In his latest VDARE column, John Derbyshire has written a glowing discussion of yours truly:
Bloggers come and go. They say all they have to say; or they take a more demanding day job; or start a new hobby; or fall in love; or, I suppose (gulp), are gathered unto their fathers. As VDARE.com always says in its fundraisers, in the long run it’s very hard to write unless you’re paid for it.
New ones come up, though; so from time to time I’ll give you an update.
Of bloggers unmentioned in that November 2012 column, the most interesting one is JayMan. I don’t think I knew his blog at the time. At any rate, I feel sure that if I had known it, I would have included it.
Well… more on that shortly.
JayMan writes about human nature, with particular attention to human differences. As such he has particular appeal to Us of the Cold Eye. That is to say, he’s a stone empiricist who scoffs at happy talk and wishful thinking about human nature, and goes to the research studies.
That is my thing. A couple of my tweets on the matter should sum it up:
Biologists estimate heritability by studying different degrees of relatedness: identical twins, siblings, cousins, adoptees, unrelated individuals. Rigorous studies of this kind have been going on for decades. We have a vast mountain of data on human variability. They all agree on the essentials.
Here, for example, is a short piece on the heritability of adult height, which in well-nourished populations is about 80 percent.[ How much of human height is genetic and how much is due to nutrition? , Scientific American, December 11, 2006]
JayMan seems to know all the studies, and does not suffer gladly people who think that waving their arms and crying “epigenetics!” or “Pioneer Fund!” makes a contribution to any discussion of human nature. His question: What does the data say?
Here he is, for example, in the comment thread to one of hbd*chick’s posts (JayMan is an indefatigable commenter). The point at issue is whether one’s happiness as an adult depends to any degree on the style of parenting you were subjected to in childhood.
JayMan cites, with links, two different studies from two different countries showing that it doesn’t.
The transmission of misery or bliss in a family is entirely due to shared genes, just like most everything else.
The fact that parenting style makes no measurable contribution to the finished adult personality is perhaps the most counterintuitive result in the human sciences. There is nothing more certain, yet there is nothing harder to get across to people—even well-educated people—who are unacquainted with the literature.
The case for behavioral genetics is as solid as a rock. Yet certain people like to pretend as if this is a “speculative” affair, or deny that we have such evidence entirely. A key reason for that is as Misdreavus once put it:
Well, there are certain people I can’t fully convince of a lot of things. Smart people have a hard time with heredity, which is why there is big opposition to HBD. But I have a particularly hard time with the non-effect of parenting.
Conservatives are even more clueless about the human sciences than liberals. It is for example a perennial theme in conservative social commentary that fatherlessness is the cause of much social dysfunction and many poor life outcomes. If only poor people could be persuaded to get married and stay married!
Sounds nice, and gets your timid conservative commentator off the “racist” hook, since ceteris paribus fatherlessness is much more common among blacks than nonblacks.
But … “Happy talk!” scoffs JayMan.
Even if there was more marriage among those in the lower class, the next generation, having inherited all the same traits, would be no different. The poor outcomes of children who were raised in fatherless homes stem not from the much maligned single motherhood—in and of itself—but rather from the traits these children inherited from their parents, who were the type of individuals likely to have their children end up being raised by single mothers. [Liberalism, HBD, Population, and Solutions for the Future, June 1, 2012]
So the arrow of causation is not from fatherlessness to poor life outcomes: It is from certain features of the parental genomes inclining to single motherhood and pump’n’dump fatherhood, and thence, by genetic transmission, to similarly feckless offspring.
This latter picture makes much more sense given what we know about the heritability of behavioral and personality characteristics. Which is a lot: JayMan has put together an excellent reference post, spelling it all out, with numerous links.
Resistance to belief that parenting has little lasting effect (beyond the primary goal of ensuring your children’s survival and safety) is so fierce – and so irrational – that I’d say it has a religious nature to it, like political beliefs. That too demands explanation. And don’t worry, I have something on that in the works. ;)
Indeed, knowledge of heritability (and by extension, the general non-effect of parenting) is on firm ground, as firm as evolution itself. To deny it is tantamount to creationism at this point. So for that reason, I say this:
In fact, I’ll go a step further, and say to these people – you know who you are – it’s like this:
The jury is in; and your team did lose. Contra the blank slatists, developmental psychologists, and all those people who claim that human differences result entirely or primarily from our experiences, you’re wrong. “Nature” is powerful and pervasive; nurture is weak; what effect the “environment” does have doesn’t work like you think.
Indeed, I’d say that the true reality of the matter – beyond what people discuss as being potentially acceptable and whatnot with the current (largely nonsensical) discussion revolving around Nicholas Wade’s A Troublesome Inheritance – goes far deeper than this. On this point, I will note that Derbyshire referenced me before, in a radio interview about Wade’s book (see here, Recent, Copious, and Regional), at time point 15:00.
Derbyshire notes there that “if dimensions of the individual human personality are heritable [and they are], then society is just a vector sum of a lot of individual personalities.“
And hence, not to add insult to injury upon the various strands of blank slatists and other “environmentalists”, but the fact of the matter, as established by the evidence, is even more far removed from what that might hope, and cling to. As accounted in my earlier post “Squid Ink”:
the advice is that if we want HBD to gain widespread acceptance, we can’t be too “hard” with our claims, regardless of how true they actually are. How would these people then receive the true realities of the situation then? Like:
- Every single human behavioral trait is impacted by genes, usually considerably so.
- How you raise your kids has virtually no impact on how they turn out. That is, nurture appears to matter little in the end.
- For that matter, contrary to what we’ve been told, it doesn’t look like peers matter too much, either.
- We have been so far unable to find much of anything in the environment that leaves a lasting impact on intelligence or behavioral traits.
- Indeed, this is largely true of health outcomes. “Lifestyle” (say diet and exercise) doesn’t appear to be primarily responsible for differences in illness or lifespan.
- One class of agents in the environment that the evidence does seem to be pointing to that can impact health and behavior are pathogens, and many, if not most, have yet to be discovered. These infections can cause chronic disease, like cancer and perhaps heart disease, and can even alter behavior, most poignantly in the case male homosexuality.
- While we know the grand-scale environment can make a difference, as seen with rapid secular changes, this seems to primarily occur because of alterations in the incentive structure or through hitherto unavailable possibilities (e.g., cars, internet, oral birth control). Changes here quite likely aren’t easy to execute in a way that achieves controlled outcomes.
- Given the high heritabilities of behavioral traits and the lack of clear environmental mediators, differences in “culture” (especially within a given time period) are largely due to genetic differences between people. That is, differences between all human groups (races, ethnicities, social classes, or whatever) are all to some degree due to genetics, and perhaps mostly or almost entirely so. [Emphasis not in original.]
- Your birth family/clan heavily determines your eventual social status. Social status is in fact as heritable as height, and decays very slowly generation after generation in all different social systems across different countries. Social mobility, by in large, doesn’t exist.
- This scales up to larger groups: the average intelligence and distribution of behavioral traits of a nation or a race/ethnicity within a nation are overwhelmingly the primary determinants of its outcome and social structure, and not its resource wealth or historical circumstances (generally).
- Indeed, these imply that all of human history is largely the result of the churning of these behavioral and intellectual differences, enabled by technology (which itself is a function of the people).
Would a speaker that said all these things get a lot of play? Would a book that laid bare the case for these rather than took the more muted tack that Wade’s did be well received? What do you think?
I will say one thing: with all these considered, it’s hard to escape the seeming importance of eugenics, if crafting a better society is what you’re after. Indeed, if that’s your goal, eugenics – in one form or another – does appear to be your only avenue.
I know others might not share the idea that such frankness is best, but, as I said at that post:
Derbyshire continues to my, frankly, unusual background:
As his affection for Bill Maher shows, JayMan is refreshingly eclectic in his opinions—the opposite of a straight-ticket liberal or conservative. He is an atheist, but a nationalist; a social libertarian who favors the “gay germ” theory of homosexuality.
He describes himself in fact as “very liberal … both socially and economically,” and fleshes that out by posting his scores on a standard multi-factor test of political alignment.
A black, or part-black, HBD maven? I don’t see why not. There are forty million self-identifying blacks in the U.S.A., plenty of room for every conceivable personality type.
My son will have his own rather interesting lineage to trace; for he is a part West African, part British (presumably English, and possibly Irish), part Chinese, and part Indian (subcontinent), part Yankee, part Quaker, part German, part Latvian tanned-skin blue-eyed male born in Maine. Oh the fun you’ll have. Do these interesting combinations contribute to our unique insights? Well, more on that in the future too.
Derbyshire also talks about some of my impactful posts:
Some of JayMan’s pieces are masterpieces of blogging, if there can be such a thing. Look at his “Maps of the American Nations” post, for example: two thousand words, twenty maps, two video clips, and full engagement with his comment thread.
Indeed, here, I’d like to call attention to some of my posts that, if you didn’t already read, you best do so forthwith. These include:
My two definitive treatments on what we know from behavioral genetics:
The Son Becomes The Father – Here I discuss the recent findings of Gregory Clark (as told in his book The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility), finding a high heritability of social status across time and across space. I square this with what is known from behavioral genetics from the 20th century, noting that evidence for a high genetic effect on all behaviors and all major life outcomes, like the aforementioned life satisfaction, income, criminality, marital stability, etc. I also note that the transmission must be genetic, as evidence shows no parental effect on any of these things.
More Behavioral Genetic Facts – The sequel to the previous post, I continue to tie up additional dangling points and affirm the high heritability and lack of “shared environment” impact on traits such as IQ, criminality, emotional/mental problems. I talk about the extended twin design and how it can clear up some dangling questions, like who do we choose our mates? Do spouses influence each other? I mention the key findings of behavioral genetics, namely:
…and that if anything deviates from that rule, it can be taken to mean something is up.
The preceding post to “Maps of the American Nations”:
Flags of the American Nations – Here I discuss each of Colin Woodard’s American Nations, talking about the characteristics of each as well as a bit about each nation’s origins. The enduring features that make up Greater Appalachia, The Left Coast, the Deep South, etc. that live on in today’s America (and Canada and Mexico) can be traced to these ethnic differences in each region’s settling and subsequent immigration.
The sequel post to “Maps of the American Nations”,
More Maps of the American Nations – Bigger and badder than the original, with more maps solidifying the distinction between the different American nations, with genetic evidence of these differences to boot. Also some discussion of the history of each, and the founding of certain areas. I also include personality data showing that the American nations don’t just exist on paper or in the voting booth. I use these to talk about the importance of self-sorting, founder effects, and Cochran’s & Harpending’s “boiling off” model to explain some of the differences we see. I also touch on immigration and the canard that immigrants “assimilate,” showing that that is pretty much a myth. A must see if you have not.
Why HBD – Mostly quoting Misdreavus, but together with some additional commentary by me, the definitive introduction to human biodiversity, even for people with zero familiarity with the topic. On my About Me page, I direct new readers to start here.
No, You Don’t Have Free Will, and This is Why – I make a detailed case against the existence of free will, which is a nonsensical concept in any rational analysis. I denounce even the latest and best attempts to restore some watered-down version of it. I note that since all actions have causes, human behavior is no less the result of physical processes than any other event in the universe – physical processes which include genes, environmental impacts, and random chance. Behavior is always the result of these forces, and arguments otherwise are merely obsfuctionary quasi-to-fully religious attempts to confuse the matter. I note the irony in the fact that inability of some to let go of the idea of free will is itself explained by its nonexistence (i.e., we can’t escape the physical reality laid out by the structure of our brains, regardless of exactly how our brains got that way).
Where HBD Chick’s Hypothesis Works - Here I take a critical look at the work of the venerable HBD Chick, looking at how the attributes of the world’s populations fit into her theory. Many fit well (especially across Europe, the Middle East, and the Maghreb), but there are some interesting outliers that might provide some key insight.
Predictions on the Worldwide Distribution of Personality – There is more to HBD than IQ. And as we see all human behavioral traits are heritable. There are significant differences between different human groups, and this is my post on how some of the basic personality differences (as measured by the six-factor HEXACO model) might vary across the world, and, perhaps just as importantly, why they came to be so. What selective pressures led to these differences? I discuss here.
Finally, as Derbyshire noted, “As VDARE.com always says in its fundraisers, in the long run it’s very hard to write unless you’re paid for it.” And this is where Mrs. JayMan has urged me to include a message requesting your generous support. I must say, putting this blog together is not easy – sourcing out the research for my posts, for one, is far from a trivial task. It’s rendered additionally more challenging with a little one who insists on demanding much of my time, a demand which I more than happily obliged. I think the quality of my work speaks for itself, and I hope you find it incredibly useful. So if you would like keep it going, please donate. Currently, the two best ways are PayPal, see button at right. All major credit and debit cards are accepted. Also there is Flattr (see button at bottom) for those who prefer.
A satellite image of my ancestral home, Jamaica, courtesy HBD Chick.
Here are the results of my reader poll. All told, it looks like I had about 450 respondents.
Now this is somewhat surprising to me. It seems the vast majority of my readers are White, and many are at least partly from “core” Europe, as HBD Chick considers it. Each voter could select multiple options, so that’s worth bearing in mind.
There seems to be pronounced Rightward lean, more so economically than socially.Now this was perhaps the most surprising result. It seems most of my North American readers are from the North. I haven’t crunched the populations numbers (I will soon), but by eye it seems the Deep South is rather underrepresented (I guess my posts on the Cavaliers did that in). The Far West appears overrepresented, unsurprisingly. I also seem to have a lot of voters from the Left Coast. I got slightly over 300 votes here, so the fraction of voters on this question is roughly in line with my blog traffic from North America.
Now, I didn’t get my intended goal of all readers to my blog over the past week. I’ve averaged about 500 unique visitors per day over that period, yet only 450 votes (I don’t know if “unique visitors” get distinguished in weekly totals, so I don’t know how many unique visitors I had over the week). So these survey respondents are only a small fraction of total readers, and likely the slightly more conscientious/less busy ones. But this also likely represents more reliable readers, as reported above. So, with these caveats considered, it seems my readers are largely middle-aged college educated White conservative men from the U.S. North and West Coast.
As for more complex analysis, unfortunately I can’t do it with the way this poll was done. Maybe another time. In any case, here we are. Thank you all for participating!
I’ll let the tweets speak for themselves:
I want to get an idea of who my readers are. I have a fair idea of where I get my readers, thanks to the WordPress stats, but I’d to know some things that they don’t tell me. I’d like all readers, including lurkers and occasional readers, to please answer the ALL the following polls. This should be completely anonymous, but feel free to add whatever info you want in the comments.
I want to get an idea of your racial/ethnic background. Multiple choices are permitted on this question. Use the map to the right as a guide for inside Hajnal line area:
I want to get an idea of my readers’ political views. A simple one-dimensional scale isn’t the best representation of political views, so I will use two, social views (e.g., sex, drugs,
rock ‘n roll, religion, personal liberties, etc.) and economic views (e.g, free market, regulation, taxation/redistribution, etc.). Left-wing = liberal; right-wing = conservative.
If you’re from North America (i.e., U.S., Canada, and northern Mexico), I’d like to know what region you’re from. Otherwise, please skip. Use this map as a guide (note, Los Angeles County, CA = El Norte; Sacramento County, CA = The Far West; Fulton County, GA [Atlanta] = The Deep South; most of Suffolk County, NY, esp. the east = Yankeedom) Edit: I’ve added Newfoundland:
Results will be shown after a week (i.e., 6/20/14). Again I want all readers, even the occasionally stumblers here, to please answer all the applicable questions. Thank you. I look forward to knowing who I’m reaching!
With the recent spate of mass shootings, (at least four high-profile incidents occurring in the U.S. and Canada in the last two weeks), the issues of guns and violence inevitably come up. Naturally, the politically correct wisdom, which is founded on the blank slate (or at least, a bare slate), wants to blame these events on “environmental,” “cultural,” and “societal” factors. We saw much of this bullshit in action with the most high-profile of these shootings, Elliot Rodger’s rampage. I have commented on this (see Beware Armchair Psychoanalysis). In his case, crackpot theories weren’t limited to coming from the bare slate P.C. establishment, but came from within the “genetically-informed”* community itself. Few of these explanations likely have any truth to them, and my earlier post should have made the foolishness of cooking up these environmental theories obvious.
This is not to say that there aren’t environmental factors that play a role in these crimes, but they are hard to identify. Peter Turchin’s work may be the closest to fleshing some of these out.
However, most of the naive discussion on the matter ignores one incredibly important factor in rates of violence and the prevalence of guns: DNA.
Previously, in my post Guns & Homicide, Map Form, I showed that the relationship between the prevalence of guns and homicide, globally, was pretty weak:
While it’s not totally clear if this map distinguishes gun homicides from gun suicides, it nonetheless shows that the association between the presence of guns and violence is pretty damned weak. This is true if even we limit ourselves to the high average IQ nations (i.e., the “developed” world).
Indeed, an interesting pattern emerges if we look within nations (at all homicides, not just firearm-related), as well (from here):
Also, see this close-up of Europe:
There’s plenty of killing in Eastern Europe (even in Finland, apparently, in the Sami areas), mostly the former Soviet states. But even within Russia, rates of violence are higher in the far east. Note the pattern in North America. I will return to that shortly.
On the basic level, before you can postulate a causal relationship, you should at least have a correlation. The “guns cause violence” crowd doesn’t even have that. That didn’t stop one study from somehow finding one, though.
In Gun Ownership and Firearm-related Deaths (2013), the authors claimed a fairly strong (r = 0.8) correlation between the availability of guns in a nation and firearm related deaths it has. A look at their data illustrates this – and the problems with their methodology:
A look at the specific flags featured should make the problem clear: all the countries examined were in Western Europe and the Anglosphere, with Turkey, South Africa, Israel, and Japan thrown in. As we see from the above maps, including Eastern Europe would have thrown off their relationship just a bit.
Additionally, they lumped gun suicides in with gun homicides. It almost goes without saying that there will be a connection between the availability of guns and the rate of gun suicides. Guns make suicide attempts more likely to be successful, for starters.
Though I suppose it could be conceivable that one could argue that the presence of guns has some effect within different Northwestern European peoples. Does this argument make sense? Well, if you’ve been following along here, you might guess where I am going to go with that.
In my series on the American nations, particularly my earlier post, More Maps of the American Nations, I noted the great regional variation in guns and crime. Let us look at some of these again, closely:
And here’s a map by with more granular data, gun dealers per capita per county:
Now let’s compare that with rates of gun homicides across the country (from the CDC):
Gun ownership appears concentrated in Yankeedom, the northern parts of the Far West, and in Greater Appalachia – with a somewhat smaller concentration in the Deep South. The last three of those “nations” clustering together is hardly unusual, because they are often clustered in many aspects, as I’ve previously discussed. But Yankeedom, which is often diametrically opposed to the Deep South, also seems to have plenty of guns. However, here in Yankeedom they are primarily used for hunting. The presence of guns and the existence of gun violence seems to coincide across Greater Appalachia and parts of the Deep South.
The places with high levels of gun violence in America relates to another map:
Gun violence in America is primarily concentrated in areas with large numbers of Blacks and Hispanics. Indeed, the continually ignored fact in these debates about American gun violence is that the reason for the outsized rates of violence of the United States, compared with the other Northwestern European and NW Euro derived countries, is the large Black and Hispanic populations in this country.
The disconnect between the availability of guns and violence also extends to our northern neighbor (from the RCMP):
(2007 murder rate, U.S. and Canada, from here). In Canada, there is no strong association between gun availability and murder – indeed, there appears to be a slight negative association, if anything (this appears to be also true in the U.S. to an extent). Indeed, just next door to me in New Brunswick, there is a fairly high rate of gun ownership, but little violence (the Moncton shooter notwithstanding), as is the case here in Maine as well. The high rate of violence in Nunavut can be traced to its predominantly Inuit population.
But taken together, rates of gun violence across Canada and the U.S. cannot be explained solely by certain racial minorities. Indeed, gun violence appears higher in some White areas as well, primarily Greater Appalachia.
This brings me to another topic thrown about in this whole discussion. That is the issue of “gun culture.” Even excepting certain non-European populations in the U.S., the country does have a considerably high rate of gun ownership. And indeed, guns are an integral feature of “American” culture. (While Canada has a fairly high rate of gun ownership internationally, it is comparable to rates in much of the rest of the NW Euro & derived world.) But, as Woodard would tell you, and as you’d know from following this blog, there is no one “American” culture, and there never was. Support for permissive gun laws and a heavily gun-centric focus are hallmarks of some of the American nations, particularly the Deep South, Greater Appalachia, and the Far West:
As discussed previously (see my posts A Tentative Ranking of the Clannishness of the “Founding Fathers” and Flags of the American Nations), the ancestors of the people that live in these areas came from certain, more aggressive peripheral areas of the British Isles. In the case of the settlers of the Tidewater and the Deep South, the Cavaliers, their ancestors hailed from southwest England. The founders of Greater Appalachia were the descendents the aggressive Border Reivers of the rugged English-Scottish border area.
The martial traditions of these groups live on in the nations of American South. Individuals from these nations, especially those from Greater Appalachia, also went on to found the Far West, as process which itself involved a strong degree of sorting for even tougher, more free-spirited people, as described in my earlier post.
This highlights an important fallacy on the matter of guns and the discussion of “culture” in general in most mainstream circles. People fail to consider where culture comes from. “Culture” is not some intangible, otherworldly agent. Culture is produced by people. More specifically, the traits of a society are the collective behavior of individuals which comprise it – the vector sum of individual temperaments, as John Derbyshire put it, referencing me (see about time 15:00).
This is why commenters look on in puzzlement over the disconnect between the Dixie peoples’ embrace of Christianity and the actual tenets as taught by Christian tradition. These commenters are looking at it the wrong way. Christian teachings aren’t what motivates Southerners’ behavior and is not what shapes their views; they selectively embrace the parts of the religious traditions that “come naturally” to their way of thinking. In other words, religion is an effect, not a cause of behavior (see also The Atheist Narrative). This true of any cultural feature, of which religious behavior and belief are just examples.
This also, by the way, illustrates the futility of looking at one or another specific aspect of a nation’s – indeed even a local region’s – society and assuming that that aspect is the determining variable (in this case, gun availability). This violates one of hbd* chick’s cardinal commandments: “different peoples is different.” Even comparing White Americans in different parts of the country is essentially comparing apples to oranges (or, at least, apples to pears). Even if we found a strong relationship between gun violence and gun availability, the question would then become: why does gun availability vary from society to society (when it’s clearly not technological or economic factors in the way)?
Looking at the inherited natures of different human populations makes the poor relationship between guns and violence less mysterious. The Swiss can have their guns without much incident. My own people, Jamaicans, not so much. As I said on Twitter:
We do indeed have a lot of work to do to identify what environmental factors (to whatever extent those are relevant) contribute to individual outbursts of gun violence, and indeed, all violence. We certainly aren’t going to get there very quickly if we keep scrambling around recycling the same tired old inadequate explanations every time there’s some attention-grabbing incident.
My previous posts on the American nations:
*I struggle with a name for this collection of people. None of the popular labels, such as “HBD,” “Dark Enlightenment,” “Alt-Right,” etc fit because none of those labels fits every member – nor should it.
In More Behavioral Genetic Facts, I have expanded on an analysis on the meta-analysis of the heritability of criminality. This meta-analysis, a seminal work, represents the single best treatment of what we know of the genetic and environmental impact on criminality to date. Their all-inclusive analysis, combining children and adults, self-report, parent report, and criminal records together, seemed to produce a small shared environment estimate of 0.16. This dropped to 0.09 in adults. However, as the gist of the post illustrated, and as any veteran of behavioral genetics knows, methods matter. Studies on children often produce a transient effect of the shared environment. Self-report tends to be highly noisy. Parental report is often quite biased. As I noted there:
Rating method a2 d2 c2 e2 Total no. of pairs in category Self-report 0.39 - 0.06 0.55 13,329 Other report (usually parents) 0.53 - 0.22 0.25 6,851 Criminal records 0.33 0.42 - 0.25 34,122
The total, or broad-sense heritability, H2 , is the sum of the additive (the narrow-sense heritability) and the non-additive genetic components. As we can see, when actual criminal records (a semi-objective metric) are used, as we’ve seen, the heritability shoots up to the usual range, at 0.75, and the shared environment estimate vanishes. The criminal record analysis also captures the largest number of subjects, bolstering its reliability.
(For the record, the countries spanned by the studies in the meta-analysis include the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia, Denmark, and Sweden.)
This (along with the other studies discussed there and previously) should end the argument on the effect of parents to influence the course of their children’s lives. “Good” parenting simply can’t rescue the genetically predisposed from delinquency, and neither can “bad” parenting (provided it’s not too extremely so) hold back the genetically gifted. These should serve as final nails in the coffin for the case for the efficacy of parenting. There is simply no more to debate.
In my post More Maps of the American Nations, I have made substantial additions. I have added local-level breakdowns for support for same-sex marriage, abortion, and gun ownership. As well, I break down national suicide rates by county by race.
Go there for more on this matter.
Additionally, while this has not been added to any posts, I wanted to comment on another recent find. This one is on the topic of obesity. I recently found a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of diets for the intent of weight loss. With a combined N > 60,000 and a study duration of 2.5 – 10 years, it found that diet was completely ineffective for weight loss. The subjects showed no aggregate permanent weight loss at the end of the study period. It also showed that there was no effective improvement in health outcomes nor were there fewer deaths during the study period for those in the treatment groups. Diets don’t work!
In reporting this, one objection that I’ve encountered is that the diets used in the study were traditional low-fat or low-calorie types, and not the purportedly superior “low-carb” diets. However, this has also been studied. A meta-analysis of RCTs found that low-carb diets don’t work much better:
Combined N: 712
Duration: 1-2 years
Total average weight lost with low-carb diets at study end: 8 lbs!
Obesity remains impossible to effectively treat without surgical intervention. Unfortunately, this matter is clouded by wishful thinking and flat out irrational thought. People recount success stories – indeed, there are studies tabulating those that have successful lost weight and kept it off. However, the belies the enormous amount of selection bias involved in collecting these “success” stories. Proponents of the practical feasibility of long-term weight loss collect all the hits and discount the orders of magnitude greater number of misses. It’s often easy to get success if one cherry-picks enough. But so many are simply unable to see that.
As for that matter of surgical intervention: one can successfully treat obesity on a long-term basis with bariatric surgery. One might imagine that this speaks to the intrinsic danger of excess body weight. However, a meta-analysis of clinical trials – NOT randomized – found questionable results on that front. Improvements in health and lifespan were small and often not significant. Indeed there was a consistent pattern: the larger studies produced weaker results, indicating that publication bias is likely in play. This is in addition to the fact that the selection for treatment was not random. There are many criteria doctors place on who receives bariatric surgery, and it’s almost a given that the decisions to perform surgery were biased to their healthier patients.
The causes and nature of obesity remain a mystery, but we won’t make much progress if we stick to invalidated models, which foolishly stress blame and “personal responsibility.”