Transcript of conversation with Joseph Henrich
Anyone else frustrated mightily by this convo? The whole thing seemed like an exercise in Henrich willfully failing to admit the obvious or to abductively reasoning about anything.
The cognitive dissonance here was difficult and it made me ashamed to live in this culture. Usually academics will admit that group differences will exist but just pretend IQ differences don't exist. This guy was even pretending African runners don't even exist. I loved the part where he talked about tv show plots getting more complicated-it reminded me of that Joe Biden clip where he said black parents don't have the record player on so their kids don't hear enough words.
I remember reading a genetics book called Who We Are and How We Got Here by a Harvard professor (author Reich?). I don't think he touched on racial IQ but he was pretty honest and factual in general.
I suspect he agrees with you but doesn't want to get himself fired.
Honestly he probably does more good being mealymouthed on this one issue and dragging people closer to the truth on others, than just getting himself cancelled and nobody ever listening to him again.
I love Henrich but damn he is obtuse about population genetics and sports. It isn't a matter of Kenyans having a distance running gene (this struck me as a good gotcha akin to "if people evolved from monkeys why are there still monkeys?) but rather far more Kenyans from a single tribe (Kalenjin) have more density of phenotypical traits ideal for maximal running economy and other ethnicities, say Polynesians, don't. I was a decent distance runner for years and far more Kenyans have long limb/short torso builds, healthy grown men that can weigh 130 at 6' tall. I raced at 6'4" and 170 and I was quite lean. I had a 4th tier Kenyan 2:14 marathoner friend who made a living pie cing together chump change prize money at small races who was 6'4 at 145! I'd be in hospital at that weight. Kenyans have the right bone proportions, don't put on muscle weight (look how skinny Kenyan quads are!) etc. Imagine an experiment where you trade 100 neonates Kalenjin for 100 nonate Samoans and raise each in the other's culture and train the Kalenjin in Samoa for powerlifting and the Samoans in Kenya for running. Nobody in their right mind would think we'd see the Kenyans squatting 600lbs and the Samoans running sub 28:00 10ks.
I have to say, it's pretty funny watching a Ph. D. Harvard Professor of EVOLUTION bend themselves into 4D pretzels denying the obvious underlying genetic reality. Anyone who isn't paying fealty to the Liberal Orthodoxy is keenly aware both Nature and Nurture matter a ton for basically everything. IQ, Endurance, Height, Weight, Blood Pressure, the list goes on. To constantly exclude IQ from the list using a litany of examples where Nurture is dominant is entirely unconvincing.
"Remember we’re talking about some kind of group-level heritability as opposed to individual within-population heritability. It’s much harder to maintain population-level differences in genetics because any kind of gene flow is going to interrupt that."
Speciation is possible in the presence of gene flow:
These things are a matter of degree.
It of course makes sense that this is the case, as even if the boundary between two gene pools is merely clinal, the two gene pools can still be different enough on net that said differences between gene pools have to be taken into when 'deciding' if a new allele is adaptive in one or the other. When this sort of gene-gene interaction structure starts to develop, this can make a difference between groups which was once purely clinal stop being so.
People like Joe + Adam Rutherford who think that gene flow has something to do with the plausibility of group differences are also more right than they know; as it turns out, countries with larger genetic distances tend to have larger absolute IQ gaps:
Now how continuous are the human group differences?
A) Although genetic distance increases with geographic distance, genetic distances between genetic clusters are larger than what would be predicted from the geographic distances between the clusters:
B) This of course makes sense gives that the boundaries between groups tend to align with geographic barriers like mountains + deserts + bodies of water + etc:
A good conversation. I suspect the differences in opinion are mostly unintentionally motivated emphasis, in both directions. A man who just wrote a book on marriage and culture is naturally going to undervalue genetics (even if marginally). Likewise, a man who is famous for being blunt (in a way that many find ugly) about differences between racial groups is going to de-emphasize culture (even if marginally).
I was willing to cut him some slack at first. Yeah, sure, academic aptitude may not get you far on the savanna. That sounds consistent with Kanazawa's hypothesis, but that hypothesis (intelligence is an adaptation for evolutionarily-novel situations, and people who have it to an extreme degree are worse at routine situations like mating and alliance formation because they try to use their intelligence for tasks its not made for, instead of our specialized psychological mechanisms that are). But that hypothesis is questionable. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/is-general-intelligence-compatible-with-evolutionary-psychology/
But based on my understand of the IQ literature, I would expect that higher-IQ hunter-gatherers are in fact more successful. I don't know if there's good evidence one way or the other. But it's not just a narrow, specific ability or skill set. This is the whole point, this is why there's a g-factor; it is literally impossible to devise a mental test, where a person's ability to succeed on it does not correlate with their performance on other mental tests.
"they think that it’s somehow a feature of our genes or something like that"
Um, yeah, it has a heritability of .8, higher than virtually any other trait, and it's correlated with reaction times and ability to press a button as fast as possible, and has observable physical correlates. And yeah, heritability is a measure of difference between individuals, not between groups... As Emil recently pointed out https://substack.com/inbox/post/96498322
The fact that one thing doesn't logically necessarily imply another thing isn't an argument. That's like if someone says you shouldn't date/employ someone who has been convicted of sexual abuse or whatever, and responding: Fallacy! Just because someone did horrible things in the past, it doesn't necessarily follow that they will in the future! Yes, but the fact that something is not logically impossible is not a compelling argument that it is actually the case. We have to look at the balance of probabilities. Yes, it's logically possible that there could be other causes of between-group differences... What is your evidence that a specific alternative is a more likely explanation?
"is that due to a lack of a hockey gene?" Ok, now it's clear this guy is just not capable of engaging with this topic in a serious way and doesn't really need to be taken seriously on it.
I had to turn it off after he said “what about hockey? There’s no Africans hockey in the NHL, is that because they don’t have the hockey gene?”.... lol I mean come on man. It’s because it costs 2000 dollars to play youth hockey (before equipment, camps, etc). Therefore black Canadians/Americans/Europeans are often priced out of playing given they are disproportionately likely to be poor. To the extent that black kids are playing hockey, they’re almost certainly over represented in the NHL. There’s more black players than ever, including sons of former NBA and CFL players. At that point you know you’re not being rational.
I love Henrich but damn he is obtuse about population genetics and sports. It isn't a matter of Kenyans having a distance running gene (this struck me as a good gotcha akin to "if people evolved from monkeys why are there still monkeys?) but rather far more Kenyans from a single tribe (Kalenjin) have more density od phenotypical traits ideal for maximal running economy and other ethnicities, say Polynesians, don't. I was a decent distance runner for years and far more Kenyans have long limb/short torso builds, healthy grown men that can weigh 130 at 6' tall. I raced at 6'4" and 170 and I was lean. I had a 4th tier Kenyan 2:14 marathoner friend who made a living pie cing together chump change prize money at small races who was 6'4 at 145! Kenyans have the right bone proportions, don't put on muscle weight (look how skinny Kenyan quads are?) etc. Imagine an experiment where you trade 100 neonates Kalenjin for 100 nonate Samoans and raise each in the other's culture an train the Kalenjin in Samoa for powerlifting and the Samoans in Kenya for running. Nobody in their right mind would think we'd see the Kenyans squatting 600lbs and the Samoans running sub 28:00 10ks.
Comments like “what about the hockey gene” are so frustrating. Clearly this very smart guy understands the distinction between “hockey” and endurance or speed. But if he understands, why say it?
Based on the other comments, I was expecting this to be a trainwreck. But this was actually a decent conversation besides the middle portion where Henrich made pretty silly arguments about why Kenyans are faster at running.
It seems like an enormous difficulty for Henrich here to effectively say:
"Well, we know that the Roman city in Italy had a certain makeup and a certain unique status of the urban citizen, that didn't exist in the colonial Roman east or south. And we know that post-Roman Italy effectively continued around the Roman city plans and that the Roman roads predict the economic structure of Europe, to this day*. And we know that the earliest forms of the republic as a form of government form in Italy, around these city states, and the earliest universities are found in these city states etc.
But all of this doesn't really matter in any sense to prefigure the forms of European modernity; it's all the individual psychology created by the influence of the Church in breaking down extended kin structures".
There's also the huge problem that, Italy and the Roman Empire having laid down this pattern of relatively many, relatively decentralized cities (sharply distinct from East Asia, with fewer, larger cities!), and towns which Europe follows, this pattern is gonna be a cousin-marriage shredder, because of the probability of meeting and being able to trade beneficially with people who are not a cousin**.
As another criticism, I'm still not sure that "Analytic/Holistic Thinking" really does predict performance on science or on scientific creativity. It seems very conjectural; should we control for spatial IQ, would we find analytic vs holistic thinking in a population of 10k students would really predict science literacy, for example?
* https://web.econ.ku.dk/pabloselaya/papers/RomanRoads.pdf -"Exploiting a natural experiment, we find that both persistence in road density and the strong link between early road density and contemporary economic development weaken to the point of insignificance in areas where the use of wheeled vehicles was abandoned and caravan trade routes replaced road-based trade from the first millennium CE until the late modern period. "
** check out the number of cities and total population of cities in Europe relative to MENA - https://www2.gwu.edu/~iiep/assets/docs/papers/2020WP/JedwabIIEP2020-9.pdf
Nice interview, I enjoyed that.
I also enjoyed Secret of Our Success but found a significant amount of it unreliable:
The most mind-numbing claim in a conversation rife with them is that raw pattern recognition is negatively correlated with measured IQ. How do you put up with this?