Education, Genetic Explanations

Dr. Rachel Cohen is wrong about the modern causes of social inequality.

Acland Burghley, an inner-city comprehensive school in north London, invited the actor Damian Lewis (who has starred in TV hits such as Homeland and Wolf Hall) to switch on a laser display for their 50th Anniversary celebrations.

But a former pupil, Dr Rachel Cohen, a City University sociology lecturer, gets up a petition. Lewis, she says is a “wholly inappropriate choice” to take part in the school’s celebrations. Is this because he is a paedophile, a wife-beater or a drug addict?  No.  It is because he went to Eton, which she said “embodied the reproduction of privilege and inequality in the UK”.  According to Cohen, the actor didn’t represent “real Burghley values”.

Dr. Rachel Cohen has fallen into the trap of good logic based on a false premise.  It goes something like this:

Talented and motivated children are produced at random and are equally spread in society regardless of social class or parental income.  And the only way to nurture and develop that talent is to go to a school with high levels of financial resource – e.g. a private school.

This logic concludes that private schools produce a disproportionate number of talented individuals because more money is spent on honing that talent. And that this is unfair to equally talented children who do not receive the same opportunities.

The basic premise of this argument is demonstrably wrong.

In actual fact talent and motivation, in whatever form, is mostly genetically inherited from our parents. It is not allocated randomly.

Up to World War Two, there was little social mobility because of the way British society was structured.  If you were born into coal mining village before the 1930s there was a very high likelihood that this is where you would stay, regardless of talent.  Genetic studies (identical twin / adoption studies) up until World War Two confirmed that social class had an impact on our eventual social status.

After World War Two there was an enormous social mobility due to Grammar Schools, public school scholarship and much improved State schools.  As the social restrictions in our society were removed children with the genes that coded for talent and motivation broke free.  This happened across Britain with working class children shooting up the social scale with talent in science, engineering, law, sports and the arts.

These talented people did well.  They earned a good living, achieved a higher social status and joined the affluent middle classes.  They married other talented and motivated individuals and had children who had a higher than average chance of inheriting their parents’ genes for talent and motivation.  As these (now middle class) children had parents who were more affluent they also had a higher chance of being sent to a private school.

So effectively, genes for talent and motivation starting leaving the working class areas (such as coal mining villages) after World War Two and became middle class. 

We would predict that eventually we would see a more polarised genetic society as the genes for talent and motivation are slowly leached out of the working class areas.  Social mobility will slow down and humanities educated journalists and politicians will scratch their heads and wonder why, and then conclude that more must be done to help the talented working class children who used to exist but have now mysteriously disappeared.

Genetic studies since World War Two confirm that social class has relatively little impact on our eventual social status.

The irony is breath taking. Increased household income inequality and slowing levels of social mobility are the result of society becoming more equal. Talented children are still reaching their potential, it’s just that more of them are now middle class.

The class-war warriors, socialists and genetics ignorant sociologists (such as Dr Rachel Cohen) had a laudable dream of equality whereby poor working class children would be fairly and equally represented in society.  They made the assumption that talented and motivated children where thrown up by society at random.  i.e. that talented and motivated children are equally spread across class and relative affluence.  So once “equality” was achieved they imagined a world where there would be a fair representation of working class originated talent in the top echelons of society in perpetuity.

They were wrong. Society is now much more equal, but because talent and motivation are largely genetically encoded the talent has just migrated to the affluent parts of society by the process I have described.  This process is called assortative mating.

Genetics is probabilistic not deterministic.  However, so is the macro level consequence of its effect.  It is more likely that talent will migrate to the middle classes, in a society that is relatively socially mobile, by the process of assortative mating.  So 7% of all students who attend private schools make up 40% of Oxbridge intake, for example.  Not 50% or 100% but 40%.  So 60% still come from the State sector.  This disproportion is explained by assortative mating, not by discrimination.

But this is not enough for the class-war warriors, socialists and genetics-ignorant sociologists (such as Dr Rachel Cohen).  They would want the 7% of students who are privately educated to make up 7% of Oxbridge intake. i.e. not equality of opportunity but equality of outcome.

Our future is not entirely genetically determined and I have no doubt that good schools with quality teachers still make a difference. We should continue do everything we can to ensure that individuals from all parts of society have access to an excellent education and quality careers with equal opportunity to succeed on merit alone.  But if we are to have a serious debate on helping the “disadvantaged” we need to look at all causes of “inequality” and move away from the discredited 1960’s assumptions that it is explained by “nurture” and “class”, which is what Rachel Cohen believes.  Our sociologists should learn a little about evolutionary biology and genetics before making these wild assumptions.

Further Listening:

Intelligence: Born Smart, Born Equal, Born Different   (three BBC radio programmes on the genetics of intelligence)

References:

Twins early development studies

Differences in students’ GCSE results owe more to genetics than environment:

IQ is in the Genes

Why Poorer Students Are Underrepresented In Top Universities – an Evolutionary Perspective

One Cause of Inequality: More Rich Marrying One Another

Marry Your Like: Assortative Mating and Income Inequality

Women, Men and the New Economics of Marriage

How Much Difference Does a Good School Make to Your Child’s Academic Achievement?

Getting ’em young (The Economist looks at the impact of early years education)

We can’t ignore the evidence: genes affect social mobility

 

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Genetic Explanations

Intersex, hermaphroditism and evolution.

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“Intersex” is a modern term for hermaphroditism.  It is used to describe a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the commonly accepted definitions of female or male. For example, a person might be born appearing to have a female on the outside, but having mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside. Or a person may be born with genitals that seem to be in-between the usual male and female types.

There are signs of intersex issues filtering into mainstream life in the same way that transsexual issues did before Caitlyn Jenner’s celebrity transition brought them into the limelight.  An MTV teen show, Faking It, features a character who happens to be intersex.  Intersex or hermaphroditism has been long recognised as a medical condition since ancient times.  What may have changed is society’s recent better acceptance of an indeterminate sex.  Or rather re-acceptance, as indeterminate sex was better accepted in ancient times – along with other un-modern concepts such as eunuchs.  It makes sense to allow an intersex individual to reach puberty before letting them make an informed choice regarding their body’s sex.  We know that the sex of their brain will make a big difference to the sex they will choose their body to be.

The development of the human body and brain into the sexes is a complex process.  This includes the interaction of genes, hormones and environmental factors (e.g. disease, drugs and pollutants) at different times during our development in the womb, immediately after birth and during puberty.  Variations in this elaborate process can cause brain development and body development to fall outside our commonly accepted ideas of gender.  For example a male brain inside a female body (or vice versa) and indeterminate sex organs. To this extent what we currently call “transsexual” and “intersex” have a similar root cause.

In terms of evolution it is important to understand that nature has no intent.  Evolution is not sentient and not trying to be anything.  Evolution is driven by natural selection and to work its magic it needs variation from which to choose.  Variation is driven by random genetic events.  Intersex individuals are therefore not unnatural and are just part of the evolutionary process that provides natural variation without which life on this planet would have stalled at the single cellular stage.  Of course if the natural variation results in a biological format with a reduced ability to reproduce we would expect their numbers to be low.  And in the case of intersex individuals they are relatively rare –  less than 1 in 2000.

If society is able to accept the modern view of evolution by natural selection then intersex individuals should not feel like freaks but simply as normal individuals who are different to the average.

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Genetic Explanations

Why Does 50 Shades of Grey Appeal to Women?

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50 shades of Grey is a book written by a woman and the film is directed by a woman.

Feminists have called for the film and books to be boycotted, arguing that they legitimise domestic violence, glamourise sexual abuse and reinforces the concept of the dominant male.

However, the book and film are read and watched predominantly by women.

Why do women find this plot so compelling?

Actually this is nothing more than a Mills and Boon bodice ripper for the internet porn generation.

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice created the formula for most female fantasies written since 1813:  Young, inexperienced girl meets older, aloof, condescending but rich and very powerful man, who she initially dislikes but with whom she feels a strong physical attraction.   Her latent physical desire for him causes her body to “betray” her and she ends up dancing with him against her better judgment and conscious will (the modern version has her having passionate sex with him against her conscious will).  He does male things like hunting, fencing and shooting.  She is pretty, intelligent and gentle.  She manages to tame this rogue as her own through her personality, intelligence and common sense.  Eventually he is tortured by his love for her and has eyes for nobody else, despite having a whole world of women to choose from.  He proposes to her and she admits she loved him from the start but didn’t know it.

A few evolution based scientific facts to back up this clever and much used formula:

  • Women are generally more attracted to men of a higher social status then themselves.
  • Women are generally more attracted to men of equal or higher intelligence than themselves.
  • Women are generally more attracted to men who are attractive to many other women (think One Direction and the rich and powerful)

Men and women are having now having much less sex than previous generations and modern women are much less satisfied with the little sex they have.  In fact women’s overall happiness has declined markedly compared to our parents and grandparents  – both absolutely and relative to men, whose happiness has stayed static.

The sociologists explain this lack of sex and lower satisfaction as a lack of a “sexual script” in modern relationships.  The result of our more gender equal, politically correct society is that couples don’t fancy each other as much.  Put simply seeing a man in a pinny and doing the school run is not a turn-on for most women.  What modern women have is a “life partner” to help run the house and family, whereas our grandparents had a passionate lover (at least until the war or children came along).

Moreover our modern, intelligent, career successful women are finding it hard to find a male partner of a higher social status than themselves.  This is called the “Sex in the City Syndrome” –  the modern world has many single, lonely, childless, career successful, 30+ women who have been unable to find an adequate sexual partner.  i.e. a man who really turns them on.  The depth of their unhappiness (and childlessness) has been recently documented by social commentators and researchers.

Apparently seeing men doing physical male things and women doing gentle female things is a turn on and a precursor to great sex – even our politically correct sociologists admit this. Evolutionary biologists have a much better genetic explanation, but it results in the same conclusion.

Let’s get this is perspective.  J.K. Rowling sold 400 million Harry Potter books in an 11-year career.  Mills & Boon sell 200 million formulaic female romantic fiction novels worldwide every year.  And this is only one publisher of this popular genre.  So it seems this is what many women want.

Women have made enormous gains in social and economic equality since 1970.  But despite this their subjective feelings of happiness have declined in real terms and relative to men’s, whose happiness has remained fairly constant (reference: The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness).  So perhaps the success of 50 Shades of Grey is picking up on women’s dissatisfaction with their asexual, politically correct, gender equal lives.

Ask yourself it the formula would work if the hero was of a lower social status (an unemployed labourer for example), less intelligent than the heroine, not masculine or physical and fell at her feet like a soppy puppy from the moment they met.

No, 50 Shades of Grey is female fantasy as it ever was.

References:

The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness

The Third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles

Summary of results from the 3rd National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles

Egalitarianism, Housework, and Sexual Frequency in Marriage

Childlessness and female unhappiness – an evolutionary explanation

Men and Women Evolved With Conflicting Interests – Why We don’t Always Get Along

How to marry well: meet at University

Why is Generation Y having less sex?

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Education, Genetic Explanations

Why is there an academic north-south divide in Britain?

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Of the 20 top local authorities in terms of sending pupils to the prestigious Russell Group universities, 19 are in London and the south. Of the 20 worst-performing councils on the same league table, 18 are in the north.

Commentators claim this is an unacceptable divide and believe that this creates a “lottery” for places at top universities arbitrarily based on where you live.  Greg Clark, the cities and universities minister, who has led the government’s push for a “northern powerhouse”, is duly demanding that universities do more to attract students from northern schools.

The superficial knee-jerk conclusion here is that some sort of discrimination is causing this disparity.  This is based on an untested assumption:  that academically talented children and equally spread across the UK.  If so, they should suggest some sort of mechanism for this discrimination and provide some evidence, rather than just naively looking at the spread of successful candidates in Russell Group Universities.

To prove the discrimination hypothesis one must prove that there is a difference in the quality of the schools across the north-south divide and secondly that this difference materially affects the academic outcome of the brightest students.  But it seems it is not the schools causing this divide: New research by the UK Government’s university funding body, based on 132,000 students, shows the effect of the quality of schooling has a much smaller effect on academic results then was previously believed.  For the brightest pupils quality of schooling makes no difference at all.

If it’s not the quality of schooling are we to believe that Russell Group Universities just prefer southern students?  i.e. actively discriminate against northern children? This is a ludicrous proposition.

Let’s assume for the moment that Russell Group Universities just choose the best qualified candidates and seek another explanation for the north-south divide.

First we must acknowledge that academic talent and motivation are largely heritable (i.e. we receive them through our genes).  This has been proven over and over again using identical twin and adoption studies.  Over the last 100 years at least 200 of them have given the same results and have been recently re-verified using massive studies at Kings College London. Differences in students’ GCSE results owe more to genetics than environment.  This also revalidates the research (above) from the UK Government’s university funding body that schooling is less important than most people suppose.

Combine the fact that academic talent and motivation is largely inherited through our genes with one of the most passionate and time consuming aspects of human behaviour, i.e. finding a mate, and you have a very powerful natural force. Talented, motivated women generally seek and marry talented, motivated men.  They then generally have talented, motivated children. i.e. they cluster the genes responsible for these talented, motivated characteristics into certain sections of society. As these characteristics generally lead to higher earning potential they are more likely cluster in the affluent parts of society. Consequently talented, motivated children are not equally spread in our society. This is unfair, but I’m explaining the is not the ought. This biological process is called assortative mating.

So here is a potential mechanism for the north-south divide that does not involve ludicrous conspiracy or discrimination theories.

Academically talented people from the north of England have been getting into prestigious universities on merit ever since Britain’s ludicrous class based society was largely dismantled after World War 1.

Our talented northerners got a good degree and then searched for the best paying jobs, which happened to be in the south of England.  Here they married other academically talented people also seeking high paying, prestigious jobs.  They both settled in the south and passed on their academically talented genes to their children.   This process is still going on.  Over a period of a number of generations there will be a clustering of academically talented genes in the affluent parts of society, which in the case of the UK happens to be the south of England.

Top universities may be becoming less socially representative, but they are representing where the talent has clustered because in a relatively socially mobile environment, talented genes will cluster in affluent parts of society.

A perfectly reasonable explanation, backed by good scientific theory that does not need to involve ludicrous discrimination or conspiracy theories.

Further listening on the genetics of intelligence:

Intelligence: Born Smart, Born Equal, Born DifferentThree BBC Radio programmes on the genetics of intelligence.

What makes some children smarter than others?  Professor Robert Plomin talks to Jim Al-Khalili about what makes some people smarter than others and why he’s fed up with the genetics of intelligence being ignored.

References:

Pleiotropy across academic subjects at the end of compulsory education An article in Nature on the genetic effects to human intelligence and GCSE results in the UK.

Academic north-south divide in English schools

Why Poorer Students Are Underrepresented In Top Universities – an Evolutionary Perspective

Differences in degree outcomes: Key findings  (examines the extent to which a student’s background affects their chance of obtaining an upper second or first class degree)

Twins early development studies

Differences in students’ GCSE results owe more to genetics than environment:

IQ is in the Genes

We can’t ignore the evidence: genes affect social mobility

One Cause of Inequality: More Rich Marrying One Another

Marry Your Like: Assortative Mating and Income Inequality

Women, Men and the New Economics of Marriage

How Much Difference Does a Good School Make to Your Child’s Academic Achievement?

Getting ’em young (The Economist looks at the impact of early years education)

Genetic influence on GCSE results

Genetics and general cognitive ability : Article : Nature

Genetics – How Intelligence Changes with Age

Access : Childhood intelligence is heritable, highly polygenic and associated with FNBP1L 

Genes may play role in educational achievement

Access : Genome-wide association studies establish that human intelligence is highly heritable and polygenic 

Genetic and environmental contributions to the covariance between occupational status, educational attainment, and IQ

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Genetic Explanations

We know what happened to Shoshana Roberts whilst walking in NYC – but nobody is asking why?

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Shoshana Roberts’ video was posted on You Tube

For ten hours on a recent day, Shoshana Roberts simply walked around New York City. She was wearing jeans and a crewneck T-shirt. She was silent as she walked and received over 100 catcalls. The actress involved has now received the rape threats that are the inevitable consequence of the contributory negligence of being female and doing something.

Journalists have picked up on this and written hundreds of indignant articles decrying the behaviour of her street antagonists. They have given much coverage about what happened in those 10 New York hours but little as to why. No wonder little has changed. I have no doubt that what happened to this young woman is true and also no doubts that we should address this issue for the benefit of women and civilisation in general.  But until we understand why this happened we have no chance of changing it.

Let’s recap. Despite decades of feminist lobbying; criminalisation of laddish behaviour; relentless, exaggerated and surreal political correctness from our media; personal-freedom sapping sexual equality legislation and extensive re-education of boys in our schools men still make unsolicited and unwanted comments about women’s bodies.

It is about now that intelligent commentators on these issues should start to question whether their basic premise as to why this is happening may in fact be wrong, or at least incomplete.

The basic premise is that our environment creates human nature. i.e. we are solely the product of our upbringing, parenting, education, environment and experiences. This is called the “Blank Slate Hypothesis”. This is a very seductive philosophy for feminists and socialists because it offers hope that we can create the socially and sexually equal nirvana we all crave just by changing our environment. It is also a convenient philosophy for feminists and socialists because it justifies the anti-libertarian State meddling into the lives of individuals via their social engineering experiments.

The Blank Slate Hypothesis is fundamentally flawed and what is more we have known it is flawed for decades. We now have a much better understanding of genetics and its role in moulding the behaviour of all animals, including the human variety. We don’t just behave in ways we have been conditioned to behave but also in ways we are genetically programmed to behave. Until we understand and accept this we cannot have a fighting chance of doing anything about it.

All living things are basically survival machines built by our genes to propel themselves into future generations.   We die, they don’t. Genes are insentient molecules that by a freak of nature became self-replicating. Any behaviour they confer on their host (i.e. us) that increases our chance of reproducing will inevitable mean that those molecules (and the behaviours they encode) will be more common in future generations. Evolution in a nutshell.

Our male and female ancestors have had very different evolutionary pressure over the previous millions of years.

Human females have a pathetic ability to reproduce, having no more than a dozen pregnancies in their lifetime. Each pregnancy is life threatening and she will often only produce offspring one-at-a-time. Human children are unusually vulnerable in infancy and take many years to reach maturity.  Women therefore engage in a long, energy sapping and life threatening investment in their children to ensure these (few) offspring reach childbearing age.  She must choose her mate with great care to ensure her offspring receive beneficial genes from the father, which in turn maximises the chance of her own genes prospering in the next generation.  It also means she must carefully and selflessly look after the few offspring she manages to produce. Women therefore evolved to be highly nurturing towards their young.  She (i.e. her genes) has no other choice.

Human males produce 250,000 sperm every second and their number of offspring is limited only by their opportunity to impregnate willing (or unwilling) females.   Two strategies would work to increase the number of their genes in the next generation.  1. Look after their offspring, nurture them and ensure they reach child-bearing age  (i.e. copy the only strategy available to women). 2. Spread their sperm as far and wide as possible, have thousands of offspring and hope that some reach childbearing age.  A third alternative is the best.  Do both.  Men invest almost nothing in child rearing so it makes sense for them to take huge risks to have the opportunity to reproduce. This would include propositioning as many women as possible on the off chance a few will accept.  What have they to lose?

Women will choose high social status men (a proxy for good genes) to ensure their own genes have a good chance of survival in future generations.  To prove high social status takes a bit longer so women tend to go for successful, older men (4 years older in the UK on average).

Men are programmed to advertise their success and achievements in order to attract a high social status mate.  Men will choose young, healthy, fertile (“attractive”) women because their chosen mate primarily needs to be fit to survive 9 months of pregnancy and the years of childcare that follows.  Men have evolved to visually select a mate on this basis.  Women have evolved for millions of years with this pressure.  Women are therefore programmed to try to look young and attractive in order to find a suitable mate. Much of this behaviour is hard wired, as is our sexuality and our urge to have sex with attractive members of the opposite sex.  Women also need to recognise these traits in their competition (other women).  Women easily know if another woman is attractive.

So it makes sense for men’s genes to take risks in order to reproduce. This includes a good war that kills off much of the competition and assertive / aggressive behaviour towards unaccompanied women.

What is good for our genes also explains why human societies dislike female promiscuity.

Throughout human history men have needed to control women’s sexuality.  When women have a baby they are 100% sure that it is theirs.  For nearly all of the 200,000 years of their existence, human males have never really known if their child is truly their biological heir.  This is despite the reassuring knee jerk exclamations we hear from midwives, mothers and female relatives as soon as they clap eyes on the newborn infant: “oh, he / she has his father’s eyes!”

For good evolutionary reasons no man will want to spend time and resources inadvertently bringing up another man’s child.  A child that contains another man’s genes.  This is particularly important when title, wealth and inheritance are involved.  Consequently, to make sure that they knew who was the father, human civilizations created intricate ways to ensure female sexuality was monitored and controlled – doubly so when title, wealth and inheritance was involved.  Promiscuity in women was brutally discouraged and religion became the vehicle to achieve this.

The senior female members of these societies would also connive and reinforce this controlling behaviour.  No mother or grandmother wants to be duped by the women of their male heirs.

Women also have a vested interest in ensuring that sex is relatively rare in their society, as it increases their bargaining power with men.  Promiscuous women lower the price.

And this is how an unaccompanied, attractive young woman walking the streets of a city can be “criticised for being frigid and unresponsive by some street antagonists, declared a slut and a whore by others, all in the course of a few magical metres ” – to quote the words and experience of Hannah Bett’s writing in The Times.

You see this is not about us (humans) it is all about the survival of our genes – a process that has been slowly exerting its influence for the last 3,500,000,000 years. 50 years of feminism will not undo this.

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Genetic Explanations

Genetics, gender and race – how will social policy cope with recent scientific discoveries?

In his recent book  A Troublesome Inheritance Nicholas Wade makes some excellent points about mankind’s recent evolution, which shows there are tangible genetic differences between the races.   Mr. Wade states that Human evolution did not cease thousands of years ago; it has been “recent, copious and regional”.

In the past 30,000 years, after humankind migrated into different races, many genes have changed through natural selection: lactose tolerance developed in response to dairy farming in Europe and parts of Africa; physiological adaptations for high altitude emerged in Tibetans; malaria resistance spread throughout Africa and the Mediterranean; a gene for sweat glands, ear wax and hair changed in China.

One estimate is that 722 regions containing 2,465 genes (about 14% of the human genome) has been affected by gene mutations that brings an advantage and replaces other versions of genes in one race or another. In many places, the affected genes are active mostly in the brain. As Wade puts it: “These findings establish the obvious truth that brain genes do not lie in some special category exempt from natural selection.”

The more we look, the more genetic variation we will find between races, as well as between individuals.  We had therefore better get used to the idea and consider how human society and political policy will deal with these discoveries.

Before discussing the explosive and vitriolic subject of genetics, sex and race we should first emphasise the strong arguments against sexual or racial discrimination.  Genetic variation just gives tendencies in ability and behaviour at a population level.   We cannot predict the behaviour and ability of individuals. There is so much overlap between different sexes and races regarding their different abilities (strengths and weaknesses) that any discrimination, against any individual, on any terms, is not in society’s best interest.  It is in our interest as a society that we have the best people in the right jobs.  We all benefit from a genuine meritocracy.  Discrimination is also just clearly morally wrong.

So there should be no discrimination based on colour, class or sex. But this includes “positive” discrimination too. We should not be giving people a leg up because of a perceived injustice unless we can prove beyond doubt that they really have been disadvantaged.

A knee-jerk reaction of blaming discrimination has adverse effects as well as good ones   For example we know of a collection of genes that cause men to have very high levels of testosterone during adolescence.  In certain situations this leads to very aggressive, violent, criminal behaviour.  The fact that this is more common in young black men is enough to explain the disproportionate number of them in prisons around the developed world.  This is politically explosive in the wrong hands, but nobody minds the fact that a very high proportion of top sprinters can show they have genetic ancestors from a particular part of West Africa.  The genetic explanation of athleticism is generally well accepted, but our political correctness has caused us to ignore this high–testosterone phenomenon, which prevents medicine or science from finding a temporary solution until the adolescent has grown up and calmed down.  Some timely intervention could help the youth through a difficult time and stop them committing crimes that would ultimately ruin their life and those of their victims.

And yes we’ve known for decades there are differences in mental capacity between the races and big differences in mental capacity variance between the sexes (although the average intelligence of both sexes is more-or-less the same).  This explains many puzzling educational and achievement phenomena that we currently blame on discrimination.  We are currently spending billions of tax pounds trying to close a perceived gap in societal equality without even considering it may be genetic.  Economists who study patterns of discrimination have long argued (generally to no avail) that there is a crucial conceptual distinction between difference and discrimination.   A departure from a proportionate sex or race representation in academic qualifications or professions does not, by itself, imply that we are seeing discrimination.  Not unless the interests and aptitudes of all the groups are identical.

How much culture and environment moulds human behaviour and how much inherent human nature moulds cultures is open to debate.  But I am glad we are now moving away from the flawed 1960s social sciences research, which assumes the balance is entirely on the culture affecting human nature side i.e. the now discredited “Blank Slate” hypothesis.  To understand that genes are not insignificant could explain why the Middle East, for example, is so explosive with an uncompromising, tribal, revenge culture at its core.

We know with male / female intelligence that it is the extremes, the rare outliers, that can make a real difference to our society, not the mediocre average.  If a society occasionally produces some rare genetic prodigy then that society will do better than one that doesn’t. A few gifted individuals can and do change society so long as that society communicates widely and have an education system to ensure their discoveries are quickly shared.  And all human societies like to communicate; it is part of human nature.  It is difficult to argue that the Jews particularly have not produced a disproportionate number of intellectual prodigies.  But the term “prodigy” also includes other skills such as those possessed by Mozart, Shakespeare and Pele.

I understand the fear that society has regarding this type of genetic research.  The dark shadow of Nazi eugenics still hangs over this subject and demonstrates what happens when this science is mis-understood and mis-used for political purposes.  It has also set back our ability to discuss these issues by decades.

However we must not forget that eugenics was originally researched in order to improve the human condition.  Many famous people, before the Nazis, were keen on the concept, including: George Bernard Shaw; Winston Churchill and the great “feminist” Marie Stopes.  Marie Stopes, amongst other great achievements, is a seen as a pioneer of birth control during the early 1900s.  Her interest in contraception and family planning was to prevent too many poor people reproducing and spreading “poor” quality genes.

William Beveridge was best known for his 1942 report Social Insurance and Allied Services (known as the Beveridge Report) which served as the basis for the post-World War II welfare states.   He was also a member of the Eugenics Society, which promoted the study of methods to ‘improve’ the human race by controlling reproduction. His idea of the much-loved welfare state is an example of the positive benefits of this type of belief.

Of course we must keep our feet on the ground and merely understand that genes are not irrelevant in all this.  Genes are not everything.  Mr. Wade tries to explain too much of human history by gene changes. The industrial revolution started in Europe and not China, he suggests, partly because Europe had been preconditioned by genetic evolution for the sort of economic openness that sparked accelerating innovation.  To explain the industrial revolution genetically is going too far.  My favourite explanation is that Henry VIII quashed the authority of the Catholic Church in order to get into Anne Boleyn’s knickers.  This freed England from the conservative idealogical constraints of the Catholic religion, which enabled a surge in technological and social progress.  This freedom and progress ultimately led to the Industrial Revolution and British Empire.  Nothing to do with any genes that all other men don’t possess.

We must make sure that we understand the science of genetics and how it can explain the way society is.  However we must never forget that this science can never justify human behaviour nor allow discrimination against individuals at any level nor under any circumstances. We should continue do everything we can to ensure that individuals from all parts of society have access to an excellent education and quality careers with equal opportunity to succeed on merit alone. But if we are to have a serious debate on helping the “disadvantaged” we need to look at all causes of “inequality” and move away from the discredited 1960’s assumptions that it is all explained by “nurture” and “class”, which is what most press articles on the subject imply. We should learn a little about evolutionary biology and genetics before making these wild assumptions.

How we ought to behave should only be decided by: rational, evidence-based debate; democracy and the rule of law.  Genetics will allow us to manage our expectations regarding real equality and hopefully to spend our meagre tax pounds where they will have the optimum impact.

Further Reading:

Why do male students get more first class degrees at Oxford University than female students?

Why are immigrant groups in Britain generally better motivated than indigenous people?

Further  Listening:

Intelligence: Born Smart, Born Equal, Born Different

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Genetic Explanations

Why are immigrant groups in Britain generally better motivated than indigenous people?

A child’s social class is more likely to determine how well they perform in school if they are white than if they come from an ethnic minority, researchers have discovered.

The gap between the proportion of working-class pupils and middle-class pupils who achieve five A* to C grades at GCSE is largest among white pupils, academics found.

They analysed official data showing thousands of teenagers’ grades between 2003 and 2007.  Some 31% of white pupils on free school meals – a key indicator of poverty – achieve five A* to Cs, compared with 63% of white pupils not eligible for free school meals, they found.

This gap between social classes – of 32 percentage points – is far higher for white pupils than for other ethnic groups.

Poor immigrant groups in Britain are generally better motivated than poor indigenous people, who often just can’t keep up.

Why?

The following observations are linked and can be explained by assortative mating.

  1. It seems poor white children do worse academically than poor ethnic minorities despite having a similar “poor” upbringing and environment. i.e. poorer outcome, same nurture.

  2. The research highlighted in The Times on 17th June shows that the 24 largest research universities in the Russell Group admit a lower proportion of undergraduates from state schools and from poor families than ten years ago.

  3. Children from wealthier families were nearly twice as likely to leave school with five good GCSEs, including maths and English, as those from poorer families — 63% against 36%.

  4. After our ludicrously embedded class system in UK was largely dismantled after the last war we saw a massive surge in social mobility, which has now come to a screeching halt.

  5.  New research by the UK Government’s university funding body, based on 132,000 students, shows the effect of the quality of schooling has a much smaller effect on degree results then was previously believed.  For the brightest pupils quality of schooling makes no difference at all.

Overwhelming evidence from identical twin studies, adoption studies, molecular genetics and Mendelian genetics give us a big clue, but the media and our (PPE graduate) politicians are too unsophisticated to acknowledge it, causing billions of tax pounds to be wasted on closing a perceived gap in equality.

First we must acknowledge that talent and motivation are largely heritable (i.e. we receive them through our genes).  The massive data from identical twin / adoption studies have shown that the “environment” of pupils before World War 2 accounted for some of the differences in a person’s eventual social status by age 35. After these social based advantages were largely dismantled we saw a high degree of social mobility as talented and motivated individuals from all parts of society started to meet at Grammar Schools and Universities. The advantages of upbringing have now largely disappeared. Similar studies since World War 2 (in the developed world) shows upbringing makes little difference to our eventual social status, peer groups makes some difference but the largest driver is the genes for talent and motivation we inherit from our parents.  Our upbringing, education and experiences are transient, so the  influence of different “nurture” experience on our lives will be diminished over time.  Our genes exert their influence consistently throughout our whole life.

Combine the fact that talent and motivation is largely inherited through our genes with one of the most passionate and time consuming aspects of human behaviour, i.e. finding a mate, and you have a very powerful natural force. Talented, motivated women generally seek and marry talented, motivated men.  They then generally have talented, motivated children. i.e. they cluster the genes responsible for these talented, motivated characteristics into certain sections of society. As these characteristics generally lead to higher earning potential they are more likely cluster in the affluent parts of society. Consequently talented, motivated children are not equally spread in our society. This is unfair, but I’m explaining the is not the ought. This biological process is called assortative mating.

This explains what we have seen in recent history. A strong genetic determinant of talent and motivation combined with a sudden dismantling of unfairness in society will lead to an initial surge in social mobility. However this social mobility will then fade as beneficial genes cluster into the affluent parts of society by the process of assortative mating.

The top private schools are highly selective and have rigorous academic entry requirements.  This alone would explain why private schools have a disproportionate number of students at top universities.  Assortative mating further explains why private schools and affluent families provide a disproportionate number of students to top universities on merit, and why they are providing slightly more now than 10 years ago.  As assortative mating continues its influence this trend is likely to continue, unless our politicians want to start choosing with whom we mate?

Top universities may be becoming less socially representative, but they are representing where the talent has clustered because in a relatively socially mobile environment, talented genes will cluster in affluent parts of society.

For new immigrants the social factors which have limited their progress until now are relatively recent, so we expect the genes for talent and motivation to be more numerous in poorer parts of their society as they haven’t had time to cluster in the more affluent parts of society.

Also immigrants are self-selective.  They are the minority of people in their own country who are prepared to take risks and who have the motivation, desire and initiative to seek economic and social opportunities elsewhere.  These types of behaviours are more likely to make them successful in their destination country.

This explains why poorer students for ethnic minorities out-perform their white peers.

Of course there are also some social factors.  Recent immigrants have the experience of seeing large increases in their standard of living for each unit of effort.  In the developing world extra income can mean the difference between owning a refrigerator or not.  Or owning a car or not. Or the novelty of having access to quality healthcare and education for the first time.  For the indigenous population in the western world an incremental increase in income will just result in a better model of refrigerator or a slightly better car.  Indigenous people in the west are used to having quality healthcare and education to the point of entitlement and complacency.  The incremental benefit of extra income is smaller and therefore so can be the motivation to achieve it.

Of course these motivations amongst poor immigrants will dissipate over time.  Their genes for talent and motivation will eventually migrate towards the affluent sectors of society and the novelty of the benefits of the western world will become entitlement to those less motivated individuals who are left behind with the indigenous poorer classes.

Our future is not entirely genetically determined and I have no doubt that good schools with quality teachers also make a difference.   We should continue do everything we can to ensure that individuals from all parts of society have access to an excellent education and quality careers with equal opportunity to succeed on merit alone.  But if we are to have a serious debate on helping the “disadvantaged” we need to look at all causes of “inequality” and move away from the discredited 1960’s assumptions that it is all explained by “nurture” and “class”, which is what most press articles on the subject imply. We should learn a little about evolutionary biology and genetics before making these wild assumptions.

It is in our interest as a society that we have the best people in the right jobs. We all benefit from a genuine meritocracy.  There should be no discrimination based on colour, class or sex. But this includes “positive” discrimination too. We should not be giving people a leg up because of a perceived injustice unless we can prove beyond doubt that they really have been disadvantaged.

Governments should set their expectations correctly before spending billions more tax pounds trying to save all pupils from a “perceived” injustice. They should instead target Government spending on developing each child’s individual and innate talents and motivations.

References:


Social class affects white pupils’ exam results more than those of ethnic minorities – study

Pleiotropy across academic subjects at the end of compulsory education An article in Nature on the genetic effects to human intelligence and GCSE results in the UK.

Twins early development studies

Differences in Degree outcomes – Key findings

Differences in students’ GCSE results owe more to genetics than environment

One Cause of Inequality: More Rich Marrying One Another

Marry Your Like: Assortative Mating and Income Inequality

Women, Men and the New Economics of Marriage

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