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Play major role in primate social behavior, study finds

27.12.2011. Social behavior among primates — including humans — has a substantial genetic basis, a team of scientists has concluded from a new survey of social structure across the primate family tree. The scientists, at the University of Oxford in England, looked at the evolutionary family tree of 217 primate species whose social organization is known. Their findings, published in the journal Nature, challenge some of the leading theories of social behavior, including:

  • That social structure is shaped by environment — for instance, a species whose food is widely dispersed may need to live in large groups.
  • That complex societies evolve step by step from simple ones.
  • And the so-called social brain hypothesis: that intelligence and brain volume increase with group size because individuals must manage more social relationships.

By contrast, the new survey emphasizes the major role of genetics in shaping sociality. Being rooted in genetics, social structure is hard to change, and a species has to operate with whatever social structure it inherits. Continue reading in New York Times.


Likes and Dislikes

10.12.2011 (updated 17.12.2011). Thanks to the tireless efforts of a group known as the Transatlantic Statistical Underground, the sources cited by Mr. Breivik in his manifesto have been collected in exhaustive detail and compiled into a spreadsheet with more than 900 entries. I’ve imported their data into a database and normalized it so that the results could be summarized for further analysis. Continue reading at Gates of Vienna. See also part two of this article.


The evidence is hard to dismiss

07.12.2011. Columnist Andrew Sullivan of The Daily Beast (Newsweek) has ventured into dangerous territory, by writing about the study of intelligence. Here are some excerpts from one of several articles of his in a series on the topic (boldface in original, link added by me):

I've reached out to some academic pros in the intelligence field, and the feedback I get is that the exploration of IQ and race is effectively toxic as a subject. But the rest of the research area is more complex than my first post suggested. An academic writes:

Within some subfields of psychology, there is a small degree of pushback against studying intelligence, but this is not true of psychology as a whole--there are thriving societies and journals, and reports of intelligence measures are not uncommon in mainstream journal articles. Nor is it unusual for researchers to document the degree of heritability of IQ (once again, within races). The study of racial differences in intelligence, however, particularly when it comes to assessing the possibility of genetic contributions, is still radioactive. Few researchers other than Jensen and Rushton are willing to go there, while marginal phenomena such as "stereotype threat" that superficially seem to suggest that the race difference is 100% environmental are avidly pursued.

And there are distortions in the larger hot zone around the race-IQ Ground Zero, such as the provably false claims that race is entirely a social construction, that general intelligence is an artifact of IQ tests, that the tests are worthless, that IQ was the basis of immigration restrictions and the Holocaust, and so on. Fortunately these are not as common (particularly within psychology) as they were in the 1970s and 1980s.

So there is some veiling of the truth here - or a decision just not to go there. Notice that there is also a great deal of research attempting to disprove any genetic component to intelligence. It's worth noting here that Murray and Herrnstein, despite the relentless smear campaign against them, never stated that genetics was responsible for all the racial gaps. They were merely debating the balance between genes and environment, and conceded that there was no firm way to calculate the balance. So we know that environment affects IQ - malnutrition depresses it in the developing world. But since IQ is proven to be inheritable, the notion that genes play no role whatever - that we remain the "blank slate" some left-liberals want us to be - is a reach. Razib Khan, a genetics expert, adds the following:

The problem here is the word "race." It has a whole lot of baggage. So many biologists prudently shift to "population" or "ethnic group." I don’t much care either way. Let’s just put the semantic sugar to the side. I contend that:

1) Human populations can be easily separated into plausible clusters using a random set of genetic markers

2) The differences between human populations are not trivial

You can say that both positions apply to human races. Or, you can say that race does not exist as a biological concept, and that both positions apply to human populations. Call it what you will, style is secondary to substance. Just as half-siblings and full-siblings are clearly genetically distinct, and those distinctions matter in terms of their traits, so French and Chinese are genetically distinct, and those distinctions matter in terms of their traits.

That's helpful. Whatever we call it, "race" has a biological component that can be genetically mapped. When you apply robust intelligence tests based on general intelligence (g) to this map, there are non-trivial differences between races that are strikingly resilient across the world. Quite why is unclear. My position is simply a) that the notion that genes are not involved in this area is highly unlikely; and b) that, as Razib says

I think an understanding of the phylogeny of the human race is a grand story. Population structure in the present is a shadow of histories past. And with the possibility of admixture with archaic lineages and recent adaptations that story has a lot of novel plot elements to keep your attention.

Continue reading Sullivan's thoughts about race and IQ in The Daily Beast (here you will also find links to the other articles in this series).



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HonestThinking is dedicated and committed to the art of thinking honestly. Yet honest thinking is not the same as true thinking, for it is possible to think honestly, but be mistaken. For the same reason, honest thinking is not identical with objective thinking either. Honest thinking is striving to get things right. This involves being truthful about whatever one publishes, but just as importantly, it involves an uncompromising dedication never to suppress relevant data, even when data collides with dearly held prejudices. Such an approach may sometimes cause hurtful revisions in one’s belief system. That’s what HonestThinking is all about! Read the entire manifesto.

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Please send e-mail to postmaster at honestThinking.org (replacing ' at ' with '@') if you would like to tip us about a web resource that we should link to, or if you wish to submit an article for publication here. Quality contributions are welcome from anyone.



The current European immigration and integration policy is profoundly disrespectful of both Muslims and Islam, because it is built on the tacit assumption that the Muslims will become like us. One claims to have respect for Islam and for Muslims, but one also expects Muslims to give up their orthodox faith when they come here. At the same time one is assuming that Islam will be reformed and modernized as soon as the Muslims become integrated and understand and appreciate how superior our Western culture is compared to their own. This is cultural shauvinism and arrogance indeed! The unspoken premise for this scenario is that Western socities are superior to Islam. Read more.




Human rights and democracy are under pressure. One threat comes from the Western world, in the form of lack of or dishonest thinking. There exists a peculiar Western "tolerance" which is so "tolerant" that it even tolerates totalitarian or anti-democratic ideologies. A tacit assumption underlying such an attitude is that all cultures, world views, and religions are really equally good. As a consequence of this assumption one is cut off from the possibility of critically examining the above mentioned ideologies. Read more.