spectacular stuff in the spectator!

must be something in the water at the spectator. too much fluoride maybe. first this week i caught this by toby young (via somebody, i can’t remember who…prolly ed west, another crimethinker. my emphasis):

“Nature beats nurture nearly every time”

“We all try to improve our children’s life chances but how they turn out is mostly in their genes

“I’ve been doing some thinking recently about the findings of behavioural geneticists and their implications for education policy. For instance, a study of more than 10,000 twins found that GCSE results are nearly 60 per cent heritable. (This research, by Robert Plomin, was first revealed in The Spectator.) So genetic differences between children account for almost 60 per cent of the variation in their GCSE results, with the environment, such as the schools they go to, accounting for less than 40 per cent. One very obvious implication of this research is that we may need to lower our expectations when it comes to the impact schools can make on the underlying rate of social mobility.

“But behavioural geneticists are upending our assumptions in other areas, too. Parenting, for example. Most middle-class parents, me included, believe that how you bring up your children has a major impact on their life chances. That’s why we spend so much energy on getting them to put down their screens, do their homework, practise the piano, etc. But, as The Spectator also pointed out back in 2013, if you look at some of the biggest determinants of success — IQ, conscientiousness, grit — they are far more heritable than we like to imagine. Our children’s destinies aren’t set in stone from the moment of conception, but the difference that a good parent makes is fairly negligible. The one crumb of comfort I’ve been able to dig up is that the ability to give and receive love isn’t very heritable. Perhaps that’s something we can teach our children?

What about art? One disturbing consequence of discovering that many of our personality differences have a basis in genetics is that plenty of western art — particularly popular arts, like Hollywood movies and genre fiction — turns out to be a lie. I’m thinking of stories that involve a hero going on a transformative journey and, in the process, changing from a passive, half-alive individual to being master of his own destiny.

“But behavioural genetics teaches us that people rarely switch personality type after a pivotal experience. On the contrary, people seek out those environments that accentuate their genetic predispositions. In real life, those remarkable individuals that seem to cheat fate in some way are in virtually every case genetically exceptional. If they are more wilful than their peers, more imaginative, more energetic, it’s because, to a great extent, that’s the way God made them. They may feel like the authors of their own lives, but that’s just a vainglorious self-deception. Wittgenstein came up with a good metaphor for this particular illusion. He said human beings are like autumn leaves being blown about in the wind, saying: ‘Now I’m going to go this way, now I’m going to go that way….’”

brilliant! (i really liked the literature/art insight.) read the whole thing at the spectaor, ’cause there’s more…and it’s good.

but that wasn’t all the thoughtcrime at the spectator this week. then there was this! by rory sutherland (h/t joe brewer! – my emphasis):

“Hayek was right: you can’t understand society without evolution”

“He observed that human groups that have developed favourable moral habits are the ones that succeed

“Hayek: ‘Our basic problem is that we have three levels of moral beliefs. We have, in the first instance, our intuitive moral feelings, which are adapted to the small person-to-person society, where we act toward people that we know. Then we have a society run by moral traditions, which — unlike what modern rationalists believe — are not intellectual discoveries of men who designed them. They are an example of a process that I now prefer to describe by the biological term of group selection.

“‘Those groups that quite accidentally developed favourable habits, such as a tradition of private property and the family, succeed but they never understood this.

“‘So we owe our present extended order of human co-operation very largely to a moral tradition, of which the intellectual does not approve because it had never been intellectually designed. It has to compete with a third level of moral beliefs; the morals that intellectuals design in the hope that they can better satisfy man’s instincts than the traditional rules.

“‘And we live in a world where the three moral traditions are in constant conflict: the innate ones, the traditional ones, and the intellectually designed ones…. You can explain the whole of social conflicts of the last 200 years by the conflict of the three…’.

“If this is the kind of thing which interests you, allow me a small plug for evonomics.com — a new website which features views from people on the left and right who are agreed about one thing: that for economic and political thought to make useful progress, it needs to be informed by evolutionary biology. This seems a very necessary exercise, since any attempt to understand morality, politics, economics or business without reference to evolutionary biology is ridiculous. As I explain to my children, ants are Marxist, dogs are Burkean-conservatives and cats are libertarians.”

what the h*ll, spectator?! keep this up and i may have to become a subscriber!

(~_^)

(note: comments do not require an email. doubleplusungood crimethink.)

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25 Comments

  1. The statistics of heritability studies are always misinterpreted. What is being estimated is the percentage of some character that is heritable, in the case offered, 60%. It is entirely incorrect to assert that the other 40% is due to the environment. That 40% includes the error term as well as the environmental factors. Unless we have some way of estimating the error, we cannot tell what percentage is due to the nongenetic factors.

    Reply

    1. @bob sykes:

      See also my comment there:

      Indeed, measurement error is an issue that attenuates heritability in behavioral genetic studies. When you adjust for it, the heritability of these things turn out to be quite a bit higher, more in the 65-95%+ range (96% in the case of aggression in a mixed ethnic sample).

      Reply

  2. @bob – “It is entirely incorrect to assert that the other 40% is due to the environment. That 40% includes the error term as well as the environmental factors. Unless we have some way of estimating the error, we cannot tell what percentage is due to the nongenetic factors.”

    quite so! (^_^) plus…

    Reply

  3. I think the literature/art insight is true when it comes to the likes of Dickens, Steinbeck, and Hugo, but they and others like them aren’t the sum total of western literature. My personal favorites, like Sinclair Lewis, Maugham, Waugh, Kafka, and, especially, Stendhal, are nothing like them. Edward Fitzgerald’s “translation” of the Rubaiyat is, IMHO, the best critique of Islam around, whether in poetry or prose.

    I’m sure Hayek never suspected what kind of a minefield he was wading into when he used the term “group selection.”

    Evonomics looks like a cool site, but I still doubt the existence of genuine leftists who wholeheartedly accept a significant influence of “nature” on any kind of human behavior.

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  4. Just mentioning two things again. There is/was a strain of Christian thought that attributed little or nothing to free will. Luther and Calvin were not quite there, but darn close.

    On the other hand, it doesn’t take very much free will in a world of sensitive dependence to create large differences. We might make ten decisions, and nine make no difference. But the tenth – who to mate with, where to live, can be enormous.

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  5. Having reviewed the case here that it is for GCSE results, which are a sort of English knowledge based testing covering many areas of knowledge from Art to Architecture to Food tech to Math to German to Textiles to Welsh (and much more see http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/levels/z98jmp3) it would be better to state “Intelligence or mental skills seem to be at least 60% inherited with the remaining 40% being taken up by noise and environmental factors.”
    That is not to say that the other characteristics like athletic ability, fine motor movement, quality of our senses (sensitivity to smell, sounds, colors, visual movement, etc.) are not 60 or even 95% genetic. Just that the article was specifically speaking to knowledge/mental factors. If anything I’d argue that the none mental factors – ie. physical ones – are more likely inherited than environmental.

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  6. I disagree with this. Nature beats nurture more than the other way around, but it’s not 100% or even 99%. Look at North Korea or the former East Germany as examples. Now look at some of the better Caribbean countries like Martinique. What I’m seeing is that even if you have good hardware, you’ll get a crappy society if you run the worst software. If you have bad hardware, you can get a semi-decent society if you run the best software. Neither nature nor nurture are dispensible.

    Also, not all environmental causes are self selected for. You can argue about a kid whose parents beat him that it was the parents genetic tendency for violence that made the kid violent, not the beatings themselves. However, we don’t select who our teachers/neighbors/other community members are. If you get molested by your neighbor or teacher, that can wreck your personality and your later life even if your genetic IQ is high, your family cared for you very well, and you got the best nutrition and healthcare as a kid.

    Reply

  7. My parents spent their lives trying to change me into a respectable mainstream individual by telling me to do so at once and they have failed completely in every way.

    Reply

  8. Hbdchick@,
    Yes, east germans are not genetically same than west Germans as well Bavarians are not exactly the same than saxonians (seems) but post second WW events in this country no have any to do with it as happen you are suggesting. Macro unique environmental factors, humans can modify consciously the matter. We are biological creatures of course but we are singular too. Again I’m not trying desconstruct your premises, just give it more details, pedantically talking.

    Reply

  9. “elites” govern countries. Seems very important analyze the bio-cognitive traits of “cognitive elites” more specifically than just/fundamentally the general/”people” bio-cognitive variables. West Germans now look very “NEW cultural left” than old socially conservatives ( “socialist” ) east Germans. 😄

    Reply

  10. Correct me if i’m wrong but you seems are suggesting that cousin marriage patterns have strong influence to make communism victorious in East Europe than in West Europe. A direct causality*

    Complex societies, aka civilizations, are hierarchically and systematically disposed/organized. ”Elites” tend to have greater impact on nations destiny.

    Reply

  11. @hbdchick

    Of course, East Germans are not the same as West Germans, but if you think that Eastern Germany’s underperformance vs West Germany was solely due to genetic differences and nothing else, you are wrong. If everything was due to genetic differences, how come the gap in standard of living and gap in wages didn’t stay the same after reunification? GDP per capita in East Germany was around 40% of that of West Germany in 1991. By 2010, it was around 70& of that of West Germany.

    Reply

  12. ”@Santo

    Cousins in Russia made communism victorious in Eastern Europe.”

    Ethnonational cousins* ;)

    huuuuummmm. I don’t know.

    Maybe, we can to say that this sentence is right by certain perspectives but still will look very simplistic. Unique human environment factors also mean ”chaos” or a panacea of probabilities caused by macro-events.

    Revolutions quasi-always are caused by cognitive and specially, intelectual elites and not by ”people”.

    Generally, elites share many similarities with ”their” people.

    Reply

  13. Generally, elites share many similarities with ”their” people

    ergo no revolution for US or NWE

    Reply

  14. ”Generally, elites share many similarities with ”their” people

    ergo no revolution for US or NWE”

    No revolution because cultural contexts on both, America as a epicenter of capitalism, the land of opportunity (opportunistics). Sweeden, a one century in peace, Great Britain as the empire where the sun never sets. Germany, pre-reunificated and with hunger for more economic development and colonialist supremacy.

    Nazism was a kind of ”socialist” (oligo-populist) revolution is not*

    Or also because it wasn’t convenient.

    official history said that ”russian revolution was a natural event because misery of people” but without intelectuals, and many them who were jews, this country could have developed in a very different way during the twentieth century.

    Because ”older world order” **

    ”elites” generally/usually are not a monolithic group.

    Masonry was *caused* by cousin marriage patterns too*

    It’s intrigant look for border between ex-East and West Germanies and observe this very homogeneous patterns between them exactly the ”original borders”.

    Nobody born with religious-behavior-prone without a environment where you have a social pressure to engage in religious behavior and express their dispositions. Human behavior are metaphorically speaking as waves breaking in the beach. Some waves will be very strong and will invade part of coast. Other waves will be weaker. if you have more obstacles,waves will can be limited.

    Religion look like myopia. Is not exactly biological. You can born with blue eyes in every place where you are, if you have optimum-bio-conditions to born with this trait.

    Autism would be a true biological atheism or at least logical mindset (not all autistics who are atheists but GOD idea is far to be ilogical, don’t mistake with bible narrative)

    Religion is fundamentally the ignorance about facts + POSITIVE THINKING, placebo effect.

    Americans had normal weight 50 years before. Today they are predominantly fat to very fat. Genetic change** Or habits change**

    Maybe Lamarck may work for bad traits inter-generational transmission OR people who have higher impulsivity (for eat, sex, smoke, think etc) can pass their addiction to their kids but seems addicted behavior is related with higher mutational/”pathogenic” load.

    Marriage patterns can and usually seems to cause a fan of macro-behavioral dispositions and of course that there are patterns that will be more probable to happen than others, but still will be probabilities, specially in COMPLEX societies.

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  15. @Santo

    “Revolutions quasi-always are caused by cognitive and specially, intelectual elites and not by ”people”.

    There were/are “spontaneous” slave and peon “revolts” throughout history. Most were crushed by the elites. Common knowledge is usually only about the successful ones. At some point a cognitive elite will direct/hijack the peasant revolt and use it (or try to use it) for their own purposes whether that be against other elites or some of the peons. The value to the peons depends upon the degree to which the hijacking/directing elite “think” that the peons should share in the benefits of the success.

    “Nobody born with religious-behavior-prone”

    Disagree. The need for “religion” is innate; it can only be modified and molded or you can mentally hold it in abeyance.

    “(for eat, sex, smoke, think etc)”

    No one is born with the desire or need for nicotine. Smoke for a year and your brain/body will have a need and desire for nicotine. The degree of difficulty in breaking this “need” will vary with the individuals. Some can break it easily; some never can. And some will never try because their mental abilities do not allow them to understand the harm that they are causing to themselves or they do not have access to good information regarding the harmful effects.

    Reply

  16. ”There were/are “spontaneous” slave and peon “revolts” throughout history. Most were crushed by the elites. Common knowledge is usually only about the successful ones. At some point a cognitive elite will direct/hijack the peasant revolt and use it (or try to use it) for their own purposes whether that be against other elites or some of the peons. The value to the peons depends upon the degree to which the hijacking/directing elite “think” that the peons should share in the benefits of the success.”

    Agree but ”quasi-always” sustain my comment as predominantly right.

    ”Disagree. The need for “religion” is innate; it can only be modified and molded or you can mentally hold it in abeyance.”

    My opinion is that religion necessity have very similar nature that addictions, because it also is a kind of addiction. Is ”predisposed” and need interact with circumstances/ religions to express itself. But i really don’t know much about/how develop this comment.

    Deep religion would be a inner perception of belonging to a certain group.

    I’m trying to see by the environmental side because summarise human events as directly causal for just a single variable (marriage patterns) seems very very simplistic, still unlikely to be predominantly wrong.

    To say ” wars today there in middle east are DIRECTLY caused by marriage patterns”, look predominantly wrong, because is despising other very important geopolitical factors. Marriage patterns AMONG MUSLIM POPULATIONS work as aggravating and not exactly as as ”fundamental cause”.

    ”No one is born with the desire or need for nicotine. Smoke for a year and your brain/body will have a need and desire for nicotine. The degree of difficulty in breaking this “need” will vary with the individuals. Some can break it easily; some never can. And some will never try because their mental abilities do not allow them to understand the harm that they are causing to themselves or they do not have access to good information regarding the harmful effects.”

    exactly what i’m talking about ”religion”, but your comment is not a refutation, i’m not say the otherwise about it, there are a innate but not exactly INSTINCTIVE pre-diposition to become addicted. Babies don’t born religious or addicted, i think.

    About religion, positive thinking and everyone in their group believing in the same belief system, it looks very attractive for someone who have lower intellectual motivation and higher need to socialization.

    Reply

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