Three recent books are bringing evolutionary psychology and
behavioral genetics into the same canalized stream of thought - nature via
nurture has replaced the nature versus nurture debate, making clichéd
arguments out-of-date and frankly just plain annoying. Old egalitarian dogmas
such as "there are no races," "anyone can become whatever they want to become,"
"children are the product of their upbringing," and "there are no differences
between races in intelligence and behavior," have been overturned by ongoing
research, but still promoted by the media, Marxist (and timid) academics, and
government policy wonks.
The first two books I look at here, Human Evolutionary Psychology (by Barrett, Dunbar, & Lycett, 2002, Princeton University) and The Origins of Human Nature: Evolutionary Developmental Psychology (by Bjorklund & Pellegrini, American Psychological Association, 2002), are straight-forward academically slanted books that are free of bias, even if they both avoid the more troublesome subject of racial differences in intelligence. The third book, Nature via Nurture: Genes, Experience, & What Makes Us Human (by Matt Ridley, 2003), is targeted for academic as well as the educated lay reader. It is entertaining, easy to read, and one leaves with a firm grasp of how nature and nurture interact in human development. However, Ridley seems to contradict himself when it comes to racial differences in intelligence and behavior. On the one hand, he provides all of the evidence that indeed one would expect differences between races to exist, while he states later on that there are no racial differences. My hunch is that after putting forth what some would see as Jensenism, he inserted some paragraphs that would give him plausible deniability with regard to the racial differences argument. Still, of the three books reviewed, for the effort required, Ridley's book is a must read for those interested in the subject, continuing where Pinker left off with The Blank Slate (see my earlier review).
All three books have an enormous amount of information, so I will cover just a few of the more interesting aspects in each as they relate to race, evolution and eugenics.
Human Evolutionary Psychology
Evolutionary psychologists have been criticized for looking at human behavior without considering human development. It is clear from this book and the next that this criticism no longer stands. The tools used for looking at how the brain works, along with ethological studies of human behavior in every culture, has brought these narrow fields more in line with looking at the human brain from various perspectives - triangulation if you will.
For example, in the culture versus genetic debate, the dichotomies are coming together into a unified perspective:
"One particularly promising approach to this issue is to regard human sociality as the product of gene-culture co-evolution, and propose that a form of cultural group selection led to the evolution of the psychological traits that promote cooperative behavior between group members, regardless of relatedness. This suggests that there was selection for specific traits that enabled humans to function well within groups, both to their own individual benefit and, due to the very nature of the adaptations, to the benefit of the group as a whole….
"From these results, Caporael et al. concluded that sociality itself, made salient by designating individuals to groups and allowing discussion between group members, could account for the altruistic behavior displayed. They argued that, given the benefits of group-living to humans (predator defense, foraging efficiency, [and warfare]), selection would favor individuals who were better adapted to group-living, and that this adaptation took the form of a willingness to behave altruistically with no selfish incentives toward other group members. Altruistic behavior, it was suggested, evolved simply because altruistic individuals were better at group-living, and not necessarily because they received some return benefit from the beneficiary of their altruism or enhanced the spread of their genes by aiding close relatives….
"Richerson and Boyd term this 'ultra-sociality' and suggest that the impressive coordination, cooperation and division of labor observed in modern-day western society can he traced hack to ancient social instincts combined with modern cultural institutions."
Group living and group coalition building however was not the same everywhere, and the evolution of altruism, (and by extension ethnocentrism and xenophobia), would not be expected to be the same everywhere. Humans, by evolving in radically varying niches from each other, would be expected to have different behavioral traits between races or even tribes, depending on the biographical history of any particular people, race or tribe. I will return to this later.
Eugenics is being attacked now as fiercely as it was fifty years ago. As the pendulum swings from radical environmentalism towards genetically based explanations for human behavior, the Left finds it has to talk about the past to dissuade us from pursuing eugenics in the future. Nevertheless, eugenics has already returned. As alluded to in The Bell Curve, Human Evolutionary Psychology states that, "Assortative mating is in fact the human norm, with spouses tending to be more similar to each other on a range of traits (including race, religion, ethnic background, and socio-economic status, as well as a wide range of physical traits such as stature, body build, finger length and so on, [and especially intelligence]) than they are to the population at large."
What is happening now is that with universal education, and a population that is far more mobile, people are exposed to other people much more like themselves. The less intelligent meet up at the factory or retail store, while the more intelligent meet up at a college or university. The stratification, for the first time, has been accelerated by mobility and universal education. The one brake on this, as Matt Ridley points out, "Beauty will put a brake on stratification by brains." That is, upper income (intelligent) men will give up brains for beauty in a mate, while upper income (intelligent) women, may often give up looking for a husband that is as successful as she is, and will not have children as a result. (The very wealthy males may marry brains and have children, then divorce or have affairs, for the best of both worlds for their offspring.) Overall, however, stratification by intelligence will accelerate, as intelligence is valued by both men and women in a mate. Universal education then will have the effect of breeding likes, and the difference in average intelligence will increase as the bell curve begins to flatten.
A corollary to this phenomena can be found when it comes to racial mixing. When Blacks and Whites mate, it does not have the effect that the egalitarians might expect. What does happen is those Whites (or Asians or Jews) that cannot find an adequate White mate will marry down to a Black, thus ridding the White race of unattractive, low intelligent, drug addicted, or egalitarian leaning Whites. That is, the very people we would not want anyway are discarded leaving a more eugenic White race. On the other hand, Whites, East Asians, and Ashkenazi Jews do intermarry quite readily, and since East Asians and Ashkenazi Jews are more intelligent than Whites on average, this leads again to eugenics for these mixed marriages, and perhaps will improve the ethnocentrism of the White race (not good news however for the White racial purists).
Of course, there are those that still deny that there are differences in average intelligence between races. So how did we get so smart?
"There is now considerable evidence to support the Social Brain Hypothesis. The focus of most of these studies has been on the size of the neocortex, since this is the area of the brain that is particularly characteristic of primates as a whole and which accounts for most of the brain size enlargement that has occurred within primates. Comparative studies across a range of primate taxa (including modern humans) show that relative neocortex size correlates with social group size, the size of grooming cliques (that is, alliances), males' use of subtle social strategies in mating contests, frequency of social play and the frequency of tactical deception. These various data suggest that the extent to which animals can develop and exploit large numbers of complex social relationships depends closely on the size of the 'computer' they have available to do the necessary calculations."
So the size of social groups, along with unique habitats or niches, determined the level of intelligence obtained. Rushton has shown that there is a continuum from Blacks to Whites to East Asians in a number of behavioral and morphological traits: intelligence, levels of testosterone, twinning, sexuality, parental investment in child-rearing, etc. (Rushton 1995). From what we know of human expansion and crowding, it seems that the sub-Saharan habitat was more stable in terms of climate, less crowded, with reduced selection for high intelligence:
"In addition, as Hrdy  points out, infanticide tends to occur as a last resort; in most cases, individuals who need to drastically reduce parental investment tend to abandon offspring or farm them out to their extended kin. It is only under circumstances when these alternatives are unavailable or impractical that parents resort to infanticide. In late medieval and early modern Europe, for example, infants were frequently abandoned in foundling homes set up for precisely this purpose. Parents would often leave identifying tokens on their offspring, suggesting that they were abandoning their children with at least the hope that they would some day reclaim them. However, as Hrdy suggests, this could equally have been a mechanism for allowing parents to avoid facing up to the fact that, by abandoning their offspring, they were almost certainly condemning it to death: overcrowding and lack of sufficient care raised orphanage mortality rates to horrifying levels (in continental Europe and Russia, they were as high as 53.6 per cent). This pattern of abandonment is almost unheard of in African societies, both traditional and modern. Here, fostering of offspring to distantly related kin is the most common means by which parents reduce investment in their offspring."
Social groups then came under differing levels of selection pressures depending on numerous differences in climate, population density, habitat instability, the need for long term planning to prepare for seasonal changes, and dangers from other tribes - with a need to outwit them. (Note that high intelligence would not be valuable against pathogen loading as found in sub-Saharan Africa.) So group size had a great deal of advantages under some conditions, but along with larger groups came a need to control freeriders:
"This suggests that the problem [of needing higher intelligence] lies not with the ability to make inferences about sequences of statements, but rather quite specifically with the ability to keep track of who thinks what about who's mind. More than four levels of mental state reflexivity seems to put enormous stress on our cognitive abilities, and may explain in part why humans need such large brains to support their social groups."
It is a well understood fact that the size of the social group, whether in dolphins, whales, primates, or humans, requires an increase in intelligence in order to keep track of group members. Dolphins for example, like humans, form coalitions (such as males grouping together to rape a female). This coalition building requires that the dolphins remember which dolphins helped them in the past, and whom they should help in the future. Human coalitions are similar writ large, and requires intelligence.
General intelligence or g, may be a combination some modularity in location as well as being a general trait:
"Although theory of mind has been presented as an archetypal example of a mental module, the burden of the evidence and opinions that we have reviewed here tend to reinforce the conclusion… that what often looks like an integrated coherent cognitive function on superficial first view turns out on closer analysis to be better described as the emergent property of a composite of several more fundamental functions. Although we are only just beginning to understand the underlying neurobiology of the brain, what evidence we do now have tends to point in the same direction: functions like language and Theory of Mind (ToM) that have been described as modular seem to have a dispersed construction at the neural level, involving small groups of neurons in quite different locations. Although it can legitimately be argued that functional modularity need not reflect anatomical modularity, nonetheless, the burden of the evidence (and especially that for ToM) increasingly points towards the suggestion that the more complex kinds of social cognition seen in humans may have more to do with the integration of a number of cognitive units during the course of early development than with the existence of unique highly specialized modules. In effect, humans may differ from other primates in their social cognitive abilities more by virtue of simply having 'bigger and better' versions of the same general capacities than by having evolved novel and unique ones."
Ergo, we are not really different from other social animals, but our level of group formation, along with the use of culture to transfer knowledge from generation to generation, drove the enlargement of our "executive brains." We will see later why this also shows that races therefore must differ in average intelligence depending on the size of the brain.
Finally, the following shows how language diversity has been shown to correlate with the hypotheses that the Black/White/East Asian racial difference in average intelligence are due to both group size and differences in habitat (see Rushton 1995), as well as impacting levels of tribalism or ethnocentrism (see MacDonald 1998a, 2002b):
"It is not just ecological knowledge that is adaptive in this way. The rules that govern the structure of society itself may also be adapted to local conditions. Nettle examined the size of language groups in West Africa and showed that the number of speakers of a given language increase with distance from the equator. In other words, the further from the equator a tribe lives, the larger it is likely to be. Nettle argued that this is a response to habitat instability (and indeed, the correlation is better still against measures of seasonality): in unpredictable habitats, it pays to have a wide network of people you can call on for help when things get bad. An alternative (but not necessarily mutually exclusive) explanation is that alliances become increasingly important when population density is high in agriculturally rich habitats; being able to differentiate between reliable and unreliable allies will then be commensurably essential. In a subsequent analysis, Nettle confirmed the relationship by showing that the number of languages in a country (adjusted for population size) was directly related to the length of the growing season. Mace and Pagel reported similar results for North American native languages: the number of languages spoken in an area and the geographical range of a given language increased with latitude. More importantly perhaps, when latitude was held constant, there was greater linguistic diversity in areas of greater habitat diversity."
Human Evolutionary Psychology covers the subject extensively, and in keeping with its paradigm, it looks for similarities in humans everywhere to determine how we are all the same because of evolutionary adaptiveness. While the book provides substantial evidence that we would expect different races to vary on average behaviorally, morphologically, and cognitively, it did not directly address the issue of racial differences. At least they had the honesty to leave the issue alone, when they have no data to counter the evidence.
The Origins of Human Nature: Evolutionary Developmental Psychology
"Whereas mainstream evolutionary psychologists emphasize universals - patterns that characterize all members of a species - evolutionary developmental psychologists are also concerned with how individuals adapt their behavior to their particular life circumstances and suggest that there are alternative strategies to recurrent problems that human children faced in our evolutionary past. Such a perspective suggests that individual differences in developmental patterns are not necessarily the result of idiosyncratic experiences but are predictable, adaptive responses to environmental pressures."
Developmental psychology interjects the dimension of time into how genes interact with the environment to produce what we eventually become. Genes are not simple templates that spit us out at birth, they are interacting with the environment, under fixed plans that include timing of events throughout our life, to continuously change us in such a way that we are adaptive to our current environment - or the closest it can muster given how much our environment has changed from our evolutionary past.
Evolutionary psychology and developmental psychology are both interested in determining if our behavior is under the control of domain-general (a blank slate approach) or domain-specific (mental "for") modules. It now seems that for most our behavioral repertoire, domain-specific modules dominate. "Each module is a special-purpose system that is informationally encapsulated (or 'cognitively impenetrable,' in the words of Pylyshyn, 1980), meaning that other parts of the mind/brain can neither influence nor access the workings of the module. Fodor did not reject the existence of a domain-general mechanism; in fact, whereas the operation of these modules is unavailable to conscious awareness, their output eventually becomes available to a central information processor, although the activity of this domain-general mechanism does not affect the domain-specific modules. Although Fodor's idea of domain-specificity in human cognition has been challenged, it is the dominant perspective of cognitive psychology today, and we are confident that many, if not most, important aspects of human cognition are domain-specific."
Five domains of social life have been proposed: "attachment, reciprocity, hierarchic power, coalitional group, and mating. Each general area follows its own developmental course, is governed by neurohormonal regulators (opiods and oxytocin for attachment; testosterone for hierarchic power), and has social algorithms associated with it to achieve specified goals (e.g., proximity maintenance and protection for attachment). These algorithms have evolved to deal with recurrent social problems infants and children have faced over the millennia."
When it comes to human behavior then, we can expect recurrent themes to run in our species, "Modern humans, in both information-age and hunter-gatherer societies, cooperate and compete with members in their own group and with people from outside groups. In fact, warfare of one type or another is a characteristic of all human groups. The only other mammal that displays behavior at all similar to that of human war parties - attacking and killing members of another group of their own species - is the chimpanzee, suggesting that the roots of warfare run deep in our species' genetic history."
So again, do we expect to find differences between races when it comes to ethnocentrism, warfare, or group coalition building? One just has to look at the tribalism in Afghanistan (the Pashtuns) to understand just how xenophobic some races are over others. The Semitic races, with their high population densities, seem to have evolved strong kinship bonds and hostility to outsiders. "Those individuals who could deal with unpredictable changes in climate and habitat were the ones who reproduced and became our ancestors. Variable environments suggest variable behavioral strategies, making any claim that ancient humans followed any signal lifestyle invalid."
Moreover, this is true for intelligence. The Middle East was beset by group conflict, and the ability to form tight coalitions meant survival. For Northern Europeans and East Asians, in sparsely populated habitats under the harsh conditions of glaciers, it meant coalition building for cooperation against nature rather than other people, plus a high level of intelligence for planning. So where human races evolved under differing climates, habitats, and the evolving cultures, human behavior under selection pressures also had to change. Evolution dictates that the habitat or niche that members of a species inhabit, will determine how members of that species will change in order to maximize reproductive success. "[V]ariation is at the very core of Darwinian theory, and so any evolutionary account that views variability among individuals as simply noise is likely missing some important points. According to developmental psychologist and behavioral geneticist Sandra Scarr, evolutionary psychologists have applied Darwin's idea of natural selection to understanding human nature but have virtually ignored variation. A notable exception is Gottlieb, who considered the study of individual differences to be a defining principle in the study of development."
Where we have individual differences then, we will also find racial differences because under varying ecologies, different groups or races will select different behaviors from the natural variance that exists. For example, if Whites found themselves in a sub-Saharan climate over a long period of time, there is enough genetic variance existing to slowly select for increased melanin and they would become darker in complexion. Moreover, the same with intelligence, as the brain is a very expensive organ to maintain in terms of calories. In a non-technological environment, it might easily be advantageous to reduce general intelligence if it is not needed for increased survivability. We may never completely understand how races have differentiated themselves under their unique ecologies, but we do know from all available data that the differences are real and not cultural but genetic.
For example, for differing races, there are innate average differences in intelligence, behavioral characteristics, responses to disease, and morphology. The reason these differences are not environmental is that "evolution does not permit easy environmental modification of characteristics that are essential for survival. Rather, important aspects of social, emotional, and cognitive development are highly canalized and are not much influenced by the vagaries of parenting behavior. It would be a short-lived species that had an extended childhood and a narrow range of parental behaviors necessary to rear a child to adulthood."
Behavioral geneticists place heritability of intelligence at between 50 and 60%, and personality at about 50%, with the remaining variability unexplained. As children grow up, the shared family environment diminishes as each individual engages the world on their own terms, their genes interacting with their environment, to complete the development of the young adult - and on into adulthood. Parents, teachers, the community, etc. do not determine the final product. "[S]hared environments have only small effects on intellectual development…. The human brain continues to gain weight into the third decade of life, and neurons in the associative areas of the brain are not fully myelinated until adulthood. This slow growth provides humans with the flexibility to make many changes within their lifetimes."
Myelination, or the growth of fatty tissue around axons, is a key component in general intelligence, and is under strictly genetic control. It also, along with general brain size, does not occur until adulthood is approached. This is the reason that as the brain develops under genetic control, the heritability of intelligence increases from about 40% in childhood to 80% in adulthood, while the shared environment (social economic status, educators, preschool enrichment, educated parents, etc.) decreases in its contribution to intelligence.
Most studies and programs have been targeted at children, primarily minorities, to try to improve their educational performance. As a result, under enrichment programs, it appears that they are more intelligent than they eventually will become. That is, the apparent intelligence is enhanced the younger the children are, only to fade away, as they grow older. Traditionally, institutional racism has been blamed for minority intellectual failure, rather than recognizing that as people grow older, intelligence shifts from environmental malleability in children to genetic/non-shared environmental interactions later in life. Genes not only play an important part of how the brain develops, but they also play an important part in how young adults will seek environments that enhance their own personal motivational drives.
"Young children actually learn some things, such as language, faster than adults. The decreasing ability to acquire a second language with increasing age (much past 8 or 9 years) reflects a loss of plasticity for this skill…. Plasticity is often more easily seen in situations in which children who experienced deprivation early in life demonstrate subsequent reversibility of those effects. Although psychologists and educators earlier in this century deemed such reversibility unlikely, both human and animal work has clearly shown that reversibility is a reality."
"These results reflect the remarkable resiliency of children to the effects of early deprivation, but they also demonstrate that there are limits to intellectual plasticity. The more time children spent in the deprived environment, the less able their brains were to change, at least by age 6. (Of course, children who had spent more time in the orphanage had spent less time in their adoptive homes. Perhaps the negative effects of the early deprivation will be reversed when they spend more time in their adoptive homes.) Nonetheless, the overall impression of these findings is that, given proper stimulation, children can overcome the effects of an early negative environment. Young brains are not like tape recorders, recording everything for posterity. Rather, young brains are pliable. Were children born with more mature brains, or if development proceeded more rapidly, the mental, social, and emotional flexibility of young children would be severely compromised. This behavioral and cognitive flexibility is perhaps our species' greatest adaptive advantage, and it is afforded by the prolonged period of mental (and thus brain) inefficiency."
The above reflects astonishing new facts with regards to how children develop and mature: 1.) whether their environment is rich or poor, deprivation has to be extremely severe to have a negative impact later in life as the genes interact with the environment to build the adult brain; 2.) individuals, based on their genetic lottery, will follow their own individual development, within normal ranges of human behavior. Or, in the words of developmentalists, "Individual differences in any of these modules may make children more or less sensitive to the target information (e.g., facial characteristics and vocal stimulation). Such endogenously based individual differences will then interact with a child's exogenous environment to yield a particular pattern of development. The process is still an epigenetic one, and the modules are still domain specific and universal. However, acknowledging such individual differences implies that behavioral-genetic analyses need not be incompatible with an epigenetically based theory of evolutionary developmental psychology."
When it comes to general intelligence, or g, the differences are not due to multiple "modular" intelligences residing in each of us, with some excelling in one area and others in something else. "Candidates for domain-general mechanisms, accounting for both individual and developmental differences, include speed of processing; Piagetian-like cognitive structures; working memory; inhibitory mechanisms; attention resources; and general intelligence, or g. In fact, evidence exists that cognitive tasks that load heavily on the g factor of psychometrically measured intelligence, despite having very different surface content, activate the same specific neural area in the frontal cortex of the adult human brain. This gives us the somewhat paradoxical finding that an aspect of general intelligence is modularized." That is, intelligence is modularized in terms of location, but not made up of a bunch of modules of varying talents and skills. People who are intelligent tend to be intelligent in all areas that are subsumed under what we call general intelligence. But lower level, and evolutionarily older brain modules like face recognition, folk psychology (women excel at sociability or empathy), or folk physics (men excel at throwing a football or a spear, as well as being able to track animals in unknown terrains and find their way back to camp), are more modular in function and located in specific areas of the brain.
Again, back to what we would expect with regards to the intelligence of different races that evolved under varying environments. "Under what conditions should domain-general versus domain-specific abilities evolve? Domain-specific mechanisms will be favored when environments remain relatively stable, with individuals facing recurrent problems generation after generation. For Homo sapiens, characteristics of social organization, such as male-male competition, female care for and provisioning of young, kin recognition, reciprocal social interactions, and aspects of mate selection, likely remained relatively stable over evolutionary time. As a result, we should expect domain-specific mechanisms to have evolved to deal with these classes of problems, and evolutionary psychologists have devoted much time to demonstrating exactly this. In contrast, domain-general mechanisms will be favored when environments are unstable and the nature of the problems individuals face varies over generations. Under these circumstances, flexible, decontextualized problem-solving routines would be most adaptive. For example, we noted in chapter 2 that the environment in which humans evolved was characterized by frequent and noncyclic changes in climate. This would have resulted in unpredictable changes in habitat, requiring individuals to be able to respond to situations unlike any their recent ancestors faced. It is exactly in such situations that flexible, domain-general mechanisms would be favored."
That is, we would expect domain-general mechanism like general intelligence, ethnocentrism, religiosity, agreeableness, etc. to vary not only within a population group, but between population groups under different environments. Differences between individuals within a racial group provides nature with a flexible mechanism to select for certain combinations of traits that will vary on average to allow a race to survive under different environments. East Asians will select for intelligence, Semites will select for ethnocentrism, Nordics will select for moral universalism, etc. The same differences seen between individuals will also be seen as differences, on average, between races. If individual differences did not exist, the trait under consideration would go to genetic fixation, like face recognition or "street smarts" - or well functioning modules found in most normal people. We will revisit this issue when Ridley uses Lewontin's argument against racial differences below.
Finally, The Origins of Human Nature has some revealing information on programs like Head Start and Bush's No Child Left Behind:
"The findings presented above indicate that extra prenatal stimulation in one sensory system can affect adversely later learning in another system. Related to this issue is the question of whether an early learning experience in infancy can interfere with later learning….
"Formal education is a novelty for Homo sapiens, a cultural invention only thousands of years old at most, and only in the past century has a majority of humanity received even moderate levels of schooling. Yet, within some cultures, children begin formal education during the preschool years. Moreover, some of the discoveries relating to infant and fetus learning have resulted in movements to push formal education back to the crib and, in some cases, to the womb. The evolutionary developmental perspective taken here, however, suggests that imposing formal education on children before they are biologically "ready" or "prepared" to learn will have few positive consequences and may have some negative effects. Surprisingly, there has been little systematic research on this socially important issue. There are a few notable exceptions, however.
"In one study, researchers Marion Hyson, Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek, and Leslie Rescorla compared the effects of early high-academic versus low-academic preschool programs on middle-class children's school-related behavior in kindergarten. Children were given tests of academic skills, social competence, emotional well-being, and creativity at the end of their prekindergarten program and again toward the end of kindergarten. High-academic prekindergarten programs stressed adult-directed instruction, whereas low-academic programs did not but instead followed a 'developmentally appropriate' curriculum. There were no significant differences in academic ability either at the end of prekindergarten or kindergarten between the children who attended the high-academic and low-academic programs. A small difference was found for test anxiety at the end of preschool, with children attending the academically oriented schools showing greater test anxiety than children attending the developmentally appropriate programs. Correlational analyses revealed that mothers who scored high on an adult-instruction scale tended to have children rated as lower in creativity. (Mothers' belief in adult-instruction positively predicted children's performance on an academic skills test in preschool, but this relation disappeared in kindergarten.) Also, the greater the emphasis a preschool placed on adult-directed practices, the higher children's school-related anxiety. Finally, children who attended the developmentally appropriate schools were more likely to have a positive attitude toward school than were children who attended the high-academic programs.
"Hyson and her associates cautioned that most of these effects, although statistically significant, were small in magnitude. Nevertheless, in general, there were no long-term benefits of an academically oriented preschool program and some evidence that such programs might have negative consequences (e.g., greater stress). Based on these findings, Hyson and colleagues concluded that there seems to be no defensible reason for encouraging formal academic instruction during the preschool years. Rather, for most children from middle-class homes, cognitive development and creativity can best be fostered in a developmentally appropriate preschool program that considers children's limitations as well as their abilities. In the opinion of these researchers, 'it may be developmentally prudent to let children explore the world at their own pace rather than to impose our adult timetables and anxieties on them'."
A person has to wonder if anyone in Washington is paying attention to the latest research, or if they just don't care as long as they are reelected. The evidence is now overwhelming and clear, children do not need enrichment programs to do well in school and to succeed in a technological society - they just need the right genes so that they can naturally develop into a productive member of society.
Nature via Nurture: Genes, Experience, & What Makes Us Human
This brings me to Matt Ridley's new book, with another example of how many of today's authors, when it comes to the issue of racial differences, will side step the issue with simplistic rationalizations. Ridley does a very good job of showing why racial differences should be expected throughout the book. But he never confronts the issue of human races directly - except to imply that racial differences just do not apply to humans, but do apply to other species - a very strange instance of attributing human uniqueness for a scientist. (There is so much in this book that deals with evolution and behavior genetics that I will only cover a few important parts that do not take to much space to review.)
Ridley starts out by discrediting the latest attempt at dismissing the importance of genes in determining who we become. Some experts and laymen alike have grabbed onto the recent news that humans only have about 30,000 genes, to claim that this means we do not have enough genes to determine our natures, it must be nurture that makes us who we are. Of course this is absurd at face value, because the nature-nurture debate was never determined by speculation with regards to exactly how many genes it takes an organism to be flexible behaviorally versus determinate. Ridley explains that:
"This was the making of a new myth [that 30,000 genes are too few to make us genetically determined in many ways]. In truth, the number of human genes [expected] changed nothing. Venter's remarks concealed two massive non-sequiturs: first, that fewer genes implied more environmental influences; and second, that 30,000 genes were 'too few' to explain human nature where 100,000 would have been enough. As Sir John Sulston, one of the leaders of the human genome project, put it to me a few weeks later, just 33 genes, each coming in just two varieties (such as on or off), would be enough to make every human being in the world unique. There are more than 10 billion ways of flipping a coin 33 times. So 30,000 is not such a small number after all. Two multiplied by itself 30,000 times produces a number larger than the total number of particles in the known universe. Besides, if fewer genes meant more free will, that would make fruit flies freer than people, bacteria freer still, and viruses the John Stuart Mills of biology."
While writing this review, an article in the August 22, 2003 issue of Science entitled "Gene Counters Struggle to Get the Right Answer," explains how complicated the gene-protein-timing interaction is and what this means to an organism: "genes that code for multiple proteins or genelike sequences that code only for RNA….hidden genes….dark matter, seemingly geneless regions in a genome that might contain hidden coding sequences….One gene can yield multiple proteins or even be transcribed into RNA rather than a protein….pseudogenes—[that] artificially inflate gene numbers….etc."
Ridley explains, "If a single gene could make thousands of proteins, then listing human genes would be only the very beginning of the task of listing the number of proteins they could produce. On the other hand, such complexity made nonsense of the argument that the comparatively few genes in the human genome meant the genome was too simple to explain human nature, and so people must be the product of experience instead. Those who argued this way were suddenly hoist with their own petard. Having argued that a genome of 30,000 genes was too small to determine the details of human nature, they would have to admit that a genome which could produce hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of different proteins had easily enough combinatorial capacity to specify human nature in excruciating detail, without even bothering to use nurture."
Ridley goes on to explain that in nature, social behavior is very flexible and that habitats determine how a species will eventually behave, with little reliance on the genetic make up of the species. That is, no matter how similar any two genus, species or racial taxa are to each other, with regards to behavior, there is enough genetic flexibility to alter behavior. So it is with human races, we evolved different levels of innate intelligence and different frequencies of genetic alleles that make us different on average in behavioral traits such as conscientiousness. Change any human group's habitat, social structure, climate, food source, or need for defensive action against other humans or dangerous prey, and genetic frequency changes will follow over time. Every race or population group has their own particular history that has molded their cognitive and behavioral postures to help them survive, and it is the wide latitude of behavioral types within races that has provided this flexibility to be expressed differently on average by each race.
As Ridley puts it, "The same is not true of social behavior. By and large, ethologists have found very little phylogenetic inertia in social systems. Closely related species can have very different social organization if they live in different habitats or eat different food. Distant relatives can have very similar social systems by convergent evolution if they inhabit similar ecological niches. Where two species show similar behavior, it tells you less about their common ancestor and more about the pressures of the environment that shaped them."
Humans, like other organisms, do not have a "set of genes" for making a particular human type, including differences. Rather, there is a loosely defined set of regulatory genes that turn off and on during one's life based on timing, helping us mature into successful adults:
"Small changes in the promoter [genes] can therefore have subtle effects on the expression of the gene. Perhaps promoters are more like thermostats than switches. It is in the promoters that scientists expect to find most evolutionary change in animals and plants - in sharp contrast to bacteria. For example, mice have short necks and long bodies; chickens have long necks and short bodies. If you count the vertebrae in the neck and thorax of a chicken and a mouse, you will find that the mouse has 7 neck and 13 thoracic vertebrae; the chicken has 14 and 7 respectively. The source of this difference lies in one of the promoters attached to one of the hox genes, Hoxc8, a gene found in both mice and chickens whose job is to switch on other genes that lay down details of development. The promoter is a 200-letter paragraph of DNA, and it has just a handful of letters different in the two species. Indeed, changes in as few as two of these letters may be enough to make all the difference. The effect is to delay the expression of the Hoxc8 gene slightly in the development of the chicken embryo. Since development of the vertebral column starts at the head, this means the chicken goes on making neck vertebrae longer than the mouse….As the hox [gene] story illustrates, DNA promoters express themselves in the fourth dimension: their timing is all. A chimp has a different head from a human being not because it has a different blueprint for the head, but because it grows the jaws for longer and the cranium for less long than does the human being. The difference is all timing."
Ridley then explains that with universal education, with reduced differences in environmental influences, the differences between students are now due to heredity, not to nurturing. For decades now, we have seen that Jews far exceed Whites, and Whites far exceed Blacks in educational attainment, and in the case of Blacks, all kinds of environmental explanations have been put forth to try and dispel any genetic belief in causation, but to no avail. All of the research points to genes rather than the environment, and the egalitarians have given up trying to show environmental causation, and have fallen back into purely defensive positions. These include calling anyone who broaches the subject of genetic racial differences as racist, or stepping around the subject altogether by not really addressing it - as Ridley has done.
As Ridley explains the Left's tactics of denial: "Anecdotes aside, [Bouchard] was gathering real, quantitative information on similarity [between identical twins]. By the time he published, his data were all but impregnable to Farber's criticisms. Not that this impressed the establishment. His critics still charged that he was proving nothing but his own assumptions. Of course these people resembled each other - they lived in similar middle-class suburbs of similar cities; they swam in the same cultural sea; they were taught the same western values."
All kinds of adoption studies, twin studies, longitudinal studies, etc., from numerous countries around the world, are showing without a doubt which aspects of human nature are genetic versus environmental. Were we actually more enlightened 100 years ago about human nature than we are now? Ridley observes that:
"What about intelligence? The debate about the heritability of IQ has been scarred by controversy since its inception. The first IQ tests were crude and culturally biased. In the 1920s, convinced that intelligence was largely hereditary and alarmed at the thought of excessive breeding by stupid people, governments in the United States and many European countries began to sterilize mental defectives to prevent them from passing on their genes. But in the 1960s came a sudden revolution, as in so many other debates. From then on, even the assertion of heritable IQ led to vitriolic campaigns of denunciation, assaults on your reputation and demands for your dismissal. The first to suffer this treatment was Arthur Jensen in 1969, following his article in the Harvard Educational Review. By the 1990s, the argument that society was segregating itself by assortative mating along intellectual and therefore racial lines - asserted in The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray - provoked another wave of rage among academics and journalists.
"Yet I suspect that if you took a poll of ordinary people, they would hardly have changed their views over a century. Most people believe in 'intelligence' - a natural aptitude or lack of it for intellectual pursuits. The more children they have, the more they believe in it. This does not stop them from also believing in coaxing it out of the gifted and coaching it into the ungifted through education. But they think that there is something innate.
"The studies of twins reared apart or together unambiguously support the idea that although some people are good at some things and others are good at other things, there is such a thing as unitary intelligence. That is to say, most measures of intelligence correlate with each other. People who are good at general knowledge tests or vocabulary tests are usually good at abstract reasoning or at tasks that involve completing number series. This was first noticed a century ago by a follower of Galton's, the statistician Charles Spearman, who dubbed the common factor g for general intelligence. Today, a measure of g derived from correlating different IQ tests remains a powerful predictor of how well a child will do at school. There has been more research on g than on any other subject in psychology. Theories of multiple intelligence come and go, but the notion of correlated intelligence just will not go away."
So back to the differences between races in intelligence. Numerous studies are showing that East Asians have larger brains than Whites, and Whites have larger brains than Blacks. The difference in average brain sizes correlates with racial average intelligences - 105, 100 and 70 (in sub-Saharan Africa) - respectively. But is the brain size-intelligence correlation a just so story as Stephen Gould tried to claim? Ridley replies:
"The one physical feature that does clearly predict intelligence is brain size. The correlation between brain volume and IQ is about 40 percent, a number that leaves much room for the small-brained genius and the big-brained dullard but is still a strong correlation. Brains are composed of white matter and gray matter. When, in 2001, brain scanners reached the stage that people could be compared for the amount of gray matter in their brains, two separate studies in Holland and Finland found a high correlation between g and volume of gray matter, especially in certain parts of the brain. Both also found a huge correlation between identical twins in volume of gray matter: 95 percent. Fraternal twins had only a 50 percent correlation. These figures indicate something that is under almost pure genetic control, leaving very little room for environmental influence. Gray matter volume must be 'due completely to genetic factors and not to environmental factors' in the words of Danielle Posthuma, the Dutch researcher. These studies bring us no closer to the actual genes of intelligence, but they leave little doubt that the genes are there. Gray matter consists of the bodies of neurons, and the new correlation implies that clever people may literally have more neurons, or more connections between neurons, than normal people do. After the discovery of the role of the ASPM gene in determining brain size through neuron number, it is beginning to look as if some of the genes of g will soon be found."
Ridley does point out that living in extreme poverty can have a detrimental impact on learning. However, what type of environment is extreme? Certainly not in the urban ghettos. In the United States, even the poorest children have been shown to have adequate nutrition. It would seem this level of deprivation is what we have seen in Communist orphanages like Romania or China, or massive starvation in Communist North Korea. In the United States, even among middle class Blacks, their children do poorly in school on average, no doubt due to regression to the mean as well as affirmative action redistribution of income from Whites and Jews to Blacks. The genetics of intelligence just will not go away.
Over just the last few years or so, research has concluded that genes, not the environment, rules as a person ages, quite contrary to what we would expect given the older static concept of genes. Ridley states:
"The second surprise hidden in the average figures is that the influence of genes increases and the influence of shared environment gradually disappears with age. The older you grow, the less your family background predicts your IQ and the better your genes predict it. An orphan of brilliant parents adopted into a family of dullards might do poorly at school but by middle age could end up a brilliant professor of quantum mechanics. An orphan of dullard parents, reared in a family of Nobel Prize-winners, might do well at school but by middle-age may be working in a job that requires little reading or little deep thought.
"Numerically, the contribution of 'shared environment' to variation in IQ in a western society is roughly 40 percent in people younger than 20. It then falls rapidly to zero in older age groups. Conversely, the contribution of genes to explaining variation in IQ rises from 20 percent in infancy to 40 percent in childhood to 60 percent in adults and maybe even 80 percent in people past middle age. In other words, the effect of being reared in the same environment as somebody else is influential while you are still in that environment but does not endure beyond the period of shared rearing. Adoptive siblings do have partly similar IQs while living together. But as adults their IQs are wholly uncorrelated. By adulthood, intelligence is like personality: mostly inherited, partly influenced by factors unique to the individual, and very little affected by the family you grew up in. This is a counterintuitive discovery exploding the old idea that genes come early and nurture late….
"The story of IQ contains a very clear example of this phenomenon. Called the Flynn effect, after its discoverer, James Flynn, it is the remarkable fact that average IQ scores are rising steadily at the rate of at least five points per decade. This shows that the environment does influence IQ; it implies that compared with our grandparents we are all teetering on the brink of genius, which seems unlikely.
"Nonetheless, something about modern life, whether it is nutrition, education, or mental stimulation, is making each generation better at IQ tests than its parents. Therefore, one or two nurturists (but not Flynn) argued triumphantly, the role of genes must be smaller than had been thought. But the analogy of height shows that this is a non sequitur. Thanks to better nutrition, each generation is taller than its parents, but nobody would argue that therefore height is less genetic than was thought. In fact, because more people now reach their full potential stature, the heritability of variation in height is probably increasing."
Over an over again, the genetic importance of genes is overwhelming the radical environmentalists. Is it any wonder that they continually fall back on criticizing the research of behavior geneticists, while providing no research of their own? All they have been able to do is provide new and ever more convoluted speculations as to why Blacks are less intelligent than Whites - but no proof is ever forthcoming. When their theories fail after testing, they turn to new theories, while genetics marches on at an ever-increasing pace. Even some of the more absurd promises are still conjured up, as if they were still valid:
"By the mid-1920s Watson was convinced not that conditioning was a part of how humans learned about the world but that it was the main theme. He joined a growing academic trend toward enthusiasm for nurture over nature and made an extraordinary claim: 'Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I'll guarantee to take any one of them at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select - doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief, and yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations and race of his ancestors.'"
Ridley has done a superb job of explaining how genes can shape a population group's phenotypic traits with only slight variation in the actual genes. A similar example discussed includes a fascinating case of variability with the different fish in Africa, where in several lakes, different species have each adapted to particular niches in each lake, and the habitats have determined how the different races of fish have evolved to take advantage of the differing environments. For example: there are three lakes with three different species of fish (species A, B and C). Within each lake, there are three different habitats, to be occupied by that specie's races (habitats x, y and z). As it turns out, the fish "races" that occupy habitat x behave and look more alike than they do their own species that occupy habitats y and z. And the same goes for those fish races that occupy habitat y and habitat z. It is not the genetic similarity that determines how the fishes have reshaped themselves; it is the habitat that creates the final product. Ridley drives this point home very well. So what does he say about human races?
"Though he stressed the influence of the environment, Boas was no extreme blank-slater. He made the crucial distinction between the individual and the race. It was precisely because he recognized profound innate differences in personality between individuals that he discounted innate differences between races, a perspective that was later proved genetically correct by Richard Lewontin. The genetic differences between two individuals chosen at random from one race are far greater than the average differences between races. Indeed, Boas sounds thoroughly modern in almost every way. His fervent antiracism, his belief that culture determined rather than reflected ethnic idiosyncrasy, and his passion for equality of opportunity for all would come to be hallmarks of political virtue in the second half of the century, although Boas himself was dead by then….
"Seen from outside the species, human races look remarkably similar. To a chimpanzee or a Martian, the different human ethnic groups would barely deserve classification as separate races at all. There are no sharp geographical boundaries where one race begins and another ends, and the genetic variation between races is small compared with the genetic variation among individuals of the same race, reflecting the recent common ancestor of all human beings alive today - little more than 3,000 generations have passed since that common ancestor lived.
"But seen from inside one race, other human races look extremely different. White Victorians were ready to elevate (or relegate) Africans to a different species, and even in the twentieth century hereditarians frequently sought to prove that the differences between blacks and whites were deeper than skin and were manifest in the mind as well as the body. In 1972 Richard Lewontin disposed of most serious scientific racism by showing that genetic differences between individuals swamp differences between races. Though a few cranks still believe they will find a justification for racial prejudice in the genes, the truth is that science has done far more to explode than to foster the myth of racial stereotypes."
This is the sum total of his rebuttal of racial differences. Can it stand up to scrutiny? Hardly, he is just recycling the same old Marxist canard that Boas, Lewontin, Rose, Kamin and Gould have been spouting. The logic is so easily rebutted it must have pained Ridley to present it. For example, there is also more variance in stature within a race than there is between races. But does anyone claim that there is no genetic variance between the average heights of Pygmies versus Bantus? There is also more variance in intelligence between children born to the same parents than there is between some races - such as Ashkenazi Jews and Caucasians. Does that mean there are no differences in the average intelligence of Ashkenazi Jews and Caucasians?
How about breeds of dogs? I would venture the same statement could be made: "there is more genetic variance within any breed of dog than there is between any two breed (races) of dogs." So what? That tells us nothing about the differences between breeds. It only tells us that someone counted up specific genetic alterations, and that there is a lot of variety even among closely related organisms.
Remember, Ridley started out telling us that it did not matter if humans had 30,000 genes or 100,000 genes, there is plenty of genetic information for humans to have a high degree of heritability in morphology, intelligence, behavioral traits, and in responses to disease and medical treatment, as well as specific genetic disease. So why would he then claim that similarly, because we have a lot of genetic variance between individuals, there cannot be genetic differences between races in the frequency of specific alleles? The list could go on and on, with varying degrees of comparison, but it is all quite useless. The amount of variation in the genetic code for any organism, whether it is between members of the species, close kin, or subspecies (races), tells us absolutely nothing about the resultant phenotypic characteristics and the amount of variability that exists on any particular trait.
If a trait has been found to be of universal value under all types of habitat, eventually it will go to fixation. If traits such as intelligence, stature or extroversion have varying value under different ecological conditions, then the trait will not go to fixation to allow for changes in the average for the group or race to acquire under selection pressures. What this means is, that we would expect there to be racial differences in the average expression of any trait that has an open-ended need to change under ecological stress - such as being a fast sprinter or a long distance runner (the genes for these two versions of fast-twitch versus slow-twitch muscles have now been identified).
Ridley has one other statement that expresses his capitulation to political correctness:
"After half a million years, technological progress is steady, but very, very slow until the Upper Paleolithic revolution, sometimes known as the 'great leap forward.' Around 50,000 years ago in Europe, painting, body adornment, trading over long distances, artifacts of clay and bone, and elaborate new stone designs all seem to appear at once. The suddenness is partly illusory, no doubt, because the tools had developed gradually in some corner of Africa before spreading elsewhere by migration or conquest. Indeed, Sally McBrearty and Alison Brooks have argued that the fossil record supports a very gradual, piecemeal revolution in Africa starting almost 300,000 years ago. Blades and pigments were already in use by then. McBrearty and Brooks place the invention of long-distance trade at 130,000 years ago, for instance, on the basis of the discovery at two sites in Tanzania of pieces of obsidian (volcanic glass) used to make spear points. This obsidian came from the Rift Valley in Kenya, more than 200 miles away.
"The sudden revolution of 50,000 years ago at the start of the Upper Paleolithic is clearly a Eurocentric myth, caused by the fact that far more archaeologists work in Europe than in Africa."
Oh really? What proof does Ridley have for this statement? None apparently, he makes no reference for this assertion. Could it not also be possible that 50,000 years ago, under extreme ecological stress, humans in Europe and East Asia took a giant leap forward in intelligence and creativity because they had to for the sake of survival? There is very little evidence that sub-Saharan Africans ever had an advanced culture, a written language, domestication of animals and plants, or utilization of the wheel even though it was brought to them by others several thousand years ago. From all indications, sub-Saharan Africans have a low average intelligence, and there is no environmental explanation for this fact other than they evolved in an ecological niche that did not require a higher degree of cognitive development. Of course, Ridley would never discuss these issues openly and honestly. But why not? Actually, Ridley explains why but just doesn't see the irony.
In Human Evolutionary Psychology they state: "one of the most puzzling features of humans is their apparently unique willingness (as a species) to conform to the communal will rather than individually striking out on their own. In fact, for two decades or more, a minor industry within social psychology devoted itself to empirical studies of just these kinds of effects. Why humans should be so unusually susceptible to these kinds of social pressures remains the deepest and perhaps most intriguing mystery in the whole of human evolution."
Likewise, Ridley states, "Conformity is indeed a feature of human society, at all ages. The more rivalry there is between groups, the more people will conform to the norms of their own group. But there is something else going on beneath the surface. Under the superficial conformity in tribal costumes lies an almost frantic search for individual differentiation."
And of course, Ridley like all people is trying desperately to differentiate himself from others by being on the cutting edge of genetics, but like all human tribes, he has succumbed to conforming to the group norms of Western society: he must deny any differences between races because that position is the moralizing god of liberalism. He has obeyed the papal stance on egalitarianism, and will go no further to unshackle himself from group membership - it is still too strong. To do so means isolation, censorship, and even criminal charges in many European countries under newly enacted hate speech laws against discussing racial issues.
While concluding my review of Ridley, I started reading Original Intelligence: Unlocking the Mystery of Who We Are by David & Ann Premack, 2003. In discussing the evolution of humans, they shed some additional light on our transformation from hunter-gatherers to modernity.
They state first that humans are genetically 98.4% similar to chimpanzees, 80% similar to flatworms, and 60% similar to sponges and that "Obviously, there is no linear relation between genes and intelligence: the chimpanzee does not have 98.4% of human intelligence, the flatworm 80%, or the sponge 60%." They point out, as does Ridley and others, that we are now finding that differences are not due to genes as much as to "the work of regulatory genes, which have an effect out of proportion to their numbers. By suppressing or activating major metabolic pathways, pathways that have multiple branches, even a single regulatory gene, can have an overpowering effect on development."
Now let's return to Lewontin's assertions about human variability. The assertion that there is more genetic variation between individuals than between races was made decades ago, when everyone thought that evolutionary change was caused by genetic mutations, and that humans could not have divided up into races with dissimilar gene frequencies because there just wasn't enough time. Now we know that evolution has far less to do with mutations than it does with changing the regulation of the genes. The old Marxist arguments no longer hold under the newer paradigm that differences come about from the interaction of ecological stress on differing races. So let's look at a different view of change in differential averages in intelligence.
Premack & Premack take a slightly different view of what happened during the Upper Paleolithic revolution 50,000 years ago in Europe. During this period, hunting became highly efficient because of increased intelligence, and food sources were utterly destroyed over time, and the prospects were extinction for humans as well as their prey. But humans rebounded in a novel way: at least in this part of the world, we began domesticating plants and animals. "In other words, he invented a new technology. The cognition that originally had imperiled him, now save him."
This new technology brought about the inventions of writing, economics (to inventory crop ownership, etc.), the state, church and armies to defend territories as the population continued to increase. Humans were again under extreme ecological stress as they went from egalitarian hunter-gatherer tribalism to vast empires. Now, the process of agriculture relied on "causal reasoning, on recognizing that seeds grow when planted in the ground…."
Once we had fully developed the written word, and a written history, the human mind slowly acquired the ability to form complex plots, scenarios, rules, divisions of labor, etc. Intelligence was now of primary importance for individual as well as group evolutionary strategies. But where were the sub-Saharan Africans and other extant hunter-gatherer races during this period? They never left the evolutionary stage of hunter-gatherer. They were stuck in the past.
This now turns Jared Diamond's argument on its head (Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. Norton, 1997). He argues that all races are equally intelligent, but some discovered technology because of where they lived. But it is more likely that where they lived, drove their intelligence higher because they had to or become extinct. They had become too fecund to exist as they had in the past.
But some even went further. The Greeks and the Jews introduced universal education, and the ability to read, interpret, and ponder highly complex text became an asset and a valued commodity in a world where most people remained illiterate. The Greek civilization died out, but the Ashkenazi Jewish study of the Torah, along with selective breeding of male Torah scholars with the daughters of rich merchants, introduced the first eugenic breeding program that has given the modern day Ashkenazi Jews a phenomenal average verbal intelligence of 127 (with an average overall intelligence of 115) (MacDonald 2002b). (Also see recent research by Richard Lynn that shows a somewhat lower average IQ for Ashkenazi Jews - but still higher than any other race.)
I have reviewed Ridley by focusing on the book's deceptions because they needed to be clarified. But there is much that I have not covered. It is very well written, and it is one of the most intriguing books on how genetics is changing how we look at evolution and behavior. Be sure to read the book, and see for yourself how he vindicates the probability that there are indeed racial differences in average intelligence, and in fact these differences have been observed for over 100 years now and have not changed.