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.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Another benefit of white male privilege: High rates of brain cancer!

Liberals instruct us that white male privilege is all-powerful and pervasive. Then they compare black and white statistical differences to support their contention. Of course, they are very selective since blacks and other so-called oppressed groups come out ahead all the time.

Take, for instance, brain cancer. This new study of the US between 2000 and 2014 (almost 250k cancer patients were identified) reported that the incidence of glioblastomas--the most common (and very deadly) type of brain cancer--is around 1.5 times higher in men than women. The chart below shows that whites face more than twice the risk of getting a glioblastoma compared to all minority racial groups. (Even Hispanics who identify as white have a significantly lower rate.)

Not only do whites suffer from higher rates of brain cancer, the study concluded they are significantly less likely to survive for 1 or 5 years, so there is no evidence that whites get health care biased in their favor.

If oppression by whites produces these kinds of results for minorities, please God turn me brown!

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Testosterone makes men prefer high-status goods

Here's a new study on the impact of testosterone (T). In a placebo-controlled experiment of 243 men, giving a dose of T increases preference for status brands over brands of similar perceived quality but lower status. T also makes men have more positive attitudes toward high-status goods, but does not affect how they feel about power-enhancing or high-quality goods.

Interesting how T makes us like status, not power. I guess the difference is that power is not necessarily socially-approved, but status is. 

This study did not include women, but it appears that T makes men more concerned with rising in the social hierarchy, and we signal our position through status goods. This has gotten to be a more subtle game as elites have embraced the t-shirts and shabby jeans of the working man, but our nature cannot escape hierarchy. 

Monday, July 02, 2018

Saturday, June 30, 2018

How personality is related to sexuality

This new, large meta-analysis of 761 effects sizes with a sample of over 400k people looks at the relationship between personality traits sand sexuality. 

People who score high on neuroticism (the tendency to experience negative emotions like anxiety) are less sexually satisfied (r = .18) and have more symptoms of sexual dysfunction (r = .16). 

Extraverts engage in more sexual activity (r = .17) and risky sexual behavior (r = .18) and have less sexual dysfunction (r = −.17). 

People who are open to experience are more likely to be homosexual (r = .16) and to have liberal attitudes toward sex (r = .19). 

Highly agreeable and conscientious (i.e., self-disciplined) people are less sexually aggressive (r = −.20; r = −.14) and are less like to be unfaithful (r+ = .18; r+ = .17). 

So, if you're looking for a trustworthy partner who enjoys sex, your best bet is to find a person who is even-keeled, cooperative, and diligent. 

By the way, these traits are highly influenced by genes, so don't assume you can change someone into a desirable partner. A major theme among people who take genes seriously is, what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG).

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Details on wolves and coyotes

We saw in the recent post that a statistic, the fixation index, that measures the genetic distance between two populations indicates that Europeans and sub-Saharan Africans are as far apart as wolves and coyotes.

This is a useful comparison because, while it is hard for humans to look at race without bias, who cares about wolves and coyotes?

I looked at Walker's Carnivores of the World to see what is says about these two species. Notice how I used the term species. Canis latrans (coyotes) and Canis lupus (gray wolves). The simple fact that blacks and whites are different as two (closely related) species is stunning. Coyotes and wolves interbreed, but biologists consider them separate species. But let's get specific.

First of all, the two species are obviously similar. Many of the major traits one would think of for one species is true for the other: carnivorous, keen sense of smell, cooperative hunting, etc. The two species live out their lives in very similar ways. So do blacks and whites.

But the two species are for from identical. Wolves are much larger: head and body length are 1,000 to 1,600 mm compared with coyotes at 750-1,000 mm. Wolves' tails are 350 to 560 mm, while those of coyotes are 300-400 mm. Coyotes have a narrower build, proportionally longer ears, and a much narrower snout. At birth, coyotes average 250 grams; for wolves, it's 450 grams. Coyotes appear to reach sexual maturity earlier than wolves, and their maximum longevity is 1.5 years shorter (14.5 vs. 16 years).

You might counter that perhaps they differ physically, but the real question is behavior, and the two behave the same. Not so. Wolves are more social. They run in significantly larger packs, they engage in cooperative hunting more often and on a larger scale, and they target much bigger game. While coyotes focus on rabbits and rodents, wolves don't focus on anything smaller than a beaver. They take down deer, moose, wapiti, caribou, bison, muskox, mountain sheep, etc.

Coyotes focus much more on scavenging. They are more likely to hunt alone or in pairs, and will even partner up with a badger. The coyote uses his superior nose to sniff out a rodent, while the badger uses his superior claws to dig up the meal they split. Coyotes can prey on sheep, but wolves also go after larger animals that are important to humans: cattle and reindeer.

The home range of wolves is much larger: the book reports a maximum of 13,000 sq km for wolves, but only 80 km for coyotes. Wolves need much more space: They can't get more dense than one wolf per 26 sq km while coyotes get as high as 2 per sq km.

You might counter again that behavioral differences in animals may be influenced by genes, but humans are controlled by culture. Over the years, I've read a number of studies on the heritability of animal behavior. It's often been of rodents--not known for their rich culture. I was stunned to learn that human conduct is influenced by genes just as much as that of animals. Heritabilities for animal behavior typically run from .2 to .4. Studies often give heritabilities for humans higher than that.

To see who we are more clearly, we have got to look at ourselves like we look at coyotes and wolves; as animals, plain and simple.

UPDATE: To clarify, I suspect that the environment is not as important for animal behavior as the heritability studies suggest. For both human and animal studies, anything not genetic gets thrown into the environment component, but it likely contains a lot of measurement error, random noise, and other factors that probably cannot be changed like the term "environment" suggests.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Please show me the white privilege

This table was taken from this article titled, "Deconstructing White Disadvantage." These are percentages of 25-year-olds in England having a college degree. Please show me where the famous English white supremacy is?

Table 1: Proportion of 25 year-olds with degrees by social class of family at age 13/14.

Family class background White Black Mixed Indian Pakistani, Bangladeshi Any other Total
Prof / mgnr 38% 41% 39% 67% 55% 68% 40%
Intermediate, routine 17% 39% 26% 43% 34% 39% 20%
Others 21% 41% 18% 46% 21% 28% 24%
Total degree 25% 40% 29% 49% 30% 48% 27%

Source: own analysis of ‘Next Step’ waves 1 and 8, previously known as the Youth Cohort Survey or the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE).[4]

Sex-Ratios and Rape

Here's an interesting article arguing that an excess number of males in an area drives more marginal men to compete with other men with high-risk strategies like rape. The graph below shows the correlation between a surplus of men and the rate of rape. The size of the relationship--.42--is moderate. Race is a strong state-level predictor of violence crime, but percent black should also be associated with a surplus of women. It would be good to see the sex-ratio/rape correlations with race adjusted for.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Wolves and coyotes

The fixation index, Fst, measures the genetic difference between two populations. From Greg Cochran's blog:
"According to wiki, Fst between Europeans (CEU) and sub-Saharan Africans (YRI) is 0.153.
"According to this study, Fst between North American wolves and coyotes is … wait for it..  0.153."
UPDATE: Was it the wolves or the coyotes who decided the wolf/coyote distinction was a social construction? 
UPDATE II: I see the same wiki article indicates the Chinese/sub-Saharan African Fst is 1.92.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

A big black-white difference in a gene affecting the immune system

This new study looks at genetic differences in black and white women that affect immune system response. The top hit the researchers identified was a genotyped variant rs2814778, which is called the Duffy-null allele. 66% of black women carried the CC variant; 29% had the CT and 5% had the TT genotype. Compare this to white women: 100% of them have the TT genotype.

Now, the "experts" tell us race is not real. For example, they tell us that, say, whites differ among themselves much more than they differ from blacks. But look at this study: there is ZERO variation among whites, black women are fairly uniform too, and where they differ among themselves, it is due to having varied amounts of white ancestry.

It is widely thought that this geographic genetic diversity is the result of a strong positive selection for protection from malaria infection found in West Africa thousands of years ago. Blacks have faced different environments over tens of thousands of years, so what kind of researcher would claim that any genetic differences between blacks and other groups would be minimal or unimportant? Being able to survive malaria is pretty damn important, and the magnitude of the black-white difference in rs2814778 speaks for itself. The kind of researcher who would minimize and dismiss this is a dishonest researcher.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Trendy trends in identifying as a sexual minority

This Gallup poll is from a survey of over 300k Americans in 2017. You can see a dramatic uptick from 5.8% to 8.2% among Millennials identifying as LGBT over the past 5 years. Kinda dumb to lump the sexes: for all generations, 3.9% of men and 5.1% of women now identify as a sexual minority (table not shown). This is the first time I've seen women with higher numbers than men. Trendy trends on display.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018


I learned as an undergraduate in social psychology that "prejudice" refers to judging people before knowing the facts. I was told that it was bad to do that. Now young people are taught that it's bad to judge AFTER getting the facts; for example, making a judgment about a group after looking at data presented at this blog. I guess we need a new word for this transgression. "Postjudice" seems a bit awkward.

Group differences in gonorrhea

This new study examines US patterns of gonorrhea from 2000 to 2015. In 2015, there were almost 400,000 cases reported. Over the 16-year study period, there were 21 million cases. There are two distinct epidemics currently occurring in the US: one among young black heterosexuals, and one among men who have sex with other men (MSM). (Can we attach some meaning to the fact that MSM also stands for 'mainstream media'?)

Hispanics have an infection rate that is 1.8 times higher than among whites. For blacks, it's 9.6 times higher than for whites. Even though MSM's are a tiny sliver of American men, they account for 67% of all infections in males.

The authors claim that one's number of sex partners is an inadequate explanation for what we see. I'm sure there are other factors (e.g., differences in condom use), but gonorrhea rates have got to be an alternative to measuring sexual behavior with self-reports. Surveys don't indicate such enormous group differences, but the pattern of disease suggests that compared to straight white people, blacks and MSM's get around.

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 ma...