Thursday, May 9, 2013

In Response to IQ - Immigration Policy

After reading an article about individuals suggesting we oppose letting in immigrants with low IQ's, which can be read here, I felt I had to respond to this ridiculous form of modern eugenics being proposed.  In this dissertation on IQ and immigration policy, the following claims were stated:

The statistical construct known as IQ can reliably estimate general mental ability, or intelligence. The average IQ of immigrants in the United States is substantially lower than that of the white native population, and the difference is likely to persist over several generations. The consequences are a lack of socioeconomic assimilation among low-IQ immigrant groups, more underclass behavior, less social trust, and an increase in the proportion of unskilled workers in the American labor market. Selecting high-IQ immigrants would ameliorate these problems in the U.S., while at the same time benefiting smart potential immigrants who lack educational access in their home countries.

as well as the statement that:

No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low-IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against.

Aside from the obvious racist claims, the arguments being presented here are extremely flawedFor one, IQ is hardly an accurate measurement of intelligence because it is based off of a statistical correlation -- it is constructed using data averages and does not account for variability.   IQ was created, in part, to scientifically accompany the idea that intelligence was inherited -- a prevailing idea which centered on the belief that whites were genetically more intelligent (along with other similar views, such as the Cephalic index).  Being humans, tests we create to measure intelligence are hardly accurate considering they will always be created out of a social construct that is generated in a particular culture.  There is this notion that the way humans take in information is universal - this is not the case.  People vary greatly in the way they learn and process information -- and certain types of "general knowledge" may be more prevalent in some cultures over others. 

Let us look more closely at the IQ test.

The image above is a sample from an old IQ test from around the time it first became implemented for public use.  Literacy was an issue, so the test-makers attempted to create a test using images with missing components in which the individual was supposed to correctly fix.  The images are rather convoluted to be used as an intelligence test.  For instance, in image 15, the only correct answer was to draw a bowling ball in the man's hand.  It could not have been already thrown (how one would know the timing from the picture, I do not know) nor could it have been drawn in the female's hand (why, I also do not know).  Obviously, this is entirely subjective and based off of cultural norms, not intelligence.  Though IQ tests may be different today, are they really contextually that different?  They are, after all, based off of ideas which are socialized into people since they were children.  People with differential experience surrounding these ideas may not perform as well as people who have been around them all their lives.  In reality, this test was designed to support white, Western individuals as a way to claim that their ideas were superior because they "were more intelligent" and thus implement them into law.

Second, correlation and factor analysis is a tricky subject.  The definition of correlation is a representation of the tendency for one measure to vary in concert with another.  The importance of correlation is that it is used to describe a relationship and can have predictive potential.  Correlation is useful because data can be coded numerically.  However, this reduces two sets of data into one (a line).  Now, take note that correlations can exist between any two samples of information.  Just because a correlation exists does not mean that there is causation.  In other words, just because there happens to be a positive correlation between the number of pirates and global average temperature does not mean that pirates cause lower global temperatures (ha!).  Correlations can exist either because two variables are responding to one another, one variable causes another, or both variables have a consistent direction over time.  In actuality, there are usually several factors aiding in the outcome of another.  For example, environmental plasticity (not based on genetics, but the environment changing phenotype, or physical appearance) is one major factor.  These methods are mathematical abstractions and are not actual "quantities." 

We can, for instance, take measurements from the acromial process, glenoid cavity, spine, and supraspinous fossa of a chimpanzee and human scapula and get a single number as a mathematical average of the data to make a predictive statement about the evolution of the scapula, per se.  However, as one can imagine, the difference in measurements will be rounded off into an average and will fail to take into the account the rate at which the individual parts have evolved and their relation with other factors.  The spine of the chimpanzee did not necessarily evolve at the same rate, direction, or with the same reason as the glenoid cavity, etc.  So, similarly, attempting to measure multiple aspects of the human brain into one single component, intelligence, often disregards many other factors completely.

People who claim these eugenic/Social Darwinist ideas are natural are complete fools and misunderstand Darwin's actual ideas about evolution.  Eugenics and Social Darwinism are, simply, the beliefs that humans which are better off in society are "more fit" while the poor are "less fit," and this accounts for their positions in social hierarchy.  These social constructs claim that inequality is natural while promoting racial purity because breeding with "less fit" individuals is considered maladaptive.  These ideas were essential to many aspects of policy from sterilization to the foundation of the Nazi party.  To me, it seems absurd that people are still even considering this.  Perhaps the explicit definitions of these ideologies has been toned down, but the fact is, they are still being talked about (note many right-wing claims, whether they believe in evolution or not, using these ideas as a foundation).  However, Darwin was NOT a Social Darwinist.  He did not believe it was the duty of human beings to "improve their races."  Darwin actually spends a great deal of time talking about what he called the "moral sense" of human beings which had an inherent effect on social groups.  He stated that inevitable morality in social organisms would lead to self-sacrifice and self-control as "highly and most justly valued."  He believed humans thrived socially, and "the expressed wishes of the community will have naturally influenced to a large extent the conduct of each member."  Darwin noted that fitness is defined by other members of the group as well, and natural selection will contribute to the group's welfare rather than the individual welfare.  In other words, serving oneself over others will not benefit the species.  If only one individual is fit, the adaptive traits will not be inherited and will eventually disappear.  Moreover, serving the interests of one group over others will also not benefit the species because variation is extremely important in the fitness of a species.  This is how speciation plays out.  Two populations that have diverged into separate species are separated by the fact that they cannot interbreed.  Why is this?  If all organisms could interbreed with one another, there would be far too much variation that it would actually tamper with a population that was already well-adapted to its environment.  Therefore, reproductive isolation is an important separation aspect in a species.  Individuals themselves do NOT evolve, only POPULATIONS evolve.  Therefore, it makes sense that the entire population, not one individual, increases its fitness.  Microevolution within a species is not to create some super-evolved organism that is better than the rest.  It is to create variation in order to keep the species from going extinct.  Too much similarity is, in fact, detrimental and will ultimately cause the extinction of a species.  In the end, it is more than apparent that eugenics and Social Darwinism are completely wrong.  As Darwin eloquently stated, "if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with a certain and great present evil."

Thursday, March 7, 2013


Saw this on in their Brain Hacks section...

How to Hallucinate Like You Just Took LSD, Legally...

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Accidentally Deleted Blog Comments

Sorry everyone, but I accidentally deleted all of the comments on my blog posts while trying to delete a spam comment using my phone (damn it!). I was able to recover a few of them via email, but sadly, the majority are gone. Thank you all for responding to my ramblings on here...I appreciated hearing your input! Hopefully I can get a new start...

Friday, November 2, 2012

Shopping Distortion

A very interesting look at how we shop (or are tricked into shopping) through spatial analysis.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Depression and Stress in Modern Populations

When it comes to psychological health effects on the body, one significant area of study concerns stress and depression.  There have been various evolutionary perspectives on the reason for this adaptation.  The influence of culture has a wide range of impact from diagnosis of depressive symptoms to meeting cultural expectations set aside by a particular society.  In many ways, modern society and the influence of capitalism contributes to nationwide increases in depression and stress.  Balancing work with familial demands, as noted by a large portion of women in industrialized areas, can cause a great deal of stress which, in return, increases the risks for heart disease and other illnesses.  It has been suggested that the adaptation for depression and stress evolved out of ways to conserve energy, elicit investment from mates, and signal against aggressors that one does not pose a threat.  Depressive moods evolutionarily seek to elicit social support from others, thus benefiting the individual.  The problem is that environments have changed due to industrialism and, consequently, depression and stress have only amplified.
          Also significant are the studies involving stress and depression in relation to lower income individuals.  These effects are notably higher in these individuals due to the increasing demands in order to make a living.  In many cases, both depression and stress, when significant enough, become biologically linked to diseases anywhere from cardiovascular disease to susceptibility to the common cold.  Furthermore, as racial inequality affects Western nations, it can be noted that individuals of specific races are more likely to have lower income, and therefore more stress, rates of disease, and less access to medical care.  It is difficult to determine whether these symptoms of depression and stress are seen to this extent in other societies or previous ones.  However, modern industrialization has continuously seemed to provide more links to susceptibility to disease than in those of other societies.  Nowadays, clinical depression and prolonged periods of stress are highly affecting human populations which adversely affect health in significant and life-threatening ways.  As sociality is key for human beings to survive, studies note that people are now more isolated caused by increased urbanization, mobility, and demographic changes.  There is certainly less face-to-face contact now than ever befor.  Such social isolation is already a key factor in causing depression itself, let alone the physiological genetic components that have accumulated over time.
          Now, contemporary western society also rewards those who allocate a significant portion of their efforts to one area of life, such as education or work instead of in small groups of people devoting their work to a shared goal among kin, as seen in hunter-gatherer populations.  Significantly enough, hunter-gatherers knew no such thing as “relative poverty,” an increasing notion in contemporary society and a large contributor to depression.  Studies on this effect have been carried out for decades, yet the problem has intensified today, particularly with current political crusades against healthcare and job creation and their overall desire for commoditization of human life.  A number of studies also show that those who report depression or stress are much more likely to develop coronary heart disease, cancer, and even diabetes.  The important take-home message here is that the particular (especially GOP) politics of living in a skewed income hierarchy are simply unacceptable.  These people can think they can get away with riding the backs of the nation for their own luxury, but the environment in which we live is not going to sustain itself.  These crooks will find out about their “Darwinism” excuses the hard way when there’s no resources left on earth.  What a pity it will be for them.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012