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July 12, 2012 / JayMan

How Much Hard Evidence Do You Need?

http://rakkav.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/a-genetic-switch-for-liberalism-and-conservatism/Post updated, 11/17/13 4/14/13 1/19/13, see below!

It is already known that educational attainment and income are highly heritable. However, finding specific genes linked to cognitive and behavioral traits has been difficult. This is primarily because most traits arise not from a few genes with large effects, but from many genes with small effects (and from many genes with effects similar to those of other genes). Hence, figuring out what alleles are linked to what behaviors against the backdrop of the tens of thousands of genes in the genome—and the many more variants of such—is by no means an easy task.

None the less, a few such links have been identified, which I talked about in my earlier post about free will. A recent paper was released that took a look at genes that play a role in education attainment. This study looked at three genes involved in the production and control of dopamine, one of the brain’s “reward” hormones.

They did this by looking the Add Health study, a national longitudinal study of adolescents, done in four waves. This is the same study that much maligned evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa relied on to make his infamous blog post about the physical attractiveness of Black women—which landed him in so much hot water (more on that soon). Wave 3 of the study however included a DNA sample of the participants. From this, the researchers were able to make links between genes and the behavior and outcomes of the study participants.

You’re probably now thinking what I was thinking when I first read this: since the Add Health study contained participants of various races, a genetic analysis could be used to identify genes that impact behavior that differs between the races.

And it seems that they have done just that. They found that the three dopamine genes they examined, the dopamine transporter gene (DAT1), the dopamine D2 receptor gene (DRD2), and the dopamine D4 receptor gene (DRD4), had small but reliable effects on educational attainment, such that those with a higher “dopamine index” tended to attain less education.

Presumably, this is because those with higher “dopamine indices” (based on having more of certain alleles of these three genes) are more much impulsive/novelty seeking, and in general derive much less satisfaction from things that don’t offer immediate rewards.

But what’s much more interesting is that they found significant differences in the prevalence of the alleles of theses genes between the White and the Black subjects, with Blacks having tending to have higher dopamine indices. The differences are small, but solid.

This finding, as significant as it seems, is but one of many pieces of evidence demonstrating genes that affect behavior that differ in prevalence between racial groups. Here are just a few others:

  • Researchers have found a correlation between a serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR) and whether a society is individualistic or collectivist; Anglo countries are on one end of the distribution while East Asian countries are on the other.
  • The “Warrior Gene”, monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A): This gene is known to be associated with a host of anti-social behaviors, and varies considerably around the word. Certain variants of this gene were found to be quite prevalent among the Maori of New Zealand, a people with a reputation for fierceness and who today have significantly higher rates of violence than White New Zealanders.
  • Genes for myopia, a condition which is known to be associated with increased intelligence (there is a reason that wearing glasses makes one look more intelligent). The prevalence of myopia varies greatly around the world, being higher in European and Asian countries, reaching as high as 80% in Singapore. Singapore also has an average IQ of 108!
  • The aforementioned DRD4 gene, which Greg Cochran and Henry Harpending discuss (along with many other genes that vary among different populations) in The 10,000 Year Explosion (pg 112):

    the 7R (for 7-repeat) allele of the DRD4 (dopamine receptor D4) gene. It is associated with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a behavioral syndrome best characterized by actions that annoy elementary school teachers: restless-impulsive behavior, inattention, distractibility, and the like. The polymorphism is found at varying but significant levels in many parts of the world, but is almost totally absent from East Asia. Interestingly, alleles derived from the 7R allele are fairly common in China, even though the 7R alleles themselves are extremely rare there. It is possible that individuals bearing these alleles were selected against because of cultural patterns in China. The Japanese say that the nail that sticks out is hammered down, but in China it may have been pulled out and thrown away.

  • About that DRD4 gene, the presence of longer copies of the gene are found to vary across the world, and is found to increase as migratory distance from Africa increases.
  • Edit, 11/17/13: The gene TAS2R16, certain variants of which render the individual highly sensitive to bitter flavors. All of those variants are only found in Africa(Paper here, paywalled.)
  • Edit: Additionally, a new study (Aug, 2012) also using the Add Health data found that the 2-repeat version of the aforementioned warrior gene, MAO-A, is significantly associated with antisocial behavior and the likelihood of criminality in Black males. This allele is found in 5% of Black males, but is very rare (0.1%) in White males.
  • Edit: Also see the gene ASPM, which is associated with brain growth. Alleles of this gene vary in different human populations, a new variant being more common in the Middle East (37%-52% incidence) and Europe (38-50% incidence) than in East Asia (0-25%). The prevalence follows the spread of writing.

Also, from the above link, note the Visual Word Form Area (VWFA) of the brain. This region appears to be heavily involved in recognizing written words and language, apparently performing no other functions. Westerners, who rely on an alphabetic script, process their sound-based symbols only in the VWFA, whereas Chinese, who have a logographic script, use more brain regions to decode their language.

Edit, 4/17/13: As well, quite damningly, racial differences in behavior are evident right after birth. See this movie documenting experiments done by Dan Freedman on newborn babies of different races. Also see Greg Cochran’s discussion, here and here.

A staunch critic might (correctly) point out that our knowledge of how behavior is derived from these genes is incomplete at best, and hence (incorrectly) conclude that it’s hasty to conclude that we have proved concrete innate behavioral differences thanks to genetic differences. They might point to the oxytocin receptor gene, where the same alleles leads to different behavior for Koreans than it does for Americans, presumably confounding research linking genes and behavior. That study is used to demonstrate the importance of “culture” in determining behavioral differences between groups.

Of course, the problem with that line of reasoning—which is used to support the importance of culture in the above example—is that the OXTR gene cited doesn’t just operate in different cultures between Koreans and Americans, but in different genomes as well. It shouldn’t be horrendously surprising that the same alleles have different effects in different groups, thanks to the mediation of other genes that differ between those groups.

But effects such as these do make it difficult to draw straight comparisons between genetic differences between groups and behavioral differences between those groups, as inferred by the behaviors these genes appear to be associated with. (Some “low-activity” MAO-A genes are common among East Asians, for example.)

But this criticism completely misses the point. We know of genes that are linked to behavior and intelligence, and we know that those genes differ in prevalence between racial groups. Hence, unless the rest of the genome operates in such a way to cancel out the effect of the genes we have isolated (which is essentially impossible), then some of the behavioral and cognitive differences between groups must be due to genetic differences. There is no way every group is going to be dealt a different hand of cards and have those cards all work to operate the same basic way. It simply could not have happened. Ergo, demonstrating these genetic differences and their links to behavioral differences are a proof-of-concept of heritable behavioral/cognitive differences between racial groups, as Half Sigma noted. And if these differences could have something to do with heredity, why can’t other differences?

(Sure, convergent evolution does produce between-group similarities despite different genes doing the trick. The genes that give East Asians light skin are different from the ones that give Europeans light skin, for example. But it’ll be an absurd notion to think that every gene involved with intelligence and behavior is going to end up working roughly the same way in every different racial group.)

These data disprove the “environment-only” hypothesis for group differences. And with that out of the way, we should be able to move forward with explanations that involve heredity to some degree. However, these facts (in addition to all the other mountains of evidence for HBD, such as the recent discovery of endemic genetic variants that are yet more proof that Lewontin’s Fallcy is just that), are very damaging to the approved narrative that “were all the same”. We’re at the edge of that volcano that Charles Murray mentioned in his interview with Harald Eia for the Norwegian documentary Brainwash. Yet, despite such research being published for years, all the books published, and all the discussion in the “blogosphere”, talk about group differences is still verboten. Academics who talk about about racial differences still face “Watsoning”. Eia’s warning at the end of the video is part of the reason why.

In short, it’s because people are stupid.

Most people will take knowledge of group-wide differences, which mostly apply to averages, to mean that they apply in all cases. Most people are too dumb to consider the nuances of statistics, and instead rely on heuristics of the type “if the fruit is ripe, it’s sweet; if it’s green, it’s sour”, even though those are only statistically true. Upon hearing of the lower average IQ and higher average criminality of Blacks, many Whites will assume that all Blacks are uneducatable thugs, despite the fact that criminals make up a minority of Blacks. This is why people object to stereotypes. While stereotypes are generally valid empirical generalizations, people have a tendency to apply them sweepingly, and that’s where we run into trouble.

In any case, sooner or later, someone is going to write a book compiling all of this direct, genetic evidence for racial differences (over and beyond what Cochran and Harpending have already written), or publicize this knowledge through some medium that will get widespread attention. No doubt that will make a big splash, and then we will have to talk about this reality.

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37 Comments

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  1. hbd chick / Jul 12 2012 5:18 AM

    @jayman – In short, it’s because people are stupid.

    most people are definitely stupid. (~_^)

    but i think almost equally important here, or perhaps even more important, is that most people are herders (i.e. social animals). most everybody, if they thought about it for half a second, would acknowledge that the reason they find yao ming so interesting (apart from his playing skills) is that he is really tall while at the same time most chinese people are pretty short. they all know that, on average, chinese people are pretty short. they get it. and it’s not a problem to get that.

    the problem is the conflict that sets in regarding things we are not supposed to know — or notice. that’s when the herding drive takes over common sense (and the little bit of logic that some humans possess).

    • JayMan / Jul 12 2012 3:59 PM

      but i think almost equally important here, or perhaps even more important, is that most people are herders (i.e. social animals).

      That’s true. The was an excellent post by Razib(?) I remembered reading not too long ago that said something to that effect: most people believe in what’s popular because it’s a fairly safe bet in a world where it’s impossible to verify every fact oneself—but for the life of me I couldn’t find it. I think that’s fairly accurate, as most people are too dumb and/or uninterested to really give it strong thought but just go with the flow.

      I would argue that it’s not the bulk of the masses we’d have to worry about, but the minority of people who would use knowledge of HBD to cause trouble. I mean, look how much facts are distorted in common discourse, even when it’s not something controversial (e.g., evolution).

    • Luke Lea / Jul 16 2012 12:41 AM

      “while at the same time most chinese people are pretty short. they all know that, on average, chinese people are pretty short.”

      I met the Chinese wife of a friend last week who moved here from China four years ago. She is 5′-9″ tall. I asked her if that was exceptional where she came from (lived in Beijing). She said not, that with good nutrition Chinese are getting much taller. FWIW

  2. Gould Squad / Jul 12 2012 6:20 AM

    In short, it’s because people are stupid.

    No, I think it’s because anti-racism is crypto-religious and parasitic on all sorts of ancient psychological mechanisms (Watson was a blasphemer and heretic questioning revealed Truth). Doubt even becomes a driver of faith: it’s when you feel insecure, or know at some level or other that you’re lying, that you get more inclined to persecute. There’s a special term for the hatred generated by theological disputes: odium theologicum. There’s no odium mathematicum. The liars and the doubters have worked harder to plug their line because they’ve known time isn’t on their side.

  3. asdf / Jul 12 2012 7:58 AM

    Jayman,

    Here is an interesting quandry. I have a girlfriend who in theory it is getting pretty serious with. She is black. She is cathedral in idealogy and semi cathedral in career (government contractor, which is a lot like working for the government).

    She is above average IQ but not a genuis. She tries to be an IWSB and mostly succeeds. But I don’t think she’s smart enough to overide her cathedral upbringing, especially since she is black.

    And yet she shows some understanding of the reality on the ground. The other day she told me that she, “just doesn’t like black people for the most part.” She can’t acknowledge it, or follow through on it logically, but its clear a part of her brain gets that black people and black culture have been nothing but trouble for her and her live has improved as she hung out with white people and acted white.

    If we got married and had kids, I’m wondering how to handle the tough decisions. Or perhaps better, explain them. Currentely I do what I do with everyone else. Don’t talk politics or HBD ever, but act based on my knowledge. I know some of the good code words like, “good schools.” I’m wondering if I need to expand my vocuabulary, or learn new ways of manuevering without actually coming out in favor of HBD (if I just told her I believe in HBD she would call me a racist and dump me, despite the fact that by dating a black woman seriously I’m less racist then probably 95% of whites). How do I keep my half & halfs from hanging out with blacks and acting black (IWSBs are ok in small doses I guess). How do I tell her that her crazy black relatives would be bad influences (much the same way as in a white family I suppose, just moreso).

    Your black but believe in HBD. That is an amazing combination. How do you deal with it?

    • JayMan / Jul 12 2012 3:49 PM

      Your black but believe in HBD. That is an amazing combination. How do you deal with it?

      I grew up in the South Bronx. I have lots of first-hand experience.

      But the real answer is that it’s just like any other uncomfortable fact about the universe. It sucks, but it just is. I had to give up a lot of my idealism to accept the reality of HBD, but my hopes for the future wouldn’t do anyone any good if they weren’t physically possible.

      if I just told her I believe in HBD she would call me a racist and dump me, despite the fact that by dating a black woman seriously I’m less racist then probably 95% of whites

      I’m lucky in that I’m a Black man dating a White woman. I have had to convince her of the reality of HBD. But I can profess belief in HBD without being accused of being racist (most of the time, anyway).

      And yet she shows some understanding of the reality on the ground. The other day she told me that she, “just doesn’t like black people for the most part.”

      See Those Who Can See. Many, if not most Blacks have good understanding of the reality on the ground. Many poor Black parents try hard to insulate their children from the influences of the ghetto, with varying degrees of success.

      Many beliefs are like politics or religion. They are hard-and-fast and no level of argument—no matter how well reasoned and factually supported—can change the minds of those who hold them. That’s a tough one to deal with.

      Maybe as the reality of HBD becomes more apparent to more people, you can talk about it more freely.

      She can’t acknowledge it, or follow through on it logically, but its clear a part of her brain gets that black people and black culture have been nothing but trouble for her and her live has improved as she hung out with white people and acted white.

      I’m sure quite a few White people have been trouble for her, too. All groups have their good points and bad points, they just vary in degree and how they require you to approach them.

      Part of the problem with accepting HBD is hope. As I noted, you have to give up your hope of people improving their lot in life en masse to accept HBD.

      How do I keep my half & halfs from hanging out with blacks and acting black

      You can’t control what you get. Their personalities will be what they’ll be. You can only hope to luck out (and you’ll probably will).

      But the answer is move to Maine! 🙂 The most reliable way for your children to have more positive influences from their peers is to live in a more White area. Minorities in predominantly White areas tend to be of much higher quality (selection effects operate).

  4. Ray Sawhill / Jul 13 2012 4:16 PM

    Great posting.

    Hey, I’d be very interested in reading about your challenges and rewards in dating a white girlfriend.

    I’d also like to cast a vote for changing your blog theme. I find reading white text on a black background pretty hard after just a paragraph or two. Dark on light is much easier on my brain. FWIW, I used to work in magazines, and it was an accepted rule of thumb in the field that you NEVER used white-on-black text — known as “reversed-out text” — for more than a sentence or two. Cool-looking, but just too hard to read for extended periods. And since you tend to write pretty long blogpostings …

    • JayMan / Jul 13 2012 6:30 PM

      Great posting.

      Thanks!

      Hey, I’d be very interested in reading about your challenges and rewards in dating a white girlfriend.

      I have had to supply all the good food by introducing her to my Jamaican dishes! 😛

  5. Anonymous / Jul 13 2012 4:25 PM

    Ray, do you realize that unlike a magazine a computer monitor, when it shows any color besides black, is blasting radiation into your eyes and ruining your vision every second you look at it?

  6. JayMan / Jul 13 2012 6:22 PM

    @asdf:

    I will add that I think that your problem with your gf might not be your belief in HBD, but these:

    She tries to be an IWSB and mostly succeeds. But I don’t think she’s smart enough to overide her cathedral upbringing, especially since she is black.

    How do I keep my half & halfs from hanging out with blacks and acting black (IWSBs are ok in small doses I guess)

    That you think of her that way is probably not best.

    “IWSB” is only a step up from some other terms I can think of that aren’t all that flattering (like “WTN”, for example). I mean, do we need to invent a term for Whites who aren’t like this guy?

    Not a good idea to listen to Derbyshire on everything

  7. Y. / Jul 14 2012 4:16 PM

    Myopia is caused by lack of exposure to sunlight during development.

    Remember reading about a study comparing Singapore Chinese with a rural Chinese group of similar ancestry. 80% vs 5%, very similar genetics.

    Besides, if it were genetic, how could it’ve increased ~2x inside two generations?

    • JayMan / Jul 16 2012 12:19 PM

      Myopia is caused by lack of exposure to sunlight during development.

      Is there any evidence that this actually occurs in humans? Be wary of generalizing from non-human animals to humans, something that is done too much these days.

      Remember reading about a study comparing Singapore Chinese with a rural Chinese group of similar ancestry. 80% vs 5%, very similar genetics.

      But not identical genetics. I need not tell you that the Chinese in Singapore are not representative of the Chinese in China (doubly so for Indians in Singapore), yes? That the average IQ differs (108 Singapore vs. ≤105 China) is a clue.

      Besides, if it were genetic, how could it’ve increased ~2x inside two generations?

      IQ, height, and BMI are all highly heritable (>.8), and all have increased in the past century. A change in the prevalence of a phenotype has little to nothing to do with whether there is a genetic component to that phenotype.

      In any case, twin studies have confirmed a high heritability of myopia. That myopia correlates with near work is to be expected, because in modern society, higher IQ individuals tend to do more near work (and probably have for a long time, in the case of Ashkenazi Jews or East Asians). Because of the connection between IQ and near work, it’s unclear if there is a causal role between near work and myopia.

    • The fourth doorman of the apocalypse / Jan 22 2013 11:03 PM

      But not identical genetics. I need not tell you that the Chinese in Singapore are not representative of the Chinese in China (doubly so for Indians in Singapore), yes? That the average IQ differs (108 Singapore vs. ≤105 China) is a clue.

      It seems highly likely to me that a great deal of downward mobility has occurred in China over the last two thousand years, which has flushed out alleles that reduce IQ.

      I am married to a Chinese woman from Hong Kong, but her ancestors are Hakka and from further inland. She is pretty smart.

      I suspect that the small differences in IQ you mention are entirely environmental, on average.

      你会不会说中文?

    • JayMan / Jan 24 2013 10:43 AM

      Average IQ varies significantly across China. And even if it didn’t, since Singapore was essentially a founded colony with a fairly select group of settlers, you could easily end up with a population that is significantly genetically different from its source population (imagine if I founded a new city and drew my inhabitants entirely from Manhattan’s Upper East and Upper West Sides, for example).

  8. Janon / Jul 15 2012 9:47 PM

    Besides, if it were genetic, how could it’ve increased ~2x inside two
    generations?

    There could still be a genetic predisposition for degree of response to the differences in environmental stimuli between the rural and urban Chinese.

  9. Anonymous / Jan 6 2013 6:23 AM

    If you consider how conditional probability works there actually is not anything stupid or irrational in judging another based on a properly formed racial stereotype (based on a statistically representative sample) provided you don´t know anything else about the other being judged besides race (or other category, like sex). Unfortunately a lot of people have a hard time updating their believes based on new information, which is what you should be doing (quickly) when you learn more about a specific individual.

    • JayMan / Jan 19 2013 10:49 AM

      Very good point!

  10. panjoomby / Dec 9 2013 9:48 AM

    excellent post! btw, the visual word form area of the brain is a subset of what was formerly all facial recognition — we hijacked a part of that existing system/area for reading – hence the left over difficulty with letter reversals in some kids – formerly that region was mirror invariant – see a face from either side you recognize it as same face – so developmentally for some b/d/p/q are hard to keep straight, b/c they’re still retraining their brain to learn to notice the difference between those things! Stanislas DeHaene & colleagues have done much fMRI research in this area (in the field of dyslexia).

    • panjoomby / Feb 2 2014 12:57 PM

      I just noticed the excellent advice you gave to asdf above – especially the part about moving to Maine! Would moving to Maine be part of his offspring’s shared (& unshared) environment?:) Lest you think i’ve become an environmentalist – much of that good Maine “environment” can be attributed to the genetics of Maine inhabitants:)

      btw, you, hbdchick & westhunt have some of the finest commenters on the internet (i refer to some familiar names above). thank you to all for your well-thought out empiricism (which, i guess means thank you for your genes & the unshared/shared environments you create with them:)

      now back to snark & sarcasm!

  11. dave chamberlin / Dec 31 2013 12:06 PM

    Just a general compliment for now. I’m impressed with your blog. Thanks for all the hard work. I’ll be dropping in now and then with comments because I find your blog very much worth following.

    • JayMan / Dec 31 2013 12:08 PM

      @dave chamberlin:

      Thank you!

  12. John Engelman / Mar 8 2014 1:33 PM

    “An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy” by Gunnar Myrdal was published in 1944. Gunnar Myrdal was a Swedish Nobel Laureate in economics. This book argued that black social pathology and inferior academic performance were caused by racial discrimination, and that they were used to justify racial discrimination.

    Gunnar Myrdal argued that when blacks were no longer discriminated against most of them would perform and behave as well as most whites. The book was published when it was likely to be most effective. The Nazi movement had discredited the belief that racial differences are significant.

    Because in 1944 most blacks in the United States were discriminated against the book had an element of plausibility about it. Because blacks are currently discriminated in favor of with affirmative action policies, and because vast sums of tax money have been spent in efforts to bring blacks up to white levels, this plausibility no longer exists.

    As the Nazi movement fades from living memory, as black behavior and performance continues to disappoint Dr. Myrdal’s optimistic predictions, and as more is learned about the human genome, the constraints of political correctness will crumble and fall. America will have a dialogue on race.

  13. dc.sunsets / May 2 2016 12:08 PM

    Given that erroneous beliefs (blank slate) inform much coercive public policy, is it a misuse of this evolving data to suggest that Affirmative Action and other attempts to equilibrate inter-group disparities should be ended? Robbing Peter to pay Paul should have a pretty solid rationale, and the “racism causes disparities” rationale is false.

    The US DOJ is reportedly coercing school districts to equalize measures of discipline between racial groups, suggesting that either blacks be disciplined less for misbehavior or whites/East Asians be disciplined more (somehow?), with a predictable result of schools becoming unsafe for everyone. “Disparate impact” is actually resulting in death and chaos, as the ACLU and BLM movement cause police departments to withdraw pro-active (and decidedly invasive) policing in minority-majority neighborhoods of Chicago. http://city-journal.org/html/back-bedlam-14403.html

    At a time when “color blind” is itself indicted as a racist notion, I do not see any peaceful, rational means for repealing population-level attempts to make unequal people equal (akin to turning me into an NBA-qualified guard or forward) much less accepting that some individuals really are predisposed to behaviors that cannot coexist in a peaceful society (and that those predispositions really are inherited and distributed non-randomly among ancestral “tribes.”)

  14. dean / Jun 11 2016 4:15 PM

    Very interesting info. Is there any info on comparisons between African and African American dopamine alleles? This could throw up its own questions?

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