A few left-wing biologists are trying to spread the meme that highly polygenic traits are unstable: they might play out entirely differently in a different environment, presumably in a way that  zeroes or reverses any trait differences that they don’t like.  This is a  defensive play: they’re trying to prepare you to disbelieve in the logical implications of likely near-future research results.

As I have pointed out before, there is no reason to believe  that polygenic traits are especially unstable,.   Since most products of natural selection are polygenic,  if this were  true you’d all the time be seeing complex adaptations go screwy when you moved the species to a new continent or whatever:  this doesn’t often happen.  On the other hand, it does happen when you move Pak from Pak-home to Earth: tree-of-life root doesn’t grow here, due to the thallium shortage. Maybe that’s what they’re thinking of.  But that’s a typical product of insidious tnuctipun genetic engineering, not natural selection: it was a designed-in failure mode.

One interesting example: how do hits for educational attainment work in men vs how they work in women?  Despite what feminists may say, those are substantially different environments – hormonally quite different, for example, and with a fair amount of differences in the central nervous system – like brain volume, relative amounts of grey and white matter, etc.

So, what are the differences in how EA snps work in the two sexes ( yes, there are only two)?

Apparently, there are no such differences.


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53 Responses to Stability

  1. Ziel says:

    That perspective – that a DNA profile that predicts higher educational achievement in Europeans can’t be expected to predict the same in Africans seems very radical to me, almost suggesting that the African brain is, from a European perspective, an alien brain, or that African DNA is radically different from European DNA. To a layman it’s very puzzling – first they tell us our DNA is so identical there can’t be any differences, but now they’re telling us it’s actually so different you can’t expect that what works in a European will have any effect in an African.

    • mkum says:

      They’re not suggesting that, they’re suggesting the brains are the same but that the environments are radically different.

      Of course though I’m sure if there is a study that looked at a person from population A who grew up in the typical environment of population B – but found he didn’t end up with the expected negative or positive effects (Ashkenazim or Asians growing up in the ghetto?), they will have a reason for why the environment for that person wasn’t truly B-typical.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Some existing PRS scores ( based on data from Europeans) really do have far lower predictive power in Africans. Height for example. The thought is that they are often detecting things linked to causal variants, not the causal variants themselves, and that the linkage patterns differ between populations. Not the kind of fundamental biological differences you’re wondering about.

      • Yudi says:

        Thanks for explaining this because I had wondered the same.

      • David Chamberlin says:

        I have been reading a wonderful book”Longitude The true story of a lone genius who solved the greatest scientific problem of his time,” by Dava Sorbel. I mention this oddball tidbit for two reasons. First I need little excuse to plug a good under appreciated non fiction book and secondly the greatest scientific problem of our time is the genetic underpinnings of optimum brain function. The leftist biologists just can’t stand the idea that we aren’t all born equal and they are very slowly retreating from facts that perniciously state otherwise. The polygenetic trait of height is interesting because it is vastly simpler to figure out, like latitude. Africans are six inches taller than what is predicted meaning they have their own batch of height increasing alleles that have yet to be discovered.

        If and when the greatest scientific problem of our time is solved it stands to reason that Mr Einstein squared will gather alleles from all the farthest reaches of humanity, especially Africans and maybe even Denisovans. Mr Einstein squared may have to be spoon fed his gruel but babying the drooling fellow may prove worth it as he now and then scribbles out mathematical doodles that benefit mankind.

      • Stephen says:

        Very interesting indeed. I don’t doubt that you have references to back this up: pardon me if, in my ignorance, I ask what they are,

  2. Michael Daxhammer says:

    Strong and true closing line from you, Dr. Cochran. But why not do the next step and ask like Pulitzer Prizes winning NYT journalist Amy Harmon, why one should do studies looking at differences in traits between populations at all? But then again her two articles that resulted in a immediate forced virtue signaling statement of the ASHG at their conference seem to be particularly driven by her late discovery of the progress in genetics over the last 5 years and the possible future combination of aDNA, big GWAS samples, PGS and living population groups. Maybe you could put her logic driven mind at ease.

  3. Dylan says:

    I’ve never understood why VE of polygenic traits is supposed to be greater than monogenic traits. It was explained to me as “more opportunities for environment to influence = greater environmental influence” but .2 x 1 should still equal (.2 x n)/n no? Maybe I’m dense.

  4. Ken says:

    I took a freshman philosophy course that was a combination intro to philosophy and a sort of ‘ethics for engineers.’ One of the texts was Ringworld. (I had no interest in Niven before that, but I ended up reading almost everything he ever wrote.)

    So, yeah, I really appreciate the reference!

    • Tnuctipin antedate Pak by likely several hundred Myears. Tree of Life virus had to coevolve (or be co-designed) with Pak genome. Seems unlikely.

    • Phssthpok says:

      I picked up The Integral Trees when I was 15 (1984). From the cover I thought it was a fantasy book. I read it in one sitting and it blew my mind. The only sci-fi I’d read before then was Heinlein and Bradbury. I turned into a “hard sci-fi” nut, and went on to read all of Niven, and almost all of Greg Bear, Gregory Benford, Robert L. Forward. I’ve personally made at least 20 people read Inferno, (mostly people with no interest in sci-fi) and all had high praise. So yeah, love me some Niven.

  5. Dimitris Panagotis says:

    The +EA [=IQ] SNPS already found in solely European-ancestry GWAS are found at marginally higher frequencies in Northeast Asians, right?

  6. The problem here is that to see these differences, we need to purposefully look for them, and this is a taboo. But why do you say they don’t exist? It is quite common for something to be under sexually antagonistic selection. Even more for EA which is IQ + some other things.

    • gcochran9 says:

      EA snps apparently have the same effect in men and women.

      • PEL says:

        Is this published somewhere? In Lee et al, Nature Genetics 2018 the only results I could find that discussed sex were for the X chromosome. For the X, looks like they assumed that the SNPs have the same effect up to an overall factor.

  7. The Z Blog says:

    I recently was at a dinner where a left-wing biologist was telling us that phosphorylation proves that heritability of cognitive traits is determined by environment. I’m over-simplifying, mostly because my mind drifted to unpleasant thoughts, but my take away was that like the poor, the environmental determinists will always be with us.

  8. Larry, San Francisco says:

    I have been thinking that having many small impact genes would be helpful for moving into new niches. Suppose there are 100 random genes in a population and that in a new environment it would be best (i.e. make the population fitter) if they all were 1 (or turned on). Even if you assume at an initial period the genes were completely random, you would expect after 10 generations or so that most of the genes would be 1’s for most of the people. However in that population there could still be some 0 genes and if the environment changed they would start predominating. Consider South American Indians living in the Altiplano in the Andes their genes can be found in many other humans but (I presume) with an overabundance of alleles that help individuals survive in high altitude. Tibetans, on the other hand, have a unique gene that allows them to thrive at high altitudes better than those in the Altiplano but the Tibetans will do significantly worse if moved to lower altitudes.

    • gcochran9 says:

      Altitude tolerance in Tibetans is different ( and more effective) than in Andean Indians. Some of the genes in Tibetans ( EPAS ?) must have largish effects. Some definitely came from Denisovans.

      As for how well Tibetans do at low altitudes vs Andean Indians, I don’t really know.

      • Abelard Lindsey says:

        I think the Tibetans have been around a lot longer than the Andean Native Americans.

        In any case, I have a funny story to tell about this high altitude adaptation stuff. Some years ago (maybe 10 years ago?) Steve Sailer posted something about the high altitude adaptation of Andean natives and how the “white” people of Bolivia all live in the lowest altitude part of Bolivia and have trouble giving birth at the higher altitude areas. About a year later, there was this political discussion about China and Tibet on a discussion forum for my graduate business school (Thunderbird). I dropped in on the discussion by stating that the Chinese will not be able to “colonize” Tibet because Han Chinese women will have trouble with childbirth on the high Tibetan plateau. I cited the same information that Sailer did on his blog the previous year to support my argument. I cited the source materials but did not mention anything about Steve Sailer since he is one of those bad thought criminals.

        What ensued can best be described as a collective emotional meltdown in the discussion. I thought it quite hilarious myself. I got quite a kick out of it.

          • Pale_Primate says:

            It does seem that Han newborns there have a greater likelihood of having problems, but it isn’t 100%. There are a lot of Han and the gov’t doesn’t have a problem with forcing its people to move places they may not want to live. I think if their is a red gov’t will, there will be a way.

            To compare maternal and neonatal outcomes of Tibetan and Han Chinese women delivering vaginally at high altitude (3650 meters) in Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, People’s Republic of China.

            Comparative analysis of data from a prospective observational study of Tibetan (n = 938) and Han Chinese (n = 146) women delivering at three hospitals between January 2004 and May 2005.

            Han Chinese women had higher rates of pre-eclampsia/gestational hypertension than Tibetan women, (10.3% vs 5.9%, P = 0.04). There was no difference in rates of postpartum hemorrhage between Tibetan and Han women (12.8% vs 17.1%, P = 0.15). Han newborns weighed significantly less than Tibetan newborns (P < 0.01), and were twice as likely to be small for gestational age, (24.5% vs 11.6%, P < 0.01). Tibetan newborns were less likely to have poor neonatal outcomes than Han newborns (P < 0.01).

            In high altitude deliveries in Tibet, adverse outcomes were significantly more common among Han Chinese.”


    • Greying Wanderer says:

      “I have been thinking that having many small impact genes would be helpful for moving into new niches.”

      i was thinking the same but maybe there’s a difference between traits that are on a gradual sliding scale of optimal for a particular niche and traits that are more or less required to make a particular niche habitable?

  9. dearieme says:

    “A few left-wing biologists …”: why do people choose to ply a trade where nearly every fact is politically unpalatable to them? A form of masochism? An ambition to corrupt the trade? What can explain it?

  10. Jay says:

    Isn’t that pretty much just the “nurture” side of the old “nature-nuture” debate? I thought we’d pretty much established that the dominant influences were genes and nonshared environment (i.e. luck), with controllable environment having a fairly small role.*

    For the typical range of environments experienced by people in the First World, and not chattel slavery or a zombie apocalypse or something similarly extreme (which probably would have substantial effects).

  11. Greying Wanderer says:

    “highly polygenic traits are unstable: they might play out entirely differently in a different environment”

    isn’t that the point?

    wouldn’t having highly polygenic traits mean you’d get a smooth bell curve so if that trait was in balancing selection it would only take minor differences in environmental selection to nudge traits like those towards their individual optimal median for that environment – so wouldn’t viscous instability like this be optimal for the behavioral traits of an intelligent species?

    for example say you had the big 5 personality traits and IQ and those 6 traits were each on say a 7 point scale that gives you a pretty huge number of total possible personality combinations and the median personality types for each environment would be the optimal ones (over time)

    (genes as transistors?)

  12. Holiday Inn says:

    “So, what are the differences in how EA snps work in the two sexes ( yes, there are only two)”

    I know what snps are, but what are EA snps?

  13. Jacob says:

    Maybe this is part of a trend in the bullshit-cycling. First, quantitative traits were hard to select for.

    Then this newer one, the traits are just so unstable.

    In both cases, I think it’s worth noting that they don’t seem to be using evidence anymore, or even going to the effort to falsify it like Gould did. It simply isn’t needed.

    Is this more likely brashness, or desperation?

    • Yudi says:

      The science of quantitative traits is so obscure to the vast majority of the population that they don’t have to use evidence to convince people. Remember, most still think upbringing accounts for them.

      • Jacob says:

        I hear you Yudi. Most people just have their heads stuffed with this pigshit whenever some “academic” feels like psychologically abusing the public in this manner.

        But, it’s interesting to me that their tactics might have changed.

    • Toddy Cat says:

      Yes, the hard core nuturists have reached that stage of argumentation known as “making sh*t up…”

  14. Nomen Est Omen says:

    So, what are the differences in how EA snps work in the two sexes (yes, there are only two)?

    But Isaac Asimov had fun speculating about more in The Gods Themselves (the title being from Schiller’s Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens, “Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain”):

    The main plot-line is a project by those who inhabit a parallel universe (the para-Universe) with different physical laws from this one. By exchanging matter from their universe—para-Universe—with our universe, they seek to exploit the differences in physical laws. The exchange of matter provides an alternative source of energy to maintain their universe. However, the exchange will likely result of turning our Earth’s Sun into a supernova, and possibly even turning a large part of the Milky Way into a quasar. There is hope among those in the para-Universe that the energy explosion does happen in our universe. […]

    The inhabitants [of the para-universe] are divided into dominant “hard ones” and subject “soft ones”. The latter have three sexes with fixed roles for each sex:

    • Rationals (or “lefts”) are the logical and scientific sex; identified with masculine pronouns and producing a form of sperm. They have limited ability to pass through other bodies.
    • Emotionals (or “mids”) are the intuitive sex; identified with the feminine pronouns and provide the energy needed for reproduction. Emotionals can pass freely in and out of solid material, including rock.
    • Parentals (or “rights”) bear and raise the offspring, and are identified with masculine pronouns. Parentals have almost no ability to blend their bodies with others, except when helped by one or both of the other sexes.

  15. reziac says:

    Once saw a chart, which now I can’t find again, showing mutation rates among various species. IIRC domestic dogs were #1 by a wide margin, followed by humans. Yet dogs, not even purebreds (which by definition possess a lot of mutations away from the species norm) don’t morph into Something Completely Different if dropped into an ‘alien’ environment, despite that many canine traits are highly polygenetic.

    In fact we have multi-generational test cases — frex, an almost-entirely isolated population of Labrador Retrievers in 1930-1960 Australia (an environment about as far from Labs’ native land as you can get on settled Earth), which nonetheless did not vary much from their distant cousins in Europe and North America. If anything, the Australian lines better preserved the ancestral type. (And also missed out on the covert crossbreedings that are usually at the root of significant changes in breed type, and which were not uncommon in Europe.)

  16. MEH 0910 says:

  17. Pingback: OCTOBER DIARY: Help! 23andMe Says I'm Peter Brimelow's Cousin; Narrative Defenders Fighting In Last Ditch; the Moon...And Mars and Venus; Etc., by John Derbyshire - open mind news

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