Sunday, May 08, 2011

A very "incorrect" article

The article below says what many academic psychometricans have been saying for a long time -- that brain size is related to IQ and that IQ varies with climate, with people from Northern climes being smarter than people from the tropics.

Do the pinheads of East Africa and the markedly lower IQ of Africans generally spring to mind in that connection? They should, because that is the strongest evidence for the thesis concerned.

But nobody is supposed to mention that in respectable circles. So how come it got mentioned in a major scientific communication medium? It got a mention because of a quite absurd stratagem. The authors hung their story on the hook of global warming. Global warming will make us dumber, you see.

The fact that evolution moves at a pace that makes glaciers look fast means that any such effect of global warming would take maybe hundreds of thousands of years to manifest itself. But that was no bother, apparently.

The fact that people of European and British origin move to warmer climates without any known loss of intelligence is also overlooked. I come from a population of British origin that has lived in the tropics for generations (in N. Queensland, Australia) and I would back their intelligence against that of any other British-origin population

The study, to be published by Jessica Ash, a graduate student in psychology, and professor of evolutionary psychology Gordon G. Gallup Jr. in the spring edition of Human Nature (Vol. 18, Issue 2, 2007: Transaction Publishers), suggests that human cranial capacity as an indicator of brain size grew dramatically during our evolution, and that variations in global temperature as well as progressive shifts toward global cooling account for as much as 50 percent of the variation in cranial capacity. The research utilized several measures of paleotemperatures and a sample of 109 fossilized hominid skulls collected over the past 2 million years.

In addition to the impact of global cooling, "By paying close attention to the geographic origin of each of the fossilized skulls," said Gallup, "it became clear that seasonal variation in climate may also have been an important selective force behind the evolution of human cranial capacity. Specifically, we found that as the distance from the equator increased, north or south, so did brain size."

The authors suggest that a key environmental trigger to the evolution of larger brains was the need to devise ways to keep warm and manage the fluctuations in food availability that resulted from cold weather.

In species other than humans, problems posed by cooler climates were solved by adaptations such as hibernation and migration, and by metabolic adaptations including fur and the development of fat deposits. During human evolution, however, the authors surmise that solutions to the problems of cold weather and a scarce food supply featured detailed and progressively more refined cognitive and intellectual strategies, such as the development of cooperative hunting techniques and more sophisticated tools and weapons. Increased brain capacity also brought with it the use of fire as a means to keep warm and cook, adaptations in clothing and shelter, and the development of more refined social skills.

Gallup and Ash suggest that while our understanding of brain evolution remains incomplete, the study provides evidence of the role of climate and migration away from the equator as selective forces in promoting human intelligence, and that the recent trend toward global warming may be reversing a trend that led to brain expansion in humans.



More bumptious psychologizing from the Left

They JUST KNOW what the truth is so people who disagree with them must be "denialists". Lumping together different belief systems the way it is done below can only spring from arrogance. Scientific caution would treat each belief as "sui generis" (of its own kind) until it could be shown that each is false.

Given the rapid and substantial changes in the account coming from the White House about the bin Laden raid, skepticism about the whole thing is highly reasonable. And that Obama's birth certificate copy could be just another bit of photoshopping would occur to anybody with experience of photoshopping

And there are NO facts at all to support the prophecies of global climate doom. It's just scientists speculating.

So just an excerpt below from the latest Leftist pretence at science. It is just another version of Obama's "bitter clingy" remarks -- a persistent Leftist claim going back at least as far as 1950 to the effect that they are sane and everybody else is deranged

Climate change skeptics, 9/11 truthers and “birthers,” those who deny President Obama’s American citizenship, have provided us with an extensive record of denialism within American culture that is worth studying. Indeed, entire disciplines have been established to understand and explain these behaviors.

Chris Mooney and others have begun to put the pieces together in a way that allows us to formulate communications protocols that effectively counteract the drivers of “motivated reasoning.”

However, because the above mentioned examples of motivated cognition arose simultaneously with this field of study, we have lacked the benefit of observing the transmogrification of the denialist mentality as it happens.

We are currently witnessing the de novo formulation of a new denialism in regards to the death of Osama bin Laden. As I was listening to C-SPAN radio, just yesterday, two callers a Democrat and a Republican agreed that bin Laden was not dead and the entire hullabaloo was orchestrated for political gain.

Because we are now armed with at least a superficial understanding of the mechanisms behind this type of thinking, we can ask questions and test hypotheses while observing the development of this particular case of motivated thought.

For simplicity’s sake, I’ll call them “deathers.” Of particular interest when studying the deathers is what exactly are the competing interests between which they must make a satisfactory choice and what are the ends or goals to which they strive.

One would expect that there are at least two competing interests in the minds of the deathers. The first could be a desire to believe that an existing threat, that of a terrorist mastermind, has been eliminated. The second interest appears to be a desire to find fault with President Obama, regardless of the benefits that might come from his service.

According to Dan Kahan, one of the thought leaders in this field, this all happens subconsciously. Therefore, the deather must undergo a series of mental operations that lead him to choose the latter in order to satisfy a desired endpoint.

So, how do we convince the deathers that Osama bin Laden is actually dead? I will venture to suggest that we must resolve the conflict between the deather’s two competing interests, the desire for the removal of a threat vs. finding fault with Obama, while allowing the deather to achieve his desired outcome (let’s say that he can still be a loyal Republican). This must be done without forcing him to accept that which causes him conflict (in this case that President Obama was responsible for a positive outcome).


‘Happiness gene’ in brain determines basic levels of contentment

This is quite a strong piece of research. The strong influence of genetics on happiness was known but to pick out one of the actual genes involved is a good advance. Sadly, the measure of happiness used was unsophisticated. A more comprehensive and reliable measure of happiness could well show the gene as even more influential than the researchers below calculate.

The political importance of the finding goes back to several findings in recent years that money doesn't make you happy. Leftists have reasoned from that that they are therefore doing you no harm by taking more of your money in tax.

But in a typically incurious Leftist way, they fail to ask WHY money doesn't generally make you happy. And a large part of the answer is the finding reiterated below: That happiness is a stable, inborn personality trait that varies little no matter WHAT happens to you. In fact, even people who have become paraplegic or quadriplegic through some unfortunate accident usually regain their previous level of happiness after a couple of years

So by Leftist reasoning, they would do us no harm by making us all paraplegics. In other words, the invariability of happiness makes it an inappropriate criterion by which to judge public policy. What people WANT is a far more justifiable and ascertainable criterion

And in any case we have to ask where Leftists get the right to make our decisions for us? It is far more justifiable and humane to say that each person should as far as possible make his own decisions for himself. But Leftist arrogance has no time for that of course. The individual hardly matters to them at all. They know better. They seem to think that their sh*t doesn't stink.

I examine the earlier research and writing in this field at more length here. The final version of the scientific journal article presently being disussed is supposed to be available here but does not yet appear to be online. I therefore follow the popular summary below with the abstract from a working version of the paper. An alternative summary of the paper can be found here

The study of more than 2,500 Americans revealed two variants of a gene that influenced how satisfied – or dissatisfied – people were with their lot. Those born with two long versions of the gene (one is passed down from each parent) were more likely to declare themselves "very satisfied" with life than those who inherited two short versions.

The study marks a tentative step towards explaining the mystery of why some people seem naturally happier than others. "This gives us more insight into the biological mechanisms that influence life satisfaction," said Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, a researcher at the London School of Economics and Political Science. "If you're feeling down, you can say it's your biology telling you life is less rosy that it is," he added.

A greater understanding of happiness genes might in future allow would-be parents to create a child who will be more satisfied with their life.

Happiness is only partly influenced by genetic makeup. Studies in twins suggest that genes account for roughly a third to a half of the variation in happiness between people. It is not yet known how many genes affect how cheerful we are.

De Neve looked at the genetic makeup of 2,574 people selected to be representative of the general population, whose medical histories were recorded for the US National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Among the records were answers to a question participants were asked in their early 20s about life satisfaction. In response to the question, "How satisfied are you with your life as a whole", they answered either "very satisfied", "satisfied", "neither satisfied or dissatisfied", "dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied".

Writing in the Journal of Human Genetics, De Neve describes how roughly 40% said they were "very satisfied" with life, and among these, 35.4% had two long variants of the gene and only 19.1% had two short versions. Of those who were "dissatisfied" with life, 26.2% had two long variants of the gene, while 20% had two short versions. That indicates a slight over-representation of the long variants in happier people.

The gene, known as 5-HTT, is involved with the transport of serotonin, a feelgood chemical, in the brain. The longer variant leads to more efficient release and recycling of the neurotransmitter....

A 2009 study by Elaine Fox at the University of Essex suggested that people who carried long versions of the 5-HTT gene had a greater tendency to focus on the positives in life. The "bright side" version of the gene might bolster people's resilience to stressful events, and protect against anxiety, depression and other mental health problems.

Ed Diener, a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and author of the 2008 book, Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, said: "We are just beginning to understand the actual genetics of happiness, and how genes might influence brain hormones and other physiology that influence our well-being.

"This exciting work offers insights that one day may help us counter disorders such as depression. Parents one day might have the choice of whether to choose genes that will create a child who is more satisfied with his or her life."

Genes, Economics, and Happiness

By Jan-Emmanuel De Neve et al.


A major finding from research into the sources of subjective well-being is that individuals exhibit a "baseline" level of happiness. We explore the influence of genetic variation by employing a twin design and genetic association study.

We first show that about 33% of the variation in happiness is explained by genes. Next, using two independent data sources, we present evidence that individuals with a transcriptionally more efficient version of the serotonin transporter gene (SLC6A4) report significantly higher levels of life satisfaction.

These results are the first to identify a specific gene that is associated with happiness and suggest that behavioral models benefit from integrating genetic variation.



Nationalism as a Political Religion

Since I am being all academic today, I will say just a few words about an article titled: "Nationalism as a Political Religion: Review-Essay on Emilio Gentile by Richard A. Koenigsberg.

What the reviewer says is all well and good but he fails to make what is generally held to be an important distinction: The distinction between patriotism and nationalism. Patriotism is a normal human feeling which would appear to originate in part from our tribal past. Nationalism, on the other hand, is a creed rather than a feeling that may build on patriotism but goes far beyond it. The best known example of nationalism is of course Hitler's Nazi creed and Hitler's socialism gives us the clue we need to see what nationalism really is. It is a Leftist perversion of patriotism, created to further the usual Leftist search for power.

So the authors above are right to see nationalism as a religion, just as it is right to see Leftism generally as a religion. See Dennis Prager (among others) on that.


My comments above might seem a bit wrong-headed in view of the fact that Leftists these days tend to be ANTI-patriotic. That is a recent development however. We all know the famous quote from Pericles by JFK: "Ask not what your country can do for you; Ask what you can do for your country". And JFK was a DEMOCRAT president. And the very popular patriotic song "This Land Is Your Land" was written by Woody Guthrie, a Communist.


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


No comments: