(This is also published at The Unz Review.)
In the preceding part (The Donald Trump Phenomenon: Part 1: The American Nations), I talked about the geographic (and hence ethnic) variation in support for the various 2016 U.S. presidential candidates. In this part, I will focus on the turmoil in this particular election cycle, and what it means for our society and acceptance of the reality of HBD.
This election cycle exhibits a certain ferocity not seen in earlier elections. Much of that is hatred directed at Donald Trump. The rancor will likely intensify as the election progresses, especially if Trump is the Republican nominee, as he is likely to be.
Why this vitriol? Donald Trump was always a talked-about and sometimes controversial figure, but no more so than most celebrities. There were always people who didn’t like him, but few really hated him. But now it seems certain people definitely do hate Trump. Indeed, he has now become the Great Satan in many people’s eyes, and comparisons to Adolf Hitler are common. Why?
Much as been written about Trump’s appeal to his supporters. See:
Donald Trump is not an idiot – he could be the next US President
Note from a Trump Supporter: It’s the Immigration, Stupid! | educationrealist
I was wrong about Donald Trump: Camille Paglia on the GOP front-runner’s refreshing candor (and his impetuousness, too)
But why the hate? I will argue that the hatred directed towards Trump has little to do with Trump himself or his campaign. Rather, I suspect that this is more about what a Trump presidency represents: the end of our politically correct society.
Why do people like me have to write anonymous blogs and columns on the internet when talking about the obvious reality of human biological differences (especially biological group differences)? Why do researchers face the risk of falling into The Bermuda Triangle of Science, as behavioral geneticist Brian Boutwell recently put it?
The academy, in general, is a wonderful place to work, but not everyone plays nice. Veer too far from carefully charted courses and someone may slip quietly up behind you and slide a cold piece of steel in between the ribs of your budding research career.
They’ll do this believing that they are serving public interest by snuffing out dangerous research agendas, but that won’t make any difference to you. It’ll be your reputation that will suffer grievous injury. What in the world might elicit such harsh rebuke from a community of otherwise broadminded, free speech spouting scholars? What is so verboten that it constitutes academia’s Bermuda Triangle, a place where careers disappear more often than ships in the actual Bermuda Triangle? In one word, it’s race.
[R]ace represents academia’s true Bermuda Triangle. Perhaps never has the topic of genetic ancestry been so important, yet despite its relevance, bright scholars continue to stay away from it in droves … It will not matter how noble you think your motives are, if you factor in race as a variable, your actions are subject to impeachment, and your reputation may be sacrificed as a burnt offering to our new religion.
Linda Gottfredson is a brilliant, productive, and innovative scholar. Dr. Gottfredson, however, found herself in the Bermuda Triangle some years back
crossing the boundaries of the Triangle (even if only to defend a colleague) can be frightening. Angry invectives hurled in your direction will come so fast, and so fierce, it will likely leave your head spinning, as Gottfredson illustrates (p.276):
News coverage was often lurid. The UD African-American Coalition argued that my work was not just offensive, but dangerous. My ‘‘so-called research” and the social policies I ‘‘was likely to propose” were ‘‘liable to threaten the very survival of African-Americans” (Tarver, 1990, p. 6A).
Within the Bermuda Triangle, you see, it is a free for all when it comes to accusations and motive indictment. There is no suitable defense, trying to mount in fact one will only fan the flames.
Such facts are effectively embargoed in our society, and anyone who breaks this taboo can face serious social consequences.
As John McWhorter put it in his piece Antiracism, Our Flawed New Religion:
One hearkens to one’s preacher to keep telling the truth—and also to make sure we hear it often, since many of its tenets are easy to drift away from, which leads us to the next evidence that Antiracism is now a religion. It is inherent to a religion that one is to accept certain suspensions of disbelief. Certain questions are not to be asked, or if asked, only politely—and the answer one gets, despite being somewhat half-cocked, is to be accepted as doing the job.
“Why is the Bible so self-contradictory?” Well, God works in mysterious ways—what’s key is that you believe. “Why does God allows such terrible things to happen?” Well, because we have free will … and it’s complicated but really, just have faith.
It stops there: beyond this first round, one is to classify the issues as uniquely “complicated.” They are “deep,” one says, looking off into the air for a sec in a reflective mode, implying that thinking about this stuff just always leads to more questions, in an infinitely questing Talmudic exploration one cannot expect to yield an actual conclusion.
Antiracism requires much of the same standpoint. For example, one is not to ask “Why are black people so upset about one white cop killing a black man when black men are at much more danger of being killed by one another?” Or, one might ask this, very politely—upon which the answers are flabby but further questions are unwelcome. A common answer is that black communities do protest black-on-black violence —but anyone knows that the outrage against white cops is much, much vaster.
Why? Is the answer “deep,” perhaps? Charles Blow, at least deigning to take the issue by the horns, answers that the black men are killing one another within a racist “structure.” That doesn’t explain why black activists consider the white cop a more appalling threat to a black man than various black men in his own neighborhood. But to push the point means you just don’t “get” it (you haven’t opened your heart to Jesus, perhaps?)
The Antiracism religion, then, has clergy, creed, and also even a conception of Original Sin. Note the current idea that the enlightened white person is to, I assume regularly (ritually?), “acknowledge” that they possess White Privilege.
The call for people to soberly “acknowledge” their White Privilege as a self-standing, totemic act is based on the same justification as acknowledging one’s fundamental sinfulness is as a Christian. One is born marked by original sin; to be white is to be born with the stain of unearned privilege.
Antiracism parallels religion also in a proselytizing impulse. Key to being an Antiracist is a sense that there is always a flock of unconverted heathen “out there,” as it is often put about the whites who were so widely feared as possibly keeping Barack Obama from being elected (twice). One is blessed with, as it were, the Good News in being someone who “gets it,” complete with the Acknowledging.
Finally, Antiracism is all about a Judgment Day, in a sense equally mesmerizing and mythical. Antiracist scripture includes a ritual reference to, as it were, the Great Day when America “owns up to” or “comes to terms with” structural racism—note that “acknowledge” is a term just as appropriate—and finally, well, fixes it somehow.
Yet Antiracism as religion has its downsides. It encourages an idea that racism in its various guises must be behind anything bad for black people, which is massively oversimplified in 2015.
The fact is that Antiracism, as a religion, pollutes our race dialogue as much as any lack of understanding by white people of their Privilege. For example, the good Antiracist supports black claims that standardized tests are “racist” in that black people don’t do as well on them as other students. But Antiracism also encourages us to ask why, oh why black people are suspected of being less intelligent than others—despite this take on the tests, and aspiring firefighters and even teachers making news with similar claims that tough tests are “racist.” Now, to say that if black people can’t be expected to take tests then they must not be as smart is, under Antiracism, blasphemous—one is not to ask too many questions.
Here’s a video of McWhorter discussing this for those who prefer:
Of course, I’ll go a step further than McWhorter and say NW European-derived society isn’t today just antiracist; it’s anti-sexist/anti-misogynist, anti-homophboic, and anti-transphobic as well. In the blanket terms, today’s Western society is politically correct. Sinners against these doctrines face serious consequences, as James Watson, Larry Summers, Satoshi Kanazawa, Jason Richwine, and many others exemplify.
As I said, the fundamental thread is to deny biological group differences, particularly those that are inherited (the key exceptions being the doctrine that homosexuality is 100% genetic and inborn, despite the fact that it is neither of those things – and the Althouse rule for sex differences). There is a wall against biology in Northwestern European societies (that is also fervently embraced by many Ashkenazi Jews).
Hence, we see the hatred and derision directed towards Donald Trump. In the modern Western religion of antiracism/political correctness, Trump and his potential ascent to the White House represents the possible end of our politically correct society. Indeed, Trump isn’t just a divisive presidential candidate; to adherents of antiracism/political correctness, Trump is the Antichrist.
To merely speak openly about the possibility of any inherited biological group difference, no matter how limited, or small, can lead to discussion of other, possibly larger differences. This opens the door to a Pandora’s box of inherited biological group differences. Perhaps it will turn out that there are “winner” and “loser” groups in today’s modern world. Perhaps the reason the world looks like it does today…
… is because of those differences.
Worse still, this would mean admitting failure in the great hope – the hope that one day humanity can be perfected and poverty, war, prejudice, etc. can be eliminated. Acknowledging inherited biological group differences – that is, human biodiversity, means that the idyllic world of the Star Trek franchise will never come to pass no matter how much social “progress” occurs.
Even among those who aren’t necessarily so Pollyanna about the reality of human group differences, many still wish to suppress knowledge of their existence for another reason: because they believe it is what is holding our multiracial society together. I have mentioned something similar before (see hbd fallout | hbd chick):
“Back when groups differences weren’t so taboo in Western society, and one could talk about them openly, society was *also* more racist (this was pre-Civil Rights here in America). It is possible that in order for society to be aware of the reality of HBD, it must be actually be *racist*.
“Think of all the simmering resentment in Whites that are the victims of these crimes (as a Black man, I wouldn’t talk to this soldier’s family about now). And on top of that, imagine all the Whites that are not necessarily so politically correct about race. How would they react? (Here’s an example: Far-right extremists in eastern Germany quietly building a town for neo-Nazis.)
Can you have a multiracial society in one that is honest about group differences? … Will people *really* run with the understanding that differences *on average* don’t apply to every last individual, or will group solidarity rule the day? How will intelligent and completely inoffensive Blacks, for example, be treated by Whites then? The example of Chechens challenges the notion of treating people as individuals, because arguably they are so tribal and violent on average that even a modest number of them can cause problems (there are only 200 in America). But if they pose a problem in that way, what about other groups?
I still don’t know the answer to these questions. I fully admit that a society that openly acknowledges group differences may in fact also be a racist one. The reason I think this is not so much because of the way I think most people will behave. I think most Westerners can take this knowledge in stride. However, there are elements that won’t. Many of Trump’s supporters are indeed bona fide racists. There is no social policy or prescription that necessarily follows from knowledge of inherited group differences. But it is the very nature of people determines how they will react. Some groups want to deride/persecute/destroy other groups they feel are tainted or inferior. Nazism didn’t come out of a vacuum, and it too is a result of the nature of the people who embraced it. (Indeed persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany was most intense in areas that had a long history of killing Jews – see Persecution Perpetuated: The Medieval Origins of Anti-Semitic Violence in Nazi Germany, Voigtländer & Voth 2010.) The key thing here is that it was not facts about racial differences themselves that led to the behavior of the Nazis or Cavalier-descended White American Southerners. It was their own traits, particularly their attitudes towards other groups. In fact, if you spend enough time reading the stuff put out by White Nationalists (as I unfortunately can’t avoid all that much in my line of work) you will find that many of their beliefs about race and biology are factually inaccurate, and their beliefs are twisted from the reality to suit their agendas (see The Problem with HBD, the Dark Enlightenment, Neoreaction, Alt-Rightism, and All That Jazz and “Ethnic Genetic Interests” Do Not Exist (Neither Does Group Selection)). The reality however is that these people don’t need much justification to pursue their aims – they want to act against other groups anyway. It is their nature.
Quite likely racists, neo-Nazis and the like will be more vocal in the event of a Trump victory (or even a Trump defeat). There is nothing saying that they will rule the day, however. That is not a given, and I suspect, broadly, that it’s not likely. Nonetheless, the Antiracist/P.C. crowd view acknowledging inherited biological differences as opening a floodgate that could usher in practices such as coercive eugenics (i.e., forced sterilizations – see also Razib Khan: Eugenics: the problem is coercion) or Jim Crow policies, or worse. That is a big part of why reasonable policies such as limiting immigration or restricting entry from certain groups (like Muslims) are off the table. To the Antiracist crowd, the matter of group differences is binary: we either are acknowledging them at all or we’re not.
Restricting certain groups (or any immigration) moves us from being a universalist society – where all people (and peoples) are treated equally, to a particularist one, where people are treated differently according to their inherent qualities. That’s a line they don’t want us to cross, for the aforementioned reasons.
Yet I will argue that this rebuke of biology, despite whatever semi-rational basis it might have, is in reality just another group attribute. Just like the Nazis embraced biology and extreme particularism, certain NW Europeans and Ashkenazi Jews have an inherent discomfort with biology – supremely ironically, because of their biology.
Easy examples of this:
These individuals regard biological bases to behavior as being wrong, or if not wrong, then dangerous or evil and they hate and/or fear them. But they are perfectly happy with “environmental” sources to human differences, and changes brought about with such.
But this fear reveals a deep logical inconsistency. While it’s true that belief in a biological basis to human differences has been involved in many societal evils, such as Jim Crow, forced sterilizations, and Nazism, the belief that there are is no biological basis to human behavior – the belief that we are blank slates – has led to great many more atrocities. While the off chance that an HBD-aware society might lead to discrimination and Nazism may exist, runaway blank slatism isn’t much better. You don’t hear much discussion of this guy:
Runaway blank slatism has arguably killed many times more people that the Nazis ever did.
But those who rail against biology barely acknowledge this. Part of the reason is that many in the Western Left are sympathetic to communism and its ideals. Some even believe that communism can still work if “properly implemented”.
At the end to the day however, there is a reality regardless of what elites want us to think. Suppressing science only works so well because truths about the world will keep getting rediscovered. Modern technology is pushing ahead, and the facts continue to pour in. There is however a backlash in the West. The ascent of Donald Trump is the American manifestation of this, as is the rise of many nationalist candidates and parties in NW European countries. This could potentially be a good thing, because one of the most pressing problems facing Northwestern European-derived societies is unrelenting migration into them.
Trump is the only candidate who is taking a position against continued mass immigration, which must be halted soon for the good of both Western societies and ultimately the migrants themselves.
(All that said, let me make clear that I think that Trump is a less-than-ideal candidate for president for several reasons. For one, he appears to support the increasing encroachment of government into our civil liberties and the burgeoning Security State. He appears to be weak on established science – a fantastic irony – exemplified by his amenity to anti-vaxxers – an almost unforgivable sin in a leader. He also doesn’t seem to have clear and realistic economic plans and instead copies the mainstream conservative doctrine on things like taxation and healthcare. Now, those considered, Trump doesn’t appear to be much of a deeply principled politician – in stark contrast to Bernie Sanders – and is probably not all that attached to many of these positions. This leaves hope that his views on these matters might be changed. Might.)
Interesting and important times lie ahead. Let’s hope it turns out well.
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(This is also published at The Unz Review)
The 2016 U.S. presidential race has brought out a serious whirlwind of events, the likes of which haven’t been seen in a long time, if ever. Despite my own expectations for a boring campaign, this election cycle has been anything but. Most significant to this excitement has been the rise of Donald Trump – and, to a lesser extent, the rise of Bernie Sanders. Much has been said about these men, including much in an attempt to figure out what is behind their popularity. However, this election, particularly the battle against Trump, has taken on a larger scope, in ways that far exceed the man. The election is about grander issues. In good part, it is about the fate of the very character of the nation itself – and indeed, of all of Western society.
While there may be a perhaps an unprecedented series of events occurring in this election, there are nonetheless clear patterns to the vote, patterns we’ve seen before.
For one, the American nations (see American Nations Series) have played a large role in the 2016 presidential race. The reason for this, ultimately, is because demographic factors are what drives elections, at least in our era. Contrary to popular analysis (even that within the HBD sphere), the composition of a region’s population dictates said region’s vote – at least, much more so than situational factors such as economics, crime, or urbanicity. This is plainly obvious to the genetically informed, but is ignored by most mainstream discussion of politics. Mainstream sources struggle to find “environmental” factors that dictate the vote, and they run into trouble every time when they do.
None of this should be surprising, since we know that political views are highly heritable (from Hatemi et al, 2010):
There is minimal effect of “the environment” within cohorts (and the differences between cohorts is likely primarily situational). The way people vote is a reflection of who and indeed what they are. It has nothing to do with how they were raised by their parents, where they grew up, or where they live now (except to the extent current self-interest is involved). (See also The Behavioral Genetics Page, particularly the post The Son Becomes The Father.) To understand that vote, you must understand the people.
To quickly recap, the United States (and for that matter, Canada) is divided into several broad ethnocultural regions – nations if you will.
These regions exists thanks to the continuing legacy of the founding populations and the various assortative migrations (founder effects and boiling off) that have happened over the history of the country. This was described by Colin Woodard in his book American Nations. In my American Nations Series, I detail the various ways these nations are visible today as well as discuss their genetic roots.
In the present election cycle, the nations are playing a role. First, here is a map of support for Donald Trump across the country (from Nate Cohn).
Many have dubbed this an “east vs. west” split (as opposed to usual north/south split typically seen), but it isn’t really that, as Trump has modestly strong support near the West Coast. Rather, we see that Trump is strong across the usual “Dixie” nations, the Tidewater, the Deep South, and especially Greater Appalachia. He also has fair support across Yankeedom, but is comparatively weak in the Midlands. There is a pronounced “hole” in Trump’s support, but a look at this second map shows precisely where:
Trump is weak in the “Friendly & Conventional” zone of the country. This map is drawn from personality studies detailed in Rentfrow et al (2013). The “Friendly & Conventional” zone is an area high in extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness and depleted in openness to experience (see Predictions on the Worldwide Distribution of Personality). A modern popular notion likes to lump together the interior of the country as the “Flyover Zone”, being universally Christian, conservative, and traditional. But the American nations maps and this one clearly show that that idea is too simplistic. These areas do vote strongly Republican in the general presidential election, but there is much more nuance than that.
For one, there is a key difference in the overall composition. Greater Appalachia is composed heavily of Ulster Scots, originally from the Anglo-Scottish border area. The Deep South and the Tidewater derive from the English Cavaliers from southwest England.
By contrast, the “Friendly & Conventional” zone is heavily German and Scandinavian in ancestry. Furthermore, the area has been heavily “boiled-off,” as more liberal and adventurous individuals have fled the area for decades, leaving a core of traditional and conservative individuals in its wake (as detailed in my post More Maps of the American Nations). These conservatives are quite unlike their Southern counterparts (see Genes, Climate, and Even More Maps of the American Nations):
They vote overwhelmingly for Trump rival Ted Cruz (map from The New York Times):
Trump’s support in the Northeast seems to correlate to Italian areas:
Whether or not it is Italian-Americans – or people who live in areas with Italian-Americans – who are supporting Trump is not clear. (His stronghold in Eastern Massachusetts suggests he has considerable Irish-American support as well.)
On the Democratic side, again we see the American nations coming into play in the battle between Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
The contest between Clinton and Sanders shows Bernie being particularly weak in the Dixie nations. But Sanders is particularly strong in the north, especially in Yankeedom, his current “home” nation.
There is clear north-south pattern to Clinton vs. Sanders, but the battle between these two is also literally a battle between Black and White.
Most of Bernie’s losses stem from his deep lack of support among Blacks.
But there is more going on here than just that. The map of Clinton vs. Sanders looks very similar to the map of Clinton vs. Obama back in 2008 (from here):
We see a clear north-south divide, even among non-Black voters. Bernie is strongest in the same areas Obama was, with the exception that he is not carrying the Black vote. However, there is more going on to the regional Clinton-Sanders split than just Black-White differences If we assume the pattern among White Democratic voters is similar to what it was in 2008, which is suggested by the current maps, we see Bernie is decidedly weak among White Democrats across the Dixie nations, and weak across much of the old Rust Belt (central Yankeedom/the Midlands).
Why is this the pattern? The reason is simple. Bernie Sanders, with his message of Scandinavian-style socialism appeals most strongly to very WEIRDO voters. As recounted in several of my previous posts, particularly The Rise of Universalism (see also Clannishness – the Series: Zigzag Lightning in the Brain for a key recap at the beginning of the post), people with a ancestry from Northwestern Europe are more likely to be oriented towards the “commonweal.” This is the notion that there should be societal institutions in place to serve the common good, on many levels. Democratic socialism is a natural outgrowth of that, as we see in Northwestern European countries and their offshoots. WEIRDO people are distinct from all other peoples in the world, and it is these people that make up Bernie Sanders’s base (which I get to see first hand here in Maine, as I live in a pretty WEIRDO part of the state).
In other parts of the country, more clannish Whites dominate. These are the Scots-Irish and the English Cavaliers in the South, as well as Irish, Italians, and various Eastern Europeans across parts of Yankeedom, the Midlands, and “New Netherland.” These peoples aren’t as impressed with Bernie’s calls for socialism – being more oriented to their own kin than to common society – and hence support Hilary Clinton.
Therefore, despite standing to benefit from Bernie Sanders’s socialist ideas, Blacks, especially those in the South don’t succumb to Bernie’s WEIRDO appeal (he may have more appeal with Blacks in the North).
And indeed, we see some interesting psychological differences between supporters of the various candidates:
1. Trump voters are no more authoritarian than supporters of Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio
2. What really differentiates Trump’s voters from the other Republicans is the populism.
Trump voters are the only ones to score consistently high on all three populist dimensions. Cruz and Rubio’s supporters, for example, don’t express high feelings of anti-elitism. In fact, on this scale, they are strongly anti-populist, identifying with authority rather than rejecting it.
The psychology of Democratic voters also becomes apparent. In many ways, Bernie Sanders’s supporters are the mirror image of Trumps, except for the anti-elitism. Where Trump’s supports are nationalists, Bernie’s supporters are universalists. They rail against the elites much like the American revolutionaries railed against the English crown and the aristocracy. (And no doubt this is why Bernie doesn’t stress his own previous anti-immigration views during his campaign.)
Edit, 3/12/16 [I also wanted to touch on another aspect of Trump’s support that has come up frequently. That is that Trump’s support correlates with where middle aged White death rates are highest.
From Death predicts whether people vote for Donald Trump – The Washington Post. Of course, an explanation for this is easily produced, and it partly captured in a recent article of geographic correlates of Trumps’s support:
This is from The Geography of Trumpism – The New York Times. The key is those lacking a high school diploma. As we saw in my earlier post IQ and Death, people (and peoples) with lower IQ tend to die sooner. Many of the areas rich with Trump supporters are lower IQ working class area. These areas are depleted of higher IQ individuals (many often more liberal and WEIRD and often have left for the cities). In essence, these areas are boiled down – areas bereft of human capital. This explains both the poor economic prospects and the shorter lifespans.
As well, there is an ethnic component. As we saw, Trump’s support is strong with the Scots-Irish, and many of the above correlates are those of Scots-Irish areas. As we saw in my earlier posts HBD is Life and Death and More Maps of the American Nations, Scots-Irish areas of the country have shorter lifespans and a greater incidence of problems such as prescription drug overdoses.
What these people have discovered, again, is the American nations. ***End Edit***]
All of these regional differences, however, will mostly collapse to the usual American nations regional differences in the general election.
It is the precise balance in the close contest states that will determine the winner.
Pundits will continue to make predictions about politics (especially about geographic patterns) and will continue to be wrong because they do not take regional genetic diversity (even among Whites) into account.
In the next part, I will discuss the rancor surrounding the presidential election and the Trump candidacy, and the deeper issue behind it all.
All photos by me. Joy to the world my friends!
(This is also published at The Unz Review.)
A persistent misunderstanding both in the world of HBD and general medical and psychological science at large is the notion of what constitutes a “disorder.” When does a phenotype represent a physiological or behavioral malady? For behavioral issues, most people regard the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as the “final word” on this matter. While the DSM does make some attempt to assess actual impaired functioning, its assessments are tinged by cultural biases. A key component of DSM diagnostic criteria is social judgement of what is “proper” – what constitutes a correctly behaving person, according to the current cultural values?
Indeed, the DSM’s own Wikipedia page captures a many of the book’s problems:
Various authorities criticized the fifth edition both before and after it was formally published. Critics assert, for example, that many DSM-5 revisions or additions lack empirical support; inter-rater reliability is low for many disorders; several sections contain poorly written, confusing, or contradictory information; and the psychiatric drug industry unduly influenced the manual’s content. Various scientists have argued that the DSM-5 forces clinicians to make distinctions that are not supported by solid evidence, distinctions that have major treatment implications, including drug prescriptions and the availability of health insurance coverage.
But its more basic problems go deeper than that.
For starters, what do we mean by a “disorder?” The word implies that something is “out of order” – that is, something is not working as “intended.” Now when we’re talking about living things, that “intended” function is the function that survived the cruel process of elimination that is natural selection. Hence, any concept of a behavioral or physiological disorder must be informed by evolutionary theory. Medicine and psychiatry need to incorporate Darwinian processes.
As I begin, I want to be clear that it should be understood that all human behavioral traits are heritable, with “nurture” as its commonly thought of playing a minimal role to nonexistent role in each (see also Environmental Hereditarianism, The Son Becomes The Father, and More Behavioral Genetic Facts). The rest of this post proceeds assuming an understanding of this reality.
However, the people making these assessments, even the “experts,” tend to be evolutionarily illiterate; that is, they have a poor understanding of evolutionary theory. This failing isn’t just academic; in addition to hindering the understanding the nature and origin of these phenotypes, ignorance of Darwinism leads to to difficulty managing and treating them.
This means that there are a host of phenotypes classified as “disorders” that in fact aren’t, as well as a good many that are in fact Darwinian disorders which are not classified as such.
My Twitter followers know that I have been making noise about this problem for some time. And now, enter Durisko, Mulsant, McKenzie, and Andrews, 2016, with their paper “Using Evolutionary Theory to Guide Mental Health Research,” published in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.
The authors (who I suspect have read my writing) sum up the problem excellently in their abstract:
Evolutionary approaches to medicine can shed light on the origins and etiology of disease. Such an approach may be especially useful in psychiatry, which frequently addresses conditions with heterogeneous presentation and unknown causes. We review several previous applications of evolutionary theory that highlight the ways in which psychiatric conditions may persist despite and because of natural selection. One lesson from the evolutionary approach is that some conditions currently classified as disorders (because they cause distress and impairment) may actually be caused by functioning adaptations operating “normally” (as designed by natural selection). Such conditions suggest an alternative illness model that may generate alternative intervention strategies. Thus, the evolutionary approach suggests that psychiatry should sometimes think differently about distress and impairment. The complexity of the human brain, including normal functioning and potential for dysfunctions, has developed over evolutionary time and has been shaped by natural selection. Understanding the evolutionary origins of psychiatric conditions is therefore a crucial component to a complete understanding of etiology.
Durisko et al produce a neat chart that analyzes examples:
The sad fact of the matter is that there are some disorders the medical and psychiatric communities are correct in calling disorders but these communities are ignorant about why they are correct. These lead me to the first major cause of mental disorders.
A major challenge any functioning organism faces is genetic load. This is the burden of deleterious mutations that we all carry. For a discussion of this, see Greg Cochran over at West Hunter:
In short, new mutations always arise. The majority of these mutations are neutral or harmful to fitness. Deleterious alleles are selected out at a rate proportional to their fitness impact; the bigger the fitness hit, the faster they are selected out. This means that alleles with mild fitness impacts can persist for many generations. Certain individuals can have more than their fair share of the these deleterious alleles. In some cases, this leads to mental illness – when there are just one too many things “broken” in the brain. While the individual alleles that are causal to these illnesses are all rare and are all being selected out, new mutations continue to arise, hence, the illness persists in the population – each instance being genetically distinct from all the others.
Mathew Keller and Geoffery Miller detailed how this applies to mental illness in their 2006 paper. Genetic load largely* explains mental illnesses such as autism, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.
Since men generate sperm throughout their lives, older fathers pass on more mutations to their children. Hence, paternal age can be used to gauge the effect of de novo mutations on a phenotype, which is a clue to how much genetic load is involved. Autism, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder all show paternal age effects – that is, older fathers are more likely to have children with these afflictions (D’Onofrio et al 2014). These conditions are true disorders in the Darwinian sense, although research continues into the genetic architecture of these phenotypes. They are bugs, not features.
So the psychiatrists got these right. But, as we see above, there a host of “disorders” that they got wrong.
The biggest category here are the personality disorders, of which, psychopathy (or “antisocial personality disorder”) being the most prominent. (A review of the heritability of these personality disorders can be found here: Reichborn-Kjennerud 2010.) The rationale for categorizing these phenotypes as disorders in the DSM is as described quite well by Durisko et al (emphasis mine):
The DSM-5 defines mental disorder as “dysfunction in the psychological, biological, or developmental processes underlying mental functioning.” … (p20) and operationalizes this dysfunction with proxies such as the inability to work, maintain interpersonal relations, and take care of one’s self. Several authors have pointed out the difficulty this approach can have in distinguishing between normal and abnormal behaviour …
Distress, impairment, and inability to function in everyday life [that is, in modern society] are not necessarily indicative of biological malfunction … The normal functioning of the body’s evolved systems can at times be unpleasant and cause suffering.
Durisko et al go on mention childbirth as an example of a biological function though it causes pain and suffering even when it operates as it should, and that’s a good example. I will add that social undesirability is of course another factor that colors the DSM classification, as psychopathy illustrates perfectly.
Many of these “personality disorders” embody phenotypes that are continuously distributed in the population. My earlier post Predictions on the Worldwide Distribution of Personality illustrates this to an extent. For example, both anxious and psychopathic tendencies are not distinct categories but rather are continuously distributed in the population. Anxiety appears to relate to the HEXACO Emotionality and perhaps low eXtraversion. And the psychopathic traits are well represented by the Dark Tetrad, which is its own dimension (Honesty-humility) in the HEXACO. What we call “psychopaths” are just individuals who score above an arbitrary cut off on the Dark Tetrad dimension. I have argued that the prevalence of such traits is related to clannishness. What the authors of the DSM have done with most personality disorders is “pathologize” points of normal personality variation that don’t conform to the (very WEIRDO) ideal. These traits are adaptations nonetheless. Psychopathy is a feature, not a bug.
In the chart above by Durisko et al, they talk of “alternating selection” as maintaining many of these traits. Psychopathy (at least in WEIRDO environments – see the list in the beginning of the post Clannishness – the Series: Zigzag Lightning in the Brain) is commonly thought to be maintained by frequency dependent selection; that is, psychopathy is adaptive at low frequency but becomes maladaptive when it becomes too common.
I suspect that the general idea is correct. However, let me interject here that most discussion of the evolution of human traits ignores recent selection. There is group-level variation resulting from regional differences in selective pressures. To quote Greg Cochran, “every society selects for something“, and what that something is varies by time and place.
Hence, a lot of these ideas on the evolution of human behavioral traits (including the personality “disorders”) suffer from WEIRDO bias. For example, the”optimum frequency” of psychopathy varies from population to population – being much higher in clannish societies.
Indeed, Penke, Denissen, and Miller (2007) claim this is true for all personality traits. That is, variation is human personality is maintained by frequency-dependent selection, with most personality traits being most adaptive when they are found at intermediate frequencies. Of course, as per the above the optimum frequency for each personality trait will be different in different societies. These explain the group-level differences we see in most behavioral traits.
But aren’t there times when the extremes of something which is continuous distributed is bad – too much of a good thing, as it were? Sure. One example may be hoarding. As Cochran explains:
It could be that people, at least some people, just feel like saving, and would do so even if it were economically irrational.
It looks as if saving has had a bigger payoff in recent millennia than it typically did in the distant past. I’m not say that as an iron law, more as a tendency. There may have been ways of saving food for hard times (winter, mainly) quite a while ago, at least in cold climates… at least you’d think so.
Farming must have favored low time preference.
Grain crops can be stored, and seed must be saved for the next growing season.
where saving had higher payoffs, individuals that had a greater innate propensity to save ought to have had higher fitness. Having lower time preference, acting more like homo economicus , may have been favored, but surely a simple hoarding tendency, more like a squirrel burying nuts for the winter, would have been favored as well. Maybe there was selection for being more of a squirrel…
Of course there is a distribution of such traits, ranging from a little to a lot. In a population with a greater mean amount of tendency-to-save, some would do so to a ridiculous extent. Hoarders. They may not be equally common in every population.
Anxiety “disorders” may be similar to hoarding in this way. People with extreme levels may just be the unfortunate beneficiaries of genes that were adaptive in their ancestral environments – albeit at more moderate levels.
Speaking of ancestral environments – sometimes a “disorder” arises because of a mismatch between the modern environment and the ancestral environment. An example would be altitude “sickness.” Individuals whose ancestors lived near sea level can have trouble in the lower atmospheric environment found at high altitude, and they exhibit all manner of maladies when at heights. Here it’s clear that there is no actual disease present; rather the sufferer is outside the environment in which they evolved.
Substance addictions are shining examples of such phenotypes. Typically, the addictive agent was not present in the sufferer’s ancestral environment. Hence, when exposed to a world that has tobacco, cocaine, or alcohol, for example, they can become addicted.
Addicts remain in some societies that have had the offending substance for some time because selection against such afflictions is ongoing. We can see this in action when we look at Europe (from here):
Alcohol consumption in Europe inversely correlates with the length of time each society has practiced agriculture (from here).
See also Firewater | West Hunter.
Type II diabetes and perhaps irritable bowel syndrome may also be examples of these types of phenotypes. Afflictions that stem from environmental mismatch aren’t “disorders” in the Darwinian sense. Rather, there are a turnover in direction of natural selection.
This also, by the way, highlights a key fact about the aforementioned genetic load. There is a key difference between afflictions stemming from environmental mismatch and disorders stemming from genetic load (such as autism, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder). Where as the genes that cause substance abuse or altitude sickness are clearly adaptive in some environments (ancestral ones) and were selected for by evolution, the genes that lead to autism, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia are maladaptive in any environment.* Disorders caused by genetic load are true Darwinian diseases.
The reality of environmental mismatch puts the kibosh on a popular concept in the alt-right sphere, referring primarily to Northwestern Europeans: that is, “pathological altruism.” Specifically, some in this space view the universalist acts of Northwestern Europeans – such as inviting refugees and other immigrants from poor and/or war-torn Muslim countries (despite the higher crime rate and lower socioeconomic performance of these immigrants) – to live in Northwestern European countries as a type of pathology – i.e, a disorder. As Jared Taylor put it (emphasis mine):
We will turn our backs on our own group in the hope that members of other groups will do the same—despite clear evidence that other groups have no such intention.
A somewhat less deceived writer advises that if groups want to act altruistically towards other groups they should at least look for groups that follow the same rules. But this is as far as the book goes. Group pathology leads only to mistreatment of out-groups. Apparently none of the authors can conceive of pathology in which the in-group mistreats itself for the benefit of strangers.
Yet, of course, it is not a disorder. “Pathological altruism,” at least when used to refer to this aspect of Northwestern European behavior, is a silly term.
As I detailed in my post The Rise of Universalism, the universalist behavior of Northwestern Europeans is a natural consequence of their special flavor of reciprocal altruism, which is not strictly kin-centric and views all people (indeed, often non-humans as well) as potential recipients for sympathy. In that post, I explain how modern technology led to an inevitable increase in universalism among Northwestern Europeans – that runaway universalism was inevitable. Clearly an inherited phenotype can’t be a pathology when it is possessed by sizable fractions of the populations under consideration. Rather universalist sentiment is a feature, not a bug (or more accurately, it is the result of a feature). It’s not even clear that such traits even have a direct negative fitness impact, as it’s not yet been established that such individuals aren’t the most fertile in these countries (though it appears to be presently deleterious in the United States).
Finally, as noted, just as there are phenotypes that are (for cultural reasons) classified as disorders that are in fact not, there are afflictions that are not classified as disorders that in fact are. Most poignant of these is obligate male homosexuality. The DSM long since removed it from its list of disorders. Yet there is no environment where lack of interest in the opposite sex is adaptive. It is literally a Darwinian disease. Yet, homosexuals make up 2-5% of the male population – a far greater fraction than the sufferers of disorders like schizophrenia. Genetic load is unable to explain the existence of such a common fitness-reducing disorder. The only workable explanation for such a common fitness-reducing disorder is a pathogen.
As detailed by Greg Cochran (as collected in Greg Cochran’s “Gay Germ” Hypothesis – An Exercise in the Power of Germs), the proximate cause of homosexuality is likely damage resulting from an infectious agent. Numerous facts support this, including the very low heritability (< 22%, in stark contrast to most everything else). Indeed, pathogens are the other important source of human maladies, both physical and behavioral. Many diseases that don’t fall under the above category may be found to have pathogenic involvement*.
The primacy of sex drive and sexual reproduction to fitness (without it, little else really matters, evolutionarily) means that evolutionary theory can be used to evaluate other claimed disorders like – asexuality. True asexuality – a complete lack of interest in sex – would be as much a Darwinian disease as would homosexuality, at least for men. This would lead us to expect it to be very rare. And indeed despite earlier claims to the contrary, such appears to be the case (Cranney 2015).
The importance of sex drive is another reason to doubt another claimed disorder (that fortunately didn’t make the DSM V): sex addiction (aka “hypersexuality”). Sex drive is continuously distributed across the human population. This lends itself to the use of arbitrary cutoffs when declaring “pathological” states. Indeed, one Croatian study found that self-professed hypersexual men weren’t all that more sexual than men who simply claimed to be highly sexual – they just feel more ashamed about it. Now, as mentioned above, although continuously distributed traits could lead to “pathological” extreme cases (e.g. hoarding), there doesn’t seem to be much support for this notion in the case of sex addiction.
There will likely always be a level of subjectivity in what human phenotypes we label “disorders.” But at least by proceeding from a Darwinian model, we have a framework with which we can have a reasonable understanding of human disorder, and not continue to make things up to extent we presently do.
*I mentioned the role of pathogens in the existence of persistent human disorders. Greg Cochran and Paul Ewald make the case in their 2000 paper that genes for certain human maladies may stick around because they confer defense against pathogens. Hay fever may be a poignant example of this (Tyagi et al 2015). This may also be true for some genes that cause certain mental disorders.
(This is also published at The Unz Review.)
Chanda Chisala has been producing pile after pile of nonsense for quite some time. At first, I was content with simply leaving comments at his posts refuting his rubbish because it was rather easy to point out where he was full of baloney. Since then, I’ve been banned by him, mostly for my signature flair.🙂
I intended to continue to ignore his nonsense since it was such obvious rubbish that it didn’t seem to be worth my (now very precious) time. But then I realized the value of having nonsense essays picked apart for the nonsense they are. Rebuttals are highly valuable to skeptical readers who doubt nonsense but can’t quite put their finger on the problems themselves. So, in that service, I write this rebuttal to Chisala’s latest piece.
Chisala’s theory is that different human groups differ in the degree of genetic canalization, and that explains the differences in average IQ between groups. It seems he lifted the concept of genetic canalization from Greg Cochran, who I’ll let describe the phenomenon. From Survival of the Flattest | West Hunter :
Genetic canalization is the extent to which an organism is buffered against the effects of mutations. Waddington said “developmental reactions, as they occur in organisms submitted to natural selection…are adjusted so as to bring about one definite end-result regardless of minor variations in conditions during the course of the reaction”. Canalization can act to buffer against environmental perturbations, and selection for resistance to such environmental noise may also produce resistance to genetic noise. But right now I’m thinking about genetic canalization.
Up to some point, the effects of not too many, not too serious mutations would be buffered: those mutations wouldn’t change the phenotype. In the same way, your typical tractor is not designed to nanometer tolerances: parts can be somewhat out of spec – up to some limit – without messing up performance.
Canalization is a product of natural selection. There would be stronger selection for efficient canalization in a species with more genetic load
It might explain why load doesn’t seem to have much effect on IQ over most of the range, why we haven’t seen general IQ depression in the children of old men.
So Chisala’s idea is that certain racial groups have greater levels of canalization, and that makes them more resistant to environmental stresses that might lower average IQ.
Oh God! Where to begin….
It’s hard for me tell if Chisala really believes what he’s saying. Because the truth of the matter is that he’s a bullshit artist, either wittingly or unwittingly. It appears that he has only a superficial understanding of the matters he discusses, and he tries to weave together cherry-picked pieces of information into a seemingly convincing story – at least for those who don’t know any better.
First of all, Chisala is claiming that there are no “genetic” group differences in IQ. Rather, every group has the same average IQ potential, but each group has a different level of canalization, thanks to natural selection (and this is not even genetic canalization – as in resistance to mutations – as Cochran discussed, but resistance to purported environmental insults). This makes each more or less resistant to the purportedly IQ-depressing effects of deprived environment. So first it’s not genetic, but it is? Which is it, man?
Second, Chisala seems to have no understanding of the concepts of elite samples, founder effects, measurement error, sampling bias, or of basic statistical principles like statistics of small numbers. That’s not even to mention his apparent lack of understanding of the breeder’s equation (but at least there he has plenty of company). He seems to be mystified by apparent incongruities he encounters in his cherry-picked (and often outdated) samples because of his ignorance of these important concepts and many other facts.
I’m not going to debunk Chisala’s claims point-by-point, because, really that’s not necessary (and his piece is much to confused to make that a worthwhile endeavor). Instead, I’m going to point out some key facts make his claims ridiculous.
One of those key facts is this:
There are global differences in brain size. Brain size is certainly related to intelligence, both on the individual level (Pietschnig et al 2015) and (even more so) on the group level (though the both the group level and individual level correlations are less than 1.0). In order for Chisala’s idea to work, these environmental insults must also cause certain racial group differences in brain size.
But, as we know, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that environmental insults can affect brain size (see the Zika virus). And sure, sub-Saharan Africa is loaded with pathogens and other environmental insults. But racial differences in brain size are seen between people of European, African, and Asian ancestry in the United States (from Rushton & Jensen, 2010):
(At this point, of course, we cue the sociologist’s fallacy invoking the poorer environments of Blacks even in the U.S.) But, Chisala is claiming Blacks are more susceptable to environmental insults that supposedly affect IQ – insults that (save perhaps iodine deficiency) have not been shown to actually impact IQ in any way. I’ll go into more detail in a future post, but there is little solid evidence for a negative impact of most supposed environmental insults on IQ.
For now, I’ll give you Greg Cochran on this (from The Great IQ Depression | West Hunter):
We hear that poverty can sap brainpower, reduce frontal lobe function, induce the fantods, etc. But exactly what do we mean by ‘poverty’? If we’re talking about an absolute, rather than relative, standard of living, most of the world today must be in poverty, as well as almost everyone who lived much before the present. Most Chinese are poorer than the official US poverty level, right? The US had fairly rapid economic growth until the last generation or so, so if you go very far back in time, almost everyone was poor, by modern standards. Even those who were considered rich at the time suffered from zero prenatal care, largely useless medicine, tabletless high schools, and slow Internet connections. They had to ride horses that had lousy acceleration and pooped all over the place.
In particular, if all this poverty-gives-you-emerods stuff is true, scholastic achievement should have collapsed in the Great Depression – and with the miracle of epigenetics, most of us should still be suffering those bad effects.
But somehow none of this seems to have gone through the formality of actually happening.
Of course, it’s also worth mentioning that brain structure differs detectably by race, as previously discussed:
a new paper, Fan et al 2015, that the details of cortical surface structure of the brain is highly predictive of genetic ancestry. Indeed, as Fan et al put it:
Here, we demonstrate that the three-dimensional geometry of cortical surface is highly predictive of individuals’ genetic ancestry in West Africa, Europe, East Asia, and America, even though their genetic background has been shaped by multiple waves of migratory and admixture events. The geometry of the cortical surface contains richer information about ancestry than the areal variability of the cortical surface, independent of total brain volumes. Besides explaining more ancestry variance than other brain imaging measurements, the 3D geometry of the cortical surface further characterizes distinct regional patterns in the folding and gyrification.
Indeed, an earlier paper from this team (Bakken, Dale, and Schork, 2011) found that this workswithin racial groups as well, as the case with Europeans (see also the section Intraracial Group Variation below):In our group’s previous study, we found that area measures of cortical surface and totalbrain volumes of individuals of European descent in the United States correlate significantly with their ancestral geographic locations in Europe
Published Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS), reporting the presence of alleles exhibiting significant and replicable associations with IQ, are reviewed. The average between-population frequency (polygenic score) of nine alleles positively and significantly associated with intelligence is strongly correlated to country-level IQ (r = .91). Factor analysis of allele frequencies furthermore identified a metagene with a similar correlation to country IQ (r = .86). The majority of the alleles (seven out of nine) loaded positively on this metagene. Allele frequencies varied by continent in a way that corresponds with observed population differences in average phenotypic intelligence.
Here is a scatter plot from the paper:
Going even beyond this, if we follow Chisala’s logic and assume that somehow adverse reactions to the environment are responsible for the size, structural, and performance differences of African brains relative to other groups, then we have another problem: the performance difference between different human groups isn’t a 20th and 21st century phenomenon only – it goes back for the entirety of recorded history.
As we’ve seen before, and as Bryan Caplan recounts, the differences between human groups in development goes back thousands of years – such that level of development as far back as 1000 B.C. is predictive of development today. Indeed, as Easterly, Coming, and Gong (2007) recount:
We assemble a dataset on technology adoption in 1000 B.C., 0 A.D., and 1500 A.D. for the predecessors of today’s nation states. We find that this very old history of technology adoption is surprisingly significant for today’s national development outcomes. Although our strongest results are for 1500 A.D., we find that even technology as old as 1000 B.C. is associated with today’s outcomes in some plausible specifications.
It’s not like the poor performers and the strong performers of today are a new thing. They’ve been poor performers and strong performers throughout history (by and large). Indeed, in sub-Saharan Africa (emphasis mine):
Why this meandering reminiscence of mine about a random ruin in Turkey? Because sub-Saharan Africa has remarkably few ruins for its immense size.
This fact is not well known. It is so hazy in the contemporary mind that Henry Louis Gates managed to sell PBS on a six episode miniseries about African ruins called The Wonders of Africa without, apparently, anybody in PBS management calling his bluff about the lack of wonders that his camera crew would wind up documenting in one of the most boring documentary series of the 21st Century.
By contrast, as we know, there was plenty of development in East Asia and Europe, especially Northwestern Europe:
As Staffan put it, “we can’t adjust for their entire history.”
In any case, this recent nonsense idea of Chisala, aside from running afoul Occam’s Razor, is his attempt to undercut the rebuttal to the deprivation argument. That is, it is a common argument of blank slatists that poverty and other forms of deprivation are responsible for differences in average IQ and national performance. Aside from emptiness of the whole deprivation argument, as noted above, there is the fact (as pointed out by me in Welcome Readers from Portugal!) that outliers to this pattern of deprivation and IQ all perform in accordance to their measured IQ, not according to their level of deprivation. Poor rural Chinese perform nearly as well in IQ and scholastically as the other East Asian societies do. Citizens in wealthy Arab oil states perform as badly as those in poorer ones which lack oil. I’m sure Chisala doesn’t like this particular uncomfortable fact, so I suspect he concocted his feeble theory in part to try to nullify this unwelcome reality.
And finally, there is the fundamental problem that Chisala doesn’t understand either evolution or the formula that guides it, the breeder’s equation. There is no reason to suspect that human groups that have been separated for tens of thousands of years in vastly different environments would be the same in all their cognitive and behavioral qualities. In fact, a priori we should expect them not to be, since such equivalence after so many generations of separate evolution is nigh impossible.
I expected most of this to be obvious, which is why I haven’t paid too much attention to Chisala’s posts. But, I may have overestimated both his impact and people’s ability to spot the obvious, hence, this writing.
Commenters, please be aware of my comment policy.
Look folks, I say “Merry Christmas” (and not “Happy Holidays”). And quite simply, here’s why:
Even though I am an atheist, the “Happy Holidays” euphemism is stupid.
Food for thought:
How and why did the dishes served at Thanksgiving dinner come to be so fixed?
Many assume that most of them were simply eaten by the Pilgrims during the first Thanksgiving. For this reason, they continue to be eaten today. And it’s true that most of the ingredients are American in origin: the turkey, cranberries, pumpkin, sweet potatoes – even the green beans in the casserole and the pecans in the pie.
Yet we only have one firsthand account of the “first” Thanksgiving – a brief paragraph by Edward Winslow that doesn’t mention any of these foods. And it’s been shown, time and again, that the idea of a unique culinary tradition originating from a feast between the Pilgrims and their Native American neighbors is more advertising myth than historical truth.
But maybe there is something, nonetheless, that’s very traditional about this meal.
In fact, there may be a very good reason these particular dishes – and even the way we eat the meal – came to be strongly associated with Thanksgiving. The first Americans simply mimicked or adapted the traditional fare, flavor combinations and rituals of Europe, using them to fashion the popular dishes we continue to enjoy today.