September 15, 2008

Geneticist: Can't find nuthin'

Nicholas Wade of the NYT has an article on the genetics of mental diseases and intelligence that focuses on a geneticist named David B. Goldstein. (I don't like using initials in names because I can't really remember them, so I have to laboriously look them up, but the "B." in his name is necessary because there are so many mildly prominent David Goldsteins.)

The principal rationale for the $3 billion spent to decode the human genome was that it would enable the discovery of the variant genes that predispose people to common diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s. A major expectation was that these variants had not been eliminated by natural selection because they harm people only later in life after their reproductive years are over, and hence that they would be common.

This idea, called the common disease/common variant hypothesis, drove major developments in biology over the last five years. Washington financed the HapMap, a catalog of common genetic variation in the human population. Companies like Affymetrix and Illumina developed powerful gene chips for scanning the human genome. Medical statisticians designed the genomewide association study, a robust methodology for discovering true disease genes and sidestepping the many false positives that have plagued the field.

But David B. Goldstein of Duke University, a leading young population geneticist known partly for his research into the genetic roots of Jewish ancestry, says the effort to nail down the genetics of most common diseases is not working. “There is absolutely no question,” he said, “that for the whole hope of personalized medicine, the news has been just about as bleak as it could be.”

Of the HapMap and other techniques developed to make sense of the human genome, Dr. Goldstein said, “Technically, it was a tour de force.” But in his view, this prodigious labor has produced just a handful of genes that account for very little of the overall genetic risk.

“After doing comprehensive studies for common diseases, we can explain only a few percent of the genetic component of most of these traits,” he said. “For schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, we get almost nothing; for Type 2 diabetes, 20 variants, but they explain only 2 to 3 percent of familial clustering, and so on.”

The reason for this disappointing outcome, in his view, is that natural selection has been far more efficient than many researchers expected at screening out disease-causing variants. The common disease/common variant idea is largely wrong. What has happened is that a multitude of rare variants lie at the root of most common diseases, being rigorously pruned away as soon as any starts to become widespread.

It takes large, expensive trials with hundreds of patients in different countries to find even common variants behind a disease. Rare variants lie beyond present reach. “It’s an astounding thing,” Dr. Goldstein said, “that we have cracked open the human genome and can look at the entire complement of common genetic variants, and what do we find? Almost nothing. That is absolutely beyond belief.”

If rare variants account for most of the genetic burden of disease, then the idea of decoding everyone’s genome to see to what diseases they are vulnerable to will not work, at least not in the form envisaged. “I don’t believe we should do more and more genomewide association studies for common diseases,” Dr. Goldstein said. Instead, he suggested, the “missing heritability” might be tracked by thoroughly studying the genome of specific patients.

This is what Greg Cochran predicted back in the 1990s would be found. Contrary to the impression you'd get from reading the newspaper (at least when the estimable Mr. Wade is on book leave), your genes didn't evolve to kill you. They evolved to help you survive and reproduce. (Here's the February 1999 cover story in The Atlantic Monthly, "A New Germ Theory," on Cochran and his research partner Paul Ewald.) The Cochran-Ewald theory predicts that germs -- bacteria and viruses -- will be found to be the causes of many major diseases.

From an alternative perspective, you could also blame an infectious disease on your genes by saying that if you only had the necessary gene variant, your immune system would have been equipped to wipe out the germ before it caused the disease. On the other hand a lot of the diseases of old age are caused by by wear and tear, with a germ or the lack of a gene as merely the trigger for something that was going to fail sooner or later anyway.

Which perspective is most useful for medical progress is a difficult question. Perhaps they all should be borne in mind.

Goldstein also can't find any genes for IQ, which would seem more like a capability than a disease:

Another pursuit that interests him, one of high promise for reconstructing human evolutionary history, is that of discovering which genes bear the mark of recent natural selection. When a new version of a gene becomes more common, it leaves a pattern of changes that geneticists can detect with various statistical tests. Many of these selected genes reflect new diets or defenses against disease or adaptations to new climates. But they tend to differ from one race to another because each human population, after the dispersal from Africa some 50,000 years ago, has had to adapt to different circumstances.

This newish finding has raised fears that other, more significant differences might emerge among races, spurring a resurrection of racist doctrines. “There is a part of the scientific community which is trying to make this work off limits, and that I think is hugely counterproductive,” Dr. Goldstein said.

He says he thinks that no significant genetic differences will be found between races because of his belief in the efficiency of natural selection. Just as selection turns out to have pruned away most disease-causing variants, it has also maximized human cognitive capacities because these are so critical to survival. “My best guess is that human intelligence was always a helpful thing in most places and times and we have all been under strong selection to be as bright as we can be,” he said.

This is more than just a guess, however. As part of a project on schizophrenia, Dr. Goldstein has done a genomewide association study on 2,000 volunteers of all races who were put through cognitive tests. “We have looked at the effect of common variation on cognition, and there is nothing,” Dr. Goldstein said, meaning that he can find no common genetic variants that affect intelligence. His view is that intelligence was developed early in human evolutionary history and was then standardized.

The idea of standardization in evolution is attractive. After all, we standardized on one head, two eyes, and so forth a long, long time ago. Just about everybody who isn't clearly defective can learn to speak a language and even learn some moderately complex grammar. (Although that doesn't mean my grammar is as good as William F. Buckley's was.)

Okay, but one problem with applying the idea of standardization to intelligence is that intelligence clearly isn't standardized. David B. Goldstein, to pick an example, is smarter than the average person. Heck, he's a lot smarter than the average David Goldstein.

But, as last month's whoop-tee-doo in Beijing demonstrated once again, just because something "was developed early in human evolutionary history and was then standardized" doesn't mean that everybody can do it equally well now. For example, running presumably developed tens of thousands of generations ago, and everybody pretty much runs today using the same basic, natural technique (as opposed to the various swimming strokes or ways that horses can move). Further, as Dr. Goldstein might say, my best guess is that human footspeed was always a helpful thing in most places and times and we have all been under strong selection to be as fast as we can be.

Yet, you and I still can't run anywhere near as fast as Usain Bolt can.

So, my guess is that the answer to the problem is that quite a bit of IQ variance is in the genes, it's just in a whole lot of genes.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

56 comments:

Anonymous said...

Doesn't it make sense that critical human faculties--like running and thinking--would not be overly dependent on a small number of alleles with large effects. In that case, failure would be common and potentially catastrophic. Being built out of many genes with small effects represents a fail-safe system.

Anonymous said...

Interesting to see David Goldstein also talk about efforts to suppress hbd research. This was just discussed on GNXP (see recent Audacious Epigone thread) in the context of the likely policies of an Obama administration.

ReticentMan said...

Steve:

When he says "My best guess is that human intelligence was always a helpful thing in most places and times and we have all been under strong selection to be as bright as we can be,”

This is absolutely the language of plausible deniability. This is what someone says who 'knows' one thing is true, wants to say the other is true, and can do so because he knows there's no existing hard evidence proving the first thing. The "best" in front of "guess" is a further giveaway. He doth protest too much.

headache said...

A couple of years ago I had a job interview at the Max-Planck Institute for Psychiatry in Munich. They had a genome lab and were scanning the brain of a mouse in order to create a huge database with genetic and other information. I was supposed to align some software they had written to analyse all this. They gave me some articles on genetic research. They were trying to find the origins of psychiatric diseases like Schizophrenia. Already back then they told me that the chemical reactions in the brain were more important than the genetic makeup. I'm talking like a layman because I just read the articles and never took the job: too little pay. But it was fascinating.

simon newman said...

"So, my guess is that the answer to the problem is that quite a bit of IQ variance is in the genes, it's just in a whole lot of genes."

Yes, that seems bound to be the case. Of course there's likely to be more than one way to achieve a similar level of genetic ability.

The way the Goldstein quote is worded, I get the impression he knows fine well that humans differ in cognitive abilities both individually and by group (including race) and is deliberately obfuscating this. It's all very 17th century "Sun goes round the Earth".

JohnB said...

The ability to run fast is important in horses in much the same way that intelligence is important in humans, yet horses are not "standardized" in this regard. There is still plenty of genetic variability, and it is not particularly difficult to breed faster or slower populations (within limits). The idea that human populations have to be homogeneous for intelligence is just the usual wishful thinking. Intelligence is important, but it is not that important!

Jenny said...

I'm inclined to Cochran's germ theory from (minor) personal experience. Following a major surgery with an extended recovery period, I contracted a nasty virus that my doctors did not make the effort to identify beyond saying it resembled mono but wasn't. Eight years later, my blood tests have continued to show Epstein-Barr antibodies at levels suggesting I've had this virus very recently. I am now discovering that my immune system has destroyed my thyroid in the space of one year beginning at age 27. Most literature on this condition (Hashimoto's - common in older women) says the cause is unknown but possibly genetic.

AMac said...

After reading quotes from a scientist such as Goldstein, it can be useful to see what has recently popped up on the front page of the GNXP blog. Yesterday, Razib posted
Asthma susceptibility gene in people of European ancestry
: "Asthma researchers have found that a gene [ORMDL3] variant known to raise the risk of childhood asthma in European children plays a similar role in white American children, but not in African American children."

Following on Reticentman's comment (3rd in this thread), I might propose:

"My best guess is that resistance to asthma was always a helpful thing in most places and times and we have all been under strong selection to be as resistant to asthma as we can be."

Having said that, must I:
(1) Oppose research into ORMDL3 function,
(2) Disbelieve that ORMDL3 has a role in asthma, or
(3) Both?

As Anonymous noted (2nd comment in this thread), the commenters to the GNXP post on Audacious Epigone discuss the implications of this expedient, specious, and politically-compelling line of reasoning.

John Mansfield said...

"Yet, you and I still can't run anywhere near as fast as Usain Bolt can."

It depends on how you measure "near." Bolt's 100 meter record is 9.69 seconds. I just looked my state's last high school championship meet. The 100 meter girls who came in 3rd place had times ranging from 12.36 for the 3A final to 12.10 for the 4A final. I'm fairly sure that I, even with forty pounds of extra fat, could go to a track this afternoon and come in under 15 seconds. Bolt and I are the same species and have the same general running ability; he can't run twice as fast as most people. But considering things only within the scope of human ability, Bolt is the vastly superior running human.

Anonymous said...

Is it only to the order of 50k-years since the human migration out of Africa occured? Assuming a mean female to female reproductive cycle that is only --- going back through a mother's line --- 3k-generations since we departed Africa. Perhaps that is a short timee for natural selection to work it's magic.

dearieme said...

So yet another splurge of taxpayers' money on Big Science achieved only its first aim - toys for the boys - but not its secondary aim - enough progress to justify a further splurge. How frustrating.

halfbreed said...

Steve, btw, please don't listen to your readers who say they're sick of your essays on variations in running ability. I'm only here for the track and field myself, I just put up with the other stuff.

Anonymous said...

The problem is, there does seem to be a genetic component to many diseases, such as schizophrenia. My guess is that, as is probably the case with "g", the relationship is far more complicated than finding a "schizophrenia gene", a "gay gene", etc.

Tschafer

Anonymous said...

ReticentMan: good catch.

My best guess as (a modern goodthinking whiterperson) is that the doctrine of zero group differences (DZGD) is true! How is it "best"? Well, if I guessed anything else, then the witchhunt would be on, and nobody would fund me! How good is that? Not very good! Certainly not best!

But my actual guess -- as in what I actually believe -- is that the DZGD is false.

Lucius Vorenus said...

Nicholas Wade: the idea of decoding everyone's genome to see to what diseases they are vulnerable to will not work

To write phrases like that, Nike Wade gets paid what? $100K per year? $150K?

And his editor/editrix makes another $50K or $75K?

Where can I find me a gig like that?

PS: On a mathematical note, if it's true that isolated genes are not responsible for these things [diseases, intelligence, etc], but rather GROUPINGS of genes are responsible, then the combinatorial problem very quickly becomes darned near impossibly large & intractable [especially if, within the groupings, the individual genes can come and go independently of one another].

Fernandinande said...

John Hawks has interesting comments on the article here.

Zylonet said...

I really hope Mr. Goldstein is not as dense as his view on intelligence would suggest. This is a willful denial of the obvious made worse by use of weak argument.

I really wonder if these people believe what they say. And if they don't, then what does it say about them? Maybe intelligence is overrated because it seems to come at the cost of testicular fortitude.

kurt said...

There is another possibility for why the diseases of old age proved not to have common variant origins. That is, these disease may in fact be manifestations of the aging process itself rather than independent disease states. Since the conventional medical industry and regulatory agencies refuse to consider aging itself as a disease state, they insist that these diseases be considered as independent disease state. Thus, no progress is possible in curing the diseases "associated with aging".

ben tillman said...

He says he thinks that no significant genetic differences will be found between races because of his belief in the efficiency of natural selection. Just as selection turns out to have pruned away most disease-causing variants, it has also maximized human cognitive capacities because these are so critical to survival.

This is straight out of Ashley Montague's "Race & IQ". What's the obvious rejoinder?

Intelligence is expensive!

A big brain uses lots of energy. It requires wider hips (meaning less sprinting ability) for a wider birth canal for big baby-heads. Et cetera.

Moreover, this is a howler taken alone:

...it has also maximized human cognitive capacities because these are so critical to survival.

Does this then mean that spiders and pine trees and jellyfish are equally intelligent as humans? If "human cognitive capacities" are "critical to survival", they must be.

The Goldstein platitudes ignore the obvious: there are all sorts of survival strategies on display in this world, involving all sorts of "cognitive capacities".

Anonymous said...

"So, my guess is that the answer to the problem is that quite a bit of IQ variance is in the genes, it's just in a whole lot of genes"


In a way, the above statement is sad because if true (and it probably is), then differences in IQ amongst groups is something we will have with us for thousands of more years at least. Differences in footspeed will apparently tend to be the same. In fact, if 50 some odd genes "slightly" encode for this or that particular trait that we want/don't want, and no 2 or 3 genes control it, then it's (the trait in question) much more hardwired and more deeply ingrained than we ever imagined.


Another very valuble blogpost that one would not read at National Review Online or The Weekly Standard, much less MSNBC. The Ford Foundation must be very dissapointed.

Matt Parrott said...

Why is it just assumed that greater intelligence is universally beneficial? If it really were, wouldn't a stroll through the forest be like a disney movie, with all of the animals talking and thinking?

Another valuable contribution of Cochran, who is light-years ahead of the establishment dogma, is the "overclocking" analogy. I think we'll find that the final suite of genes that make us gifted are very "expensive", in terms of caloric demands and adverse effects.

I suspect that human intelligence is analogous to antlers, horns, tusks, and other exaggerated traits produced in sexually selective race conditions. Since male humans fight one another with tools and strategies instead of tusks, it makes sense that the race condition would favor increased capacity to design superior tools - intelligence.

A variety of human populations thrive in extremely challenging environments while having comparatively low average intelligence. Hell, baboons were beating us at the game until a couple thousand years ago. Somebody please explain to me how increased intelligence is the evolutionary silver bullet that everybody KNOWS it to be.

Seriously. Did I fall asleep in biology class that day? Is it so obvious that nobody wants to humiliate me by spelling it out? This is a cry for help.

J said...

My best guess is that human intelligence was always a helpful thing in most places and times and we have all been under strong selection to be as bright as we can be.
In or out of context, the statement must be wrong. All human varieties have been evolving equally long, so we must be all equally bright. But we are not. As usual in evolution, some lines are more successful than others. Their bodies must have found better solutions.

On the other hand, I have never seen any study finding a positive association between IQ and reproductive success. On the contrary, since Galton (and even before, the Greeks and Romans), all observed the underfertility of the better class people. From Plato and Caesar Augustus to Singapur's current rulers and Stormfront, literature is full of laments for the dysgenicity of brightness.

IQ is bad for your genes.

Dutch Boy said...

I have two autistic sons so I have followed closely the attempt to find genes predisposing one to develop autism (the powers that be have focused their efforts on finding a genetic explanation for this disease rather than an environmental cause). They have basically failed to find any simple genetic explanation and have concluded that it is likely that many genes are involved in the predispositon (not unlike Dr. Goldstein's conclusion).

Anonymous said...

About 20 years ago, a group of kids were tested at the beginning of the school year in NYC. The ones who tested subnormal were placed in two different groups. For the first group, teachers were told that they had tested below normal. For the second, they were told that a new test indicated that they were 'late bloomers' who were expected to show significant improvement over the next few years.
At the end of the year they were retested. The control group showed no significant changes nor did those in 3rd grade or above, but there was a 6% gain among 2nd graders and a 13% gain among 1st graders. So positive environment and expectations can make a big difference, and more so the younger the child is. So how many of these 'dumb' kids grow up in homes where the only literature is the Cable Guide?
My roommate read the Bell Curve and quoted the 15% discreapancy between blacks & whites. I quoted this study & said that it looked like 15% was within the error bars, since black kids so often faced crummy upbringing AND low expectations at school.
When I was an undergrad, the nature-nurture debate was pegged on nurture; genes didn't count at all. Now it is pegged the other way. I think researchers are promissing solutions to get grants.
Quick, cheap DNA testing is also the ultimate foolproof ID for Big Brother.

abe said...

reitcentman--perhaps Goldstein is just being, you know, a scientist. After all, he did reference that study involving 2000 people from various races. How can he really "know" that race realism as it applies to intelligence is true without hard evidence?

Anonymous said...

Are you Steve (is anyone) aware of this german study from 1963-1971 positing a mendelian pattern of inheritance for high mathematical ability? It would suggest that a very few genes can give you a boost above the "standardized" intelligence level.

http://www.volkmar-weiss.de/ability.html

Anonymous said...

Having said that, must I:
(1) Oppose research into ORMDL3 function,
(2) Disbelieve that ORMDL3 has a role in asthma, or
(3) Both?


Nah, Mr. Amac, just recite the race-doesn't-exist-unless-you're-applying-to-law-school mantra and go about your business.

Tsoldrin said...

Of course IQ variance is in a whole lot of genes. IQ, or intelligence, itself is certainly not a single trait but many, maybe scores or hundreds of traits and abilities. Most people (excluding polymaths)who are smart are smart in a variety of different ways.

The germ theory seems problematic. You don't really hear about germaphobic people, or for that matter "bubble boys" living for hundreds of years or anything do you?

On the idea that intelligence is strongly selected for because it is universally useful... that's absurd. A certain degree of basic intelligence might be useful, but beyond that and the costs in energy requirements (possibly heat issues as well) far outweigh the benefits. One might even postulate that in certain areas, say ones prone to famine, lower intelligence may be selected for as a preventative to starvation.

On THAT note... I had always assumed that euro-types had been pushed out of africa (possibly they were not aggressive enough to compete?) (and 50k years seems too short a time to explain the wild diversity in humans btw) and then developed their smarts in order to cope with the relatively less lush environments they'd been driven into. Now though, I'm wondering if perhaps the smarts developed first and they either had to move to feed their brains or, being smarter, simply said "Hey, this place sucks, it's plagued by drought and famine, lets get the hell out of here".

Hmm.

AMac said...

Lucius Vorenus --

Nicholas Wade did a great job in his book "Before the Dawn," and the grammar wasn't half-bad either.

As far as the state of the art with Genome-Wide Association Studies, blogger Daniel MacArthur just published a good essay on the subject over at ScienceBlogs, Why do Genome-wide scans fail?

simon newman said...

j:
"On the other hand, I have never seen any study finding a positive association between IQ and reproductive success..."

Very low IQ people don't reproduce much, either. Whether it's better to be in the second or third quartile is the big question that drives IQ up or down over time as environments change.

And the answer seems variable.

"Idiocracy" is unlikely because as IQ declines and civilisation collapses, the benefits of a high (above average, not super-high) IQ to reproductive success become greater. If you look at eg criminal gangs, the leaders tend to be noticeably both smarter and more aggressive than the rank & file. And they reproduce more, too.

simon said...

anon:
"My roommate read the Bell Curve and quoted the 15% discreapancy between blacks & whites. I quoted this study & said that it looked like 15% was within the error bars, since black kids so often faced crummy upbringing AND low expectations at school."

Are you talking about the 15 point IQ difference? It's not a % - IQ doesn't measure absolute brain power. It's a measure of variation. In this case it indicates that roughly 1/6 of black Americans score higher than the white mean on IQ tests.

David said...

"My best guess is that human intelligence was always a helpful thing in most places and times and we have all been under strong selection to be as bright as we can be."

- says "David B. Goldstein of Duke University, a leading young population geneticist known partly for his research into the genetic roots of Jewish ancestry"

I wonder what Goldstein believes about Jewish intelligence. Has he made a statement on it one way or the other?

Half Sigma said...

“My best guess is that human intelligence was always a helpful thing in most places and times and we have all been under strong selection to be as bright as we can be,” he said.

The quote above is wrong. I'm going to have to write a long blog post about this in the near future.

Svigor said...

What's weirder: that it was entirely predictable that Goldstein said it, or that several posters have tried to outline the monumentally obvious (that Goldstein is full of shit and probably aware of the fact to boot)?

Svigor said...

Why is it just assumed that greater intelligence is universally beneficial? If it really were, wouldn't a stroll through the forest be like a disney movie, with all of the animals talking and thinking?

Err, universally beneficial != easily engineered.

But to answer your real question ("wouldn't all the animals in the forest be better off if they could think and talk like people?"), yes.

Eric said...

So, my guess is that the answer to the problem is that quite a bit of IQ variance is in the genes, it's just in a whole lot of genes.

But you could make the same argument for type-2 diabetes, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. Or anything else.

I think Dr Goldstein is the victim of a logical fallacy. "We haven't found it, so it isn't there." Well, look harder.

Eric said...

But to answer your real question ("wouldn't all the animals in the forest be better off if they could think and talk like people?"), yes.

Sure, if there were no cost. But there is, in terms of calorie consumption, weight, and development time.

Anonymous said...

"I think Dr Goldstein is the victim of a logical fallacy. "We haven't found it, so it isn't there." Well, look harder."

I think Goldstein is engaging ins some careful BSing (for now) because he doesn't want some diversicrat in DC to shut off the flow of research grant money.

"Why, yes, Mr Wade, ALL scientists know the earth is flat!"

Anonymous said...

When we were kids, my brother, sister and had extensive IQ testing. My brother tested north of 180 I was in the 150 range and my sister was nearer 118.

My brother has no kids, I have two, and my sister has six. If pure IQ were the magic bullet he'd be the one with six kids.

Although, we do have a cousin whom I suspect is somewhere between my brother and I and he has at least five biological kids of his own. I don't think he's raising any of them though.

Michael T said...

Another valuable contribution of Cochran, who is light-years ahead of the establishment dogma, is the "overclocking" analogy. I think we'll find that the final suite of genes that make us gifted are very "expensive", in terms of caloric demands and adverse effects.

But boy doesn't magic happen when you get there. It's comparable to two foes facing off with pistols with only one strong enough to pull the trigger.

Anonymous said...

"we have all been under strong selection to be as bright as we can be,"

Consider these numbers from a recent year of published LSAT stats:

Out of 9,500 blacks who took the LSAT, the number of blacks who scored above 164, which correlates to a 133 IQ: 29 people.

The average LSAT for Harvard Law admission is a 170. The number of blacks who scored a 170, which translates to a rough IQ of 138 was zero.

African American IQ above 135. To what extent can we say it exists?

Conversely, exactly how WIDESPREAD is Jewish IQ above 135?

The Cochran/Harpending paper on Ashkenazi intelligence: " the number of northern Europeans with IQs greater than 140 should be 4 per thousand while 23 per thousand Ashkenazim should exceed the same threshold, a six fold difference."

tommy said...

Brain size relative to body mass seems to be strongly correlated with intelligence. The best approach moving forward might be to find that set of genes correlating to brain size and mass rather than attempting to directly correlate genes to IQ. Leave that portion of intelligence that cannot be explained by brain size for later.

I wonder what percentage of the difference in intelligence among races might be explained simply by differing brain sizes. If ones believes Rushton and r/K theory, it might easily comprise the large majority.

That also leads me to wonder if, controlling for a potential global factor like brain size, we might not be able to better de-link the various subtypes of intelligence -- spatial, mathematical, verbal, and so forth -- using intelligence tests. Would we find more dislinkage than expected if we tested individuals standardized brain size? Would we then be able to identify neurological structures correlating with these subtypes?

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

Does this then mean that spiders and pine trees and jellyfish are equally intelligent as humans? If "human cognitive capacities" are "critical to survival", they must be.

A 9mm, an M-16 and an M-60: if I had to pick one to defend myself, under most circumstances I would choose the M-60. There are some cases where the 9mm, due to its small size, would be advantageous - especially if only 9mm ammo were available.

And then again, what if your only choices were a stick, a rock, and a rubber chicken?

Yes, it may be true that evolution has placed a premium on intelligence. But you can only work with the options that random chance (i.e., mutation) has given you. And even then, it must prove advantageous in a particular environment.

I think Goldstein is engaging ins some careful BSing (for now) because he doesn't want some diversicrat in DC to shut off the flow of research grant money.

Right. In this environment it's best to act like you're up to nothing controversial, get your grants, complete your research, then present them with a fait accompli, then scratch your head a say "Gee, I never thought it would end up saying that!"

My roommate read the Bell Curve and quoted the 15% discreapancy between blacks & whites. I quoted this study & said that it looked like 15% was within the error bars, since black kids so often faced crummy upbringing AND low expectations at school.

Nice to have such an immense authority here as one whose roommate read The Bell Curve!

simon said...

50,000 years is plenty of time for population group differentiation leading to different races, btw. Evolution can happen a lot quicker than people seem to realise.

But in any case, the best estimates I've seen put the first modern human exodus out of Africa at more like 80,000 years ago.

See eg: http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/journey/

Bill said...

I tend to agree with those who say intelligence is not necessarily adaptive. I discussed this with a friend the other day when he brought up that he had met a woman who didn't know what county her summer house was in. I told him that it's really no big deal; after all, I knew kids in junior high who didn't even know what state we were in (seriously).

He asked "how did the human race ever survive?" I replied that it was a simple matter of food, shelter and sex. Then I suggested that intelligence is selected for only under extreme conditions such as famine, disaster, warfare etc. Most of the time, the most adaptive traits are good looks and self-assurance -- i.e. physical and mental health. In normal times intelligent people, who solve problems and create systems that benefit the aggregate population, end up doing far more for others than themselves. But when things really go wrong, the guy with brains is significantly more likely to find that extra bite to eat or figure out how to start a fire in the rain and thereby pull through.

My friend replied: "per aspera ad astra"

I think so.

AMac said...

Svigor said (earlier in the thread) --

What's weirder: that it was entirely predictable that Goldstein said it, or that several posters have tried to outline the monumentally obvious (that Goldstein is full of shit and probably aware of the fact to boot)?

I think less reflexiveness is called for. Some of Goldstein's p.c. platitudes are probably wrong, and indeed it's likely that he knows that they are wrong.

However, these are off the main topic of this interview of Goldstein. Wade's article mainly focuses on a seeming paradox: while the effort to catalog common genomic variations among humans has succeeded (e.g. the HapMap), the search to identify genetic factors that powerfully influence the incidence or course of common diseases has largely failed.

Is Goldstein indeed "full of it" in making this claim?

John Hawks doesn't think so. Quoting --

"Of the variants that have been found in these genome-wide association studies, for Alzheimer's, Type 2 diabetes, schizophrenia -- a significant number appear to have been recently selected. So even these few that have been found wouldn't have been predicted under the "common variant" model. But most variants that cause senescence must be rare. That's Medawar's theory. Or they may be balances. That's Williams' theory. This is a case where modern evolutionary theory gives very clear predictions, which have now been confirmed at enormous cost."

Nuance.

Anonymous said...

David asked:
"I wonder what Goldstein believes about Jewish intelligence. Has he made a statement on it one way or the other?"

I skimmed through his recent book on Jewish genetics in the bookstore the other day. I checked to see if he wrote about the Cochran-Harpending hypothesis. He did and he was hostile to it. I guess he didn't think it was "good for the Jews" for people to know how smart they are.

albertosaurus said...

Americans dominated paleontology in the 19th century. The leading figures were Cope and Marsh.

Marsh prposed two major theories. First that birds evolved from dinosaurs. Secondly that animals got bigger brains over time.

This later theory was called Marsh's Rule of Progressive Encephalization.

Encephalization is the ratio of brain size to body size. Marsh noticed that over time brains got bigger.

At the time Marsh posited this rule the common conception of dinosaur brains was dominated by the Stegosaurus which had a body the size of an elephant and a brain the size of a house cat.

Later work and later findings at other digs showed that the small theropods had developed pretty good brain size. It also became clear that dinosaur evolution was cut off sharply by a heavenly event. At the very end of the Cretacious the smartest dinosaur was probably the struthiomimus.(BTW the struthiomimus was probably a favorite prey of the Albertosaurus).

With the Chixalub event encephalization reversed and began to slowly advance again among the mammals.

The science magazines used to publish articles speculating on the evolution of dinosaurs had there been no metorite/comet. One of those speculations was a race of truly intelligent dinosaurs would have emerged.

Marsh's rule observes that encephalization tends to grow and assumes that intelligence contributes to selective advantage.

If all this is true then the emergence of human intelligence isn't just a phenomenon of the last 100,000 years. Intelligence, according to Marsh, is essentially inevitable. Human intelligence is just the expression of this trend among primates.

albertosaurus said...

I was a amused to see a reference in the comments to the Pymalion Effect of teacher expectations proposed in 1968 (forty years ago not twenty) by Rosenthal and Jacobson.

This theory briefly states that the dumb kids in the classroom are only dumb because the teacher expects them to be dumb. So black kids are victims of teacher racism.

Rosenthal's theory like Goldstein's theory was very welcome in the popular press because it gave scientific cover to the beliefs of writers and editors that there really were no differences in basic ability
among students.

Alas, Rosenthal's findings could not be replicated and his theory is no longer considered credible. OTOH this failure leaves the field open for another "scientific" theory to meet the needs of the press.

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

50,000 years is plenty of time for population group differentiation leading to different races, btw...the best estimates I've seen put the first modern human exodus out of Africa at more like 80,000 years ago.

50-80k years is bare minimum: don't forget that the disparities could also have existed before humans even left Africa. It's not as if the few early humans who left to conquer the rest of the world were a scientifically precise sample of genetic diversity in Africa 50,000 years ago. Among other things, the people who left were at least curious enough to ask "What's over there?" And they were smart enough to build a boat or raft to get there. If there is any truth to the possibility that they interbred with their cousins who had lived outside Africa for up to 1.8 million years (the jury is still out), then that just increases the time for racial differences to appear.

Tod said...

That Schizophrenia is due to a virus was fist suggested in the twenties. The Soviet Russians were trying to say that every other year but their cell lines were contaminated by the famous cancer patient cells.
RD Laing (in Mad To Be Normal) said that the worlds leading medical genetics experts had told him that their was nothing to back up what psychiatry was saying about genetic causation.

tommy said...

That Schizophrenia is due to a virus was fist suggested in the twenties. The Soviet Russians were trying to say that every other year but their cell lines were contaminated by the famous cancer patient cells.

A few theorists have guessed that some forms of schizophrenia may be the result of childhood brain damage caused by cytomegalovirus or an immunological response to the virus in susceptible people. CMV is a member of the herpes virus family and is known to have an affinity for certain regions of the brain. Like herpes, it can lie dormant for long periods and is incurable. Almost 60% of children are infected by age six.

Schizophrenia occurs among identical twins at a rate of about thirty percent. (Some figures claim fifty percent, but my understanding is that the commonly cited fifty percent figure is an overestimate according to better studies.)

Anonymous said...

Goldstein's "best guess" is more than just a PC sophistry.

It is also a violation of Occam's Razor, the single most significant truth-finding heuristic in the sciences after the scientific method itself.

When we have multiple hypotheses, we always start by testing the one with the smallest number of unknown variables, such as genes. This is always the shortest path to objective truth. Anything else is illogical and wasteful at best, willful obstruction at worst.

Tod said...

Another thing Laing remarked on was the method of estimating concordance rates for schizophrenia ie proband counting "They just made it up".

Toxoplasma gondi the cat parasite is another one of the suspects.

It is known that Vitamin D deficiency in the mother produces schchophrenia like behaviour in rats, what happens in humans remains to be seen.

simon said...

captain jack aubrey:
"It's not as if the few early humans who left to conquer the rest of the world were a scientifically precise sample of genetic diversity in Africa 50,000 years ago."

And modern sub-Saharan Africa not only contains most* human genetic diversity, it contains several visually identifiable different human races - west Africans (Bantu language group), east Africans (Nilo-Saharan) - to whom all non-Africans are related, I believe, Hottentots/Bushmen (Khoi San), and Pygmies are the four I know of.

*Of course much of that diversity may be relatively unimportant. The smaller amount of diversity among non-African population groups may be in more important areas.

simon said...

albertosaurus:
"This theory briefly states that the dumb kids in the classroom are only dumb because the teacher expects them to be dumb. So black kids are victims of teacher racism."

What I have seen is that when you put a bright kid in with a bunch of brighter kids, they become the 'dumb kid', and act it. So affirmative action for black students does help them to under-perform. Streaming by ability seems to be the best way to maximise performance, in particular streaming to different schools/colleges - being in the bottom stream at a high-level institution is similar to being bottom of the class.