Saturday, 11 October 2014

A common misunderstanding of r/K selection - if you LOSE K adaptations, that does NOT make you r-selected

The idea of r/K selection theory applied to humans is that a population could be r-selected for fast Life History - such as rapid sexual maturation and high fertility, with relatively low levels of parental investment into each offspring;

or else K-selected, for a slower and more long-termist Life History - fewer offspring with more gradual and delayed development, and investing more resources per child (with the aim of generating more cognitively specialized adults).


(In a nutshell, and approximately - r selection is for quantity, K selection is for quality. In some environments only 'high quality' offspring - making which requires longer development and more resources - are able to compete successfully with other members by aiming for narrow niches requiring particular qualities.)


But r and K are not opposites. Nor are they reciprocal: to reduce one does NOT mean to increase the other. 

Because 'selected-for' means 'specialized-for'.

And specialization implies adaptation.


Therefore to be r-selected is to be specialized-for r - this means that an r-selected population has evolved a suite of adaptations which together enable it to become better at rapid and fecund reproduction.

And to be K-selected is to be specialized in producing offspring who have a better chance of themselves reproducing in a context of more long-termist Life History.

And to lose long-termist adaptations of K-selection is NOT thereby to gain short-termist adaptations; and to lose short-termist adaptations is NOT thereby to gain long termist adaptations.

So, in the modern world, the selective regime in the West has resulted in sub-replacement fertility for K-selected populations, and this will indeed destroy-K selected adaptations; but the resulting population will NOT thereby have r-selected adaptations by default - the population will just lose adaptiveness!


(Loss of adaptiveness is - more or less - disease. Mutation accumulation is disease. On average, disease does not benefit adaptation in any way.)


And a selective regime (such as the modern world) which reduces child mortality from approximately 60 percent to about 1 percent, allows mutation accumulation in r-selected populations.

Mutation accumulation will NOT increase r-selected abilities, it will NOT improve short-termist adaptations - but the opposite: these r-selected populations will lose their Fast Life History adaptations, as these specialized attributes enabling a fast Life History will be damaged by accumulating deleterious mutations.


So the modern world is NOT becoming more r-selected - it is become less K-selected AND less r-selected: the modern world is becoming less adapted all round. 

This is concealed (temporarily) by the expansion in numbers of the previously r-selected populations- which is enabled by the massive reduction in child mortality rates and an increase in longevity - and an illusion of r-adaptedness - but in fact these populations are LESS r-adapted now than they were before their populations began to expand.


If r-selection is summarized as specializing for quantity and K-selection as specializing for quality - then both high quantity and high quality are adaptive products of evolution. And, destroying quantity does not improve quality - also destroying quality does not improve quantity.

So modernity does NOT increase r at the expense of K - instead, modernity destroys BOTH r and K adaptations by means of mutation accumulation.

What results is that humans as a whole have lost adaptations, both short-term adaptations and long-term adaptations: the human genome has been damaged.


Note: The above idea comes from Michael A Woodley - to whom credit should be attributed; but any errors or inaccuracies in expression are my responsibility.

Monday, 6 October 2014

An objective and biologically-valid definition of dysgenics - mutation accumulation is the real dysgenics

It has been pointed out that in its common usage the term 'dysgenics' lacks biological validity.

For example, the decline of average intelligence in a population is often described as a dysgenic change, on the basis that a decline in intelligence is (it can be argued) a bad thing on the whole for human society.

However, it could be argued that insofar as a decline in intelligence was due to a differential selection against higher intelligence people (for example, by a chosen reduction in fertility) and in favour of lower intelligence people (who perhaps cannot or will not use contraception) - then this is just 'natural selection as usual' - and indeed the fitness of the population is being enhanced under conditions where fertility rates are either very low, sometimes at sub-replacement/ long-term extinction levels.

Insofar as this is what is happening with the decline of intelligence then it is indeed just natural -selection-as-usual in that genetic mutations leading to adaptations are being handed-on from parents to their offspring.

Better adapted parents - i.e. those parents resistant to the fertility-suppressing effects of modernity - are producing a higher proportion of offspring (in the next generation) than are parents who are susceptible to fertility suppression. 

Fitter parents (fitter in terms of the actual environment) have fitter children.


But insofar as the decline in intelligence is due to an accumulation of deleterious mutations (and the vast majority of new mutations will be more-or-less deleterious), then this is real dysgenics: objectively measurable, and biologically distinct from natural-selection-as-usual.

This is because with mutation accumulation, the parent is not transmitting adaptations to the offspring, but newly-occurred genetic damage. The parent does not share the mutational damage which is suffered by the offspring - since that genetic damage has occurred during the process of reproduction.

Since the new genetic mutations have not been inherited from a parent, and parents are not handing-on adaptations - then mutation accumulation is not a consequence of natural selection.


So in principle mutation accumulation is a biologically-objective dysgenic process (while differential selection of heritable traits is not) - and mutation accumulation could be measured phenotypically in terms of damage to adaptations, or genetically in terms of mutational damage to those suites of genes which underlie phenotypic adaptations.

For example, objectively and biologically dysgenic change from mutation accumulation, would include new (not inherited) mutations which led to infertility, or blindness, or fatal genetic diseases of childhood - since these phenotypic changes are objective; or else (if known) detectable as the genetic changes which underlie adaptations such as sexual attraction mate selection, fertility, child care, vision, or the functionality of any major essential organ system such as blood, cardiovascular or respiratory.


With mutation accumulation children are less fit than parents.

Or, offspring are less fit than parents with reference to the parental environment.

(It is necessary to add this rider, because in modern conditions the less fit offspring have experienced a different, and more favourable, environment than their parents. So, the functional impairment of several generations of offspring has been concealed by a 'softer' and more supportive environment, as society became richer per capita, and mortality rates fell. )


In conclusion, dysgenics can be used in a non-biological and subjective way - to refer to any disapproved-of genetic change in a population; or in a rigorous, objective and biologically-valid way - to describe a non-hereditary generational reduction in fitness in a population: the incremental loss of functional adaptations in a population.

Reference: The essence of this idea came from, and should be attributed to, Michael A Woodley.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Low Motivation - Another reason why high trait Conscientiousness (low trait Psychoticism) is positively selected by modern higher education

I have written before about how selection for high Conscientiousness has come to dominate modern formal education - and especially colleges and universities:

One reason for this is likely to be the low motivation of most students at most higher education institutions.

This is an indirect consequence of massive government subsidies of higher education, which has grossly (and I mean grossly) distorted the provision of college and university education compared with its natural/ spontaneous market level of provision of just a few percent of the population.

(Ref: British Universities Past and Present by Robert Anderson, 2006)

Thus, most students at modern universities are merely there to get an educational certificate which signifies merely that they have been signed-on at some kind of institution and passed a certain number of evaluations.

In particular, for the vast majority of students in the vast majority of institutions there is no vocational, knowledge-and-skill-based or professional reason for the course of study; and (obviously!) a near-zero proportion of students are interested in the subject 'for its own sake'.

The result is students who are fundamentally unmotivated with respect to the ostensible subject being studied; and therefore a steady downward-pressure on educational standards and steadily-inflationary pressure on the value of qualifications - that is; the minimum of work, knowledge and skill for the highest graded qualification (and no failure) - as a by-product leading to inexorable lengthening of the educational process required to get any actually-useful education.

Conscientiousness can be seen as the ability to work hard and steadily despite lack of motivation - therefore, in the modern higher educational system where almost nobody is motivated - the ones who do best are those who can complete educational programs and evaluations despite an almost complete lack of motivation.

In contrast was my own undergraduate experience as a medical student, where the general level of motivation was high - people wanted to learn the stuff because they were going to be doctors.

This made a very large difference. Most lectures were mostly-full; and students would ask for extra teaching and training - including vacation, in the evenings and at weekends; form unofficial study groups - and, in general, push for more and better education.

On non-vocational courses, where the knowledge and skills have no direct ink with an anticipated job, none of this happens; but instead nothing is done that is not examined, and the general trend is to aim to do the least work for the best marks.

But the mass of people in the mass of institutions are fundamentally un-interested in what they are doing - uninterested in the sense that the subject has no intrinsic interest and also that they lack any personal bias or involvement in being good at the subject (ie.extra knowledge and skill does not bring any personal benefits, such as a safer or more successful career).

And when people are uninterested, then only the most Conscientious are able to make themselves work.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Through the ages... the difference between real understanding, and examinations or tests


Real understanding: to have mastered and be able to use the relevant knowledge and concepts.

Four generations ago: to be able to use recalled facts and phrases to construct a rationally coherent and relevant extended essay.

Two generations ago: to be able to recall relevant facts and phrases.

Currently: to be able to recognize the correct fact or phrase from among a list of distractors.


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

What signs should we look for in monitoring mutation accumulation? Signs of de-differentiation/ loss of adaptations - especially in social and sexual functioning

I have been thinking about the expected effect of mutation accumulation - and I think there would be de-differentiation/ loss of specialized adaptations.

These would affect general intelligence 'g' (because g is a fitness measure), and adaptive social functions (because these are subtle/ advanced adaptations which are damaged by even slight illness, intoxication or any functional brain impairment).

I think evidence consistent with both lowered intelligence and also impaired adaptive social functioning can be observed in the report of Mouse Utopia. 

The reduced fertility in Mouse Utopia is perhaps also related to impaired drive/ motivation - as well as ineffective drive/ motivation (due to loss of functional adaptations). 


I general, I think loss of adaptive functionality is what should be looked-for with mutation accumulation (i.e. adaptive behaviours knocked-out or damaged or distorted), rather than weird new behaviours - and particularly loss of functionality in:

1. The social domain - first subtle, then gross impairments of adaptive social interactions
2. The sexual domain - first subtle, then gross impairments of adaptive sexual interactions

...bearing in mind that 'adaptive' means tending to enhance reproductive success.

I suggest social and sexual functioning, since these are the areas which I think are the most sensitive to brain impairments; at least that seems to be the situation in neurological and psychiatric disease. 

My observation has been that when there is almost any significant degree of neurological or psychiatric disease, even the slightest; social and sexual domain functioning can usually be detected as having been impaired, by those who best knew the patient before he suffered illness.


Modern England as Mouse Utopia?


If we look at the Mouse Utopia experiment and try to fit the history of modern England into it

There could be an inflection point in 1921 when English population growth suddenly slowed - somewhat like the transition from phase B to C in the mouse utopia graph at the top of page 83


Then the plateau phase D - where births just replace deaths - was reached in the 1970s 

Which perhaps (?) means the next phase would be the terminal death phase (among the native population - disregarding immigrants) with fewer births than deaths dwindling to zero live births and escalating median age until eventually all women are aged beyond the menopause. 


Well, this isn't really comparing like with like! - and the whole picture is muddied by increasing medical capability and cossetting, which has radically reduced deaths from infectious disease (the main cause of mortality); and keeps infants and the elderly alive in circumstances which would previously have been fatal - but maybe gives us clues of what to look-out-for; assuming that the demise of Mouse Utopia was indeed substantially due to mutation accumulation ...


Review of Dancing with a Ghost by Robert Ross


Friday, 18 July 2014

The demise of 'Mouse Utopia' reinterpreted as mutation accumulation by Michael A Woodley


The so-called Mouse Utopia experiment was conducted from 1968 by John B Calhoun

The idea was that four breeding pairs of mice were allowed to reproduce freely in a 'utopian' environment with ample food and water; no predators; no disease; comfortable temperature, conditions and space. What happened is described by the author:

Phase A - 104 days - establishment of the mice in their new environment, then the first litters were born.

Phase B - up to day 315 - exponential population growth doubling every 55 days.

Phase C - from day 315-560 population growth abruptly slowed to a doubling time of 145 days.

Phase D - days 560-920; population stagnant with births just matching deaths. Emergence of many pathological behaviours.

Terminal Phase - population declining to zero. The last conception was about day 920, after which there were no more births, all females were menopausal, the colony aged and all of them died.


The Mouse Utopia experiment is usually interpreted in terms of social stresses related to 'over-population' crowding - generating pathological behaviours and a loss of the will to live.

But Michael A Woodley suggests that what might be going on is mutation accumulation, and deleterious genes generating a wide range of maladaptive pathologies, incrementally accumulating with each generation; and rapidly overwhelming and destroying the population before any beneficial mutations could emerge to 'save; the colony from extinction. 

So the bizarre behaviours seen especially in Phase D - such as the male 'beautiful ones' who appeared to be healthy and spent all their time self grooming, but were actually inert, unresponsive, unintelligent, uninterested in reproduction - are not adaptations to crowding, but maladaptive outcomes of a population sinking under the weight of mutations.


The reason why mouse utopia might produce so rapid and extreme a mutation accumulation is that wild mice naturally suffer very high mortality rates from predation.

Therefore, because wild mice are so short-lived, mice are not 'built to last' and have the reputation of being unusually-prone to produce new deleterious mutations (and are therefore extremely prone to cancer, and susceptible to carcinogens - which is why mice are used to test for carcinogens).

Thus mutation selection balance is in operation among wild mice, with very high mortality rates continually weeding-out the new mutations (especially among males) - with typically only a small and relatively mutation-free proportion of the (large numbers of) offspring surviving to reproduce; and a minority of the most active and healthy (mutation free) males siring the bulk of each generation.

However, in Mouse Utopia, there is no predation and all the other causes of mortality are reduced to a minimum - so the frequent mutations just accumulate, generation upon generation - randomly producing all sorts of pathological (maladaptive) behaviours.


To test whether mutation accumulation is the real explanation for the demise of Mouse Utopia, the original experiment should be repeated but with genetic controls. Woodley is hoping to do this himself.

Also, a variant experiment could perhaps be conducted, which maintained utopian conditions but without allowing overcrowding (e.g. by continually splitting-up the growing community, and creating more and more small colonies - or (see comment below) by random culling).

In other words, the social conditions of Utopian mice would be held constant, while mortality rates would be kept low for multiple generations. 

My prediction would be that the Mouse Utopians would go through phases A, B, C, D and terminal to become extinct even without increased population density/ overcrowding, and due purely to cumulative genetic damage.


Thursday, 17 July 2014

Convergent evidence on child mortality rates in hunter gatherer and historical societies - consistent with mutation accumulation being a mechanism of the decline in intelligence since the industrial revolution


I previously estimated that something like 2/3 to 3/4 of offspring failed to survive in historical times - and that this was the principal mechanism for elimination of deleterious mutations. 

Modern child mortality rates are, by contrast, so low that it is inevitable that mutations will accumulate - and reducing intelligence is an inevitable consequence (since 'g' is a proxy measure of fitness).

Evidence for this comes from various sources including A Farewell to Alms: a brief economic history of the world, by Gregory Clark. Princeton University Press, 2007.

Also theoretical considerations:

And, further evidence on this matter is available from a pair of review/ meta-analysis papers:

A Volk and J Atkinson. Is child death the crucible of human evolution. Journal of Social, Evolutionary and Cultural Psychology. 2008; 2: 247-260.

A Volk, J Atkinson. Infant and child death in the human environment of evolutionary adaptation. Evolution and Human Behaviour. 2013; 34: 182-192.

In the 2013 paper, a review of hunter gatherer mortality found an average 48.8% child mortality rate - noting that child mortality rates are an underestimate, as not all deaths are recorded.

Historical data showed an average of 46.2% with a minimum of 35%, until modern times in developed countries, when it drops to 1% .

(However, among individuals, some will have a probability of lower, and others of higher mortality rates among their offspring, according to their health, status, child rearing abilities etc.) 


So about a half of children are known to have died before adult maturity in most times and most places, and the real percentage must have been higher.

In the 2008 paper, the authors note that most women who reach adulthood will have children, but about 5% may be infertile; by contrast about 10% of men fail to find a mate and about 5% are infertile. To this can be added the fertility-reducing effect of later marriage among low status men - often to older women with less reproductive potential.

This fits the idea that selection against deleterious mutations is stronger among men than women - with the variance of reproductive success larger among men; a smallish proportion of the fittest men differentially producing most of the viable offspring selection.

This also fits the anatomical picture of sexual dimorphism, with men as considerably more massive and strong than women, as consistent with some significant degree of de facto polygyny.


So, among men at least 65% or two thirds will fail to reproduce according to direct measures from anthropological and historical data. 

Rates of failure to reproduce will differ between the sexes, with mortality differentially concentrated among men (and indeed male fetuses, babies and children - who suffer greater mortality than females -

Given that 45-50 % directly-measured child mortality rates represents a minimum level; this evidence is reasonably consistent with my previous estimate; and emphasizes the massive change in selection pressure, and presumably mutation elimination, represented by a fifty-fold decline in child mortality rates from historical to modern times.


Note: I should add that it is the number of surviving (and reproductively viable) children which is the key factor; not the proportion of children that survive. i.e. Reproductive success is about both fertility and mortality.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The lop-sided genius summarized


The typical genius is of:

1. Very high intelligence, and

2. This very high intelligence is channelled into a specific ability, and

3. Motivation is also channelled into that specific ability.


Genius is rare because this situation is unusual. These three things must occur together.

High ability - but not all-round ability but instead that ability channelled narrowly, and motivation also channelled into that ability - rather than being spread across a range of activities.

In particular, most humans' interests for most of the time are social and reproductive - but this is not the case for geniuses


Most humans - in ancestral conditions - aim to be esteemed by other humans; to have status and power; in other words to optimise their reproductive potential - typically this is achieved indirectly and implicitly via sexual instincts, and so on.

But geniuses generally do not behave in ways that optimise their reproductive potential, and they do not want to. Geniuses want to do what they excel-at-doing even when this is low status and leads to problems. In fact, geniuses will do what they excel at doing, unless they are actively prevented.

Consequently the average reproductive success of a genius is very low.

In other words, considered at the level of the specific person: genius is pathological, an illness, an impairment. 


More exactly, what makes geniuses work so hard and for so long at that thing in which they excel is that they have relatively impaired social and reproductive motivations.

The channelling of abilities and motivations away from reproduction and into a specific ability is a result of genetic impairment caused by mutations which weaken or close-off the usual social and reproductive lines of development.

Because genius is reliant upon mutations, there is no specific pattern to genius - it is extremely varied what a specific genius is good-at and interested-in. Rather the specificity comes from what the genius is not good-at, and not interested-in.


So, genius is a pathology which occurs occurs in a person of very high intelligence. (Anything which damages average reproductive success is a pathology.)

Yet the occurrence of geniuses seems non-random in the sense that the rate of occurrence of geniuses varies widely between places and at different times. 

Furthermore, although genius is a pathology at the level of the individual; geniuses are sometimes massively adaptive in terms of enhancing the reproductive of their group.

Even a single genius can change the world. For example, a genius who invents a new tool or weapon may allow his 'tribe' of relatives to expand greatly. If that tool or weapon spreads widely, it can change the world. This probably happened many times in history - although usually the inventor's name is forgotten as with the stone axe, the spade, the wheel, the arch, the stirrup, and many other breakthrough innovations.


Therefore, it is possible that some populations may be selected (by their specific circumstances) to facilitate genius by allowing the kind of genetic pathology which leads to an increased frequency of geniuses.

(Mutations will happen spontaneously, this is merely a matter of passively allowing them to happen - it is a matter of mutations removing or impairing some of the mechanisms that regulate and repair certain genes or types of genes.)

Of course, most individuals who experience mutations in the genes which support abilities or motivations in the social and reproductive domains will not be geniuses; they will just be pathological, ill, impaired. These will die or leave behind no offspring.

(Most historical human populations were under very strong selection against mutations by extremely high child mortality rates - so the wrong kind of pathology or pathologies of excessive severity would be filtered out by this mechanism.) 

Only among some of the most highly intelligent individuals will the pathology have the desired effect of channelling developmental resources into useful but non-reproductive abilities and motivations.


How intelligent does a genius need to be? Relatively and absolutely


The main point is that - in order to make the creative breakthroughs which define genius - a genius needs to be much more relatively intelligent than the average for his population.

Early geniuses will have done things like invented the spear, the spear thrower, or later the bow and arrow.

It is important to recognize what a huge step it was to go from a sharpened stick, to a stick with something like bone or stone to make a harder point. The inventor would not need to have a particularly high absolute intelligence, in terms of - say - the intelligence of the UK or US population of today. But the inventor would surely have had a much higher relative intelligence than was average for his population.

The invention of a spear thrower required a higher absolute intelligence than inventing a spear - because it requires more prior knowledge, is more abstract and technologically complex; and inventing the bow and arrow was a step higher in absolute intelligence.

But probably the inventor of the spear, spear thrower and bow and arrow were all approximately similar in terms of being relatively considerably above the population average - and therefore the technological advance from inventing spear to bow and arrow required a rise in the average intelligence of populations.

However, once these had been invented, once some person had made the creative breakthrough - the discoveries were all very easy to understand, copy and use - and could all be adopted by almost any human society of whatever intelligence.

That is why geniuses are so significant in human history.  


Monday, 14 July 2014

The highly intelligent Normans?


Like JRR Tolkien I have a kind of prejudice against the Normans for their near complete obliteration of high Anglo Saxon culture, in particular the Old English mythology and folklore.

However, I am forced to acknowledge that, over a period of roughly 900-1300; the Normans were a very small but stunningly successful people from Normandy in France; astonishingly effective in military and political terms.


The Normans probably comprised some mixture of ex-Scandinavian 'Vikings' with French natives - and despite tiny numbers they conquered (and nearly conquered) lands as wide spread as the British Isles, Southern Italy, Cyprus, and challenged the great capital of Constantinople.

For example, maybe ten thousand or so Normans utterly subdued an English population of maybe one or more than two million! And imposed themselves on the natives as a ruling elite which was almost-wholly unassimilated for about ten or dozen generation.


How did they do this? My impression is that the method seems to have been by  superior organization supported by superior technology - especially technology in relation to what might be termed engineering or architecture.

It seems, as a rule, a small minority can only successfully dominate a majority by superior technology; and superior technology implies superior intelligence. 


My understanding is that once the Normans had defeated the Anglo-Saxons natives in one locality, they would force the natives to build a castle; from which the minority of Normans could then dominate the surrounding population from a position of safety; then the military force would move on to subdue the next region, and force these new natives to build the castles which would then become the instruments of their own suppression. 

Thereby, local and piecemeal superiority was swiftly converted to national and overall superiority. Once a network of castles were dotted over the whole of England, then the Normans could not be defeated.


In a nutshell, it looks to me as if the Normans were simply more intelligent than the Anglo Saxons - and not a little, but a lot more intelligent.

Presumably at least one standard deviation more intelligent than the Native English (i.e. if the native IQ was called 100, the Normans must have had an IQ of 115 or more).

(One SD seems to be the usual (minimum) difference which allows one group to rule another - whether the difference is between classes, castes or races.)


And I am not sure, but I think that Norman cultural achievements are also at least consistent with higher intelligence than the native Anglo-Saxons.

A comparison of literacy rates might be enlightening - however, the extreme differential in social conditions (and the treatment of Anglo Saxons as an inferior and excluded caste) make such measures difficult to interpret.

Probably a 'matched' comparison of the pre-Norman English ruling class (in terms of literacy, technology etc) with the post Norman ruling class, might be the most enlightening line of enquiry. 


Why would Normans have had a higher intelligence (assuming that they did)? Perhaps because of the Scandinavian roots - since the harsh conditions and long winters of Scandinavia seem to select for higher intelligence, presumably because low intelligence people cannot survive.

This higher Norse intelligence was not revealed under the harsh Scandinavian conditions (except in terms of sheer survival); but was immediately evident when new and more temperate colonies are founded (as happened in the Northern parts of England - the 'Danelaw', as well as in Normandy); and under more favourable conditions forms of higher cultural expressions begin to develop very rapidly.

Once these intelligent Vikings had conquered a portion of France, they apparently married local women and recruited local men. If we assume that the marriages were 'assortative matings', in which IQs were (somewhat) matched; and if recruitment was of the smarter men (and/ or excluded the least intelligent) - then the high original and Viking-derived intelligence might have been sustained or even amplified as The Normans were formed by a fusion of conquerors and locals.


Maybe, as genetic technologies advance and g may become measurable in terms of comparing large numbers of g-related genes, and if there is availability of suitable DNA from both Norman and Anglo Saxon skeletons; this theory of Normans having very high intelligence relative to Anglo Saxons may become directly testable.


(Note: Some of these ideas were developed in discussion over a prolonged lunch with my friend Peter Andras, now of Keele University -

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Conceptual notes on brain size and intelligence


1. There is a broad correlation between brain size and intelligence - as a brain must be of a certain size to have a certain complexity.

But the correlation is crude. Some big animals need big brains to control their bodies - some relatively small animals seem relatively very intelligent - I am thinking of some parrots.

This is because the brain is a multi-functional organ - most of it is concerned with non-'g' matters; and intelligence differences are probably only underpinned by a part, probably a small part, of this organ.

2. My understanding is that intelligence is mostly about efficiency - and efficiency specifically, flexible and multi-functional efficiency) requires complexity; and complexity of the brain is constrained by size and also developmental speed - on the whole a more efficient brain will tend to be larger and take longer to develop (construct) than a less efficient brain.

(I do not think it would be biologically possible for an organism to develop and mature an extra intelligent (therefore more complex) brain  and also to do it more rapidly than usual - therefore high intelligence pretty much requires a longer, and either slower or not-faster, period of brain development and maturation during childhood. Therefore, measuring brain size during childhood is not likely to be a good guide to intelligence - a small and simpler brain may develop and mature quicker than what will eventually turn-out to be a larger and more complex and more efficient brain.)

However, part of making a more efficient brain is probably developing a denser connectivity of brain circuits, rather than simply larger numbers of circuits. The 'g' advantage of men over women is (I would guess) probably related to greater density of connectivity, more than to a physically (and proportionately) larger brain.

3. Brains can be made smaller, and intelligence reduced, by a range of pathologies - illnesses, genetic and chromosomal problems. This is trivially true. But it means that in correlation studies there will be some small brained people with low IQ simply due to damage and destruction of various types (and there is an unconstrainedly large number of causes of brain and intelligence damage).

4. What about larger than average brains? Well, brain size might also be increased by some pathologies - but there may be other, non-g causes for brains to evolve or develop extra--large specialized circuits, to serve specialized functions - perhaps in vision or memory (eg. the suggestion that some specific brain regions are expanded in Australian Aborigines to enhance specific visual memory functions).

But IF (and it is a big IF) these specialized regions could be controlled for and excluded from the analysis - and analysis focused only on 'g' relevant brain regions (currently unknown); and if the brain substance was as densely connected as normal - then increased intelligence would be constrained by brain size: in other words, I think the only plausible way that intelligence could be increased by evolutionary pressures would be to increase the complexity of connectivity, which would probably entail an increase in the size of the (currently unknown) relevant parts of the brain.

5. I have been talking about brain size - head size is only loosely correlated to brain size, and subject to further pathologies. And hat size is only loosely correlated with head size - the shape of the head can make a difference here (so big headed people may only fit a small hat!). I don't think that measures of head or hat size can contribute much or at all to unravelling the difficult aspects of intelligence - except in a negative way:

Shrinking heads (and hats) over time (declining adult head circumference) would probably be strong evidence of declining intelligence - but the opposite would not be true for the reasons outlined above.


Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The relationship between Intelligence (IQ) and Personality traits: Intelligence is Primary - Personality is Secondary


Historically, Intelligence was the first and most powerfully predictive variable of individual differences.
Personality came later - and was formalized by the work of H.J Eysenck as a separate explanatory variable which can be seen after Intelligence is controlled-for.


Personality evaluations are not 'tests' in the way that IQ is measured by tests. Usually Personality is evaluated from self-rating questionnaires - sometimes from ratings by other people (e.g. teachers or parents). Sometimes Personality is measured indirectly in terms of behaviours - for example Conscientiousness might be measured by how many hours a person spends studying, or by their record of employment attendance.


What is the formal relationship between Intelligence and Personality?

The answer is that Intelligence is hierarchically superior to Personality.

Because intelligence very obviously affects personality - but personality does not affect intelligence.

Intelligence is primary as an explanation of behaviour - primary both historically, and formally, analytically.


Thus, Personality is Secondary to Intelligence.

How can this be understood? Intelligence is a measure of brain efficiency - something like speed of cognitive processing. therefore it affects pretty much all cognitive attributes in a quantitative manner.

Personality is disposition, related to the set-up and balance of attributes. Personality could be conceptualized as a different kind (or balance) of cognitive processing (not a different speed).

So that when exposed to the same stimulus - different Personalities (of the same Intelligence) will process the stimulus differently, to lead to different behavours.

But to establish a difference in Personality, the Intelligence must be controlled - because the same personalities exposed to the same stimuli will generate different behaviours if they have different intelligences - because differences in processing speed will suffice to produce different behaviours.


This has not been well understood - indeed I did not properly understand it until a few hours ago! Until then I thought of Intelligence and Personality as independent ways of predicting human behaviour. But I now see this is wrong - Intelligence is Primary and hierarchically above Personality - and only after Intelligence has been sufficiently controlled-for should Personality be evaluated.


In other words, as a matter of routine - when measuring Personality, one should also do an IQ test.

And before looking at the effect of personality on behaviour, one ought to remove the effect of intelligence (by stratified analysis, preferably - i.e. creating narrow strata of IQ and only looking a personality effects within these strata - or else by some kind of regression).


To put it differently, it is legitimate to measure IQ without Personality - but not legitimate to measure Personality without IQ.


What this means is that:

1. Two people (or groups) with the same IQ but different measured-Personalities traits (as evaluated using self-rating scales, or whatever), nonetheless have the same IQ.

2. Two people (or groups) with the same measured-Personality traits but different IQs, in reality have different Personalities.


However, in practice, much personality research is done on an already-intelligence-stratified sample - such as Psychology Students at Mudsville State University - in these situations the researcher can usually get-away-with missing out IQ testing and just evaluating Personality.


(However, this does not apply to the Big Five pseudo-trait of Openness - which is often so sensitive to IQ differences that it varies even within strata such as the same class of the same college. If Intelligence is controlled-for, then the effect of Openness disappears - because Openness is merely 'the personality type of intelligent people in Western-type societies'  - but rather badly conceptualized.)


The best conceptualized Personality traits, which derive essentially from HJ Eysenck, are Introversion versus Extraversion and Neuroticism versus Emotional Stability - and these are relatively robust to IQ differences (especially in college populations which provide most of the subjects).

(However, it seems likely that high levels of trait Neuroticism are contaminated by pathology; and likewise extremes of both Extraversion and Introversion. in other words, some personality differences are the result of diseases in specific people.)

The other major Eysenck trait is Psychoticism - which the Big Five splits into the inverse of Conscientiousness, and Agreeableness (which is the same entity as Simon Baron Cohen's Empathizing) - to which could be added Schizotypy to capture the 'psychotic' element of Psychoticism.

Ultimately, Personality needs to be related to some underlying biological, and adaptive, mechanism - and the most likely of these underlying explanatory models seems to be Life History; which is another topic for another time.


Monday, 30 June 2014

What proportion of offspring survived in historical times? - with reference to mutation accumulation


The paper referenced here:
Yann Leseque et al. A Resolution of the Mutation Load Paradox in Humans. Genetics 2012; 191: 1321-1330.

could provide a way into the literature on accumulated mutation damage in other species.

There seem to be a number of variables to consider - how many new mutations per generation, what proportion of offspring survive, how fast the population is growing and probably others.

Although this literature says 88% mortality or 12% surviving,  this is only approximate - and there would have been considerable variation at different points in history.

It also seems a bit high for human reproductive capability - since hunter gatherer women seem seldom to have more than six children (due to late menarche, the children spaced-out by the contraceptive effect of lactation, prolonged lactation and then low fertility from age c 40) - which would not be enough.

So I guess the real number would be more like an average 1/4 or 1/3 of human offspring surviving for most of the time and in most places.


What about about delayed reproduction in modern populations?

Delayed reproduction leads to more chance of mutations (eg from sperm) and problems with poorer quality control on release of older eggs (eg trisomy twenty one is probably the tip of an iceberg of similar problems).

But late reproduction also reduces the number of generations and the possibility of mutation accumulation from that cause - so that modern people only have two generations (e.g. average thirty plus years) - i.e. two new lots of mutations in sixty-something years - where in historical times there would have been three generations per 60-70 years - three lots of new mutations.

So slowing reproduction (by increasing the average age of reproduction) may perhaps reduce mutation accumulation temporarily; given that the effect of aging on mutations may be less per decade than the effect of an extra generation of new mutations.


This was originally a comment at a new blog called Brain Size

Which is shaping-up to be a valuable contribution to intelligence research.

The author, Herr Professor Doktor Pumpkinperson, has the attributes of honesty, persistence (this especially), intelligence and a refreshing disinclination to take offense at the criticism of others!


Population expanision in England with respect to mutation accumulation


When the Black Death (c 1380) halved the population of England, the deaths were disproportionately among the poorest (i.e. apparently 'eugenic').

Then the population took about 200 years (until around 1600) to recover (from 2-4 million) all the time under strong 'eugenic' selection (probably, nearly all of the surviving children came from the elite skilled craftsmen type working class and the 'intellectual' middle classes).

That is a 200 year doubling time. Then it took another 200 years for the population of England to double to 8 million (around 1800); then about 50 years to double again; and about 50 years to double again to 32 million after 1900; and then about 100 years for the most recent doubling.

So, 4 million was probably the usual maximum population for agrarian England, and there have been five doublings of population in about 600 years since the Black Death

(rounded numbers)

1350 - 4 million
1400 - 2 million
1600 - 4 million
1800 - 8 million
1850 - 16 million
1900 - 32 million
2014 - around 64 million

The rate of increase was slow and child mortality was very high until about 1800 or later - then three of the doublings have happened in 200 years since child mortality began to reduce, and fertility began to reduce, and selection was more and more strongly dysgenic.


A comment on the personality trait of Openness (and Personality in general)


Personality is supposed to be independent of intelligence - Personality is a separate explanatory variable which can be seen after Intelligence is controlled-for.

Intelligence is primary as an explanation of behaviour - primary both historically, and because intelligence (very obviously) affects personality - but personality does not affect intelligence.

In other words, as a matter of routine - when measuring personality, one should also test for intelligence - and before looking at the effect of personality on behaviour, one ought to remove the effect of intelligence (by stratified analysis, preferably - i.e. creating narrow strata of IQ and only looking a personality effects within these strata - or else by some kind of regression).


However, much personality research is done on an already-intelligence-stratified sample - such as Psychology Students at Mudsville State University - in these situations the researcher can usually get-away-with missing out IQ testing and just evaluating Personality.

However, this does not apply to the pseudo-trait of Openness - which is often so sensitive to IQ differences that it varies even within strata such as the same class of the same college.


If Intelligence is controlled-for, then the effect of Openness disappears - because Openness is merely 'the personality type of intelligent people in Western-type societies' (but rather badly conceptualized).

While the other personality traits (C, E, A and N), which derive essentially from HJ Eysenck, are robust to IQ differences (especially in college populations which provide most of the subjects): Openness is not.

Openness merely a (weak) correlate of IQ (in Western Societies)... plus noise and cross-contamination from other personality traits (e.g. a little bit of Psychoticism/ Schizotypy).


Take home message: all research on so-called Openness is either ignorant, incompetent - or (usually) both. 


This began as a comment on  the Isegoria blog

Thursday, 26 June 2014

The genius as a 'medium': channeling external influences


(What follows goes outwith science.)

Pretty much all the geniuses I have heard of and who have expressed an opinion seem to say (in one way or another) that the key factor in their genius comes from outwith their conscious motivation - and feels as if it appeared 'ready-made' in their awareness.

In other words, geniuses will often decline credit for the essence of their achievement (and it is other people who often insist upon ascribing agency to the genius).

This means that - to a varying extent - genius seems to be experienced as a mediumistic phenomenon, that being a genius feels like being a channel for insights and understandings and inventions.

From these point, there may be a division among geniuses: crafted versus automatic. In other words, some 'receive' the inspirations, and work-out for themselves how to communicate it by craft; while other geniuses also receive inspiration about communication - for example, deliberately crafted writing from within the writer; versus a more 'automatic' kind of writing which the writer (to some extent) mentally stands-back and observes the emergence of communications.


The difference in these types crafted and automatic types of genius is seen when the product of a genius cannot satisfactorily be accounted-for by the observable personality and ability of that person.

Tolkien and JK Rowling could be taken as examples of the two types. Tolkien received his inspiration as 'given' him - as if discovered by him in fragments of ancient texts; and the achievement of Lord of the Rings can easily be understood in terms of Tolkien's own disposition, his abilities, what he wanted to do. When I see Tolkien in an interview is it obvious how a man like him would write LotR.

By contrast, JK Rowling's Harry Potter series (which is, in my evaluation, is also a work of genius - albeit lesser than LotR). But it is hard - I would say impossible - to understand Harry Potter as plausibly having been crafted by JK Rowling. When I see Rowling in an interview, there is a gross mis-match between the person and the work. I believe that the actual communication of Harry Potter was as a kind of 'automatic writing' - experienced more like taking dictation than crafting prose.

In support of this specific interpretation is that Tolkien felt a strong loyalty to LotR, and a gratitude for having the inspiration; while Rowling appears to be hostile to Harry Potter and has a detached, critical and revisionist attitude towards it - consistent with her not having had much to do with its production, but having mostly observed it emerging.


Where does personal choice and motivation come in?

The genius must accept the external inspiration; and the automatic type of genius must also accept the 'dictation' of the actual mode of communication.

Any attempt to interfere or reshape the external inspiration - or to select or distort the automatic writing - will result in a drying-up of the source of inspiration and loss of automatic writing ability.

However, inspiration can be refused, and distortion of communication can be attempted - with the above consequences. Genius doesn't happen anymore.

Presumably, this accounts for the frequent situation when someone produces a single work of (inspired) genius - but everything else they produce (which is entirely the product of the creator, and lacks external inspiration) is at a qualitatively lower level.


Most of these ideas are derived from A Geography of Consciousnesses by William Arkle (1974) 151-156.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The Lop-sided genius - mutations, channelling K, and group selection


The idea of Life History (LH) is that organisms tend to have a default 'r' strategy of fast growth and sexual maturation leading to large numbers of offspring requiring minimal parental investment; but that natural selection can act on groups of organisms to enhance a 'K' strategy of LH which is characterized by slower growth and sexual maturity, smaller numbers of offspring, and a greater investment of parental resources per offspring.

So, among mammals, mice are r selected while humans are K selected - crudely r strategy is for quantity of offspring, while K is for higher quality of offspring. .

But a further aspect of LH theory is that within species there are a range of potential Life Histories - and the young organism may be able to respond to environmental conditions to channel development resources in various ways. For example if conditions are harsh and an early death seems likely, then resources are channeled in a relative r direction; while less stressful conditions may trigger a K strategy.

Michael A Woodley has suggested that the slow LH strategy of K is also a strategy for behavioural specialization - so that a more K-selected population of humans is also more likely to generate behavioural specialists - including cognitive specialists:  people with high and also highly- specialized types of intelligence.

In other words, K-selected populations are more likely to produce geniuses - because geniuses have a Lop-sided kind of cognitive activity; geniuses prioritize their special ability and do not put so much effort into the kind of social interactions and reproductive strategies (mating, courting, marriage, child rearing) which dominate the majority of people.


So geniuses have something wrong with them, from the perspective of individual reproductive success.

This might suggest that genius is simply a pathology, a rare disease, probably a particular set of genetic mutations - which happens to be useful by chance, in some particular times and places...

Alternatively, it may suggest that genius is group-selected - on the basis that it was geniuses which provided the breakthroughs which led to the industrial revolution and the consequent expansion of those European national populations which produced the geniuses (England, France, Greater Germany, Italy etc).

On this scheme, a genius does not - on average - benefit his own reproductive success; but a population which produces enough geniuses will benefits its own population level reproductive success.


SO, what are the ingredients of genius? The answer is twofold: high intelligence plus a high level of personality trait Psychoticism.

But what is Psychoticism, from the perspective of Life History? It can perhaps be seen as a rare result of Lop-sided K -  personality type which combines impairment in social domains (such as Agreeableness/ Empathizing, Conscientiousness, Social Conformity) with an autonomous/ selfish obsession with some other thing.

(Note: High Psychoticism is only rarely found in K-selected populations - there is probably an inverse correlation between the two variables - but it is that rare and strange combination of high K and moderately-high P which is required for creative genius.)

So the personality of a genius is defined, here, by default - by a strategic slow LH but not of the type which would tend to lead to social and sexual success, but instead where long term interest, enjoyment and effort are channelled into... something else.

Something else could be any of the possible domains of genius: mathematics, science, literature, invention, art and sculpture, economics, music... So when there are a lot of geniuses in a population, they are of various and multiple types.

(Although not all types, nor all types at equal frequency - since some populations start with an innately higher level of some talents, and lower levels of others - populations differ).


So, why Europe? Why was it Europe, and nowhere else, that made the industrial revolution?

First, there had to be something - or some things - in Europe which selected-for what it is that geniuses provide: selected-for the products of genius... especially things like inventions. 

To focus on inventions - geniuses do not need to be encouraged: genius does what genius does, and unless actively prevented genius will produce... But that is only half of what is needed: the society must notice what is produced, and value it, and exploit it.


So, if a society has geniuses, then the geniuses will be producing inventions. But only some societies will use these inventions.

IF a society does use inventions, and as a result the society expands (if the population grows from which the geniuses have arisen) then this would indirectly tend to sustain the production of geniuses.

How might this happen? Perhaps by allowing/ encouraging mutations to occur specifically in relation to some of the genes which sustain social intelligence, sexual selection and that kind of thing - and thereby channelling K into specific functional channels - to create a variety of Lop-sided geniuses who are independent of social pressures and motivated to focus on their special ability; rather than a population all-rounders who conform to societal norms.


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Learning to Parrot - modern intelligence as a "Chinese Room" thought experiment


Suppose that I'm locked in a room and given a large batch of Chinese writing...[but] to me, Chinese writing is just so many meaningless squiggles. Now suppose further that after this first batch of Chinese writing I am given a second batch of Chinese script together with a set of rules for correlating the second batch with the first batch. The rules are in English, and I understand these rules as well as any other native speaker of English. They enable me to correlate one set of formal symbols with another set of formal symbols, and all that 'formal' means here is that I can identify the symbols entirely by their shapes. Now suppose also that I am given a third batch of Chinese symbols together with some instructions, again in English, that enable me to correlate elements of this third batch with the first two batches, and these rules instruct me how to give back certain Chinese symbols...from the point of view of somebody outside the room in which I am locked -- my answers to the questions are absolutely indistinguishable from those of native Chinese speakers. Nobody just looking at my answers can tell that I don't speak a word of Chinese.'

John Searle, Behavioural and Brain Sciences, 1980


The nature of modern technology and educational evaluations is such that people typically understand much, much less than they appear - superficially - to understand.

A modern person is in a position much like that described in Searle's Chinese Room thought experiment outlined above.

Whether in school, college, work, the Mass Media or in almost any kind of discourse - a modern person is able to interact on subjects far beyond his comprehension by algorithmically implementing a predetermined set of rules - recognizing inputs from a chart (whether external or internalized), then matching and selecting 'appropriate' predetermined responses, then ordering and setting them out as a kind of mosaic of 'points'.

This activity is, more or less, automatic - and involves no necessary comprehension of the symbolic inputs or outputs - the whole thing is a matter of cycles of recognition, matching and arranging; back and forth between people or groups.


So, a project is assigned on a certain subject. This subject is looked up on the internet. Passages of text, illustrations, graphs are copied, modified, pasted and arranged stylishly in line with explicit guidelines. The work is returned and marked according to a template referencing the guidelines. Several of these projects are accumulated and an educational qualification is awarded. The student becomes a manager, and the same procedure is followed. A task is assigned, information is gathered and arranged and presented - and evaluated, and perhaps implemented - perhaps as bullet points; and if so these implementations will follow the same process: each bullet point leading to an analogous process of recognition, matching and arranging. Even the question "But does it work?" is 'answered' by the same process of gathering and selecting pre-approved forms of data (sales numbers, surveys focus groups...), matching data to the outputs being evaluated, and arranging this into patterns.


In modern 'abstract' discourse, there is never any point at which any actual person evaluates the exchanges to determine whether real understanding is present or absent - because the formal evaluation procedures (whether in school college, work, politics, government or punditry) are themselves typically conducted on exactly the same basis as that which is being evaluated.

A person who really knows the field, may know that there is zero understanding - but from the perspective of formal evaluation procedures, this individual evaluation is merely opinion, rumour, hearsay and anecdote.

What really matters in modern bureaucratic organizations is the formal procedures - recognition, matching and mosaic-building; and these do not require understanding on the part of any of the participants.


So what is really going on behind the mechanical pretence of understanding?

Social interactions; the usual human stuff of gossip, or status competitions, or money-making, or attempted exploitation, or altruistic assistance... or whatever.

So the relevant thought experiment might be somewhat different from the impersonal and contact-less Chinese Room thought experiment - perhaps a better thought experiment might be interacting Parrots.


Imagine a group of parrots which have been taught a set number of English language phrases, and taught when to use these phrases in response to particular other phrases or the presence of key words; and taught rules about how to combine these phrases. These are then evaluated for their linguistic ability by other parrots who are checking whether the stimulus phrases match the proper response phrases according to the rules; and whether the phrases are being uttered in the proper combinations, according to the rules.


So, for these parrots, learning the English language, understanding the English language, is defined as following the proper rules in recognizing, emitting and combining phrases of English.

An intelligent parrot is defined as one that knows a lot of these rules and always follows them.


Throughout, none of the parrots have a clue what these phrases mean (if anything), nor are they in the slightest degree interested; so far as they themselves are concerned, what is really going on is showing-off or deferring, flirting or repulsing, threatening or submitting, and trying to get more food.


And this is a picture of modern 'intellectual' life - in science, medicine, the arts, politics, government, the mass media... the public arena in general.


Tuesday, 17 June 2014

So, you think you are in favour of eugenics? Do you know the implications?


Current information on the rate of mutation and the fraction of sites in the genome that are subject to selection suggests that each human has received, on average, at least two new harmful mutations from its parents. These mutations were subsequently removed by natural selection through reduced survival or fertility. It has been argued that the mutation load, the proportional reduction in population mean fitness relative to the fitness of an idealized mutation-free individual, allows a theoretical prediction of the proportion of individuals in the population that fail to reproduce as a consequence of these harmful mutations. Application of this theory to humans implies that at least 88% of individuals should fail to reproduce and that each female would need to have more than 16 offspring to maintain population size. This prediction is clearly at odds with the low reproductive excess of human populations. Here, we derive expressions for the fraction of individuals that fail to reproduce as a consequence of recurrent deleterious mutation (ϕ) for a model in which selection occurs via differences in relative fitness, such as would occur through competition between individuals. We show that ϕis much smaller than the value predicted by comparing fitness to that of a mutation-free genotype. Under the relative fitness model, we show that ϕ depends jointly on U and the selective effects of new deleterious mutations and that a species could tolerate 10’s or even 100’s of new deleterious mutations per genome each generation.

  • Adam Eyre-Walker.  
  • A Resolution of the Mutation Load Paradox in Humans. Genetics 2012; 191: 1321-1330.


    I am not suggesting that the above paper is the last word - far from it. Its conclusions require modification in light of some important features the authors have neglected. 

    However, the basic point is that - according to a well established genetic calculation, it would be expected that 88 % of humans would fail to reproduce. The authors regard this as a long-standing unsolved paradox, and try to suggest an answer. But it may not be a paradox - it may simply be what happened in human populations most of the time and in most places through history (in equilibrium, on average) up to about 1800.  


    Even if this number is too big, even if it is much too big, the point is that in order to prevent the accumulation of damaging mutations generation upon generation, in order to prevent the population being overwhelmed and destroyed by genetic damage; a lot of humans would need to fail to reproduce...

    Which, given that - in pre-contraception and -abortion eras - a lot of humans are born (i.e. fertility is high), then there must be *very" high child mortality rates.

    To put this in terms of eugenics, a large majority of people would not be allowed to reproduce at all, or else a large majority of children would have to die (or be killed) merely to stop dysgenics from mutation accumulation - this would have to happen just for things to stay the same.

    To actually improve the functional-adaptedness of the population - in other word to practice eu-genics (by differentially breeding from the better- adapted) would have to come on top of this.  


    To put it simplistically - to perform actual eu-genics as a matter of state policy would require something like the following: 

    1. Slaughter c. 88% of children or sterilize c. 88% of adults, to stay the same - and then... 

    2. Of the remaining c. 12%, breed only from the best adapted minority - to improve the population.  

    Knowing this, are you still in favour of eugenics?