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June 27, 2015 / JayMan

The Rise of Universalism

648_60287335914_4089_nUnlike many commenters in this space, I don’t particularly lament the secular rise of “universalism” that has occurred in Northwestern European societies (and their derivatives). Indeed, as a Black man, this is especially important to me. Without universalism, slavery may never have ended in the West. Without universalism, my family may never have been able to come to the United States from Jamaica, and I would likely not exist. Without universalism, laws banning interracial marriage might still be on the books, and my marriage to my wife would not be recognized throughout much of the country, and quite possibly my son would not exist.

“Universalism” is, broadly, the belief that all humans deserve the rights and recognition that historically people would only reserve for their own clan, own tribe, or at best, own countrymen. The idea of “universal human rights” is a very foreign concept to most of the world (even if many pay lip service to the idea today). As we saw in my previous post (200 Blog Posts – Everything You Need to Know (To Start): section Intraracial group variation and HBD Chick’s theory), this is the purview of Northwestern Europeans, a group of people who are distinct from all others in the world.

Many Northwestern Europeans unfamiliar with this fact assume that values found in WEIRDO societies are found across the globe. This has led some like Steven Pinker to conclude that all humanity is imbued with an “expanding moral circle.” That is, we posses an adjustable circle of morality, that can be expanded when we gain familiarity with those outside. If one confines oneself to NW European societies, it sure does look that way: we no longer keep people as slaves; we feel all have a right to participate in democracy; we don’t allow child labor; we feel that the disabled and the mentally ill deserve to live with dignity; Jim Crow has ended. We have enshrined a Universal Declaration of Human Rights as adopted by the United Nations (a NW European invention). We even extend some of these ideas beyond the human species with certain segments pushing for animal rights.

The idea of a universal “expanding moral circle” was mocked by Staffan in his post The Myth of the Expanding Circle or You Can’t Learn How to Be an English Vegetarian:

if width of empathy is so large in most people, does it really matter if it’s a behavioral trait or not? Doesn’t growing awareness and the empathic inclusion that follows amount to the same thing as an expansion of our circle of empathy? Yes, you might say this is all semantics, weren’t it for one important thing: width of empathy is only large in Northwest Europeans and their descendants. People sometimes referred to as WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic). This trait is intimately (inversely) linked to ingroup loyalty which is weaker among the WEIRD populations as well as among liberal/progressive people, as Haidt’s research has shown.

The rest of the world is not very impressed by Enlightenment ideals and it never was. To this day most of the world is not very into human rights. It’s something you do to make rich Western friends. And now with the rise of China many are abandoning this pretense altogether.

In fact, present day China makes an excellent example of how awareness and reason (this is a highly intelligent people) in no way has expanded the circle of empathy. The internet is full of videos from China illustrating cruelty and lack of concern for both humans and animals. This is a glaring contradiction that Pinker and Goldstein fail to address. Another friend of the expanding circle (who even wrote a book with that name), Australian philosopher Peter Singer has made an attempt to resolve this problem in his own TED talk. In it he shows very disturbing film clip (so click at your own peril) in which a 2-year-old Chinese girl is run over by a car and then left lying in the street. Other people look at her but walk by without helping in any way. He then goes on to compare this behavior with Westerners who can prevent child mortality by supporting UNICEF but fail to do so, at least sufficiently to eradicate the problem

Indeed, China is rife with awful tales, such animals being routinely skinned alive (WARNING: extremely graphic video – click here to view). Pakistan is known for “bear baiting” (where a declawed and detoothed bear is tied up left to be attacked by dogs), as well as the recent case of a married couple who were burned alive for blasphemy. Face-disfiguring acid attacks against women are common occurrences across South Asia. Human rights abuses abound in much of the non-Western world; the idea of a universal morality is clearly untenable.

Peter Frost discussed a trait that plays a significant role in universalism: affective empathy. From his post Feeling the Other’s Pain:

We like to think that all people feel empathy to the same degree. In reality, it varies a lot from one person to the next, like most mental traits. We are half-aware of this when we distinguish between “normal people” and “psychopaths,” the latter having an abnormally low capacity for empathy. The distinction is arbitrary, like the one between “tall” and “short.” As with stature, empathy varies continuously among the individuals of a population, with psychopaths being the ones we find beyond an arbitrary cut-off point and who probably have many other things wrong with them. By focusing on the normal/abnormal dichotomy, we lose sight of the variation that occurs among so-called normal individuals. We probably meet people every day who have a low capacity for empathy and who nonetheless look and act normal. Because they seem normal, we assume they are as empathetic as we are. They aren’t.

Like most mental traits, empathy is heritable, its heritability being estimated at 68% (Chakrabarti and Baron-Cohen, 2013). It has two distinct components: cognitive empathy and affective empathy. Some researchers identify a third component, pro-social behavior, but its relationship to the other two seems tangential.

Cognitive empathy appears to be the evolutionarily older component of the two. It is the capacity to understand how another person is feeling and then predict how different actions will affect that person’s emotional state. But this capacity can be used for selfish purposes. Examples are legion: the con artist; many telemarketers; the rapist who knows how to charm his victims …

Affective empathy is the younger component, having developed out of cognitive empathy. It is the capacity not just to understand another person’s emotional state but also to identify with it. A person with high affective empathy will try to help someone in distress not because such help is personally advantageous or legally required, but because he or she is actually feeling the same distress.

Is it possible, then, that this capacity varies among human populations, just as it varies among individuals? … I have also argued that this evolutionary change has gone the farthest in Europeans north and west of the Hajnal Line (Frost, 2014a). In these populations, kinship has been a weaker force in organizing social relations, at least since the early Middle Ages and perhaps since prehistoric times. There has thus been selection for mechanisms, like affective empathy, that can regulate social interaction between unrelated individuals.

We can see this global variation graphically, with women’s rights:


In child labor laws (from here):

childlabormapWith where slavery remains:


With vegetarianism (in Europe):


And of course (relevant to current events), in this (now a bit outdated) map of the legal standing of homosexuality across the world:

World_laws_pertaining_to_homosexual_relationships_and_expression.svgHomosexuality views world keyThese patterns follow the global variation in values, captured by the World Values Survey:

The countries closest to the upper right corner of the plot embrace universalistic values the strongest, and those furthest away are more clannish and kin-centric.

So why this rapid change in NW European societies? Indeed, it seems many of these changes have happened in an eye-blink. Nationally recognized same-sex marriage in the U.S. was unfathomable 25 years ago:

Now it’s the reality. But this shift in attitudes is only one such “secular change” we have witnessed in just the last few decades. Others include the rise in individuals claiming not to embrace a religion


…as well as the blossoming movement for “transgender” rights (as per the previous post):

transMuch has changed in a pretty short period of time. Now, as we saw previously, views and attitudes are highly heritable. So how could they have changed so quickly? This brings me to an on-going point of confusion that I encounter on this topic. Such rapid changes couldn’t reflect genetic changes, since evolution doesn’t proceed that quickly. Nor can this be attributed to demographic changes. So what then? This illustrates that sometimes a change in the gross environment can lead to considerable changes in the expression of highly heritable phenotypes.

The nature of these changes are almost always poorly understood, since they’re incredibly difficult to research. I previously discussed this topic in my post Why HBD:

Rapid change can result when an idea receives widespread appeal among the people. Both components of this – the origin of the idea itself (a reflection of the heritable temperament of its progenitors) – and its reception among the masses (a reflection of the heritable temperament of adherents) are influenced by genes. In a way then, social revolutions can reflect pent-up genetic “potential” in a population, which may express itself when enough people accept that the idea is “OK” and hence can successfully overturn the established order. This is the essence of HBD Chick’s ideas, and Staffan’s remark on needing to “account” for the “history of communism” when looking at the current state of Eastern European societies (“We can’t adjust for their entire history”). The sexual revolution wasn’t the only revolution of consequence in relatively recent history. The American Revolution itself, the Protestant Reformation, the abolition of slavery in the U.S., the rise of communism in Russia, etc are as well. Historical revolutions are in essence, in many respects, a “changing of the genetic guard”, where the genetic dam “bursts” so to speak. More loosely attached individuals may convert if the idea attains a critical mass (see how much longer? | hbd* chick).

To be clear: this is not to say that “genetic potential” is the only factor. As mentioned, other realities, such as technology and the geographic/climatic landscape affect the viability of new ideas/behaviors, and facilitate or quench their dispersal.

However, I believe sometimes the environmental change that precipitates this behavioral change is the previous behavioral change. In other words, the secular change could be a rapid move towards realizing genetic potential. To illustrate what I mean, I’ll point out that Charles Darwin foresaw a good bit of this nearly 150 years ago!

Here’s a passage from his 1871 The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (Vol. 1, pp 101-102):

As man advances in civilisation, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races. If, indeed, such men are separated from him by great differences in appearance or habits, experience unfortunately shews us how long it is before we look at them as our fellow-creatures. Sympathy beyond the confines of man, that is humanity to the lower animals, seems to be one of the latest moral acquisitions. It is apparently unfelt by savages, except towards their pets. How little the old Romans knew of it is shewn by their abhorrent gladiatorial exhibitions. The very idea of humanity, as far as I could observe, was new to most of the Gauchos of the Pampas. This virtue, one of the noblest with which man is endowed, seems to arise incidentally from our sympathies becoming more tender and more widely diffused, until they are extended to all sentient beings. As soon as this virtue is honoured and practised by some few men, it spreads through instruction and example to the young, and eventually through public opinion.

In short, the idea appears to be this: once sympathy (and hence rights) are extended to one group, what’s to stop it from being extended further? If it is wrong to enslave poor Englishmen, then why is it OK to enslave Blacks or Native Americans? If the wealthy are deserving of living decent, healthy lives, why not the poor? If men can have the right to vote and earn a living, why can’t women? If Whites can marry other Whites, and Blacks can marry other Blacks, why can’t Blacks marry Whites? If straights can get married, why not gays? If “cis-gendered” can have their own bathrooms, why shouldn’t transgendered?

The progress has carried us from the abolition of slavery all the way up to the “safe spaces” and “microaggressions” of today. NW Euro society aims to be more inclusive, as the expanding moral circle identifies more targets worthy of human regard. This means the process isn’t over, as it will likely continue to expand.

How could this happen? The ultimate reason is the nature of NW European regard for others. In most societies across the world (i.e., clannish ones), there are weak and highly conditional attitudes towards reciprocity. The primary targets of altruism are kin. Prosociality is maintained through various forms of social honor and shame or at worst, fear of reprisal from the aggrieved or by the state. Dealings between non-kin typically take place warily and with many measures to ensure honesty by all participants. Trust is very low and is not given freely.

By contrast, NW Europeans have evolved a sense of reciprocal altruism and can deal much more readily with non-related individuals. Trust is extended. The other party is presumed to act honestly. Indeed, favors will be extended to others because the recipient may one day return the favor (or at the very least, the helping individual may earn a reputation for generosity that may parlay into favors from others).

In clannish societies, there is typically low regard for those outside the clan, let alone those from social outgroups. Regard for outgroups comes through expediency or through fear. With little outgroup regard or sense of reciprocal altruism, little by way of universalism can appear. We can see this in measures of civic engagement, particular the kind directly involved in helping others:


As Misdreavus put it in his debunking of “ethnic genetic interests” (emphasis in original):

1) It is impossible for such a thing as a “race altruist gene” to evolve, because sacrificing yourself on behalf of strangers does nothing to increase the frequency of the gene under any set of circumstances. It doesn’t matter if the frequency of a such a gene “magically” originated with a frequency of 4 in 10 Chinese people. The Chinese who don’t have the gene, on average, would have a higher fitness, resulting in the frequency decreasing monotonically over time.

2) On the other hand, it is entirely possible for complex social arrangements to evolve between completely unrelated people — and the more that strangers have in common culturally (e.g. speaking a common language, sharing a common religion, etc.) the stronger such ties will be. But that has absolutely nothing to do with “altruism”, in the strict evolutionary sense. All participants in the social network either have something to gain (e.g. the help of one’s neighbours during a famine), or at least something terrible to lose (e.g. being sent to a prison camp for insulting Kim Jong Un). And all societies, virtually everywhere, have social mechanisms in place that penalize shirkers, cheaters, moochers, and all other people who do not uphold their end of the social bargain.

Once any such social bargains erode away, there is absolutely stopping individuals from betraying their “racial interests” [sic] to enrich themselves and their close kin, or any other people with whom they have arranged better social bargains.

When there are no natural seams (kin interests) in conferring human regard to others – as is the case with NW European societies – the social boundaries of who deserves regard are wholly “artificial.”  Having a sense of reciprocal altruism (which actively seeks targets with which to trade favors) – along with a suite of other traits that co-evolved with this (such as a sense of fairness and a belief in the equality of all in-group members)  – there is little to prevent extending the (soft) cognitive barrier those presently in an outgroup when new information serves to humanize this outgroup (by appealing to affective empathy). And since no outgroup is really any different from any other (being effectively equally unrelated), there’s nothing to stop this process from repeating once new outgroups become humanized. Runaway universalism was thus inevitable. conservatives (typically being more clannish) who lament the rise of same-sex marriage like to point out that redefining marriage such that individuals of the same sex may marry establishes a slippery slope. After all, if those of the same-sex may marry, why not more than two individuals, for example. On this, they do have a point. The nature of the expanding moral circle, bereft of inherent boundaries, makes the slippery slope argument somewhat valid in this case. (Indeed, there are now calls to legalize polygamy.)

(For those curious about my own view on these things, I don’t have a problem with same-sex marriage. I don’t see it causing any particular harm, even if it likely confers little benefit. Live and let live. For that matter, I have a similar view towards polygamy. I have said before that the main issue arises in only if the polygamy rate gets too high, which it’s unlikely to in the West. Society can – contra Peter Frost – easily tolerate low levels of polygamy, since indeed, it essentially already does. Though it will be interesting to see how attitudes towards homosexuality will be affected by knowledge of its pathogenic origin. I expect it will not be well.)

Many commenters on this matter like to blame Jewish influence for these shifts in social attitudes, and it is true that Ashkenazi Jews commonly hold and have promoted progressive agendas. But what these commenters ignore is this: why do people listen? Or more to the point, why have some people (and peoples) embraced these views and not others? A promoted agenda is only as good as the traction it gains. Clearly, the trend towards universalism has been the purview of Northwestern European societies almost exclusively. If Jewish influence has had any role, it is only in the form of a rush in a much larger prevailing current.

Indeed, Jews are a vanishingly small portion of the population in many of the most progressive countries, such as the Scandinavian ones. Sweden for example is known for being a foremost champion of progressive causes:

Which they promote aggressively at home all on their own:

The Swedes … “are extremely liberal toward immigration, but they have a very authoritarian attitude toward debate about it. In Norway the idea is, open discussion is basically good. If there’s hostility, better to get it out.”

In America, there’s clear variation in enthusiasm for universalistic causes by regional population. This variation follows the American Nations lines (see here and here), and many examples of such were featured in my post More Maps of the American Nations.


Some of these include women’s suffrage:

d5ffaa372aac8524f03cdd3c542730b3As well as the aforementioned interracial marriage:

interracialThe most recent example, the Supreme Court decision establishing same-sex marriage across the country, is the culmination of a process that spread unevenly (though predictably) across the country:

0jpgH3dphoto.jpgWe can see the clear American Nations lines by following the pattern of rates of adoption of the red equal sign on Facebook profiles:



Same-sex county US

Throughout history, certain peoples in certain American nations ave resisted progressive goals, most notably those in the Deep South, the Tidewater, and Greater Appalachia. The populations in these regions are more clannish – and hence less universalistic than those in other parts of the country (see A Tentative Ranking of the Clannishness of the “Founding Fathers” and the The Cavaliers). To these peoples, there are is a natural division of and natural hierarchies and (and in this respect they are quite like most the peoples of the world) that run diametrically opposed to universalism and many progressive causes.  Hence they are always pulled along for the ride (often reluctantly) rather than spearheading the charge when the more “core” European-derived populations in the rest of the country proceed down their genetically ordained path of universalism.

The problem however is that temperaments do not change. No amount of “progress” is going to completely rid American Southerners of their non-progressive views about the world. Rather, the residents of the South continue to feel slighted as they see their “proper” society perverted by the universalist northerners (click to play animated GIF):

Tensions between the various American nations have recently been running high as of late, and may only continue to intensify. This was predicted by Peter Turchin, and discussed in my earlier post Mapping the Road to American Disunion. In short, in many societies, unrest seems to follow cyclical patterns (likely due to underlying generational negative feedback loops). Violence in particular follows a roughly 50 year cycle, and following the pattern, we are due for a peak in violence and unrest. Recent events have not been encouraging.

Despite certain key problem presented by it, there is no question that NW European universalism has been an enormous positive force for humanity. It has ended institutional exploitation, oppression, and marginalization. It has improved the quality of life for millions, or even has made those lives possible. I personally have benefited from it and continue to do so. Some may argue that progressive causes have run their course. Having achieved as much as they could hope to achieve, they now reach a point of diminishing returns – and there’s certainly some truth to that…

…but let us not throw out the baby with the bath water (if such were even possible), and remember the great gift to humanity that universalism is.

June 24, 2015 / JayMan

200 Blog Posts – Everything You Need to Know (To Start)

Post updated, 7/23/15. See below!


At long last, I reach my 200th blog post. It’s been a quite a ride! Blogging on human biodiversity – or simply humanity – has taught me a great deal. Since the start, I hoped that I could offer some meager contribution to mankind with this blog. I will continue to try to do that.

Recent events have brought to light quite a bit of rubbish, from all sides. made it plain to me that this blog does have something to offer, and this very post should give a really good example of that. There has been rubbish coming from all sides here, and this blog – and this post – serves to try to clear this up.

In this post, I intend to reach out to newcomers, so I ask veteran readers to excuse the following lengthy review of certain basic topics. I hope to make human biodiversity (HBD) accessible to a wider audience, and maybe my long-time readers will find this post useful to share with those they’d like to educate on the topic. However, for the veterans, I also offer some new commentary.

In many ways, this post follows the tradition of my previous milestone post, 100 Blog Posts – A Reflection on HBD Blogging And What Lies Ahead, in that it reviews much I have discussed over the previous 100 posts and talks about some things in store for the future.

Table of contents

1. Introduction
2. Essential human categories: race and sex (and the Bruce Jenner/Rachel Dolezal controversies).
3. Guns, violence, and the Dylann Roof rampage
4. The American Nations
5. Heredity and behavioral genetics
6. Intraracial group variation and HBD Chick’s theory
7. The Deep South and the Confederate legacy
8. The Taboo Future


Over the past three weeks, three individuals have made headlines, each making a bigger media impact than the one before. All three have started discussions that are smack dab in purview of human biodiversity. And with all three, the discussion that has ensued in mainstream sources has been inane and rather bereft of facts. Many of the usual arguments ignoring (and in fact denying) the biological basis to human behavior have reigned, in addition to some bizarre new arguments. Many of these arguments continue to circulate in mainstream discourse despite the efforts that I and so many others have made (others include Greg Cochran & Henry Harpending, HBD Chick, Razib Khan, Peter Frost, “Misdreavus”, the Audacious Epigone, Steve Sailer, Emil Kirkegaard, and many, many others). This rubbish would be quickly dispelled if people took the time to cruise through the evidence marshaled on my blog or on many of the blogs linked above.

And now I have had enough.


2. Essential human categories: race and sex (and the Bruce Jenner/Rachel Dolezal controversies)

brain sexFirst and foremost, we should be aware of something that should go without saying at this point: biological sex is a real phenomenon. The differences between human male and human female (a fundamental division that is found across much of the animal kingdom) do not end only at plumbing; they extend all the way to visible differences in the brain, as can be seen in this graphic from Ingalhalikar et al (2013). This paper and many other pieces of evidence on the matter can be seen on my HBD Fundamentals page, section On biological sex differences.

These mean that it is impossible (with any technology we currently possess or likely to posses in the foreseeable future, anyway) for one to change one’s biological sex. The concept of “gender” is superfluous. “Psychological sex” (“gender”) stems from biological sex. Not only do the sexes differ in fundamental features of their brains, they differ in every cell in their bodies: different chromosomes, XX vs XY. A man who gets a “sex change” may have his external anatomy rearranged to appear as something resembling a woman, and may inject himself with female hormones, but the aforementioned fundamental differences remain unaltered and unalterable. The feeling that one’s sex is other than that one was born is a mental illness. Unfortunately, “transgender” individuals are merely deluding themselves into believing they have become the opposite sex, and modern society indulges them in this delusion.

These facts were discussed by Greg Cochran (Transsexuals | West Hunter and Elves, Orcs, and all that | West Hunter), Peter Frost (Gender Reassignment of Children), and Paul McHugh. Bruce (“Caitlyn”) Jenner is no more now a woman than he ever was, but many who point out that fact have been chastised – often being called “transphobic” (a point to which I’ll return).

Just as biological sex is real, so is race.

Race among humans is as real as ancestry, which ultimately is what race is. Different ancestral human groups have, through time and evolution, accumulated differences in their respective biologies. The oft-repeated claim that “race is a social construct” – which is technically true – is meaningless.

Pluto. Is it a planet or not? Even planets are “social constructs.”

This is true of many other things, like the periodic table of chemical elements, astronomic classification, and Linnaean taxonomy itself. Clearly the intended meaning of the claim, that race is only a social construct, is as false for race as it is for those other things.

Race is often easily discernible by sight alone. It is clearly discernible on a genetic level, and companies like 23andMe and make a business out of detecting genetic ancestry – hence race – in their customers.


(Above from Racial Reality: Global Admixture Analysis at K=6)

One aspect of race that gives people trouble is that race is an inherently fuzzy concept. There are no defined boundaries from one race to the next, and they often smoothly transition from one to the other. This means there’s a great degree of overlap, especially at the edges, as the above charts should make clear.

Little JayMan Cute

Try fitting JayMan Jr. into a neat little racial box.

Certain individuals – such as my son and I (who both have sub-Saharan African, European, East Asian, and South Asian ancestries) – make attempts to fit everyone into clear and crisply delineated racial boxes difficult to impossible. But I think it’s quite clear that the existence of people like us do not invalidate the broad categories. If they did, companies like 23andMe and would be defrauding their customers.

Race is as real as (and very much akin to) dog breeds.

And, contrary to what you’re often told, the differences between human races are not just skin deep. These differences but extend down through blood (see sickle-cell anemia), bone…

funny-skulls-skeletons-kissing…viscera (as can be seen from the global distribution of lactose tolerance)…

Global-Lactose-Intolerance…and of course, brain, most obviously in (but by no means limited to) global variation in average brain size (derived from Beals, Smith, and Dodd 1984, image source here):

Brain_Size_MapThis a map of the average brain size of indigenous (pre-European diaspora) peoples across the globe.

EDIT, 7/23/15: [Indeed, 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 works within 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 total
brain volumes of individuals of European descent in the United States correlate significantly with their ancestral geographic locations in Europe

Average brain size correlates with latitude, and also correlates (partially) with average IQ (derived primarily from Lynn & Vanhanen, 2012) :

IQ_world_rank_by_country_world_distribution_of_intelligenceThis was all covered in my “F.A.Q.” (JayMan’s Race, Inheritance, and IQ F.A.Q. (F.R.B.)) as well as my HBD Fundamentals page, section On the reality of race.

The biological reality of race means that it is impossible for one to change to a race different from the one he or she was born, and no amount of surgery, hair treatments, or skin whiteners (or darkeners) can do the trick. After all, one cannot change one’s ancestry. Rachel Dolezal has been derided on this point (correctly so), but the very same people have defended the possibility of changing one’s sex, as in the case of Bruce/”Caitlyn” Jenner (see here and here). In so doing, despite the obvious logical inconsistency this presents…

…a number of the usual falsehoods have been repeated, particularly the “social construct” nonsense that I can only hope I’ve clearly trounced here. The bottom line on this one is as I said:

I admit, I was actually surprised by the blatant hypocrisy on this matter. I didn’t expect so many people to attempt to make a principled argument on how one of these is possible but not the other. Indeed, since race is fuzzy, one would imagine the idea of changing one’s race to be more “possible” than changing one’s sex (sex being a far more discrete category than race – though not completely so). (After all, was Michael Jackson not White, at least in part?) Yet mainstream sources clamored to claim the very opposite. Both of course are impossible, but this demonstrates how far mainstream discourse has diverged from reality.

3. Guns, violence, and the Dylann Roof rampage

However, quickly overshadowing both Bruce Jenner and Rachel Dolezal was the heinous shooting by Dylann Roof. Now make no mistake, Roof is an evil creature who I think deserves to fry for what he did. He’s symptomatic of a strain of thought that is disturbingly all too common in the people who follow this very topic (at least the ones that make themselves known via comments to various human biodiversity and related blogs and other publications). These people do indeed have to face some important qualities about themselves – a point to which I’ll return shortly.

The murders committed by Roof have shocked the nation and have revived many tired old arguments. One of the most egregious in this case is the matter of “gun control” and gun violence; arguments which rear their head after every highly publicized rampage shooting. Symptomatic of this interminable discussion is this deceptively dishonest datum:

Of course, the “gun deaths” here are mostly suicides (with a fair amount of police shootings as well), which presumably isn’t what people are thinking about when see this graphic. The relationship between gun ownership rates and gun homicides is quite different.

The key here is that certain individuals are trying to create the illusion that the presence of guns causes violence. These people like to attribute variations in human behavior to “environmental” factors, so naturally, they expect that gun violence must be caused by the presence of guns (ignoring the fact that prevalence of gun ownership is itself a behavioral variation that would also be in need of explanation). After a previous bout of mass shootings, I wrote Guns & Violence, Again, in which I thoroughly debunked the “guns cause violence” argument with a few simple pieces of data. For one, the relationship between the prevalence of gun ownership and homicide is negative in North America:

Canada Guns-F

















Here’s a scatterplot for the U.S.:

Indeed, the correlation is weak to negative globally:

World_map_of_civilian_gun_ownership_-_2nd_color_scheme.svgViolence MapNow, you would think that if one were going to make a case for “guns cause violence,” one would at least have to have a correlation. But no, these posers don’t even have that. Rather pathetic.

So what is the cause of this violence then, including the rampage shootings for which the U.S. is known? As I said before:

4. The American Nations

The ultimate source of violence and regional variation in such was fleshed out in my post Guns & Violence, Again…, where I noted the American Nations model:

North American Nations 4 3The United States (and for that matter, Canada) is not one monolithic culture but consists of a hodgepodge of regional cultures that cluster approximately as shown above. Many of my previous 100 posts focused on this matter, heavily based on the book American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard (itself partly based on Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America by David Hackett Fischer). For an overview, see my page:

American Nations Series

In short, local sociocultural and economic differences across both countries are driven by local demographic differences across each. On the broadest scale, (continental) race is a major factor:

White Liberal CountiesAreas with higher Black proportions have higher rates of violence (the same is true to a lesser extent for Hispanics and Native Americans):

EDIT: [See also these scatterplots of homicide rates by U.S. county race of victim against fraction of specified race of total population. The fraction of the county which is Black has a strong positive relationship, while the fraction which is White has a weak negative relationship. From: County level homicide rates by race/ethnicity of victim | Random Critical Analysis

***End Edit***]

Race NYC

These broad racial differences are key factors driving variation in violence across the country. But beyond continental race, differences within the White population are also responsible for many social/cultural/economic differences across the country.

The American Nations model is based on the settling of the Americas by Europeans. The U.S. and Canada received settlers from different parts of the British Isles – each settling in a different part of the continent. This was in addition to other Europeans, notably Germans, French, and Dutch (and of course, Spaniards in the Spanish colonies).


Genetic differences between the parts of Britain which sent the original colonists to North America remain visible today.


The settlers to nations of the American South were the English Cavaliers (to the Tidewater and the Deep South) and the Borderlander Scots (to Greater Appalachia). Both groups possessed a more aggressive, martial culture than those that came to the nations of the North. This culture lives on in their descendants that populate the South today, and can be seen in the gun-centric, capital punishment embracing nature of their societies. Additionally, the Far West received a share of Appalachians and other groups that were selected for life in a harsh, isolated, frontier environment, and hence are individualistic and also quite attached to guns.

The Nations of the South have not received much by way of immigrants since their founding. Later waves of immigrants – mostly more Germans, Catholic Irish, Scandinavians, Southern Italians, and Eastern Europeans flooded to the northern nations Yankeedom and the Midlands, further widening the split between these nations and those of the South.

Ultimately, this is the source of the interminable conflict between different regions of America, represented now in the debate over the Confederate flag:

American Nations 2012nationwidecountymapshadedbypercentagewonDThis conflict is friction between distinct ethnocultural areas of the country, each with its own regional identity (some stronger than others, perhaps being strongest in the more ethnically homogenous nations of Greater Appalachia and the Deep South). This is why theses tensions keep popping up. (Although as of late, it is probably more the Deep South vs. everyone else than a replay of the battle between the Deep South/Tidewater and Yankeedom that was the Civil War, as the present residents of the latter nation have less biological continuity with their region’s combatants during the war.)

5. Heredity and behavioral genetics

So far I have talked a lot about “biology” and “heredity” being behind all these patterns we see. But how do I know, you may ask? Well, the single biggest most important clue to this is the fact that all human behavioral traits are heritable.  This includes intelligence, personality, political views, religiosity, even how much you enjoy watching television or surfing the internet. 

We know this from twin, adoption, and half-sibling studies (as well as modern genomic studies). These special family combinations allow us to pick apart the effect of genetic inheritance from any effects of the “environment.” Decades of studies have shown that genes account for at least half of the variation in all human traits (and usually much greater, especially when measurement error is taken into account). The tables below provide summaries of these findings:



Equally important, the effect of the shared environment appears to be zero for these traits. Children growing up in the same home (and sharing all the environmental influences such children encounter) do not resemble one another in any discernible way (especially when measured as adults, and when the effect of assortative mating in addressed). Adopted children aren’t any more similar to their adoptive families than random strangers. Rather, they resemble their biological families. Twins reared apart are highly similar to each other in virtually every way, but they are no more similar to each other than twins raised together.

This means that the effect of growing up with one set of parents is no different from any other set of parents. Nothing in the environment children share seems to have any impact on how they turn out. This has huge implications for putative “environmental” forces, which the prevailing model in Western society holds to be of paramount importance. As Greg Cochran put it:

  1. The early intervention studies with the most striking results all involve quite small samples. Why would that be so?
  2. All such studies need to carefully disentangle genetic effects. These studies have done such a good job that you can hardly even find the word ‘genetic’ in their text: twice in the first review, zero in the last two. Since twin studies clearly show that genetic influences on behavior are strong (except for homosexuality, of course) while non-genetic influences are something other than the ones that most professionals in the field JUST KNOW have to matter (zero influence from shared family environment strongly implies that face time with liberal arts majors also has zero influence), studies that ignore genetics are wrong. Studies that looked for effects from factors that would show up as shared family environment – like which school you go to, let alone whether you attend pre-K, are surely wrong.

In addition to the above linked posts, see my posts:

Environmental Hereditarianism
The Son Becomes The Father
More Behavioral Genetic Facts

Health and body weight follow similar patterns (high heritability, zero shared environment). See my page Obesity Facts for more, or my post IQ and Death.

Indeed, these very studies show that gun ownership is considerably heritable (Barnes, Boutwell, and Beaver, 2014). This patterns shows no shared environment component, despite being studied in a nationally representative sample. This indicates that regional variation can’t be reduces to local “culture”. Genetic differences drive cultural differences, and not the other way around.

6. Intraracial group variation and HBD Chick’s theory

Why do differences between different White groups matter so much? Why does precise ethnic origin matter? Differences between human groups are fined-grained because evolution acts locally. One of the key differences among different European groups is a factor HBD Chick calls clannishness. See this map of perceived corruption around the world (from Transparency International):

Corruption 2014
There are considerable differences across the European continent:

Europe Corruption 2014Northwestern Europeans and their descendants stand out in particular – in many ways, distinct from all other peoples across the world…


Democracy index across Europe


…being lower on corruption, being more individualistic (as opposed to communal), having weaker family ties vis-a-vis the rest of the world…

…having stronger civic institutions, having a greater attachment to/belief in democracy, and so much more.

HBD Chick thinks that these unique traits arose in good part because NW Europeans have a long history of avoiding cousin marriage, unlike virtually all other peoples around the world. This led to lower average relatedness within families, thereby weakening the strength of selection for kin altruism relative to selection for reciprocal altruism. See these posts/pages from HBD Chick:

start here | hbd chick
clannishness defined | hbd chick
big summary post on the hajnal line | hbd chick
medieval manorialism’s selection pressures | hbd chick
time enough | hbd chick

As well as my own post:

Predictions on the Worldwide Distribution of Personality

This led Northwestern Europe to diverge from the rest of the world early on (see my earlier post “Racial Reality” Provides My 150th Post)

Screen Shot 2012-06-20 at 1.44.32 PM-thumb-615x228-90684 Screen Shot 2012-06-20 at 2.12.41 PM-thumb-615x385-90697

These data show the importance of biological differences within a race, indeed, differences that can exist even within the same island, as is the case with Great Britain and the distinct American Nations it spawned.

Taken all together, the above sections show that global disparities in wealth, human development, freedom, and social welfare stem largely from the innate traits of the people who inhabit each country. These include IQ, future time orientation, and the aforementioned clannishness (or more precisely, the lack there of):


From here

To understand human biodiversity is to understand the world, and why it is the way it is.

HBD also explains why people like Dylann Roof exist. As aforementioned, the traits of people who have made up the old Confederacy and others who harbor hatred of other groups are inherited traits, quite likely the result of evolved adaptations. The existence of the American Nations and the distinct political and social views each holds are because of each’s genetic inheritance. This explains why we constantly hear that “the South will rise again” and why they hold on to the Confederate flag. It is am emblem of the values that appeals to their temperament – what comes naturally to them. This also speaks to why attempting to ban the flag – symbol of racism and oppression it is – may not be as successful as some hope it will be. You cannot change who they are. It is likely these issues will not go away. But, tension between the various American Nations goes back a long way.

Collected on this blog is a repository of research and information that supports this. In addition to the aforementioned pages (JayMan’s Race, Inheritance, and IQ F.A.Q. (F.R.B.) and HBD Fundamentals) my About Me page contains a list of key blog posts and topics that are helpful as an introduction to the matter.

7. The Deep South and the Confederate legacy

Returning to the U.S., in particular the American South, Dylann Roof is perhaps the worst expression of a nasty element that exists in our society and frequently voices itself on these blogs. One of the key points spurred by the Roof shooting is about the Confederate flag, which is perhaps the quintessential symbol of the Deep South and what it stands for and has stood for. In my earlier post The Cavaliers, I talked a good bit about what this was. This was exploitation and oppression, not just most infamously of Black slaves (and later freed Blacks forced to live under Jim Crow), but of their own people. The Deep South (and to a lesser extent the Tidewater, as well as parts of Greater Appalachia) was built as a quasi-feudal plantation society where wealthy plantation lords ruled over all: Black, White, and all in between. The system of top-down exploitation persisted well after the Civil War and into modern times. As “Misdreavus” put it (collected on my page Misdreavus Stream):

Dylann Roof’s manifesto demonstrated that he had knowledge of inherited biological group differences (though superficial and pretty inaccurate knowledge). What I read in Roof’s manifesto is not too much unlike some things I’ve seen in comments to various HBD and related blogs, and it sickens me. Here’s a key fact about knowledge of HBD: merely having an understanding of biological inherited group differences doesn’t automatically translate into hate for other groups or feeling some need for racial solidarity. A is a very different item from B. I don’t particularly harbor any animosity towards any group.

However, common among people who have a superficial and/or selective understanding of heritable group differences is belief in conveniently inaccurate claims. One of these erroneous ideas that White nationalists in particular have latched on to is the belief in “ethnic genetic interests” – that is, that kin selection has led individuals to favor people of their own race/ethnic group over others. This of course is bunk. Natural selection doesn’t work that way, since individuals within an ethnic group aren’t closely related enough for this to work. This has been explained repeatedly, lately by Misdreavus:

It is impossible for such a thing as a “race altruist gene” to evolve, because sacrificing yourself on behalf of strangers does nothing to increase the frequency of the gene under any set of circumstances. It doesn’t matter if the frequency of a such a gene “magically” originated with a frequency of 4 in 10 Chinese people. The Chinese who don’t have the gene, on average, would have a higher fitness, resulting in the frequency decreasing monotonically over time.

He continues to argue there, which is worth a read for anyone seriously interested in the matter.

Although it’s important to note that the “other side” harbors a good bit of blame here. This tweet encapsulates the problem:

Unfortunately, many people don’t feel that way. They interpret contradiction of cherished (and false) dogma commonly held by/about certain groups to be an attack on that group. This is how someone like me can be accused of being “transphobic” for merely pointing out that Bruce Jenner is not a woman. This is how merely addressing apparently unflattering qualities of a group – or espousing that these differences have inherited roots – can be considered tantamount to hating said group. It’s hateful to believe in things which are true (or, in worst case, have a reasonable possibility of being true). That sort of accusative attitude can only breed animosity in return.

Of course, these people are not wrong in the assumption that some people who espouse belief in biological roots to behavior do indeed harbor hateful feelings towards other groups, as we see with Roof and his ilk.

HBD Chick tackled this in her post you and me and hbd

See also my post The Problem with HBD, the Dark Enlightenment, Neoreaction, Alt-Rightism, and All That Jazz

8. The Taboo Future

Alas, it is not enough to point out any of the above for many, because making the claims I have made here – as true as they are – and despite the abundant evidence for them – is taken as evidence of hatefulness, as per the above.

If heredity is so important to social outcomes, and most “environmental” influences appear not to be, then you may be wondering why do so few people know this in Western society? Well, unfortunately, there is an active effort by some to discount or suppress this knowledge. See:

The End of Science | West Hunter
It Must Be Said | West Hunter
Unknown Phenotypes | West Hunter

“Environmental” explanations reign in modern research and mainstream discourse, leaving a handful of thoughtful researchers to investigate this matter properly. In the height of irony, this is explained by human biodiversity itself. Certain populations (e.g., Ashkenazi Jews, and to a lesser extent various Northwestern Europeans) are more averse to genetic explanations for human behavior and outcomes and are more receptive of environmental ones than other groups, on average. Because of this fact, getting across the facts on the matter faces incredible resistance, both within the academic world and without. HBD explains the  resistance to HBD.

This resistance leads to a suppression of the science. Far too many researchers proceed under the “standard social science model”:

This leads to all sorts of bad research in the human sciences, from behavioral science to economics to medical science. Despite all that is discussed on the internet and in certain scientific journals, there’s quite a lot we don’t know.

One of the biggest unexplored avenues to understanding health and behavior is the role of pathogens. The most startling example is collected in my post:

Greg Cochran’s “Gay Germ” Hypothesis – An Exercise in the Power of Germs

Homosexuality – a behavioral trait that, quite unlike most others, has low heritability – likely has a pathogenic source. Pathogens may be behind all manner of behavioral traits and health conditions and may be a major contributor to the mysterious so-called “nonshared environment” (the difference between identical twins) – especially since it has been discovered that identical twins have very different pathogenic histories, as gauged by their immunological profiles (Brodin et al, 2015). These microorganisms – likely most of which are unknown (75% – 99% being unknown in stool samples) – may exert huge impact on human behavior. Indeed, we are learning that gut flora may play a considerable role in health, obesity, and behavior.

However, this area of research remains underdeveloped, because while there are some people looking, microorganisms aren’t not recognized for the potentially fruitful avenue of research that it is.

We also don’t really know – at least, not concretely – why variation within groups exists in the first place. Natural selection tends to minimize variation, with adaptive alleles thriving and maladaptive alleles fading to extinction over time. This should serve to homogenize populations, but, as we know, human groups exhibit a great wide range of individual variation. Some people are tall, others short. Some people are outgoing, others reserved. Some people are beautiful, others homely. Why? There are a few ideas on this, some discussed in detail by Penke, Denissen, and Miller (2007).

One suspected driver of individual variation is genetic load, that is, the burden of deleterious mutations we all carry. Mutations constantly appear and are more likely to be harmful than beneficial. Mildly deleterious mutations are only slowly purged by selection – often after many generations –and hence build up in the gene pool. Some individuals possess a greater burden of these mutations than others, and suffer poorer quality traits because of it, including lower IQ and poorer health (which themselves are linked, see my post IQ and Death). However, finding conclusive evidence of the role of genetic load in normal range variation has been difficult. Compounding this difficulty – and adding to the mystery – is that IQ and physical attractiveness turn out to be uncorrelated (see Mitchem et al, 2015). Each of these are driven primarily by additive heritability – which suggests genetic load is involved in each, but there is no overlap with the other. For this to be case, these traits must share no genetic factors, which is quite possible. Further research is needed.

As well, we have a poor understanding of the correlation between various phenotypes in general. Some evidence suggests that physical appearance and behavioral traits are correlated, but we have precious few large, well-measured, genetically informative (i.e., using twins or other relatives) samples to examine these. These correlations, especially when established on a genetic level, might shed light into how these may have evolved.

We also don’t know what the origin of female homo-/bisexuality is. Some speculation was seen in my previous post (Female Same-Sex Attraction Revisited).

And, most ironically, the true nature of “environmental” influences, particularly those that cause cohort effects (such as the rise in average height, obesity, IQ scores, and irreligiosity over the past century) remains poorly understood. This is primarily because these are difficult to study well; better research designs are needed to disentangle the various confounding factors.

We could also stand to investigate HBD Chick’s theory, that is, that differing rates of cousin marriage affected the evolution of behavioral traits. Sequencing DNA from Medieval skeletons might serve to shed some light here. But it doesn’t seem like many are interested in this research.

And of course, we have a great deal to learn about how the genetic code itself works, though we are making some progress there (Information Processing: More GWAS hits on cognitive ability: ESHG 2015).

These and other avenues remain blocked or poorly explored. Part of this results from a deliberate effort to suppress investigation into biological causes of behavior and human outcomes. However, is this fear justified?

I have previously argued that widespread knowledge of HBD might come with serious consequences (see hbd fallout | hbd chick):

“Back when groups differences weren’t so taboo in Western society, and one could talk about them openly [see Those Who Can See: Being a Progressive, Yesterday: Race], 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? … Sane, moderate thinkers seem to avoid this stuff like the plague. (Of course, this could just be the disaffected voices speaking loudest, but that is the appearance anyway.)

The hope is that Dylann Roof is not at all representative of the type of reactions people will have should these facts become more commonly known.

Certain individuals in places to affect popular discourse (in the media and in academia) make a conscious effort to suppress this knowledge. Indeed, see Cofnas (2015):

Some prominent scientists and philosophers have stated openly that moral and political considerations should influence whether we accept or promulgate scientific theories. This widespread view has significantly influenced the development, and public perception, of intelligence research. Theories related to group differences in intelligence are often rejected a priori on explicitly moral grounds.

Daniel Dennett—also a philosopher, but one who has made substantive contributions to cognitive/evolutionary science—says that the standard of evidence required to accept “dangerous”
scientific hypotheses should not be raised. Rather, we should never accept them regardless of the evidence (Dennett 2003, 2006b). He is fairly open about his principled opposition to “dangerous” theories, and this leads him to apply jarring double standards to scientific hypotheses with different alleged social consequences. In Freedom Evolves, Dennett (2003) says regarding critics of hereditarianism:

I don’t challenge the critics’ motives or even their tactics; if I encountered people conveying a message I thought was so dangerous that I could not risk giving it a fair hearing, I would be at least strongly tempted to misrepresent it, to caricature it for the public good. I’d want to make up some good epithets, such as genetic determinist or reductionist or Darwinian Fundamentalist, and then flail those straw men as hard as I could. As the saying goes, it’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it.4 (pp. 19–20)

So what are we to make of his statement on page 160 of the same book, where he calls the theory that intelligence differences between races are hereditary an “awful racist hypothesis”? This can mean one of two things: he considers hereditarianism about race differences in intelligence to be either scientifically wrong or socially “dangerous.”

Is this (in part) because they fear how people would react were facts about heritable human differences to become commonly known? I think so.

(Although it does seem people are quite a bit more aware of heritable group differences than many mainstream voices realize:

Nonetheless, as noted above, reaction to this knowledge depends on inherited individual and group differences. While the overwhelming bulk of people may have this knowledge and behave just fine, there are likely many more Dylann Roofs among them. Have the people who seek to suppress this knowledge correctly calculated that it’s better to do so to keep the peace?

Well, there is a problem with that strategy: even if the view behind it is correct, what’s true remains true. People will continue to discover and rediscover these truths despite every attempt to bury them, simply because they are so. Sooner or later, a critical mass will become aware, and we will have to face it one way or another.

Make no mistake, widespread acceptance of the reality of heritable individual and group differences will likely have significant consequences for our society. Our institutions are presently set up with the assumption that the SSSM is true (see currently accepted social doctrine in America), even if common people often believe differently. Much will change if society were to accept these facts officially.

But, this all comes back to the fact that they are still true. Debates about the merits of allowing it to be commonly known are ultimately about timing – debating the when, not if. Being that this is the case, I think that what we need are more competent, responsible, and thoughtful individuals in positions of power to better manage the issues we are bound to face no matter what we do. (I will say  that nobody in the present crop of presidential hopefuls fits the bill.)

In the mean time, I will continue to discuss HBD here, both for the purpose of my own curiosity and with the hope that maybe some good is to be done. Let’s see what happens by post #300!


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Here is the theme for this post, which I think is highly fitting on many levels:

April 17, 2015 / JayMan

Female Same-Sex Attraction Revisited An enduring mystery (among many mysteries) is the existence of women exhibiting sexual attraction to other women. Unlike male homosexuality, where a likely explanation has been put forth (see Greg Cochran’s “Gay Germ” Hypothesis – An Exercise in the Power of Germs), female same-sex attraction remains the realm of speculation. My previous foray into the matter, The Evolution of Female Bisexuality, contains much of that speculation. I’ve learned quite a bit since then, so the time has come to revisit the matter. This time I will make use of one of the most powerful exploratory methods in social science, behavioral genetics.

The first thing to look at is the heritability. An analysis of large twin registry studies pegs the heritability of female same-sex attraction (SSA) as 33% (Whitehead, 2011). This is in contrast to the very low heritability of male SSA, 22%, as reported in the same study. However, these heritabilities were not significantly different.

Unfortunately, a key weakness here (as with virtually all sex research) is that this relies entirely on self-report – worse, with no form of corroboration from any other measurement. Hence, measurement error can be expected to be large.

Looking at the various studies examined by Whitehead, heritabilities were quite variable. A lot of this stems from the relative rarity of SSA, making samples of SSA individuals small even in large studies. (Another problem with that non-response was generally high in these studies, which may have biased heritabitlity estimates.) Only the largest population-based studies with good compliance can firmly pin down the heritability of SSA.

The low heritability and evolutionary contradiction of male homosexuality necessitates the pathogenic explanation. But, assuming the 0.33 heritability of female SSA is reliable, is an evolutionary explanation workable? It is quite possibly is.

A big component is the fitness impact of female SSA. It appears to be much more common than male non-heterosexuality (again, assuming self-reports are to be believed). A British survey (Mercer et al, 2013) finds that among the youngest cohorts of women (ages 16-34), as much as 19% claim to have sexual contact with another woman (the fraction maxes out at around 9-10% for men).

Female Same SexHowever, the racial composition of the sample changes considerably across age, going from 92% to only 82% White from the oldest to the youngest cohort. Hence it’s unclear how much demographic changes are driving this apparent generational change (more on that shortly).

Nonetheless, female SSA is quite common. Its historic fitness impact then would appear to be – at worst – not as deleterious male same sex attraction. According to the Add Health data (a nationally representative U.S. teen/young adult sample), the predominant (de facto) orientation of non-heterosexual women is some sort of bisexual, indeed “mostly heterosexual” (from Udry & Chantala, 2006):

Homo-Bi Fraction Add Health

(My own personal suspicion is that most of the men claiming to be “mostly heterosexual” are in fact gay.)

As a check, I looked at the General Social Survey (GSS) to see what the reported overall behavior of non-hetero woman was. I looked at women (all races) who reported 1 or more female sex partners. This is the number of male sex partners these women claim to have had:

Bisex nummenHow Lesbian Are You

As we can see, non-hetero women are apparently quite promiscuous; such women with no or only a few male sex partners are very much the exception. Indeed, a third or more have had more than eight male partners; ~15% or more claim to have had more than 20 male partners!

The second chart is the number of female sex partners women who report one or more female sex partners claim to have had (all races). As we see, the most common value is just the one. All these indicate that such women are indeed primarily attracted to men.

If this is representative of past potential inclination (not necessarily realized behavior]), then the fitness impact of female SSA couldn’t have been too negative, at worst. An interest in other women likely did not preclude marrying and having children for women historically, especially if they were primarily attracted to men.

Lesbian Percent WhiteAlso, for the record, I checked the GSS to see if the apparently highish frequency of women reporting SSA was driven by racial differences in SSA. As we see, even when we look at Whites only, we see a noticeable generational rise in the fraction of women who report sexual experiences with other women. I also looked at racial differences, and the values are similar for other races, except for Hispanics, who have consistently reported a 10-13% female-female sex rate for all of these cohorts. Whites and Blacks have merely converged with the Hispanic rate as of late.

Could the fitness impact of female SSA have been positive? That is, was it specifically selected for? I suspect not. While it is common, its nonetheless minority status would entail some sort of balancing selection to remain at its low level. The most plausible type, frequency-dependent selection, implies that female SSA is beneficial when it is rare. I can’t see how this would be the case (especially since it would be tough for such a girl who can’t find other women who are interested in her).

No, I don’t think female SSA is an adaptation at all. Rather, if it is actually genetic in nature, then the most likely explanation appears to be that it is some sort of side effect of something else. I suspect that it may be due to sexual antagonistic selection. That is, its existence may be driven by selection on alleles that have positive effects in men.

Key to this idea is the apparently near neutral past fitness impact of female SSA (its present impact is decidedly deleterious, as per the GSS). It was not rapidly selected out, unlike any alleles which would cause male homosexuality.

A clue here is the characteristics of non-hetero women. They are often masculinized relative to other women, with higher sex drives and, as we see, greater promiscuity.

Here again, twin studies are informative. One twin study (Burri, Spector, and Rahman, 2015) found that in female twins, masculinity (measured by childhood “gender non-conformity”) was genetically correlated both with female non-heterosexuality and number of sex partners, through a latent genetic factor. EDIT: added the genetic pathway image:

Burri pathway

This latent phenotype found here is a set of masculinizing genes, I suspect.

One idea that we can lay to rest here is the notion that female masculinization and SSA stem from prenatal exposure to male hormones. The way to test this idea is to look at females with a male fraternal twin (Fm) compared to women with female fraternal twins (Ff). If the Fm women were more masculine that Ff women, then it would imply prenatal hormones were at work. A massive review looking at such twin studies (Tapp, Maybery, and Whitehouse, 2011) found little support for this notion, particularly from the larger studies examined. Another recent twin study out of Denmark (Ahrenfeldt et al, 2015) found no such effect on women’s academic performance (Fm twins didn’t exhibit a more male-typical cognitive profile).

madonna-and-britney-spears-share-stage.jpgIt also has been said that non-heterosexual women look different from straight women, the former appearing more masculine. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find much by way of good studies examining female appearance and sexual orientation. There are a few small and questionable ones, but nothing I’d take too seriously. That said, there’s another way to look indirectly at the matter.

Two twin studies by the same team (Mitchem et al, 2014 and Lee et al, 2014) looked at the heritability of facial attractiveness and facial masculinity-femininity in two sets of large and well-measured samples. They found that both are highly heritable (primarily driven by additive genetic factors), but what’s more, high facial masculinity in men led to high facial masculinity in their sisters, decreasing these women’s attractiveness.

This spillover of male traits on their female relatives can also be seen in “sociosexuality” (promiscuity). A largish twin study out of Australia (Baily et al, 2000) found sociosexuality in men predicted the same in their female co-twins. As well, there is the Zietsch et al (2008) study that found that masculinized women were more likely to be non-heterosexual, and that straight women with a non-heterosexual female twin reported somewhat more sexual partners.

Unfortunately, all these fall short of a more ideal of study, one that examines the morphological and psychological characteristics of women and their male relatives to pin down good familial predictors of female SSA., taken together, these point in the direction of masculinity being a distinct suite of traits and that appears related to female SSA. In terms of facial features, that masculinity is distinct from attractiveness in men is interesting. It speaks to perhaps a set of “masculinity promoting” genes that act somewhat orthogonal to those that lead to good looks. Research is mixed on the extent that women find masculine facial features attractive, but I’d say it’s safe to say that these alleles underwent positive selection in men. However, unfortunately, manly men beget manly daughters. Some of these alleles may serve to increase “gynephilia” (attraction to women), and they may have this effect in both sexes. This may be where SSA comes from in women. Unlike male SSA, female SSA appears to be continuously distributed – consistent with what we’d expect if it arose from the general load of various gynephilic alleles (resulting in pure lesbianism in the most extreme cases). The female SSA itself, being near selectively neutral, could reach high frequencies in women, just as masculinity in general has. However, the general suite of masculinized traits (e.g., sociosexuality, facial masculinity) was likely maladaptive in women, and was selected against, counteracting the positive selection in men. In other words, sexual antagonistic selection. A GWAS (Drabant et al, 2012) found no genetic hits to sexual orientation, indicating that female SSA – if primarily genetically driven – is caused by many genes of small effect, as we might expect.

Of course, much of this info comes from WEIRD countries (i.e., NW European and offshoots). As with much of social science in general, these investigations should be repeated with large samples from non-Western societies.

As for the male interest in girl-girl sex (*guilty*), I still suspect it’s a simple matter being able to have multiple women. Even men from highly conservative cultures may not express interest, but often such men harbor rather “colorful” sexual proclivities. Further research needed.

Now, is all of this compatible with a pathogenic source for female SSA? Absolutely, especially if the true heritability turns out to be truly low. See Peter Frost (Yes, Demons Do Exist). Perhaps the recent trend towards more women displaying SSA is due to the spread of a new pathogen. Time will tell. However, unlike male homosexuality, I don’t think we can retire the pure genetic explanation, yet.

The obvious theme song for this post:

December 21, 2014 / JayMan

IQ and Birth Order Effects: Real? No

One of the greatest pieces of evidence demonstrating that the family/rearing environment has no effect on eventual outcomes is the absence of birth order effects. Birth order is an excellent test for these effects: it is something that systematically differs between siblings and is bona fide non-genetic (mostly). Hence, it’s a great way to see if childhood environment leaves any sort of mark on people.

And it turns out that it does not. The study of birth order has been marred with poor research – faulty because it relies on the Standard Social Science Method:

This has prevented us from separating any putative causal effects of birth order from genetic confounds – most notably, the tendency of less intelligent/educated parents to have larger families. However, some decent research has been conducted demonstrating the absence of these birth order effects. One is an adoption study (Beer & Horn, 2000), which goes into good detail on the problems with birth order research and ways around these problems. They looked at adoptees from the Texas Adoption Project and the Colorado Adoption Project and found only tiny and statistically insignificant effects of birth order on personality traits. Another (tiny, N = 69 pairs) study looked within sibships for birth order effects on personality and found none (Blesk-Rechek & Kelly, 2015). A big review of the claims of Frank Sulloway (a major proponent of birth order effects) by Frederic Townsend (2000) also found no birth order effects on personality or on “rebellious” actions (as claimed by Sulloway).

But, perhaps better than these is a whole-population study out of Norway (Black, Devereux, & Salvanes, 2005). Unfortunately, this is a SSSM study, but its enormous size makes it invaluable for evaluating potential birth order effects. They performed an analysis of birth order controlling for family size as well as a within-family analysis of the effects of birth order on educational attainment. They did find modest but significant effects on educational attainment, with later-borns achieving less than earlier-borns – but I will return to this point. However, this study is useful because in addition to education, they looked at various real world outcomes, like income and likelihood of teenage pregnancy. Here, they found statistically significant but extremely small effects of birth order, with the birth order correlations of -0.04 or even closer to 0. This means birth order would explain less than 2 X 10^-5 worth of the variance – and this is without controlling for family size. 

So we don’t see birth order effects on personality or important life outcomes. But some recent studies claimed to find a birth order effect on IQ of all things.

One large study of Norweigan conscripts (Bjerkedal et al, 2007) claimed to find a birth order effect on IQ within families between brothers. Younger brothers scored lower than their older brothers. The effect was small (less than 4 IQ points), but owing to the very large sample, significant.

It gets better. Another very recent study (Barclay, 2015) claimed to find a birth order effect on education with a large sample (N > 6000) of adoptees in Sweden. Again, the effects were small, and even with this large sample, only just barely statistically significant.

So there you have it. Have we found real birth order effects after all? An environmental one at that, as some have suggested? Well, if you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know I’m going to say not so fast.

First of all, these putative effects – where they’re found at all – are all tiny. That itself is a red flag – one that demands we subject it to closer scrutiny. Now, there’s nothing saying that extremely tiny effects can’t exist, but it is suspicious. But these findings come from very large samples, so we can’t dismiss them off-hand.

So what else could be going on here? It has been said that these birth order effects could be the result of the Flynn effect. This would mean that there’s no real change in intelligence by birth order, merely systematic variation in test scores, along what whatever it is that drives the Flynn effect. Indeed, one study seem to show exactly that.

Sudet et al 2010 looked at those Norwegian conscripts and studied the trends in the Flynn effect in Norway at the time. The Flynn effect wasn’t undergoing a monotonic increase but rather stalled at times and as of late has been reversing.

Flynn Trend NorwayBirth order by Flynn Norway

Notice the pattern? Birth order effects track the direction of the Flynn effect in Norway during this time. When the Flynn effect tracked upward, the difference between brothers decreased with increasing years between their births. When the Flynn effect reversed, we see the opposite pattern. And we see no change with years separation during neutral Flynn effect times. What does this mean? Well, this, coupled with research showing whatever the Flynn effect is, it is “hollow” with respect to g, show that a big part of this observed pattern is just testing variability from cohort to cohort.

But is that everything? I don’t think so. There exists another factor that could be behind this result. One birth order study (Barclay and Myrskylä, 2010) out of Norway describes this:

A substantial proportion of children in Sweden experience family complexity in one form or another as they growup. Amongst those borns in the 1960s, 23% of individuals have at least one half-sibling, and for those born in the 1970s the corresponding figure is 25%

Many of these brother pairs do not share a father (since they are matched by mothers in most of these studies). If we assume that people with children tend to “marry down” so-to-speak – that is, pair off with a mate less intelligent than their previous one, then that could easily explain the small apparent birth order effects. Re-analysis of these data excluding “blended families” could serve to address this issue.

(Indeed, the Barclay and Myrskylä study itself found small birth order effects in physical fitness – however, upon analysis with “non-blended” families these effects were greatly attenuated.)

Confounding stemming from half-siblings demonstrates a key weakness with paying too much attention to small effects. That, and (especially) the apparent role of the Flynn effect in these birth order findings show the importance of cohort effects (i.e., secular changes) which can confound even within-family designs. These two factors likely explain another study out of Norway that claimed to find a birth order effect on IQ (Kristensen & Bjerkedal, 2007). Their analysis didn’t even look within sibships. EDIT: [Their effect went away when they controlled for family size, as usual. In their sample, those families where one sibling died seem to oddly score higher than the those that did not. (See the table here.) I don’t trust that result for a second. I’d like to see an ethnic breakdown of this sample as well as control for “blended families.”]

But is that all? What about the effect on education? Surely that’s not a Flynn effect? (Or is it?) Well, for one the Barcley 2015 study did look at adoptees, but those adoptees weren’t ethnic Swedes; they were in fact almost entirely foreign-born. What’s more, they were largely non-European. They found, as Emil Kirkegaard hadEDIT: [See also Heiner Rindermann and James Thompson] they these foreign adoptees performance varied according to their region of origin. Who’s to say that these adoptive families got both of their adoptees from the same country? I wouldn’t be surprised if they had to “go cheap” for their second adoption.

And, even going beyond that, showing an “environmental” effect on educational attainment wouldn’t be too meaningful, because, as described in my post The Son Becomes The Father, there is a shared environment on education, but one that doesn’t translate to later outcomes. “Family/rearing environment” does impact educational attainment. Hence, finding an effect of family dynamic on educational attainment isn’t unexpected. (For the record, the shared environment captures all the effects of rearing environment – a nonzero shared environment – beyond what we can ascribe to assortative mating – indicates the presence of such an effect, and likewise, for reasons described previously, its absence indicates no such effect.)

None the less, this whole enterprise on these latest supposed birth order effects has been the baby of a certain subset of researchers who are ardent “half-slatists.” This is the “nature AND nurture” crew.  That is, these individuals acknowledge the role of heredity in human traits and outcomes, but seem to find ways to slip “nurture” in with reliance on questionable research and unduly unskeptical attitudes. Well, I’ve been around here long enough to learn a good rule of thumb:

If your research shows some “environmental” effect (one we can’t pin down to pathogens or developmental noise, isn’t incredibly superficial, or isn’t a secular change), it’s probably wrong.

This topic will lead into my next post, where I intend to finally lay it down on the “environment.”

Traditional Advent WreathThis will likely be my final post of 2014. As such, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all! To those of you who have donated, thank you. However, I am sad to report that my wife’s grandfather has passed away. As such, I dedicate this post to him, my wife, and her family.

Be sure to continue to see my Blog News page and my Twitter stream for the latest from me.







September 3, 2014 / JayMan

The Fat Facts – A New Page’ve added a new page, which covers many of the key facts about obesity – facts which are conveniently ignored or misunderstood in the many emotionally charged discussion of the matter. See:

Obesity Facts

I’ve made this a page rather than a post because I anticipate updating it fairly frequently, as more information becomes available. I link to all the relevant papers on the matter there. From the heritability of obesity, to the ineffectiveness of all obesity treatments, to the overblown case for its inherent dangers, I cover it all.

Posting will be light around here. As I am nearing my 200th post, I intend to make infrequent but comprehensive posts in the coming weeks and months. If there’s something you think I need to address, now is the time to speak up…

Please direct all relevant comments on the topic of the page on the page, not here. Thanks.

August 17, 2014 / JayMan

Stupid Comments


There are many comments I get that, while not necessarily being disrespectful or mean-spirited, nonetheless add little value, are egregiously wrong and ignorant, and would waste a lot of my time and energy to address. Fortunately, many of them are by first-time commenters and get caught by the moderation filter. I have deliberately left many of those comments there. While I’m not certain whether or not that’s fair or wise, it has been expedient. For now, I will continue to do so, and institute a de facto policy of denying hopelessly stupid comments from getting through. If you have a comment that’s been sitting in moderation for a long time, that’s why.

I would like input on this. What do you think? Is this a fair practice? Suggestions?

With that, I announce that I have returned! Comment moderation has been lifted, and things are back to the previous policy of requiring approval only for brand new commenters.

August 10, 2014 / JayMan

Gone Fishin’


I’ll be away for the next week. Have fun everyone! I’ve temporarily enabled comment moderation for all comments. Hope everyone is enjoying their summer.

I’ll be completely incommunicado, so I hope everyone out there in the world behaves. Try not to destroy too much while I’m away. :)


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