Sunday, April 25, 2010

JP Rushton, Michael Levin, Richard Lynn debunked. Weaknesses of Jared Diamond;s approach.



Race and other misadventures: essays in honor of Ashley Montagu... By Larry T. Reynolds, Leonard Lieberman

African images: racism and the end of anthropology.
By Peter Rigby

Race and intelligence: separating science from myth. By Jefferson M. Fish. Routledge 2002


J.p. Rushton seems to have an obsession with negro penis size, an obsession deriving from ‘self-assessment” in his own words
[quote from mainstream scholar C.L. Loring Brace after reviewing Rushton;s book]
“Sex rears its head again and again in the discus- sion, with much of the information on comparative sexual performance based on “self-assessment.” Rushton is ob- viously much taken with the “salience of… buttocks and breasts” (pp. 167, 231) as measures of sexuality, although there is a dearth of objectively collected data. More telling is his evident fascination with the “Negroid” penis as an index of “potency” and libido. In his earlier publications on these matters, his information came from “self-assess- ment,” but he has bolstered the “conclusions” at which he had previously arrived by reference to the alleged “data” gathered by a 19th-century figure identified only as a “French Army Surgeon.”
These were presented in a two- volume exercise in ethnocentric prurience (Untrodden Fields of Anthropology, Paris: Librairie de Medecine, Folklore et Anthropologie, 1898 [reprinted by Krieger, Huntington, NY, 1972]) in which the author discourses at length on the size, angle, and hardness of the erections of males from all over the world. Not a single measurement is recorded, and there is no mention of how the redoubt- able chirugien acquired all that “information.”
–Review: Racialism and Racist Agendas
Author(s): C. Loring Brace
Reviewed work(s):Race, Evolution, and Behavior: A Life History Perspective by J. Philippe Rushton
Source: American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 98, No. 1 (Mar., 1996), pp. 176-177

Also curious, Rushton in his obsession with the negro penis required young male students in his college classes to offer up information on their penises. University administration barred Rushton for 2 years from using students in research because he pressured them participate. Rushton was later caught trolling a local mall soliciting young men about their penis “data.”

Articles in the Canadian press based on interviews with Rushton’s first-year psychology students reported that Rushton had surveyed students in 1988 by asking “such questions as how large their penises are, how many sex partners they have had, and how far they can ejaculate.”[35] First-year psychology students at UWO are required “to participate in approved surveys as a condition of their studies. If they choose not to, they must write one research paper. Also, many students feel subtle pressure to participate in order not to offend professors who may later be grading their work. However, if a study is not approved, these requirements do not apply at all.”[35] For not telling them they had the option to not participate without incurring additional work, Rushton was barred by the university where he is tenured from using students as research subjects for two years.[35]
Also in 1988, Rushton conducted a survey at the Eaton Centre mall in Toronto where 50 whites, 50 blacks, and 50 Asians were paid to answer questions about their sexual habits. For not receiving permission of the university committee where he is employed, the administration at the University of Western Ontario reprimanded Rushton, calling his transgression “a serious breach of scholarly procedure,” said University President, George Pederson.[35]
#35) Charles Lane, Response to Daniel R. Vining, Jr., New York Review of Books, Vol. 42, Number 5, March 23, 1995

Re-analyses of J.P. Rushton's crime data. Zack Z. Cernovsky, Larry C. Litman; Canadian Journal of Criminology, Vol. 35, 1993, pp 31-36



In a recent article in this Journal, Rushton (1990) presented his statistical analyses to document his view that crime frequencies follow his model of racial differences in behaviour. Rushton reports that he collected his data see Table 1) from international criminal police archives, calculated a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA), and concluded that "the races differ significantly in crime production".

Rushton's (1990) choice of method, the ANOVA, alone, does not offer information about the magnitude of the racial differences. The term "significance" is used differently by statisticians than by laymen. The statistical usage can include minute and practically irrelevant trends as long as the chosen criterion, such as p < .05, is met. Information about the size of the effect is needed to decide whether a finding is practically relevant, likely to be replicated, and whether it provides solid support for a theory of racial differences. In fact, Rushton's Table 2 (see Table 1 in this paper) shows that most (21 of 24) of his standard deviations exceed the size of the mean rates. This indicates that crime rates within each racial group are extremely unstable: the rates vary excessively from country to country. Thus, even a fleeting visual inspection of Rushton's tabular data by a statistician suggests that race might not be a good predictor of crime rates. The present paper presents a statistical evaluation of the size of the racial differences in crime rates by re-analyzing Rushton's data (those shown here in Table 1). [TABULAR DATA 1 OMITTED] Method, results, and interpretation. Rushton's data were used to calculate t-tests between the racial groups (three separate tests for each of the four variables on the 1984 data and a similar set of tests for the 1986 data). The t-values were subsequently converted into point biserial coefficients (using a conversion formula from Welkowitz, Ewen, and Cohen 1982), i.e., a special type of the Pearson Correlation Coefficient (r). The results are summarized in Table 2. One-third of the coefficients fail to reach a common criterion of significance (p [is less than or equal to] .05, 1-tailed). The majority (70.8%) of the coefficients are of low size or nonsignificant. Two of these have negative signs. Only seven coefficients could be described as of moderate size (r > .30). No high correlations were obtained. This indicates an absence of strong relationships in the direction predicted by Rushton.

When the coefficients are squared to obtain estimates of variance shared by race and crime, the proportions (see Table 3) are remarkably low and fail to sustain Rushton's (1988; 1990) theory.

Since homicide is the most serious crime, Rushton's conclusions about racial difference should be supported by major and consistent trends in homicide data. The correlations between race and homicide, however, are very small and only one is significant. Rushton's theory performs very poorly on this criterion, especially with respect to the Mongoloid/Caucasoid differences.

Using the z-score conversion procedure, the average value was calculated for all 24 coefficients in Table 2: the average was .24 (or .23 when the eight coefficients from the column of the "total" crime frequency were excluded). This average value suggests that the overall association between race and crime rate, in Rushton's data, is weak: only 5.8% of the variance in the two variables is shared. This is not enough to consider using race as a predictor of crime incidence in practical forensic settings or to justify genetic speculations. "





Race Differences and What They Mean

Why Race Matters: Race Differences and What They Mean
Author: Michael Levin
Westport, CT.: Praeger, 1997. Pp. X + 415.

Book Review
The Western Journal of Black Studies
by L. Keita

Although the question of race has been an important sociological issue ever since the development of anthropology as a study of different human groups, contemporary philosophy has had relatively little to say about the topic. Interestingly enough though, three of the luminaries of Western philosophy did write about race as if those human groups that distinguished themselves both geographically and phenotypically constituted natural kinds in terms of temperament and intellect.

This amounted to the view held by Hume, Kant, and Hegel that the different branches of humanity were distinguishable not only phenotypically but also temperamentally and intellectually. Kant and Hume associated the dark pigmentation of persons of African origin with cognitive deficiencies, and Hegel wrote disparagingly of the natural temperament of Africans as explanatory of their cultures. And even long before Kant's time the Greek philosopher Aristotle argued about race along essentialist lines. Aristotle inferred in a priori fashion that the dark pigmentation of the Africans of ancient Egypt and Nubia as signaled cowardice. (Aristotle, "Physiognomics", 812a).

Discussions on the important issue of race, though ignored by contemporary philosophers for the most part, have been an integral part of social science discussion. The main debate centers on whether "race" is some sort of natural kind or is a mere social construction. If race were just social construction then essentialist arguments associating phenotypical characteristics with behavior or cognitive dispositions would have no ontological grounds to stand on. On the other hand, if races could be established scientifically, that is, as natural kinds, then possible inferences about dispositional and behavioral characteristics could be drawn about the members of the different racial groups. This has been one of the more popular approaches to the issue of race within the general context of Western quantitative psychology and physical anthropology.

The interesting point about Michael Levin's Why Race Matters (the title suggesting a play on the 1993 text Race Matters authored by social theorist Cornel West) is that it is written by a philosopher and that it seeks to extend the tenure of the old essentialist argument on race. Levin's thesis is that
empirically observable phenotypical traits that differentiate the so-called races macroscopically are casually connected with dispositional traits such as intelligence and temperament. Of course, this thesis is hardly novel given its long-standing tenure in the research paradigms of orthodox Western quantitative psychology. Perhaps the best known of these efforts is that of A. Shuey (1996) who
reported that the average measured IQ gap between "blacks" and "whites" in American society is approximately 15 points, or in the parlance of quantitative psychology, one standard deviation. It was claimed that the average score of persons of European extraction is set at 100 points, while those of African ancestry approximated 85 points. While some geneticists, biologists, and psychometricians explain this average difference as due primarily or exclusively to environmental causes, nativists such as Levin offer a mainly biological explanation.

But merely to state this supposed fact would not satisfy epistemologically. Further explanations are needed and this is what Levin suggests: "speculation has long focused on the different pressures exerted by African and Eurasian climates. Survival in the colder climates of Europe and Northern Asia requires technologies unnecessary in Africa: clothing has to be fabricated, fires sustained, food hunted and stored....

Planning is less adaptive in warmer climates where food is easier to get and spoils when stored" (p. 136). Consider too: "Like the cheetah's supple spine and the horse's hoof, the levels of intelligence of the different races were responses to environmental pressures--as were the values embraced by different groups" (p. 177).

Levin's reasoning here is causally essentialist and cannot be supported by the facts. First of all the climatic argument is patently fallacious for the following reasons. Neanderthal man, the European representative of Homo erectus, though resident in Europe and other colder regions for at least 300,000 years (the archaeological claim is made that the Neanderthals became extinct approximately 40,000 years ago), was not as cognitively evolved as those members of Homo sapiens, who migrated from Africa to Europe and Central Asia 30-40,000 years ago.

But these African members of Homo sapiens were themselves evolutionary descendants of African varieties of Homo erectus. If the colder climates of Europe and northern Asia were more evolutionarily challenging than the warmer climates of Africa then one would have expected Homo sapiens to emerge in those environments and not in the tropical ecologies of Africa. Furthermore, if the northern ecologies and climates of the world were more challenging and evolutionarily selective then one would have expected that the European and north Asian descendants of resident Homo erectus (Neanderthal and others) would have been the colonizing migrants into Africa and other tropical regions of the globe. But the reverse has occurred.

Again, the argument that the colder climates of Europe and northern Asia produced more cognitively evolved branches of humanity than those derivative from the wanner climates cannot be sustained given that the world's first civilizations (on the assumption of the Eurocentric definition of civilization) emerged in tropical and sub-tropical regions. And we have no proof that the originators of such civilizations migrated from the colder climates of the Eurasian landmass into tropical and subtropical regions. The African civilizations of ancient Nubia and ancient Egypt developed in tropical and subtropical regions, so too the civilizations of Mesopotamia and Harappan (the Indian sub-continent).
The only possible exception to this trend is the civilization of China. But even here the site of origin of this civilization is not fully in the temperate zone.

Levin also errs in his explanatory thesis in that there are regions of Africa where Africans have lived for several thousand years where the climatic conditions are very clearly subtropical and even temperate at certain times of the year. The climates of southern Africa extend beyond the tropic of Capricorn
and approximate the climates of European and west Asian territories such as Greece, Turkey, and Iran. Thus if cold climatic conditions constitute the necessary conditions for environmental challenge - the ultimate leitmotiv of human evolutionary change - then one would have to argue that some members of the African branch of humanity were also subjected to climatic conditions similar to those of Europe and temperate-zone Asia. Levin expresses an ignorance of geography when he fails to recognize that there are parts of Africa within the tropical zone where the temperatures are quite temperate on account of altitude. One refers, for example, to the highlands of Kenya, Ethiopia and the plateau regions of West Africa.

Putting aside for the moment questions about the nature of intelligence and whether IQ tests do measure intelligence, I want to demonstrate now that Levin's claim that there is a strict causal connection between IQ and race - as defined by Levin--is false. Levin puts it as follows: "When `race' is operationalized geographically, generalizations about races acquire clear empirical meaning.... To say the mean intelligence of whites exceeds that of blacks is to say that the mean intelligence of people of European descent exceeds that of people of African descent. Every such generalization may be false, but they are uniformly meaningful" (pg. 21). For Levin "intelligence" is determined by
quantitative scores on IQ tests regardless of the environmental or genetic components of such scores. This is curious given that most of the discussion on IQ testing is concerned with examining the basis for interracial or interethnic differences in reported scores. Levin writes: "should the black and white
intelligence polygene turn out to be identical, and there is a mean difference in intelligence due entirely to environmental factors, all that would follow is that blacks would be on average as intelligent as whites if both were raised identically.... It would not follow that blacks are as intelligent" (pg. 38). In fact this approach to the question of intelligence as a phenotypical trait is tantamount to equating "intelligence" with "education" or "training." Yet most of Levin's text is concerned to argue in favor of "intelligence" not only as phenotype but as phenotype linked causally to genotype. There is a world of
difference between these two positions.

But I return to my original counter claim against Levin: race and intelligence are not causally connected. I refer to international comparisons of IQ scores as reported by psychometric testing. According to arch-nativist Richard Lynn (1978) the IQ scores of southern Europeans is a full standard deviation lower than that of the average score of northern Europeans. According to Lynn the reported average IQ of Spaniards in Spain is 87. We are also informed that in Yugoslavia and Greece respectably some tested school children scored 89 in both instances. Lynn also reports that Italian immigrants to the United States scored 84 while their Swedish counterparts scored 102. To compound the north-south IQ gap in Europe we are informed again that Portuguese immigrants to the
United States scored 83, a score lower than that registered by African Americans in general. Of similar interest too is the fact that when children of northern and southern European immigrants were tested with non-language tests along with other children of European ancestry the IQ gap remained the same. Children of northern European descent scored 97, those of southern European descent
scored 85, while those of less recent European ancestry scored 98.

Thus it would seem that the IQ gap is not based on race after all, but on something more akin to exposure to levels of modern technology and education. According to convention all Europeans are classified as belonging to the so-called Caucasoid race, yet there are significant differences between the scores obtained from northern Europe and those from southern Europe. The main difference observable between northern and southern Europe is not race but rather level of industrialization and modernization in the technical sense.

Lynn's article not only deals with the IQ scores of Europeans but also with those of Asians and Africans. For example, Lynn states that "In India, there is a considerable literature on intelligence testing.... All the mean IQs lay in the range from 81 to 94, the overall mean being about 86" (p. 269). Yet "a small sample of 25 postgraduate students at the University of Calcutta, who took Raven's Test produced an incredibly low mean IQ of 75" (pg. 269). Curiously enough the inhabitants of India are considered "caucasoid." For persons of African origin Lynn reports that the scores range from 75 (Ghana, Jamaica) to 88 (Uganda, Tanzania.) One might want to compare such scores with those of West Asians: Iraq (80) and Iran (low 80's) (Lynn, p. 269).

The scores form East Asia are to be somewhat qualified given that no scores are reported from mainland China where the vast majority of East Asians live. As Lynn put it: "Little is known about the intelligence levels of Mongoloids in their homelands. The majority of studies have been made on Chinese and Japanese immigrants to the United States" (pg. 272). Lynn reports a score of 99 for
Chinese ethnics from Hawaii and scores of 107 and 114 for Chinese and Japanese subjects in Vancouver respectively. But there is the current belief among some psychometricians (Murray, Rushton, et al.) that East Asians are naturally more intelligent that Africans and Caucasoids. But I have pointed out that the vast majority of East Asians have not been subjected to IQ tests. Furthermore, the Eskimos who are considered members of the same racial complex as east
Asians score between the ranges of 70 and 85. This is hardly proof of Mongoloid intellectual superiority.

There are two other well-discussed aspects of the IQ controversy that Levin discusses with little epistemological care. These two topics are the "Flynn effect" and "identical twin testing." The Flynn effect (1987) is based on the research conducted by James Flynn which states that there have been great intergenerational increases in IQ reported over the recent years. For example, Flynn noted that between 1949 and 1974 the IQ scores of French persons increased 21 points. Similar kinds of increases were noted for Japan, Germany, and Austria. In fact, Flynn remarked on the same phenomenon for fourteen nations. Clearly, genetic factors could not be at work here. We can attribute the increases in IQ purely to environmental changes (schooling and other kinds of cognitive exposures).

Levin does recognize the Flynn effect (pg. 128) but dismisses an environmental explanation for the "black-white IQ gap" with the unproven claim that since "black" and "white" environments have been converging the racial IQ gap may well be genetic. But Levin has not proven that the sociological environments of blacks and whites have been converging. Levin even argues that if the IQ gap does not change over time for both blacks and whites this difference means "that the race gap is due to genes" (p. 129). It is difficult to follow Levin's reasoning here. What is at stake here in the discussion is the impact of the environment in determining IQ scores. The explanation offered for intergenerational differences in IQ scores is necessarily environmental, that is, over time environments change for the same racial group. But then Levin illogically rejects this possible explanation for the black-white IQ gap by claiming that there are no environmental differences between the sociologies of blacks and

But we know that there are evident environmental and sociological differences between blacks and whites in the United States and elsewhere. In fact the only way in which possible cognitive differences between blacks and whites could be properly evaluated is for sufficiently large samples of black and white monozygotic (identical) twins to be randomly adopted by black and white households across all socioeconomic levels. Thus each pair of black and white twins will be adopted at birth individually by one randomly chosen black family and one randomly chosen white family. But again, even if such an experiment were possible, what guarantees do we have that the identical twins have all been randomly distributed throughout society?

This brings me to the very issue of research done on identical twins reared apart as a way of determining the effect of the environment on IQ scores. Levin does refer to the different studies done on monozygotic twins reared apart (p. 97) but does not shed much analytical light on the issue. The most extensive of these tests (as cited by Levin) are those carried out by Pedersen (1992), Burt (1966) and Bouchard (1990). The average estimate of [h.sup.2] for these studies is .80 with the average difference between IQ scores being put at 7 points.

All this is interesting but it does not shed much light on the questions concerning race and IQ. After all, if monozygotic twins reared apart are reared in environments that are sociologically similar then the significance of reported IQ differences loses explanatory importance. What is significant though
about monozygotic twin studies are the reported individual ranges between tested twins. I argue that if there are a significant numbers of monozygotic twin IQ scores that demonstrate tested gaps of approximately 15 points -- the approximate black-white gap in the United States and some parts of Africa, then the hereditarian thesis is cast in doubt.

Psychometrician Arthur Jensen (1972) offers some data on this in the paper "IQs of Identical Twins Reared Apart". Jensen offers details on 4 twin studies. One of the studies discussed is that of Burt's (1966), but this research has been mired in controversy so I shall not use it in my analysis. Of the
sixty-nine (69) pairs of twins tested by Shields (38), Newman et al. (19) and Juel-Nielsen (12), ten (10) pairs of the sixty-nine (69) had gap differences of at least 15 points. This number amounts to approximately 14 percent of the total. This is significant. If one restricts the analysis to Shields and Newman the percentage increases to 18 percent approximately. We note that the Juel-Nielson study was carried out in Denmark where social equality is an ideal aimed at. This explains why in this study the largest IQ gap registered is 12 points.

Levin's thesis, though mainly about the issue of intelligence and race is not exclusively so. He extends his racial thesis to the question of values and human behavior. Levin puts it thus: "The races simply differ in abilities, behavior, and standards of evaluation" (p. 163). Levin's sociobiological approach to human decision making is once again evident when he writes: "The separate
evolution of blacks and whites, which appears to have produced cognitive and temperamental differences, makes it possible, indeed likely, that behaviors and norms pathological for whites are not pathological for blacks, and that identical behaviors and norms have different functional significance for the two races" (p. 186).

In the section on values Levin seeks to expound on this thesis with references to interracial differences in criminality and cultural attitudes. The goal here is to argue once again for an essentialist theory of race not only in terms of cognitive abilities but also in terms of values. But again Levin, though avowedly empiricist in orientation, fails to be exhaustive in his analysis. Obvious proof of my claim here is that there are societies of persons of African origin where crime and acts of violence are extremely rare. The crime rate is extremely low in rural communities of persons of African ancestry in Africa and the Americas. It is the sociological argument that explains why the descendants of peaceful rural African Americans are often involved with the law in the urban, high unemployment areas of North America.

In the discussion on values Levin once again appeals to the environment to explain "the strong individual dominance drive" among Africans (p. 140) and a supposedly cooperative and democratic European temperament. Levin writes, "Recall the hypothesis that conditions in northern Eurasia strongly favored cooperation" (p. 168). In fact Levin's analysis is totally erroneous: it is African society that has been criticized, as being incompatible with the individualism required of market economies. It is in Africa and other areas of the African world rather than in Europe that the idea of the extended family, with its concomitant principles of cooperation and altruistic obligation, is held to be widespread. But I do not make an essentialist argument here. Human social relations are determined maximally by the principle of sociological contingency: individualism and anomie are rampant in large urban areas while cooperation and altruism are more common in the rural areas of whatever continent. So again, Levin's thesis fails for lack of persuasiveness in terms of empirical evidence and analysis. In this regard Levin's speculations on the supposed differences in free will capacity between "blacks" and "whites" cannot be supported either scientifically or theoretically.

Of interest too are Levin's attempts to justify his arguments about the cognitive abilities of individuals of African ancestry by claiming that there is no evidence of creative, intellectual production from such persons in history. Levin writes that "the absence from Africa of advanced material culture is more
than an accident is confirmed by the failure of post-colonial Africa to sustain the technology left by whites" (p. 120). Levin is wrong in his claims about "the absence of material culture in Africa" and the fact that there are problems with technology transfers in Africa cannot be attributed to genetic causes. There are places in Europe where there are serious problems with technology transfers and maintenance as in countries such as Greece, Albania, and Bulgaria. And there are countries in the African world where basic technologies such as electricity, telecommunications, roads and so on are efficiently maintained. Ready examples are Kenya, Senegal, Barbados and Botswana.

The problems of technology facing the African world have nothing to do with genetics but with the complex of relations between the industrialized nations and their ex-colonies within the context of the capitalist world order. Levin's ignorance of the history of civilizations is again evident when he writes "no important discovery, invention or world leader emerged from Africa. The art, music, architecture, literature, and political history of Eurasia owe virtually nothing to Africans" (p. 194). In response to those who would claim that the architectural, cultural, and technological influences of ancient Egypt and Nubia, as African civilizations, on the Eurasian world easily refute the above assertion, Levin states without any elaboration and with reference only to some obscure pseudo-anthropologist (Baker, 1974) that "the Egyptians were not black" (p. 194).

But the originators of the world's first qualitatively path-breaking and influential technological civilizations were the ancient Nubians and Egyptians, both of African racial origin. Levin also fails to recognize that the Moorish architecture of southern Spain is of African origin, and that the originating
and creative impulses for contemporary Euro-American music and art are also of African origin.

But I want to elaborate further on Levin's lack of knowledge of Africa's anthropological and historical past with respect to the ancient Egyptians and Nubians. Levin's illogical reasoning on this issue goes something like this: Persons of African origin are incapable of producing any form of genuine civilization. The ancient Egyptians produced forms of genuine civilization. Ergo, the ancient Egyptians were not persons of African origin. The problem with this unsound argument is that Levin's first premise is empirically false.

The Greek historian Herodotus specifically refers to the ancient Egyptians as "black-skinned and woolly haired" both sufficient phenotypical characteristics for membership in the African race. Other Greek writers such as Aristotle also make reference to the physical characteristics of the ancient Egyptians and Nubians, contrary to Levin's assertions. Levin writes: "Africanists cite scattered reference to blacks in Herodotus to support a Nubian origin of Greek religion, but ignore Aristotle's silence about Africa. Why should Aristotle have lied, but not Herodotus?" (p. 195). Despite the strangeness of this proposition, Aristotle did not lie for we find in his "Physiognomics" the following:
"Too black a hue marks the coward as witness Egyptians and Ethiopians and so does also too white a complexion as you may see from women" (Vol. VI, 812a). In Book XIV of Problems Aristotle makes reference to the hair form of Egyptians and Ethiopians: "Why are the Ethiopians and Egyptians bandy-legged? Is it because the bodies of living creatures become distorted by heat, like logs of wood
when they become dry? The condition of their hair supports this theory; for it is curlier than that of other nations, and curliness is as it were crookedness of the hair." (Book XIV, p. 317)

What Levin fails to recognize is that just as there are no reasons why eyesight and hearing capacities might differ on average between individuals of the different geographical racial groups, so too with the human cognitive faculties. Once the biological threshold of Homo sapiens was reached in Africa there was no further need for evolutionary pressures to yield groups of individuals with significantly differing cognitive capacities wherever they migrated on earth. The cognitive capacities of Homo sapiens Africanus were adequate enough to ensure survival not only in tropical Africa but also in temperate Eurasia and the frigid Arctic. I repeat the proof of this thesis that I established above: Homo sapiens Africanus was in no way cognitively disadvantaged with respect to the Neanderthal human types that had been resident in the cold climates of Eurasia for at least 300,000 years -- a time span much longer than the entire period for which Homo sapiens has existed.

In sum, Levin's text should be understood as not much more than a repetition of the traditional arguments on the issue of "race differences" in intellect, temperament and physiological capacities. I do not deny that the world's environments have selected for gross human physiological traits such as
pigmentation, hair form, epicanthic eye folds and so on, but once Homo sapiens Africanus emerged with the capacities for language (all languages necessarily derive from the first African languages), and conceptual thought (necessary for the first art works and Neolithic technology) the selecting influences of the world's environments were rendered redundant with respect to human cognitive

What this means is that Levin's argument concerning racial differences with respect to intelligence, temperament and value choice cannot be supported. His quasi-inductivist thesis that the present average IQ scores of some groups of persons of African descent is explained by a supposed dearth of African creativity over time, I have shown to be fallacious. Levin's text, in essence, is just another instance of that persistent ideological strain in Western thought which claims that persons of African origin are deficient in the important intellectual characteristics that define the human species.

The reason for the persistence of this specific ideology is that it is required to maintain the idea of the Eurocentric racial caste system established at the dawn of the modern era to justify the economic division of labor required by the captivity of Africans in the Americas, the captivity and colonization
of Native Americans in the Americas, and the colonization of Africans in Africa. The forced labor of Africans in the Americas and Africa had to be justified by an ideology that claimed that persons of African origin were less cognitively capable than Europeans. If it were admitted that IQ scores reflect only sociological differences between groups then the social stability of the racial caste system invented by modern Eurocentric discourse would be seriously undermined from an intellectual standpoint. Something similar was at work in the European invention of the concept of the naturalness of hierarchies of ancestry required for the stability of Europe's feudal orders: aristocrat and serf were
distinguishable ancestrally purely on the spurious concept of "blood."

The politico-economic situation of the post-Civil Rights era in the United States and that of post-colonial Africa are highly unstable in terms of the division of labor established at the origins of Modern Europe. The economic "success" of modern Europe springs from the exploitation of African labor (in the Americas and Africa) and the resources of Africa by the entrepreneurial administration of European capitalism. The racial ideology that made the wealth and success of Europe possible is now being challenged. It is the defense of that racial ideology that explains the popularity and notoriety of theorists such as Eyesenck, Jensen, Shockley, Murray, Lynn, Murray, and Levin.

I have argued above that the racial ideology emphasizing the cognitive limitation of persons of African descent is fallacious. I established the following:

1) The idea that the colder climates of Eurasia were more challenging than those of Africa thereby leading to a more cognitively evolved branch of Homo sapiens is false. Neanderthal man existed in Europe for at least 300,000 years but was no more cognitively evolved than the incoming Homo sapiens Africanus.

2) IQ test results do not establish cognitive differences based on race since Southern Europeans, West Asians, South Asians, Eskimos, and others register scores similar to those of persons of African descent. It is evident that IQ scores reflect particular sociological environments than otherwise.

As a final note: the apparent seriousness of the text is marred by a frivolous "hypothetical address by the President of the United States of America to a Joint session of Congress and the American People" supporting Levin's theses on racial differences in intelligence and temperament, and three nonsensical appendices. There is also an inexcusable grammatical error in the first line of page 147.


Aristotle. "Physiognomics" in Minor Works, trans. W.S. Hett. London: Heinemann, 1963. It should be noted that the editor of Aristotle's Minor Works and Problems expresses doubt whether these works were authored by Aristotle himself. In any case they do reflect in this instance empirical observative the Greeks made of the African phenotype of the Egyptians and Nubians.

Problems, trans. W.S. Hett. London: Heinemann, 1970. Flynn, J. 1987. "Massive IQ Gains in 14 Nations: What IQ Tests Really Measure." Psychological Bulletin 101: 171-191.

Jensen, A. 1970. "IQs of Identical Twins Reared Apart." Behavior Genetics 1. 133-148.

Lynn, R. 1978. "Ethnic and Racial Differences in Intelligence: International Comparisons." In Human Variation: The Biopsychology of Age, Race, and Sex, eds. R. Travis Osborne, Clyde Noble, and Nathaniel Weyl. Eds.: 261-286

Shuey, A. 1966. The Testing of Negro Intelligence, 2nd ed. New York: Social Science Press.



Mises Daily: Monday, August 20, 2007
by Gene Callahan

[IQ and the Wealth of Nations, by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen. Praeger, 2002, 298 pages.]

IQ and the Wealth of Nations attempts to make a serious, scholarly case for the thesis that the great variation presently observed in the per capita wealth of the nations of the world can be explained largely as the effect of the differences in inherited mental capacity existing between prosperous and impoverished countries.

Further, the authors suggest that this "intelligence gap" can only be closed quite slowly, if at all, so that efforts to aid the poor of the Third World must accept "that the gap between rich and poor nations will inevitably persist for the indefinite future" (p. 196). Therefore, they conclude, "the world needs a new international moral code based on the recognition of significant national differences in human mental abilities… The populations of the rich countries may have to accept that they have an ethical obligation to provide financial assistance to the people of the poor countries for the indefinite future…" (p. 196).

If the authors central contention is correct and if they have drawn the right policy conclusions from their theory, then the consequences are indeed profound: the hoary and long moribund notion of "the white man's burden" gains a new lease on life (although, per this work, it will have to be re-christened as "the white and East Asian man's burden"), and the inhabitants of the Third World are destined for lives of perpetual dependency, fated never to reach the age of majority or real independence. Since the implications of this book are so profound, it seems appropriate to scrutinize its contents carefully, to see if the arguments it presents hold up under critical examination. And so we shall proceed.

Lynn and Vanhanen launch their case by reviewing several rival suggestions about the chief causative agent determining the widely differing levels of prosperity evidenced by the nations of the world. While they grant some alternatives a degree of plausibility, such as the economic argument for free markets, allowing that they may describe contributing factors working alongside their own horse in the race, of others they are entirely dismissive. For instance, in considering Jared Diamond's thesis that geographical contingencies have been of primary importance in determining the course of economic history, they write, "[His] theory has a number of obvious weaknesses. First, in sub-Saharan Africa there are wild plants that could have been domesticated, such as sorghum, millet, yams, and rice, and wild animals that could have been domesticated, such as guinea fowl, zebras, giraffes, buffalo, and wildebeests. The reason these animals were not domesticated is because people did not put effort into domesticating them" (pp. 3-4). The authors apparently picture precolonial Africans as sitting around on the stoops of their housing projects, drinking their forty-ounce cans of malt liquor, and waiting for the white man to finally arrive with their welfare checks.

But Lynn and Vanhanen do not seem to have actually read the author they are "critiquing," for Diamond has pre-answered their complaint at some length. I will only cite a few excerpts of his answer, but those should be sufficient to demonstrate our authors' sloppy scholarship. On the question of the African buffalo, which is not only a different species from the (successfully domesticated) Asian water buffalo but is in an entirely different genus, Diamond writes: "But the African buffalo is considered the most dangerous and unpredictable large mammal of Africa. Anyone insane enough to try to domesticate it either died in the effort or was forced to kill the buffalo before it got too big and nasty" (1999, p. 171). And what about the zebra? "Africa's four species of zebras are even worse…. Zebras have the unpleasant habit of biting a person and not letting go. They thereby injure even more American zookeepers each year then do tigers! Zebras are also virtually impossible to lasso with a rope…" (1999, pp. 171-172). Wildebeests are similarly unsuitable for domestication.

And what of the other five species that our authors' chastise Africans for not domesticating? As extensively documented in Diamond's book, every single one of them — sorghum, millet, yams, rice, and guinea fowl — were domesticated by Africans, along with cowpeas, peanuts, cotton, watermelons, and bottle gourds! Given that no new African species have been successfully domesticated since the mass arrival of Europeans on the continent, it is likely that Africans domesticated every suitable species at hand! The authors' claim that they "did not put effort into [it]" appears to be nothing more than anti-black propaganda. The authors also note the "east-west axis of approximately 4000 miles from Senegal and Guinea to Ethiopia and Somalia" (p. 4), as if Diamond had not addressed that challenge to his theories at all, when, in fact, he takes it quite seriously.
"The authors apparently picture precolonial Africans as sitting around on the stoops of their housing projects, drinking their 40-ounce cans of malt liquor, and waiting for the white man to finally arrive with their welfare checks."

After reviewing alternative explanations for the differing wealth of nations, Lynn and Vanhanen proceed to expound the superiority of their own thesis. They offer their evidence for the importance of inherited factors in determining IQ, but here seem to commit a elementary statistical error. They cite a study concluding that the IQ correlation between identical twins raised separately is .75. But then, "assuming that the test has a reliability of .9… the corrected correlation between the twin pairs is .83" (p. 24). It is true that a test only 90% reliable could understate a correlation by 10%. But it could also overstate it by a similar amount. Why conclude that the high end of the error range represents the true figure, other than the fact that it bolsters one's preconceptions?

Nevertheless, there is apparently considerable scientific evidence that genetic factors are a quite significant influence on an individual's measured IQ. However, the authors erroneously leap from their (perhaps defensible) contention that about 80% of an individual's IQ is dependent on genes to the non sequitur of asserting that the same percentage of genetic influence can be assumed for a nation's mean IQ. They fail to realize that, even if within a culture the bulk of IQ variation is due to genetic endowments, it might also be true that the variations between cultures arise predominantly from environmental circumstances. I offer an analogous, but perhaps less loaded, situation, which I hope is sufficient to demonstrate this point. Imagine two countries, Freedonia and Sylvania, in each of which it is found that the range of skiing ability existing within that nation's population is largely explained by inherited traits. Even so, if it is the case that Freedonians live in snowy mountains, while the Sylvanians inhabit a steamy jungle, the best explanation for the existence of a large gap in skill between the mean Freedonian skier and the mean Sylvanian skier is likely to be environmental.

Lynn and Vanhanen are also guilty of positing "heredity" and "the environment" as completely independent variables. Although at times it may be convenient to isolate the influence of these two abstractions, the reality is that they are inseparable sides of a single coin: changing environmental conditions deeply impact genetic developments, just as organisms with novel adaptations alter their own surroundings.

If we examine the prospects of a typical Western European woman around 800 AD, it should be apparent that securing a mate with a high IQ conferred minimal benefits: she, her husband, and their progeny were all fated to be peasant farmers, living lives in which a strong back was likely to be more useful than a nimble mind. But, as urban life in Western Europe revived, trade and commercial acumen grew in importance, and intellectual pursuits gained in esteem, it became increasingly advantageous to choose an intelligent spouse. Therefore, the relatively high average IQ found in that region today may be more the result than the cause of the growing complexity and material well-being characterizing recent, Western European social life.

And, if the interplay of circumstances and intelligence is thus conceived, the fact that the leading edge of human civilization has thrust forward now in one area among one people, now in another region embodied by some other nation, is far less mysterious than it should appear to Lynn and Vanhanen. How, using their theory, can they explain that three of the four "cradles" of civilization appear as low-IQ locales in their data, and, therefore, as improbable torchbearers in mankind's advance?
"Lynn and Vanhanen are also guilty of positing 'heredity' and 'the environment' as completely independent variables."

The authors' hypothesis that it was the challenges to human survival presented by cold, northern winters that resulted in higher IQs in Europe and East Asia is also inconsistent with the inconvenient locations of the first civilizations. Every foundational culture — the Egyptians, the Mesopotamians, the Indians, the Chinese, the Incas, the Mayans — arose in an area where winters were either mild or essentially non-existent, whereas, per our authors' proposal, we should expect that civilization would first appear in Scandanavia, Siberia, and Canada. But in the recalcitrant world of historical reality, those places were quite the latecomers to civilized society, and their entrance therein did not take place until the influence of the tropical and semi-tropical trailblazers made its way to their laggard climes.

Lynn and Vanhanen attempt to support their contention that western IQ tests are culturally neutral by correlating several nations' mean IQs with studies of the same populations' mean reaction times. The time it takes a test subject to respond to a light flashing, they argue, surely is not culturally dependent. However, their own data here seems to weaken, rather than bolster, their case. While it is true that the rankings of the four sample countries are the same in both tests, the lowest national IQ they present is 59% of the highest, but the best mean reaction time is only 10% better than the worst. To me, that suggests that current IQ tests significantly over-estimate whatever basic variation in mental acuity exists between the inhabitants of different regions of the planet.

Another item that ought to prompt the thoughtful reader to question the very large discrepancy in intelligence that the authors assert to exist between various human sub-populations is the extraordinarily low average IQs assigned to many African nations. For example, the authors claim that the mean IQ in Equitorial Guinea is only 59, well shy of the threshold score of 70 below which the testee is classified as mentally retarded. Anyone who has spent significant time with an American or a European whose IQ is that low (as I did for a year while assisting in a special education program) can attest that such an individual is not capable of independently managing his own life, and will require constant caretaking to get on in the world.

How could an entire society where the average member has so little ability to cope with reality possibly endure? The most obvious answer is that an IQ of 59 has a quite different significance when measured for a westerner than it does for a central African. If that were not the case, the plain fact of the continued existence of the people of sub-Saharan Africa would seem to be something of a miracle. It is undeniable that the inhabitants of central Africa managed, somehow, to survive there for millennia while living outside of supervised care facilities, and have even increased in number after their collision with European peoples. Their lives may have required cognitive skills quite distinct from those most useful to Europeans or East Asians, but those skills are still exhibitions of intelligence, albeit intelligence directed towards dealing with the unique environmental challenges they faced. If that is the case, then it is no surprise that they perform poorly on an IQ test devised with a different set of mental capabilities in mind.

Lynn and Vanhanen are also guilty of a very selective use of historical data in defending their thesis. They state that "the populations of sub-Saharan Africa cannot be expected to match the rates of economic growth achieved elsewhere in the world" (p. 180); however, quite to the contrary, over recent years GDP growth in Africa has been significantly higher than the world average. Ireland appears in their tables as one of the lowest IQ countries in Western Europe, yet it now ranks fourth in the world in per capita GDP, its recent burst of prosperity lifting it well ahead of the United Kingdom, despite the much higher IQ level ascribed to the latter nation.
"How, using their theory, can they explain that three of the four "cradles" of civilization appear as low-IQ locales in their data, and, therefore, as improbable torchbearers in mankind's advance?

To be fair, the authors' IQ figures are almost a decade old; perhaps the Irish underwent a recent boom in intellectual ability as well? Isn't it more probable that the program of economic liberalization the Republic instituted shows that the benefits of freedom can more than offset any genetic handicap a country may face?

Our authors further assert that "the impact of national levels of intelligence is confirmed impressionistically by the contrast between the rapid development in the second half of the twentieth century of the nations of East Asia, with their high average IQs, and the poorer economic performance of the nations of south and southwest Asia, Latin America, and sub-Saharan Africa" (p. 23).

They seem unaware of the principle that a change in circumstances cannot be explained by a causal factor that was constant before and after the change, but only by a new causal influence. If, as Lynn and Vanhanen contend, IQ is primarily determined by genetic inheritance, then it follows that East Asians must have had above-average IQs for quite some time prior to 1950. Therefore, that factor is a very poor candidate for explaining the dramatic leap in their prosperity that has occurred since that date.

A much more plausible hypothesis is that the most crucial aspect of recent East Asian economic history is that most of the region more or less embraced free markets, while many Africa and Latin America countries were seduced by the alluring but empty promises of socialist propagandists, and succumbed to the temptation of the apparently easy path to prosperity offered by foreign aid. (To be fair to the authors, as I noted above they do acknowledge capitalism as an important factor in prosperity, and explain the discrepancy between the high IQs found in Eastern Europe and China and those regions' lagging economic performance by pointing to their socialist past.)

The authors also appear ignorant of the law of comparative advantage. In light of what they see as the important and long-lasting "intelligence gap" separating the rich and the poor nations, they declare that, in the low-IQ countries, "we should expect many … individuals to be unemployed and an economic burden" (p. 161). If they understood the principle of comparative advantage, they would realize that even the least-endowed individuals, so long as they are able to perform any work at all, will have something of value to offer their more capable brethren.
"Whether or not some nations truly suffer from an ineradicable intelligence deficit, their best path to follow is the one of freedom."

Once the universal applicability of this fundamental finding of economics is recognized, it is clear that, even if the primary claim of IQ and the Wealth of Nations about the existence of important, genetically grounded differences in the average intelligence of nations is true, the policy recommendations the authors draw from that claim are still unfounded. Every non-invalid person, however paltry was the inheritance bequeathed to him by his genetic forebears, can engage in mutually beneficial exchanges with his fellow humans. Therefore, it is clearly preferable, both economically and morally, to encourage and aid the impoverished to discover what they can contribute to society, rather than patronizing and demoralizing them by promoting the belief that they have nothing of worth to offer others, and can only be sustained through the pity of their betters. Whether or not some nations truly suffer from an ineradicable intelligence deficit, their best path to follow is the one of freedom.

In short, IQ and the Wealth of Nations is a severely flawed book, falling far short of presenting the indisputable case for the primary importance of genetically determined intelligence in deciding the economic performance of nations that Lynn and Vanhanen claim it offers. It may still be true that inherited mental capabilities are crucial for explaining the relative difference in various countries' prosperity. But if this book represents the best evidence that can be marshaled for that thesis, then we have good reason to doubt it.

Gene Callahan is studying at the London School of Economics. He is the author of Economics for Real People. Send him mail. See his archive. Comment on the blog.

For Callahan's critique of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, see "The Diamond Fallacy."

Read more: Does IQ Determine the Wealth of Nations? - Gene Callahan - Mises Daily


The Diamond Fallacy

Mises Daily: Monday, March 28, 2005
by Gene Callahan

Jared Diamond's book Guns, Germs and Steel: A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years is a fascinating and quite readable speculation on the relationship between geography and history. He has assembled a cornucopia of interesting facts and plausible insights concerning the course of events over the last 13,000 years. The result is well worth reading, despite the fact that I think the ambition of his main thesis reaches well beyond his actual achievement. That discrepancy is due, I believe, to Diamond's having little understanding of what history actually is.

The critique of Diamond's conception of history I offer here is based on the view of the historical enterprise put forward by such philosophers of history as R.G. Collingwood, Ludwig von Mises, and Michael Oakeshott. They share the view that history consists in the effort to identify the particular, past circumstances that make intelligible the subsequent occurrence of other, unique events. Any attempt to explain the human past by reference to general laws or broad patterns is, in this view, a distinctly separate way of comprehending the past from that offered by history. Furthermore, any effort to discover such "laws of history" faces inherent obstacles that prevent it from achieving the sort of success that, for instance, physics has in describing universal laws of matter and energy.

Diamond's work falls within the broad class of theories purporting to detect universal historical laws, and are therefore subject to the same criticisms that Collingwood, Mises, and Oakeshott directed against his intellectual predecessors. His attempt to discern typical patterns in humanity's past is not, in and of itself, absurd or doomed to failure. The main problem with his enterprise is that he seemingly is unaware of what sort of investigation creates the truly historical past. As a result, he proposes substituting his own "geographical past" for the genuinely historical past.

While Guns, Germs and Steel offers many interesting and plausible suggestions as to how geography may have influenced human history, his apparent ignorance of the discipline of history leads him to propose replacing true historical inquiry with a "scientific" hunt for the "ultimate causes" of historical events. Diamond's central error, besides being of interest to anyone concerned with historical methodology, also has broader political implications, which run as an implicit secondary theme through Guns, Germs and Steel, and are made more explicit in his recent book, Collapse. I will address the subject of policy in the conclusion of this article.

Diamond's Thesis

Diamond's central conception is that the course of history, broadly speaking, is not determined by individual actions, cultural factors, or racial differences, but by the environmental circumstances into which different groups of people accidentally wandered. More specifically, those groups that happened to wind up in places that offered a variety of plants and animals suitable for domestication, and that made acquiring domesticated species and new technologies from other societies relatively easy, wound up having a decisive advantage over groups located in environments lacking those features. As a result, when geographically advantaged societies encountered groups not so blessed, the outcome was inevitably that the former conquered or absorbed the disadvantaged culture. Thus it is geography, claims Diamond, and not greater inventiveness, a superior culture, or racial differences that is the "ultimate explanation" of why, for instance, Europeans came to rule the Americas rather than American Indians ruling Europe.

Some of Diamond's critics have accused him of excusing past atrocities, wars of aggression, genocides, and other crimes. They believe his thesis implies that the perpetrators of such acts are off the hook, since "geography made them do it." In answering that charge, Diamond quite correctly distinguishes between understanding why some event occurred and justifying the actions of the people involved. As he notes, "psychologists try to understand the minds of murderers and rapists ... social historians try to understand genocide, and ... physicians try to understand the causes of human disease" (pg. 17). Yet none of them are trying to justify murder, rape, genocide, or disease—indeed, their attempt to understand them is often motivated by the desire to prevent them.

Naturally, no conscientious scholar makes a controversial and sweeping claim, such as attributing to geography the primary causal role in history, without presenting a fair amount of supporting evidence. In fact, the bulk of Diamond's book relates historical events meant to demonstrate the soundness and explanatory scope of his claim.

Diamond's Evidence

In order to make his thesis plausible, Diamond must show that there were crucially important geographical differences between the homelands of those societies that wound up as conquerors and those that turned out to be the vanquished. He has exerted tremendous ingenuity in attempting to do so. I believe that he has succeeded to some extent, although it is a much more limited accomplishment than he ambitiously claims to have achieved.

The main historical outcome that Diamond seeks to explain is that the descendants of the people who 13,000 years ago occupied Eurasia[1]came to rule over such a large portion of the Earth's inhabitable land. Why wasn't it American Indians or sub-Saharan Africans who colonized Europe, rather than the reverse?

Diamond asserts that it was the combination of the Eurasians' superior technology, and of the various diseases that they carried proving massively lethal to many of the other people they eventually encountered, that led to that outcome. (Thus, the "guns, germs and steel" in the title of the book.) He calls those facts the "proximate causes" of the present Eurasian dominance of the world. But, quite understandably, he is not satisfied to halt his inquiry at that point. Why, he goes on to ask, did Eurasians come to possess better technology than did the inhabitants of the other continents? And why did Europeans carry germs so deadly to American Indians that many Indian nations were wiped out in advance of any direct contact with Europeans (through disease transmission from Indian tribes that did have direct contact with colonists), rather than the Europeans falling in droves to diseases they contracted from Indians?

To answer the first of the above questions, Diamond begins by noting that the pace of technological development in a society depends heavily on its ability to create a food surplus. That enables the emergence of producers who can specialize in craft manufacture, because once a society reaches a situation in which the labor of one person can supply more food than is needed simply to keep him alive, some members of the group do not need to devote themselves to procuring sustenance. And a food surplus generally only comes about once a society learns to deliberately produce its food, rather than relying on finding it naturally produced and then hunting it down, digging it up, or picking it.

Diamond makes a convincing case that, given enough time living in one place, all modern humans (meaning homo sapiens) will tend to figure out how to domesticate any of the indigenous plants and animals that are suitable for agriculture. (For example, there are nine widely separated places on the globe—the Fertile Crescent, China, Mesoamerica, the Andes, the African Sahel, tropical West Africa, Ethiopia, and New Guinea—where food production seems likely to have arisen independently.) However, it happens that Eurasia was blessed with far more species suitable for domestication than any other continent. Of today's major food crops, more originated from there than anywhere else. Of the fourteen mammals over 100 pounds that humans have domesticated, every one of the "major five" (cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and horses) is Eurasian in origin. Nor is it the case that Eurasians were simply more clever than the residents of other continents at learning how to domesticate the local flora and fauna—despite the fact that they eventually came to occupy every inhabitable continent, and despite all of the advances in technology and the increased understanding of breeding techniques that have taken place in recent centuries, European colonists have domesticated no new species of major agricultural importance in any of the lands they came to conquer.

Diamond also contends that the "east-west axis" of Eurasia, as opposed to the "north-south axis" of the Americas and Africa, made an important contribution to Eurasian's current global dominance. Because Eurasia extends mostly from east to west, it provided a vast area of roughly similar climatic conditions over which a multitude of societies could share agricultural innovations. The result was an enormous, integrated area of agricultural practices and common crops stretching roughly 6000 miles, from Ireland to Japan. In contrast, the crops and the agricultural economy developed in tropical West Africa could not spread south into the Mediterranean climate of South Africa or north into the Sahel. The species domesticated in the Andes never reached central Mexico, nor visa-versa, because they were useless in the intervening tropics of Central America. Although Mexican corn eventually was cultivated in eastern North America, it took millennia to spread to there, because of the two regions' different climates and the arid stretches separating them.

It is not terribly difficult to imagine that an advantage in food production can result, over time, in a technological advantage as well. But how can Diamond account for the diseases that Europeans carried to distant shores being so much deadlier to the locals than the diseases they carried were to Europeans? Quite cleverly, it turns out.

He launches his explanation by suggesting that epidemic, or "crowd," diseases, such as influenza, measles, smallpox, and bubonic plague, cannot easily sustain themselves among small bands of hunter-gatherers. They will tend to wipe out the entire population, which, unfortunately from the point of the microbe causing the disease, wipes the microbe out as well. It is only among large populations of humans, in close contact with other populous groups nearby, that epidemic diseases have a chance to persist over long time-spans, both because the likelihood of a few individuals having natural immunity to the disease is greater, and because the microbe can shift back-and-forth between neighboring populations, surviving dormant in a group that has recently built up immunity to it until it can jump to another, more susceptible neighboring population.

But where do such microbes come from? They can't conjure themselves into existence out of thin air once a sufficiently dense human population emerges. No, Diamond argues, they come from the only place they plausibly could—they are mutations of microbes that evolved to survive amidst dense populations of other mammal species, specifically, among the herd animals, a number of which humans domesticated and came to live with in close quarters. Therefore, agriculture provided the necessary conditions for the survival of epidemic diseases among humans, and animal domestication, especially of herd mammals, supplied the source of microbes able, through natural mutation, to make the relatively small adjustment from being hosted by cows or pigs to being hosted by humans. As a result, when Europeans first encountered American Indians, it was the Europeans, and not the Indians, who carried the deadly crowd diseases.

Diamond illustrates the patterns he has detected with a number of historical examples, including less familiar ones such as the Austronesian expansion, from Taiwan to the Philippines, then to Indonesia and Malaysia, and on westwards to Madagascar and east across the Pacific, eventually reaching Hawaii and Easter Island. Given what we have examined so far, Diamond's work suggests the following, quite sensible ideas:

When two societies first encounter each other, the one that is more technologically advanced will frequently conquer or absorb the less advanced;

Advances in technology depend heavily on a food surplus, and, therefore, on agriculture;

The degree to which agriculture could be practiced in any location, before the advent of world-wide commerce, depended heavily on what species were locally available for domestication or could be acquired from neighboring cultures sharing a similar climate;

Agriculture and the domestication of herd animals are also prerequisites for the emergence of epidemic diseases among humans; and

Therefore, agricultural, herding societies will carry deadlier germs than will hunter-gatherers or people that farm only plants.

But Diamond is not satisfied with merely having discovered certain factors that frequently have been influential in humanity's past. Instead, he aims to transform the entire discipline of history into a natural science that discovers deductive-nomological [2]explanations, one that determines the "ultimate causes" of historical events, rather than mere "proximate causes," such as the actions of people or the ideas that they held. In adopting that grandiose project, Diamond turns what would have been an enlightening and sound exploration of some common historical patterns into a deeply flawed attempt to reform a subject he does not really understand.

For example, in his effort to squeeze the course of real events into his conceptual scheme and thereby demonstrate his "laws," Diamond often has to put a good deal of spin on historical episodes. In attempting to explain why the Vikings did not successfully colonize the New World, while the Spaniards and the Europeans who followed in their wake did, he writes, "Spain, unlike Norway, was rich and populous enough to support exploration and subsidize colonies" (pg. 373). But this declaration simply brushes over the fact that Norway did successfully explore the North Atlantic, and did successfully colonize the Faeroe Islands and Iceland. If Diamond were true to his project of turning history into a deductive-nomological science, he ought to proceed to formulate a quantitative law governing just how far from the mother country a colony can survive, given any particular amount of wealth and any number of residents in the colonizer. However, simply to state that requirement is to expose the attempt to stuff human history into a deductivist framework as the absurdity that it is.

Another instance of forcing the facts to fit the theory is Diamond's "law of history" asserting that agricultural societies will inevitably come to dominate their non-agricultural neighbors. He ignores the multitude of instances where settled farmers were conquered by nomadic horsemen: the Hittite conquest of the ancient Middle East, (possibly) the invasion of Greece by the Dorians, the successive movements of the Celtic and Germanic people across Europe, the Aryan migration into India, the Turkish conquest of much of the Moslem world that began in the 11th century, and the vast Mongolian conquests of the 13th and 14th centuries.

In fact, such examples led both the political theorist Albert Jay Nock and the economist Murray Rothbard to suggest a typical pattern in history nearly the opposite of Diamond's. They hypothesized that states arise when some nomadic people, who have been repeatedly raiding a nearby society of relatively peaceful farmers over an extended period, come to realize that it is more profitable to settle right in the farming community as rulers, enabling them to continually raid the productive population in the form of taxes. (See Nock, 1935, and Rothbard, 1978.)

I don't wish to enter here into disputes as to how the state came to be, or as to whether the pattern noted by Diamond is more or less common than that detected by Nock and Rothbard. I don't contend that such counter-examples make nonsense of Diamond's observations, much less that they demonstrate a "law of history" such as "nomadic horsemen always will defeat settled farmers." But they do show that the complexity of history defies attempts to deduce universal laws from its complex patterns. It is only by "cherry picking" his examples that Diamond can defend his claim that he has found "ultimate causes" in history.

Diamond also glosses over the divergence between his hypothesis that a lead in food production and subsequently other technologies is the "ultimate cause" of one civilization's dominance over another, and the inconvenient fact that the first region to develop agriculture, animal husbandry, and writing was the Fertile Crescent, roughly located in what today is Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. None of those countries are dominant powers in today's geo-political scene. He attempts to explain this anomaly by noting the environmental degradation of the relatively fragile ecology of the Near East due to extensive human exploitation of the area's natural resources, such as the almost complete deforestation of the region that occurred as its residents cut down trees for timber and to clear land for farming. He declares that, as a consequence, "with the Greek conquest of all advanced societies from Greece east to India under Alexander the Great in the late fourth century B.C., power finally made its first shift irrevocably westward" (pg. 410). Diamond fails to explain exactly how, if this shift of power was "irrevocable" and was an inevitable result of human damage to the Near East's ecology, power, as well as the cutting edge of scholarship, shifted back to the Near East during the first six or seven centuries after the fall of Rome.

After all, if Alexander's triumph was merely a "proximate cause" of the waning dominance of southwestern Asian culture, while the "ultimate cause" was environmental, then it should have been impossible for the region to ever regain its former glory. Nevertheless, many centuries after "power" had scurried "irrevocably westward," the territory ruled by the Muslim caliphate exceeded that of the grandest empires of the ancient Near East by perhaps an order of magnitude. Nor is it obvious that Alexander's triumph over the Persian Empire had anything to do with the ecological state of affairs in the Near East – it seems, by truly historical accounts, to have been primarily due to Alexander's brilliance and tenacity as a general. (See Green, 1992, for more on this point.) And it would seem ludicrous to contend that the "ultimate cause" of Alexander's conquests was some environmental advantage held by Macedon, a late-to-develop and resource-poor backwater of the Greek world.

Diamond Does Not Comprehend the True Character of History

I believe that Diamond's desire to transform the practice of history stems chiefly from the fact that he understands neither the nature of the material from which the historian launches his inquiries, nor what the historian's task is in relation to that material. Diamond has reverted to the view of history held by 19th-century positivists, who believed that the historian is presented with a collection of "historical facts," and that his job is to discover the "laws" or "historical forces" that explain those facts.

For example, Diamond declares that, since the "whole modern world has been shaped by lopsided outcomes [in clashes of different cultures] ... they must have inexorable explanations, ones more basic than mere details concerning who happened to win some battle or develop some invention on one occasion a few thousand years ago" (pg. 25). Yet he neither refutes the idea that historical contingency can offer adequate explanations in this regard, nor does he defend his insistence upon "inexorable explanations" of the human past.

Now, despite the recent emphasis in the philosophy of science on how all facts are "theory laden," there is a sense in which it is true that the natural scientist does have the facts to be explained presented to him as a given starting point for his investigations. A certain star just does produce a certain spectral pattern. There may be disagreement as to what the pattern means, or even as to whether it is significant, but there it is. If some astronomer doubts it is so, he can re-create the pattern for himself. Compound A and compound B just do produce a certain amount of heat when combined. The chemist skeptical of the fact as reported can combine them herself and make her own measurement.

But no similar facts are given to the historian. Instead, he is faced with certain artifacts that have survived into the present, and which he takes to be signs of past events that are not present before him, events that it will never be possible to re-create. Nor can the surviving pieces of evidence of past happenings be taken at face value. A text purporting to describe a battle may have been composed to glorify the victor or excuse the loser. A politician's memoirs may have been written with an eye to making him look good to future generations. The inscription on a statue may have been re-inscribed at the behest of a ruler jealous of his illustrious predecessor's accomplishments. The historian is always presented with a collection of initially ambiguous and often, on their face, mutually contradictory pieces of evidence, on the basis of which he attempts to determine what the facts really were. The "facts of history" are not the starting point of his inquiry, but are instead its end product. As Collingwood notes, "The fact that in the second century the legions began to be recruited wholly outside Italy is not immediately given. It is arrived at inferentially by a process of interpreting data according to a complicated system of rules and assumptions" (1946, pg. 133).

To denigrate historical inquiry because it does not mimic the natural sciences in attempting to discover universal laws is to declare that there is no value in simply determining what really happened in humanity's past. Setting aside, for the moment, the question of whether it is even feasible to formulate "laws of history," a question that we will address below, I contend that the effort to discover the historical past is worthwhile in its own right, even if there is another discipline that could discover historical laws. To learn what really occurred in the past is to understand how we came to be where we are today. The knowledge gained through historical inquiry enables us to see how the myriad decisions and actions of our predecessors, the ideas they held, the ideals to which they aspired, the gods they worshipped, and the demons they feared, all combined to create the world in which we find ourselves today.

Lacking an understanding of what real historical research consists of, Diamond winds up doing "scissors and paste" history. His approach fails him in at least the one instance he discusses with which I have the most familiarity: the story of the QWERTY keyboard. He declares "trials conducted in 1932 with an efficiently laid-out keyboard showed that it would let us double our typing speed and reduce our typing effort by 95 percent" (pg. 248). If that were really true, then the fact that no company employing large numbers of typists, and wishing to double their productivity while at the same time making their jobs much easier—surely a profitable move!—chose to break with convention and switch to this efficient keyboard layout is astonishing.

But we can contain our astonishment. It turns out that the study Diamond cites was severely flawed, showing no evidence of using a genuine control group or random sampling to choose participants. Furthermore, it was conducted by none other than August Dvorak, the inventor of the purportedly more efficient keyboard, who, holding the patent to his design, had a large financial stake in proving the superiority of his model. Later, independent studies did not confirm Dvorak's outlandish claims. (See Liebowitz and Margolis, 1996, or my summary of their findings.)

Diamond also periodically employs the long discredited idea that there is a significant division between "human history" and an earlier time, before the invention of writing, called "pre-history." To the contrary, as Collingwood puts it:

"A consequence of the error which regards history as contained ready-made in its sources is the distinction between history and prehistory. From the point of view of this distinction, history is coterminous with written sources, and prehistory with the lack of such sources. It is thought that a reasonably complete and accurate narrative can only be constructed where we possess written documents out of which to construct it, and that where we have none we can only put together a loosely assemblage of vague and ill-founded guesses. This is wholly untrue: written sources have no such monopoly of trustworthiness or informativeness as is here implied, and there are very few types of problems which cannot be solved on the strength of unwritten evidence" (1946, pg. 372).

Diamond opens his book with a question asked of him by Yali, a New Guinean whom the author met while undertaking biological research on the island: Why is it that Europeans have so much more "stuff" than New Guineans? He laments that most professional historians "are no longer even asking the question" (pg. 15). It doesn't seem to occur to him that the reason for that might be that it is not an historical question. If history consists in showing how the occurrence of some unique event in the past is made intelligible by the particular circumstances that led up to it, then it is categorically unable to address such questions as "Why are Europeans generally wealthier than New Guineans?" As Oakeshott says:

"[The] alleged task is to discern [an historical event's] 'true' character by coming to understand it as an example of the operation of a 'law of history' or a 'law of historical change.' In order to perform this task [the historian] must equip himself with such a 'law' or 'laws.' And he is said to do this in a procedure of examining (and perhaps comparing) a number of such occurrences and situations and coming to perceive them as structures composed of regularities. But this, also, is clearly a mistake: no such conclusion could issue from such a procedure. What this 'historian' needs and what he must devise for himself is a collection of systematically related abstract concepts ... in terms of which to formulate 'laws.' How he may set about this enterprise we need not enquire ... But what is certain is that they cannot be laws of 'history' or 'historical change' because they do not and cannot relate to the circumstantially reported situations he designs to explain, but only to model-situations abstracted from them in terms of these 'laws.' In short, the distinction between such a model-situation (explicated in terms of regularities) and a circumstantially reported situation is not a difference of truth and error; it is an unresolvable categorical distinction" (1983, pp. 81–82).

In the same vein, Mises notes, "The notion of a law of historical change is self-contradictory. History is a sequence of phenomena that are characterized by their singularity. Those features which an event has in common with other events are not historical" (1957, pg. 212).

Diamond does not comprehend the nature of historical inquiry, rendering his attempt to replace what he has failed to understand with his own brand of "scientific history" badly misguided. Nevertheless, I believe that he quite usefully has described a number of common patterns in human affairs. The economist Tony Lawson calls such patterns "demi-regs," by which he means "a partial event regularity which prima facie indicates the occasional, but less than universal, actualization of a mechanism or tendency, over a definite region of time-space" (1997, pg. 204).

But Diamond fails to realize the contingent nature of all such regularities in the social world. As Lawson notes,

"in the social realm, indeed, there will usually be a potentially very large number of countervailing factors [to any particular cause] acting at any one time and/or sporadically over time, and possibly each with varying strength.... [And] the mechanisms or processes which are being identified are themselves likely to be unstable to a degree over time and space.... Indeed, given the fact of the dependence of social mechanisms upon inherently transformative human agency, where human beings choose their courses of action (and so could always have acted otherwise), strict constancy seems a quite unlikely eventuality" (1997, pp. 218–19).

One of Diamond's chief motivations in writing the book under review seems to have been to discredit racial explanations of the course of history. However, if he had comprehended the true character of historical explanation, he would have seen that he was battling a chimera. Race can no more substitute for genuine historical understanding than can geography. How could it possibly explain the concrete particularities of history, when the past presents us with Germans as different as Johann Goethe and Adolf Hitler, Jews as dissimilar as Karl Marx and Ludwig von Mises, Irishmen as far apart as James Joyce and Gerry Adams, Chinese as divergent as Lao Tsu and Mao Tse Tung, blacks like George Washington Carver and Idi Amin, and so on.


Mises categorized the type of history Diamond proposes as "environmentalism." He said of it, "The truth contained in environmentalism is the cognition that every individual lives at a definite epoch in a definite geographical space and acts under the conditions determined by this environment." But, he goes on to note the flaw inherent in all attempts to regard the environment as the "ultimate cause" of historical events: "The environment determines the situation but not the response. To the same situation different modes of reacting are thinkable and feasible. Which one the actors choose depends on their individuality" (1957, pg. 326).

Diamond, I believe, has discovered some very interesting "demi-regularities" in the human past. But he has not realized that, quite apart from the search for such demi-regs, there is a different and quite legitimate discipline called history that concerns itself with discovering the particular antecedents of some unique going-on that explain its occurrence, based on critically analyzing artifacts from the past that have survived into the historian's present.

As I mentioned in the introduction, Diamond's mistake is not merely of concern to scholars. The view that "vast, impersonal forces" largely determine the course of history, whether those forces are taken to be "the material conditions of production," as in Marxism, or geographical circumstances, as in Diamond, naturally suggests that individuals can do little to affect their own future. As a logical consequence, in order to improve the lives of those who have been dealt a poor hand by those forces, it seems necessary to counteract them with another vast, impersonal force, namely, the State. Huge international programs intended to redress the arbitrary outcomes brought about by historical forces are recommended. The cases of countries with few geographic advantages but relatively free economies, such as Japan, prospering, and those of nations blessed with natural resources but ruled by highly interventionist governments, for example, Brazil or Nigeria, lagging behind, are easily dismissed as anomalies by those who are convinced that human action plays an insignificant part in history.

While Diamond's book is filled with valuable insights, it is not, as he would like to believe, the first step in the reformation of history along more "scientific" lines, but only another interesting vantage point from which to contemplate humanity's past. Furthermore, the policy implications of his overreach are a danger to both human welfare and freedom.


Gene Callahan is studying at the London School of Economics. He is the author of Economics for Real People. Send him MAIL, and see his Daily Articles Archive. Post Comments on the blog.


Collingwood, R.G. (1946) The Idea of History, Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Diamond, J. (1998) Guns, Germs and Steel: A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years, London: Vintage.

Green, P. (1992) Alexander of Macedon 356-323 B.C.: A Historical Biography, Berkely, Los Angeles, Oxford: University of California Press.

Lawson, T. (1997) Economics and Reality, London and New York: Routledge.

Liebowitz, S. and S.E. Margolis (1996) "Typing Errors?" Reason Magazine, June issue.

Mises, L. von (1957) Theory and History, Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Nock, A.J. (1935) Our Enemy the State.

Oakeshott, M. ([1933] 1985) Experience and Its Modes, Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

— (1983) On History, Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell Publisher Limited.

Rothbard, M. (1978) For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto.


Racial discrimination is alive and kicking in employment, housing and credit markets

Sowell 3- new data shows backward tropical evolution? Wealth and Poverty- An International Perspective in Trump era

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Sowell- Liberal intellectuals and hard questions about race differences- Trump era may force them to focus?

Trump properties discriminated against black tenants lawsuit finds

Stealing credibility- Dinesh D'souza has prison epiphany- after hanging with the homies- Hallelujah Hilary!

Go with the flow 3- more DNA and cranial studies show ancient African migration to, or African presence in ancient Europe

Go with the flow 2- African gene flow into Europe in various eras

DNA studies show African movement to Europe from very ancient times

Guilt3- Why the "white privilege industry" is not all there

Guilt2- Media collaborates with guilt mongers - or how to play the white victim card

How Obama plays on white guilt

Blacks oppose free speech- more ramshackle "research" from "the East"..

Hands off the Confederate flag

Despite much more wealth than blacks, whites collect about the same rate of welfare and are treated more generously

African "boat people" ushering in European demographic decline

The forgotten Holocaust- King Leopold's "Congo Free State" - 10 million victims

Are violent minorities taking over California and the West?

Presidential hopeful Ben Carson meets and Greeks

Contra "ISIS" partisans, there have been some beneficial effects of Christianity

The social construction of race, compared to biology- Graves

Why HBD or hereditarianism lacks credibility

Leading Scientists criticize hereditarian claims

Thai me down - Thais fall behind genetically related southern Chinese, Tibetans below genetically related East Asians like Koreans and other Chinese

Time for liberals to respect "the south" ... in a way of speaking.. the south of Egypt that is..

Irony 2: touted High IQ "G-men" cannot reproduce themselves

Unz and Sowell: Unz debunking Lynn's IQ and Wealth of Nations. Sowell debunking the Bell Curve

Irony 1: touted High IQ types are more homosexual, more atheist, and more liberal (HAL)

Elite white universities discriminate against Asians using reverse "affirmative action"

Deteriorating state of white America

Racial Cartels (The Affirmative Action Propaganda machine- part 2

Hereditarian's/HBD's "Great Black Hope"

Exploding nonsense: the 10,000 Year Explosion

We need "rational racism"- Convicted felon Dinesh Dsouza becomes his own test case

The Affirmative Action Propaganda Machine- part 1

Two rules for being "really" black- no white wimmen, no Republican

The Axial age reconsidered

Cannibal seasonings: dark meat on white

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Railroaded 3: white violence and intimidation imposed quotas

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Additional gene flow data... :)

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Why national IQs do not support evolutionary theories of intelligence - WIcherts, Borsboom and Dolan 2010
Personality and Individual Differences 48 (2010) 91-96
----------------------------- -------------

Are intelligence tests measurement invariant over time? by JM Wicherts - ?2004
 --Dolan, Wicherts et al 2004. Investigating the nature of the Flynn effect. Intelligence 32 (2004) 509-537

---------------- -------


Race and other misadventures: essays in honor of Ashley Montagu... By Larry T. Reynolds, Leonard Lieberman

Race and intelligence: separating science from myth. By Jefferson M. Fish. Routledge 2002. See Templeton's detailed article referenced above also inside the book
---------------- -------

Oubre, A (2011) Race Genes and Ability: Rethinking Ethnic Differences, vol 1 and 2. BTI Press
For summary see:
---------------- -------


--S OY Keita, R A Kittles, et al. "Conceptualizing human variation," Nature Genetics 36, S17 - S20 (2004)

--S.O.Y. Keita and Rick Kittles. (1997) *The Persistence ofRacial Thinking and the Myth of Racial Divergence. AJPA, 99:3
---------------- -------

Alan Templeton. "The Genetic and Evolutionary significnce oF Human Races." pp 31-56. IN: J. FiSh (2002) Race and Intelligence: Separating scinnce from myth.

IQ claims and miscellaneous data
 J. FiSh (2002) Race and Intelligence: Separating science from myth.


-------------------------------- ---------------------

Oubre, A (2011) Race Genes and Ability: Rethinking Ethnic Differences, vol 1 and 2. BTI Press

Krimsky, S, Sloan.K (2011) Race and the Genetic Revolution: Science, Myth, and Culture

Wicherts and Johnson, 2009. Group differences in the heritability of items and test scores


--Joseph Graves, 2006. What We Know and What We Don’t Know: Human Genetic Variation and the Social Construction of Race

J. Kahn (2013) How a Drug Becomes "Ethnic" - Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law and Ethics, v4:1

------------------------------------ -----------------

-------------------------------------------- ----------------------------

other links

Evolution, brain size, and the national IQ of peoples ... - Jelte Wicherts 2010

Why national IQs do not support evolutionary theories of intelligence - WIcherts, Borsboom and Dolan 2010
Personality and Individual Differences 48 (2010) 91-96
----------------------------- -------------

Are intelligence tests measurement invariant over time? by JM Wicherts - ?2004
 --Dolan, Wicherts et al 2004. Investigating the nature of the Flynn effect. Intelligence 32 (2004) 509-537

---------------- -------


Race and other misadventures: essays in honor of Ashley Montagu... By Larry T. Reynolds, Leonard Lieberman

Race and intelligence: separating science from myth. By Jefferson M. Fish. Routledge 2002. See Templeton's detailed article referenced above also inside the book
---------------- -------

Oubre, A (2011) Race Genes and Ability: Rethinking Ethnic Differences, vol 1 and 2. BTI Press
For summary see:
---------------- -------


--S OY Keita, R A Kittles, et al. "Conceptualizing human variation," Nature Genetics 36, S17 - S20 (2004)

--S.O.Y. Keita and Rick Kittles. (1997) *The Persistence ofRacial Thinking and the Myth of Racial Divergence. AJPA, 99:3
---------------- -------

Alan Templeton. "The Genetic and Evolutionary significnce oF Human Races." pp 31-56. IN: J. FiSh (2002) Race and Intelligence: Separating scinnce from myth.

 J. FiSh (2002) Race and Intelligence: Separating science from myth.


-------------------------------- ---------------------

Oubre, A (2011) Race Genes and Ability: Rethinking Ethnic Differences, vol 1 and 2. BTI Press

Krimsky, S, Sloan.K (2011) Race and the Genetic Revolution: Science, Myth, and Culture

Wicherts and Johnson, 2009. Group differences in the heritability of items and test scores


--Joseph Graves, 2006. What We Know and What We Don’t Know: Human Genetic Variation and the Social Construction of Race

J. Kahn (2013) How a Drug Becomes "Ethnic" - Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law and Ethics, v4:1

------------------------------------ -----------------

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