Reversal of Fortune

I’ve been thinking, off and on, about sudden changes in the cognitive abilities of populations: groups low suddenly scoring much higher or lower on a time scale too short to be explained by selection: say, three generations or less.  This is, of course, not the same as some immigrant group learning English.  Their scores change when that happens, but I don’t really think their intellectual potential changes one way or the other.  I can point to populations that became a lot more educated, but that’s not the same as getting smarter. Lots of admixture with a smarter or dumber population might cause changes over that time frame, but again that’s not what I’m talking about.

The general assumption in the US is that such change is bound to happen (only increases, of course).  In fact, that is often expressed with great emotion, strongly suggesting that a world in which this didn’t happen wouldn’t be worth living in.  Thing is,  I don’t see clear examples of such change, or at least not much – not enough to effectively equalize  populations, let alone put bottom rail on top.  Gaps persist, despite vast efforts. And if the behavioral geneticists are to be believed, that’s not too surprising. Most of the social factors that are generally thought to boost intelligence – don’t. They show up as between-family differences, and they have very little effect on adult IQ.

I can think of two perfectly feasible strategies that would cause significant one-generation increases in intelligence, in certain populations.  Iodine supplementation, in places where it’s short, has a  big payoff.  It’s also dirt cheap.  I don’t know if anyone has looked hard at it, but there used to be goiterous areas around the Great Lakes, before iodized salt, and  I’ll bet that scholastic achievement improved significantly after the introduction of iodized salt.  The other practical, low-tech strategy would be stopping cousin marriage.  The next generation would be in much better shape, since the children of first cousins take a substantial IQ hit –  maybe six points or so.  And, of course, those children suffer from considerably higher levels of mortality and morbidity. Iraq has lots of cousin marriage, but (and I hadn’t known this) has a fair amount of iodine deficiency as well. This makes clear why the US picked Iraq as the ideal country to install a Jeffersonian democracy: if we could do it there, we could do it anywhere!

One useful heuristic: since enlightened opinion is increasingly swinging in favor of cousin marriage,  you know it has to be some kind of ball-busting, civilization-undermining  mistake.  Liberals and libertarians share this inverse-weathervane property.




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75 Responses to Reversal of Fortune

  1. winestock says:

    Look at Albania. Their average IQ is supposed to be 90. The salt factory at Vlora only started to add iodine in 2003. I don’t have the links handy, but it seems that much of Balkan cuisine is deficient in iodine. If you’re really patient, you could try watching them.

    Another avenue is looking for Periclean ages. The Scottish had their Enlightenment in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Try looking for what changed just before then. Again, I don’t have a link handy, but weren’t the Swedes thought of as dumb back in the nineteenth century? Although it’s not the same, the Germans used to have a reputation for being Cloud Cuckoolanders.

    That German thing gives me an idea. Try generalizing your approach. Since most personality traits probably have some inherited component, consider changes in average behavior. Introversion to extroversion or vice versa.

    • ironrailsironweights says:

      I always thought of the dumb-Swede stereotype as similar to the more recent dumb-Pole stereotype: more humor than actual belief, in other words people joked that Swedes (or Poles) were dumb but didn’t really believe they were.


      • Anthony says:

        It’s also possible that the initial immigrants *were* dumb, because they had been malnourished (or suffered other environmental shocks); while their kids in America, who were well-fed did pretty well, and on average reached their genetic potential.

    • dave chamberlin says:

      I like your question winestock, look for what happened to societies before they entered periods of enlightenment. I read a lot of history with this very question in mind. From the best I can tell what preceeded production of more than average genius was centuries of cold cruel times, the crush of the malthusian trap with a slight advantage of survival for the highly intelligent. If you happen to be highly intelligent it isn’t just because of dumb luck. Your direct ancestors had a horrible time of it, they had brothers and sisters that died and didn’t pass on their genes because they weren’t quite as smart. Which groups have the highest average IQ’s are the groups you would pick as having the hardest time in our past. In descending order they are the ashkenazi jews, the han chinese, and the northern europeans. One of the themes that Cochran keeps going back to is it works the other way too. Throw in an industrial revolution, modern medicine, a century or two of the good times rolling and there isn’t a chance in hell of a metropolitan area of twenty million producing a Beethoven a Mozart and a Bach in a centuries time like the territories of german speakers did back yonder around 1800.

  2. gcochran9 says:

    “weren’t the Swedes thought of as dumb back in the nineteenth century?”
    Not hardly. But there was a short-lived stereotype to that effect when they moved to the US and at first had no English. That happens a lot, but the stereotype goes away after furriners learn the language. Except when it’s true.

  3. observer says:

    Do you think the recent study on wheat and IQ in Japanese children has any legitimacy to it? It appears to show a ~4 point gain from avoiding wheat. Coincidentally this number is similar to the East-Asian/White IQ gap. It’s easy to imagine flaws in the study but perhaps there’s something to it. Interested to hear your thoughts.

    Breakfast Staple Types Affect Brain Gray Matter Volume and Cognitive Function in Healthy Children
    Yasuyuki Taki, Hiroshi Hashizume, Yuko Sassa, Hikaru Takeuchi, Michiko Asano, Kohei Asano, Ryuta Kawashima

    • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

      I would expect selection to work its magic and, where possible, overcome such deficits among populations that consume lots of wheat.

      • observer says:

        Certainly plausible, but you could make the same argument about populations lacking iodine, no? At the very least, one would assume that every additional hurdle will slow the increase in intelligence.

      • observer says:

        Or to put it another way, if there were selection for intelligence in an iodine-poor environment, and the same gain to intelligence could arise though a mutation adapting the brain to low iodine, or an entirely different mutation that increased intelligence regardless of the nutritional environment, why should we assume that the first is easier or more likely than the second? The same could, potentially, be said with respect to any nutritional factor, including wheat. Or so it seems to me.

    • spandrell says:

      Bashing wheat is popular lately, but if rice produced superior brains,
      why are Southeast Asians so dumb?

      • observer says:

        Analogous to the Anna Karenina rule about unhappy marriages, there are are usually more ways to break something than to make it work better.

        There’s also a big difference between Indochina and Melanesia so I’m not sure what you’re talking about regarding SE Asia. Rice eating Mongoloid East Asian nations have a reported ~5pt IQ advantage over Europeans.

        That said, I don’t know if the wheat-IQ connection has any merit, and I am still curious whether Cochran and Harpending have any opinions on it. It certainly seems like a valuable question, especially for those population groups who took to growing wheat relatively recently, e.g. far northern Europeans. 4 IQ pts is no joke, assuming the study is showing a real effect.

      • harpend says:


        Paul Jaminet shows up here occasionally. He has a lot to say about wheat vs. rice in his book and he does back things up with citations to the academic literature. He is emphatically not just another cardiologist looking to make a buck with a diet book.

    • spandrell says:

      North Chinese have always eaten more wheat than rice. Koreans and Japanese also eat a lot of noodles, although they do eat more rice of course.
      South Chinese eat more rice than North Chinese, and Peninsular South East Asians eat more rice than South Chinese. The Burmese or Thai don’t seem very smart to me. The Cantonese do seem smarter but the Hunanese, who eat as much rice, don’t.

      I would also like to know the merit of the study, I was raised on bread but I’d switch to rice for my kids if the data’s solid. Japan today imports most of its wheat while rice is produced domestically, I’d say they have an incentive to badmouth wheat.

      • pauljaminet says:

        Hi Spandrell,
        Rice isn’t nourishing so by itself it’s not going to generate a high-IQ brain. However it is low in toxins so it won’t do harm either.
        A lot of southeast Asians are very poor, which is reflected in their 70% carb diets and low animal food intake. This can easily create deficiencies in important nutrients for brain development and health, many of which are lipids or fat-related vitamins like vitamin K2.
        Vietnamese, who have relatively high IQs, probably benefit from their relatively high seafood (and fish sauce) consumption.
        In general I think it will be hard to infer much from the IQ scores of a malnourished population. I think it’s pretty clear malnutrition has a big impact on IQ. The wheat/rice study is a suggestion that dietary toxin content may have a big impact too.

    • Toad says:

      In 1800s, potato displaces wheat in large areas of Europe.

      The Impact of the Potato
      potato cultivation in europe

      • spandrell says:

        And the Irish and Polish displace the French as best intellectuals of Europe.

        Oh wait.

      • Toad says:

        The French did lose the 1870 Franco-Prussian War and had to give up Alsace- Lorainne to Germany.

        According to wikipedia:
        “It soon became evident that the Prussian and German forces were superior, due in part to their efficient use of industrial technology, such as railways and the Krupp steel artillery.”

        And French intellectuals were thinking up the Paris Commune

  4. Why would we be interested in iodine supplementation? That just keeps you from being stunted, i.e. living up to your genetic potential, by a lack of an important nutrient. This does not solve the most pressing problem, closing the gap.

    • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

      Why is closing the gap such a pressing problem?

      Which gap?

      • In the US, the only gap that matters is the one between whites and blacks on measures of cognitive ability. Great sums of money and much effort is expended upon eliminating this gap.

        • gcochran9 says:

          Well, some here think that New Mexico is part of the US, although many others disagree. There is a gap that gets covered about once a month in the local rag, but it’s not the black-white gap. The discussion runs about the same, though: someone has a sure-fire, expensive cure, we try it, and nothing happens.

  5. Bruce says:

    Good to know you’re not a libertarian.

  6. dave chamberlin says:

    I wonder what the IQ difference is between South and North Korea. Nearly identical genetically one population is subjected to serious malnourishment while the other is well fed. We know that adult IQ is negatively influenced by malnourishment particularly in the fetus and infant stages of development. Here we have an almost perfect scientific study eliminating other variables and answering the question what happens to the intelligence of a population when it is malnourished. Prior to the industrial revolution being kick started in Europe around 1850 were two huge gifts bequethed to Europeans. Here are two more continents to settle and here are some fabulously productive agricultural plants like potatoes, corn, and tomatoes. I can’t help but think that proper nourishment and the industrial revolution then became a feedback loop that helped each other. But that is all idle speculation on my part, the truth of what the difference is between generations well fed and half starved is neatly divided by the 38th parallel, the border between North and South Korea.

  7. gcochran9 says:

    “particularly in the fetus”. You’d think so, but people have looked at Dutch draftees who were in the womb during the famine of 1944. They found no effects of famine exposure on Ravens scores at age 19. Schizophrenia doubled, though. Schiz also doubled in the Chinese cohort exposed to the Great Leap Forward famine.

  8. Riordan says:

    So the Flynn Effect can be considered as nothing more than smoke and mirrors?

    • panjoomby says:

      true, b/c the Flynn Effect works only on low-g tasks, not high-g tasks — so flynn’s secular increase of intelligence indicates more familiarity with test-taking, familiarity with framework/format of standard academic concepts/questions, familiarity with questions about how things are alike, etc, rather than an actual increase in vocabulary or an increase in ability to problem solve… it wasn’t really a rise in intelligence so much as a rise in the familiarity of how we ask & think about it academically. cheers!

      • Anonymous says:

        So which part are the “low g” tasks and which part are the “high g” tasks? How did they determine and assign which are ostensibly high/low g?

      • panjoomby says:

        factor analysis, dude. more cognitively complex tasks (e.g., tasks like “this shape goes to that shape, like this shape goes to…) load more strongly on the general (“main” “primary” “principle component”) factor, whereas tasks that have low g-loadings are tasks like “hey, say these #’s” (repeating stuff back). SO, tasks that DO load highly are more cognitively complex (more figuring stuff out/solving patterns, etc.) & tasks that don’t load highly are more automatic processing (“in each row circle the two shapes that are the same as fast as you can!”) vocabulary is pretty highly g-loaded, whereas “name these basic things as fast as you can” is low g-loaded — it’s more of a relatively independent measure, not correlated much with “g.” the higher the g-loading the more heritable the task/skill, etc. certain racial gaps are much lower with low g-loaded tasks, but are much larger on highly g-loaded tasks. hmmm…

      • Riordan says:

        Uh huh. So if, by happenstance, our education were to emphasize much more on the “high g” tasks, and the scores were to rise a bit during the next 1-2 generations, by that measure, it would be nothing but false lights because it isn’t really testing inherent g potential, but rather students have gotten familiar and comfortable with those questions.

        And also, it would apparently mean the average millenial person will perform almost exactly the same on those “high g” tasks as their great grandfathers did 80-100 years ago.

        Sounds alot like shuffling the deck of cards ex post facto and then claiming whatever happened didn’t really happen. I can remember not too long ago people were saying those ostensible “low g” tasks can never really improved in such a short amount of time (1-2generations).

      • panjoomby says:

        doesn’t matter what education emphasizes: one is pretty much preset to be what one is preset to be ability-wise (across a continuum of related abilities — ranging from low-g processing to higher-g intelligence) yep, people are pre-set to be smart or dumb. smart people (high on g) regress closer to the mean on lower-g tasks & dumb people regress closer to the mean on low-g tasks (the regression is of course in different directions). school is beside the point. our culture seems to think (or hope) education makes people smarter. school doesn’t make people smarter. some school tasks are lower-g loaded (e.g., attaching a sound to a letter), some are higher-g loaded — the higher you go, the more complexity required. a low-g kid may learn to sound out words, but their comprehension isn’t going to be great no matter what “school” does. people vary on “g” (i.e., they vary on intelligence). individual differences are taboo – but that’s what natural selection does!

  9. ziel says:

    What about alcohol consumption, particularly among pregnant women? In Ireland many years ago, my pregnant wife begged off a round of drinks and was assured by all her relatives – including a registered nurse – that Guinness was not only not dangerous but in fact beneficial for the developing fetus. I’m sure the zero-tolerance approach of today is exaggerated, but in the aggregate I can imagine that expectant Irish women of yore drank a lot more than today, in Ireland and perhaps more so in the USA.

    Also, in the past, ethnics like the Irish who had lots of kids (more than they could handle) together with a more laissez-faire parenting approach might have had a relatively high rate of “dropped-on-his-head” syndrome, bringing down the overall average.

    • Rob King says:

      Over here in Ireland we also have a lot of cousin marriage. So much so that there is a not-so-secret range of institutions dedicated to caring for the fallout.

    • gcochran9 says:

      You might be right. There is reason to suspect that prenatal exposure to alcohol is far riskier in some populations than others – in particular populations that have limited historical exposure to alcohol. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is very rare in France, for example – yet they drink, I’m told.

    • That Guy says:


      I grew up in rural Ireland, and I remember an impoverished farmer’s wife who lived near us was bragging one day at how heavy all her kids were at birth – where in times past, heavy was equated with healthy – maybe as a folk memory of famines past. But anyway she says that her 3 children were 10, 11 and 13 Lbs at birth! Then she revealed her secret, which was a pint of Guinness every morning of her pregnancy. Her adult son – the 14 Lb baby – spoke with a marked slurred voice, and was somewhat simple-minded, though he could repair car engines…

      Living as I did in Laois – the most inland county in Ireland – iodine was indeed a problem. I remember my mother, explaining to us about iodized salt as a young kid. Laois people tend to speak slowly, with a kind of drawl, and people used refer to the “sleepy Midlands” – as being lacking in creativity or smarts.

      There is practically no cousin marriage in Ireland, if you’re just considering first cousins – like in the Middle East or Pakistan. Second cousin marriages are rare, while 4th or 5th would be common – due to people marrying in their local area over generations. I’m referring here to rural, farming communities. Where you did get the odd second cousin marriage, was where both families were wealthy, or especially very wealthy – so an effort to conserve wealth. I have one such set of cousins, and the kids show no ill effects. One is a well regarded artist, the other was programming computers at 8 yo, and wrote an operating system at 19, and graduated with a PhD in Computer Science a few years after that.

    • Rob King says:

      Hey, I never said we lead the world in cousin marriage! Just that we are doing our best to multiply those deleterious mutations.

      • Petja Ylitalo says:

        Cousin marriage doesn´t increase deleterious mutations, it actually should help reduce recessive deleterious mutations, since you get a higher amount of 1+1 and 0+0 copies, where if 1+1 causes big problems, that body has a much smaller chance of making new copies of those mutatiopns.
        Same bodies marrying non-cousins will have a higher amount of 1+0 copies, which spread the mutation better.

        So if you want to rid the world of recessive mutations, make everyone have babies with their siblings, and don´t let any malformed once make babies.

  10. Quite true about liberals and libertarians and the inverse weathervane. But a lot of the libertarian critique is valid, within parameters. Therefore, I call myself a libertarian nationalist to give myself breathing room to explain that I _don’t_ buy into the flaky thinking where libertarians and liberals usually intersect. I’m where libertarians and _conservatives_ intersect. BTW, do you mind if I reprint from your blog occasionally over at ?
    This post in particular I’d like to reprint. Thanks.

  11. OlioOx says:

    (This is off-topic, but I hope it is a reasonable question, and I base it on research published in reputable journals)

    Here’s an aspect of human female sexual behavior which puzzles me as to its genetic survival advantageousness:

    A recent study by Meredith Chivers (professor of psychology at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, and member of the editorial board of research journal Archives of Sexual Behavior) demonstrated that women’s conscious minds are oddly disconnected from their bodies where sexual arousal is concerned. Male and female subjects of this experiment were asked to rate their arousal — and had sensory apparatus attached to their genitals — when shown films of a wide range of sexual activity. Male genital response and conscious arousal rating choices were in agreement; but “with the women, especially the straight women, mind and genitals seemed scarcely to belong to the same person.”

    A later (2010) meta-analysis by Chivers and others reviewed 132 other such studies and found solid agreement for this conclusion: “There was a statistically significant gender difference in the agreement between self-reported and genital measures, with men (r=.66) showing a greater degree of agreement than women (r=.26).”

    Women, it seems, literally do not know what turns them on, or off, although they think they do.

    My question is very simply, how could natural selection have resulted in this female sexual peculiarity? It seems a stretch to conclude that this is learned behavior. During the evolution of our species, how and why could such a mind-body disconnect have helped in the propagation of an individual’s DNA?

    In cases of physical danger, which immediately and obviously threaten the obliteration of one’s DNA, there is no mind-body split. Nor is there in the case of hunger or thirst. Why, then, where the specific behaviors involved in actually passing on one’s genes are concerned, is there this unaccountable break in mind-body agreement, and why only in women? Why might females WITHOUT this characteristic be selected against?

    I won’t give hyperlinks here because they may cause this post to be filtered and trashed. For the report on the Chivers study, just google “What do women want?”, chivers, New York Times. The meta-analysis can be found by googling “DOI 10.1007/s10508-009-9556-9”

    Two other relevant papers by Chivers and her colleagues:
    1. “A Sex Difference in the Specificity of Sexual Arousal”
    2. DOI 10.1007/s10508-008-9339-8

    • erica says:

      “Male and female subjects of this experiment were asked to rate their arousal — and had sensory apparatus attached to their genitals — when shown films of a wide range of sexual activity.”

      And there’s your problem: women were shown films. Men are visual creatures. We aren’t men, dammit. They need try another way(s) to arouse us if they want to measure stimulation. We react to sound and to touch. Use your own experiences to tell you–doesn’t your wife or girlfriend react to a word softly spoken? To the right music? More than that, to touch? To a finger tracing softly down her spine or making circles on her arm? To strong hands gently squeezing her upper arms or gently massaging her neck? To a soft kiss on eyelids? Come on, man, why do you think porn doesn’t do it for us?

      We can see a great-looking man and think, “Hmmm, nice, ” but our clitorises don’t start throbbing at simply seeing him. I repeat: we aren’t men.

      Bailey and the others need to stop applying the same stimuli to women that they apply to men if they want answers.

      • Anonymous says:

        You didn’t read the study. Men’s physical arousal matched their conscious perception of arousal. Women’s did not. Everything sexual including the chimps having sex aroused the women physically. One item did not physically arouse women (I cannot remember if it was the man on the beach or the woman doing yoga). All the rest of the visuals did arouse women. Therefore women are physically aroused by visual stimuli regardless of their stated perceptions. What was odd was that men’s physical arousal matched their stated arousal women’s did not.

    • erica says:

      “Therefore women are physically aroused by visual stimuli regardless of their stated perceptions. What was odd was that men’s physical arousal matched their stated arousal women’s did not.”

      Isn’t is true that women are multi-taskers, that we mentally engage, juggle our attention among several subjects/problems at the same time? Does a crying child ( or sounds suggesting there may be discomfort of that child) or a noise in another part of the house cause the male during the minutes leading up to coitus to respond the way the female responds? I suspect our ability to give attention to a variety of subjects simultaneously (or close to it) or our propensity to be aware of our environment even during stages of sexual interest and/or arousal are the results of traits that evolved to make us successful mothers.

      • Jgress says:

        If you’re trying to say that other (anecdotal) evidence supports the conclusion of this study that women cannot focus on a particular assignment enough to report their experiences accurately, then great. Otherwise, I’m not sure what your point is. What precisely is the factor that this study has not controlled for, in your opinion?

      • Priceeqn says:

        Not to mention any old evo. psych. textbook has an explanation (albeit not one I particularly think is correct): if women were sure they were sexually aroused, or, some theories claim, were conscious of their arousal it would display cues of arousal to men that would make it very easy for men to fake signals of honest long-term interest. Think about how many women you know who fall for poor routines now. Now think about if we had ways to be 99% sure women were aroused: how many more women would be pregnant by disinterested fools…

    • Petja Ylitalo says:

      Simplest explanation (which also fits my experience), is that men are more honest.

  12. The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

    Culture creation for profit and reproductive success.

    It may be that some people specialize in the creation of culture both for its monetary rewards and because they can get less intelligent people to destroy their reproductive success.

  13. Contemporary Swedes still make up a high IQ population but most are still unable to look beyond their poky PC little vantage points. I call it the globalization paradox: PC Swedes promote ethnic and cultural diversity and hybridization as something intrinsically valuable and really push it to the limit, but still won’t listen when rational and pragmatic human beings say: look at Finland, Switzerland, or Taiwan – they do much better than us nowadays (in school for instance) and you wanna know why? It’s because of your foolish agenda’s and “ideals”. So in a way, the Swedish emigrants that came to the US during the 19th century and early 20th century were more rational and “smarter” than “we” are today. Achievement beyond IQ – of course it’s about ideology and ethics (universal utalitarianism at the expense of nation state particularism and common sense).

    As far as I know about the main topics that are discussed in the post, it seems quite hard to measure a phenotypic increase and compare the iodine supplementation levels between two or several populations. One can still do reasonable estimates, but is that really worth that much? But it shouldn’t be impossible, and H. Eysenck and R. Lynn, among other, have written valuable things about this particular phenomenon.

  14. Flip says:

    I’ve read that the southern Germans (Baden-Wurttemburg and Bavaria) have higher IQs than northern Germans, and the related Swiss seem quite bright as well and these tend to be brunette Alpines rather than blonde Nordics. I’ve worked with Scandinavian-Americans and they seem intelligent enough in a rote kind of way, but not really smart compared to some Jews or Germans or British to me. Maybe there’s something to the stereotype of of the “dumb blonde.”

    • No, it’s not. But I can tell you that this particular cliché is a silly social construct that have been promoted in popular culture and porn during the late 20th century. The blond woman archetype, Marilyn Monroe, is regarded as a sexual symbol and not much else, although she might have had rather high IQ. But blond people are – and the assertion is both simple and well documented – quite intelligent in general, but are definitely outrunned by dark haired north East Asians and Ashkenazi Jews by some 3-11 IQ point.

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  16. gwern says:

    > I don’t know if anyone has looked hard at it, but there used to be goiterous areas around the Great Lakes, before iodized salt, and I’ll bet that scholastic achievement improved significantly after the introduction of iodized salt.

    Actually, yes, there’s a cool study on this topic using military conscription as a proxy:

    There’s also an income/schooling study for Switzerland which had iodine problems too (and apparently the problems were dramatic enough that they were part of the impetus towards the discovery/eluicidation of iodine and goiters and cretinism):

    Also interesting: ‘Cognitive Ability and Voting: How Salt Influenced Elections in the 20th Century’.

    I’ve mused that it’s generally believed that iodine benefits females more than males, and the timing of iodization in the US matches up reasonably well with the rise of feminism…

    (I was compiling these studies for use in – an attempt at a meta-analysis of the effect on IQ or cognitive performance on iodine supplementation in adults. Sadly, it seems minimal.)

  17. RS-prime says:

    > Or to put it another way, if there were selection for intelligence in an iodine-poor environment, and the same gain to intelligence could arise though a mutation adapting the brain to low iodine, or an entirely different mutation that increased intelligence regardless of the nutritional environment, why should we assume that the first is easier or more likely than the second?

    Basically, because doubling your concentration of I-uptake and I-conservation proteins is energetically negligible, should be very unlikely to mess up other, complex things, and there should be plenty of mutations that produce it in a reasonable fashion. Adapting your brain (and body, but brain more especially) to hypothyroidy is apt to make a huge mess, sacrificing some capability and/or energy efficiency. The one obvious hope for a clean and efficient fix would be a mutation that increases the concentration of the thyroid receptor. However, the results may turn out ugly, because thyroid receptor doesn’t just ‘heterodimerize’ with DNA and thyroid hormone, it also heterodimerizes with other, phylogenetically related receptors, which is probably gonna mean loss of ability or efficiency.

    In a nutshell, lots of stuff depends on [I] and there is limited hope of containing the cascade of knock-on effects on a 10,000-year timescale without major loss of fitness. In contrast, /probably/ very little depends on [I-conserving proteins] /not/ being doubled or quadrupled or whatever.

    • RS-prime says:

      I don’t actually know, but the energetic cost of quadrupling them for a year might equal a couple slices of unbuttered bread. Perhaps much less, say half a grape. Or it could be a quarter-pounder with cheese — but either way such costs are a joke when, just for example, running your entire immune system or entire brain for something like a week is going to cost a whole day’s eating.

  18. bubble says:

    “Bashing wheat is popular lately, but if rice produced superior brains, why are Southeast Asians so dumb?”

    Latitudinal variation as the baseline with other factors on top?

    “So the Flynn Effect can be considered as nothing more than smoke and mirrors?”

    My understanding, which could be misinformed, is that the Flynn effect varies between populations. If so the clue might be in that.

    “Women, it seems, literally do not know what turns them on, or off, although they think they do.”

    Women becoming automatically mildly physically aroused by anything to do with sex while not necessarily being mentally aroused at the same time could possibly be a protection against physical damage from rape.

    “Maybe there’s something to the stereotype of of the “dumb blonde.”

    Only anti-white racism.

    “Which groups have the highest average IQ’s are the groups you would pick as having the hardest time in our past. In descending order they are the ashkenazi jews, the han chinese, and the northern europeans”

    The opposite seems more likely. If a group had a monopoly on an economic niche which selected solely for cognitive and verbal ability e.g. banking and money-lending, for c. 1000 years after the fall of Rome couldn’t that create a kind of sealed ecosystem with the same kind of mechanism described in Clark’s “Farewell to Alms” where the more successful among that group had more children and while the older ones inherited the family business the downwardly mobile younger ones displaced the people below them?

    The Han had latitude and later cognitively-selected institutional reproductive advantages through exam systems. Northern Europeans had latitude (and height?) but fewer niches with cognitive-only selection until much later.

  19. The fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:
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  22. dlr says:

    The Irish had that kind of a dramatic upswing in outcomes– the ones that migrated away to the US or Great Britain experienced great leaps in every metric you can imagine. As did the ones that stayed home, although somewhat later in time. The usual explanation is ‘colonial oppression’ aka ‘absentee landlords’, etc, but I personally wonder if there were subtle dietary deficiencies, as in micronutrients: the average Irish cottager is described as living on potatoes and milk. No other items ever mentioned, even things that could have easily been raised in a kitchen vegetable garden to improve variety; the diet described was always potatoes and milk.

    Malthus in his travel accounts goes on and on about the immiseration associated with potato growing in Belgium (I believe, or maybe Holland). He thought the proximate cause was different but he clearly links the desperate poverty with diets that are based on potatoes rather than on wheat or other grains.

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