At Least Erroneous in Faith

A large collection of prominent geneticists has published a group letter to the New York Times Book Review endorsing a negative review of Nicholas Wade’s “A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History.” They speak of “Wade’s misappropriation of research from our field…” The list of signers includes an impressive group of geneticists and others, claiming special expertise in their field. This deserves some thoughtful evaluation.

The last half century of population genetics has been more or less dominated by neutralism, a model of genetic change that postulated, in its strong and common form, that population differences are a passive reflection of histories of gene flow and genetic drift. In human genetics, especially, selection has been of little interest. The idea of group differences being products of natural selection is abhorrent to many. The reaction to recent models of selection in humans recalls a common quotation whose origin is murky but is often attributed to a Victorian lady, reacting to news of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection: “My dear, I trust that it is not true; but if it is, let us pray that it may not become widely known.”

The authors and signatories of the letter number 144. Surely they must speak with authority on this matter of Wade’s incorrect thought about their field? In the last few years evolution by natural selection has been appearing in the literature in various ways. There is a sea change coming in evolutionary biology. My immediate associations are with Brian Charlesworth, Francisco Ayala, Michael Lynch, Russell Lande, Michael Rose, Steven Frank, H. Allen Orr, Peter Visscher, Nick Barton, and Bernard Crespi come to mind. I am no expert in this domain, and I mean no slight to folks who didn’t immediately jump into my head, in particular the lot who write about evolutionary medicine. Interesting that none of these are signatories of the letter. H. Allen Orr in particular is curiously absent since he wrote the only sensible negative review of Wade’s book I have seen.

There may be an interesting background to this inquisition. I suggest starting with a reread of Geoffrey Miller’s editorial in the Economist in 2009. He discusses the hype and high hopes of medical breakthroughs from the Human Genome project, the collapse of that hope (continuing since the 2009 article) and the rich harvest of knowledge of human history and human evolution that the project has produced. Some of this harvest is unwelcome, especially because it led to the resurgence of the study of evolution by natural selection. Does this new direction threaten the revenue stream from agencies like the Wellcome trust and NIH? I remember a conversation with a colleague several years ago about something I had written. “Of course you are right,” he said, “but you know you are peeing in the swimming pool.”

I am especially curious about how Gregory Clark has managed to escape the wrath of the righteous guardians of “our field.” His brilliant economic history of the UK from medieval times up to 1800 is the most inflammatory book I have read in years. He proposes that Darwinian natural selection essentially bred a new version of humans, a version adapted to a stable society with courts and contracts, low time preference, aversion to violence, and middle class values. I have spent some time around economists and I hear none of them whining about Clark’s book, calling him a racist, and all the stuff a geneticist would get. How does he do it?

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180 Responses to At Least Erroneous in Faith

  1. P says:

    The group statement is pretty anodyne. They criticize Wade for speculating without firm evidence, something that Wade explicitly admitted that he was doing. They don’t challenge Wade’s basic idea that human evolution has been recent, copious, and regional. Some of the signatories probably don’t disagree with Wade on the biological reality of race, either, e.g., Jerry Coyne and Neil Risch.

    It’s sensible to think that we don’t have enough evidence to make strong statements about the origin of specific group differences, but at this point I don’t think it’s sensible to think that no genetically grounded group differences in behavior exist. Genetic differences account for some of the individual differences in just about all behavioral traits, so it would be miraculous if different selective pressures had not caused any group differences over the last 100,000 years or so (to say nothing of the last 10,000 years).

    • Dale says:

      You write “They don’t challenge Wade’s basic idea that human evolution has been recent, copious, and regional.”

      The whole bouhaha is rather funny, because if human evolution is “recent, copious, and regional”, then any genetically-determined behavioral differences of social importance between ethnic groups are *malleable*. The more you think evolution is active, the *less* determinative the current genetic situation is.

      If we believe that under modernity, “Darwinian natural selection essentially bred a new version of humans”, then this process is happening *right now* in any location recently roped into the “modern” world, of which there are a lot. And there’s every reason to believe that the bottomless hunger of factory owners for cheap workers will continue to sweep millions into modernity.

      • gcochran9 says:

        Not malleable on the time scale people would like. Nor are the current selective pressures pushing in the right direction.

        • Dale says:

          You write, “Not malleable on the time scale people would like.”

          You’re probably right, there, since the time scale people would like is probably the day after tomorrow. Though in reality, any serious change takes generations anyway.

          You write, “Nor are the current selective pressures pushing in the right direction.”

          That doesn’t seem to me to be so, but a full discussion is warranted. If modernity causes Europeans to evolve in a certain way, won’t it do the same to Africans?

          • AnotherDad says:

            “Nor are the current selective pressures pushing in the right direction.”
            That doesn’t seem to me to be so, but a full discussion is warranted. If modernity causes Europeans to evolve in a certain way, won’t it do the same to Africans?.

            Dale I don’t know what selection you believe you see going on. Cochran’s observation is rather standard amongst anyone who is actually paying attention.

            Modern health care, the modern welfare state and of course birth control have radically changed the “selective pressure” in the West. No one looking at the census data–or just looking through open eyes–believes selection is favoring higher IQ, more conscientiousness, etc. A very simple measure, women’s education (reasonably correlated with IQ) is negatively correlated with fertility. (Note: this effect is inner-racial as well. For example college educated American black women have abysmal fertility. Blacks are getting dumber even faster than whites are getting dumber.)

            Re Africans: African countries obviously have iffier health care and minimal welfare states so there’s no doubt still some selection against absolute incompetence. But nonetheless with Western health care and technology most kids born are making it there. And the most conscientious middle class women are not the women have 8, 9, 10 kids that account for the high fertility in many African nations. In short, even in Africa there is anti-selection for IQ and conscientiousness.

            If the West–and the East–simply “got out” of Africa—providing aid, shipping in Western food, medicine, goods and technology—there would be a population collapse. Eventually, after much chaos—but with knowledge of Western science and technology now around providing a different development path—–it is possible Africa (or some nations in Africa) would start to develop along more “Gregory Clarkish” lines, with higher IQ and conscientiousness “middle classness” being selected for as they were in England and the rest of Europe. But … it’s a stetch.

            Without imposition of a eugenic policy, Africa’s future looks rather bleak. I’d say its likely future is “Chinese labor camp” … except the Chinese don’t even need—as yet—African workers (who are rather crappy workers), they often bring a lot of their own people. “Chinese raw material supply depot” might be more apropos. Probably in the future, as China’s demographic squeeze hits, they’ll want African labor too. Regardless, Africa is a demographic disaster, and the proper policy is “containment”. Let Africans destroy Africa but keep them from destroying the rest of the world.


            Of course, precisely because selective pressures are in the wrong direction, all countries that want to survive need to get serious about crafting eugenic policies. Those that can figure out what combinations of “tradition”, “religion”, “nationalism” and government carrot and stick produce eugenic fertility … will win. Those that don’t, will lose. Those advanced nations—the West—that allow dysgenic immigration will “lose”—destroy themselves—much faster.

          • Ilya says:

            @AnotherDad: you are right about African workers not being good. There was recently an article in BusinessWeek that insinuated as such:

            This brings me to reiterate the point in the comments I made previously in

            As post-industrial capitalist societies become de facto welfare states, unless their governments do not emulate farmer-like selection of the past (but modifying it for upper white-collar success criteria) by:
            A) Decreasing the base rate of Social Security income to bare essentials (food, clothing, shelter, healthcare), perhaps even making some items government-coupon-based. 401K/IRA/etc. are excepted from limitations, of course.
            B) Making procreation & child rearing into a license-based, open market, investment & trading process with a future-income ownership stock issued along with a license, with real dividend returns attached to said stocks, as well as, for the immediate future at least, fixed-cost losses associated with buying said stocks; and
            C) Creating and, especially, long-term supporting many new jobs in science, engineering and math (not infrastructure building etc!); and
            D) Criminalizing unlicensed child-rearing
            Current dysgenic tendencies are set to continue for overwhelming majority of capitalist post-industrial populations due to skewed birth rates between higher-IQ and lower-IQ pairs, as well weakly/non enforced associativity of mating. (Continue, that is, until an equilibrium is reached that is defined by either the amount of automation and true demand for skilled labor or total ownership of physical assets by a foreign power. The latter case sets the demand for human capital to approx. 0 — for the co-located populations inside the foreign-owned assets’ domains — thus enabling the real possibility of the dismantling of the welfare state itself. Think of it as futuristic version of fall of an empire.)

            In very short: the solution to capitalism’s downfall is more capitalism and less democracy.

  2. James Miller says:

    Clark pretends to be politically correct and we economists go along with it. If an outsider attacked any specific claim of Clark’s for being racist Clark could easily defend himself using statistics and economic theory to present a politically correct justification for the claim.

  3. B&B says:

    “Some of the signatories probably don’t disagree with Wade on the biological reality of race, either, e.g., Jerry Coyne and Neil Risch.”

    Watching their backs.

  4. candid_observer says:

    The criticism of Wade leveled in the letter is, when unpacked, almost vacuous.

    Wade explicitly says in his book that the notorious chapter is speculation, running well past what has been established. Basically, the letter sputters over the notion that recent findings in population genetics supports those speculations–yet, again, Wade explicitly denies that they do provide such direct support.

    Of course, the real thrust of Wade’s book is not that current genomic studies show direct evidence for differences among populations in genetic distributions related to socially important traits. It is rather that everything they have shown is consistent with the existence of such differences: the genetic distances between the races and existence of regional differences in genomic patterns clearly lay open a path whereby such differences can arise. In principle, anyway, it might have turned out otherwise, with such studies showing instead how such differences would be, for one reason or another, very unlikely to have been produced. (Lewontin, in his confusion or hackery imagined that he had some such argument way back when.)

    Why didn’t the letter say something substantive, instead of the weak, almost tautological tea it offers up (our evidence doesn’t support what is acknowledged upfront to be pure speculation!!)? It might have said: contrary to Wade’s speculations, our research casts doubt on the idea that there are differences between populations on these traits. Of course, scarcely a one of those population geneticists would have been willing to sign such a letter (the worst ideological hacks excepted). They know that that claim would have been demonstrably false, and they would have had no way of saving face upon any demand that they back up what they asserted.

    And the letter deviates further into the vile by acting as if Wade was suggesting that the genes for IQ in particular varied across populations. Wade couldn’t have been more explicit that he was suggesting no such thing. But these letter signatories couldn’t stop themselves from laying that at his door, in the interests of a more repulsive smear.

    • P says:

      With 144 signatories, they had to concentrate on the lowest common denominator, which turned out to be pretty damn low. For example, some of the people on the list are vehemently against the concept of human races, while some others think that there are races in humans just as in other species, so they could not attack Wade’s conception of races head-on. The only thing they could agree on was that what Wade describes as speculations are indeed speculations, which is pathetic.

    • Barchester says:

      Of course, genes for IQ DO vary in different populations, and as a consequence average IQ varies greatly from subsaharan Africa(70 or less) to Japan or NW Europe (105) and there are boatloads of evidence to support this statement. Furthermore, this data is backed up by real world achievement data, from science to GDP/capita.

      • candid_observer says:

        Be that as it may, the direct evidence population geneticists have developed using genomic studies doesn’t (yet) support the claim that genes for IQ differ across populations, not least because so little is yet understood about which genes might have such an effect across all populations. So if population geneticists choose to assert that there methods provide no direct support for this idea, they are on firm ground–for now.

        Of course there is something ostrich like about pretending that, say, cross racial adoption studies provide no evidence regarding genetic differences, nor the different means to which the children of different races will regress, etc. But if population geneticists wish to say that that isn’t their proper domain, and therefore they can’t judge this controversial issue adequately as scientists, they are entitled.

        What they aren’t entitled to do is disparage those who do believe that such evidence is a good basis for reasonable scientific speculation and hypotheses, and attempt to close down discussion of the issue.

        Only dishonest scientists engage in that kind of behavior.

        • gcochran9 says:

          Actually, there is some evidence in on that question. The big education GWAS study last year found three replicable SNPs that influence educational performance. Here is their distribution:

          SNP Effective Allele Sign Yoruba Japan China Europe
          rs9320913 A + 0.181 0.326 0.419 0.508
          rs11584700 A – 0.958 0.633 0.700 0.758
          rs4851266 T + 0.042 0.455 0.578 0.358

          Three could be coincidence. Drift or linkage could pull the frequency of a given SNP in a different direction from the general trend caused by selection. If you had 17 out of 20, or 40 out of 50, you’d have a bulletproof case.
          How many people on that signature list would then publicly recant? Why, none of them, of course.

          • Roger says:

            “found three replicable SNPs that influence educational performance.”

            That is incorrect, they correlated 3 alleles that were replicated in the same population, they did not find that they influenced educational performance. They had an almost non-existent effect size too. Also some of those alleles are more common in people that do very badly at school.

            Highest polygenic score is among Kinh Vietnamese(majority population) They have 45, which is almost 5 above even Japan.

            Twin, GWAS and GCTA studies are still being questioned. Right to the very core of the assumptions they make.

            Be careful of jumping to conclusions.

          • Roger says:

            To clarify they had an almost non existent POSSIBLE effect size. Steve hsu says they should be even smaller than that.

      • SNPZ says:

        “Three could be coincidence. Drift or linkage could pull the frequency of a given SNP in a different direction from the general trend caused by selection. If you had 17 out of 20, or 40 out of 50, you’d have a bulletproof case.”

        If the alleles that are found first tend to have among the biggest effect sizes, selection-driven frequency differences should be larger for them. Very weak alleles with moderate selection might give a noisier signal. How visible to the naked eye would you expect the trend to be? How visible was it for height selection in Europe?

  5. I am especially curious about how Gregory Clark has managed to escape the wrath of the righteous guardians of “our field.” His brilliant economic history of the UK from medieval times up to 1800 is the most inflammatory book I have read in years. He proposes that Darwinian natural selection essentially bred a new version of humans, a version adapted to a stable society with courts and contracts, low time preference, aversion to violence, and middle class values. I have spent some time around economists and I hear none of them whining about Clark’s book, calling him a racist, and all the stuff a geneticist would get. How does he do it?

    I’m not that familiar with his work, but HBD’s not as controversial as it used to be & unless you say something inflammatory about a historically disenfranchised group, a lot of people don’t mind it.

    • candid_observer says:

      One reason that HBD might find more acceptance among economists than geneticists is that genetics is not generally involved in the study of socially important traits across populations, and economics can scarcely avoid such considerations if it wants to make important progress.

      A simple set of questions to ask is: How many geneticists devote themselves to genetic studies of socially important traits? How many economists do work that hangs on the distribution of socially important traits in populations?

      I can’t think offhand of a standard geneticist who devotes most of his time to the question of the distribution of genes for socially important traits across populations, rather than within populations, or who studies instead genes for medical, etc., traits. Some physical anthropologists with a training in genetics might do such work.

      But socially important traits are the basic stuff of economics — and other social sciences, of course. Economists, who tend to be less “liberal” to begin with, and more driven by the hardest science they can find, seem a fruitful area in which to locate potential HBDers. There is a LOT of low hanging fruit for those brave enough to pick from the Tree of Good and Evil.

  6. JayMan says:


  7. nooffencebut says:

    The letter says little, but it does endorse a stupid New York Times review by David Dobbs that claimed that the decades of research on the relationship between monoamine oxidase A and violence, which is just now producing positive meta-analyses, is actually “so uneven and disputed that many geneticists dismiss it outright.” Many geneticists? That sounds just like fossil-fuel industry shills attacking the greenhouse effect. The letter even claimed that Wade ascribed racial differences in IQ to natural selection, which he did not, as his response explained. Wade’s scholarship is far better than his critics. I just caught a couple of them posting data to a science blog that came from Wikipedia vandalism.

  8. Justin says:

    There’s a lecture on youtube that Clark gave back in AFWTA came out. In the question period, a professor-type is appropriately outraged:

    How does he get away with it!

    Maybe his charmingly naive delivery? Anyway, he’s a subversive for sure, wittingly or otherwise.

  9. Gregory Clark avoids opprobrium by not being too explicit. You were excited by the book, as was I, because we could extrapolate. Also, no doubt, because we read past page 17. Cavalli-Sforza makes all the correct noises in the early pages of his books, and then says what he likes later, and nobody seems to notice. It’s rather like twisting the tail of the dragon in early nuclear research: judge the distance carefully, and you don’t get hit by lethal radioactivity.

    • Gregory Clark avoids opprobrium by not being too explicit

      It’s more skillful than that. Even when he’s speaking explicitly about genetic transmission, he allows people to make the inferences they want about race, without himself uttering any falsehood. In A Son Also Rises Clark even comes close to saying on several occasions that group disparities have nothing to do with any underlying genetic differences, and everything to do with the accidents of immigration or other population movements carving out an unrepresentative sample of the original population. He does not actually say that, but his verbiage, his juxtapositions and his mode of analysis can convey that impression to readers predisposed toward that view. Thus, Clark discusses the underperformance of African-Americans and Hispanics in the same breath as Québecois settlers in New England and Louisiana. But in the latter’s case he explicitly ascribes their long-term underperformance to the accidental founder effects of a low-status group in France arriving in North America. He also applies the self-selection model to Copts in Egypt and (in reverse) to Muslims in India. So a reader can infer HBD and non-HBD conclusions from the same text, even though the HBD conclusions are the right ones.

      • JayMan says:

        “Thus, Clark discusses the underperformance of African-Americans and Hispanics in the same breath as Québecois settlers in New England and Louisiana. But in the latter’s case he explicitly ascribes their long-term underperformance to the accidental founder effects of a low-status group in France arriving in North America.”

        But since the French in Quebec don’t seem to score low on tests like the PISA, the founder effect behind low French Canadian performance in the U.S. wasn’t from crossing from France to Canada, but from Canada to the U.S.


        More Maps of the American Nations | JayMan’s Blog

    • B&B says:

      It was Wade’s being explicit that shit up the signatories. Sure Wade’s book included stupidity but thats not enough to get all those signatories.

      How many of them sincerely disagree with him in general principle? Might not yet be specific genes strongly correlating with differences between the behaviours of populations. But who thinks there won’t be? Really?

  10. Yudi says:

    I don’t know about The Son Also Rises, but in A Farewell to Arms Clark was very careful to attribute differences in both time and place to Culture (TM). While he speculated that people’s genes might have changed, he mainly declares that *culture* changed in various areas of the world due to millennia of brutal Malthusian pressures in the agrarian world.

    I don’t know whether this was in order to save his ass or because he really believed it at the time (later on, I believe he said he had come to think most of the changes were genetic), but it worked! Everybody likes cultural explanations because culture is perceived as easily changeable.

    • harpend says:

      He wrote a foreshadow of AFWTA that is still available on his website. I assign it in classes since it is shorter and terser than the book The title is “Genetically Capitalist”.

  11. Anonymous says:

    The West is a system open to the whole world who are necessarily of a disadvantaged race or proxy category just by being foreign. As Natan Sharansky has just pointed out : “Europe’s new ideology comes from John Lennon; let’s see the world without anyone having religion, or cultural identity, without state, without nationality. Europe has embraced this.”

    Clark gets away with it by talking about a closed system of whites. That would be the tack to take. The problem is, not everyone can go to Harvard, and there is rejecting of people who are qualified in every other way simply on the basis they are not of a disadvantaged race or proxy category. So how do you say that isn’t fair, without giving a biological explanation for group differences that will be seized on to make it seem like you are going out your way to call non-whites inferior. Emphasis on the genetic shortcomings of poor whites is the way only to mention IQ gaps are substantially genetic. So you may get away with talking about Appalachia, like Tiger Mom Amy Chua:-

    “At the other end of the spectrum, for many non-immigrant groups in America, poverty is deeply entrenched. For example, Owsley County, Kentucky, in the heart of Appalachia …[is] on of the poorest counties … in the continental United States.”:

  12. Patrick L. Boyle says:

    Thank you for posting on the group letter. I need all the help I can get.

    A couple weeks ago I wrote a favorable review on Amazon about Wade’s book. It was like taking on a full time job to respond to all the comments I got. The group letter was invoked a day or two ago by a commenter who had objected to my mild and cautious book review. I started to try to research and respond to all their accusations and protestations. It’s a lot of work.

    At first I thought it was like the famous Cook survey of climatologists that yielded the widely publicized statistic that 97% of all scientists favored the Global Warming hypothesis. I tracked that one down and found that Cook is not only not a climatologist – he’s an unemployed cartoonist who runs a website. He doesn’t have very impressive credentials for someone who tries to club the opposition down with an argument from authority.

    Also I see that in the MAOA debate an anthropologist has also attacked Wade in an article with citations taken from Wikipedia. The Wikipedia article was based on peer reviewed literature but someone – anyone can edit Wikipedia – had changed the numbers. No one seems to know who did it.

    So it becomes harder all the time to trust. I am going to try to examine what I can about all the signers of that letter and understand what they said. Wade had had a peerless reputation as a science reporter until he wrote this last book. Now it’s all torches and pitchforks.

  13. harpend says:

    Thanks. BTW I sent Greg a draft of the post before I put it up. He complained that I pulled my punches and that he would post a “real” comment. Stay tuned.

  14. FoolishReporter says:

    Hans Herman-Hoppe is probably the economist who most sees the validity in HBD. He’s essentially been expunged from the “respectable” circles of libertarianism/anarcho-capitalism for noticing that like groups with like and excluded unlike and that the best way for unlikes to get along is through trade with distance between them.

    • Carl says:

      I must admit I get a great kick out of seeing the more politically correct libertarians (e.g Roderick Long) squirm and denounce Hoppe. “Eek! What’s he saying?!”

  15. The 144 letter signatories apparently couldn’t agree on _anything_ beyond ‘speculative Wade is speculative’, and that there’s a lack of good evidence on topics that have been intellectually taboo, career-destroying, and grant-unfundable for decades (surprise!).

    If they really had the courage of their convictions, they would have outlined an empirical strategy for disproving Wade and protecting their Blank Slate doctrine, e.g. a large-sample, high-powered, multi-continent analysis of allele frequency differences on the thousands of loci that jointly predict cognitive and personality traits. It would only take a few tens of millions of dollars to find compelling evidence of negligible genetic differences across human groups in mental traits.

    Yet the signatories show zero interest in advocating for research that might challenge their world-view. I wonder what proportion of these 144 know in their hearts that such a project would stand an all-too-high likelihood of finding what they most fear.

    • Doc Edge says:

      Dear Professor Miller,

      The letter to the Times is not the place for the signers to lay out the type of research agenda you suggest. Some of the signatories are interested in worldwide phenotypic differences and are pursuing projects like the one you mention. It is just not the case that the signatories show “zero interest” in research that might challenge their view. (Indeed, there is no single world-view that the signatories share, as the first part of your note points out.)

      As an example, Graham Coop, one of the five geneticists who organized the letter, just this week published a new method for detecting polygenic local selection and applied it to a human dataset. I don’t think you’re right that the signers as a group “fear” any particular outcome of such inquiry. They just want to see that the inquiry is done right, is well-motivated, and is interpreted appropriately.

      I presume that the signers have their own views and speculations on what such studies are likely to show. One difference between them and Wade is that they wait for convincing data to come in before writing a book about their guesses. Wade writes that speculation has a role in scientific inquiry, and he’s right about that. But what role do Wade’s speculations specifically have in that inquiry? He’s not a geneticist, and he doesn’t talk with or collaborate with geneticists who could investigate his ideas. And even supposing that his speculations have a role, how does their inclusion in a popular book, next to a report of actual research, serve that role?

      (By the way, Wade’s reporting of the research is also problematic. As one example, he writes that his fourth chapter has the research that is least likely to be overturned, and indeed, the fourth chapter cites some very good studies. But Wade’s racialized interpretations of those studies are by no means guaranteed to stand–they are naive and out of step with the authors’ intentions, and Wade doesn’t acknowledge the substantial assumptions he needs to make to relate the findings to his own ideas of race.)

      As you know, population geneticists go to a lot of effort to make sure that their findings are presented in ways that prevent over- and mis-interpretations. (I’m sure you do in your own work, too. By the way, I’ve quite enjoyed some of your papers on the genetics of mental disorders.) I know you can appreciate that it’s irritating when someone makes those over- and mis-interpretations, wraps them up in a book, and juxtaposes the reporting of research with his own opinions.

      Doc Edge

      • candid_observer says:

        I’d have infinitely more respect for the intellectual honesty of these signatories if they had made even the following simple statement:

        “Our research has provided no direct evidence as to whether genes for cognitive and emotional traits might differ across populations. That issue remains a genuinely open question; either outcome is consistent with what we have determined to date.”

        Those signatories will NEVER agree to such a statement, as obviously true as it is, and as weak as it is. They must maintain the fiction that we can treat it as settled that such differences will never be found–and that is why they felt the need to phrase the letter as they did, impugning Wade’s motivations and understanding.
        Let me contrast this letter with the sort of statement that a scientist of real integrity might make. Here is what Robert Weinberg had to say in his final lecture for a biology course at MIT:

        “And what happens if one of these days people discover alleles for certain aspects of cognitive function? Chess playing ability. The ability to learn five different languages. The ability to remember strings of numbers. The ability to speak extemporaneously in front of a class, for what it’s worth, for 50 minutes several times a week.

        “Whatever ability you want, valued or not so valued, what if those alleles begin to come out? And here’s the worse part. What if somebody begins to look for the frequency of those alleles in different ethnic groups scattered across this planet? Now, you will say to me, well, God has made all his children equal. But the fact is if you look at the details of human evolution, some of which I discussed with you a week ago, last week, you’ll come to realize that most populations in humanity are the modern descendants of very small founder groups.

        “… So the fact is it’s inescapable that different alleles are going to be present with different frequencies in different inbreeding populations of humanity or populations of humanity that traditionally have been genetically isolated from one another.

        “It’s not as if all the genes that we carry have been mixed with everybody else’s genes freely over the last 100,000 years. Different groups have bred separately and have, for reasons that I’ve told you, founder affects and genetic drift, acquired different sets and different constellations of alleles. So what’s going to happen then, I ask you without wishing to hear an answer because nobody really knows?”

        Not a single one of these signatories appears capable of that level of intellectual honesty and courage.

      • Jim says:

        candid_observer – The over representation of Ashkenazi Jews among the outstanding mathematicians of the twentieth century is simply extraordinary. I don’t think it’s the result of wearing funny skullcaps and eating gefilte fish. I think it’s genes.

        • Jewish Mathematician says:

          I can tell you that it’s not the gefilte fish, which is absolutely vile and eaten only under duress. There is a P.O. Box in Schenectady where you can send $5 to get exam answers. That’s the secret of our success. 🙂

      • candid_observer says:

        One further point about the quote from Weinberg.

        I doubt that there is even a single statement he makes in that quote that any of these signatories would seriously dispute; I suspect that every one of them would have to accede to the truth and fairness of each sentence.

        Yet is unthinkable that any of them would ever utter anything equivalent to any part of what Weinberg says.

        What does that say about their level of scientific courage?

      • harpend says:

        @Doc Edge

        Thanks for your measured and cordial comment. I appreciate the tone but it gives me chills, especially this: “the inquiry is done right, is well-motivated, and is interpreted appropriately” If we were to insist on that science, would die in the water. This is a recipe for totalitarianism. Remember, for example, how Hitler insisted that there be no Jewish physics in the land?

        The preening and posturing in the letter we are discussing is centrally against the idea of group differences in DNA. A longer view would acknowledge that the twentieth century social science fad is based on and embraced the interesting idea that there are no such meaningful differences. Our textbooks refer to this idea as a “finding” of social science.

        Has it been “appropriate”? A plausible argument is that “social science” ranks alongside Marxism and psychoanalysis as the third great intellectual blunder of the twentieth century, associated with great political and moral mistakes and harm to many. I don’t believe for a moment that the “social science” movement caused anything: it just fostered a convenient ideology for those of a totalitarian inclination.

        I am sure you realize that the scare quotes around “social science” are there to distinguish the associated ideology from social science in practice, with which I have mostly admiration. We need a new word. Words that get tossed around here, with derision, include “liberals” and “Boasians” but neither one fits well. In politics I am a liberal, not those people. The political fad is bigger than Boas: we could as well in the political domain lay it all on Montagu or Benedict or Mead.

        • Doc Edge says:

          Dear Professor Harpending,

          Thanks for your thoughtful note. I agree with a version of what I take to be your main point–that science shouldn’t be crammed into a narrative constructed for political reasons, such as the “social science” one. (With the scare quotes representing a specific brand of ideologically-informed thought on group differences that you identify.) I also agree that there have been plenty of knee-jerk interpretations of findings about human diversity. I’m not pulling for those–when I said that the signers want the inquiry to be “well-motivated” and the rest, I was just referring to the appropriateness of mechanisms like peer review. Of course, peer review has its own costs and risks, but on balance it’s worked pretty well in genetics. I would also include under this same stipulation–and I suspect you’d agree at least in principle–that if the scientists involved think their work is being misinterpreted, they have a right to say so–just as Wade has a right to his own interpretations and speculations.

          What I don’t agree with is your identification of an alignment between the “social science” ideological movement and the recent letter from population geneticists. I know some of the signers, and some of them are just as fed up with the ideological commentary on their work as you are. The reaction to Wade is distinct from any alignment with “social science.” Some of the signers have proven publicly that they’re not in agreement with and will not be cowed by the “social science” point of view–Neil Risch, Esteban Burchard, Elad Ziv, and Hua Tang are notable examples–and many others are pursuing research that’s out of step with the “social science” perspective. I don’t see the “social science” posturing that you do in the letter–there’s no denial of worldwide genetic differences and no statement about how these differences might affect phenotypes. There’s just the claim that Wade’s guesses are nothing more than guesses at this point, and that by interweaving actual research with his guesses in misleading ways, Wade makes his speculations appear more solid than they really are and mischaracterizes actual research in population genetics. Orr’s review–which is, as you note, excellent–makes the same complaint at more length.

          By the way, for me, one of the most illuminating papers in figuring out how genetic differences between populations relate to phenotypic differences between populations is your 1983 Genetics paper with Alan Rogers. It ought to be more widely known.


          • harpend says:

            Thanks for your note. We may not disagree by all that much, although I have put in enough time as editor of one thing and another that I view peer review with a certain amount of disdain. It can certainly be very helpful but it very often serves to suppress novelty and innovation.

            Perhaps the core of our problem is that a large collection of eminent geneticists along with a collection of strays felt free to put together a pretentious pronouncement claiming that “they were genetics” and that Wade was abusing “their” knowledge. To their credit they did not sink to the level of vacuous semantics about race and how many races there are or were. This has dominated a lof of the web criticism of Wade and it is precisely as interesting as watching paint dry and as valuable as arguing about whether orange is a color or merely a mixture of red and yellow.

            What I found especially irritating and unseemly is this. The most interesting “speculation” in Wade’s book was his review of Greg Clark’s medieval history. Here is a case where we have the demographic data about resources and reproduction and all that and we have social and economic data, real data, on things like real income, standard of living, homicide rates, court records, and so on. There is nothing else like it under the sun.

            We also know or can make good guesses about the heritabilities of one thing and another, like time preference or aggressiveeness or others. Anyone who had taken AgSci 101 could put these together and compute, for example, what a plausible fall in the homicide rate would have been. And there are all the data set out so we have a unique and beautiful framework for applying and testing a quantitative genetic model of social change. This is on the edge of revolutionary but I wager that none of the signers of that letter would have much a clue about what I said in the last two paragraphs (except maybe Coop) nor any appreciation of what Clark did. The letter signers instead proclaimed that “they” were genetics and “their work” did not support Wade’s “speculations”. Just not seemly……

          • candid_observer says:

            You and the signatories write as though you sincerely care about whether people take current research in genetics and run well past the evidence in their speculations.
            But nothing could be more obvious than the asymmetry of your “concern”. You and they are completely unconcerned with such speculation if it suits your ideology. Countless articles and books have been written to advocate for the notion that races don’t exist, and that there are no average differences between population groups on socially important traits based on genes. A number of those writings also invoke genomic studies, if quite selectively. Do we hear a peep out of your side regarding how these beliefs are not supported by your studies? Why couldn’t the letter denounce speculation in either direction, noting that those studies say nothing definitive either way? Why single out for abuse only one side of those speculations?

            An interesting case in point in how much of a double standard is operating can be found in the views of one of the signatories, David Goldstein of Duke. Here’s a brief summary, written, ironically, by Nicholas Wade in the NY Times:

            “He says he thinks that no significant genetic differences will be found between races because of his belief in the efficiency of natural selection. Just as selection turns out to have pruned away most disease-causing variants, it has also maximized human cognitive capacities because these are so critical to survival. ‘My best guess is that human intelligence was always a helpful thing in most places and times and we have all been under strong selection to be as bright as we can be,’ he said.

            ‘This is more than just a guess, however. As part of a project on schizophrenia, Dr. Goldstein has done a genome wide association study on 2,000 volunteers of all races who were put through cognitive tests. ‘We have looked at the effect of common variation on cognition, and there is nothing,’ Dr. Goldstein said, meaning that he can find no common genetic variants that affect intelligence. His view is that intelligence was developed early in human evolutionary history and was then standardized.”


            I ask: does Goldstein’s expressed view – so obviously speculative — make even a particle of sense?

            To begin with, does Goldstein truly believe that the fact that his particular study didn’t uncover a common genetic variant underlying cognitive differences in any way stand as good evidence that there is no genetic basis for such differences? Can he not have been aware that that same situation stood for any number of traits no one would seriously dispute had a genetic basis?

            And what does it even mean to say that “we have all been under strong selection to be as bright as we can be”? That all genes related to cognition have gone into fixation across the human race? Or that, yes, genetic variance related to cognition remains in human beings, but each and every population group, however separated and however different in their social context and physical environment, simply must have been subject to precisely the same selection factors for all cognitive traits?

            If you want borderline crackpot speculation, well, here it is.

            But this sort of speculation will never be denounced by these signatories.

            Because the one thing their denunciation is NOT about is science.

      • DrBill says:


        largely because father-absence due to death of the father often seems to reverse the outcome of father-absence

        This is a little hard to follow. You think there is an environmental effect of father absence because the children of widows don’t suffer it? The fact that the children of widows are not nearly as messed up as are bastards and the children of divorce is usually taken as kind of threatening to the view that fathers are important. It seems that way to me.

        • harpend says:

          I apparently just succeeded in increasing the nesting level of comments from 3 to 5: a lot of us have trouble with replies because of the limit. Sorry about that.

          WRT your comment. Our model was that children were learning, essentially from their moms, an appropriate reproductive strategy to practice during development. The logic was that is mom said “your dad was a worthless SOB” then boys ought to learn and practice male competition and girls ought to learn and practice getting, say, a new pair of shoes from a male. If mom said “your dad was a saint and his loss was a disaster for us” then males ought to learn and practice parental investment and girls ought to learn how to pair with a reliable provider male, e.g. by being sexually reticent and virtuous and coy.

          So you I agree (still, after 32 years) agree with your “it seems that way to me”.

          • DrBill says:

            Thanks. I had not heard this environmental theory before. It’s not a literature I follow, so I only know what I pick up by reading the odd paper or talking to colleagues. I had taken the good behavior of orphans (vs bastards) as pretty strong evidence of a genetic causal mechanism (the story that James Thompson tells below). But the indirect causation through the mother theory is pretty interesting.

      • DrBill says:

        Goodness, I am incompetent. My previous comment obviously belongs further down in the thread.

      • JayMan says:

        “One difference between them and Wade is that they wait for convincing data to come in before writing a book about their guesses. Wade writes that speculation has a role in scientific inquiry, and he’s right about that. But what role do Wade’s speculations specifically have in that inquiry? He’s not a geneticist, and he doesn’t talk with or collaborate with geneticists who could investigate his ideas.”

        You know Doc Edge, that whole yarn is really bullshit.

        “Squid Ink” | JayMan’s Blog

  16. santoculto says:

    Recently I read in the blog of Robert Lindsay, considerations of a Danish psychologist about his work with the prison population of the country, basically composed of foreigners and Muslims.

    At no time psychologist coined terms like genetics or IQ. He often used the terms, ”culture” and ”brainwashed in childhood”, to explain the primitive behavior of most Muslim immigrants in Denmark.

    The psychologist concluded that it was not possible there was any form of integration between large part of the Danish population and Muslim immigrants.

    The way you speak or write can have major consequences. Modern humans really believe that words have some form of pernicious power.

    • That particular psychologist (Nicolai Sennels) is pretty dubious, so I wouldn’t trust his work. He may be right of course.

      • santoculto says:

        I just show the way he wrote his work. Instead of terms such as race, ethnicity, genetics or IQ, he preferred to have more sweet words like culture and psychological practices aimed at childhood trauma. He was smart.
        Some words are prohibited.

    • Dale says:

      You write, “Modern humans really believe that words have some form of pernicious power.”

      Certainly that is true. But how one speaks is often used to broadcast one’s group memberships, and to advocate political positions without stating them directly. You can usually determine the political orientation of a writer just by the use of certain phrases, ignoring completely the overt meaning of his sentences.

      You write about Muslim immigrants into Denmark. My understanding from the news in the US (where I live) is that Muslim immigrants into the US are much better integrated into the overall US culture than is the case for Muslim immigrants into Europe. At least, there is far less friction between them and the majority culture(s). I have not seen much investigation into why this might be.

  17. Gordo says:

    The letter itself is pretty weak, a non-denial denial?

    • BB753 says:

      Indeed, it sounds very much like Clinton’s lukewarm denial: I did not sleep with “that” woman.
      They feel guilty by association. And they know Wade is right. Beyond pathetic. What’s tenure for if not for the ability to tell people to go fuck themselves?

    • 420blazeitfgt says:

      Seems so.

      “We reject Wade’s implication that our findings substantiate his guesswork. They do not.”

      Since Wade admitted it is guesswork, isn’t this true? I wonder what would be considered substantiation – maybe specific genes?

  18. Blackman3000 says:

    Even Lamarck is making a come back these days.
    Guess it didn’t turn out as well as you guys hoped did it?

  19. santoculto says:

    It is only figurative, a theater for the general public. Ordinary people do not know where to begin nor where to end this matter. The masses are driven by cheap emotions inculcated by their masters.
    An entire work can be summarized in one sentence.

  20. efalken says:

    Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution is True spends 350 pages defending evolution. When it comes to humans, he allocates a couple pages to the concept of human races: he states they are real, mentions lactose tolerance and sickel cell anemia, and notes that “My guess–and this is just informed speculation–is that human races are too young to have evolved important differences in intnellect and behavior. [p. 216]”, and moves on. Wouldn’t evolutionary theory be most interesting applied to current humans, as opposed to mollusks in the Tertiary period? Why is the origin of horseshoe crabs so much more interesting to these people, than the origin of the differences in behavior between expressive Italians and taciturn Amerindians?

    • candid_observer says:

      Yeah, Jerry Coyne is real brave when it comes to confronting such intellectually formidable and powerful opponents as the Creationists. God only knows how many good friends he has lost and enemies he has made in the academy because of his bold position.

      That man is a real Profile in Courage.

      • I think there’s something to that. The purpose of discussing evolution in the public square seems to be to kick creationists. Then curiosity dries up. It seems rather tribal instead of scientific, That is mildly irritating when it is occurring in the popular media, but is more worrisome when more serious folks show the same thing.

      • Carl says:

        Kicking creationists is a cheap way to feel smart. I couldn’t care less if they taught their kids that Man popped out of an alien’s arse 3000 years ago.

  21. James Thompson said : Gregory Clark avoids opprobrium by not being too explicit

    It’s more skillful than that. Even when he’s speaking explicitly about genetic transmission, he allows people to make the inferences they want about race, without himself uttering any falsehood. In A Son Also Rises Clark even comes close to saying on several occasions that group disparities have nothing to do with any underlying genetic differences, and everything to do with the accidents of immigration or other population movements carving out an unrepresentative sample of the original population. He does not actually say that, but his verbiage, his juxtapositions and his mode of analysis can convey that impression to readers predisposed toward that view. Thus, Clark discusses the underperformance of African-Americans and Hispanics in the same breath as Québecois settlers in New England and Louisiana. But in the latter’s case he explicitly ascribes their long-term underperformance to the accidental founder effects of a low-status group in France arriving in North America. He also applies the self-selection model to Copts in Egypt and (in reverse) to Muslims in India. So you can draw HBD and non-HBD conclusions from the same text, even though

    • …the HBD conclusions are the right ones.

      • Indigene says:

        Clark is a little dishonest (intentionally misleading I mean) in his discussion of African Americans. He says that at a normal level of exogamy / assortative mating (0.5?), a group will regress fully to the mean after like 7 generations. But with no exogamy, it will not budge.

        So his theory says African Americans will get normal status if and when they mate assortatively with the general population for seven generations. It seems to me that the descendants with normal to high relative status will mostly not be of African American appearance by that point. By the time the low status is bred out, so will be the other distinctive features. Maybe I should do some calculations or a simulation to make the point.

        Also, I find his model a little weird. The random shock always comes from the population mean. So if you wanted a continuum of models with differing assortative mating coefficients or with different rates of endogamy (sample from the sub-population with prob a, or from the general population with prob 1-a), how would you do that? You know: Clark’s simple model encourages Galton’s confusion about regression toward the mean, namely, that it’s always regression toward the ancestral population mean.

        Probably I shouldn’t say this though. The lesson of Greg Clark’s escape from controversy is probably that it’s best to keep people from understanding too much, so that enough fragments of the truth can be understood as uncontroversial, and then by the time it hits them, it will be too late to turn back and pretend genes IQ etc don’t exist again.

      • Indigene says:

        Sorry, to clarify: his dishonesty is that he says that his theory implies that African Americans will become just as averages status as anyone else, after seven generations.

  22. Anonymous says:

    I take race classification as an oppressive system used to group me and thus infringe on my individual freedom. I could have space aliens for parents, 5 eyes and it still wouldn’t make a difference to me. I reject all classifications of race, because it threatens my freedom as an individual and also of those I care about.

    I hope I have the extreme violence allele, because I’ll enjoy flaying all of you alive. I’m just waiting for my

    • gcochran9 says:

      Well, you ought to think the flaying alive over carefully, because you might lose.

      • Gordo says:

        Methinks your violence allele must be coupled with our unfortunate pathological out-group altruism allele or else so many other of our alleles would end in your end, your final end. 😉 It will all come out in the wash, hopefully Persil.

      • Anonymous says:

        Not my fault, you give me little choice, you provoke and threaten my freedom, so I retaliate.

        You think I’m going to sit around letting someone else tell me what my identity is? Pfft.

        Its personal, genes are personal, identity is personal categorizations of people is personal, it involves persons. YOU started it not me.

    • Jim says:

      By your own admission your beliefs in this matter are based on emotion not reason or empirical evidence.

      • Anonymous says:

        Its based purely on reason.

        You are trying to impose some sort of category and or identity onto me. It is literally trying to control who and what I am in this world. That is a direct threat to my individual freedom. On top of that these are the same categories that have been used to oppress.

        Average allele variation, possible effects on “intelligence” or more nerds over there than jocks over here are meaningless to my argument because it does not change the bottom line.

        There is emotion involved, but its completely rational. You and your bed fellows threaten not only my freedom but also my well being.

        My violence, genetic or not is just me defending myself from the threat you created.

      • Anonymous says:

        … its also defending innocent others.

      • Jim says:

        Your “bottom line” is your perception of how acceptance of HBD beliefs might affect you personally. But how you might be personally affected by the acceptance of such beliefs has no logical relevance to the truth or falsity of various HBD beliefs.

        So your opposition to such beliefs is by your own admission based on personal considerations of what you believe you have to gain or loss by their acceptance not on an evaluation of the objective evidence.

      • Jim says:

        You are quite explicitly arguing for acceptance of your views on the basis of what you perceive to be your personal interests. I know nothing of your personal situation so I will accept your assertion that widespread belief in HBD would be contrary to your interests. But that fact has no logical connection to an objective evaluation of the evidence for and against HBD assertions.

        If a company say is manufacturing say a product like cigarettes then clearly widespread acceptance of a belief that cigarette smoking is unhealthy would not be in the interests of the company but that has no logical bearing on an objective evaluation of the health risks of smoking cigarettes.

        Your argument comes down to saying that I should accept your position because it is in your interest that I do so. Not to me a very rational argument in an objective sense of the word rational.

    • Jim says:

      When people threaten violence in an argument it suggests that they cannot think of any rational argument.

      • Anonymous says:

        My argument is perfectly rational. Its not even an argument it is a statement of fact.

        You want race categories which threaten my freedom and well being which makes you an enemy.

        I can go one step further too, because research into genes is another personal matter relating to possibly very volatile information that can be used to harm me and those I care about. People who endorse such things are among the supporters of Wade and HBD people.

        I’m just getting right to the bottom line here. I have family to think about.

      • Jim says:

        You feel threatened by some people’s beliefs so you threaten violence against them. Then you complain about others trying to control you. You seem to be much more of a control freak than those you complain of.

      • Jim says:

        Let me be clear that I don’t at present take your threats of violence very seriously. I think your mostly engaging in emotional ventilation.

    • Yudi says:

      How is threatening violence against people in order to make them do your will not oppressive?

    • Greying Wanderer says:

      “I take race classification as an oppressive system”

      Medical treatments that take into account group genetic differences (and eventually possibly even individual genetic differences) are going to be hugely beneficial.

      • Anonymous says:

        Individual system is already used, its more accurate, safer and does not interfere with personal freedoms.

        Either way your argument does not change the original fact.

    • Barchester says:

      Sheer lunacy.

      • j3morecharacters says:

        “You are trying to impose some sort of category and or identity onto me. It is literally trying to control who and what I am in this world.”
        This is a most extraordinary argument. If my medical card says I have B blood group, am I being categorized? Of course I am. Is it trying to classify or control me? No, it is reality that is classifying and controlling me. I cant accept A blood. If I dont like it, I can protest to God or bang my head against the Wailing Wall, not that it will help.

      • Anonymous says:

        Pfft I am not going to argue over the difference and effect of a blood grouping as compared to an entire “race” category.

        ITS SIMPLE:
        “race” categories are purely identity based and a construct by others. It is a system that has been used to control peoples entire lives, where they live, who they are supposed to be with etc. It does not matter what genetic cluster you can link using whatever method, it does matter weather there is a genetic cluster, weather I have horns or descended from creatures from another dimension. It does not matter to the fundamental fact of the situation here. The only thing that matters is that you are using whatever information that I gave you no right to acquire about my personal things to construct by your own choice a category that threatens my individual identity from before birth, It is you imposing your will onto me, it is Apartheid nothing else. SO I REJECT IT.
        Basically you can go stick all your groupings up your asses. You initiated the attack onto me first, you started this, you brought this on yourselves. The people who support the use of these groupings show exactly what their intentions are, it has been shown what it has been used for too. There is no denying it.

        This is a final statement. I will go as far as it takes to protect myself and those I care about, I will destroy and cause as much pain as needed to get it done.

      • Jim says:

        You are quite explicitly admitting that your opposition to HBD is based purely on your subjective feelings. Apparently all of science and human knowledge must be constructed to be in accordance with your personal psyche or you will rum amok in an explosion of violence and rage.

    • B&B says:

      What is an ‘individual’? Whats genetic is inherited from others, whats not genetic is from interaction with others. So what is an ‘individual’ and why does it even matter?

      Even more than the daft ‘human race’ myth this is a taboo most wont touch.

    • B&B says:

      How often do peopke here talk about race categories anyway? Categories people talk about here like the Jews are vastly more specific than termns like Caucasian. They only use white and black in USA context where they refer again to specific subsets of anthropological/continental races. (Blacks in the USA are from west Africa, the wotd white is a shorthand for people from Celtic & Germanic countries.)

    • Matt says:

      They’re trying to discover a preexisting category. Not create or impose one.

      I could… understand your reasoning (although if you’re really serious, you’ll probably die fairly soon, and all yours who support your line too).

      But will you also go after the likes of John Haidt (who is effectively attempting to discover an underlying political categorization logic) or Marxist influenced economists (who attempts to discover an underlying class / SES structure)? Such things also constrain your individual identity. Pretty soon you’ll find an ever expanding circle of flaying.

      • Toddy Cat says:

        This guy is basically saying “I reserve the right to kill anyone who disagrees with m, or who does any research that might disadvantage me in any way”. Of course, we know that this is how lots of people feel, but it’s refreshing to see it laid on the line like that.

      • Anonymous says:

        Its simple, genetic cluster does not mean anything to me. Thus I do not agree I am a part of any group based on it. Even if I had exclusive genes unique only to a group of organisms from Jupiter, that still wont mean squat to my identity unless I decide so and most of ALL it does not mean I have to accept your idea of what identity that I should have based on it.

        You can group yourself if you want I couldn’t care less but when you use “race” a system specifically designed and CONSTRUCTED using whatever to group me then it is an offence, a threat and literally imposing of your will onto me.

        Doing research itself into my genetic information that can be used to hurt me is also a big threat so I reject that too.

        I am not reserving a right. This is not even about weather you disagree with me or not, this just about facts. This whole thing does disadvantage me, it DOES threaten my freedom and also my well being. So I will destroy it however I can.

        • Sideways says:

          You’re either trolling, or psychotic. Either way, I don’t care what you think or feel.

        • Anonymous says:

          How does knowing your real identity hurt you? Families lie, historians lie and genealogists lie (sometimes wittingly, other times unwittingly), but your genes do not. That’s why one may get a genetic test and prove your Jewishness, Nativeness etc. etc. For this reason, I laughed my butt off one day when my historian friend, who is VERY into genealogy, told me he was scared of knowing his ancestry, because it might contradict the cockamamy tales he’d heard from his grandparents and great-grandparents.

      • Jim says:

        Anonymous – You are basically saying that your egocentric desires as to what reality should be override any factual evidence.

    • Dale says:

      The bitter truth is that race isn’t a matter of how one classifies one’s self, but how others classify one. And unfortunately, if an easily-visible feature of the humans in my vicinity is significantly correlated with with a not-easily-visible feature that is important to me (Is this person violent? Is this person honest? Is this person honest toward people like me?), there is a selective pressure on me to make the Baysean inference, to act upon the stereotype. This is not a particularly accurate guide to action, but it is inexpensive; in many cases, it takes considerable effort to learn the true nature of a person.

      I believe that there is evidence to support this theory: If one actually gets to know a person who is in an unfavored group, one’s assumptions about him are much reduced. But of course, in that situation, one has much better predictive evidence about him than simply his “race”, and one would expect a rational actor to discard the Baysean guess in favor of the more accurate data.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Does anyone know where to get a good pitchfork?

    • ziel says:

      You don’t really want the pitchforks to come out, do you? You know how that will end

    • Barchester says:

      Yes, and I know where to get much better weapons than that.

    • Kate says:

      Eldon, Iowa

      Your comment prompted me to look up a painting that I love, so that was a good thing. But what I want to know is, what were the origins of these people? where did their ideologies come from? and specifically, were they descended from Hungarian immigrants? Turns out, the people depicted are the artist’s sister and dentist so the quest was pretty pointless anyway. But, the thing is, Wikip tells me that of 927 inhabitants of Eldon in 2010, 98.4% were white. What use is that?

      To me, the whole debate is nuts; both sides are right and both sides are wrong. Terminology has baggage, we don’t use the word spastic anymore, quite right. But people themselves group themselves so it’s pointless pretending they don’t.

      And my question remains:

      btw Pseudo’ramus, have you tackled Gothic yet?

      • ziel says:

        OK I’m going to try to answer your question (at the link above), because I don’t really know but this is what I’ve gleaned from the various convos – maybe my less-than-half-informed answer will spur one of the actual experts to chime in.

        There is a program (I forget what it’s called) that is more-or-less pre-grammed to discover the already-identified ancestry-informative markers, and this is what the anti-racists complain about – that racial categorization assumptions are built into the model.

        However, if you just run a PCA (principal components analysis), these racial/ethnic categories will just spill out onto the page. PCA is just a way to pull out the largest chunks of variance in a set of data, so these geographically separated pops show up as obvious clusters in the results. And PCA is not voodoo like Gould liked to contend – it’s the basis for real-life applications like facial recognition.

        Now hopefully someone will chime in with a better-informed response.

      • Kate says:

        Well, thanks, Ziel, that’s what I thought. I’ve used PCA before, but not in this context, so I’ve always assumed that the clusters would emerge from the data, rather than being imposed on the data. The argument seems to revolve around selecting the number of clusters to identify, which is something like using more or less powerful lenses in a microscope; it doesn’t actually negate any of the clustering, just provides more or less detail, e.g. of how big clusters are made up, i.e. starting with one cluster, the total human population, and moving down to many, many clusters for localised ethnicities. But why has the discussion got so out of hand, why is this simple fact seemingly so difficult to explain, I think it is because the realists refuse to give up the r word and so the discussion gets side-tracked, which isn’t doing biology any favours.

      • Kate says:

        Isn’t that all the more reason to find acceptable ways to explain reality? If HBD has to give up the r word in order for wider acceptance of biodiversity, wouldn’t that be worthwhile?

      • Kate says:

        Good. You could be right that it wouldn’t help but a well argued thesis, as to why it wouldn’t, would be very useful. Because it would at least, hopefully, illuminate the fact that liberals are arguing against a label and have no real counter-theory to biodiversity. Clines have to start and finish somewhere after all. And often what they call a cline is actually a radiation out from a point.

  24. soren says:

    From the critique section of the hugely influential(especially in law) UNESCO 1951 statement on race

    Click to access 073351eo.pdf

    Sir Ronald Fisher has one fundamental objection to
    the Statement, which, as he himself says, destroys the
    very spirit of the whole document. He believes that
    human groups differ profoundly “in their innate capacity
    for intellectual and emotional development” and con-
    cludes from this that the “practical international problem
    is that of learning to share the resources of this planet
    amicably with persons of materially different nature,
    and that this problem is being obscured by entirely well
    intentioned efforts to minimize the real differences that

    Fisher’s attitude towards the facts stated in this
    paragraph is the same as Muller’s and Sturtevant’s, but
    this is how he puts his objections:
    “As you ask for remarks and suggestions, there is one that occurs to
    me, unfortunately of a somewhat fundamental nature,
    namely that the Statement as it stands appears to draw
    a distinction between the body and mind of men, which
    must, I think, prove untenable. It appears to me unmistakable
    that gene differences which influence the growth
    or physiological development of an organism will ordinarily
    pari passu influence the congenital inclinations
    and capacities of the mind. In fact, I should say that,
    to vary conclusion (2) on page 5, ‘Available scientific
    knowledge provides a firm basis for believing that the
    groups of mankind differ in their innate capacity for
    intellectual and emotional development,’ seeing that such
    groups do differ undoubtedly in a very large .number of
    their genes.”

    I have to wonder how many of these signatories would still take Dobzhansky, Huxley, and Haldane’s side over Fisher.

  25. Greying Wanderer says:

    “How does he do it?”

    it flatters elite egos. if he said the bulk of the change came from people in the middle (yeoman farmers, masons, blacksmiths etc) expanding upwards and downwards then it would be different.

  26. dave chamberlin says:

    The funniest review of Nicholas Wade’s book “A Troublesome Inheritance” over at Amazon books comes from one Gordon Smith who pans the book calling it “a poorly disguised rewrite of the 10,000 Year Explosion.” Ha!
    My guess is Cochran, Harpending, and Gregory Clark would have also received the honor of a command of silence from hundreds of concerned geneticists IF their books had sold as well and IF they previously had held the position of science writer over at the New York Times.

    We cant wish away the fools anymore than they can wish away that evolution doesn’t apply to us when we don’t want it too. Keep plugging Greg.

  27. Josh says:


    I just realised that MIT professor Scott Aaronson links to this blog on his own popular blog.

    That’s pretty weird, but hopefully it means your ideas are getting through. Or maybe you just know him personally.

  28. jb says:

    I was very unhappy with the second half of Wade’s book. Despite his early acknowledgement that the ideas he would be examining were speculative, when he actually got around to examining those ideas, all too often he treated them as established fact, rather than merely intelligent and plausible hypotheses (which is what I think they are at this point). Worse, again and again I found myself groaning and rolling my eyes at what I felt to be unsound arguments in favor of good ideas, imagining how those arguments could be dissected by a hostile reviewer. The first half of the book was quite good, but the second half was a disappointing botch! Frankly I’m kind of surprised that the book has gotten any positive press at all. I wonder if some of the reviewers might be secretly sympathetic to HBD? Could be…

  29. Reader says:

    Let’s call this letter what it is: A politically correct witch hunt.

    Burn the witches!

  30. Isn’t it obvious? The Japanese never had to distinguish between the “l” sound and the “r” sound, so naturally that never got programmed into their genes. Which explains why Japanese children born and raised in the USA speak English with a Japanese accent.

    Chinese music has been pentatonic and essentially monophonic for thousands of years, so naturally they lack genes enabling them to adequately perform Western polyphonic music using the major and minor scales. Why people like Sarah Chang and Yo Yo Ma just make fools of themselves when attempting to perform the great masterpieces of Western civilization.

    And of course everyone knows Jews will never make decent farmers. They worked almost exclusively as small businessmen, traders and financiers for many thousand years, so there was no way farming could have seeped into their genes. By the same token, as everyone knows, they make lousy soldiers — for the same reason.

    But gosh darn it, they sure are smart. Kinda makes you wonder though, since Jewish women were not allowed to learn reading and writing until relatively recently. Too recently for it to have seeped into their genes. Which explains why Jewish men are smart but Jewish women are stupid.

    • gcochran9 says:

      ” Jewish women were not allowed to learn reading and writing until relatively recently.” Sure they were. I know my medieval Jewish history – don’t you?

      There have been many attempts to argue Jews into farming over the past century or so. They mostly collapsed rapidly. Not so much because they couldn’t do it, as that they liked doing other things far more.

      Chinese is a tonal language.

      Let’s line things up. Behavioral genetics has shown that most psychological traits are fairly heritable, IQ more than most. In a given society, people with some psychological traits are going to do better – have more children than average – than others. That society then selects for some trait profile, one that on average has higher reproductive fitness. This is an inevitable consequence of quantitative genetics. Struggle against it all you want.

      Different occupations would of course favor different traits, but generally, butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers all intermarried fairly freely, so you don’t see selection for a particular job in most societies- except for farming, because in most societies ~90% were farmers. The Ashkenazi Jews were not farmers, instead had various white-collar jobs, unlike any other population. They also had almost zero intermarriage with the general population around them, which is unusual in Europe but not unknown in some other parts of the world. That is the situation that would select for being better at white-collar jobs: and it did.

      Although most of the payoff for more smarts happened in men, that automatically selected for brains in women as well. It is harder to select for sex differences, because most genes have similar expression in both sexes. About 80 times harder, but you knew that, right? Because if you didn’t have a fair knowledge of quantitative genetics and selection, you’d be blithering to no purpose, and I’d hate to accuse anyone of that.

      If you want to disbelieve this, you first need to learn to disbelieve in behavioral genetics. When you run into identical twins that act so similar as to be hard to tell apart, avert your eyes. When someone talks about breeding some variety of dog to be more gentle, cover your ears. Or, disbelieve in heredity. Embrace some new-fangled bullshit like Lamarckism, the latest thing in 200-year old crap. Or you might just give up logic itself: I recommend that option, because it can be applied to many other aspects of life where reality makes you unhappy.

      • I was deliberately being facetious, to point up the absurdity of some of Wade’s more preposterous notions. He seems to believe that any trait that can’t easily be explained on the basis of cultural transmission is most likely to have a genetic origin. As the counterexamples I provided demonstrate, he is wrong.

        My (Ashkenazic) grandmother was the only woman in her village who could read and write — and it’s hard to believe things were very different in other Jewish settlements all over Eastern Europe. In any case, intelligence was certainly far down the list of desirable attributes for a Jewish wife, and in many cases it was considered a drawback. Jewish women were valued primarily for their ability to produce Jewish children. And as far as the men were concerned, the Jewish community always strove to find a mate for everyone, not only the most learned. And as far as the most successful people having the most children, wow, where does THAT come from? Look around you! Or go just about anywhere in Africa or India.

        Now if half a population is not selected for intelligence, it’s hard to see how the other half could make up the difference — and in a time period of only a few thousand years. As you say, “most genes have similar expression in both sexes.”

        That said, I’ll add that I have no problem with the possibility that certain behavioral traits could be transmitted genetically. But any hypothesis along such lines must be 1. falsifiable; 2. tested according to strictly scientific methods; 3. replicable.

        Wade’s arguments along such lines are not objectionable in principle. What’s objectionable is his eagerness to speculate on, and thus revive, some of the most patently racist, bigoted, theories of the past. Nothing he has to say about any of these depends on scientific research, it’s just a rehash of old, tired, patently racist ideas refuted long ago.

        I’ll add one question: why is it that the revival of such thinking is important to you? Or would you rather argue that the mainstream geneticists and anthropologists are the only ones with an agenda?

        • gcochran9 says:

          It is true that Jewish religious education was focused on boys. But Jewish women, back in the day, often learned to read, keep accounts, etc. This all varied from place to place, and over time as well. Jews in Eastern Europe had high birth rates and overflowed their niche: they got poorer. And the general state of the country they lived in made a difference: in the 19th century, Germany was much more progressive than Russia.

          According to the US census, in 1902, 78% of Jewish male immigrants could read and 60% of Jewish women. It was was probably higher than that a few years earlier – the character of Jewish immigration was changing, becoming more Russian. A couple of decades earlier it had been predominantly German Jews. Note that this level of literacy was lower than for US natives.

          As for more successful people having the most children – that’s the way it was, before the demographic transition. Try to imagine a world that was actually different from what you see around you. Back in the day, no part of the world had a food surplus, at least not for long: if it did, population increased until the surplus was gone. We call this a Malthusian situation, and it describes almost all of history (and prehistory too).

          In a Malthusian world, there were still rich and poor. Population as a whole was roughly constant, but some people had more children and some had fewer. There were rich and poor: the poor couldn’t feed a large family and the rich could. And that what’s historical demography shows, in those places where we have sufficient records: the prosperous outbred the poor, often by quite a bit. Most of the time.

          Motives. Achieving an accurate description of reality is desirable. The social sciences don’t share that view.

          • I have no idea what you’re talking about. Obviously the working classes greatly outnumbered the wealthy, or the latter would not have been wealthy. The peasantry plus all the urban workers had to outnumber the wealthy or else no work would have gotten done, no profits would have accrued and hardly any taxes would have been paid. Maybe you never heard the expression, “God must have loved the poor as he made so many of them.”

            I fear you’ve let yourself become the victim of confirmation bias. I have no doubt that someone somewhere came up with such statistics, but clearly they make no sense.

          • Ilya says:

            [My apologies to Dr. Cochran for interfering here]

            @Victor Grauer: read Dr. Cochran again. He is not saying that the rich outnumbered the poor, but that the rich were outproducing (progeny-wise) the poor.
            However, although the rich did have a higher number of surviving offspring, the ratio of wealthy to poor remained about constant (it had to, given the food/resource constraints and a more-or-less fixed population size, as described by Malthus), meaning that most of the rich people’s children had to go down the social ladder, to eventually become either part of the poor (who, remember, were also child-poor) or exit the community altogether. In the case of Ashkenazi Jews, both options above were pretty much the same outcome — or, at least, roughly speaking (see penultimate paragraph).

            Hence, Dr Cochran is describing the process by which the genes of wealthy (or whatever helped people become & stay wealthy), became more and more common within the host populations.

            The above is what constitutes, essentially, Prof. Greg Clark’s “Farewell to Alms” treatise, which also describes how in England this process was especially prevalent, before the onset of Industrial Revolution.

            Back to Ashkenazi Jews: they occupied a certain niche in their host societies, and the people who tended to stay within the community were those possessing the genes that allowed them to prosper within said niche (money lending, tax collection). In this case, due to the peculiar nature of primary Jewish occupation in Western Europe, these genes were ones that conferred advantage in quantitative skills. These genes got spread out via the process described above (the wealthiest families strongly out-breeding the poorest ones). Since these genes get expressed in a similar way between men and women (with, perhaps, some minute differences, of which I am no expert, but which do manifest in the fact that there are considerably more male geniuses than female ones, but which is off-topic) — the high-IQ potential exists for both men and women of Ashkenazi heritage, and said potential is, on average, higher than in other human ethnoses and populations.

            Now, you may rightfully object that a lot of Ashkenazi Jews were employed in occupations that had nothing to do with money-lending, in their respective shtetls. That still does not negate the main point: since they did not (could not, since prohibited from landownership) practice farming, most of the food had to be brought (bought) into the community from the outside. They also could not sell their services as artisans (at least, not until later stages). Most of the poor artisans, butchers, etc. worked to sustain the people inside the shtetl, not outside, as this was forbidden to them. Hence, again, most of the sustaining resources had to be bought by the wealthy members of the community. This fostered a very high degree of cohesion. However, despite community’s help to its poorest, the main point here is this: the rich Jews still strongly outbred the poor ones, which means that every small and poor artisan could trace his lineage to a rich moneylender grandfather/great-grandfather etc. And that kept going for generations and generations.

            As to the situations going on in Africa and India: this is the result of both rapid industrialization (India) and influx of foreign aid and introduction of hygienic standards (Africa and India): both of these things give huge survival and procreation advantage to people indiscriminately of their social status within their societies. And similar (especially, with respect to industrialization) had happened in Europe starting with the onset of Industrial Revolution, much earlier. I can go further, but it would be off-topic.

            • gcochran9 says:

              You’re saving me the effort, thanks.

              Pretty much right. By the time that most Ashkenazi Jews were living in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the typical high-income job was being a tax farmer or estate manager, rather than moneylending.
              It’s important to note that some people moved up the social scale, too: some landless laborers acquired land (although that was difficult), some middle farmers became wealthy, some poor Jews moved up the occupational scale, etc. The people moving up were not a random draw: they were on average somewhat different from the class they originated in. The people who dropped in social class were also somewhat different, and those differences were moderately heritable. Run this process for a long time and the population changes in the direction of the traits that increase the probability of high income.

          • amac78 says:

            Victor Grauer wrote (August 12, 2014 at 10:27 am) in response to gcochran9 (August 11, 2014 at 1:11 pm ) —
            I have no idea what you’re talking about.
            This claim is supported by the inaptness of Victor Grauer’s original parodic comment (August 10, 2014 at 7:19 pm), and by his subsequent exchange with Greg Cochran.

          • “Run this process for a long time and the population changes in the direction of the traits that increase the probability of high income.”

            So you’re saying Ashkenazic Jews also have higher incomes than other ethnic groups?

            Why wouldn’t this same process apply everywhere? If higher income people are more likely to reproduce, then the genes for high income would by now be all over the place, not only among Jews, but also Europeans in general, Asians, Africans, etc.

            And why assume a correlation with IQ? A great many highly intelligent people do not have high income. Why not aggression, competitiveness, ruthlessness, selfishness?

            • gcochran9 says:

              As a matter of fact, the income of Ashkenazi Jews is well above the American average, even after you correct for their high average age. You didn’t know this?

              We think that IQ is more helpful in success in a white-collar job than it is in farming: not that it doesn’t help succeed in farming, but it doesn’t help as much as it does in finance. In other populations, the great majority of people were farmers, and so the trend of natural selection among farmers dominated. The Ashkenazi Jews, in the period we’re talking about, didn’t farm and didn’t intermarry with farmers.

              Of course there are peoples that were hunter-gatherers until recently and were subject to very different selective pressures. Nothing close to wealth selection, because there really wasn’t any wealth in most hunter-gatherer societies.

              There probably was selection for personality factors, not just IQ. But we have a lot of data on IQ, and on its heritability: we don’t have nearly as good info on other personality characteristics. It’s easy to lie on a personality test and say you’re something you’re not – it’s harder to pretend to be smarter than you actually are. So that’s what we’ve talked about.

          • “As a matter of fact, the income of Ashkenazi Jews is well above the American average, even after you correct for their high average age. You didn’t know this?”

            More confirmation bias. Yes, in relatively recent years, opportunities have opened up for Jews, especially American Jews, which contributed to the income of many. Whether their collective income is above average I have no idea, and I’m wondering what your source might be. However, if you had taken a survey of Eastern European Jews around the turn of the century, you would have seen a dramatically different picture. The hordes of Jewish immigrants to the United States during that period were not exactly affluent — most were impoverished. And the ones who remained in the old country were hardly better off.

            Your theories are based on all sorts of assumptions, most either untested or untestable and others simply wrong or else, as in this case, highly selective. If you want to see Germans as inherently violent, aggressive, idealistic and self destructive you can point to the Nazi era. If you prefer to see them as hard working and practical, you can point to the present time. Same for the Japanese. If you want to see Jews as intelligent and financially successful you can point to the present day. But if you prefer to see them as ignorant and living in filth, which is how the Nazis perceived them, you can point to living conditions for impoverished Jews in Eastern Europe.

            Today the most successful athletes tend to be “black,” but when I was young there were hardly any black athletes. Most were of Polish, Italian, Irish and, yes, Jewish descent. Many of the best known boxers were either Jewish or Italian. Sorry, but sociocultural issues DO make a difference.

            • gcochran9 says:

              Ashkenazi Jews have the highest income of any group in the United States. ~2% of the population, they make up 24% of the Forbes billionaire’s list. You don’t know that, or much of anything else about Jewish history and accomplishment.
              I dug fairly deeply into Jewish history, genetics, accomplishments, psychometrics: if you want to learn more, go read our book.

              But there’s no point in talking to you about this stuff here: you are far too clueless.

          • “But there’s no point in talking to you about this stuff here: you are far too clueless.”

            That’s usually what it comes down to in the end, isn’t it? — the tried and true ad hominem. Quite a bit of that on this blog, I’ve noticed. And by the way, I’ve read your book.

          • Ilya says:

            @Victor Grauer:
            Germans having higher than usual (baseline West & North European) predisposition towards violence is more or less rubbish, nothing like that has ever been proposed in this blog (in my recollection), which is in line with statistical and/or validated evidence collected from long-running processes (not merely anecdotal!) of history and prehistory.

            Many Jews were indeed poor when they come to the US (heck, my own parents were really struggling when we came to this country in the 90’s, and we lived in a crappy ‘hood) but there is not much difference here with most other US immigrants in that particular regard. Hence, there is absolutely no informational content provided by these facts.

            On the other hand, Samoans and violence… Oh, but I digress!

            I’ve observed (and participated in) this exchange. I can confirm that what I’m seeing here is a truly bright person (Dr. Cochran) wasting his time on a probably respectable, well-meaning, but nonetheless, non-receptive (at least, with regard to anything that requires thinking statistically and being able to comprehend large numbers and long-running processes!) person (you). You keep not understanding (or running away from) things he states all the while putting out nonsense he absolutely did not state (re: Germans and violence), whether facetiously so or just from not really listening. Alas, sometimes there is absolutely no way to explain basic things to a person who is barely capable of grasping them — whether because he is truly mentally weak or is stuck in a mantra-like inner dialogue or both. You are probably in the second category.

            In this particular instance, Dr. Cochran has definitely much more important things to do for society through his research and posting in this very blog than spending more than one or two comments trying to educate older composers and musicologists about things they can actually look up from trusted sources like Bloomberg, Forbes, the US Census records, as well as other cited ones — if they really bothered to. I am amazed at his reservoir of patience with you and others like you, actually.

            As to me, I am a frequent reader of this blog, a software engineer for my day job, but I’ve tried (and succeeded) to use my brain cells to find out ever fuller picture of the truth concerning the structure of humanity and workings of society, even if uncomfortable — instead of filtering out things and vocalizing contrarian positions in order to feel how kindly and morally superior I am.

            I think you are in general against accepting the view that genetics can shape psychological and mental aptitude characteristics within not a very high number of generations, no matter the selective pressures. Perhaps, for starters, you can look up some literature on tamed foxes: This is an excellent example of selection for psychological traits. As a side reading, see some amazing results achieved for cow milk yield within short time The latter is not a mental trait, but nevertheless it shows that a single well-defined trait can be quite quickly selected for (or against).

            Just try to imagine times when people where undergoing some fairly strong selective pressures of their own!

          • JayMan says:


            “There probably was selection for personality factors, not just IQ. But we have a lot of data on IQ, and on its heritability: we don’t have nearly as good info on other personality characteristics. It’s easy to lie on a personality test and say you’re something you’re not – it’s harder to pretend to be smarter than you actually are. So that’s what we’ve talked about.”

            Yup, measurement error. Other-rating appears to correct for a good bit of that though. Peer-rated studies push the heritability of personality in the range of IQ:

            More Behavioral Genetic Facts | JayMan’s Blog

            Of course, that said, it doesn’t completely solve the problem, or we’d have more reliable cross-cultural applicability of personality tests.

      • harpend says:

        @ Victor Grauer

        Re your grandmother. We think that process we descried in our paper on Ashkenazi intelligence stopped around 1700 or before so we would not expect your grandmother to have participated.

        You ask ” why is it that the revival of such thinking is important to you? ” Why do you psychoanalyze us like this? Why do you think that we think that it is important? Who cares? I think that there are interesting and testable hypotheses floating around in the area that are low hanging fruit but I wouldn’t use the word “important”. I also find the cat fight aspect of the whole business fascinating and amusing.

        I “fight” on both fronts. An old interest of mine is the consequences of father-absent households for child development. My favorite idea is that there is a real environmental effect, the only one from traditional “social science” I ever found convincing (largely because father-absence due to death of the father often seems to reverse the outcome of father-absence). Colleagues in genetics sneer at my hypothesis: it is all genes, they say, particularly the androgen receptor.

        • B&B says:

          Reminds me of Holly Dunsworth’s question about what good it would be if everyone agreed race was real. Which, was a fair question. But so is the reverse one, the one no one dares ask. What good is it to believe in ‘one human race’ or to treat everyone as an individual without further context?

          Why is only one ‘side’ asked to question their beliefs?

          • Dale says:

            You write, “What good is it to believe in ‘one human race’ or to treat everyone as an individual without further context?”

            That is certainly a legitimate question. But there are answers, as well. One issue is the tendency of humans, whenever a society is divided into largely-endogamous groups, to engage in combat along clan lines. This often isn’t done by violence, but by various sorts of “discrimination”, treating people non-equivalently based on their group membership (my group vs. not my group). We’ve discovered that this is not desirable because it reduces the overall competitiveness of American culture vs. competing cultures — because of the reduction of economic productivity, etc. And since this tendency is very deep in the human psyche (probably genetically-imprinted), it’s difficult to stop. But reducing the degree to which people think of, and speak of, other people as members of such groups helps to reduce this effect. And as I said, this can be profitable (for society as a whole), despite that it can involve preventing people from acting on information that is predictive (in the Baysean sense) regarding even non-discriminatory goals.

            We have enough history to see the group identification of Americans change over time. The assembly of the large faction “whites” happened in stages. It’s sort of funny to read a late-1800s quote, “A wop isn’t white, he’s a wop!” If we can integrate the wops and the Irish, we can similarly integrate the blacks — once the presumption of endogamy falls, it only takes a couple of generations to eliminate all underlying genetic distinction.

            In US culture, relative to “blacks”, the problem is intensified by the lingering ideology of slavery. Around 1750, slavery was largely a matter of personal status; the law recognized that different people had different statuses that gave them different political and legal rights. Being a slave didn’t mean that one was intrinsically worse as a human, it just sucked to be you. But being an indentured servant was fairly similar, and even being a servant meant one was on a lower plane. What you really wanted to be was a male landowner. And these statuses weren’t assumed to be racial — there were black landowners in the colonial southeast who owned black slaves.

            But as the passion for “equality” swept much of the law of personal status away, the rising profitability of slavery forced the creation of an ideology to explain why slavery was OK. The result was a theory that blacks were intrinsically unfit to be free. This was amplified by various measures to keep slaves in a state of dependency (owner-provided services that free families would have provided themselves) — reducing their skills for independent living supported the ideology. After emancipation, their classification as a separate group, and deliberate use of them by factory owners as a competing group of workers, maintained the sense of competition between them and the Euro-American groups, motivated the Euro-American groups to continue their discrimination against blacks, and continuing to propagate the ideology that they are intrinsically inferior.

          • harpend says:


            Your model is interesting but it would be hard to convince me. For example this:

            “But reducing the degree to which people think of, and speak of, other people as members of such groups helps to reduce this effect. And as I said, this can be profitable (for society as a whole), despite that it can involve preventing people from acting on information that is predictive (in the Baysean sense) regarding even non-discriminatory goals.”

            suggests to me that you brought your rose-colored glasses with you from the 1970s. I observe that forcing people to “think of, and speak of” others in the correct way generates hypocrisy and resentment. Is there some corpus of evidence out there that could resolve our different perceptions?

        • JayMan says:


          “I “fight” on both fronts. An old interest of mine is the consequences of father-absent households for child development. My favorite idea is that there is a real environmental effect, the only one from traditional “social science” I ever found convincing (largely because father-absence due to death of the father often seems to reverse the outcome of father-absence). Colleagues in genetics sneer at my hypothesis: it is all genes, they say, particularly the androgen receptor.”

          A fatherlessness effect doesn’t seem to turn up in the behavioral genetic data, however.

      • Richard Sharpe says:

        Chinese is a tonal language.

        Yes it is, but it seems to be qualitatively different than music in the sense that all Chinese dialects/languages I am aware of use both level tones and tone contours.

        I am not a musician, so I cannot comment on music all that much but it seems from the little I know about sheet music and the presence of keys or fixed pitch holes etc, it uses combinations of level tones only.

        While Mandarin is described as having four tones, one level and three contour tones, it should, IMO, because of tone change rules and the presence of the so-called neutral tone, be said to have two level tones (third tone before another non-third tone being the second level tone), three tone contours and a neutral tone.

        Cantonese seems to have the most tones, with three level tones and four tone contours (although Chinese people will claim that there are nine, but that is due to double counting tones of syllables with p, t, or k endings).

        In any event, according to this article on History of Classical Music Traditions

        Chinese classical music is the traditional art or court music of China. It has a long history stretching for more than three thousand years. It has its own unique systems of musical notation, as well as musical tuning and pitch, musical instruments and styles or musical genres. Chinese music is pentatonic-diatonic, having a scale of twelve notes to an octave (5+7 = 12) as does European-influenced music.

        So, the original claim about Chinese music seems to be wrong. (I know it was a parody, but incorrect parody is ineffective.)

        Is there any musical tradition that relies on tone contours?

        • Pentatonic is a simplification — as is the supposed scale of 12 tones in Chinese music, which is largely theoretical. More to the point, Chinese music, both folk and classical, is completely different from Western art music, the tuning is different, the melodies are different, it is largely either monophonic or heterophonic, and aside from the traditions of certain minority groups in the south, never polyphonic (until the 20th century). Which makes sense, since the two traditions developed in a completely independent manner over many thousands of years. Yet the children of Chinese natives have proven fully capable of mastering every type of Western polyphonic music.

  31. Greying Wanderer says:


    “Individual system is already used, its more accurate, safer and does not interfere with personal freedoms.”

    Nope. The recognition that population genetic differences – on all scales of population from continental race scale to the remote village scale – is going to have immense medical consequences.

  32. Dale says:

    You write, “I am especially curious about how Gregory Clark has managed to escape the wrath of the righteous guardians of “our field.””

    My guess is that part of it is that economists as a group are politically more conservative than geneticists. And geneticists aren’t going to read a book by an economic historian. Also, Wikipedia claims that Clark did get a bunch of flak for his book.

  33. @harpend

    My question regarding the importance so many attach to the notion of race and racially inherited traits was not addressed to you, but to the many individuals now surfacing in the wake of Wade’s book, who so strongly support even his most tendentious assertions — and are so eager to dismiss anyone who questions them as following some sort of “liberal” agenda — as though they themselves had no agenda of their own.

    And by the way, so long as I have your attention, I’ll state that I have no problem with the notion that Ashkenazic Jewish intelligence could have a biological component, but I’m wondering whether this has actually been demonstrated in a scientifically controlled manner. It seems to me that there is only one truly objective way to test this hypothesis, and that is by testing an economically and culturally homogeneous group of Ashkenazic Jews, all from, say, the same class in the same neighborhood school, and then comparing the results on the basis of how many Jewish grandparents each one has. If those with the most Jewish grandparents score higher than those with fewer, and such a result could be replicated, then I’d be willing to admit that intelligence has a genetic component.

    And I’m wondering: to your knowledge, has such a study ever been done?

    • harpend says:

      No such study that I know about. It should be not difficult save for finding an appropriate sampling scheme. David Goldstein, who knows what he is doing, published with a colleague a PCA from SNP chips of Ashkenazi and non-Ashkenazi differences. If Dropbox does not lie it is at

      The five “kinds” of people in the sample are easily distinguishable but a few apparently have wrong ideas about their own ancestry. If David could simply get something like GRE scores for this sample that would be a start.

      • myb6 says:

        Some things to consider: outbreeders and inbreeders differ (Reform IQ > Orthodox IQ), outbreeding might show highly-assortative mating.

      • @harpend.

        This interests me. Do these results reflect IQ?

        Can you provide a link to the article?

        • harpend says:

          I think there are no IQ data mentioned in the article. It is at

          Click to access gb-2009-10-1-r7.pdf

          not gated.

          • Thanks. The paper is very interesting, but the results are not surprising, since the study was limited to genomic markers and Jews do seem to have been relatively isolated as a population for a very long time. Now all that would remain would be to see whether a similar PCA would be produced on the basis of IQ.

            My guess is that it would not. But if it were, then I’d certainly have no objection, despite my liberal “bias.”

            • gcochran9 says:

              Genetic isolation has come and gone in the Ashkenazi Jews. There was a lot of intermarriage in the early days of the Diaspora in Italy – Ashkenazi Jews are about 55% European, mostly on the maternal side, from Italy and France. Then there was a long period in the Middle Ages in which gene flow from outside was very low, while recently (last couple of generations) intermarriage has become the norm.

          • Bruce says:

            Mr. Grauer,
            I think this is supposed to be a blog on genetics and anthropology, not politics and philosophy. That said, I believe that leftist bias is pretty dominant in contemporary Western politics and philosophy. “Liberal”, properly speaking, refers to the libertarian position (liberty, freedom, individual autonomy, etc.). The dominant political and philosophical belief is a hybrid of liberalism and leftism (victomology-focused equality) with most people somewhere on a continuum between pure liberalism and pure leftism.
            People that display beliefs that are outside of leftism and/or liberalism are (demonstrably) vilified, punished, etc. That’s reality, so yes, we think there’s definitely a dominant “liberal bias.”
            BTW, I don’t speak for the authors nor am I a dedicated reader or esteemed commentor.

    • Ilya says:

      @myb6: interesting. Could you refer me to actual data/research to support this (“Reform IQ > Orthodox IQ”) assertion? I am particularly interested in understanding these differences within the Ashkenazim. I also would like to know how old the study is. From what I hear, true ultra-Orthodox community was not as sizable, say, 100 years ago as today (though Jews, in general, were probably much more serious about observance).

      Personally, I’ve been going back and forth on that one: on the one hand, there is no longer selection for intelligence within the Orthodox communities, and if there is, I don’t see it (among, especially, the Hasidim). On the other hand, plenty of so-called evidence for associative breeding between secular Jews and non-Jews may merely be anecdotal (that is, unless you consider Drake, a hip-hop persona, to be a real illustration of the phenomenon).

      One of my own grandparents is non-Jewish, but a very sharp, ambitious lady (got 3 MA’s and had a great career in Soviet Union). She is 3/4 Russian, 1/4 English (there was a sizable community of English merchants residing in Riga in the 19th century). My grandfather, who, ironically, is descended from Jewish merchants of the First Guild, married her post-WW2, but there was huge degree of dumb luck (God?) in this particular case. They only had 1 child, my father. On the flip side, I also know of Jews who married, similarly, “for love” — but I am not sure that the IQs of their spouses were that high… But, again, I may be wrong.

      • myb6 says:

        Ilya, sorry, no citation, it was just something I read on one of the many HBD blogs. The important point was that the grandparents-test needs to adjust for inbreeder/outbreeder differences. I wondered about assortative mating purely because that’s the general American behavior these days.

        An aside: I wish there were more follow-up on other high-IQ groups. The Episcopalians would be particularly relevant for analyzing US history and for comparison with UK Anglicans and their incredible 19thC achievements. There’s an additional fascination there as they’re not a particularly-closed population. There’s also the Iyers/Iyengars and maybe the Parsis or Banyans in India. Also, the diaspora Lebanese, particularly Lebanese Christians, seem particularly successful/mercantile, it’d be interesting to see if there was an intelligence factor.

        • Yes, it would be good to study other mercantile groups such as the Lebanese. There is one paper by Dennis, 1957 using the Draw a Man test on 502 5-10 year old children and coming up with an IQ of 82, but I would not rely on this as an indicator. However, mercantile groups do not necessarily follow the same restricted marriage patterns as were forced upon or were adopted by European Jews, so they might be no more than a practical selection of the permeable brightest of population, two standard deviations above the local mean.

  34. Kate says:

    “father-absence due to death of the father often seems to reverse the outcome of father-absence”

    Professor Harpending, could you say something more about this, please? Do you think the death of a father could prompt higher than expected achievement? What studies/observations have led you to think this might be so? I can think of two examples in which that is the case. How would such an outcome come about do you think?

    • harpend says:

      Thanks for the question. I haven’t had any familiarity with the literature for 25 years so, like you, I have read snippets here and there about the the paternal orphan effects I mention but I don’t have any systematic knowledge and I haven’t kept track of the snippets.

      Pat Draper and I wrote a paper in in 1982 that has held up well. There are references to the matter in our bibliography.:


      in particular this paper:

      Hetherington, E.M., 1972, Effects of Father Absence on Personality Development in Adolescent Daughters. Developmental Psychology 7:313-26.

      is a must-read. It is a period piece: the best and the worst of psychology in 1972. Careful experimental design, scrupulous analysis, no trace of a hypothesis. The conclusion is that father absence leads to “inappropriate” sex-role behavior, or something like that. Daughters of widows and daughters of divorcees were at opposite ends of the spectrum, daughters of widows were extremely coy and conservative, avoiding males. Daughters of divorcees were flirtatious and sought out males.

      This was all before the findings that father absence by itself caused a six month advance in age of menarche. I won’t bore the list with a lot of description of the Heterington paper but please do read it and enjoy it: think of it as a visit to a museum.

      • Richard Sharpe says:

        This was all before the findings that father absence by itself caused a six month advance in age of menarche.

        Was this for all father absence? That is, was it also true when the father absence was caused by the death of the father?

        I ask because it seems that this could be either because absent fathers were passing on genes for earlier sexual maturation or because earlier sexual maturation was a response to father absence and it would be useful to know which is the case.

        • harpend says:

          Thanks, yes it would indeed be interesting. If I had read the literature since the early 1980s I might know but shamefully I do not. I am losing my faith that real soon now the right graduate student will walk into my office wanting to pick up the banner.

  35. A simple hypothesis is that a dead father is a normal person who had very bad luck; an absent father is one who has put his interests above those of his children. Very probably, these fathers differ in their characters (consider that phrase another visit to a museum) and possibly even in their genetics. The bereaved family deal with the sorrow of misfortune, the abandoned family with the pain of rejection.

    • harpend says:

      We told the story that children were “learning” an appropriate reproductive strategy from their mothers. If mom tells the girls that dad was a worthless SOB then go for a new pair of shoes from a guy. If mom says “your dad was a saint” then a girl should be coy, cautious, virtuous, and reluctant, in order to go for a male to provide a lifetime of investment.

      • Dale says:

        There was a recent paper that examined the daughters of the sisters of women who were abandoned by their husbands. It turned out that those daughters showed the same patterns as the daughters of women who were abandoned. The version that got into the popular press was that the source of the difference is that some women have more open sexual behavior, and don’t screen their mates as intensively for dedication. And not surprisingly, their daughters have the same behavior.

        Now I may well be remembering it quite poorly. But if you’re interested in the subject, it’s probably worth tracking down.

  36. IC says:

    Writing in coded way with indirect approach to sensitive subject is more acceptible than writing style which can be understanded by average mental ability.
    English gentlemen are just most polite types in the world. Spending some time with typical English upper class, their behavior is most pleasant. They sure know how to present sensitive subject without offending you.

  37. Julian says:

    I suspect Clark gets away with it because he doesn’t explicitly talk about race? If he identified changes amongst Europeans relative to Africans I suspect he would attract more of the vitriol Wade is getting. Also, Clark steers clear of IQ.

  38. Steve Sailer says:

    I don’t think Gregory Clark is all that well known. Wade championed him in the New York Times, but Wade also championed in the NYT the idea that race does exist for much longer and we see how much progress that idea has made.

    I suspect there are a tiny number of generalist intellectuals who have been influenced by Clark (e.g., Yglesias, Cowen, etc.). I suspect there are a larger but still tiny number of people who get Gregory Clark and Gregory Cochran confused and don’t want anybody to call them on their confusion. And then there are the immense majority of people who are without a clue.

    • DrBill says:

      He is well-known among economists, so this does not seem like a good theory for explaining why economists don’t shun him. Well, unless you are saying that we don’t shun him because he is not well-known outside economics and, therefore, does not bring opprobrium on us. That is, we would shun him if all the beautiful people showered hate upon him. Now that I say it, I think that is what you mean, and I think you are right.

      So, the question is why don’t economists shun him spontaneously, say the way cultural anthropologists shun deviationists. I’d say that’s because economists are somewhat high functioning sperg lords, and the whole shunning deviationists thing is not very spergy.

      • Anonymous says:

        Economists have been interested in race since back when Becker (1972ish?) wrote up a simple mathematical scheme to show how simple rules of association could lead to segregation I think.

  39. Steve, I agree with your observations that the immense majority of people are without a clue, and that includes most of the people you have generously described as generalist intellectuals. However, I think that Gregory Clark is less known for another reason: his graphs. They are not the simple ones used by humble psychologists, in which the good things go up and the bad things go down or, if that should prove too complicated, simpler bar chart comparisons. Clark uses graphs with intercepts, and the problem is evident in Fig 2.1 about long run equilibrium, and then again in Fig 2.3 for changes in the birth rate schedule. You have to think about them, and his explanations include notations, which means you have to think harder. Stephen Hawking observed that each equation in a popular physics book halved the audience.
    Jared Diamond in “Guns, Germs and Fibs” did not make that error. No graphs, a few maps and lots of pictures.
    Clark knew all this, and wrote “A Sixteen-Page Economic History of the World” at the beginning of his book. I think we have to get him to issue that as a book for generalist intellectuals.

  40. A Farewell to Alms was very controversial amongst economic historians, but not for the survival of the richest thesis, which passed (almost) without comment from economic historians. But Clark’s contention that the English economy was Malthusian all the way up to 1800 is extremely controversial and disputed by most economic historians. (But I think Clark is right.) Within economic history AFTA is known for its radical Malthusianism whereas amongst the general readership of AFTA almost the only thing that gets any attention is the “survival of the richest”.

  41. Dale says:

    IMHO, the key word is “misappropriation”. A part of this concept is that something was taken by someone who had no right to take it, and for an evil motive. In this case, the collective body of geneticists “owns” this subject matter, and others have no right to comment on it other than as licensed by that body. And in this case, the geneticists don’t approve, for some combination of reasons scientific, ideological, or self-interested.

    This reads like a comic overstatement, but I’ve run into it several times, where someone objected that I was opining on their academic turf, and that I had no right to do that.

    Ah, I just dug up this: a graph of what fraction of people in various academic disciplines are “liberals” Economics 55%, Biology 75%

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