Culture Darwinism News

Re Nicholas Wade: It’s hard to prove an untestable theory

Spread the love

A friend writes to point to a thoughtful reflection from two Jewish thinkers on prominent science writer Nicholas Wade’s Troublesome Inheritance’s claims about why Jewish people win lots of Nobel Prizes:

Jews play a disproportionate role in A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History, an extended argument by Nicholas Wade for the impact on modern life of genetic differences among races. Why are Jews so important to the story? Because, well, says Wade, Jews are such a really smart race. Of course, there’s an irony here. The last time genes were used to explain why some whole peoples prosper and others don’t – during the Progressive Era’s eugenics movement – Jews were held up as a people of innately low physical, moral, and intellectual capacity. Now, Wade and others tell us that Jews are endowed by evolution with superior verbal and mathematical ability (albeit not spatial intelligence; in Wade’s view, Jews stopped hunting so long ago that Jewish genes can’t find their way out of a paper bag).

You mean they actually found a bag? Here, we still don’t get the Nicholas Wade thing at all, except insofar as philosopher Daniel Dennett is right: Darwinism is a universal acid. It can even make racism respectable again.

Anyway, Paul and Diana Appelbaum go on to say, re these kinds of theories in general:

There are good reasons to be suspicious of arguments suggesting powerful selection effects over brief time frames for cognitive abilities. To be sure, intelligence – at least the form most frequently measured by psychologists – has a clear genetic component. But years of research have failed to identify any genes that account for this effect. The dominant explanation is that intelligence, like height, may be determined by the cumulative effect of scores, perhaps hundreds of genes, each of which makes an incremental contribution to cognitive ability. To further complicate things, those genes may interact to amplify or negate their influences on intelligence, and it is certain that environment plays a key role. Indeed, recent evidence indicates that genetic effects on intelligence are stronger in high socioeconomic circumstances, which presumably allow maximization of individual potential, but fade away in poor families.

With scores of genes likely involved, most distributed widely in the population, selection for or against particular genes becomes more difficult and time-consuming. The rapid selection event on which Wade (following Botticini and Eckstein) relies hence strains credulity from a biological perspective. Although some guesses about how the Jews got their disproportionate share of Nobel prizes put forward in these books could be right (after all, it’s awfully hard to disprove an untestable theory), there is very little evidence to support them and good reasons to doubt their validity.

Some of this stuff tends to get overthought. Like, for example, why is half the National Hockey League Canadian born, even though most teams aren’t based in Canadian cities?

Genes? Nah. Who hauls his “horse” onto the ice in the dark of the dawn, and stays there until his numbers look good? The Canadian. So who does the pro team want? Aw, surprise me. Tell me something else I just can’t believe.

Doesn’t he mind the cold? Sure, but it would be just as cold delivering flyers in the teeth of the winter wind. Pay scale much more disappointing, and not as much fun. – O’Leary for News

Follow UD News at Twitter!


5 Replies to “Re Nicholas Wade: It’s hard to prove an untestable theory

  1. 1
    Robert Byers says:

    All this wade does is score people groups BUT its not a accurate test.
    First the most intelligent peoples are the english and British people at least historically. Then the other PROTESTANT peoples and then the rest of europe and the rest.
    Jews, the case here, simply are people who live amongst the superior people groups. They are not a segregated people from northwest europeans etc.
    Its not accurate testing to count nobel prizes without noting the actual important point that they come from nations which the Jews or others now simply immigrated too.
    In other words its identity plus motivation plus location that equals the higher people groups.
    There is no difference between human babies. Its all a blank slate. However there is difference between identies. One can’t test the winners and losers unless they are perfectly segregates , say, on islands.
    Its a English protestant worls and everyone else is johnny come lately.
    The races or peoples lost purity of intellect long ago after coloination by us or immigration to us.
    This should be obvious.
    Other reasons for minor differences within boundaries.
    Good grief. This Wade scores by race but only after races move to the better races. I understand he does this with everyone.
    Africans here in North america are not africans. tHey are just segregated englishmen when it comes to smarts. Equal or below or above is a trivial difference because they still live segregated. However they and everyone are just Englishmen.
    Only French canadians could say they are a none English people in north america and even they greatly assimilated and came up to our level.
    Its poor science and research is the testing is not controlled by pure segregation.

  2. 2
    jerry says:

    Like, for example, why is half the National Hockey League Canadian born, even though most teams aren’t based in Canadian cities?

    Ice time and interest. My son played hockey at a high level and would go to Toronto for camps. It would be a 4 rink complex and there were lots of 5-7 year olds who could really skate well. There were several multi link facilities just in Toronto.

    I don’t know anywhere in the US where this happens. Maybe one or two places in Minnesota or Massachusetts.

    I have read Wade’s book. There are ways of testing some of his ideas in the future as more genomes get analyzed.

  3. 3
    News says:

    Thanks, Jerry. Exactly. What epigenetics does to pure Darwinism (as exemplified by Nicholas Wade) is to add an appropriate level of complexity.

    It’s not pure “environment” because environments must be interpreted. Who told the Canadian boy that Wayne Gretzky was “the Great One”?

    A Palestinian boy may well have the right genes, but wrong environment and – more – no one ever told him, growing up, about “the Great One.”

    It’s not pure “genetics” – the mix in Canada would be broadly similar to that in the United States, where most hockey teams are actually owned. It’s not pure environment. You couldn’t just transport the young Palestinian to Toronto and expect him to thrive in hockey, necessarily.

    I doubt we’ll get much more insight into these matters until we get past the Nicholas Wades of the world, marketing easy speculations as answers.

    First, we must study epigenetics: How does environment affect the expression of genetic potentials?

  4. 4
    Axel says:

    Leaving aside the specific issue of worldly/academic intelligence, which must be extraordinarily complex, it has long seemed to me that we are endowed with a psychological inheritance that perhaps owes nothing specifically to genes.

    Why should it? Because scientists can profit from anything they can claim to be measurable? Specifically, I’m thinking of sex/gender psychological differences.

    And, of course, the difference is sensed by our pets. Is that perception a genetic inheritance of theirs or a purely psychological one which defies empirical analysis?

    Sure, there is bound to be cultural conditioning to muddy the picture, but I believe that from an early age, women tend to more security-minded and careful with money, and are less prone to deriding each other as a way of expressing affection/high spirits, as tends to be a strong trait among males. Indeed, if you try to banter with a woman, she’ll probably think you are being catty. It’s happened to me. Just a tiny thing but it struck me as interesting. But then, I suspect, words are perceived more sharply by women as weapons. How much of that is a psychological inheritance and/or how much, inculturation? Perhaps entirely the latter.

    All that tends to be considered genetic inheritance, I suspect, may be a hotch-potch of psychological inheritance, inculturation and genetic inheritance.

    Which is not to say that they don’t appreciate gentle mockery, irony, etc among themselves about a particular male, e.g. calling their husband His Lordship or Himself. I suspect however that, like me, other males quite like being referred to by such titles, however ironically.

    I envied some lad being patronisingly called, ‘honey’, by an exasperated Barb, a while back. Wives have it right, by and large, I think: We’re simple souls, easily pleased.

  5. 5
    Robert Byers says:

    Are people here saying HOCKEY is genetics too!! say it ain’t so.
    What could be more a case of culture then hockey when figuring why about accomplishment superiority?!!
    Hockey has always been done best by RURAL/small town Canadians. Not city boys. A palestianian has no hope unless he grows up in a hockey culture.
    It should be this way. its just about getting more skill/smarter after greater practice.
    Nothing to do with genes. Oh brother.
    Hockey is just using a stick and concentration and a few other other things.
    All sports are the same thing.
    By the way some guy pointed out the best players tended to be born in the first half of their year. He was saying the slightly bigger kid prevail against his fellow yearbirth opponents.

Leave a Reply