Ignorant Chatterers

The kind of people who write columns in the New York Times or the Washington Post are occasionally amusing or offer useful insight, but most of it is simply blather. Nothing wrong with that I suppose. Imagine that there were to arise a national movement advocating arboreal marriage, people marrying trees. Columnists would have a field day. What about the children? Would they be warped? And the fate of the saplings? If one’s tree was entitled to hospital visitation, who would provide the transport?

The arboreal marriage issue, like many other contemporary issues, is not burdened with data. Writers are free to let their imaginations go free. But other issues are blessed with data, and one would assume that the first obligation of a pundit would be to learn the data, perhaps even learn the science. The recent kerfluffle over Jason Richwine’s dissertation, where there are data and where the pundits have not a clue about it, is a shame and disgrace for both journalists and those who publish them.

IQ test scores as well as achievement indicators of all kinds are well known, easy to check out for oneself. There is almost no controversy about any of it because there is arguing with test scores nor incarceration statistics. Ron Unz valiantly tried several years ago, and his arguments were pretty well demolished.

What we see from the paper talkers instead is a lot of name calling and snark. Those people are, almost all of them, so ignorant that they have no clue about data, they are also so ignorant that they do not understand how useless they themselves are. Shame? Never heard of it. To them, blather about arboreal marriage is not different from blather about Hispanic IQ.

IQ differences among groups are well known, well established, and not very interesting IMHO. OTOH there are interesting things out there that deserve focus for thoughtful people. Here is one:


Given the density of twaddle that is published about poverty and health, why do US Hispanics live on average two and a half years longer than US Anglos? The chatterers have no interest in this, and amazingly neither do sociologists and the ilk at my university. It just isn’t in their domain. Perhaps this health difference is a hate fact?

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65 Responses to Ignorant Chatterers

  1. Hallie Scott Kline says:

    Greg — I do wish someone would look into this. What do you say? What could be the reason(s) for their longevity?

  2. anon says:

    Adaption of MHC alleles as a function of length of exposure to the New World environment?

  3. Anonymous says:

    White privilege causes one group to live longer, the other one shorter than whites, just as it causes Blacks to be dumber but Asians to be smarter, what’s so difficult to grasp? As for arboreal marriage, well, I would let the xyloerotic have it. Of course it is silly, but not that dangerous a deal, and to have strong sentiment against it also requires a good degree of silliness.

  4. misdreavus says:

    When asked why white Americans had a higher suicide rate than blacks or hispanics, a Sociology professor responded that whites, due to their institutional privilege, transitioned from infancy to adulthood with weaker constitutions than “people of color”, and therefore had a tendency to snap at the slightest bit of mental pressure.

    These people are worse than useless. Why aren’t these idiots all working for minimum wage?

    • SFG says:

      That one’s actually not that nuts–rich neighborhoods have more suicides, for example. It seems totally sensible to me that the more stress you get exposed to as a youngster, the less likely you are to think the loss of a loved one or a job is a reason to give up hope.

    • Discard says:

      Whites are living in an occupied nation, and they can’t even say so out loud. Of course they’re depressed. OTOH, the “Others” in this country are winning, and of course they feel good about it.

  5. LemmusLemmus says:

    I don’t know about your university, but it has long been recognized that Latinos do better in terms of health than one would guess on the basis of their socioeconomic status. Terms used are “Latino paradox” and “Hispanic paradox”. Here’s one quick Google result:


    I cannot vouch for the quality of that research, as I have not read it.

    • harpend says:

      Right, there has been talk about it for a long time. I thought the CDC did an especially good job of data collection and screening for the report I posted.

  6. misdreavus says:

    What about the children? Would they be warped? And the fate of the saplings? If one’s tree was entitled to hospital visitation, who would provide the transport?

    Canadian sugar maples are pretty dependable — sure, they have a tendency toward neuroticism, but when the going gets tough, they plant their roots firmly into the floor and stay true until the very end. Pacific dogwoods, less so.

    And you have to be careful around those weeping willows. Yes, they may be pretty in the springtime, but they leave a mess for you to clean just about everywhere, and their children will sap your energy until the end of your days.

    • Harold says:

      Wow! Stereotyping much? I can’t believe there are still ignorant bigots like you around in 2013.

    • erica says:

      “Erica… Harold is talking about the stereotyping of tree species. There is reason to believe he’s not being serious.”

      Whoops. I guess I shouldn’t scan quickly. I wrongly thought he was replying to the 2:42 pm misdreavus’ post.

      Second, certainly not a legit excuse… I had just come from Peter Frost’s blog, having read his most recent post “Thoughts on the Paris Spring” http://evoandproud.blogspot.com/ and admittedly I had in mind the people discussed there.

      I apologize, Harold, if I misread your intent.

  7. ironrailsironweights says:

    Elderly or ill Hispanic immigrants returning to their home countries to die?


    • harpend says:

      I think that this has been looked at and not gotten support. OTOH it is an active research area so we must wait and see I suppose.

  8. erica says:

    Aren’t Hispanics less likely to have been smokers?

    • harpend says:

      My impression was that that link had not panned out, but as I was about to reply Paul Jaminet sent a reference (just below) that would support this idea.

  9. pauljaminet says:

    Blue and Fenelon think it’s mostly attributable to less smoking among immigrants, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21324939. The interesting thing is that immigrants have a longevity advantage in many countries, not just the US. Maybe the sort of personality who is willing to make changes in his life situation suffers less stress, or maybe that personality is associated with longevity genes?

    • albatross says:

      For one thing, sickly people usually don’t emigrate, especially not if it’s physically demanding and dangerous. But I think there is something more going on. For example, I believe the same basic pattern happens with infant mortality. And if I understand these categories correctly, hispanic includes a fair number of blacks–this suggests that the non-black hispanics are probably living even longer and losing even fewer babies, since blacks as a group do worse than anyone else in these areas.

  10. pauljaminet says:

    But another important point is that Hispanics are more physically active than whites who are more active than blacks, and longevity tracks physical activity. One consequence of that is that Hispanics cannot increase their longevity by additional exercise, whereas blacks can greatly increase their lifespans by becoming more active. See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23253646. It’s possible physical activity and smoking are the complete explanation.

    • harpend says:

      Thanks for the references. They both suffer from the old weakness of observational data: hard to disentangle cause and effect. Bob Moyzis recently published something from his longitudinal study of an again population: the more exercise one got the longer one lived, as in these studies. It turned out, and I recall, that it mostly attributable to have a 7R allele and the D4 dopamine receptor: people with 7R were more active by choice. Exercise did not help those with other versions of the receptor.

      • pauljaminet says:

        I assume that’s this paper: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23283341. I’ll be very surprised if there are no benefits to activity in people with other genotypes.

      • JayMan says:


        “I’ll be very surprised if there are no benefits to activity in people with other genotypes”

        Steve Hsu recently posted on a talk given about variable response to exercise. That is, not everyone responds favorably. Indeed, most have little to no response to exercise, and indeed, many get worse.

        There is a very good chance (and indeed this is my suspicion) that the causal relationship between health and exercise generally goes health -> exercise. That is, people who were healthier to begin with are likely to exercise more, not the other way around.

      • pauljaminet says:

        Thanks JayMan. In the studies I’ve looked at, low doses of exercise are unambiguously positive. As you get to high doses of exercise, the variance of the response starts increasing. For running, for instance, the expected health benefit increases up to about 20 minutes per day, then it stays constant from there. But the variance is lowest at 20 minutes per day and increases steadily. At very high doses of exercises, the odds of doing harm are about equal to the odds of benefit. But at 20 minutes per day, the odds that exercise will be beneficial are very high. My interpretation is that exercise exerts health benefits through circadian rhythm entrainment.

      • Anthony says:

        There’s probably some amount of job sorting, as well. Immigrants are more likely to end up in physically demanding jobs (construction and restaurant work, for example), getting far more than the equivalent of 20 minutes of cardio a day. Even if you don’t have the 7R allele, if you have to bus tables all day, you’re going to be more active than someone sitting behind the DMV counter all day.

  11. bruce says:

    Latins I know who smoke, smoke cigars that smell like a tire fire. This could repel casual smokers, while keeping smoking a special occasion. As opposed to a three pack a day habit.

  12. budusan says:

    Majority of Latinos are effectively Asians and Asians live considerably longer than whites and blacks. Sure, it’s not easy to pinpoint the many genes responsble for the difference but, really, there is no big mystery here.

    • Kabal says:

      I presume by “Latinos” you mean Amerindians, and by Asians, you mean East/Northeast Asians.

      If that were the case, that Amerindians are “effectively” East/Northeast Asians, one would need a supplemental explanation for why the East Asian IQ is a standard deviation or so higher than that of Amerindian IQ.

      It is possible that long life-span is a primitive retention from the common ancestor of East/Northeast Asians and Amerindians, and that high IQ is just a derived trait of East Asians. Northeastern Asian IQ is also mediocre, supporting the derivedness of East Asian IQ.

      What are the lifespans of Northeastern Asians like?

    • IC says:

      But data prove your idea wrong. Native americans have lowest life expectancy. Yet Asian americans have the highest (live 30 years longer than natives) according to this harvard study.


  13. Greying Wanderer says:

    I thought the PC academic consensus before this blew up was that the IQ numbers were accepted but IQ itself wasn’t accepted as measuring something worthwhile – so we’re going backwards?

    • RadishMag says:

      And will continue to go backwards as long as the people who know better choose to treat the whole subject of “group” differences in intelligence as “not very interesting IMHO.”

      • harpend says:

        Right, so I misspoke. I should have said something like “well known, well established, data rich, but with no apparent interesting testable hypotheses on the table.” That better?

      • RadishMag says:

        Oh, that does seem better than what I assumed. After all, group differences have important consequences — in the current regime one might almost say revolutionary consequences (that have nothing to do with immigration).

  14. hexx says:

    on arborofilia: there’s a much loved tune called “Handel’s Largo” originally from the opera “Xerxes”, where the the singing role is written for a castrato singer, who proclaims his love to a tree, so there is a kind of comical element in to it – on the other hand, the love song to a tree is a subterfuge, because the aria,
    that grammatically address the tree, is s sung covertly to a maid on the other side of the fence/wall. The castrati roles nowadays are sung by women or “counter tenors”, here’s a natural Japanese counter tenor singing the aria:

    the Catholic Church used to run orphanages for boys (hmm …) called conservatorio – if a boy had a good singing voice he had the priviledge of getting his balls chopped off before puberty. Nowadays “conservatorio” means an institute for music.

    about the aggregate data on life duration, the sociologists think it reveals “structural injustices” – actually, beside genetics, it’s based on cigarette smoking, the kids are told ” don’t smoke” and the dumb kids a la Beavis and Butthead think: “It’s dangerous and forbidden, it must be cool!”

    If the kids were told “the dumb workers are not supposed to enjoy pension too long after retirement, therefore you dumb ones should start to smoke” it might reduce the smoking in underclass population but what the heck —

    pardon my English, second language.

    • hexx says:

      “The aria (arborophiliac aria from Serses) therefore was the first piece of music to be broadcast on radio.” 24 December 1906 ….

  15. Josh Steinberg says:

    This guy might take the cake.

    ” Both “race” and “intelligence” are culturally constructed notions, not biological or genetic facts. None of this is hard to understand.

    Nevertheless Jason Richwine concluded his dissertation, “No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against.” The question is: how did Harvard decide this discredited idea was worth a PhD? In other words, who at Harvard approved this travesty?”


    • Drive-By Poster says:

      I can’t think of a worse way to introduce dipshit undergraduates to philosophical nominalism than through the subject of race, or intelligence, gender, and the like. Way to miss the point — or more accurately, obfuscate the point.

    • Discard says:

      Josh: If Race is a culturally constructed notion, how is it that I can without fail distinguish between an aboriginal Swede and an aboriginal Australian? And how can DNA testing determine culture?

      And if intelligence is a socially constructed notion, am I as intelligent as Einstein or Newton? Where’s my Nobel Prize?

      • Drive-By Poster says:

        You misread. Josh wrote “This guy takes the cake” and then the rest of his post is a quotation of some silly thing that got written by Jon Weiner in The Nation. He didn’t make that very clear, and perhaps even my reply looked like a criticism of Josh rather than Weiner.

      • Discard says:

        Drive-By Poster: I stand corrected. I did think it odd that nobody else slapped him, so I figured it was my duty.

  16. JC says:

    I recall a poster Galtonian referred to this paper.

    The paper that attempts to link CHRM2 gene variation to ethnic and social class differences in mortality is called “Cognitive epidemiology of ethnic health and the CHRM2 vagal vigour hypothesis….

    The mortality of Hispanics is lower than expected in view of their low SEP, this is known as the
    Hispanic Health Paradox14. It appears that Hispanics, due to Native American ancestry,
    have a low frequency (0.33) of the low vagal tone-associated A-allele of rs8191992; this
    may account for the low Hispanic mortality rates. The CHRM2 vagal vigour hypothesis
    offers an explanation for why the rs8191992 A-allele frequencies in Blacks (0.86),
    Whites (0.56), and East Asians (0.12) correspond with the respective ethnic differences
    in systemic inflammation28, 29 and mortality2(Fig. 2d,e,f,g). Lastly, by postulating a
    common shared link to the presence of the rs8191992 A-allele, the CHRM2 vagal
    vigour model provides an explanation for why low IQ, low SEP, low vagal tone,
    depression, substance abuse, externalizing psychopathology, systemic inflammation,
    type 2 diabetes/metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease often cluster together.

    The pdf is Available from Nature Precedings at this link:

    Cognitive epidemiology of ethnic health and the CHRM2 vagal vigour hypothesis


  17. nameless37 says:

    Life expectancy is an attempt to condense fifty different factors into a single number, which is then used by people who don’t know any better to theorize about these factors.
    One classic example is the persistent meme, “Americans spend more on healthcare than anyone in the world, but our life expectancy sucks.” Only perhaps one in fifty people ever tries to dig deeper and discovers that the most expensive article in American healthcare is – predictably – the care for old people, and, in terms of life expectancy at age 65, the U.S. is not quite as dismal. (While this does not prove that American healthcare does not suck, this indicates that there are other factors in play, for example, the disproportionate tendency of younger Americans to die from non-healthcare-related reasons like traffic accidents.)

    Of the 2.6 year difference in life expectancy at birth between white and Hispanic females, 2.0 years remain by age 60 (life expectancy of a 60 year old white female is 24.1 years, for a Hispanic female it’s 26.1 years). 1.2 years remain by age 80. This is indicative simply of greater innate genetic longevity of Hispanics, similar to greater innate longevity of females compared to males.

    Compare with white vs. black females. The gap in life expectancy at birth is 3.8 years (CDC, year 2008 data.) Of this, 0.4 years disappear by age 1: black females experience high infant mortality. By age 65, the gap is down to 1.2 years (most of excess mortality in black females occurs between ages of 40 and 65 – indicative of lifestyle factors), by age 80 they are tied, and, by age 90, black females get ahead. Again, they are innately more long-lived, but this advantage is overwhelmed by high infant and middle-age mortality.

    • JayMan says:

      Indeed. 5% of the people consume 50% of the healthcare dollars. The top 1% consume 22% of spending. Those numbers are often repeated, but are misleading.

      I wonder what would happen to the U.S. numbers if you broke it down by race, though…

      • franklindmadoff says:

        There’s no question that we spend more per capita and that there is room for savings in principle, but I don’t think our spending is that out of line with international patterns when you look at a better measure of national economic well being than GDP. More specifically, if you look at actual individual consumption per capita in PPP-adjusted terms, which removes net-exports (e.g., petro states, ireland, etc), non-resident workers (e.g., Luxembourg), and other some other important non-consumptive drivers of GDP and look across a much larger range of countries (as in all those that I could match via vlookup w/o excessive corrections from the WHO’s data), relative to the frequently bandied graphs, it’s pretty clear that spending grows non-linearly with income and that we’re not that out of whack with what you’d expect for a country as rich as ours (in terms of what it costs to actually employ skilled labor domestically and in terms of consumption priorities).

        NHE by AIC

        NHE by GDP

        AIC by GDP

  18. JayMan says:

    On this topic, I did a whole series of posts looking at cardiovascular disease rates, diet, exercise, mortality, and obesity. In the case of Hispanics, I don’t know if it’s the Iberian ancestry that does the trick. Southwestern Europe has some of the lowest rates of cardiovascular mortality in the developed world, and this is almost certainly so in good part for genetic reasons. Perhaps it is that aspect of their ancestry that is doing the trick with American Hispanics?

    Please see:

    And Yet Another Tale of Two Maps | JayMan’s Blog

    A Fat Problem With Heart Health Wisdom | JayMan’s Blog

    Exercise, weight loss, and keeping you alive – yet another tale of maps | JayMan’s Blog

    A Fat World – With a Fat Secret? | JayMan’s Blog

    IQ and Death | JayMan’s Blog

  19. AC says:

    Given the recent diabetes and obesity epidemic in places like Mexico, how long do you think this life expectancy will last?

    I recently read that Mexico might be fist country in 100 years to see a drastic drop in life expectancy.

  20. Peripatetic Moron says:

    Run Unz beat you to the concept: Sidewalk Marriage.

  21. Jim says:

    I recall seeing a comparison of mortality rates for various causes in the US between Asians, Amerindians, Hispanics, Whites and Blacks. Overall Asians had the best mortality rates in general followed by Amerindians, Hispanics, Whites and Blacks in that order. Amerindians did have high rates of deaths from alcohol relateded conditions but they had rates for heart disease and most cancers lower than any of the other groups except Asians. One disease for which whites had comparatively good experience was diabetes. The fact that Amerindians who are often poor have better overall health than all the other groups is interesting. The ranking by mortality of Asian, Amerindian, Hispanic, White, Black I would guess is the same as the ranking by genetic closeness.
    Death rates from cardiovascular conditions is the main driver of the aggregate rates.

  22. Anonymous says:

    BTW I wonder if Amerinds are better adapted to tobacco, just as they are worst adapted to alcohol? Could there also be tradeoffs between resistance to infectious and other disease?

  23. Skittles the dancing wallaby says:

    The weakest 90% of the Amerindian gene pool got killed off by disease when the Europeans arrived. Many of those who survived had exceptionally strong constitutions.

    The life expectancy of American Indians (in the U.S.) is still low because many of them live on reservations where there are no jobs and their culture is slowly dieing out, so people amuse themselves using alcohol, crystal meth, guns and corn products. Lots of premature deaths, bad health situation, low life expectancy.

    But Mestizo Hispanics ended up in a far more functional living situation, so they don’t suffer from nearly the same rates of premature deaths and their natural good health shows up in the statistics. It will be interesting to see if this health paradox continues as they adopt less healthy lifestyles. Currently diabetes is the leading cause of death in Mexico and 69.5% of Mexicans are overweight or obese.

    • harpend says:

      You are making a strong and interesting assumption that is worth pointing out. You are assuming that “constitution” is essentially one dimensional. The same assumption was implicit in the heterogeneity fad in demography a few decades ago.

      We know that IQ is essentially one dimensional and that is why it works. But consider “athletic ability”: it is multidimensional. Strong people can do a lot of chinups but are likely to fail on the basketball court. Great sprinters are not so great marathon runners. Balance and coordination are not correlated, or hardly correlated, with strength, and so on. IQ works but there ain’t no such thing as AQ. The ‘multiple intelligence’ stuff is just feel good stuff for teachers.

      So is frailty or constitution a single dimension? Interesting question IMHO and well worth investigation.

      • albatross says:

        It seems like what we mean by “constitution” encompasses some general stuff, but also specific adaptations to diseases you’re likely to encounter. We have several known adaptations to diseases (often loss-of-function mutations that mess up some critical step in viral entry or replication, and can be covered by some redundant mechanism). If you don’t have those for some diseases that circulate where you live, but your classmates do, you will be the sickly kid who’s always missing school for two weeks with something that his classmates shook off in a couple of days.

        Presumably, the high rates of alcoholism and diabetes among American Indians has to do with their evolutionary environment, which didn’t have much alcohol or diets that were all starch.

  24. Maladapted Altruist says:

    It’s an axiom of our form of government that all men are created equal. If it is untrue, our government is an absurdity.

  25. Murray Ronash says:

    According to this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Zone#Characteristics
    .. characteristics of longevity include family life, physical activity, social activity, and … beans.

    I think there is more of this sort of stuff in Hispanic life than White American life.

  26. franklindmadoff says:

    On this topic you may be interested in a quickie scatter plot I recently threw together recently using KFF’s life expectancy data for each data by race/ethnicity as compared to the corresponding groups NAEP 8th grade math scores:
    State Life Expectancy by Race/Ethnicity and Test scores

    Compared to the usual environmentalist bunkem like inequality or even (state) per capita income I’d say it’s a considerably better fit 🙂

    Also, some time ago, I graphed some data that draws the so-called “hispanic paradox” and (as of yet unmentioned) “poor-asian paradox” into sharper relief.
    CA Male Life Expectancy by Race/Ethnicity and SES – 1999-2001 and the female counterpart to itsource for the data (with environmentalist nonsense). What I find interesting is the relative lack of differentiation amongst both the asians and the hispanics as compared to whites and blacks….

  27. franklindmadoff says:

    Err – I meant to link to This chart with the per-group NAEP scores rather than the above state-average TIMSS scores.

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