Friday, November 30, 2007


What nonsense below! Are these guys seriously arguing that because genes with high relevance to IQ have not yet been found then there are none? I hate to repeat an old saw but the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Genes relevant to IQ are being discovered all the time. One with a big link to IQ could be just around the corner. Though it is most probable that high IQ is the result of an accumulation of many "good" genes -- which is why high IQ people tend to be healthier and live longer etc.

A team of scientists led by Professor Robert Plomin, of the Institute of Psychiatry in London, identified only six genes linked with intelligence to any degree of significance, but even those accounted for just 1 per cent of the differences in IQ between individuals. Experts said upbringing, education and a healthy diet in early life had important roles to play in helping to nurture intelligence. The research also means testing the potential intelligence of new-born babies - or improving it with genetic engineering - could be impossible.

The researchers said a study of the human genome revealed hundreds of genes which contribute to IQ, but their individual effects are barely detectable. Previous studies on twins and adopted children have established that about half of the variation in intelligence is down to environment, but almost all of the genetic component has yet to be uncovered.

Prof Plomin said: "If the biggest [genes] only account for 1 per cent of the variance [in intelligence], there's a long way to go. The most striking result is there are no large effects." However, this does not mean intelligence is not inherited. Many experts believe IQ is due to the cumulative effect of a combination of genes.

The study, published in the journal Genes, Brains and Behaviour, involved obtaining intelligence scores for 7,000 seven-year-olds and DNA samples. Dr Robin Campbell, an expert in intelligence and child development at Stirling University, said: " [This research] leaves it open that nurture, education and good early nutrition have an important role." [Of course they do. Nobody has ever said otherwise. But genetic inheritance is the major determinant]


Success Depends on Others Failing

There may be something in the theories below but, with a only 19 units of analysis, it seems most unlikely that the findings were statistically significant. Nor can we rule out cultural and sub-cultural influences. The generalizability of these contrived experiments is also unknown but probably slight -- as I showed long ago in another field

Reward mechanisms in the brain depend on how well you think other people are doing, a new neurological study suggests. The findings, published in the Nov. 23 issue of the journal Science are the first to lend physiological proof to a longstanding theory among contemporary economists: that people are affected not only by their own achievements and income, but also by how they stack up against their neighbors.

The study, by cognition experts and economists at the University of Bonn in Germany, looks at the brain regions that process reward. Nineteen pairs of subjects performed a series of tasks, estimating the number of dots on a screen, while their brains were scanned. Each time a subject answered correctly, he or she won a cash prize but the prizes were not always the same. Players could see whether their opponents had answered correctly, and how the prize money was distributed.

The researchers were especially interested in the set of outcomes where both players answered correctly. For any given prize value, the brain's reward response was bigger if the other player earned less. Players on average were more pleased with a 60 euro prize when the other player got just 30 euros, for example, than they were if both players earned 60 euros, or if the other player got more.

"In a sense it goes back to Aristotle," says the paper's senior author, Armin Falk, an economist. "The fact that we are social beings is a well-known fact." But the idea that rewards are context-dependent challenges a key assumption behind most traditional of economic theories: the premise that humans are essentially self-interested, that they care about their own work, income, achievements, and purchases, and that whatever other people do is, if not irrelevant, at least not going to have a consistent or predictable effect on decision-making.

Instead, the brain scans from this study support a mountain of survey data collected by modern economists and psychologists that suggests people care very much about keeping up with the Joneses. In the past, researchers have often struggled to work out how much they could trust that data, not sure whether survey-takers might be changing their response consciously or unconsciously based on what they thought was socially acceptable. The Science findings give further empirical evidence that people compare their gains to others'. "If you look at the brain reaction, it's a relatively immediate physiological reaction," says Falk. "It shows on a deeper level, in the brain, these things really matter."

The practical implications? Many scholars believe that social comparison helps to explain why, even as much of the world gets ever richer, people today don't report being happier than people did 50 years ago. We might not be happy now if we had to give up the amenities of the last half-century computers, air conditioners, a bedroom for every child, and more - but back when no one else had them either, life was okay.

There's also a lesson here for company managers, says Falk. A wage scale should reflect job and performance differences fairly, or else firms risk alienating their staff. "It's extremely important for companies to understand it's not just a matter of justice, but it's also a matter of efficiency," he says. It turns out the negative response to earning less is usually stronger than the positive response to earning more or as Falk says, "The pain of having less is much stronger than the joy of having more." Workers who discover they're earning more for the same work may be happy, but those who earn less can quickly feel slighted, killing motivation and often the quality of their output. It doesn't take a brain specialist to understand how that affects a business.



Just some problems with the "Obesity" war:

1). It tries to impose behavior change on everybody -- when most of those targeted are not obese and hence have no reason to change their behaviour. It is a form of punishing the innocent and the guilty alike. (It is also typical of Leftist thinking: Scorning the individual and capable of dealing with large groups only).

2). The longevity research all leads to the conclusion that it is people of MIDDLING weight who live longest -- not slim people. So the "epidemic" of obesity is in fact largely an "epidemic" of living longer.

3). It is total calorie intake that makes you fat -- not where you get your calories. Policies that attack only the source of the calories (e.g. "junk food") without addressing total calorie intake are hence pissing into the wind. People involuntarily deprived of their preferred calorie intake from one source are highly likely to seek and find their calories elsewhere.

4). So-called junk food is perfectly nutritious. A big Mac meal comprises meat, bread, salad and potatoes -- which is a mainstream Western diet. If that is bad then we are all in big trouble.

5). Food warriors demonize salt and fat. But we need a daily salt intake to counter salt-loss through perspiration and the research shows that people on salt-restricted diets die SOONER. And Eskimos eat huge amounts of fat with no apparent ill-effects. And the average home-cooked roast dinner has LOTS of fat. Will we ban roast dinners?

6). The foods restricted are often no more calorific than those permitted -- such as milk and fruit-juice drinks.

7). Tendency to weight is mostly genetic and is therefore not readily susceptible to voluntary behaviour change.

8). And when are we going to ban cheese? Cheese is a concentrated calorie bomb and has lots of that wicked animal fat in it too. Wouldn't we all be better off without it? And what about butter and margarine? They are just about pure fat. Surely they should be treated as contraband in kids' lunchboxes! [/sarcasm].

9). And how odd it is that we never hear of the huge American study which showed that women who eat lots of veggies have an INCREASED risk of stomach cancer? So the official recommendation to eat five lots of veggies every day might just be creating lots of cancer for the future! It's as plausible (i.e. not very) as all the other dietary "wisdom" we read about fat etc.

10). And will "this generation of Western children be the first in history to lead shorter lives than their parents did"? This is another anti-fat scare that emanates from a much-cited editorial in a prominent medical journal that said so. Yet this editorial offered no statistical basis for its opinion -- an opinion that flies directly in the face of the available evidence.

Even statistical correlations far stronger than anything found in medical research may disappear if more data is used. A remarkable example from Sociology:
"The modern literature on hate crimes began with a remarkable 1933 book by Arthur Raper titled The Tragedy of Lynching. Raper assembled data on the number of lynchings each year in the South and on the price of an acre's yield of cotton. He calculated the correla-tion coefficient between the two series at -0.532. In other words, when the economy was doing well, the number of lynchings was lower.... In 2001, Donald Green, Laurence McFalls, and Jennifer Smith published a paper that demolished the alleged connection between economic condi-tions and lynchings in Raper's data. Raper had the misfortune of stopping his anal-ysis in 1929. After the Great Depression hit, the price of cotton plummeted and economic conditions deteriorated, yet lynchings continued to fall. The correlation disappeared altogether when more years of data were added."
So we must be sure to base our conclusions on ALL the data. But in medical research, data selectivity and the "overlooking" of discordant research findings is epidemic.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

All domestic dogs, from Chihuahua to Great Dane, are species canis familiaris; breed genetic differences result from enforced separation by breeders/trainers for the last 800 years. Domestic dogs are all one species. Similarly, all humans are species homo sapiens with race differences resulting from separation over thousands of years by geographic barriers. Dog breeds and human races are directly analogous as sub-groups within the respective species.

Much can be learned from studying dogs; medical science does a great deal of this to avoid experimentation on humans. The brain is no exception, as dog and human brain structure and information flow processes are very similar to that in humans. Numerous dog brain studies to analyze human brain diseases/conditions are in the medical literature.

Any experienced domestic animal breeder will acknowledge the profound influence of genetics on intelligence and behavior. Traits such as trainability, aggression, prey drive, docility, bite inhibition are highly heritable and difficult to modify. Extensive evaluations of dog intelligence have developed breed rankings according to ease of training (number of repetitions needed to learn a command) and reliability (percent of time) of correct response to learned commands. Instinctive ability to to take correct action in complex situations is also recognized to vary with breed (there is a valid reason police K-9 units use German Shepherds instead of Pit Bulls). Among dog breeds, there is a huge Achievement_Gap. This is all easily Googled…

You can talk openly about dogs without being politically incorrect. You won’t get into trouble, lose your career or research grants, as you might if you reveal unpleasant truths about humans: e.g., James Watson, Jimmy the Greek, Al Campanis, Don Imus…

Humans are not exempt from the fundamental rules of biology.