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Slightly Off Topic: Ashkenazic Intelligence-disease?

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  • #16
    The conclusions of the Utah research seem highly speculative. Some remaining questions are:

    1. Is there any direct evidence that specific individuals suffering from the genetic disorders have higher intelligence than individuals who do not have such disorders?

    2. As experts on intelligence have noted, real life intellectual accomplishment is the result of many " non-intellective factors" such as drive, self-confidence and self expectations, work habits, etc. A post hoc genetic explanation can be invented for any of these factors. Why were the researchers so sure that intelligence is the explanation?

    3. Why were the researchers so ready to take a "yiddisher kopf" view when there is plenty of support for socio-cultural explanations for Ashkenazim accomplishment. What is the genetic disease explanation for East Asian accomplishment?

    Josh W.
    josh w.
    FTDNA Customer
    Last edited by josh w.; 12 June 2005, 09:50 PM.

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    • #17
      Josh,

      I believe you have hit upon the three criticisms most likely to be leveled at this paper.

      Presumably it would be the heterozygotes for autosomal recessive disorders who would have the intellectual advantage. One positive aspect of this paper is that it therefore makes a potentially testable hypothesis--heterozygotes for these disorders should have higher function (IQ, or achievement, or whatever) than non-carriers.

      Culture and environmental influence are likely to be very strong factors that could hide a real effect or simulate a genetic one. But I think one of the points of this paper is that culture itself can become a force of evolutionary selection.

      These authors have made an observation, backed it up with data, and then constructed a hypothesis to explain it. Now, the hypothesis can be supported or refuted by further data--that's the scientific method, and they certainly have guts applying it to such a sensitive topic, but good for them!

      There is absolutely no requirement that Asian intellectual achievement, assuming (as seems likely) that the data support that also, be explained by the same mechanism. A totally different mechanism could lead to the same result--as seems likely to be the case, since the Asian phenomenon does not appear to be restricted to a particular subgroup, and since their achievement in Western society came after their introduction into that society from the outside, rather than developing within it.

      If you can think of a *truly* comparable group that was reproductively isolated within Europe (or faced with a similar situation elsewhere), placed a cultural premium on learning, but was *not* subject to the kind of selection pressure postulated in this paper, that would be a useful comparison. Ethnic Chinese in Southeast Asia come to mind and their situation has been compared to that of the Jews in Europe, but I believe their population was always much larger and continued to draw on the mainland back home. Studies with an N of 1 are problematic, and we can't exactly do a case-control study here.

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      • #18
        Dentate, thanks for your response. Forgive me, my default modes of communication are sarcasim and irony and not all my comments, e.g. East Asian accomplishment, were meant seriously.

        My main concern is that there is some readiness to explain phenomena on the basis of genetic factors when there is little direct genetic evidence and a fair amount of evidence supporting environmental explanations. This was the main problem of the Herrnstein and Murray "Bell Curve" view and it has plagued the Harvard discussion on sex differences to a lesser extent.

        A few specific points. If heterozygous individuals are the main genetic beneficiaries, one is walking a tightrope regarding gene expression or penetrance. As for my claim that it is not that difficult to come up with post hoc genetic explanations, consider the following theory that I just made up: it appears that there are more Jews who have a mtdna haplogroup J1 than Jews who carry the genetic disorders. There is some evidence that the mtdna Haplogroup J1 tends to have long life expectancies. Perhaps a maternally based zest for living accounts for Ashkenazim accomplishement. My point is that one ought to be cautious in offering genetic explanations on the record when there is a dearth of direct evidence. I would be less cautious if socio-political ramifications were not at hand.
        josh w.
        FTDNA Customer
        Last edited by josh w.; 13 June 2005, 02:46 PM.

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        • #19
          Josh, I agree with what you say--although my grandmother learned to ride a bicycle at 70, lived to 91 and was an N1b, so there you go!--a first statistical datum to refute your theory!

          Yes, variable penetrance would complicate the testing of the heterozygote hypothesis, but if you can prove the null hypothesis--show *no* differences between heterozygotes as a group and homozygous "wild type" as a group--that would pretty much overturn this paper, if the N is large enough to give sufficient statistical power. Finding all those heterozygotes would not be easy. (Somehow, the image of "wild type Ashkenazim" is very appealing).

          In the posts above I have also referred to the "Bell Curve" issues. Yes, bringing genetics into the realm of politics and social theory has been an invitation to disaster many times in the past, but that is because (as Stephen Jay Gould was fond of pointing out) science does not happen in a sociopolitical vacuum and all scientists have an agenda, conscious or not.

          It's unfortunate. Think how much better it would make the world if you could strictly, scientifically, *refute* a genetic basis for Ashkenazi achievement. It would not only mean that the Ashkenazim have achieved what they have with no special "leg up" other than their own blood, sweat and tears (literally), it would also leave no excuses for others not to do the same, and would be a validation of the "all men are created equal" philosophy to which our society nominally adheres. As is usually the case with these things, both nature and nurture are probably involved, but I fear you are right, some things may be better left unexamined, as the risk of causing harm may outweigh any benefit of knowing the truth. Still, I have to admire these authors for their willingness to sign their names onto this paper.

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          • #20
            Jeff, I greatly appreciate your comments. We are in essential agreement. I just want to clarify my last point. I am all in favor of doing the genetic research and finding where the truth leads. (Political correctness is not a family value). However scientists should be aware of the implications of making public statements about genetics in the absence of supportive evidence. My quarrel with Herrnstein and Murray was that they jumped to conclusions without any genetic evidence. There may well be some genetic contribution to ashkenazim accomplishment, however the current empirical picture does not justify that conclusion.

            I am afraid that I have hogged the forum and I will be signing off for a while. Thanks again.

            Josh

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            • #21
              discover mag did a story named KISS YOUR COUSIN

              it was about the rothchilds and how they married cousins sucessfully
              basicly they said you can do it if you start from a pure genetic base
              and if you start impure the defects are multiplied with inbreding
              if was facinating and maybe it is that these people just kept to them selves most of the time.with out expanding the gene pool and diluting the diseases

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              • #22
                Originally posted by josh w.
                Jeff, I greatly appreciate your comments. We are in essential agreement. I just want to clarify my last point. I am all in favor of doing the genetic research and finding where the truth leads. (Political correctness is not a family value). .

                I am afraid that I have hogged the forum and I will be signing off for a while. Thanks again.

                Josh
                hog what forum PLEASE dont leave
                about
                I just want to clarify my last point. I am all in favor of doing the genetic research and finding where the truth leads. (Political correctness is not a family value). .
                lol i am mixed dominant [au contraire] my unofficial career and autobiography is "he chased windmills"


                my preffered role is the kid in the crowd saying "the king has no clothes"

                that kid is wonderful but he probably had some enemies if the king didnt kill him. nice to hear some logic other the normal stuff [which can be great] differeing viewpoints are greatly apreaciated here aka by me

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by josh w.
                  The conclusions of the Utah research seem highly speculative. Some remaining questions are:

                  1. ...

                  2. As experts on intelligence have noted, real life intellectual accomplishment is the result of many " non-intellective factors" such as drive, self-confidence and self expectations, work habits, etc. A post hoc genetic explanation can be invented for any of these factors. Why were the researchers so sure that intelligence is the explanation?

                  3. Why were the researchers so ready to take a "yiddisher kopf" view when there is plenty of support for socio-cultural explanations for Ashkenazim accomplishment. What is the genetic disease explanation for East Asian accomplishment?

                  Josh W.
                  PMFJI, but re: #2, why are you placing non-intellectual explanations for intellectual attainment in the forefront? Common sense suggests looking at intellectual factors. And who are your annointed "experts on intelligence"? Hernnstein and Murray? (doubtful). Your post comes across as PC.

                  Re: #3, what E. Asian acccomplishment? You mean from E. Asian immigrants to the west? That's a selected population. And yes, determination to succeed academically is no doubt a significant non-intellectual factor for disproportionate intellectual accomplishment in this population sub-group as more simply live up to their potential.

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                  • #24
                    To rconn2

                    I purposely left out scientific references to non intellective factors since my note was to a lay audience. All will be revealed when you find out who introduced the term "non-intellective factors".

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      Sorry, most web searches won't go back to the 1930's. The answer is David Wechsler, the developer of the most widely used test(s) of intelligence in modern practise. For starters check out the body of work by David McClelland of Harvard or the highly regarded work on racial issues by Claude Steele of Stanford. In a previous life I was a.......

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                      • #26
                        josh: my motivation in posting is a loss of patience w/ PC (as I perceived it in your post, unfairly or not).

                        PC is intellectual dishonesty... which is bad; honesty is good.

                        It's obvious that the physical foundation for abstract intelligence is inherited, even if it's difficult to precisely define, or is a grab bag of many different traits. Nurture has an effect, but requires the underlying nature.

                        It's also common sense that different population groups will exhibit statistical differences for these traits just as for many other traits.

                        The fair question is the degree to which different human populations differ, and the particualr categorizations, not whether they do. While nurture differences can blur nature differences, this thread is about a particular inter-mating group that seems to exhibit a very large and notewowthy difference in attainment (number of nobel prizes, chess champions etc.) that suggests nature is a significant factor for explaining some of that difference.

                        To be plain -- too many individuals in the particular group seem to be just too smart for differences in education and upbringing to be the sole or primary reason.

                        BTW, I thought the Bell Curve was an excellent book and sensed no hidden agenda. Few realize but it wasn't about race, but statistical differences. Genetic frequencies in gene pools can and do shift over time... no group is inherently smart or superior since there is great genetic variation within populations. It's a subtle, but important point.

                        There is however an exception -- mt T*'s are superior in every way; and this observation has nothing to do whatsoever w/ my recent test results
                        rconn2
                        Registered User
                        Last edited by rconn2; 5 August 2005, 01:25 AM.

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                        • #27
                          As Stephen Jay Gould was very fond of pointing out, no science ever happens in a social or political vacuum, and all science has an agenda--after all, hypothesis testing is the basis of science, and the hypothesis is posed for a reason. The data is then interpreted in the context of the researcher's preconceptons and expectations. We all live within societies of which we are the products.

                          Obviously no rational person would be able to argue that all humans are born with identical abilities or capacities any more than that they are all born with identical noses. Josh W. and I went back and forth on this issue for a while. I think that the final conclusion was that this study was not terribly well designed; it suggests a number of testable hypotheses, but does not in fact test them. This raises the question of why such a potentially volatile topic would be raised in such a provocative way. The fact that "all men are created equal" is stated in the Declaration of Independence may be a statement of political correctness rather than fact, but the idea that pure science unmitigated by social judgment would always serve the best interests of mankind should have died a well deserved death in the last century.

                          Jeff Schweitzer

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                          • #28
                            I appreciate the comments of the last two contributors. ( I didn't mean to sandbag anyone. I did not list my professional qualifications in this area because I am a total novice in the field of genetic genealogy. Listing my background would give most of my comments an import that they do not deserve. I defer to the dedication and knowledge of those such as Dentate, Peterman, Blair and the irrepressible Jim Denning).

                            For most of my professional life I have emphacized the need for psychologists to look at the role of genetics in human activity. However those who are genetically oriented sometimes show a lack of knowledge about the role of environment and context in influencing intellectual accomplishment. Moreover some of the research purporting to demonstrate the influence of genetics has yielded rather extravagent conclusions. For example, I would guess that some would be surprised that the "Bell Curve" does not list "dna" in the index and does not cite any dna studies.

                            I look forward to further conversation.

                            Josh

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                            • #29
                              Excuse my extravagant spelling. I should have added that Herrnstein and Murrary systematically excluded research contrary to their views including the work I previously cited. For example, McClelland's voluminous research unequivically demonstrates that achievement motivation has a paramount impact on real life accomplishment in intellectually challenging professions and that such motivation is the result of social experience.(Herrnstein and McClelland were both at Harvard at the same time). The danger is that the interested public will be exposed to Herrnstein and Murray but not to contrasting views and research.
                              josh w.
                              FTDNA Customer
                              Last edited by josh w.; 5 August 2005, 10:19 AM.

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                              • #30
                                Originally posted by dentate
                                Obviously no rational person would be able to argue that all humans are born with identical abilities or capacities any more than that they are all born with identical noses.
                                Jeff Schweitzer
                                I'm glad to hear, because dealing w/ stubborn irrationality is frustrating and disturbing. However, current PC does seek to deny group statistical differences. Like all false philosophies, there are internal contradictions. On the one hand diversity is celebrated; and also denied.

                                Using your example, I'd wager E. Asian nose size is smaller on average than W. Euopean. Logic suggests there should be group statistical differences for other genetic traits as well -- regardless of difficulty defining them or their likely polygenic basis. The questions are what traits, by how much, and how groups are categorized.

                                Originally posted by dentate
                                The fact that "all men are created equal" is stated in the Declaration of Independence may be a statement of political correctness rather than fact,...
                                Most understand that the Declaration of Independence means of equal worth to the Creator and of having equal rights. The Founders made a "self-evident" moral statement, not one regarding abilities. They believed in a meritocracy as opposed to an aristocracy.

                                Originally posted by dentate
                                ...but the idea that pure science unmitigated by social judgment would always serve the best interests of mankind should have died a well deserved death in the last century.
                                Science is a mechanism for discovering truth. You're suggesting the search for truth be mitigated (hobbled) to serve the "best interests". I adamantly disagree. You've exposed yourself as unscientific with a seemingly responsible criticism of "pure" science as if there are degrees and gray areas. There aren't... science is what it is. Not to be offensive, but you're PC and your statement makes me cringe.

                                OTOH, advocating "pure" science doesn't preclude being tactful, sensitive, and placing the best available known truth in context. But the truth, no matter how uncomfortable, should never be hidden (censored) as per our cherished First Amendment and ultimate faith in the marketplace of ideas.

                                Originally posted by josh w.
                                The danger is that the interested public will be exposed to Herrnstein and Murray but not to contrasting views and research.
                                What danger is that? Apparantly you disagree with Herrnstein/Murray, and that's _your_ opinion. I can play devils advocate and as rightfully argue that it's dangerous to not expose the public to their views, but only contrary ones (as the PC crowd has attempted). [One reviewer wrote at the time of publication that they were wrong, and regardless, their work shouldn't have been published.]

                                I think there is much truth in their book that is denied, misconstrued and drowned-out w/ irrational argument by those with an agenda.

                                I'm open minded (I don't have an agenda -- I'd rather know truth than hang on to false beliefs... what's the point). But, when I question whether those who debate such topics embrace pure logic any more than "pure science", I find myself wary and cynical.

                                The truth will set you free. It's a simple and powerful (self-evident) belief.

                                -- rc

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