Wise Tim, Crime, and HBD: Part 2, the HBD-view expanded

Continuing with our discussion of Leuconoe’s question:

What is your opinion of the “racial invariance hypothesis” which says that poor whites have about the same crime rate as poor blacks and that if you control for socioeconomic status all the differences between the races in crime go away?

This thesis is mainly backed by these studies: Poverty, not race, tied to high crime rates in urban communities, Homicide in Black and White (pdf.)

Since poor whites have a generally higher IQ as equally poor blacks this would also contradict the idea that lower IQ leads to more crime. …

Also this piece by a radical leftist: Nazis Can’t Do Math: Reflections on Racism, Crime and the Illiteracy of Right-Wing Statistical Analysis.

First, let’s be clear about what HBD says (and doesn’t say) about crime, race, and poverty (and while we’re at it, IQ):

  1. Genes influence traits like IQ and criminality.

As JayMan is fond of saying, “All human behavioral traits are heritable.” Okay, but what does this mean? Are we slaves to our genetics? Is there a a murder gene that guarantees that you will go out and stab someone to death? Since JayMan has already written a great explanation, I will quote him and urge you to read the rest:

The First Law emerges from studies of twins, studies of adoptees, and (now) sibling genetic similarity studies. In short, when you look at people’s behavior, virtually without exception … you find some effect of the genes on these traits….

How could this be, you may ask? How could such complex and highly specific things be encoded in the DNA and express themselves despite decades of upbringing and childhood experiences? For one, heritability is only probabilistic, not absolute. Few traits are 100% heritable. …

But, it’s important to understand the meaning of the term heritability. Heritability is the degree of variation in a studied population that can be attributed to genetic variation in that population. The cause is the variance in question is always due to some genetic difference, but it doesn’t tell you how direct such genetic influence is. …

So, how iron-clad is the First Law? Clearly, not all traits are heritable, right? Right. However, there are only a distinct set of exceptions. Traits that are dependent on content aren’t heritable at all. These include what language you speak, in which particular church you worship, what specific political party you identify. However, the degree and manner to which one interacts with these things are very heritable: how proficient you are with language, how church-going you are, how liberal or conservative.

Stolen from JayMan's post, "All Human Behavioral Traits are Heritable."
Stolen from JayMan’s post, “All Human Behavioral Traits are Heritable.” RTWT.

Note that these are not 100% heritable. There is no “guaranteed to stab people” gene, but there are genes that will make you more likely to want to stab people. Environment, “free will,” and random chance also influence how personality traits manifest in individuals.

Edit: It occurs to me that I should actually talk about some of these genes.

An MAOA variant, nicknamed “the warrior gene,” is the most famous of these. Wikipedia states:

A version of the monoamine oxidase-A gene has been popularly referred to as the warrior gene.[30] Several different versions of the gene are found in different individuals, although a functional gene is present in most humans (with the exception of a few individuals with Brunner syndrome).[31] In the variant, the allele associated with behavioural traits is shorter (30 bases) and may produce less MAO-A enzyme.[32] This gene variation is in a regulatory promoter region about 1000 bases from the start of the region that encodes the MAO-A enzyme.

Studies have found differences in the frequency distribution of variants of the MAOA gene between ethnic groups:[32][33] of the participants, 59% of Black men, 54% of Chinese men, 56% of Maori men, and 34% of Caucasian men carried the 3R allele, while 5.5% of Black men, 0.1% of Caucasian men, and 0.00067% of Asian men carried the 2R allele.[23][32][33][34][35][36][37][38][39][40]

In individuals with the low activity MAOA gene, when faced with social exclusion or ostracism showed higher levels of aggression than individuals with the high activity MAOA gene.[41]

Doubtless there are other genes I’m not aware of.

2.  The frequency of different genes varies between genetically-related groups.

The obvious genes here are ones that code for environmental responses, like lactase persistence in groups that have historically practiced dairy farming and dark skin in areas with intense sunlight.

Everyone on earth shares more genes with the people closely related to them than people less-closely related. For example, the Amish are more genetically similar to other Amish than non-Amish. Pygmies are more closely related to other pygmies than non-pygmies. This is why people look like their parents.

There are a lot of people who claim that “race is a social construct.” From a genetic standpoint, this is simply untrue (look at the top of the blog for an example of how geneticists can distinguish between different genetic groups.)

3. The HBD-theory is that the genes for personality/behavioral traits also vary by genetically-related groups, due to historical environmental (including cultural!) pressures.

For example, Polynesians may have been selected for navigational ability, because good navigators populated Polynesia and bad navigators died at sea. Chinese culture may have selected for people willing to work hard and get along even when they don’t really feel like it; and the Inuit may have been selected for the ability to stand really long, dark winters.

Relevant to our discussion, crime rates vary a lot by region:

World-Murder-Rate-Geocurrents-Map-1024x726

and society:

Graph from the Wikipedia
See also my post, “No, Hunter Gatherers were not Peaceful Paragons of Gender Egalitarianism.”

We’ve discussed warfare in pre-state societies over quite a few posts lately, so I’m going to summarize quickly: anthropological, historical, and archaeological records all document extremely high rates of violence in non-state societies. Anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon actually kept track of both homicides and births among the Yanomamo, and found that Yanomamo men who had killed more people had more children than Yanomamo men who had killed fewer people, providing a direct mechanism for genetic selection for traits related to homicide and other violence.

Many HBD bloggers, such as Peter Frost and HBD Chick, have discussed the ways in which states have discouraged crime, including (especially) executing criminals and thus preventing them from having children. The observed result:

homicide_in_europe_1200_2000

 

That all said, there are things that no serious HBD-er claims:

A. That all people or sub-groups within a “race” are identical. As Peter Frost wrote, “No, blacks aren’t all alike. Who said they are?” There are smart black people and dumb black people. Hard-working whites and lazy whites. Extroverted Asians and Introverted Asians. Some white groups (like Russians, apparently,) have significantly higher crime rates than other white groups. Even within the US, there are differences between different groups of whites, with significant ethnic divisions between classes and regions.

B. That environmental effects don’t exist or that humans do not respond to incentives. Obviously if it is cold outside I will wear a coat; if a law is passed that jay walkers will be executed, I will immediately stop jaywalking.

C. Observed differences are set in stone. The world is always changing. Where selection pressures change, so do populations.

 

So to get back to Leuconoe’s first query, I would not be surprised if controlling for socioeconomic status made all (or most) racial differences in criminality disappear. In fact, this is basically what I would expect, because poverty, criminality, and low-IQ are correlated, so controlling for one will tend to control for all of them.

But why on earth would you do this? If we control for bad decisions, most differences in intelligence disappear. If you control for enough differences, differences disappear. But as JayMan says, you can’t just control for a groups entire history; likewise, you can’t just control for all their traits.

Moreover, this still doesn’t get at why different groups have different rates of criminality or poverty in the first place, nor whether A causes B, B causes A, or C causes A and B. And even if you could prove that poverty causes crime, you still haven’t answered why there’s so much more poverty in black communities than in white (or Asian) ones.

What do we know about race and crime in America?

I have written a few posts on the subject, like When Crime is a Euphemism for Lynching; Bullying Pt 2: Race, Crime, and the Police; South Africa, Democracy, and the Dangers of Demographics (okay that one is on South Africa, not America); Rupert Murdoch is a Lying Liar; Sorry, Les Mis: Criminals Gonna Criminal.

Given that I’ve written nearly 500 posts, this is clearly not my main focus. I therefore recommend everything by La Griffe du Lion, including Crime in the Hood; Crime and the Hispanic Effect; Politics, Imprisonment, and Race; Aggressiveness, Criminality, and Sex Drive by Race, Gendder, and Ethnicity; The Color of Death Row; and Analysis of Hate Crime. And if that is not enough for you, here is the entire updated Color of Crime, from whoever publishes it. Here are a few of its major findings:

  • The evidence suggests that if there is police racial bias in arrests it is negligible. Victim and witness surveys show that police arrest violent criminals in close proportion to the rates at which criminals of different races commit violent crimes.
  • There are dramatic race differences in crime rates. Asians have the lowest rates, followed by whites, and then Hispanics. Blacks have notably high crime rates. This pattern holds true for virtually all crime categories and for virtually all age groups.
  • In 2013, of the approximately 660,000 crimes of interracial violence that involved blacks and whites, blacks were the perpetrators 85 percent of the time. This meant a black person was 27 times more likely to attack a white person than vice versa. A Hispanic was eight times more likely to attack a white person than vice versa.
  • If New York City were all white, the murder rate would drop by 91 percent, the robbery rate by 81 percent, and the shootings rate by 97 percent.
  • Both violent and non-violent crime has been declining in the United States since a high in 1993. 2015 saw a disturbing rise in murder in major American cities that some observers associated with “depolicing” in response to intense media and public scrutiny of police activity.
source: https://www.newyorkfed.org/medialibrary/media/research/epr/99v05n3/9909levi.pdf
source: https://www.newyorkfed.org/medialibrary/media/research/epr/99v05n3/9909levi.pdf

So much for controlling for income. It looks like equally poor whites and blacks still have massively different homicide rates. (Of course, I should note that the US welfare system attempts to put a minimum floor below which people don’t fall. Without intervention, equally poor whites and blacks might be more similar.)

West Hunter noted about the effects of lotteries:

Lotteries can be useful natural experiments; we can use them to test the accuracy of standard sociological theories, in which rich people buy their kids extra smarts, bigger brains, better health, etc.

David Cesarini, who I met at that Chicago meeting, has looked at the effect of winning the lottery in Sweden. He found that the “effects of parental wealth on infant health, drug consumption, scholastic performance and cognitive and non-cognitive skills can be bounded to a tight interval around zero.”

As I once mentioned, there was an important land lottery in Georgia in 1832. The winners received an 160-acre farm. But by 1880, their descendants were no more literate, their occupational status no higher. The families in the top 2/3rds of income managed to hang on to some of their windfall, but lower-income families did not.

West Hunter does note that there is probably a level below which material deprivation really will harm (or kill) you, and that a random windfall in such a situation will do you good, but virtually no one in the modern West lives in famine or near-famine conditions.

Picture 3  Picture 3

Picture 5

(I suspect it is really easy to catch car thieves in Hawaii.)

CNyyQS7VEAIRGCY

source http://maamodt.asp.radford.edu/Serial%20Killer%20Information%20Center/Project%20Description.htm
source: Radford University Serial Killer Information Center

Occam’s razor suggests that something is going on here.

To be continued…

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Why Geneticists get touchy about Epigenetics

Disclaimer: I am not a geneticist. For those of you who are new here, this is basically a genetics fan blog. I am trying to learn about genetics, and you know what?

Genetics is complicated.

I fully admit that here’s a lot of stuff that I don’t know yet, nor fully understand.

Luckily for me, there are a few genetics basics that are easy enough to understand that even a middle school student can master them:

  1. “Evolution” is the theory that species change over time due to some individuals within them being better at getting food, reproducing, etc., than other individuals, and thereby passing on their superior traits to their children.
  2. “Genes,” (or “DNA,”) are the biological code for all life, and the physical mechanism by which traits are passed down from parent to child.
  3. “Mendel squares” work for modeling the inheritance of simple traits
  4. More complicated trait are modeled with more complicated math
  5. Lamarckism doesn’t work.

Lamarck was a naturalist who, in the days before genes were discovered, theorized that creatures could pass on “acquired” characteristics. For example, an animal with a relatively normal neck in an area with tall trees might stretch its neck in order to reach the tastiest leaves, and then pass on this longer-neck to its children, who would also stretch their necks and then pass on the trait to their children, until you get giraffes.

A fellow with similar ideas, Lysenko, was a Soviet Scientist who thought he could make strains of cold-tolerant wheat simply by exposing wheat kernels to the cold.

We have the luxury of thinking that Lysenko’s ideas sound silly. The Soviet peasants had to actually try to grow his wheat, and scientists who pointed out that this was nonsense got sent to the gulag.

The problem with Lamarckism is that it doesn’t work. You can’t make wheat grow in Antarctica by sticking it in your freezer for a few months and animals don’t have taller babies just because you stretch their necks.

So what does this have to do with epigenetics?

Pop science articles talk about epigenetics as if it were Lamarckism. Through the magic of epigenetic markers, acquired traits can supposedly be passed down to one’s children and grandchildren, infinitely.

Actual epigenetics, as scientists actually study it, is a real and interesting field. But the effects of epigenetic changes are not so large and permanent as to substantially change most of the way we model genetic inheritance.

Why?

Epigenetics is, in essence, part of how you learn. Suppose you play a disturbing noise every time a mouse smells cherries. Pretty soon, the mouse would learn to associate “fear” and “cherry smell,” and according to Wikipedia, this gets encoded at the epigenetic level. Great, the mouse has learned to be afraid of cherries.

If these epigenetic traits get passed on to the mouse’s children–I am not convinced this is possible but let’s assume it is–then those children can inherit their mother’s fear of cherries.

This is pretty neat, but people take it too far when they assume that as a result, the mouse’s fear will persist over many generations, and that you have essentially just bred a new, cherry-fearing strain of mice.

You, see, you learn new things all the time. So do mice. Your epigenetics therefore keep changing throughout your life. The older you are, the more your epigenetics have changed since you were born. This is why even identical twins differ in small ways from each other. Sooner or later, the young mice will figure out that there isn’t actually any reason to be afraid of cherries, and they’ll stop being afraid.

If people were actually the multi-generational heirs of their ancestors’ trauma, pretty much everyone in the world would be affected, because we all have at least one ancestor who endured some kind of horrors in their life. The entire continent of Europe should be a PTSD basket case due to WWI, WWII, and the Depression.

Thankfully, this is not what we see.

Epigenetics has some real and very interesting effects, but it’s not Lamarckism 2.0.

Adoption pt 4: Noble/Kin Fosterage and Ancient Rome

The nobility of ancient Rome came up with a creative solution to the difficulties of making sure everyone had a male heir (who made it to adulthood) without ending up with a bunch of excess heirs who would inconveniently divide up the inheritance: adoption–or to be clear, noble fosterage. A family with two males would send its extra to a noble family that had none, (perhaps in exchange for a wife for the other son.) This ensured that every family had an heir and cemented ties between the families.

The Roman emperors also made a habit of adopting their chosen successors–other adults. Julius Caesar, for example, adopted his great-nephew Augustus, who succeeded him as emperor. (Well, after that business with the triumvirate and the civil war and all.) Technically, you could be adopted in ancient Rome by someone younger than yourself, though this did not happen very often.

Wikipedia gives some technical details:

In Roman law, the power to give children in adoption was one of the recognised powers of the paterfamilias. The adopted boy would usually be the oldest, the one with proven health and abilities. Adoption was an expensive agreement for the childless family and quality had to be ensured. Adoption was agreed between families by the mother giving the boy they wanted to adopt (for the most part) equal status, often political allies and/or with blood connections. A plebeian adopted by a patrician would become a patrician, and vice versa; however, at least in Republican times, this required the consent of the Senate (famously in the case of Publius Clodius Pulcher[1]).

A sum of money was exchanged between the parties and the boy assumed the adoptive father’s name and a cognomen that indicated his original family (see Roman naming convention). Adoption was neither secretive nor considered to be shameful; the adopted boy was not even expected to cut ties to his original family. Like a marriage contract, adoption was a way to reinforce interfamily ties and political alliances. The adopted child was often in a privileged situation, enjoying both original and adoptive family connections. Almost every politically famous Roman family used it.

As we discussed yesterday, a different system of fosterage existed in Scotland and Ireland:

In A Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland (1775), Samuel Johnson writes:

There still remains in the Islands, though it is passing fast away, the custom of fosterage. A Laird, a man of wealth and eminence, sends his child, either male or female, to a tacksman, or tenant, to be fostered. It is not always his own tenant, but some distant friend that obtains this honour; for an honour such a trust is very reasonably thought. …

Children continue with the fosterer perhaps six years, and cannot, where this is the practice, be considered as burdensome. The fosterer, if he gives four cows, receives likewise four, and has, while the child continues with him, grass for eight without rent, with half the calves, and all the milk, for which he pays only four cows when he dismisses his Dalt, for that is the name for a foster child.

Fosterage is, I believe, sometimes performed upon more liberal terms. Our friend, the young Laird of Col, was fostered by Macsweyn of Grissipol. Macsweyn then lived a tenant to Sir James Macdonald in the Isle of Sky; and therefore Col, whether he sent him cattle or not, could grant him no land. The Dalt, however, at his return, brought back a considerable number of Macalive cattle, and of the friendship so formed there have been good effects. When Macdonald raised his rents, Macsweyn was, like other tenants, discontented, and, resigning his farm, removed from Sky to Col, and was established at Grissipol.

The fostered Gael who comes immediately to mind is Cuchulainn. I was going to quote from the Tain Bo Cualnge, (pronounced “cooley;” Irish spelling is weird if you’re not used to it,) but the language in the translation is archaic so I’m gong to summarize.

Once upon a time, when Cuchulainn (who was semi-divine but being raised by his human mother,) was five years old, he decided he wanted to go play with some other boys he’d heard of who were under the care of his uncle. His mother told him he was too little to go, but he decided to go anyway.

When Cuchulainn arrived, he didn’t know that he was supposed to ask for permission (protection) before joining the other boys, so they all ran up and stated beating him up.

Five year old Chuchulainn responded in a way that must have scared the crap out of the bigge kids:

Thereupon contortions took hold of him. Thou wouldst have weened it was a hammering wherewith each hair was hammered into his head, with such an uprising it rose. Thou wouldst have weened it was a spark of fire that was on every single hair there. He closed one of his eyes so that it was no wider than the eye of a needle. He opened the other wide so that it was as big as the mouth of a mead-cup. He stretched his mouth from his jaw-bones to his ears; he opened his mouth wide to his jaw so that his gullet was seen. The champion’s light rose up from his crown.

Eventually the adults step in and stop Cuchulainn from beating up all the other kids, and inform him that he has to get their “protection” before entering the play field to prevent them from beating him up. Cuchulainn asks for protection and gets it, and the kids start playing with each other–at which point he starts beating them up again, because they don’t have protection from him. The adults intervene again and all of the kids ask for protection from this five year old.

The grown ups, of course, are impressed:

“A youngster did that deed,” Fergus continued, “at the dose of five years after his birth, when he overthrew the sons of champions and warriors at the very door of their liss and dûn. No need is there of wonder or surprise, if he should do great deeds, if he should come to the confines of the land, if he should cut off the four-pronged fork, if he should slay one man or two men or three men or four men, when there are seventeen full years of him now on the Cattle-lifting of Cualnge.”

“In sooth, then, we know that youth,” spoke out Conall Cernach (‘the Victorious’), “and it is all the better we should know him, for he is a fosterling of our own.”

150px-Harry_Potter_and_the_Sorcerer's_StoneThe English have their own version of this fostering tradition, called boarding school. Quidditch may be less violent than hurley, but I don’t know about rugby.

As I have noted before, leaving children with their kin, temporarily or for extended periods, is quite normal in many societies. There’s a definite logic to this–older grandparents can look after little ones while young, strong parents work in the fields or travel to distant villages in search of better jobs. When the parents become grandparents, then it becomes their turn to look after the children.

Mainstream US culture, by contrast, emphasizes the primacy of the nuclear family, with the relationship between two parents and their children given prime importance. The “ideal” is typically given as two parents, one of whom (usually the mom) stays home full-time with the child/ren. If both parents must work, then in place of relatives, we have daycare workers and babysitters, with whom the child is not supposed to form a long-term bond. (I suspect this contradicts the child’s natural instinct to bond with caretakers.)

Without a nuclear family, we tend to assume that children will grow up, in some manner, defective.

Our particular form of adoption is born out of this belief in the importance of the nuclear family + our belief in blank slate-ist theories of identity and personality, which thus allow for the incorporation of total strangers into our family structures.

We also tend to assume that any mother who gives up her children will be deeply saddened by the broken bond–but cross-cultural and historical analysis suggests this is not necessarily true. Infanticide and child abandonment were far more common, historically, than we like to admit. But giving one’s children to a sibling or cousin to raise, in a situation where you could visit them often and no one assumed that full parental rights were being terminated, probably did not entail the kind of emotions as giving a child to a total stranger.

Tomorrow: The Curious Case of the Trans-racial Indians