The Cultural Revolution in Genes

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Scientific American has a remarkably interesting article about what a team of researchers have found through analyzing human genetic variation about the speed of our evolution. As SciAm reports:

Homo sapiens sapiens has spread across the globe and increased vastly in numbers over the past 50,000 years or so—from an estimated five million in 9000 B.C. to roughly 6.5 billion today. More people means more opportunity for mutations to creep into the basic human genome and new research confirms that in the past 10,000 years a host of changes to everything from digestion to bones has been taking place.

"We found very many human genes undergoing selection," says anthropologist Gregory Cochran of the University of Utah, a member of the team that analyzed the 3.9 million genes showing the most variation. "Most are very recent, so much so that the rate of human evolution over the past few thousand years is far greater than it has been over the past few million years."

"We believe that this can be explained by an increase in the strength of selection as people became agriculturalists—a major ecological change—and a vast increase in the number of favorable mutations as agriculture led to increased population size," he adds.

One quick note, the researchers did not analyze 3.9 million genes, but 3.9 million of the individual differences in genes called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). My favorite finding is:

"Ten thousand years ago, no one on planet Earth had blue eyes," Hawks notes, because that gene—OCA2—had not yet developed.

The University of Wisconsin press release adds some interesting observations from UW anthropologist John Hawks. To wit:

The findings may lead to a very broad rethinking of human evolution, Hawks says, especially in the view that modern culture has essentially relaxed the need for physical genetic changes in humans to improve survival. Adds Hawks: "We are more different genetically from people living 5,000 years ago than they were different from Neanderthals."

Humans alive today are as different from people living 5,000 years ago as they were from Neanderthals?! Fascinating.

SciAm article here and UW press release here.

Disclosure: My eyes are brown, but some of my best friends are blue-eyed and some others have green eyes.

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  1. It’s reasonable to assume that the pace of human evolution has been accelerating in First World countries at an increasing rate lately as people rapidly (by geological standards) adapt to technological advances — birth control, a plentitude of food, cars, computers, etc.

  2. Humans alive today are as different from people living 5,000 years ago as they were from Neanderthals?! Fascinating

    …as different genetically for what that is worth.The truly profound change is culture
    which isn’t transmitted genetically.I don’t doubt a Neanderthal baby raised by well-off educated parents could succeed in today’s world as well as anyone.

    If you are still in Bali order a mushroom pizza

  3. Damn Prolefeed you almost sound like Flemur!

  4. I wonder how much genetic change there has been in rats (roof and norway) as they tagged along for the ride?

  5. >>>>I don’t doubt a Neanderthal baby raised by well-off educated parents could succeed in today’s world as well as anyone.

    BED, this is not borne out by observation, and I speculate that culture and genetics will be shown to have much more in common than you say — Genetics leading to a culture which often reinforces the genetics.

    happy to dig some links up for you if you like.

  6. People are all exactly alike. There’s no such thing as a race and barely such a thing as an ethnic group. If we were dogs, we’d be the same breed. George Bush and an Australian Aborigine have fewer differences than a Lhasa apso and a toy fox terrier. A Japanese raised in Riyadh would be an Arab. A Zulu raised in New Rochelle would be an orthodontist. People are all the same, though their circumstances differ terribly.

    -P.J. O’rourke

  7. Eryk, did O’rourke really say that? care to point me to the book/essay?

  8. OK, Ron, that has to be the most boring disclosure ever. Somehow, I’m guessing that you’re closer to a Neanderthal than a lot of the people living 5,000 years ago.*

    *And, by the way, if you had bothered to read what that Hawks dude said, it was “more different”.

  9. Humans alive today are as different from people living 5,000 years ago as they were from Neanderthals?!

    So, does this mean a person from today couldn’t mate with an ancient Mesopotamian? ‘Cause this might be relevant to one of the many time-travel stories I’m procrastinating over.

  10. Blue-Eyed Devil — Who the heck is Flemur?

    Eryk — I like P. J. O’Rourke’s humor, but anyone who has been in love with one person and repulsed by another would have to take exception to the notion that we’re all identical. Though, genetically, there’s considerably more difference between two randomly selected blacks in Africa, where humanity originated, than, say, two Japanese. Even so, we’re only talking about 1% or less differences in genes between the most diverse humans imaginable — say, a four-foot tall pygmy in the Congo and a six and a half foot talk blue-eyed blond Norwegian. What a difference a few genes can make!

  11. Matt, it was in the intro to Holidays in Hell.

  12. Diversification of the gene pool is inevitable as the population increases and more genetic lines are perpetuated.

    I haven’t read the article yet, but evolution depends both on variation AND selection.

    The gene pool may be broader, but is there any evidence that selection within that gene pool has taken place? 3.9 million variations implies that there has not been much selection.

  13. So, does this mean a person from today couldn’t mate with an ancient Mesopotamian? ‘Cause this might be relevant to one of the many time-travel stories I’m procrastinating over.

    I’m sure we could MATE — the critical differentiation between species is the ability to produce offspring capable of reproducing, not the ability to fit the sticky parts together. We would almost certainly be genetically compatible with ancient Mesopotamians — it takes a heck of a lot of physical changes to make for genetic incompatibility, all the “races” on earth can still readily interbreed despite being the groups being physically separated for long stretches from each other, and the people in the most ancient literature imaginable seem to have essentially the same motivations and desires of people now.

  14. Franklin Harris

    Alone of the great apes, humans have only 23 chromosomes. All the other great apes have 24. This change arose sometime after the split between humans and chimps, possibly as early as the australopithicenes.

    Other than this single significant change (which probably precludes human/chimpanzee chimeras), we are closer to the apes than any of the equines – horse, donkey, ass, zebra – are to each other. The equines can all be cross bred, sometimes with fertile offspring.

    So, as long as your kinky time-travellers are mating with genus homo – homo habilis, homo neanderthalis, homo sapiens – they should produce offspring. Probably fertile offspring.

  15. The gene pool may be broader, but is there any evidence that selection within that gene pool has taken place? 3.9 million variations implies that there has not been much selection.

    Of course selection has occured. Right now, for example, there is sexual selection based on body weight — very obese women who aren’t well adapted to our calorie-rich environment are more likely to end up childless (or dying young of heart disease, etc.) than physically fit women. People lacking the ability to make rapid decisions at high velocities are more likely to die in car accidents. People who don’t much care for children are likely to have none of them due to birth control. Bill Gates would likely not have thrived in an earlier era lacking computers. People are adapting to technology and culture changes.

  16. 3.9 million variations implies that there has not been much selection.

    In a species with only a 1,000 members, sure. But in a species with 6.5 billion members, we’re talking about less than 1 variation per thousand members. We’re not all that genetically diverse as a species — we’re just used to spotting the slight differences, because those differences matter.

  17. Blue-Eyed Devil — Who the heck is Flemur?

    A somewhat regular commenter here who holds amusing interesting– you could say controversial — ideas that I think are entirely wrong.

    IIRC his handle is Mr F Le Mur

  18. Blue-Eyed Devil — so which of my ideas do you think are amusing, interesting, and entirely wrong? And what replacement ideas would you say are more correct?

    I’m curious, since nothing I’ve said above appears to be strikingly original stuff — it’s all stuff Ive picked up in college while majoring in biology, plus subsequent reading in science-oriented magazines like Discover or Scientific American.

  19. prolefeed

    I would agree that selection is occurring, but the factors you list, and even the profound environmental changes that have taken place since the development of agriculture, have simply not had enough time to winnow out the less successful variations. (Only about 500 generations – which is an eyeblink, relatively speaking) Our species has been astonishingly successful primarily because we are the first to occupy what could be called the “sapient niche” in the environment. We simply have not been heavily culled – except in our immune system – since the agricultural revolution.

  20. I’ve read that cro magnan man was taller and had a larger cranial capacity than modern humans. Neanderthals also had a larger brain, and were about three times stronger than us.

    It would be interesting to see some scientist conduct a synthesis of this latest revelation of rapid human evolution with the apparent devolution that occured before the appearance of civilization.

  21. Aresen — I agree that when biologists talk about “rapid” evolution, they usually aren’t talking about timespans of decades or even a few centuries. When you have a population of 6.5 billion, you’re going to have ongoing evolution, but the sheer size of the gene pool buffers things — that is, it’s hard to entirely wipe out a gene in the “short” time span of a few human lifetime — you’re talking more about changing the relative frequencies of genes. It’s been posited that really rapid, dramatic changes in a species or even the formation of an entirely new species usually happens when a population dwindles down to a handful of individuals, so it’s possible to entirely eliminate genes or cause a new gene to predominate in one or two generations.

    “Culling” of genes can occur both through death and births. If, as is the case now in developed countries, hardly anyone dies young, selection shifts more toward the ability to have more offspring. For example, the offspring of the siblings of Joseph Smith are very thoroughly documented — Hyrum and Joseph Smith have tens of thousands of descendents, while some of their other siblings have only a dozen or so descendents. All of them have genes persisting in the gene pool, but the relative frequencies have changed by several orders of magnitude in a geological eyeblink.

  22. So, as long as your kinky time-travellers are mating with genus homo – homo habilis, homo neanderthalis, homo sapiens – they should produce offspring. Probably fertile offspring.

    They’re not kinky time travelers because they’re potentially having sex with humans from just 5,000 years ago. Although, as I’ve now learned, those people were supposedly sufficiently different from us that it might now indeed be kinky, which isn’t what I had in mind.

  23. Another thing to remember is that we are fast approaching the day when we as a species take control of our genes, rather than the other way around. Whatever your opinion of the rate of recent evolution, natural evolution will probably end within our lifetimes.

  24. Some comment-relevant passages from the University of Wisconsin news story for those that didn’t read it…

    In a study published in the Dec. 10 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a team led by UW-Madison anthropologist John Hawks estimates that positive selection just in the past 5,000 years alone – around the period of the Stone Age – has occurred at a rate roughly 100 times higher than any other period of human evolution.
    . . .

    While more than 99 percent of the human genome is common across all humans, the HapMap project is cataloguing the individual differences in DNA called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). The project has mapped roughly 4 million of the estimated 10 million SNPs in the human genome.
    . . .

    [T]he researchers found evidence of recent selection on approximately 1,800 genes, or 7 percent of all human genes.

    This finding runs counter to conventional wisdom in many ways, Hawks says. For example, there’s a strong record of skeletal changes that clearly show people became physically smaller, and their brains and teeth are also smaller. This is generally seen as a sign of relaxed selection – that size and strength are no longer key to survival.

    But other pathways for evolution have opened, Hawks says, and genetic changes are now being driven by major changes in human culture.
    . . .

    The recent changes are especially striking, he says. “Five thousand years is such a small sliver of time – it’s 100 to 200 generations ago,” he says. “That’s how long it’s been since some of these genes originated, and today they are in 30 or 40 percent of people because they’ve had such an advantage. It’s like ‘invasion of the body snatchers.'”

  25. Another thing to remember is that we are fast approaching the day when we as a species take control of our genes, rather than the other way around.

    I sincerely hope that’s not the case, since saying a “species take control of our genes” implies a government taking control and implementing an agenda designed to further political ends. If you meant when we as individuals take control, I’m fine with that, though anyone who has played BioShock can envision a few *minor* downsides from when we all become Splicers.

  26. “I would agree that selection is occurring, but the factors you list, and even the profound environmental changes that have taken place since the development of agriculture, have simply not had enough time to winnow out the less successful variations. (Only about 500 generations – which is an eyeblink, relatively speaking)”

    A back of the envelope calculation I did showed the following:
    Assuming that everyone has (on average) 1.15 children, except for 1/10 % of people with an allele which gives them 1% more offspring, in 500 generations, that allele will make up about 12% of the population–not exactly small potatoes. If 5 percent of the population has that allele, then they will make up 88% of the population after 500 generations. Of course the situation is much more complicated than my model, but I’m a mathematician, not a mathematical biologist. From what I’ve read in Dawkins’ books, comparatively small differences can make a huge difference in the population after a surprisingly small amount of time.

    I would imagine that the most profoundly selected alleles would be those for fighting disease. I wonder how much of this selection relates to disease.

  27. I don’t doubt a Neanderthal baby raised by well-off educated parents could succeed in today’s world as well as anyone.

    [insert George W. Bush joke here]

  28. I would imagine that the most profoundly selected alleles would be those for fighting disease.

    And you would be right. We’ve eliminated or marginalized most of the large predators, but the little microscopic ones loom large. Humans (and other species) have been shown to have an uncanny knack for spotting which potential mates have immune systems most different from ours, and finding that difference sexy and attractive.

  29. I wonder how much of this selection relates to disease.

    From the same article cited above:

    The biggest new pathway for selection relates to disease resistance. As people starting living in much larger groups and settling in one place roughly 10,000 years ago, epidemic diseases such as malaria, smallpox and cholera began to dramatically shift mortality patterns in people. . .

    Another recently discovered gene, CCR5, originated about 4,000 years ago and now exists in about 10 percent of the European population. It was discovered recently because it makes people resistant to HIV/AIDS. But its original value might have come from obstructing the pathway for smallpox.

  30. Brian Coutts

    Thanks. Now that is interesting. It tends to support prolefeed’s position more than mine. For a gene to go from the initial mutation to 30% of the population in a couple of hundred generations implies a huge selective advantage. This is especially true, as prolefeed noted in his 11:51 post, when the population size is so huge.

    prolefeed @ 12:13

    I agree that the thought of a government attempt to control the gene pool is frightening. I wouldn’t mind it if individuals were selecting their own preferences for their own offspring.

    However, I expect that there would be an alliance between the Religious Fundamentalists – of all faiths – and the luddites of both left and right to put selection under government control.

  31. “Ten thousand years ago, no one on planet Earth had blue eyes,” Hawks notes, because that gene-OCA2-had not yet developed.

    Hah! Then how did Jondalar and Ayla have blue eyes, Mr. Smarty-pants?

  32. Aresen — one would have to be terribly naive that think that politicians that feel compelled to micromanage what kinds of fat we can eat, how much gas mileage our cars must get, and what kinds of chemicals we can ingest — would go “oh, we have no business putting any controls on people tinkering with their genomes”

    It wouldn’t just be the fundies and the luddites butting in here — it’d be secular liberals and everyone else not libertarian in outlook thinking we must regulate it for the sake of Teh Children TM.

  33. J. Craig Venter has blue eyes but has no blue eye genes.

  34. prolefeed

    Agree 100% on your 1:01 AM post.

    Fun talking to ya, but I am off to bed.

    g’night.

  35. Disclosure: My eyes are brown, but some of my best friends are blue-eyed and some others have green eyes.

    Regardless of how this might have evolved, obviously the most attractive, mate-worthy males have green eyes.

    disclosure: I have green eyes

  36. “Ten thousand years ago, no one on planet Earth had blue eyes,” Hawks notes, because that gene-OCA2-had not yet developed.

    The people from the 12th Planet brought blue eyes and Siamese cats with them. They hadn’t arrived 10k years ago. They arrived about the time of Sumeria.

  37. Of course there were no blue eyes 10,000 years ago since God hadn’t even created the Earth yet.

    But hey, “if you want to believe that you and your family came from apes, I’ll accept that…”

  38. Isn’t this the plot of X-Men and NBC’s Heroes?

  39. I would imagine that the most profoundly selected alleles would be those for fighting disease.

    And you would be right. We’ve eliminated or marginalized most of the large predators, …

    Devil’s advocate here. How about those useful for fighting, and killing each other, including intelligence? There is certainly one large predator that we haven’t eliminated or marginalized. Yes the black death killed 1/3 of the Europeans in a generation, but intraspecies violence takes it’s toll generation after generation. Historically, people who are successful at war outbreed the losers.

    This science is way above my pay grade so I’m just musing here. Please feel free to blast the hypothesis to smithereens as you all probably will.

  40. So I’m some sort of genetic superman?

  41. The ability to control our genes reminds me of something I saw in at least one Niven novel – the concept that tool users dont evolve. Tool users dont adapt to their environment, they adapt their environment to them.

    This obviously isnt completely true, see the CCR5 example mentioned above. However, which has done more to allow us to survive diseases, gene mutation or man-made vaccines/drugs/etc? CCR5 didnt wipe out the threat of smallpox, man did. We didnt need to evolve more hair to live in cold climates, we learned to burn stuff instead.

    Genes are still mutating. But ingenuity is faster than mutation.

  42. Adding to my previous, anyone who’s ever looked at a bower birds behaviour quickly realizes that sexual selection plays a very large role in evolution. Since the development of intelligence, hanvn’t humans mate preferences changed as society changes? Would Bill Gates be considered a more desireable better mate than Bruno the bouncer 3,000 years ago? IMHO, that’s unlikely.
    IOW, genes drive behavior, do intelligence, technology and culture, speed up sexual selection evolutionary change?

    Fascinating stuff, for sure.

  43. Genes are for the children.

  44. How about those useful for fighting, and killing each other, including intelligence?

    Disease has historically been more effective at eliminating enemies than swords or cleverness.

    Following disease has been technology. Technological advance is more driven more by culture than (relatively minor) differences in intelligence.

    It doesn’t matter how big, strong, or clever the other guy is if you have a bow and arrow, or iron weapons, and he does not.

  45. Disease has historically been more effective at eliminating enemies than swords or cleverness.

    Diseases eliminate people, friend or foe. War eliminates enemies.

    It doesn’t matter how big, strong, or clever the other guy is if you have a bow and arrow, or iron weapons, and he does not.

    I would venture that “clever” has somthing to do with, the bow and arrow, iron smelting, the Greek phalanx, and the Roman legion.

  46. Jimmy Smith@9:28 is right! Won’t somebody please think of the children!

  47. The ability to control our genes reminds me of something I saw in at least one Niven novel – the concept that tool users dont evolve. Tool users dont adapt to their environment, they adapt their environment to them.

    This obviously isnt completely true. . .

    That’s from The Mote in God’s Eye, in which it was a plot point that the Moties evolved after they’d been technologically advanced. I just re-read that, and it struck me that, given the science of the times, it was a reasonable position to take. It was written and published in the ’70s, before the major revolutions in genetic science that took place in the ’80s. IIRC, the idea of genetic drift wasn’t widespread before the ’80s, if it even existed. If evolution only occurred through natural selection, then technology would slow the rate of evolution, and eventually halt it altogether. However, given genetic drift and other mechanisms, evolution certainly still occurs in technologically advanced species.

    Note that it would take antibiotics, at least, to halt evolution given the above assumptions. 🙂

  48. grylliade,

    Im thinking Niven mentioned it in The Locusts too. Which is also (like Mote) a story in which it turns out to not be true. Not sure on that reference though, there is at least 1 other mention of it by Niven. Maybe in What Can You Say About Chocolate Covered Manhole Covers?

  49. Speaking of Niven and Manhole Covers I have a very-unpc confession to make (not that I ever cared about being politically correct). Early in his career, whenever their was a discussion of “Why is Tiger Woods so good?” I wanted a talking head to suggest hybrid vigor. But they never did.

  50. Note that it would take antibiotics, at least, to halt evolution given the above assumptions.

    Alexander Fleming ended evolution!

  51. I would venture that “clever” has somthing to do with, the bow and arrow, iron smelting, the Greek phalanx, and the Roman legion.

    …and building ocean worthy vessels, calculating trajectories of projectile weapons, building aircraft, creating and breaking codes, nuclear weapons, ….

    IIRC, the idea of genetic drift wasn’t widespread before the ’80s, if it even existed.

    In the late 60s I did a junior high science fair project on genetic drift and how selection factors interact with drift, so it couldn’t have been that unusual a concept.

  52. Diseases eliminate people, friend or foe. War eliminates enemies.

    Disease eliminates whole peoples who don’t have resistance to the disease. Just ask the Native Americans. Without the diseases Pizarro and Cortez brought with them, they could not have overthrown the essentially neolithic Aztec and Incan empires, in spite of their technological advantages.

    When you’re talking about selectors of who gets to reproduce after a conflict, disease outweighs killing on the battlefield manifold.

    I would venture that “clever” has somthing to do with, the bow and arrow, iron smelting, the Greek phalanx, and the Roman legion.

    Cleverness is an individual trait. The cleverness of a few individuals doesn’t sustain the kind of technological change that gives decisive advantages in warfare nearly as much as culture does.

    The phalanx was developed over generations of constant conflict among Greek city-states, and was the product not of a brainwave by a general or two, but of the societal structure of the area and of numerous technologies. You couldn’t have a phalanx of stone-age tribesmen, so even if a neolithic Leonidas had the inspiration, he couldn’t have made it work.

  53. And when we can take control of our genes I want to be the first to form the Iron Society.

    And if you get that reference you get a free “Total Geek” t-shirt.

  54. prolefeed:
    Blue-Eyed Devil — Who the heck is Flemur?
    Dats me. I sometimes write things which people who’re unfamiliar with genetics find distressing.

    What a difference a few genes can make!
    Yup. FWIW, current guestimates are that humans are about 98.something% genetically the same as chimps and about 80% genetically the same as mice.

    FWIW, over the past couple of years, I’ve become a somewhat of a fan of two of this paper’s authors.

    John Hawks comments on (rather complicated) criticisms of the paper. Also, if you’re into Neandertals (his preferred spelling) and possible interbreeding with humans, poke around the rest of his site. (Look for “red hair”…). He updates just about every day.

    Another author’s (Cochran) site is here. He thinks outside the box, so to speak.

  55. Cleverness is an individual trait. The cleverness of a few individuals doesn’t sustain the kind of technological change that gives decisive advantages in warfare nearly as much as culture does.

    I knew this was coming. In war, every participants “cleverness” matters in the battle. The “clever” survive and the dull perish. War, as a byproduct, winnows out the stupid and unfit.

  56. Historically, people who are successful at war outbreed the losers.

    J sub D — The definition of “losers”, from a strictly genetic POV, is “someone who fails to get enough (or any) genes into the next generation”. Evolution doesn’t care about aesthetics, just results. So, a single mom with 10 kids and no fathers who stuck around, struggling from welfare check to welfare check, is a big winner from a genetic standpoint, at least for that generation, however much we might consider her a loser by another other criteria.

    Aaaand, in regards to warfare, if you get killed in Iraq, but have five kids before that happens, genetically speaking you’re a winner. If you were a draft dodging hippie and had a lot of kids because you didn’t die in Vietnam, you’re a winner. But the draft dodger who didn’t have any kids because they ducked the draft by getting hooked on heroin and then couldn’t attract a stable mate is a loser. If you die childless but win the Medal of Honor, genetically you’re a loser compared to a coward who bolted under fire and lived to make it back home.

    So, “successful at war” can mean lots of counterintuitive things.

  57. Note that it would take antibiotics, at least, to halt evolution given the above assumptions.

    Antibiotics don’t halt evolution, they increase the rate of evolution. The pathogens evolve faster because they are heavily selected for resistence to antibiotics — look at how fast antibiotics have been made obsolete by resistant strains. And, antibiotics also ramp up human evolution, since they change the environment, giving smaller rewards to those with genetic resistence to the disease controlled by the antibiotics and rewarding those who genomes aren’t wasting energy and resources on combatting a disease that is no longer around. It is genetically costly to defend against a threat that no longer exists.

  58. Diseases eliminate people, friend or foe. War eliminates enemies.

    Disease used to be the big killer on battlefields. Not so much now. The genetic selection in warfare has changed over time. If you read the Old Testament, a lot of genocide going on — on several occasions the alleged Lord allegedly commanded the Israelites to utterly wipe out their defeated enemies, so a gene unique to a tribe could be utterly wiped out if that tribe was slaughtered to the last person. In a less tribal world, where the opposing sides have a mix of nationalities, and where the losers don’t face annihilation, selection is less on a group or societal or cultural level and more on an individual level.

  59. Something which hasn’t been brought up yet…

    Although cultural adaptations have led to increased numbers of humans in increasingly difficulty environmental niches over the course of our history as a species…and increased dispersal has led to geographically distinct populations (genetically), there is little evidence that aspects of culture provides niche pressures for particular genetic traits. Cultural adaptation is too fast and ephemeral to provide selection pressure for the relatively slow genetic changes. By the time a significant number of individuals had adapted to the cultural niche, it wouldn’t be there anymore. The cultural environment presents to quickly moving a target for genetic adaptations.

    A nice paper on this basic idea related to the development of language by our species.

    http://www.santafe.edu/research/publications/workingpapers/07-01-001.pdf

  60. FleM,

    Dats me. I sometimes write things which people who’re unfamiliar with genetics find distressing.

    You also sometimes write things which people who are familiar with neuroscience find uninformed.

    And you also sometimes write things which people familiar with the heredity of intelligence find unsupported.

  61. In war, every participants “cleverness” matters in the battle.

    It doesn’t matter how clever you are if you are hoisting a rock and your opponent is drawing a bow.

    Whether you have a rock or a bow is a matter of the culture you are part of, not how smart you are as a person.

    Few people would argue that, weapon for weapon, the Germans had marginally better technology in WWII. Few would argue that, officer for officer, the Germans were at least as well led as the allies. If cleverness was decisive, it seems to me they would have won.

    The “clever” survive and the dull perish.

    On an individual level, maybe. But when you are looking at a scale that can influence cultural and genetic winners, that individual level doesn’t count for much, really.

  62. Between the lines of this posting is the obvious: INDUSTRY is not responsible for global warming, Agriculture is!

    “We believe that this can be explained by an increase in the strength of selection as people became agriculturalist

    Isn’t it obvious all our woes began with farming?

  63. Prolefeed said:

    Even so, we’re only talking about 1% or less differences in genes between the most diverse humans imaginable — say, a four-foot tall pygmy in the Congo and a six and a half foot talk blue-eyed blond Norwegian.

    Even if that 1% crude estimate which is sometimes bandied about is correct, it’s extremely misleading. By the same sort of estimate we’re only 3% different genetically from chimpanzees, who cannot speak and have no sophisticated language, and way less than 50% genetically different from earthworms.

    It might well take only .001% genetic difference to separate a 165 IQ genius from a 70 IQ dullard, or someone with olympic champion 100 meter fast twitch leg muscles from a weak and ill co-ordinated person of the same age who can barely run at all.

    Human subgroups (aka races and subraces) are among the most genetically various sub species in the mammalian world; and hardly among the least so, as some have claimed for what one must suppose are ideological imperative reasons.

  64. J sub D — The definition of “losers”, from a strictly genetic POV, is “someone who fails to get enough (or any) genes into the next generation”.

    No shit, Sherlock. Surving in war only slightly advances your chance of passing on your particular genes. Bigger ears only slightly helps an individual elephant to survive. If the rabbit gets eaten by the coyote after she’s delivered 6 litters she’s a winner in the genetic sense. Yet somehow over tome, rabbits developed those muscular legs and keen senses anyway. Maybe because those features slightly improve their chance of survival and breeding. It wasn’t that some reptile mutation suddenly appeared with the ability to fly, rather it was small steps that slightly improved chances of survival and breeding.

  65. dougjn,

    Human subgroups (aka races and subraces) are among the most genetically various sub species in the mammalian world; and hardly among the least so, as some have claimed for what one must suppose are ideological imperative reasons.

    Do you happen to have a citation for that fact.
    It hangs out there like a sore thumb begging for support from some external source.

  66. dougjn,

    Here’s the only thing I could come up with on a quick search:

    http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/v36/n11s/full/ng1435.html

    The average proportion of nucleotide differences between a randomly chosen pair of humans (i.e., average nucleotide diversity, or pi) is consistently estimated to lie between 1 in 1,000 and 1 in 1,500 (refs. 9,10). This proportion is low compared with those of many other species, from fruit flies to chimpanzees11, 12, reflecting the recent origin of our species from a small founding population13.

  67. dougjn,

    Modern human genetic variation does not structure into phylogenetic subspecies (geographical ‘races’), nor do the taxa from the most common racial classifications of classical anthropology qualify as ‘races’

    http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/v36/n11s/full/ng1455.html

  68. Neu Mejican:
    You also sometimes write things which people who are familiar with neuroscience find uninformed.
    And you also sometimes write things which people familiar with the heredity of intelligence find unsupported.

    All my statements on those subjects are based on current science, but, since a lot of it’s new, a fair amount is subject to disagreement within the various fields – and, in some cases, research is also subject to politically based suppression. Sorry about your distress, though.

  69. FleM,

    It does not distress me that you are uninformed and make unsupported claims.

    As for “politically based suppression” of intelligence research, well that’s just more unsupported silliness.

  70. Few people would argue that, weapon for weapon, the Germans had marginally better technology in WWII. Few would argue that, officer for officer, the Germans were at least as well led as the allies. If cleverness was decisive, it seems to me they would have won.

    Depends how you define “cleverness.” In terms of German officers may have been as “clever” or more so than Allied officers, but German logistics were quite far from “clever.” US soldiers also tended to be more flexible, adaptable and resourceful in the field, even if probably not as good as Germans in actual combat. Over the course of the war this difference in “clever” played a decisive role.

  71. FleM,

    So do you consider Nisbett’s critique of Jensen political or scientific in nature?
    http://www.udel.edu/educ/gottfredson/30years/Nisbett-commentary-on-30years.pdf

    Is this post political or scientific in nature?
    http://www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/weblog/520.html

    Politics or science?
    http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/soc/faculty/winship/IQ.pdf

    Science or politics?
    http://content.apa.org/journals/rev/108/2/346

    No link, but as an example of how suppression does not happen in the field of IQ genetics…

    A longitudinal twin study on IQ, executive functioning, and attention problems during childhood and early adolescence.
    Polderman TJ, Gosso MF, Posthuma D, Van Beijsterveldt TC, Heutink P, Verhulst FC, Boomsma DI. Acta Neurol Belg. 2006 Dec;106(4):191-207.

    No serious scientist doubts that genetics play a role in IQ. The case for racial contributions to IQ is, however, very weak.

    It is an easy accusation to say that someone disagrees with the science because they are afraid of the implications of the ideas it represents. That accusation, however, is not a way to support the science. I can find your idea both scientifically incorrect AND politically incorrect. The second has nothing to do with the first.

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