Friday, November 02, 2012
High IQ as just one part of biological good functioning
I have for some years been putting forward evidence in favor of the view that high IQ is just one aspect of general biological good functioning. I never thought to get the NYT on my side but you can read it below
FEW of us are as smart as we'd like to be. You're sharper than Jim (maybe) but dull next to Jane. Human intelligence varies - and this matters because smarter people generally earn more money, enjoy better health, raise smarter children, feel happier and, just to rub it in, live longer as well.
But where does intelligence come from? How is it built? Researchers have tried hard to find the answer in our genes. With the rise of inexpensive genome sequencing, they've analysed the genomes of thousands of people, looking for gene variants that clearly affect intelligence, and have found a grand total of two.
One determines the risk of Alzheimer's disease and affects IQ only late in life; the other seems to build a bigger brain, but on average it raises IQ by all of 1.29 points.
Other genetic factors may be at work. A report last year concluded that several hundred gene variants taken together seemed to account for 40 per cent to 50 per cent of the differences in intelligence among the 3500 subjects in the study.
But the authors couldn't tell which of these genes created any significant effect. When they tried to use the genes to predict differences in intelligence, they could account for only 1 per cent of the differences in IQ.
"If it's this hard to find an effect of just 1 per cent," Robert Plomin, a professor of behavioural genetics at King's College London, told New Scientist, "what you're really showing is that the cup is 99 per cent empty."
But is the genetic cup really empty, or are we just looking for the wrong stuff?
A developmental neurogeneticist Kevin Mitchell at Trinity College Dublin, thinks the latter. In an essay he published in July on his blog, Wiring the Brain, Mitchell proposed that instead of thinking about the genetics of intelligence, we should be trying to parse "the genetics of stupidity," as his title put it. We should look not for genetic dynamics that build intelligence, but for those that erode it.
The premise for this argument is that once natural selection generated the set of genes that build our big, smart human brains, those genes became "fixed" in the human population; virtually everyone receives the same set and precious few variants affect intelligence. This could account for the researchers' failure to find many variants of measurable effect.
But in some other genetic realms we do differ widely, for example, mutational load - the number of mutations we carry. This tends to run in families, which means some of us generate and retain more mutations than others do. Among our 23,000 genes, you may carry 500 mutations while I carry 1000.
Most mutations have no effect. But those that do are more likely to bring harm than good, Mitchell says , because "there are simply many more ways of screwing something up than of improving it".
Open the hood of a smooth-running car and randomly turn a few screws, and you'll almost certainly make the engine run worse than before. Likewise, mutations that change the brain's normal development or operation will probably slow it down. Smart Jane may be less a custom-built, high-performance model than a standard version pulling a smaller mutational load.
We also inherit - through genes yet to be identified, of course - a trait known as developmental stability. This is essentially the accuracy with which the genetic blueprint is built.
Developmental stability keeps the project on track. It reveals itself most obviously in physical symmetry. The two sides of our bodies and brains are constructed separately but from the same blueprint of 23,000 genes. If you have high developmental stability, you'll turn out highly symmetrical. Your feet will be the same shoe size, and the two sides of your face will be identical.
If you're less developmentally stable, you'll have feet up to a half size different and a face that's like two faces fused together. Doubt me? Take a digital image of your face and split it down the middle. Then make a mirror image copy of each half and attach it to its original. In the two faces you've just made - one your mirrored left side, the other your right - you'll behold your own developmental stability, or lack thereof.
Both those faces might be better looking than you are, for we generally find symmetrical faces more attractive. It also happens that symmetry and intelligence tend to run together, because both run with developmental stability. We may find symmetrical faces attractive because they imply the steadiness of genetic development, which creates valuable assets for choosing a mate, like better general fitness and, of course, intelligence - or as Mitchell might put it, a relative lack of stupidity.
These ideas don't strike geneticists as radical or contrary. A geneticist at Princeton University Leonid Kruglyak, who studies yeast and flatworms, noted that geneticists had long recognised that mutations could "throw sand in the gears of the brain" and that complex traits arose in complicated ways.
"Talking about 'a gene for a trait' is a shorthand at best," he wrote, "and a well-known fallacy at worst."
Mitchell agreed. "This isn't a brand new idea," he says. "But it's not one that has been generally adhered to in intelligence studies."
Not brand new, perhaps, but it's this kind of "inversion of thought" that can spark new approaches to intractable problems.
Dr Jay Giedd, who studies brain development at the US National Institutes of Health, has done research suggesting that the brain blooms through many small arcs of development that make it responsive to experience - and vulnerable to error. At first, he says, he was sceptical of Mitchell's idea. Then he discussed it with colleagues at a neuroscience meeting.
"My initial thought was that it would be easy to sink the argument," Giedd says. But the more they discussed it, the more sense it made. "Everybody I ran it by seemed to feel the logic is sound."
A pretty good summary
This is said to be a yard sign on the front yard of a home in Glenview, Illinois
It’s Obama’s record, not his race
By WALTER E. WILLIAMS
The Washington Post, in giving President Barack Obama an endorsement for another four years, wrote Oct. 25, "Much of the 2012 presidential campaign has dwelt on the past, but the key questions are who could better lead the country during the next four years – and, most urgently, who is likelier to put the government on a more sound financial footing."
The suggestion appears to be that a president is not to be held accountable to his promises and past record and that his past record is no indication of his future behavior. Possibly, the Washington Post people believe that a black president shouldn't be held accountable to his record and campaign promises. Let's look at it.
What about Obama's pledge to cut the deficit in half during his first term in office? Instead, we saw the first trillion-dollar deficit ever, under any president of the United States. Plus, it has been followed by trillion-dollar deficits in every year of his administration. What about Obama's pledge of transparency, in which his legislative proposals would be placed on the Internet days before Congress voted on them so that Americans could inspect them? Obama's major legislative proposal, Obamacare, was enacted in such secrecy and with such speed that even members of Congress did not have time to read it.
Remember that it was Rep. Nancy Pelosi who told us, "But we have to pass the (health care) bill so that you can find out what is in it." What about Obama's stimulus packages and promises to get unemployment under control? The Current Employment Statistics program shows that in 2008, the total number of U.S. jobs was more than 138 million, compared with 133.5 million today. As Stanford University economics professor Edward Lazear summed it up, "there hasn't been one day during the entire Obama presidency when as many Americans were working as on the day President Bush left office."
While Obama's national job approval rating is a little less than 50 percent, among blacks his job approval is a whopping 88 percent. I'd like to ask people who approve of Obama's performance, "What has President Obama done during the past four years that you'd like to see more of in the next four years?"
Black support of politicians who have done little or nothing for their ordinary constituents is by no means unusual. Blacks are chief executives of major cities, such as Philadelphia, Detroit, Washington, Memphis, Atlanta, Baltimore, New Orleans, Oakland, Newark, Cleveland and Cincinnati.
In most of these cities, the chief of police, the superintendent of schools and other high executives are black. But in these cities, black people, like no other sector of our population, suffer from the highest rates of homicides, assaults, robberies and shootings. Black high-school dropout rates in these cities are the highest in the nation. Even if a black youngster manages to graduate from high school, his reading, writing and computational proficiency is likely to be equivalent to that of a white seventh- or eighth-grader. That's even with school budgets per student being among the highest in the nation.
Last year, in reference to President Obama's failed employment policies and high unemployment among blacks, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., who is chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said, "If Bill Clinton had been in the White House and had failed to address this problem, we probably would be marching on the White House." That's a vision that seems to explain black tolerance for failed politicians – namely, if it's a black politician whose policies are ineffectual and possibly harmful to the masses of the black community, it's tolerable, but it's entirely unacceptable if the politician is white.
Black people would not accept excuses upon excuses and vote to re-elect decade after decade any white politician, especially a Republican politician, to office who had the failed records of our big-city mayors. What that suggests about black people is not very flattering.
The News Squashers
NBC's David Gregory isn't always a news reporter. As we're seeing with increasing frequency on that network, he's squashing stories. Call him an unreporter. On Sunday's "Meet the Press," he showed the extent to which he'll vaporize any suggestion that Team Obama failed to offer adequate protection from terrorists at our consulate in Benghazi.
Businesswoman Carly Fiorina slammed Obama's Libya response: "That attack went on for seven hours...[with the] Secretary of Defense saying he denied requests for help over that seven hours." Gregory cut her off: "We'll get to Libya a little bit later." Surprise: It never came up again.
It sounded a lot like 1999, when Gregory squashed RNC spokesman Cliff May on MSNBC as he tried to mention Juanita Broaddrick's rape charges against Bill Clinton. Or the obsequious 2008 moment when then-CNN anchor John Roberts promised Obama in an interview he would create a "Reverend Wright-Free Zone."
Too many in the "news" media think of themselves as a deputized PR Secret Service for Obama, just as they did for Clinton. They reject the concept of nonpartisanship. In their view, one side is credible, the other not. Why balance social service with greed? Tolerance with hate? Justice with oppression? There is right, and there is wrong, and there ought not to be a middle ground in enlightened journalism. There is only the light of truth.
It follows that they use their influence to protect the White House, to preserve the president's "political viability within the system," as they say. If, God forbid, Republicans win the presidency, these same "journalists" are justified in brawling and mauling to derail the GOP agenda. In fact, they're called to do so. It is, after all, the public's Right to Know.
Look across the Sunday shows that aired on the networks with nine days to go in the campaign. On most, there was a total avoidance of any scrutiny for Obama.
On ABC's "This Week," Newt Gingrich noted Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's refusal to send assistance to Benghazi and ripped into Obama: "He's canceling trips over the hurricane. He did not cancel his trips over Benghazi." George Stephanopoulos moved on to another campaign question.
On CBS's "Face the Nation," Bob Schieffer asked John McCain about the hurricane, and which party might get hurt by it. McCain squeezed in Libya in his answer: "This tragedy turned into a debacle, and massive cover-up or massive incompetence in Libya is having an effect on the voter because of their view of the commander-in-chief. And it is now the worst cover-up or incompetence that I have ever observed in my life." Schieffer moved on.
Perhaps the worst performance in this sorry flock of sheep came from CNN's Candy Crowley. She'd enabled Obama's Libya lies by supporting him with a mangled "fact check" in the second debate, and learned nothing from the ensuing criticism -- or just refused to alter her position. She failed to ask Obama spinner David Axelrod anything about Libya. She punted. Then when RNC Chairman Reince Priebus arrived, she focused on GOP "gaffes," like Richard Mourdock sticking up for the humanity of a baby conceived in rape.
Crowley couldn't ask about Libya damage for Democrats, but she pounded Priebus about damage to those anti-woman Republicans: "Does it hurt the party image to have these issues out there in a way that makes the party or that is portrayed as making the party look unbending and, you know, anti-woman, as is described in the Obama ad?"
Notice how the media bashing of Mourdock and Todd Akin so perfectly matches the messaging of Obama's advertising?
Priebus stated the obvious -- no party has a monopoly on gaffes -- but the network news squashers specialize in ignoring the obvious. Obama and Biden can say the most foolish or obnoxious things, and the networks skip them. None of them, even Crowley, found it "anti-woman" when Arizona's Democratic Senate candidate Richard Carmona joked during a debate that his male moderator was "prettier" than Crowley.
Shameless Crowley just moved on to another alleged Republican "outrage." John Sununu implied that Colin Powell endorsed Obama in demonstration of racial solidarity.
On "Fox News Sunday," Brit Hume denounced the Libya squashers. "One of the problems we're having here is that it has fallen to this news organization, Fox News, and a couple of others to do all the heavy lifting on this story. The mainstream organs of the media that would be after this like a pack of hounds if this were a Republican president have been remarkably reticent."
In squashing Obama's failures for partisan reasons, these journalists share in the disgrace that Obama earned by coming clean instead of covering up. They share the cover-up. If their man is defeated as a result of his horrific record, these media guardians should share in that defeat as well.
For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena
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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)
Posted by JR at 1:34 AM