Friday, July 20, 2018

New study: High rate of underweight black newborns due to genes, not racism

A new study finds that several gene variants in African-Americans help explains why they have underweight newborns twice as often as whites. For example, two of the DNA points (single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs) that affect birth weight vary a great deal by race; for one point, 69% of pure Africans carry the weight-lowering version, while only 2% of Europeans have it. For the other point, it was 91% for Africans and 23% for Europeans.

Now the race-deniers tell us that blacks and whites don't differ on genes, but do these percentages seem the same to you?

Next question, why would Africans frequently have genes that make their babies smaller--a trait that predicts health problems down the road?

The honest answer is, I don't know. But this does remind me of Phil Rushton's theory that blacks and whites have different "evolutionary strategies"; that evolutionary pressures have shifted blacks toward a more "quantitative" approach to reproduction, whereas whites and East Asians are shifted toward "quality" offspring--fewer of them, but greater investment in each one. Baby-enlarging genes have supposedly been selected for among whites and Asians.

Whatever the explanation, this study shows strong evidence that black newborns tend to be smaller, not because of some social disadvantage imposed by racist whites, but because of genes and evolutionary differences.    

Monday, July 16, 2018

Meta-analysis of clinical trials: Eat walnuts

I am always looking for easy eating choices that are good for you. This new meta-analysis of 26 clinical trials looked to see if walnuts make a difference. The authors found that daily consumption of walnuts significantly lowered total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol--the "bad" stuff that clogs arteries. It also reduced triglycerides or fats in the blood. HDL, the "good" cholesterol, remained unchanged.

The researchers found that subjects who ate enough walnuts so that it was 10-24% of their daily energy intake got more benefit than those at the 5% level. So for someone about my size--5' 10", 180 pounds--you should probably eat roughly 2 ounces per day.

Of course, all of this assumes that conventional medicine is right about cholesterol and triglycerides.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Consciousness explained naturally? Doubt it

From Amazon's description of a new book on consciousness:
How can the seemingly immaterial experience of consciousness be explained by the material neurons of the brain? There seems to be an unbridgeable gap between understanding the brain as an objectively observed biological organ and accounting for the subjective experiences that come from the brain (and life processes). In this book, Todd Feinberg and Jon Mallatt attempt to demystify consciousness―to naturalize it, by explaining that the subjective, experiencing aspects of consciousness are created by natural brain processes that evolved in natural ways. Although subjective experience is unique in nature, they argue, it is not necessarily mysterious. We need not invoke the unknown or unknowable to explain its creation.
I haven't read the book (it's not out yet), and maybe I can find the time, but call me a big skeptic. My experience from the inside IS immaterial and is categorically separate from the material universe as understood by science. I assume these authors will more or less argue that my subjective experience is some sort of trick generated by my brain. This is simply absurd. I THINK the material world is real, but like the philosophers tell us, for all I know some demon is causing me to hallucinate the world. But I KNOW with utter certainty that I am really experiencing stuff right now. If that is to be doubted, all bets are off.  

A new book will tell you who you really are

I'm excited to read this new book by leading behavioral geneticist Robert Plomin. From the book description:
A century of genetic research shows that DNA differences inherited from our parents are the consistent life-long sources of our psychological individuality―the blueprint that makes us who we are. This, says Plomin, is a game-changer. It calls for a radical rethinking of what makes us who were are. Plomin has been working on these issues for almost fifty years, conducting longitudinal studies of twins and adoptees. He reports that genetics explains more of the psychological differences among people than all other factors combined. Genetics accounts for fifty percent of psychological differences―not just mental health and school achievement, but all psychological traits, from personality to intellectual abilities. Nature defeats nurture by a landslide.
The science should have flipped our understanding of human nature by now, but cultural elites are so allergic to reality, educated Americans still understand people to be a product of their upbringing. If a kid is a drug addict and white, they blame the parents. If he's black, they blame an unjust society. If public opinion reflected the science, people would say, "Poor bastard--he's got bad genes." Sure, there are other factors, and choices matter, but genes are the 800 pound gorilla.

This just shows that people, even those at the top of society, form their opinions based on what they want to believe, not based on the data. For years I didn't want to believe the genetic research, but it's simply too compelling.   

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

How to be right about people

If you want to be right about people, taking biology and evolution seriously is a big help.

A few years ago, researchers started telling us how the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin make us more loving and caring toward others; that biologically, we have this kumbaya side to our nature.

I was skeptical because I know that human genes, like those of all animals, have been selected over deep history to produce people who care about themselves and their families at the expense of others. We're not put together to sacrifice for all humanity like we would for a daughter.

So I was not surprised to learn from more recent research that, yes, oxytocin and vasopressin make us more nurturing, but only towards the ingroup; you know, friends and family. Towards outsiders, the hormones cause us to feel more, shall we say, ill-disposed.

It's almost as if you have two kinds of people: 1) those who are selfish and don't care about groups, and 2) those who love and sacrifice for the ingroup, and dislike the outgroup. And the true humanitarian--the man who would lay his life down for a stranger as quickly as he would his mother--is a rare specimen, indeed.

New study finds hundreds of genes that affect IQ

Gene studies of intelligence these days are mind-blowing. There's a new one practically every week. This new one is a meta-analysis of 14 studies of whites that totals 270,000 individuals. 

The researchers examine the link between 9.2 million gene variants and IQ. Turns out that it's difficult to detect the impact of a single gene because most traits--and intelligence is no exception--are caused by hundreds if not thousands of genes. The authors found that between 139 and 1,016 genes influence IQ, depending how strict the method used. Collectively, all the single points that varied (single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs) and were found to matter explained around 20% of the variation in intelligence. That number will likely go up as studies get more powerful.

Further analysis revealed that the relevant genes are linked to how the brain develops and functions: neurogenesis, neuron differentiation, regulation of nervous system development, regulation of synapse structure and activity. Being smart simply means you've got a brain that works really well. 

The authors also found that the genes that explain IQ also increase longevity and lower one's risk of Alzheimer's, schizophrenia, and ADHD. The picture emerging is that some people are lucky and have genes that lead to a wide range of healthy outcomes, while the unlucky ones might suffer from a range of problems. The only exception reported in the study was autism: IQ genes were linked to more autism. 

A bi-directional relationship was found for IQ and educational attainment; while IQ led to more schooling, more school also boosted IQ. 

Since our culture creates unrealistic expectations by telling us, "You can be whatever you want," one goal of this blog is to inject a little adulthood with Clint Eastwood's, "A man must know his limitations." There is wisdom in the view that you do have some say in your life, but where you end up is partly beyond your control. At the risk of sounding like a liberal, go easy on yourself and others.   


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

What causes a person to climb the ladder of success?

Here's the abstract from a new genome-wide association study on social mobility. Sounds about right to me: 
A summary genetic measure, called a “polygenic score,” derived from a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of education can modestly predict a person’s educational and economic success. This prediction could signal a biological mechanism: Education-linked genetics could encode characteristics that help people get ahead in life. Alternatively, prediction could reflect social history: People from well-off families might stay well-off for social reasons, and these families might also look alike genetically. 
A key test to distinguish biological mechanism from social history is if people with higher education polygenic scores tend to climb the social ladder beyond their parents’ position. Upward mobility would indicate education-linked genetics encodes characteristics that foster success.  
We tested if education-linked polygenic scores predicted social mobility in >20,000 individuals in five longitudinal studies in the United States, Britain, and New Zealand. Participants with higher polygenic scores achieved more education and career success and accumulated more wealth. However, they also tended to come from better-off families.  
In the key test, participants with higher polygenic scores tended to be upwardly mobile compared with their parents. Moreover, in sibling-difference analysis, the sibling with the higher polygenic score was more upwardly mobile.  
Thus, education GWAS discoveries are not mere correlates of privilege; they influence social mobility within a life. Additional analyses revealed that a mother’s polygenic score predicted her child’s attainment over and above the child’s own polygenic score, suggesting parents’ genetics can also affect their children’s attainment through environmental pathways. Education GWAS discoveries affect socioeconomic attainment through influence on individuals’ family-of-origin environments and their social mobility.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Natural selection led to racial differences in susceptibility to disease, Part II

In Part I, I introduced the idea that blacks and whites differ in how their immune systems react to pathogens, and this is due, in part, to evolution having affected relevant genes.

Here in Part II, I lay out the research evidence summarized in this study. Compared to whites, the immune systems of blacks have a stronger gene response to immune stimulation, especially the genes related to the activation of inflammatory responses. Blacks often have higher frequencies of alleles (i.e., one variety of a gene) associated with stronger proinflammatory responses to infection.

Two studies illustrate this. One tested how macrophages (i.e., a type of large white blood cell) responded to two different types of infections, and the other on monocyte (i.e., another large white blood cell) response to several pathogens such as the human seasonal influenza A virus. On average, 21% of the relevant genes appeared to show different expression between whites and blacks, and 16% of the genes reacting to immune stimulation showed that blacks had a more intense response.

Differences in genes that regulate other genes explain much of the racial difference in immune response. One variant is found in 67% of whites but only 4% of blacks. The authors found that this one difference explained from 27 to 91% of the black-white difference in immune response to various infections.

While the authors write that we have not studied very much the extent to which positive selection has contributed to racial differences in immune response, they cite at least seven studies that report signs that evolutionary pressures have caused the racial differences. Some of the relevant diseases include malaria, African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), celiac disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, and systemic sclerosis.

The researchers suggest the possibility that there is an "evolutionary conflict between mounting a strong inflammatory response to effectively fight pathogens and avoiding the detrimental consequences of acute and chronic inflammation, which can lead to tissue damage and the development of autoinflammatory and autoimmune diseases."

We have recently learned that 2% of the ancestry of humans outside of Africa is Neanderthal. This may help explain the black-white differences in immune response. Higher levels of Neanderthal admixture can be detected in immune system genes in Europeans and Asians. Regulatory gene variants from Neanderthals have been found to affect the immune responses of Europeans, especially the responses to viruses.

All these racial differences in genes and immune systems are really weird since "race experts" tell us that this race stuff is just an hallucination dreamed up by evil white people.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Natural selection led to racial differences in susceptibility to disease, Part I

Here's a figure from a new study that reviews research on racial differences in immune system response. Notice how the regions with the highest abundance of pathogens (disease-causing microorganisms) are the northern half of South America, central sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), and southeast Asia.

The graph also traces important moves humans have made over the past 65,000 years, and the right panel shows that people with European ancestry suffer from high rates of death from Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, while those with SSA ancestry experience a high incidence of mortality from cardiovascular disease, surgical complications, meningitis, diabetes, septicemia (blood poisoning), kidney inflammation, perinatal death, asthma, childbirth, and HIV.

In the next post, I'll summarize the evidence presented in the study that immune system genes show signs of evolutionary adaptation to the different pathogen environments that races have lived in.

New study: High rate of underweight black newborns due to genes, not racism

A new study finds that several gene variants in African-Americans help explains why they have underweight newborns twice as often as whites...