Too smart for your own good

Thinking aloud about engineering intelligence, again. There are two categories of alleles that affect intelligence: near-neutral SNPs that boost or decrease IQ, the things that make up the PRS score, and genetic load – uncommon, unfavorable mutations which everyone has some of.

Generally someone who is unusually intelligent has both more-than-average  + PRS-type alleles and fewer-than-average unfavorable mutations. Having less genetic load is probably good in many ways ( up to a point).  Having fewer unfavorable mutations (‘systems integrity’) may explain the longevity advantage we see.

If you have lots more PRS-type + alleles than average, you are probably going to do worse in some other traits.  Neutral means there must be disadvantages associated with the advantages.

If you have enough PRS-type plus alleles  and sufficiently few deleterious mutations, are way out on the curve, you’re going to end up with a phenotype that’s seldom or never been seen before, and has essentially never been tested by natural selection.  Almost certainly something will go wrong. Same is true for height, although in that case we understand the failure modes better ( square-cube law, if nothing else).

Question: are some existing people already far enough out on the curve to begin to show signs of such problems?








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90 Responses to Too smart for your own good

  1. Rosenmops says:

    I have worked for many years in a math department of a small university. I would say that some of the faculty are a bit odd, personality-wise. Also a lot of left-handed people, for what that is worth, One guy had a slight tick. Some are just sort of introverted. One guy’s mother is seriously mentally ill and he seems a bit peculiar himself–but a very smart guy.

    But many of them seen normal. And even the odd balls are good people. I don’t know how they would compare to a group that didn’t all have math PhDs.

    • M says:

      If mathematicians are “odd”, it’s no more evidence of the oddness of high-IQ people than the fact that porn actors tend to have mental problems is evidence of attractive people being prone to mental illness.

  2. catte says:

    Ted Kaczynski?

  3. Eugine Nier says:

    Paul Erdős. Brilliant mathematician, barely capable of functioning in society, and that only because people were willing to “babysit” him. One gets the distinct impression that if he had been born in any environment other than early 20th century Budapest, he would have become just another low functioning autistic “retard”.

    • Mikeja says:

      Lots of mad mathematicians and chess players. Not every genius but enough that I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a link between spatial reasoning and insanity

    • ThoseSicklesThough says:

      Wouldn’t even have been that brilliant without amphetamines, probably.

  4. jbbigf says:

    If you’d only had this idea twelve years ago, you could have written Idiocracy.

  5. AppSocRes says:

    I think this a leading question for the class, Professor Cochran. On average, Ashkenaz Jews test higher on IQ than other human groups and have performed much better in many intellectual fields. But they also carry a heavy genetic load for diseases associated with nervous system function and structure, a genetic load which one might legitimately suspect to be associated with mutations that might favor intelligence in heterozygous carriers, e.g., Gauchers Disease, Tay-Sachs Disease, and Familial Dysautonomia. It’s also worth noting the common perception that European Jews are prone to neuroticism and depression than other groups. Finally, surveys of sexual behaviors in Israel find the prevalence of self-reported homosexuality to be about 10% this is two to five times higher than the self-reported prevalence in other countries, providing further evidence that something may be “off” in the neural function of Ashkenaz Jews..

    • J says:

      The Professor asked for “a phenotype that’s seldom or never been seen before, and has essentially never been tested by natural selection.” But no other group was tested by reality as severely for so long and survived. About genetic load, the abundance of studies creates the impression that this is a group specially loaded, but the contrary is the truth. Just compare longevities. Or Olympic medals.

    • Coagulopath says:

      Interesting thought about Ashkenazis being prone to homosexuality, but I doubt it.

      Ashkenazis are only 35% of Israel’s population, so to drive even a 2x rate, 25% of them would need to be gay – that sounds pretty high. And a survey of gay male celebrities doesn’t reveal them to be overwhelmingly Ashkenazi the way, eg, quantum physicists are.

  6. benespen says:

    Oliver Heaviside seemed to be both more intelligent than his close relatives, and weirder too. Or are we limiting it to people alive now?

  7. Dylan says:

    It’s a question about the phenotypic trade-offs of different alleles at PRS loci. We know, more or less, what genetic load does and it’s nothing nice (>99% of the time). I would guess that an unnaturally high IQ pulled back slightly from the tail as a result of mutations wouldn’t present any more of a selective advantage than a slightly higher IQ without the mutations (again, >99% of the time). If it did, that would be pretty remarkable–a selective advantage for genetic load. Probably wouldn’t last more than a generation but it’s an interesting thought. I realize this is more of a semantic point, could be wrong, and also not what you asked. Anyway giants don’t exist as an effect of additive alleles on height, they have pituitary problems (or something).

    As for what a failure mode of too-high IQ would look like, my best guess is that if there is one, it would be a CNS disorder of some kind. It’s the one trait (besides autism) that seems to characterize savants. But still this seems more likely to be caused by a rare variant than an additive effect at PRS loci.

  8. Steve Sailer says:

    Another question would be: how often are people who are extraordinarily good at one cognitive capacity extraordinarily bad at another?

    For example, the prodigious writer Vladimir Nabokov had zero ear for music. As VN explained to Alvin Toffler in “Playboy:”

    “I have no ear for music, a shortcoming I deplore bitterly. When I attend a concert—which happens about once in five years—I endeavor gamely to follow the sequence and relationship of sounds but cannot keep it up for more than a few minutes. Visual impressions, reflections of hands in lacquered wood, a diligent bald spot over a fiddle, take over, and soon I am bored beyond measure by the motions of the musicians. My knowledge of music is very slight; and I have a special reason for finding my ignorance and inability so sad, so unjust: There is a wonderful singer in my family—my own son. His great gifts, the rare beauty of his bass, and the promise of a splendid career—all this affects me deeply, and I feel a fool during a technical conversation among musicians. I am perfectly aware of the many parallels between the art forms of music and those of literature, especially in matters of structure, but what can I do if ear and brain refuse to cooperate? But I have found a queer substitute for music in chess—more exactly, in the composing of chess problems.”

    Is there some sort of compensation going on: that, say, a part of the brain normally devoted to music gets rerouted to chess problems or literature?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Don’t high IQ women have very low fertility? It seems like the analog to being a short man.

    • Fourier360 says:

      What nonsense. High IQ women have low fertility for very different reasons. High IQ doesn’t make a woman unattractive to a large portion of the male populace.

      • Woof says:

        Just as most women aren’t attracted to lower status, weaker or shorter men, most men aren’t attracted to women that out perform them. From experience and observation it seems that for a relationship to be happy, the woman should, on some level, look up to her man. Hard to do if you have 20 more IQ points

        • Fourier360 says:

          Most men I’ve seen are OK with their partner outperforming them. Women are not happy outperforming their partner and initiate most divorces.
          Women need to look up to their men, but more IQ points aren’t what turns them on. Give all women “low status” jobs and teach them the importance of childrearing so they can learn to show some respect to hard working men instead of occupying tons of shit unnecessary jobs and focusing on their bullshit “careers”.

          • Woof says:

            The most miserable relationships I’ve seen are those in which the woman thinks she settled for a man “beneath” her. Modern society seems hell bent on inculcating this attitude in all women.

          • Thiago Ribeiro says:

            Oh, God.

            • Woof says:

              What a well reasoned and thought provoking response, bravo

              • Thiago Ribeiro says:

                I was trying to reply to Fourier360 (the device I was using makes it a little difficult), but I admit that I do not waste too much time with “women are oppressing me” crowd. Mental health counselors might, but I guess it is part of their job.

  10. Well, me. My testing says I’m something from 144-168, and I’m sometimes an asshole. The rest of my family falls just short of that and is much nicer.

  11. adreadline says:

    Ron Keeva Unz. Reported IQ: over 200.

    Then again, you had said a smart enough kid might explode in a flash of purple light or something. Unz is still around and kickin’, so he might be a poor example.

    • Fourier360 says:

      “Ron Keeva Unz. Reported IQ: over 200.”

      No way, we can’t easily measure that. Sounds like a sloppy extrapolation from a childhood IQ test.

      • Coagulopath says:

        Or he’s an IQ test junkie who has taken so many that he has destroyed their value.

        • Patrick Boyle says:

          Chuck Schumer the Senator and frequent TV news pontificator had scored a perfect 800 on the SATs. But he did it in a less than admirable manner. As a student he worked for a company that made kits that prepared you for the standardized tests. They had a cadre of test takers who would sign up for the ETS tests and memorize the questions. Then young Chuckie would take the SAT once again. The story I heard was that he took it 26 times until he got a perfect 800 on both the verbal and the non-verbal parts.

      • Jim says:

        I recall reading something in Jensen to the effect that we don’t have enough data to calibrate IQ scores above about 160.

      • mtkennedy21 says:

        The National Merit Scholarship corporation followed scholars for years. I don’t know if IQ testing was part of it. I finally dropped off the list, I guess.

    • gcochran9 says:

      I have corresponded with Unz a fair amount, as well as seeing his public stuff, and I don’t think he has an IQ of 200. He’s usually wrong.

      • Unladen Swallow says:

        I remember reading an article about Ron years ago, although some years after the election, when he ran for Governor of California and I swear he admitted that he made up the IQ score of over 200 ( I think he claimed it was 214 ).

    • Bob says:

      I think Unz has said that he put the 214 IQ figure on his resume to get his foot in the door on Wall Street and get interviews.

    • Jacob says:

      As you go higher and higher, the ratio of liars to legitimate scorers approaches infinity.

      • Patrick Boyle says:

        After the divorce i went online and sought women on dating sites with doctorates. in those days would let you do that. So it cane to pass that I dated a blonde who had a doctorate (she taught at Stanford) and liked sex a lot, I liked her a lot too, but she always claimed she had an IQ of 160.

        She wasn’t lying. She was just so bad at math she had no idea how the scoring worked. She was like many women I have known who were hopeless at even elementary math. I knew one who seemed to think algebra was some kind of conspiracy created by men just to embarrass women. I once mentioned to a female employee that I was reading a math book. She recoiled in horror. She looked at me as if I were a bug and gasped – “You read math – for pleasure!!!”

  12. Jay says:

    I personally am 4+ standard deviations away from average in measured IQ, height, and weight. I have several other extremely unusual characteristics, and my medical problems once shocked a team of paramedics. So yes.

  13. RCB says:

    The nearly neutral alleles do not necessarily have to have a down side. In a highly polygenic trait, selection on each individual locus can be so weak as to be virtually indistinguishable from neutrality – even though the trait as a whole is clearly selected directionally.

    So they might be nearly neutral just because there are a whole lot of them.

    Of course selection for intelligence is actually negative – at least for females – so depends on what you mean by “disadvantages”.

  14. Gord Marsden says:

    I have noticed similar things, like most of the elite “smarts” were not athletic and of course the big dumb football player is iconic. I just wondered if there was a limit to what DNA could carry

    • Jay says:

      Probably not. Both Einstein and Leonardo da Vinci were big, strong guys. You’re probably seeing the results of choices and comparative advantage. The elite scholars spend most of their time in the library, the elite athletes spend most of their time in the gym, and those choices are generally mutually exclusive.

    • Football players also got lots of concussions, particularly during the season. They’d tend to look dumber for that reason.

      • mtkennedy21 says:

        I think that may be a recent development as players get very large and heavy. The captain of my college team in 1957 was also the highest GPA in the University, USC in Los Angeles. The impacts musty be getting b=very high energy,.

    • albatross says:

      There’s also a phenomenon that creates the illusion of a negative correlation between IQ and other stuff in many environments.

      Suppose you are in some job that rewards high intelligence, but it’s not the very best/highest intelligence sort of job. Maybe you’re in the CS department at a decent state university, but not a very top university. Maybe you’re a programmer at a software house, but it’s not Google/Apple/etc.

      You observe a range of levels of intelligence in your workplace. However, if you have someone who is unusually smart there, then there’s probably a reason why they’re at State U rather than at MIT, or at a local software house rather than at Google. Most likely, there’s other stuff about them holding them back–maybe lack of ambition, or poor work ethic, or bad people skills, or whatever. And if you have somebody who’s unusually dumb working there, they’ve probably got some other things keeping them from falling further and ending up teaching CS at the local community college–maybe they’re not as brilliant as their colleagues but they work their asses off; maybe they’re so socially savvy that the boss keeps them around even though they’re not quite bright enough to do top-tier technical work.

      Even if there is no negative correlation between IQ and ambition/work ethic/people skills, you will still observe such a correlation in that environment. The ambitious, hard-working, smooth-talking guys who are also super-smart will tend to end up in better, harder-to-get-into places. The super-smart guys who remain will usually have some reason that explains why they’re at State and not at MIT.

      By analogy, suppose you look at professional basketball players. You may very well see a negative correlation between height and athleticism or shooting ability. That’s not necessarily because there’s something about being seven feet tall that makes you a bad shooter, it’s because you can be a lousy shooter and still play in the NBA if you’re seven feet tall, but it’s a lot harder to do that if you’re 6’3″. Even though there’s noplace better to go to be a basketball player than the NBA, I expect that the seven footers are worse shooters on average than the 6’3″ guys, because if you’re only 6’3″, you need to have a bunch of other skills/abilities to offset your height disadvantage, or you won’t make it into the NBA.

      ISTR that there’s a name for this phenomenon, but I don’t remember it.

      • WJK says:

        I’ve heard it as the “cornernless distribution”. I don’t know if there’s a more formal name, but once you see it, it’s everywhere.

        “This is the same effect that makes it seem like hotter actors aren’t as good at acting (if an actor is neither pretty nor good they wouldn’t work at all) and why restaurants that are more fashionable have worse food (since if a place is neither hip nor tasty it will go bankrupt).”

  15. teageegeepea says:

    We already know that brain size for infants is constrained by the requirement that the head pass through the birth canal, but it’s believed that causes maturation to shift to the post-natal period rather than necessarily constraining the maximum size of the brain. It’s also known that the brain consumes a lot of energy, hence Wrangham’s theory in “Catching Fire” that the greater calories from cooked food permitted us to shift from the larger guts of other apes to larger brains. If most eras are somewhat Malthusian, then the calorie constraint would have been present. In our current era hungry brains which might be maladaptive for most of human history might be feasible.

    • Coagulopath says:

      But great apes differ from us in other ways: chimps have way more fast-twitch fibre muscle mass, for example. I expect their caloric expenditure would be higher than ours, even if our brains were the same.

  16. reiner Tor says:

    You mentioned famous mathematicians before.

  17. magusjanus says:

    What if you don’t have that many PRS type alleles (or nothing too out of ordinary), and close to zero negative mutation load? I.e. none of hte bad stuff (the ‘sand in the gears’) as opposed to lots of the ‘good but with costs’ stuff.

    Maybe that’s Von Neumann? who seemed perfectly normal (or could pretend to be perfectly normal?) other than being scary smart even to other already scary smart people.

    • Coagulopath says:

      Greg probably thinks I’m wrong, but I’m not sure that zero mutational load would create supergeniuses (or even people that far out of the ordinary). Mutational errors can’t affect us too badly, or they become targets for selection. This means there’s a ceiling on the performance benefits you get from fixing them.

      In the same way, fishing nets work better if you fix the holes in them, but only to a point. A fishing net with no holes won’t magically catch fish across 2000% of its surface area. There’s a hard limit to how well they can work. And they might still be outperformed by a bigger net (+ PRS alleles) with a few holes.

      • RCB says:

        Got me thinking: what’s the chance that there are already people with almost no load at all?
        If there are 10000 recessive mutations imposing load on IQ, each with frequency 0.01 (fairly high), and they are independent, then >1/3 of people will have no load at all (chance of recessive trait is 0.01^2. Prob no load = (1-.01^2)^10000). Math changes under dominant mutations but then those alleles are also much rarer under mutation selection balance so I think result would be similar.
        So maybe my magnitudes are totally wrong, but even if I’m 1000x off this would seem to suggest that there are already people out there who aren’t experiencing much load for IQ at all?

        • catte says:

          Go from 10,000 to 100,000 alleles and that figure drops to 0.000045. Stick another zero on, and we’re at 10^-44.

        • Jacob says:

          Everyone gets something like 60+ new mutations from Mom and Dad. Mostly Dad. Untested by evolution, these mutations either do nothing, or just contribute sand in your molecular/cellular gears. They would be a lot worse if you didn’t have a second, fully-functional copy of whatever got fucked up: this is why inbreeding is unwise.

          Estimates for the proportion of genes expressed in the brain are amusingly variable. I’ve seen 33% to 75%.

          There should be far more than 10,000 recessive mutations imposing load on IQ, most of them rare. There could be more such variants than there are people.

          • Coagulopath says:

            Yeah, but we don’t care about genes expressed in the brain, we care about genes that affect intelligence. Many (or most) of those genes do boring and irrelevant stuff like regulating synaptic plasticity in a small group of glial cells – they’re not all PRS +/- alleles.

            What’s our best guess on the number of genes involved in IQ? The recent UK Biobank GWAS identified 538 genes, from which they predicted 7% of variation in IQ. Does that suggest that the total number might be around 7.5K?

            • Coagulopath says:

              Does that suggest that the total number might be around 7.5K?

              It doesn’t.
              I just remembered that not all genes have the same affect, and the big ones will be more likely to stand out in GWAS. There could be any number of less powerful genes, each contributing a subtle fraction of a percent to intelligence.

              • Jacob says:

                Heh, yeah, you got it.

              • Jacob says:

                Personally, I want to know which mutations are actually relevant. PRS-type alleles don’t necessarily do anything; they could just be in linkage disequilibrium with something that does.

                I’d be curious to see how many PRS type alleles are in coding regions. Most of the key genetic differences between humans and chimpanzees are in noncoding regions. The actual structure and function of proteins is conserved because a small difference in primary structure can render a protein useless, which is typically just bad for fitness.

            • Jacob says:

              I would guess that most rare deleterious variants expressed in the brain affect personality, intelligence, or your odds of getting neural disorders. (If not, why even call them deleterious?) Intelligence has a stronger association with load than personality does in the normal range. So you’re right — some really specific thing could get nailed in a way that doesn’t affect intelligence. Most people with inherited brain disorders have depressed IQ, though.

              As for our best guess for genes associated with IQ, that’s a smart idea for how to estimate the number of PRS type alleles. I wonder if the alleles found in the study have greater effect, on average, than other alleles (which did not show a significant association because they have a lesser effect). If that’s the case, the number should be higher than ~7.5K, but I can’t say by how much.

      • catte says:

        Sure there’s a ceiling, but how high up is it? There’s plenty of room.

        • albatross says:

          We don’t know what the top level of intelligence for human brains is, but we know it’s no lower than that of the smartest humans we know of. Think Newton, Gauss, Galton, Einstein, Von Neumann, etc.

      • Jacob says:

        Rare deleterious variants are targets for selection. They persist because they keep showing up, even when selected against.

        Anyway, ~60% of genetic variance in IQ is thanks to load.

  18. Lior says:

    One exemple I can think of is that some people who are very funny seem to have an inability to take things seriously and to deal with serious situations.

  19. dearieme says:

    I’ve often wondered if it’s a peculiarly American notion that clever boys (for example) must be either sportsmen or scholars but can’t be both. It certainly isn’t true of the non-American school I attended.

    • syonredux says:

      “I’ve often wondered if it’s a peculiarly American notion that clever boys (for example) must be either sportsmen or scholars but can’t be both. It certainly isn’t true of the non-American school I attended.”

      Well, I’m an American, and it also wasn’t true of the school that I attended……Which makes me wonder if it isn’t another MSM-generated myth (cf the MSM fantasy about how Black serial killers are virtually non-existent).

  20. Warren Notes says:

    I don’t have an estimate of Kirsan Ilyuzmhinov’s I.Q., but he did defeat Kasparov in 1995, when he began heading up the World Chess Federation. In an interview on Russian television, he explained that he had been in close contact (abduction) with an extra-terrestrial wearing a yellow spacesuit. This extra-terrestrial’s species invented the game of chess. Luckily, the E.T. loaned him a spacesuit of his own that allowed him to breathe. E.T, took him to a foreign planet for a brief time, and – thankfully, got him back home in time to conduct Youth Government week. Also in 1995, he was quoted as saying: “Irrespective of what I tell people, I give them instructions on a subconscious level, a code. I do the same thing when I communicate with Russian citizens from other regions. I am creating around the republic a kind of extra-sensory field and it helps us a lot in our projects.”

  21. Jacob says:

    For engineering purposes:

    Don’t touch PRS type alleles, they’ll give the subject a lipid storage disease or drive him insane.

    Clear out such a portion of their mutational load as will make them substantially smarter than average, but not smarter than humans were ever adapted to be.

    Vet the donor parents (and their relatives) for ideal cognitive phenotypes, focusing on personality, mental health, and a low degree of superstitious or ideological thought.

    Vet the people who vet the donor parents, and the people who conduct the engineering itself. (Sounds obvious, but I know of people who would just hire/trust people they hadn’t scrutinized, even when there are high stakes.)

    Here’s an ironic question: what is the best environment to raise them in? I’m tempted to give them back to the gamete donors/parents. They should have already been vetted for being the type of people who will not subject their kids to Adverse Childhood Experiences. If the common ideas about immune compatibility & sexual attraction are true, the attraction between partners should grant the kids immunological health on par with natural-born children.

    Conveniently, there are a lot of couples looking to do IVF, many of whom must meet the standards.

  22. Bob says:

    Chris Langan is said to have an IQ “somewhere between 190 and 210” and to be the smartest man in the world. He’s been profiled on TV and documentaries, which can be seen on Youtube. He didn’t graduate college and has worked various blue collar jobs throughout his life. As far as intellectual pursuits go, he has developed a metaphysical theory of the universe called the Cognitive Theoretical Model of the Universe (CTMU) which he promotes online. He does not really discuss other intellectual topics besides the CTMU, at least not publicly. He does complain quite a bit about how academics don’t investigate the CTMU, and about how he has not had very good jobs and has struggled financially because of his tough upbringing and lack of credentials, though one would think that such a high IQ would overcome all that, especially since he doesn’t appear to have the debilitating sort of Asperger’s type social dysfunction that some very intelligent people have.

    He’s quite active on a Facebook group for the CTMU, although there’s not that much intellectual discussion there, and a lot of his posts are right-wing talking points cum conspiracy theory style rants.

    • Jacob says:

      Langan is probably lying about his pigshit brains. He thinks Koko the Gorilla is smarter than Africans. Hilarious, but stupid.

      Anyway, a mature connoisseur of models of the universe prefers Time Cube Theory, the only real explanation for anything.

    • I had forgotten about Langan. Thanks for reminding me.

      I had only one direct contact with Langan. The rest of my knowledge is indirect. He has scored very, very high on IQ tests. (Confirmed from a person on the admissions committee for one of the highest societies.) I have read his CTMU and found it impenetrable. In at least one place he says something that is ridiculously wrong, that his theory does not rely on any assumptions whatsoever, and that is one of its great strengths. It’s hard to tell what he thinks he means by that. Everything rests on many, many assumptions. He seems to be unable to put his theory into language that other very intelligent people understand, and quickly becomes accusing when challenged. He has been involved with at least one legal wrangle with a High-IQ society, and lost in court. Frankly, who does that?

      His biography of academic experiences is not impossible, but smacks greatly of “they just didn’t understand geniuses there. I knew more than all of them, so I left.” This seems to be a repeated theme. I responded on Quora to a question about him and challenged his work in the manner above. He must track what is said about him, as he immediately came and attempted to bully me, hinting darkly that bad things would happen to me if I kept spreading lies about him.

      All this puts me in mind of Grady Towers essay “The Outsiders,” which I saw when it first came out in the 80s. His belief was that there is a “communications gap” of about 2SD, beyond which people did not communicate comfortably. Therefore, people in the ultra-high categories had very few people to interact with and were socially isolated. It is plausible-sounding, but I eventually came to disagree with it. I wrote about it here: which is part of an entire series on William James Sidis, whose family and biographer claimed had an IQ of 250+. He was very smart, but not at that level. It was fun to research and discuss.

      The brilliant Terrence Tao was relieved to get past the undergraduate level because they included humanities courses that baffled him. He had a school assignment “What’s going on around your house?” and could only think to list the objects in the home.

      • Bob says:

        He is peculiar, though not in the stereotypically Asperger’s way that you might expect of weird, highly intelligent people. He comes across as normal in ordinary social interaction. But he does not evince much interest in academic and intellectual topics, at least not publicly online. He mainly focuses on fostering this cultish environment around his CTMU, and is very hostile towards anyone who asks questions about it, even those with an open mind about it. And he’s not some ascetic intellectual type who doesn’t care about money and worldly success. He’s quite bitter and complains about his lack of money and recognition and about how more ordinary people have made more money and been more successful. As I mentioned, other than the CTMU, he mostly just posts angry rants about globalists and the one world government and stuff like how Koko the Gorilla was smarter than blacks, stuff that isn’t more insightful or sophisticated than ordinary rants of that type.

        What do you make of the guy? Do you think the claims regarding his IQ and being the smartest man or among the smartest men in the world are valid?

      • benespen says:

        I had a [thankfully] brief period of interest in high IQ societies, at which point I discovered they are full of ostensibly smart people who are surprisingly unaccomplished and kind of weird. I ran for it and never looked back. Sometimes I wonder whether theories about the uselessness of IQ come from contact with people like Langan.

      • Coagulopath says:

        I encountered Langan too. He had issues.

        For years, his MO has consisted of joining a forum, basking in attention both positive and negative (mostly the latter), then eventually getting kicked off. He’s eaten bans on Quora, Reddit, and Facebook. Finding places willing to host him might be his 190-point IQ’s greatest challenge.

        He’s not quite a Timecube-esque crank, just persistent, inappropriate, and monomaniacal. I don’t understand any of his quantum cosmology stuff, and I think I’m being < href=””>Eulered. He writes terribly, overexplaining all the wrong things while leaving his major points unsupported. Maybe Terence Tao doesn’t know what was going on around his house, but he can articulate ideas with the force and precision of a diamond drill. By contrast, Langan’s ramblings sound like they belong in an email headed with FWD: FWD: RE: FWD: RE: WHAT THE FED DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW.

        He appeared on the game show 1 vs 100, which you can watch here. They hit him with a barrage of pop culture questions, he burns all his lifelines, and he’s out by question 3. He looks pretty normal by the standards of these shows. A far cry from his online persona.

  23. MEH 0910 says:

    In 2007, when the Nobel-winning biologist James D. Watson’s view that blacks were less intelligent than whites was first reported, he was on a tour to promote his book, “Avoid Boring People: Lessons from a Life in Science.”

    A line from the book explained the basis for his beliefs: “There is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically,” Dr. Watson wrote.

    In other words, he was suggesting that evolution may not have acted upon cognitive traits in African populations the same way it did in populations that left Africa.
    Confusion among nonscientists over recent advances that show the ways evolution has shaped population differences is one reason I’ve been compelled to return to this subject in my recent reporting.

    The internet is teeming with people determined to use science as proof of racial hierarchy. There is no existing genetic evidence to support the view that blacks are less intelligent than whites. But the argument, which rests on data from IQ-type tests that show lower average scores among blacks, persists.

    In a widely-read Times Op-Ed last spring, the prominent human geneticist David Reich, of Harvard, argued that geneticists have underplayed the degree to which human populations are likely to have genetic differences.

    But it’s the different environments — things like family wealth, access to education, nutrition, and living in a racist society — inhabited by black and white Americans that has led most scientists to believe that IQ differences arise from nongenetic causes. And, since environments impact the way genes get expressed, and there’s no way to equalize the environment — except to fix racism — there’s no way to do a controlled experiment.

    • We’re fairly familiar with that line of reasoning here; more familiar than critics are with what the actual HBD arguments are, in fact.

      First, the way that science is done is to show your work. I dispute the idea that “most scientists” believe IQ differences arise from nongenetic causes, especially if the scientists were are discussing are those who specifically study environmental versus heritable causes, rather than those who assume it is all environmental from the start and proceed from there. Yet even if there were a majority, the way to make the case would be to submit the evidence. Researchers keep trying and are unable to find these environmental causes, other than dramatic events like childhood starvation, lead, iodine, blows to the head, etc. If you want to make your career, find one and publish it. You will dine out on that for life. What the environment-only advocates do find are correlates, which as we know, can confuse the cart with the horse, or both descend from other factors. The causes are not there. They just aren’t there. What exists is the assumption that they simply must be there. The list above “…things like family wealth, access to education, nutrition, and living in a racist society…” have all been studied. When wealth is held constant, when access to education is exact-matched, when nutrition is equal, and even when the comparative racism of one place over another is taken into account, the gaps remain – unchanged. If those were causes, they would er, cause something.

      It is revealing that it is the environment-only people who can only see genetic difference in terms of superiority or hierarchy. It is they who value humans so centrally on IQ, and they project that onto those who believe in significant genetic factors. I have a lot of attributes on my list I would rank higher than IQ for who I value as a human being and who I would choose to live near, drink beer with, or go to church with.

      As for controlled experiments, one can get remarkably close, with things like twin studies, adoption studies, or comparing children in the same school districts with the same income. (Among the simplest studies is to have more than one child yourself, or to have both natural and adopted children. You’d be surprised how uncommon that is among researchers.)

      If you start from zero and get very strict about keeping track of which side of this dispute is submitting evidence and logical argument versus which side is calling names, threatening careers, and providing evidence that only answers other questions, I am confident which side you will come down on in a year.

  24. little spoon says:

    This is asking for a study that doesn’t even require much of a formal hypothesis. Just gather a bunch of folks whose iqs are estimated to be 160+. Then look to see if any diseases occur more frequently among them than the general population (and weight the gen pop so it reflects the population of geniuses). I haven’t done the study, so I have no idea what would come out of this.

    • Coagulopath says:

      Well, you’d probably learn that IQ is positively correlated with asthma and bronchitis. After all, cities have poorer air, and high IQ people tend to live in cities.

      You’d also discover that IQ is negatively correlated with tapeworm, because Jews keep kosher, thus escaping a major vector for parasitic infection (undercooked pork).

      You’d probably just end up with a million tiny and confusing correlations with environmental confounds lurking all over the place. Sadly, it isn’t that easy, or we’d have already done it.

  25. HI says:

    A somewhat related question: if IQ is determined by individual SNPs and load (i.e., not interactions between SNPs), what’s the mechanism behind reversion to the mean? Or more generally, what’s the mechanism that drives reversion to the mean? If SNPs act individually, would you expect that at all?

  26. ghazisiz says:

    Solipsism seems to be an insight that never occurs to dumb people. My guess is that very smart people have a lot of activity going on inside their heads, and therefore very smart people tend to direct most of their attention inside of their own heads. Only very smart people will therefore come to the conclusion of Bishop Berkeley that our knowledge of the world is really only what lies inside of our own heads. We could be living in a simulation.

    • albatross says:

      Smart people can come up with much more plausible and engaging bullshit than dumb people. Sometimes, I suspect that this was one of the major evolutionary advantages of intelligence in most of our history.

      • ThoseSicklesThough says:

        I’m very smart (slacker/infovore type though, working on making that brain actually pay rent, making progress though). And I can generate an unlimited stream of plausible-sounding bullshit on demand. I’ve learnt a long time ago, that I need not and should not take myself too seriously. It’s a good thing that the internet provides an outlet for this. You can play with some ideas or a perspective, learn a little bit from it, and then forget all about ever having made grand claims, that you now must defend for the rest of your life.

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