9 says:

      If you have a reference for a smaller standard deviation of IQ among the Chinese, I’d like to see it. I don’t believe it.

      • mathlogic says:


        As you can see. Thist is the problem for some people whose judgement is based on their feeling rather data or fact. It takes one to know one. Dumb people can not figure out who are smart. On this issue, people with well estabolished intellectual ability all have the same conclusion or consensus.

        Dumb people often over estimate their own ability. They come back to the same wrong judgement again and again. Their emotion is their judgement. When emotion overpowers logic, it means primitive part of their brains are powerful than neocortex.

      • ziel says:

        The Asian s.d. on the Math SAT’s is actually greater than that for whites – but I presume that’s due to the definition of “Asian” as including everyone east of the Khyber Pass.

      • brucecharlton says:

        I don’t believe that populations separated by multiple generations should be assumed to have *identical* standard deviations of IQ, any more than they would be assumed to have idenitcal average IQ. Why should sameness be the assumption? And if we assume there is most likely to be a difference, then it would be in the direction of lower SD among Chinese.

        However, I personally think the relevant difference is in personality, not IQ. Personality is very obviously different in these populations, and in exactly the way that would be expected to lead to greater creativity (and lower agreeableness and conscientiousness) among Europeans – ie. higher ‘Psychoticism’ (in Eysenck’s characterization) or ‘Schizotypy’.

  23. j says:

    Should the Chinese attempt “to splice a little Feynman or Von Neumman into their gene pool”, the Keren Kayemet (Jewish National Fund) will be entitled to royalties. 😉

  24. Matt says:

    Just ideas really, but although I don’t know about creativity as such, maybe East Asians may have a more similar or weaker ability at “problem posing” and “problem framing” as opposed to “problem solving”. And possibly more of a convergent than divergent (hypothesis proving vs hypothesis generation, respectively) mode of thought.

    A group like that would do well on exams where all the questions were already posed and all the materials needed for solution given, even coming up with really creative solutions (which is why it wouldn’t be good to term either divergent thinking or problem posing as creativity), but wouldn’t necessarily ask interesting questions if left to their own devices.

    I don’t know much about the area, but I get the impression from a quick search that differences between as least Americans and Chinese are attentuated when it comes to problem posing, although not biased in favour of White Americans.

    I’m sure problem posing is generally correlated with problem solving ability more typically tapped by IQ tests, but maybe not perfectly and particularly possibly not perfectly between populations.

    Also, although they have a stereotype as memorisers, there may be a relative but not absolute weakness in knowing lots of information about a topic, as opposed to fluid general or visual-spatial ability, for a given level of IQ. The gap between crystallised IQ and visual IQ measures is suggestive of this. There might be a stronger need to know a lot of facts to later use that to form hypotheses than we might think – e.g. on this blog, pretty much all the time, we see Cochran correcting people who might have a decent enough reasoning ability but just don’t know anything about subjects (and stick to their ideas in the face of contrary evidence).

  25. Pingback: The Triumph of the Idiots

  26. Jim says:

    To A. Erickson – Personally I’m not particularly disapointed by Terence Tao or S. T. Yau. No doubt improvement is always possible.

  27. Jim says:

    To A. Erickson – It is true that the Japanese have played at least until now a much greater role in twentieth century mathematics than the Chinese. Maybe Japanese have more creativity than the Chinese. I dunno.
    I’m not sure that creativity is all that important in competition between racial groups. Innovations by one group can be quickly copied by the other group if it consists of quick learners. Consider how amazingly quickly the Japanese picked up Western science and technology once they had decided to do so in the beginning of the Meiji period. Contrast that with how the Haitians picked up virtually nothing over two hundred years while located right near the technologically dynamic US. It is also interesting how the Japanese made a group decision to acquire Western tehnology. Once the group had made this decision it was carried out with blinding speed and throughness.
    To Matt – I think that high level math research does often require an extensive amount of specialized knowledge. The amount you have to know to understand Wiles proof let alone find it is pretty daunting and he only established a special case of the modularity conjecture. I remember from grad school some of Siegel’s proofs putting together complex function theory, algebraic number theory, and representation theory all in the same argument. But the top people can also see the whole forest while also seeming to know every leaf.

    • A EArickson says:

      Right: Tao, Yau, Lee, etc. The (relative to the mainland population) small Australian, American, and other Chinese diaspora populations have produced a pretty high number of geniuses. So a few things are possible: 1) China is only getting started in science. A few decades ago they were trapped in a benighted society that mandated math profs use Marx as their main source. Wait a few decades, and China will be producing at the same rate its diaspora does. New theorems in number theory will emerge at the fastest rate since the field’s Greek glory days once there are 50 Terence Taos staffing Qinghua and Bei Da’s math departments. 2) Education/culture in mainland China is very conducive to learning Western math and science, not so conducive to producing novel math and science. The diaspora will continue to outproduce the folks back home. 3) The diaspora is very self-selected in terms of ability and/or creativity. Personally, I lean towards 1) with perhaps just a touch of 2), since most available data seems to favor mainland Chinese and diaspora Chinese as having similar psychometric profiles. The notion that there is more variation amongst Europeans does not seem to be supported by anything other than the hopes of a few white guys– who will never produce anything of value themselves– that they can always count on glory by association with genius Europeans.

      Also Jim, I was not talking about the ability to replicate/make use of imported technology. There seems to be absolutely no question that East Asian societies can, have, and will continue to make use of Western methods, ideas, and technologies in ways that countries such as Haiti can’t, haven’t, and likely won’t. And yes, Japan’s experience post-war seems a useful point of comparison. They have done pretty well, but I am pretty sure if one was to write a simple algorithm for predicting Nobel science prizes (lit/peace obviously don’t count), Fields Medals, Turing Awards, etc. from psychometric results, population size, wealth/funding, and such, it would over-predict for Japan over the past few decades. Japan has a population far larger than that of Germany (it was around double that of the old West Germany), they consistently outperform Germany on standardized tests and youth math competitions, and they are just as wealthy. Yet at the highest levels, despite impressive contributions from Japan, a hell of a lot more Germans have collected Nobels and whatnot since the war. Is this a function of Japanese education? The lack of prior scientific tradition relative to Germany? The genetics of whatever the hell allows one to make an important invention/discovery? The time lag between discovery and award (ie they have caught up, the awards are just to come)? I have no idea, but this is by no means an idle question: scientific progress depends largely on human capital, and the notion of a few billion people with a mean IQ of 105 that have been largely untapped is tantalizing.

      Lastly, I am not referring to “racial competition.” My concerns are about estimating what kind of progress we can expect given the main constraint, which as mentioned above is
      the number of people capable of producing that progress. I don’t care whether that progress is driven by Dutch, Haitians, or Chinese; I am just sober-minded enough to realize the much higher probability of it coming from the East, and the importance to all of us of whether or not East Asians do start contributing to that progress as much as their IQ results would suggest they can.

  28. Jim says:

    The distinction between crystallized and fluid IQ reminds me of the distinction often made in math research between the tool-makers and the tool-users. The tool-users of which Wiles is a striking example use existing techniques to solve difficult problems. The tool-makers like Grothendieck, Hodge, Hensel and Quillen come up with totally new ideas that often involve connections and questions that nobody had ever thought of before. Of course the same person can be both a great tool-user and great tool-maker like J. H. C. Whitehead or Frobenius or Langlands.

    • billswift says:

      Do you have a source for a good paper on “crystallized” and “fluid”intelligence? Because what I have seen to date is just a new version of Gardner’s “multiple intelligences” crackpottery.

  29. November says:

    Lastly, if we look at the demographics, it seems that
    every population that produces serious scientific
    players has sub-replacement fertility.

    Conversely, one wonders what effect the European population boom in the 18th and 19th century had on the rise of scientific and technological progress.

  30. Kiwiguy says:

    **it seems that every population that produces serious scientific players has sub-replacement fertility.***

    The flip side is that populations that tend to be dependent on foreign aid have significantly above-replacement fertility. It will be interesting to see how sustainable that is.

  31. Anonymous says:

    To A. Erikson – I agree that China has not contributed as much to mathematics in relation to its population as many European countries. But the twentieth century has probably been the most disastrous century in Chinese history since the Mongol invasion. The future looks much brighter.

    As for the Japanese they have been major players in mathematics for a long time. They have three Fields Medalists -Kodaira, Hironaka, and Mori Germany, I believe , has two – Roth and Faltings. Maybe I’m forgettong someone.

    Anywhere number of Fields Medalists is a pretty crude measure. Borel, Harish-Chandra, Iwasawa, Langlands, etc. never received the Fields Medal . Is Armand Borel a less important mathematician than Karl Roth? Before the time of the Fields Medal Japan had people like Oka and Takagi. After WW I they compare well in math with virtually any country in the world in relation to their population.

    I am baffled by your reference to classical Greece as the glory days of number theory.

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  33. JIm says:

    To Rachelle – Getting back to Quetzalcoatl. In the generic version of the story Quetzalcoatl is a ruler who wants to get rid of human sacrifice and make all other kinds of moral reforms. He sounds suspiciously like a Christian aghast at some of the more bloody aspects of Meso-American culture. He is rejected by his people, scorned, humiliated and sent into exile where he endures many tribulations before ascending into heaven. What other myth can you think of that resembles this story? The sources for the myth are post-Conquest.
    After the conquest the survivors of the old power elites experience an enormous decline in status and prestige. It is interesting that in the Quetzalcoatl myth it is a member of the previous elite who is the hero and it is the common people who reject his wisdom and virtue. I can understand how appealing to the former members of the power elite would be a story of an ancient Meso-American
    ruler who has all the now prestigious Christian morality but is one of them. Themes from the new Christian myths are mixed with traditional Meso-American serpent gods to produce a story of an authentic Meso-American hero who is just as virtuous and just as the new Spanish overlords claim to be.

    • Rachelle says:

      That Quetzalcoatl got a varnish of Christianity would hardly surprise me. So did Saturnalia.

      It seems to remain true that the Aztecs were expecting the return of a white god and mistook Cortes and his lot for the god and his minions.

      I do not assume the myth is true in an historical sense, but as an artifact, like the Illiad, it may hint at something that actually took place.

      I guess the alternative is to say that the civilizations of America were established by idiots who somehow came up with a ridiculous and impossible white god as one of their founding myths. But then…we have to wonder if the increasing evidence of a pre-Indio occupation by Europeans could have any influence whatsoever on the rise of pre-Columbian civilizations….genetic if nothing else.

      Meanwhile, here is an interesting story that suggests some elements of Mexican culture have not entirely abandoned the idea of having fun with human sacrifice:

      On one occasion when I was touring the temples at Chichen Itza I was excited enough to suggest to my guide that it would be great if some of the old ceremonies could be re-enacted on the site so we could see how they looked. “Without the human sacrifice, of course,” I added.

      He grunted, “It wouldn’t work without the human sacrifice.”

      “No, I suppose it wouldn’t work.”

      It puzzled me that at some level he seemed to imagine that something would ‘work’ if human sacrifice were performed in the ritual. “Is our veneer of modern humanity really that thin?” I wondered as I followed him from the ball court to the big pyramid.

      Apparently so.

  34. Jim says:

    But Rachelle what evidence is there that Quetzalcoatl was a founding myth? We are talking some two thousand years after the beginnngs of Meso-American civilization. What clear evidence is there that there was any myth of “white gods” prior to the conquest. And who the hell are the Aztecs to have had “founding myths” of Meso-American civilization? Nahautl is a Uto-Aztecan language the two most southern languages of which other than Nahautl are Hopi and Comanche (both essentially Shoshoni dialects). The Aztecs were very recent arrivals in the Valley of Mexico and their own myths tell of their wanderings through the deserts of the Southwestern US and Northern Mexico from the Great Basin of the Western US where the bulk of Uto-Aztecan languages are spoken.
    After the conquest being “white” had great prestige. Understandingly the survivors of the old elite longed for a return to their former status. The idea of Quetzalcoatl’s return probably reflects a hope for a restoration of their former status. Of course the myth is saying that when that happens we will rule justly and in accordance with the new Christian morality and not go back to the bad old days of mass human sacrifice.
    In fairness to the old Meso-American elite they probably genuinely believed that mass human sacrifice was necessary to appease the gods and guarantee successful crops. No matter what they do all power elites convince themselves that they are doing it for the good of the people they exploit.
    By the way Chichen-Itza was probably a Toltec colony or intrusion into Mayan territory.

    • Rachelle says:

      “No matter what they do all power elites convince themselves that they are doing it for the good of the people they exploit.”

      That, of course, is complete nonsense.

      Don’t read too much of your values into other societies. In less sentimental times people did not have to pretend that their self-serving behavior was truly for the benefit of others. The Spartans, for example, displayed little sentimentality for their helots. Basically, they were like smart chickens that were usually useful but occasionally needed a killing to encourage the others.

  35. ghazi-less says:

    The map is cool. But noticed that the Falklands and South Georgia are given the weights of the UK!!
    More general comment: all centers of ancient civilization have drawn in able people from their hinterlands. Islam (and most non-Christian civilizations) facilitated the reproduction of those able people, by allowing high status males multiple wives. Istanbul, today, has some astonishingly smart people, whose ancestors were the best and brightest of the Ottoman Empire, drawn from an enormous region. I, too, know some very smart Armenians, but they almost all seem to have roots in Istanbul.

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  37. Chuck says:


    The correlation between IQ and research productivity is rather low (.2). See Figure 1 in: Kuncel and Hezlett, 2010. Fact and fiction in cognitive ability testing for admissions and hiring decisions.

  38. Engineer Dad says:

    Fat Albert from Africa
    Slipped into the room
    He said, “I have no opinion about this …”
    “And I have no opinion about that.”
    “Africa is sad as a lonely little wrinkled balloon.”
    He said, “well I don’t claim to be happy about this, boys…”
    “And I don’t seem to be happy about that.”

  39. JH says:

    Off topic request to Greg Cochran on Iranian nukes –
    Greg, in an interview w/ 2blowhards several years ago, you said it was obvious that Iraq didn’t have WMD based on your capacity analysis of Iraq. Have you done a similar analysis of Iran, and is your conclusion the same for Iran as for Iraq?

  40. Jim says:

    I second the motion. Also tell us do you think we are going to war with Iran like a lot of people think?
    Personally I think we’re probably in enough of a mess.

  41. Abelard Lindsey says:

    The officially approved theory in the US, and in most other Western countries, is that all these differences are environmentally caused and can be environmentally remedied. Of course no one has actually managed to do this, anywhere.

    This guy has data that suggests they have:

    • gcochran9 says:

      I don’t believe it.

      • Chuck says:


        I adressed some criticisms here:

        What’s your explanation for the virtual absence of an achievement gap, given the 0.7 g-test correlation? This is surely stronger evidence than what you present.

        • gcochran9 says:

          I have none, but I don’t believe a word of it. After hearing roughly equivalent stories for my entire adult lifetime, every one of which fell apart, I don’t even bother any more.

          I doubt if the Brits have found a remedy more potent than adoption.

      • Chuck says:

        “I don’t believe a word of it.”

        (1) Meh — I don’t like the findings either.
        (2) African Americans and the offspring of self-selected Black British immigrants are not genetically equivalent, so the absence of a difference in the UK does not imply a complete absence in the US or in Africa. What it does imply is that the effect size of the difference is small enough for immigrant selection to be able to mask it. (It’s difficult to deduce immigrant selectivity, but, based on the figures that I’ve come across, Black immigrants seem to be 1.1 SD selected for SES; given the correlation between IQ and SES and taking into account offspring regression to the mean, I would estimate that the Black British population is .3 SD genetically selected with respect to IQ. So that leaves you, possibly, with a small difference.)
        (3) Unfortunately, I was unable to acquire the IQ data that I need to polish off a strong racial (additive) genetic hypothesis. It’s out there, though. In the UK, CATs are used in virtually every school (and widely used in industry.) I emailed Ian Deary and a number of others, but they didn’t have any — or so they said. I was referred, instead, to papers on the achievement gaps (or virtual lack thereof). I consider this — in addition to the IQ data that I did find — to be much more credible than Lynn’s goofy, dated samples.

      • Bob Arctor says:

        “What’s your explanation for the virtual absence of an achievement gap, given the 0.7 g-test correlation?”

        Probably for the same reason South Asians kill everyone else in American public schools, despite Pakistan and India’s performance leaving much to be desired. Strongly filter for the top one or two deciles or so of immigrants and the W-B g differential mostly evaporates.

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  43. Justin says:

    “Probably for the same reason South Asians kill everyone else in American public schools, despite Pakistan and India’s performance leaving much to be desired. Strongly filter for the top one or two deciles or so of immigrants and the W-B g differential mostly evaporates.”

    It is explained in the comment, and more on the linked site; The evidence shows Black immigrants in Britain are not strongly filtered.

  44. Kay One says:

    Reblogged this on Kent's space and commented:
    Add your thoughts here… (optional)

  45. Thank you so much for utilizing some time in order to post “Zones
    of Thought | West Hunter”. Thank you so much once more -Cecile

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