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Tackling Pinker’s defense of evolutionary psychology

I previously addressed the criticisms of my criticisms of evolutionary psychology by Jerry Coyne; Now I turn to the criticisms of my criticisms he solicited from Steven Pinker. This is getting a bit convoluted, so let me first state the basics.

I dislike evolutionary psychology. Pinker is an advocate for evolutionary psychology. What brought on this back-and-forth was that I was a member of a panel at a science fiction convention that discussed evo psych; I made a few brief comments on my blog that were capsule summaries of my discussion there. In the section below, the paragraphs preceded by an “M:” and in italics are my words excerpted from those comments; the parts preceded by a “P:” are Pinker’s commentary. All clear?

M: Fundamental assumptions of evo psych: That you can infer an adaptive history from the distribution of current traits — that they are adaptations at all is an assumption usually not founded in evidence (this is not to deny that that there are features that are clearly the product of selection, but that you can’t pick an arbitrary attribute and draw elaborate scenarios for its origins). . .

P: Of course “arbitrary” and “elaborate” are the straw-man giveaways here. What about carefully selected attributes, and minimal assumptions about phylogeny with a focus on function, as we do for other organs? You can ask what the spleen is for – and it would be perverse to do physiology without asking such a question – without “drawing elaborate scenarios for its origins.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa — that skips right over the really important word: “adaptive”. Start there. That’s my primary objection, the habit of evolutionary psychologists of taking every property of human behavior, assuming that it is the result of selection, building scenarios for their evolution, and then testing them poorly.

We already know that that is impossible. The repertoire of human behavior is so complex and rich, and relatively recently evolved, that to argue that every behavior is the product of specific selection imposes an untenable genetic load. The bulk of the genetic foundation of our psychology (and I agree that there must be one!) must be byproducts and accidents. The null hypothesis of evolutionary psychology should be that a behavior is non-adaptive, yet for some reason all I ever see is adaptive hypotheses.

The spleen is an interesting example. There are components of the spleen that are definitely functional and almost certainly adaptive: its functions as a blood reservoir, as an element of the immune system, as part of the erythrocyte cycling mechanism. You can examine the evolution of those functions phylogenetically; for instance, some teleosts lack the erythropeotic functions of the spleen, while the majority use it as a blood reservoir. You can begin to dissect its history comparatively, by looking at what has a clear functional role and looking at the pattern of emergence of those properties.

What you can’t do is pick any particular property of the spleen and invent functions for it, which is what I mean by arbitrary and elaborate. For instance, the spleen is located in most people in the upper left quadrant of the abdomen; are you going to make an adaptive case for why it’s on the left rather than the right? The actual reason almost certainly has nothing to do with adaptation or selection, and everything to do with historical and developmental mechanisms that are neutral with respect to selection.

M:. . . That behavioral features that have been selected for in our history are represented by modular components in the brain – again with rare exceptions, you can’t simply assign a behavioral role to a specific spot in the brain, just as you can’t assign a behavior to a gene.

P: No one in Ev Psych points to specific spots in the brain – that’s cognitive neuroscience, not evolutionary psychology. The only assumption is that there are functional circuits, in the same way that a program can be fragmented across your hard drive.

Now this is one of my peeves with evolutionary psychology. The evo psych literature is thick with papers emphasizing “modularity”; that evolutionary psychology FAQ I referenced before makes it clear that it’s an important concept in the field (and also ties it to concepts in computer science). Yet it is meaningless. Sometimes there’s the implication that the “module” is a discrete element in the brain, but it’s never clear whether they’re talking about a genetic module (an epistatic network of genes) or a neural module (an interconnected network of neurons), and when pressed, they retreat, as Pinker does here, to an admission that it could be just about anything scattered anywhere in the brain.

So my question is…why talk about “modules” at all, other than to reify an abstraction into something misleadingly concrete? Evolutionary psychologists don’t do neurobiology, and they don’t do genetic dissections, and they don’t do molecular genetics, so why do they insist on modularity? It’s premature and a violation of Occam’s razor to throw the term around, and also completely unnecessary — a behavior could be a product of diffuse general phenomena in the brain without diminishing its importance at all.

M: . . . That the human brain is adapted to a particular environment, specifically the African savannah, and that we can ignore as negligible any evolutionary events in the last 10,000 years, that we can ignore the complexity of an environment most of the evo psych people have never seriously studied, and that that environment can dictate one narrow range of outcomes rather than permit millions of different possibilities.

P: The savannah is a red herring – that’s just a convenient dichotomization of the relevant continuum, which is evolutionary history. A minimal commitment to “pre-modern” gives you the same conclusions. By saying that the brain could not have been biologically adapted to stable government, police, literacy, medicine, science, reliable statistics, prevalence of high-calorie food, etc., you don’t need to go back to the savannah; you just need to say that these were all relevantly recent in most people’s evolutionary history. The savannah is just a synechdoche.

Ah, a synechdoche. This is the evolutionary psychology version of the religious argument that it’s “just a metaphor.”

Again, this is a peeve I have with the field. I agree with the general principle that of course the brain is a product of our evolutionary history, and that there is almost certainly a foundation of genetically defined, general psychological properties of the mind…and that a great many specific psychological properties are not biologically adapted. Pinker is writing good common sense here.

But over and over, you see evolutionary psychologists falling into this trap of examining a behavior and then fitting it to some prior specific environment. They talk of a Savannah Mind or they generalize it to the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness. It’s another reification of the unknown. You don’t like “savannah”? Change it to “Pleistocene”. It’s just as broad and meaningless. It’s an attempt to reduce the complex and diverse to a too simple unit.

M: I’d also add that most evo psych studies assume a one-to-one mapping of hypothetical genes to behaviors. . .

P: Completely untrue – this was Gould’s claim in the 1970s, which confused a “gene for x” (indispensable in any evolutionary thinking, given segregation) in the sense of “increases the probability of X, averaging over environments and other genes” with “a gene for X” in the sense of “necessary and sufficient for X.” Every honest biologist invokes “gene for X” in the former sense; evolution would be impossible if there were no additive effects of genes. No one believes the latter – it’s pure straw.

By one-to-one, I mean the assumption that a behavior trait can be mapped to a contribution from a gene that was subject to selection for that trait; that it might be an additive property of a pleiotropic gene will be nominally noted, as Pinker does here, but operationally ignored. Remember, the issue is not whether genes contribute to our psychology, a point I totally agree with, but whether we can assign a selective origin to a behavior. That is a much, much harder problem.

M [continuation of previous sentence]:. . . and never actually look at genes and for that matter, ignore most human diversity to focus on a naive typological simplicity that allows them to use undergraduate psych majors at Western universities as proxies for all of humanity”

P: It’s psychologists, not evolutionary psychologists, who focus on Western undergrads –field research and citations of anthropology are vastly more common in ev psych than in non-ev-psych. PZ is engaging in prosecution here, not analysis – he’s clearly ignorant of the sociology of the fields.

As for diversity – is he arguing for genetic differences among human groups, a la Herrnstein & Murray?

First, this has already been addressed by Stephanie Zvan: when you look in the evolutionary psychology journals at papers identified as evolutionary psychology, you find…a focus on Western undergrads. I throw up my hands in exasperation. Look at the actual work done in your field, not the abstract ideal you hold in your head. I get my vision of evolutionary psychology by reading the papers.

Secondly, what a weirdly off-target attempt at ad hominem. Once again, my criticisms are being addressed by imagining motives; in Jerry Coyne’s critique, I’m an uber-liberal offended at the consequences a genetic component to behavior might have on my egalitarian biases; now Pinker takes a swipe by tarring me with the likes of Herrnstein & Murray. Make up your minds!

For the record, of course there are genetic differences in human populations! It’s an open question whether any of them make significant contributions to human psychology, however. I’m open to evidence either way.

But my remark was about cultural diversity (which also, by the way, exists). Setting aside the notion of a genetic component for now, we know that culture creates different minds. How can you analyze the causes of a behavior if your work focuses on a relatively uniform sample?

M: Developmental plasticity vitiates most of the claims of evo psych. Without denying that some behaviors certainly have a strong biological basis, the differences in human behaviors are more likely to be a product of plasticity than of genetic differences. . .

P: Plasticity is just learning at the neural level, and learning is not an alternative to innate motives and learning mechanisms. Plasticity became an all-purpose fudge factor in the 1990s (just like “epigenetics” is today). But the idea that the brain is a piece of plastic molded by the environment is bad neuroscience. I reviewed neural plasticity in the chapter “The Slate’s Last Stand” in The Blank Slate, with the help of many colleagues in neuroscience, and noted that the plasticity that allows feedback during development and learning during ontogeny is superimposed on an innate matrix of neural organization. For example if you silence *all* synaptic activity in the brain of a developing mouse with knock-outs, the brain is pretty much normal.

Speaking of straw men…I found The Blank Slate entirely unreadable, unlike most of Pinker’s books, because of the gigantic straw man erected in the title. This flailing against me is a product of this weird idea that I reject the contribution of our genes to our minds, but just as there are no evolutionary psychologists who believe everything in our brains is genetically predetermined, there is no such thing in serious science as a “blank slater”.

There is a continuum, and we’re arguing about degrees. For example, take a child of French parents and raise them in the United States, they’ll grow up speaking fluent English (or Spanish, depending on the household), and vice versa — an American child raised in France will speak French like a native. There is no genetic component to the details of language. Yet when you compare diverse languages you can start to pick out commonalities, and when you look at the neural substrates of language you do see shared anatomy and physiology — I do not hesitate to accept that there is an evolved component of human language. The differences between speakers are learned, the universals may well be biological.

Which means that when evolutionary psychologists try to parse out variations between different groups, racial or sexual, I suspect it’s most likely that they are seeing cultural variations, so trying to peg them to an adaptive explanation is an exercise in futility. When evolutionary psychologists try to drill down and identify the shared components, I’m much more willing to see their efforts as interesting.

That last sentence by Pinker is a lovely example of nonsensical denial of the importance of plasticity. “Pretty much normal” means that on broad, superficial inspection the various components of the brain are present — hindbrain, midbrain, forebrain, various nuclei and pathways, they’re all there. I’ve seen the same thing in zebrafish: the peripheral motor nerves I studied as a graduate student form perfectly normally even if you knock out all the acetylcholine receptors, so that the muscles are totally unresponsive to physiological inputs.

This does not surprise me. Most of the patterning of the brain is set up in the embryo before neuronal connectivity is established; the clock-like activity of mitotic rate genes defines the size of various bits of the brain; adhesive and repulsive cell surface interactions lay out the major pathways. Does Pinker think someone trained in developmental neurobiology would expect that the brain would collapse into a formless blob in the absence of action potentials and synaptic transmission?

But it is still absurd to call the deprived brain “pretty much normal”. When you look deeper, you find subtle and important differences. The clearest examples are found in experiments with visually deprived cats: sew one eyelid shut, or both, or alternate, in a young kitten, and you can find all kinds of changes in visual processing, detectable at both the physiological and anatomical levels. The visual cortex forms, projections from the lateral geniculate terminate in roughly the right place, but they absolutely depend on visual input to fine tune their connections. Human children born with visual deficits in one eye will also have lifelong deficits in visual processing, even if the original problem is corrected.

Try raising a child without contact with other humans. I guarantee you that their brains, when physically examined, would look “pretty much normal”…but does anyone really believe that psychologically, on the level evolutionary psychologists study brains, that they’d be “pretty much normal”?

This is “pretty much normal” behavior from evolutionary psychologists, though. Point out that that their inferences about neuronal circuitry are bogus, they tell you that they don’t study neurons anyway; tell them that the behaviors they study are awfully plastic and flexible, and presto, hey, look, brains and neurons are patterned by genetic elements. The sleight of hand is impressive, except when you realize that science shouldn’t be about magic tricks.

Comments

  1. daniellavine says

    I don’t see how the brain could evolve except as a bundle of apps. There has to be selection at each stage, and that selection is for function (apps/modules being a functional concept).

    1. Argument from lack of imagination.
    2. You have not established that mind is modular in the first place, functionally or otherwise. I already pointed out that the term “module” is meaningless as you have so far failed to define it and seem to freely substitute “mental module” for “mind”.

    My “series of instructions” was about the genes, how the genetic recipe works, not about the way the mind works.

    You have frequently argued that human beings make decisions algorithmically through the course of this discussion.

    Really? What is this demonstration that the brain is not algorithmic? (= not emulatable by a Turing Machine).

    I never claimed I had demonstrated that it is not algorithmic. I claimed that you have not demonstrated that it is — and yet you freely assume this is the case. I shouldn’t even have to explain this to you.

    Sorry, since culture is a property of *groups*, that *is* a group-selectionist argument. …Which is a group-selectionist argument… Which is a group-selectionist argument! A few sentences after you’ve objected to me saying it’s group selectionist!

    That may be true for some definition of “group selection” but it is also, as far as I can tell, a completely valid argument on its own merits without any reference to “group selection.” You can’t make scary arguments go away just by mumbling “group selection” like some sort of magic word.

    Do members of some cultures propagate more than members of others as a result of their cultural practices? It seems to me they do — I’ve already raised the example of agriculturalists displacing hunter gatherers. Can you demonstrate otherwise? Or are you just going to sit there and mumble “group selection” as if that was some kind of argument?

    Taking an interest in the maladies of people around you could well be a genetic adaptation (especially given the potential for transmission by sneezing). Again, your continually trying to default to “culturally determined” or “genetically determined” as though it was one or the other is not sensible given that most traits are likely a mixture of the two.

    1. That “taking an interest in the maladies…” nonsense is a ridiculous stretch.
    2. I deny your characterization of my arguments. In some trivial, uninteresting way all human behavior depends entirely on genes because without genes there would be no behavior. This is understood and obvious. Whenever one of your more significant claims is challenged you back up to this trivial, untinteresting position instead of defending your actual claims.

    So in that trivial, uninteresting sense, yes I agree all human behavior is a function of genes. Now if we want to talk about human behavior in a more useful sense we have to acknowledge at least the possibility that lots of behaviors — wearing a baseball hat backwards, downhill skiing, saying “bless you” to someone who sneezes — are not under any significant amount of “genetic control”.

    If we want to talk about heredity vs. environment in any useful way we need to distinguish degrees of genetic control. I’m arguing that human behavior is under only very limited genetic control. Is that an acceptable way to phrase it to you? It doesn’t change my argument at all.

    And there are no behaviours that are not in some sense subject to genes. If you disagree, try my experiment of replacing human genes with wasp genes.

    Yes, but this is actually a weakness of your argument. If we can agree that all behavior “just is” genetic then EP is unfalsifiable and not at all scientific. That would make your argument a pretty shitty defense of EP.

    Wrong. The only sensible default is that, since few aspects of behaviour are *wholly* one of the other, most likely both are involved. The *evidence*, such as twin studies, show that most traits are indeed mixtures of the two.

    But that’s useless as a null hypothesis. If the aim of EP is to demonstrate that behavior is under the influence of genes then the null hypothesis should absolutely be the opposite. And again, I think the twin studies are flawed in the first place — if that’s your only evidence then I think your argument is seriously flawed as well.

    No it’s not, it is easy to prove that there is no full-grown elephant in the room where I am typing this.

    That’s because it’s actually a positive: “this room is devoid of elephants”.

    No, I have not even once stated that. My comments about “instructions” were about *genes* and how the body and its organs *develop*, not about how the brain *operates*.

    You have repeatedly stated that. For example, in your response to the poison berries example when you said “if twin does A and dies, don’t do A”.

    I bet you cannot quote me even once “insisting on it”, never mind doing so “repeatedly”.

    I just paraphrased one instance so I consider this challenge satisfied. I have better things to do than go back through the thread hunting for the (myriad) inconsistencies in your argument.

    (1) yes there is, and (2) siblings differ significantly genetically (unless they are identical twins).

    Depends on your threshold for “significantly”. Chickens in general are very genetically similar to each other and siblings will be even more similar to each other. Can you provide any good reasons to believe that the different behaviors are the result of genetics rather than environment? Don’t cite the twin studies because it’s the twin studies you’re trying to justify here and doing so would be circular.

  2. daniellavine says

    And if you want to argue that “interest” is cultural, it still leaves you having to explain the diversity of maths ability in the same school in the same culture, even after controlling for parental income and such like. Differences between kids in a very similar setting is not really “culture”. My guess is that differences in interest in maths is significantly genetic.

    ??? Obviously within cultures people still demonstrate a great deal of difference that is not necessarily genetic. Some people like to cook and some people don’t like to cook within any given culture, for example. Are you going to argue that this variation is a result of genetics? Where is the “cooking gene”?

  3. daniellavine says

    That is, even if you want to draw the line for “cultural differences” high enough that all people in the same school are of the “same culture” (whoah is that arguable) one might still say that many differences could be environmental rather than genetic. I do suspect mathematics ability is largely environmental.

  4. gillt says

    If you subscribe to the multiple intelligence school of thought then math intelligence includes reasoning, logic, and critical thinking.

    It’s well known that there’s little empirical evidence for multiple intelligences…it’s biologically meaningless. Maybe the most famous case studies for math intelligences are the Ashkenazi Jews. More likely math ability would fall under general intelligence.

  5. Feats of Cats says

    But, my example would hold if we considered only the maths ability among males, so let’s take that.

    “Okay, well it is cultural. But if we remove half the population from what we’re looking at, then it’s genetic. Oh, if we remove the people who couldn’t afford quality education and the people whose friends made fun of them for liking math and the people who just didn’t care about math then the fact that some people are better at math than others means that all math ability is genetic.”

  6. coelsblog says

    501 daniellavine:

    You have frequently argued that human beings make decisions algorithmically through the course of this discussion.

    Actually, I think that human decision-making comes from a neural network. Can you quote me saying it is algorithmic?

    And again, I think the twin studies are flawed in the first place

    I don’t accept that your criticisms of twin studies discredit them to nearly the extent you suggest. The fact that they don’t consider the full range of possible diversities doesn’t change their validity for what they do show.

    But that’s useless as a null hypothesis.

    Please see way up-thread for the difference between a default position and a null hypothesis for testing a claim.

    That’s because it’s actually a positive: “this room is devoid of elephants”.

    Equally, I can re-phrase your claim as a positive: “the diversity owes entirely to cultural differences”.

    502:

    Some people like to cook and some people don’t like to cook within any given culture, for example. Are you going to argue that this variation is a result of genetics?

    Genetics could well be part of it, yes.

    Where is the “cooking gene”?

    Somewhere on the chromosomes, I would guess.

    I do suspect mathematics ability is largely environmental.

    Which is why the twin studies are valuable, because they show it is largely genetic. And if we’re considering the differences within the same sorts of community and schools then the objections about the range of cultures being insufficiently sampled do not hold. On this sort of issue the twin studies are much stronger evidence than anything else we have. It is thus ideological to reject their findings.

  7. Tethys says

    Calling your debating style hypocritical does not in my mind qualify as a personal attack, but I apologize if that’s how it came off.

    No reference was made to my debating style, your comment used the personal pronoun “you”. In what universe is calling someone hypocritical and hyperskeptical not a personal insult?

    The point was that while I’m making an attempt to use peer reviewed journal articles to make my case you used a YouTube video as evidence that altruism a) exists in a certain species of seal and b) that this somehow invalidates altruism as a marker for human evolution. Both are either inconclusive or plain wrong. Can you not see the disconnect here?

    A.) We are referring to two different youtubes links I have posted to this thread, now that I realize this;
    B.) I agree that they are inconclusive or just plain wrong.

    I’m not interesting in defending EP studies, I’m defending the idea that one shouldn’t dismiss all of EP for the reasons given, AND as is done all the time in other fields of animal behavior you don’t need to do molecular genetics before you can tentatively suggest that a phenotype/trait/behavior is heritable.

    Agreed.

    My point is that before EP can conclusively claim that any behavioral trait is heritable, you first have to establish which genes and pathways are involved.
    Linking to the seal was merely to demonstrate that altruism is not a unique human trait. Your own link shows that amoung humans, altruism is highly variable and context dependant. Since modern humans show that much variation, it would seem prudent to avoid making pronouncements about its role in evolution without hard data to back-up that assertion.

    To be very clear, my issue is that your linked study claims that the observed behavior is due to sexual selection and goes so far as to use it as a model for such without controlling for culture, and without taking into account studies like the love hut link, which are proof that you can take a male human and raise him so that he will behave in every way like a female human, despite what his genes specify.

    _____

    As a general aside; 50/50 odds are indistinguishable from chance, no? Am I missing something or has this ceased to be a primary tenet of statistics?

  8. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    First, that maths is entirely cultural has not been shown

    Nor has any genetic linkage. Until then, cultural with a possible infinitesimally small genetic component. That is science, not presupposition.

  9. coelsblog says

    505 Feats of Cats:

    “Okay, well it is cultural. But if we remove half the population from what we’re looking at, then it’s genetic. “

    That’s not what I said. The maths differences between sexes is small compared to the disparity within sexes. I’m arguing that the main disparity is genetic in both cases. The restriction to males was simply to avoid a diversion into arguing about these sex differences.

    Oh, if we remove the people who couldn’t afford quality education …

    Which is why I was considering the diversity on the *same* *schools*

    … and the people who just didn’t care about math …

    Which is likely genetic.

    What I detect here is a perverse and ideological refusal to accept the role of genetics, a bias far worse than biases among evo-psych researchers.

  10. Anthony K says

    First, that maths is entirely cultural has not been shown.

    What about calling it ‘maths’ vs. ‘math’? That’s gotta be bred in the bones.

  11. coelsblog says

    508 Nerd,

    Until then, cultural with a possible infinitesimally small genetic component. That is science, not presupposition.

    Sorry Nerd, your fingers typed that wrong. You meant: “This is an ideological presupposition, not science”.

  12. says

    And if you want to argue that “interest” is cultural, it still leaves you having to explain the diversity of maths ability in the same school in the same culture, even after controlling for parental income and such like. Differences between kids in a very similar setting is not really “culture”. My guess is that differences in interest in maths is significantly genetic.

    Which of my genes got my mother to buy me little, cheap math practice books and make me fill them all out as a child?

  13. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Actually this math bullshit is nothing but another hypothetical. Hypotheticals are only useful as a means of showing where you need to do research to actually establish what you claim. Now, where and when are you doing that research?

  14. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    This is an ideological presupposition, not science”.

    My position isn’t idiotlogical like yours. It is based on observation and known data. No presuppositions allowed. Culture affects human behavior, indeed there is a scientific discipline called anthropology covering. Genetics could have affects, but the linkages need to shown, not presumed.

  15. Feats of Cats says

    The restriction to males was simply to avoid a diversion into arguing about these sex differences.

    You mean the cultural differences?

    Which is why I was considering the diversity on the *same* *schools*

    How about the student whose parents are getting divorced and can’t concentrate? Same school, different ability to learn math.

    … and the people who just didn’t care about math …Which is likely genetic.

    Why is it likely genetic? What makes you say this? For example, I cared about math a lot more some years than others just based on how well I liked my teachers. Surely that means I am genetically programmed to be interested in math except when I’m not.

  16. Tethys says

    There is no gender difference in math ability.

    In this paper, we use meta-analysis to analyze gender differences in recent studies of mathematics performance. First, we meta-analyzed data from 242 studies published between 1990 and 2007, representing the testing of 1,286,350 people. Overall, d = .05, indicating no gender difference, and VR = 1.08, indicating nearly equal male and female variances. Second, we analyzed data from large data sets based on probability sampling of U.S. adolescents over the past 20 years: the NLSY, NELS88, LSAY, and NAEP. Effect sizes for the gender difference ranged between −0.15 and +0.22. Variance ratios ranged from 0.88 to 1.34. Taken together these findings support the view that males and females perform similarly in mathematics.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3057475/

  17. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Thus it will be accounted for in twin studies.

    Your twin studies were bad science. You don’t understand science, just your presuppositions and biases.

  18. gillt says

    If EP did a similar study that showed a clear link between genes and behavior just like this study does, I would accept their conclusions.

    It’s trivial to criticize these genetic association studies (which is what most all complex mental disorder genetic studies fall under) for lack of rigor and failure to do any functional validation for the associated genes. Anything less means that all mental disorders are 100% cultural, right?

    In fact, I challenge you to find a single paper that has characterized the genetic mechanism of any of those four disorders: bipolar, schizophrenia, autism, and depression. Remember, to call it science you can’t use association studies like you previously did.

  19. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    It’s trivial to criticize these genetic association studies (which is what most all complex mental disorder genetic studies fall under) for lack of rigor and failure to do any functional validation for the associated genes. Anything less means that all mental disorders are 100% cultural, right?

    Nope, just that the cause is still unknown, be it virus, metabolic problems, mild grade infections from a rare bacteria, etc.

    The first step to showing a genetic linkage to a behavior is just such an association study. The gold standard is actually finding and identifying the function of the gene.

  20. Tethys says

    It’s trivial to criticize these genetic association studies (which is what most all complex mental disorder genetic studies fall under) for lack of rigor and failure to do any functional validation for the associated genes

    How the hell are you intrepreting my linking to an example of good science that identifys the genetic components of mental illness as a criticism of their rigor?

  21. alwayscurious says

    Evidence for that? I’m amazed that this far into the thread people rattle of this sort of unevidenced claim as though it were obvious — it’s exactly the sort of unevidenced assumption that people attribute to EP. Note that twin studies do *not* support your claim. So what is your evidence?

    You’re correct, that is my claim. As mentioned above, the twin studies are hardly definitive and have a rather large margin of error for the outcomes observed. Methods exist for comparing genetics across human populations. I don’t know anything about formal methods for measuring cultural variation, but geographical & climatic methods certainly exist. The estimates linked to below suggest that 85-95% of all genetic variation happens within any given local population. So traveling all over the world to study genetic diversity isn’t particularly necessary. The variation of a trait or behavior between populations isn’t large genetically, so differences between populations are either the product of a handful of genes with strong effects or the product of gene-environment (& culture) interactions. Once again, I’m deferring to the relative variations in environment/culture. If genetics makes us similar, the differences are more likely due environmental/cultural effects than some small difference in genes.

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168952511001983
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC515312/
    http://www.sciencemag.org/content298/56022381.abstract?ijkey=739f8208f3d9f7f809515749c60d0848708bc9ff&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha
    http://www.pbs.org/race/000_About/002_04-background-01-02.htm

    EP is welcome to demonstrate that I’m incorrect for any traits, behaviors or genes. That’s just me; I could be wrong, more data is coming out all the time and I’m not trying to make a scientific field out of my opinion. However, they have a bad habit of arbitrarily assigning observations a category and throwing them into a bin supporting the hypothesis du jour. This is not acceptable.

    On a side note, you’ve got a category error, coelsblog. You helpfully compare populations and ask if they learned the subject matter language (accepting a discrete answer). But then you change subjects to math, compare populations and ask how well they learned it (distributed answers only). Why didn’t you measure how well the populations learned their respective language? Why not just measure math in a binary fashion? Perhaps other explanations will apply.

  22. gillt says

    My point is that before EP can conclusively claim that any behavioral trait is heritable, you first have to establish which genes and pathways are involved.

    Nope, not true at all. Once we setup artificial crosses between humans you’d see how easy it is calculate heritability estimates without knowing specific allele effects.

    Seriously though, that’s the major hangup for EP is that research has to be based on phenotypes and/or twin studies. That doesn’t mean EP is worthless, which we seem to agree on.

  23. gillt says

    How the hell are you intrepreting my linking to an example of good science that identifys the genetic components of mental illness as a criticism of their rigor?

    I’m discounting those studies on the general principle you use to discount EP. That is, a fixation that we have to know the exact genetic mechanism involved to say anything interesting about a behavior. You’ll recall that genetic association studies are just that, not a mechanism, but a statistical association between genotype and phenotype. I agree that GWAS is a few steps closer than EP studies to getting at the genes involved but they’re still a long way away from functional validation, which we can all agree on is pretty close to conclusive

  24. Tethys says

    That doesn’t mean EP is worthless, which we seem to agree on

    EP is worse than worthless, it is actively harmful in perpetuating sexist stereotypes such as the myth that males are better at math. Their models are fatally flawed, and their methodology is woefully incomplete.

    You continually fail to address the substance of my posts.
    I have evidenced all of my claims, but for some reason none of the EP defenders has addressed the problem of love huts and what that implies for the single piece of supporting evidence* that they have supplied.

    *Prisoners dilemma studies which you may have noted have deep cultural bias given that the cross-cultural responses varied between immediately understanding and accepting the parameters of the game, to “WTF kind of an evil person would do such a thing!?”

  25. Paul Gibson says

    NerdofRedhead #508…
    Somebody else:

    First, that maths is entirely cultural has not been shown

    You replied:

    Nor has any genetic linkage. Until then, cultural with a possible infinitesimally small genetic component. That is science, not presupposition.

    This paper seems to indicate genetic influence has been shown. Title: “A genome-wide association study identifies multiple loci associated with mathematics ability and disability”

    Link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2855870/

  26. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    EP is useless until it upgrades its quality control systems, and stops presuming, and starts showing, behaviors have a real genetic link. Otherwise, it is nothing but presuppositional mental masturbation, which we are all too familiar with here with due to creobots/godbots posting the same type of bullshit.

  27. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    This paper seems to indicate genetic influence has been shown. Title: “A genome-wide association study identifies multiple loci associated with mathematics ability and disability”

    Then why didn’t Coelsblog lead with it, other than being ignorant of it? And it was refuted by someone else above. Gotta love real science, where things change all the time.

  28. Paul Gibson says

    NerdofRedhead, #528:

    Then why didn’t Coelsblog lead with it, other than being ignorant of it?

    I cannot speak for that poster. However, I notice that you definitively declares that…

    Nor has any genetic linkage[been proven for math ability].

    I notice you are very much the aggressive here, so may I turn the question around and ask you “why did you claim definitely no genetic linkage, when this and other papers are out there? Why were you “ignorant of it”?

  29. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I notice you are very much the aggressive here, so may I turn the question around and ask you “why did you claim definitely no genetic linkage, when this and other papers are out there? Why were you “ignorant of it”?

    It’s not my job to provide evidence for Coelsblog. That his his responsibility.

    Then I work for a small company with limited firewall access compared to a university, and I am the primary caregiver to a handicapped person. Why are you so fuckwitted about having the claimant supply the evidence to back up their assertions???

  30. Tethys says

    Once we setup artificial crosses between humans you’d see how easy it is calculate heritability estimates without knowing specific allele effects.

    Yes, it is easy to calculate once you do the detailed science to establish the values to plug into the equation.

    The point of the mental illness study was that it has conclusive proof of an underlying genetic component, but also showed that having the genes was not predictive of mental illness.

    Other unknown factors therefore outweigh the genetic component, and your assertion that

    I’m discounting those studies on the general principle you use to discount EP.

    is dismissed as utter bullshit.

  31. Paul Gibson says

    NerdofRedhead:

    It’s not my job to provide evidence for Coelsblog. That his his responsibility.

    Indeed, as I said to you.

    Why are you so fuckwitted about having the claimant supply the evidence to back up their assertions???

    Hm, charming. I am not sure why you have made an appeal to emotion (“primary caregiver”) to argue your point, as a scientist you should have better points than that. And “limited firewall access”? Do they block PubMed, which is where I got my DATA from?

    Look, I will argue with you in good faith if you do the same. YOU SAID:

    Nor has any genetic linkage[been proven for math ability].

    I did not make these words up, they are your words. You definitiveley STATED that there was NO GENETIC LINKAGE proven for math ability. I spent 5 seconds on PubMed and found this was a LIE.

    YOU ARE A LIAR.

  32. Tethys says

    paul gibson

    why did you claim definitely no genetic linkage, when this and other papers are out there?

    I believe the claim was that there are no differences in math ability between genders.

  33. Paul Gibson says

    Tethys: if so, my *sortof* apologies for interrupting the thread. Just *sortof* because NerdofRedhead did not point this out to me. I suspect xe does not understand xir own argument either, in that case. Xe just makes me get a bit defensive because of how xe argues aggressively but with not much wit, or subtlety, or invention. YMMV.

  34. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    YOU ARE A LIAR.

    And so are you. I have after Coelsblog to supply ANY EVIDENCE for days. From my reading of the new and SciAm/AmSci, there was no connection. Who the fuck cares what you think? I certainly don’t….

  35. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I suspect xe does not understand xir own argument either, in that case. Xe just makes me get a bit defensive because of how xe argues aggressively but with not much wit, or subtlety, or invention. YMMV.

    I have understood the argument from day one. Coelsblog was not able in any fashion to present any third party evidence, as is required by the claimant, to back his inane presuppositions. Until HE SUPPLIED SUCH EVIDENCE, IT DIDN’T EXIST. Yes, I know science. And it tried to teach him, but deaf ears….

  36. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Now PG, what is your purpose at the moment? To defend EP, or to just to be obnoxious? Inquiring minds want to know….

  37. Paul Gibson says

    And so are you. I have after Coelsblog to supply ANY EVIDENCE for days. From my reading of the new and SciAm/AmSci, there was no connection. Who the fuck cares what you think? I certainly don’t….

    My bolding. I don’t understand you? I am very sorry, I do not know nor wish to ask if you have a disablity. However, I just cannot understand some things you write, sorry. I would be happy to reply if you could repost the question a little more clearly.

    But if you don’t “fucking” care what I think, then maybe you won’t reply. Maybe you are happy to shout at other people about EVIDENCE without supplying anything other than OPINION yourself. That’s sad, for a self-llabeled “scientist”.

    Sigh. I hope you aren’t a teacher of science, as your students will un-doubtedly leave with a very strange understanding of scientific processs: “SHOUT until people get bored and FUCK OFF” I think would be the message.

    “I certainly don’t [care what you think]” says you. We shall see….

  38. Tethys says

    No apology is necessary. It is easy for a small but critical detail to get overlooked when the discussion becomes heated and the point you raised illustrates that very well.

    I will agree that Nerd is being grouchy, and it doesn’t add anything to the discussion. I am positive however that he understands what constitutes scientific proof, and what does not.

  39. Paul Gibson says

    NerdofRedhead (#537)

    I don’t feel I am defending EP, nor being obnoxious (or at least any more than you with your rudeness and disrespect).

    I have been following the thread and I have seen no evidence from EITHER SIDE. SO I introduced some. Now it’s YOUR TURN give EVIDENCE that behaviors are cultural. And none of that “null hypothesis” BULLSHIT which you clearly dont understand!!

  40. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Now it’s YOUR TURN give EVIDENCE that behaviors are cultural.

    I have. It’s called Anthropology, a discipline at almost every place of higher education. NOW, WERE IS THE EVIDNECE ALL BEHAVIOR IS GENETIC, AND THAT IS SHOULD BE THE NULL HYPOTHESIS? Nothing presented to date, and I have seen nothing over my forty years of reading about science to back that idea. Without any evidence, more than you provided, it isn’t a hypothesis.

  41. Tethys says

    I have seen no evidence from EITHER SIDE

    There are multiple links to evidence in the first 500 comments on page one of this thread.

  42. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    There are multiple links to evidence in the first 500 comments on page one of this thread.

    And none of them, except a twin study, from Coelsblog. That should tell you something…

  43. Tethys says

    It does Nerd, it does. :)

    But Paul does not have the year of experience that you have argueing with coelsblog, so when you lose your patience and yell in all caps it makes you seem disproportionately angry and hostile.

    Especially if Paul is evaluating a 543 comment thread by only the last 40 comments.

  44. Paul Gibson says

    NOW, WERE IS THE EVIDNECE ALL BEHAVIOR IS GENETIC, AND THAT IS SHOULD BE THE NULL HYPOTHESIS?

    Which is a terribly written sentence, but still…

    WHERE HAS ANYONE CLAIMED THAT “ALL BEHAVIOR IS GENETIC”? WHY DO YOU CONTINUE TO DISTORT PEOPLES ARGUMENTS (IE LIE, LIAR) AND CLAIM they are saying that genetics is 100%? ANSWER THIS QUESTION PLEASE.

    YOU declare that CULTURE IS THE NULL HYPOTHESIS FOR ALL BEHAVIORS. WHY?

    Oh and NerdofRedhead: WHY ARE YOU HOMOPHOBIC? I think that many of the Horde woud be interested to hear that you think that HOMOSEXUALITY is a CULTURAL ADAPTATION and not a GENETICALLY-INFLUENCED SEXUAL TRAIT.

  45. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    But Paul does not have the year of experience that you have argueing with coelsblog, so when you lose your patience and yell in all caps it makes you seem disproportionately angry and hostile.

    Gee, asking folks for the evidence to show their claims aren’t just OPINION for the thousandth time? Yeah, there is a fatigue/irritation factor. Coelsblog kept reminding me of Shiloh the presuppositionalist godbot. Who tried to make hay of the concept we couldn’t disprove his imaginary creator, which was never properly defined sufficiently to be falsified. Negatives can’t be proven, and he was told that and linked to proper evidence for that, and it never sunk in. Just like Coelsblog constantly changing definitions in midstream to avoid having to acknowledge they were refuted soundly. If you won’t allow yourself to be wrong, you can never be right.

  46. Tethys says

    Yes, coelsblog has a pattern of being intellectually dishonest. It’s annoying, but hardly worth raising my blood pressure over it to repeatedly tell him he is wrong. At this point, I think he is just being contrary for fun and attention. If he had any hard evidence, surely he would have presented it by now?

    I wonder if he will come back and withdraw his sexist assertion about males and maths?

  47. says

    Sigh.. Brain is feeling like a mobeus strip, and so is my email. We have the circular, and going no where, argument here, over whether or not EP actually does anything, and an equally absurd argument some place else I am following, which is over whether or not it is even possible to define a coherent god concept, and more to the point, why the F we even need one. Afraid I have to cut one of them loose, and.. this one is burying my email account. lol

  48. coelsblog says

    508 Nerd:

    First you state a clear presupposition, that, lacking evidence of genetic evidence:

    Until then, cultural with a possible infinitesimally small genetic component.

    Then you directly contradict yourself, claiming such presuppositions are not allowed:

    514:

    No presuppositions allowed.

    You seem to me to be too ideologically blinded to realise quite how ideologically blinded you are. Your strong aversion to contributions from genes is a faith stance, not something deriving from evidence.

    And you’re still awfully coy about what your standing in science actually is, despite repeatedly referring to your status as a “scientist” as boosting your claims and despite you repeated declarations of what is and isn’t scientific. That again is reminiscent of creationists — they often claim scientific credentials to boost their case, but then when examined they’re found to be much less impressive and much less relevant than the impression they like to give. So why don’t you tell us what your field and job description actually are?

    Your twin studies were bad science. You don’t understand science, …

    Your rejection of twin studies is ideological (and reminiscent of creationist rejection of science). There are indeed valid criticisms, for example they are less good at comparing across the differences between, say, US citizens and Kalahari Bushmen, since those samples were not in the studies, but for discussing what is covered by the studies (diversity within US citizens) they are the best evidence we have. Not fully perfect, nothing is, but good, strong evidence. And rejecting it out of hand is simply ideological.

  49. coelsblog says

    547 Tethys:

    Yes, coelsblog has a pattern of being intellectually dishonest.

    I bet you can’t support that with quotes.

    I wonder if he will come back and withdraw his sexist assertion about males and maths?

    Ehh? What “sexist assertion” did I make about males and maths? Please give a direct quote.

  50. coelsblog says

    521 alwayscurious:

    The estimates linked to below suggest that 85-95% of all genetic variation happens within any given local population.

    Yes, I agree. However it is also the case that much of human psychological variation also happens within any given local population. Thus this fact does not argue against a large genetic contribution to differences in our psychology.

    Your argument does indeed suggest that most things that tend to vary between cultures/nations (e.g. language) are environmental/cultural, but that leaves many things that vary strongly within any culture/nation (e.g. maths ability), and there the genetic contribution is likely to be large.

  51. Tethys says

    I bet you can’t support that with quotes.

    How much would you like to bet? I can support it with multiple threads, but only if you make it worth my time to do so. Judging from the pattern observed in your commenting, you would simply deny that any proof I supplied was conclusive.

    Ehh? What “sexist assertion” did I make about males and maths? Please give a direct quote.

    From page one: coelsblog

    But, my example would hold if we considered only the maths ability among males, so let’s take that.

    Your example doesn’t hold up in either scenario. EP is responsible for creating the cultural myth of males being more logical, rational, and better at abstract thinking than females. The last twenty years of documenting the phenomenom, and overcoming it stands as a massive amount of evidence that EP is bad science.

    You just go ahead and ignore that fact, and the lovehuts, and the mental illness study that found the genetic links and concluded that the genes themselves are not the critical factor in manifesting mental illness. Ignore the criticisms of your twins study, and keep claiming that you are arguing in good faith.

    By all means, keep going on about your 50% genes, 50% culture fantasy. I merely note again that those odds are exactly the same as placebo effect and chance.

    *Hmmm, I seem to have proven point one by answering point two. /snortle

  52. coelsblog says

    552 Tethys:

    Hmmm, I seem to have proven point one by answering point two. /snortle

    Since you’re offering point two as a proof of point 1, let’s examine that point: Your claim: that I made a sexist assertion regarding males and maths. Your “evidence” is my sentence:

    But, my example would hold if we considered only the maths ability among males, so let’s take that.

    First, I was asserting that diversity of maths ability in humans is significantly genetic in origin. A reply was made (by Feats of Cats) that perhaps the cultural idea of females being worse at maths caused them to lack confidence and so be worse at maths, thus suggesting a cultural origin for *some* of the diversity in human maths ability.

    Not wanting to get side-tracked into that issue, which may or not be valid, but anyhow wasn’t a refutation of what I claimed, I said, essentially, let’s ignore that issue (possible cultural effect between sexes) and just take the diversity within a sex. I could have picked either sex at that point, but took males.

    Nowhere did I assert any difference in maths ability between males and females; my reply was simply sidestepping that whole issue, which was a diversion from my main point.

    Thus there is nothing sexist at all in anything I said. If you disagree, can you point out explicitly why you think that anything I said is sexist?

    I also later said (509):

    The maths differences between sexes is small compared to the disparity within sexes.

    Which is true. What that is saying is that any sex difference (if indeed there is one) is small compared to the disparity I was talking about. That is an explicitly rejecting any sexist notions of substantial differences in maths ability between males and females.

    Note, by the way that the wording “is small compared to” does not imply “small but still existent”, it implies “small and could be zero”. Again, there is nothing sexist about any of what I said.

    So, if that’s the extent of your evidence that I made a “sexist assertion about males and maths” and that I show “a pattern of being intellectually dishonest” then I suggest that both suggestions arise from your misreadings and biases.

  53. gillt says

    The point of the mental illness study was that it has conclusive proof of an underlying genetic component, but also showed that having the genes was not predictive of mental illness.

    You’re not making any sense. Conclusive proof of genetic contribution but no predictive power means that there’s no conclusive proof now doesn’t it. Now keep in mind the behaviors EP is studying aren’t as easily diagnosable as disorders, which aren’t easily diagnosable either, which is where a large part of the problem comes when gathering data sets for GWA or some sort of large sequencing study involving complex behavioral disorders.

    I predict that when next-gen sequencing gets cheaper you’ll see these large genetic association studies start to appear in EP research and the editorial we will be leveling the exact same type of criticisms at them. Despite what you think, nothing will change.

  54. gillt says

    EP is responsible for creating the cultural myth of males being more logical, rational, and better at abstract thinking than females.

    Where’s the evidence for that? EP has been responsible for reckless interpretation at times, as have every scientific field from anthropology to cognitive neuroscience. And I agree that EP has perpetuated existing stereotypes on race and gender issues. But the entrenched and pervasive gender prejudice with regards to STEM fields certainly predates EP. In fact you do an injustice by denying the long history behind such discrimination to place it all entirely at the feet of a relatively new and fledgling field.

  55. gillt says

    I have been following the thread and I have seen no evidence from EITHER SIDE.

    Actually, I’ve been waiting for experts in the field to do some of the heavy lifting here but they’re nowhere to be found. Instead we get the unimpressive nigglings of Robert Kurzban.

    Here’s an ongoing discussion in the journal EP on gender differences
    http://www.epjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/EP2013.114.788-790.pdf

    An expose on research being done on the innate morality in infants
    http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50151800n&tag=api&fb_action_ids=10201179095855245&fb_action_types=og.recommends&fb_ref=belowVideo&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582

    A Razib Khan post on the genetics of IQ
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2011/01/when-genes-matter-for-intelligence/#.Uf1BCWTEpZB
    The take-home message: “Quantitative behavior genetic traits are complex and are subject to a host of background conditions, and express themselves in an environmental context.”

    A review of comparative psychology in the journal EP
    http://www.epjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/EP11762780.pdf

    When it first appeared on the scene, EP contrasted with Darwinian anthropology and related fields that, using methods of behavioral ecology, explicitly tested the reproductive fitness of different behaviors through studies of indigenous cultures and historical records…Methodologically, the focus on describing and studying actual behavior and doing
    behavioral experiments was often replaced by surveys and questionnaires. In other words,
    EP methodologically became much more akin to traditional psychology and sociology,
    even when testing evolutionary theories and hypotheses (e.g., Buss, 1999).

    Great first person explanation of how research on sex differences is conducted and how it got distorted in the press
    http://zhanavrangalova.wordpress.com/2013/06/11/sex-science-info-academic-journal-to-university-press-release-to-the-media/

  56. alwayscurious says

    Thank you Paul! That paper was an interesting read and provides some foundation for further studies. I’m still trying to digest it, but it seems to reinforce the point that many of us have been making. Genetics explain 3% of the variation in the ability to learn math. This effect is moderately stronger when the environment is skewered against learning math. “Good math” genes can compensate against a negative learning environment or give an edge to a student in favorable environmental/cultural conditions already, but the majority of math learning has little to do with genes.

  57. alwayscurious says

    Judging from the pattern observed in your commenting, you would simply deny that any proof I supplied was conclusive.

    Nah, he’d quote half of what you said, say “I agree!” and THEN deny the conclusiveness of the remaining.

  58. coelsblog says

    557 alwayscurious:

    I’m still trying to digest it, but it seems to reinforce the point that many of us have been making. Genetics explain 3% of the variation in the ability to learn math.

    No, that’s not quite what it says. It says that 3% of the ability variation is associated with a relatively limited number of SNPs. SNPs are used because they are easy to study, but they are only one type of genetic variation, and likely one of the less important ones for many things. Thus the 3% figure is not the total for “genetics” as a whole.

    … but the majority of math learning has little to do with genes.

    You mean the majority of the *diversity* in maths learning (though, as above, it doesn’t show that; twin studies take better account of all types of genetic variation and produce much higher genetic fractions; though of course twin studies don’t give any information on which genes).

  59. coelsblog says

    558 alwayscurious:

    Nah, he’d quote half of what you said, say “I agree!” and THEN deny the conclusiveness of the remaining.

    Which is an entirely valid and sensible response given that much of what people are saying here is indeed valid (that culture is important in many or most traits) but doesn’t amount to showing what they then claim (that genetics is unimportant in explaining most traits or the diversity in most traits).

  60. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    . Thus the 3% figure is not the total for “genetics” as a whole.

    They are what was measured. What else you BELIEVE is there is irrelevant until you provide evidence for its existence.

    twin studies take better account of all types of genetic variation and produce much higher genetic fractions; though of course twin studies don’t give any information on which genes).

    The Twin Studies don’t mean a damn thing, they were bad science. You keep trying to use bad science to proclaim even worse science. Drop the Twin Studies. They don’t help your cause one iota.

    twin studies take better account of all types of genetic variation and produce much higher genetic fractions; though of course twin studies don’t give any information on which genes).

    Without the shown genetic link, there is no way to show environment/culture is anything other than 100%. And you haven’t shown any way to measure cultural/environmental contributions directly. Meaning you have no point, as negative cannot be proven.

  61. coelsblog says

    561 Nerd of Redhead,

    The Twin Studies don’t mean a damn thing, they were bad science. You keep trying to use bad science to proclaim even worse science. Drop the Twin Studies. They don’t help your cause one iota.

    You sound like a creationist objecting to radiometric dating methods just because they don’t like the results they give, and justifying that by pointing to minor issues with the method, that are well known by the researchers who use the methods, and which do not invalidate the methods.

    So, please expound on why you think twin studies are “bad science”.

  62. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    So, please expound on why you think twin studies are “bad science”.

    As several people besides myself have explained to you, too similar of cultures/environment. So that contribution was diminished. What is needed is far different cultures/environments. New Guinea rain forest versus Siberia. Tropical Amazon jungle versus Mideast desert. USA versus Maori. You get the picture, if you aren’t too dense.

  63. coelsblog says

    563 Nerd:

    What is needed is far different cultures/environments. New Guinea rain forest versus Siberia. Tropical Amazon jungle versus Mideast desert. USA versus Maori. You get the picture, if you aren’t too dense.

    Why sure, I’m well aware of that limitation, and I entirely agree with it. However, now let’s consider a particular question: The range of maths ability in the city of Dallas. And we consider the amount of genetic diversity in the city of Dallas and the cultural diversity in the city of Dallas.

    Now, the twin studies *do* sample this range of genetic and cultural diversity quite well. (Yes, they do not sample Maoris or Siberians or Indonesians, but that is not what *this* question is about.)

    And the twin studies show that, considering the range of maths ability in Dallas, and the range of genetic and cultural diversity in Dallas, then the diversity of maths ability in Dallas owes *more* to the genetic diversity in Dallas than to the cultural diversity in Dallas.

    Thus, if you’re considering *that* question then your objection is simply irrelevant (like a creationist objecting to a 4.5-billion-yr age for earth by talking about C14 studies).

    And that result is significant and important. Yes, it does not tell you everything about humans worldwide on this issue, but it does tell you a lot.

  64. Paul Gibson says

    NerdofRedhead: I was reading the “ThunderDome” Thread here, and I saw this comment of yours there:

    Homosexuality is something one is born with, not a disease or mental disorder.

    Now, could you explain to me the EVIDENCE you have that shows homosexuality is GENETIC, and why it is not CULTURAL as the NULL DEFAULT HYPOTHESIS, as per your previous writings?

    I will check back tomorrow to make sure you have answered this question with PEER REVIEWED EVIDENCE and not just OPINION.

    To be clear: PEER REVIEWED CITATIONS required to show that homosexuality is GENETIC and thus “homosexuality is something one is born with”.

    Waiting…

  65. says

    Now, could you explain to me the EVIDENCE you have that shows homosexuality is GENETIC, and why it is not CULTURAL as the NULL DEFAULT HYPOTHESIS, as per your previous writings?

    Gay people: Worth mentioning by evopsych defenders only as a means to slander critics, or to slam on their own, independently.

  66. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Now, could you explain to me the EVIDENCE you have that shows homosexuality is GENETIC, and why it is not CULTURAL as the NULL DEFAULT HYPOTHESIS, as per your previous writings?

    Gee, ever listened to gay people talk? They knew they were different in childhood, implying they were born that way. I haven’t seen any cultural effects tied to homosexuality reported beyond old stereotypes. My unscientific theory based on that has been a genetic predisposition, coupled with developmental timing effects on in-utero brain. Who the fuck cares about your claims for evidence? I don’t have to show you a damn thing. And you taught me nothing, as it has been used before.

  67. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    EP backers are the ones who must provide evidence to support their claims, including their presupposition that all behavior is genetically controlled. Nothing changes that fact, no matter what non-sequiturs the defenders throw out. If they want to be scientific, they need to do real science with null hypotheses that require them to do the real work.

  68. says

    Incidental note, finding evidence for some linkages is pretty trivial on google scholar. That said, of course there’s cultural variances in how it’s displayed, and we have good reason to think low levels of said attraction are harder to talk about due to culture.

  69. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Now, the twin studies *do* sample this range of genetic and cultural diversity quite well. (Yes, they do not sample Maoris or Siberians or Indonesians, but that is not what *this* question is about.)

    Actually it is. If the twins grow up in similar cultures, the measured genetic influences are magnified. If the cultures vary widely, as they do world-wide, then real cultural difference should enhance the cultural effects.

    And that result is significant and important. Yes, it does not tell you everything about humans worldwide on this issue, but it does tell you a lot.

    No, results are interesting, but limited in scope, and shouldn’t be taken very heavily. They are so limited they don’t back your claims very well. Get off using them.

  70. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    You seem to me to be too ideologically blinded to realise quite how ideologically blinded you are. Your strong aversion to contributions from genes is a faith stance, not something deriving from evidence.

    You are the one with the idiotology that genes control everything. I have never denied that there could be a genetic component to any behavior. But, until a linkage is found to a gene, the null hypothesis should be cultural/environmental dominating. That requires EP folks to do good science, and look for links, and make no claims about genetic adaptations until they are found. Otherwise, they just presume they are there, wave their hands, declare they are right, and do no science. You haven’t shown otherwise, and your null hypothesis does not require linkages to be found before a genetic adaptation is claimed. That is bad science, and your null hypothesis doesn’t work.

  71. Paul Gibson says

    NerdofRedhead:

    Gee, ever listened to gay people talk? They knew they were different in childhood, implying they were born that way. My unscientific theory based on that has been a genetic predisposition.

    I have never denied that there could be a genetic component to any behavior. But, until a linkage is found to a gene, the null hypothesis should be cultural/environmental dominating.

    So all you have is ANECDATA and a self-described UNSCIENTIFIC THEORY. Gee, what a great scientist you are.

    Why the fuck should I care about your OPINION and your ANECDATA? You have FAILED to provide me with the requested CITATIONS that PROVE homosexuality is “something people are born with” and not a cultural adaptation wich is YOUR NULL HYPOTHESIS.

    Why does homoseuality alone get a free pass from you as being definitely genetic, when YOUR NULL HYPOTHESIS says is should be assumed cutlural until proven.

    You are a FRAUD and you know nothing about what you’re talking about. UNSCIENTIFIC LOSER can just FUCK OFF.

  72. Paul Gibson says

    Rutee Katreya: please do not insinuate that I am homophobic, that will not fly and I will shut you down fast.

    “Gay people” does not prove that homosexuality is a genetic-based phenotype. While of course they feel and want to express their sexuality just as early as children of any other sexuality, this does not mean the phenotype is genetic and not cultural, until proven, as is constantly being required of EPs.

  73. Tethys says

    Paul Gibson

    Dude, quit yelling. Its hypocritical to complain about it, and then adopt it as a rhetorical tactic.

    If you just want to fight with Nerd, take it to thunderdome.

  74. Paul Gibson says

    Tethys: “Fight fire with fire”. When someone argues in an aggressive manner, just hold a mirror up and they normally realize quite quickly that they look foolish.

  75. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Tethys: “Fight fire with fire”. When someone argues in an aggressive manner, just hold a mirror up and they normally realize quite quickly that they look foolish.

    Yep, you do look foolish Paul Gibson. I don’t care what you think about my style of posting. Your opinion doesn’t matter to me at all. I’m not yelling at you, but rather the dishonest and goalpost shifting Coelsblog, who won’t/can’t admit they aren’t right.

    Now, what are you proposing to make EP better and more honesty based, by removing what is wrong with it, and coming up with a better, more rigorous paradigm for the claims. Like actually showing a genetic association, not presupposing one, before making claims in the literature.

  76. Paul Gibson says

    NerdofRedhead, likewise, your opinion means zero to m personally. I agree with you, EP is a very loose version of “science”. And they do need to be more rigorous. But you have argued very strongly for “evidence”, but have as I have pointed out been self-contradicting and have used anecdata instead of evidence for your own claims. This will likely be my last post on the thread, as I am bored of watching you chase your own tail.

  77. peterooke says

    Dr Pl Gbsn,

    NrdfRdhd s nt n wh wll lstn t vdnc nd thn chng hs/hr mnd ccrdngly. nstd, s/h wll shwr y wth bs nd flth t th frst pprtnty. Pls nt ths dwn.

    Bst,

    Pt

  78. Tethys says

    fight fire with fire

    I find fighting fire with water is far more effective. YMMV

    Thank you for not yelling in all caps. It is fucking annoying, childish, and makes for boring reading.

  79. botulf says

    coelsblog,

    Regarding big brains I have a just so story for you, I understand EP-proponents enjoy that kind of thing:
    What if big brains is not an adaptation but a prize?

    1. Lets say mammals evolves to maximize available energy for the individual of a species. This is an easy adaptation; more energy means greater resistance to starvation for example. Great on the savanna where there is drought and stuff. Proof enough.
    The maximization of energy works by what the species eat as well as how the species processes what it eats and also control of expenditure of energy. So net profit means an adaptationist win.
    Note that humans move little, on two legs, and eat a lot, we are kings of energy. (The elusive origin of two-leggedness is no mystery any more; its an adaptation to maximize available energy.) Controlling this are some genes. Probably one. Most of them (it) involved in digestion.

    2. The neocortex of mammals differ more in quantity than quality with resulting cortex being internally uniform at birth, ie made for learning (This is EP so no citation needed, but as far as I can remember this is true enough.) so obviously the gene(s) allowing for the development of the brain quite possibly work on a quantitative basis; make as much brain as some hitherto unknown variable allows for. Originally this was very little (as evidenced by early animals with brains) but it would give the bearer of the brain an adaptive edge and since no other systems of brain making were available, obviously, it stayed around. The first neocortical brain probably only had one “app”, something along the lines of processing smell in fancy ways. Yes, of course, storing smells for later recognition. Thats it. (see below for proof)

    If we now bring 1. and 2. together it is obvious that what determines (neocortical) brain-size is the adaptation of maximizing energy which primarily means an adaptation of the digestive system. So mammal species with greater capacity to amount energy gets bigger brains as a bonus or a prize. You just make more brain because there is more energy available. This makes the big brain a side effect and leaves neocortex free of “genetic programming” apart from behaviours shared with whatever species first developed the thing. This means the smell thing from 2. This is why smells instantly brings you to where you smelled the same thing before; the storing of smells is the only part of your brain under genetic control. This is also the evidence for smell-storing being the original “app” of the brain.

    Ok. So by my EP-account you must now admit that:
    -Smell-storing is the only app/module under genetic control in big brains the rest is free.
    -The size of your brain is determined primarily by the digestive system. This is what is under Darwinian evolution/natural selection, not the brain. No other system for building brains can as of yet compete with this.
    -We walk on two legs to maximize available energy.

    This hypothesis also makes predictions for testing:
    -The more energy available to individuals of a mammal species the bigger its neocortex will be.
    (Of course there will be exceptions, but those are just species that has been misrepresented as mammals.)
    -The gene(s) involved in digestion will have an impact on brain size, put digestive genes from a koala in a pig and it will get a smaller brain.
    -Humans, as bearers of culture based on their genetic inheritance, should be obsessed with producing cheap energy and removing bad smell.

    Look at that, I did some EP-science and proved a thing or two. Now, where to publish..?

    Also, coelsblog, what predictions did your rambling about big brains make?

  80. botulf says

    colesblog:

    Twin studies does not take into consideration prenatal environment. It is nine months of crazy environmental interaction during the most sensitive period of our lives. Who knows what your mamma did while expecting?

    The whole math-thing started as a major category error as was pointed out to you. was the discussion not about language before this illegitimate segway or red herring? something about how the specific language, a higher order function, a higher order “behaviour” if you will, was not under control by genes? That would mean aggregates of behaviours would not necessarily be under genetic control as I think your position was at some point?

    Regarding your example of a human egg with wasp genes:
    Putt a fully viable human embryo on mars and see how well it develops. Put a newborn baby on mars, even an adult human. They will (probably, no citations available) not make it far. Would you consider this a good argument for environment over genes? If not do you see the resemblance to your example?

    any thoughts?

  81. gillt says

    Twin studies does not take into consideration prenatal environment.

    Hi botulf,

    Either you don’t think twin sets come from the same “prenatal environment, or you think twin studies mix up a bunch of different unrelated twins for their experiments, thus defying the point of twin studies.

    Is there a third option?

  82. botulf says

    Hi gillt:

    Either you don’t think twin sets come from the same “prenatal environment, or you think twin studies mix up a bunch of different unrelated twins for their experiments, thus defying the point of twin studies.

    Is there a third option?

    I think the problem is that they do come from the same prenatal environment. It is a shared environment that could have a great impact on future behaviour. A trivial example would be the pregnant mother drinking a lot of alcohol. So when using twins separated at birth this environment is already shared and the measured impact of genetics will be enhanced by this.

  83. coelsblog says

    583 botulf:

    I think the problem is that they do come from the same prenatal environment. It is a shared environment that could have a great impact on future behaviour. A trivial example would be the pregnant mother drinking a lot of alcohol. So when using twins separated at birth this environment is already shared and the measured impact of genetics will be enhanced by this.

    But the point is that twin studies compare identical (monozygotic) twins with fraternal (dizygotic) twins. Things like alcohol in pregnancy would affect fraternal and identical twins the same, and thus are controlled for.

  84. coelsblog says

    570/571 Nerd:

    If the cultures vary widely, as they do world-wide, then real cultural difference should enhance the cultural effects.

    Sure, but the twin studies are strong evidence about what occurs over the range of genetic and cultural diversity in America, because those are decently sampled by the studies.

    But, like a creationist, you stick firmly to an ideological position and refuse to accept science that conflicts with it, pointing to minor and irrelevant issues as an excuse.

    You are the one with the idiotology that genes control everything.

    That’s a false strawman, like a creationist you resort to mischaracterising others since you can’t deal with their actual arguments.

    But, until a linkage is found to a gene, the null hypothesis should be cultural/environmental dominating.

    You are *still* confusing a “null hypothesis” with a default, *long* after the difference has been pointed out. And your default of cultural/environmental dominating is entirely ideological.

    Otherwise, they just presume they are there, wave their hands, declare they are right, and do no science.

    Like a creationist you accuse others of your own worst faults.

    That is bad science …

    Says the pretending-to-be-a-scientist with a creationist-like understanding of science.

  85. coelsblog says

    580 botulf:

    Lets say mammals evolves to maximize available energy for the individual of a species. This is an easy adaptation; more energy means greater resistance to starvation for example. Great on the savanna where there is drought and stuff. Proof enough.

    Trouble is that brains are a *consumer* of energy, not a provider of it. It isn’t like a camel’s hump, providing a store for the body to use. Indeed, if the body is in extremis and near death (hypothermia for example), the brain is one of the last things that the body will shut down to conserve energy. Thus your whole idea is a non starter.

    Look at that, I did some EP-science and proved a thing or two.

    I’m struggling to work out whether your post was satirical, or just confused, but it certainly didn’t “prove” anything.

  86. coelsblog says

    581 botulf:

    Putt a fully viable human embryo on mars and see how well it develops. … Would you consider this a good argument for environment over genes?

    Yes, it is indeed a strong argument for the role of environment. Just as my experiment of replacing human genes with wasp genes shows that genes are highly important.

    This is why all *sensible* people (and certainly all *scientists*) regard the behaviour and psychology of humans to be a complex product of *both* genes *and* environment — and making a presumption that one or other can be discounted when considering human behaviour is both utterly silly and highly ideological.

    The idea that genes play no role in human psychology is as bonkers as the idea that the ingredients play no role in the taste of food, and that only the cooking and the cook affect the end taste.

  87. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    This is why all *sensible* people (and certainly all *scientists*) regard the behaviour and psychology of humans to be a complex product of *both* genes *and* environment — and making a presumption that one or other can be discounted when considering human behaviour is both utterly silly and highly ideological.

    Nope, it is how one DOES good science. Presume that which is easily shown, and work hard to show the other and make no genetic claims until an association is demonstrated. Otherwise one makes unsupported claims about genetic associations, which is bad science.
    Until you show you methodology won’t give claims unsupported by evidence, it is a bad methodology.

  88. coelsblog says

    Nerd:

    EP backers are the ones who must provide evidence to support their claims …

    Ideologues, of course, don’t have to.

  89. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Ideologues, of course, don’t have to.

    And idiotlogs believe they can do good science by presupposing there answers are right, rather than wrong. By using as the null hypothesis all behavior is cultural, you are required to actually show genetic associations. And no claims are made until that association can be demonstrated. That is how one DOES good science. Presume you are wrong, then show you are right.
    You are the one presupposing the answer not me. I’ve been telling you a solid method of what EP must do in order to improve its science, and its reputation. You insist on the status quo, even though you acknowledge problems. That is somebody really denying their is a problem, a ideological position.

  90. coelsblog says

    Nerd, I actually agree with you that claims of a genetic association need to be supported with evidence.

    The disagreement is what happens if we can’t do that. You — owing to an ideological aversion to genetic effects — then want to presume “cultural with a possible infinitesimally small genetic component”. I, however, would fall back on “we don’t know, though neither genetic nor cultural influences can be a priori discounted”.

  91. Tethys says

    The idea that genes play no role in human psychology is as bonkers as the idea that the ingredients play no role in the taste of food, and that only the cooking and the cook affect the end taste.

    Nobody is argueing that genes dont play a role in psychology, quit erecting that strawman. We burned it down multiple times and now it is just more evidence that you will not engage with intelletual honesty.

    We are argueing that you cannot make an arguement for evolution, without controlling for the variables of environment and culture because the evidence proves the last two factors outweigh the genetic factors.

    coelsblog has provided one flawed twins study, which doesn’t even support his claims, and has the gall to call us idealogues.

    —-
    I’m not sure what botulf was saying about twins, but there is another fact to consider.
    Since every placenta and umbilical cord is unique, it is possible for homozygous twins to have different development trajectories in utero, up to and including one twin starving out the other twin.

  92. gillt says

    So when using twins separated at birth this environment is already shared and the measured impact of genetics will be enhanced by this.

    As the blog owner will tell you, the effects of alcohol on a developing embryo is a great example of the interactions of genes (both maternal and fetal) and environment. In fact twin studies have been used to access the genetic risk of fetal alcohol syndrome. But shared prenatal environment is not a problem for twin studies that I’m aware of since you can account for genetic contribution of any given phenotype by comparing MZ to DZ twins.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15786496

  93. gillt says

    Since every placenta and umbilical cord is unique, it is possible for homozygous twins to have different development trajectories in utero, up to and including one twin starving out the other twin.

    behold the laziness of armchair skepticism!

    You know without any data that measures the confounding impact of this well-known factoid (most MZ twins share a placenta) on actual twin studies your comment is nothing but speculative nitpicking and hyperskepticism. Start doing the hard work of providing a reasoned critique of specific twin studies instead of this casual dismissal of the research.

  94. Tethys says

    gillt

    fuck off and go research human development yourself, its OT.

    You have presented even less evidence than coelsblog, and you are an asshole.

  95. gillt says

    heh, typical anti-intellectual. Human development is OT except when you want to speculate on it.

  96. botulf says

    coelsblog, gillt:

    The argument was over twins reared apart:

    coelsblog 219:

    coelsblog: Please link to the source of this information.

    One cite is the following:

    Science. 1990 Oct 12;250(4978):223-8. Bouchard etal
    Sources of human psychological differences: the Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart.

    so same genetics under different environments are examined. The thing with rearing apart becomes muddled when they have an important part of environment in common, the part that laid the foundation for their brains.

    coelsblog 584:

    But the point is that twin studies compare identical (monozygotic) twins with fraternal (dizygotic) twins.

    I understand it is not an issue when comparing ordinary twins but how will this help you when it comes to the ones reared apart? The interaction of genes-environment will have laid a foundation at birth which should make it hard to separate the one from the other. What am I missing?

    coelsblog 584:

    Things like alcohol in pregnancy would affect fraternal and identical twins the same, and thus are controlled for.

    So genetics have nothing to do with how you respond to environment?
    I mentioned that alcohol was a trivial example. The complete prenatal experience as a whole is much more than a single variable.

    gillt 593:

    As the blog owner will tell you, the effects of alcohol on a developing embryo is a great example of the interactions of genes (both maternal and fetal) and environment. In fact twin studies have been used to access the genetic risk of fetal alcohol syndrome.

    I have no problem with this, though apparently coelsblog 584 seems to.

    gillt 593:

    But shared prenatal environment is not a problem for twin studies that I’m aware of since you can account for genetic contribution of any given phenotype by comparing MZ to DZ twins.

    It is not clear to me how this applies to twins reared apart, could you explain this a bit?

  97. botulf says

    coelsblog 586:

    Trouble is that brains are a *consumer* of energy, not a provider of it. It isn’t like a camel’s hump, providing a store for the body to use. Indeed, if the body is in extremis and near death (hypothermia for example), the brain is one of the last things that the body will shut down to conserve energy. Thus your whole idea is a non starter.

    Silly you.
    The digestive system tries to maximize energy and the propulsory system tries to minimize expenditure. These are two “apps” of the genetic system that happens to evolve a common goal; maximizing available energy. The brain building gene has since before the energy adaptation of propulsion and digestion been about quantitative brain building and now utilizes this system of energy availability to make bigger brains. In the future the brain building gene might start adapting to the energy thing as well and big brains will be no more. But we are not there yet. As long as nothing with more fitness comes along this system of big brains built on digestive and propulsion adaptations will remain.

    See? no problem.

  98. botulf says

    coelsblog 587:

    Yes, it is indeed a strong argument for the role of environment. Just as my experiment of replacing human genes with wasp genes shows that genes are highly important.

    The idea that genes play no role in human psychology is as bonkers as the idea that the ingredients play no role in the taste of food, and that only the cooking and the cook affect the end taste.

    It is not a strong argument for the role of environment, it is completely trivial; no genes without matter, no complex organisms without the likes of genes. All your argument does is point to the straw man you are building. No one ever claimed “that genes play no role in human psychology”. It has been pointed out several times.

  99. gillt says

    That is a valid confounding variable.

    But I think there’s some general, casual confusion of culture and prenatal environment in these arguments. One happens in the womb and can strongly effect developmental pathways and gene expression and cell fate, hence prenatal environment impacts traits in an irreversible way that cultural influences do not. Can you point to the study you are referring to…or where in the comments it’s hidden? Because it seems to me the point you’re raising is different from the criticism leveled here against the heritability of math ability. Those arguments all focused on cultural influences such as class and gender and not early environmental ones such as alcohol, maternal diet and hormones. (Perhaps the researchers were only interested in the first and for the scope of the study lumped shared prenatal environment with genetics) With a large enough and diverse sample set it seems reasonable to expect the random variability in prenatal environments across many twin sets to show up as background noise, thus establishing a baseline for comparing raised environment/cultural vs genetic contribution to math ability. Observable developmental delays can of course be screened for and either eliminated or controlled for prior to the analysis.

  100. coelsblog says

    597 botulf:

    The interaction of genes-environment will have laid a foundation at birth which should make it hard to separate the one from the other. What am I missing?

    First, you are right that twins reared apart will share an environment in the womb and up to the point of separation. So, yes, this needs to be taken into account.

    However, what the twin studies are really doing is comparing fraternal twins reared apart with identical twins reared apart, and asking how much more similar are the identical twins than the fraternal twins. If fraternal twins are more similar owing to effects in the womb, and identical twins are also more similar owing to effects in the womb, then this effect won’t (to first order) affect the *difference* in the similarities of fraternal v identical twins, and it is that difference that is attributed to genetics.

    Thus the issue you raise is indeed correct (and one of a number of similar issues about twin studies), but doesn’t invalidate the basic results.

  101. coelsblog says

    598 botulf:

    Silly you. The digestive system tries to maximize energy and the propulsory system tries to minimize expenditure. These are two “apps” of the genetic system that happens to evolve a common goal; maximizing available energy. The brain building gene has since before the energy adaptation of propulsion and digestion been about quantitative brain building and now utilizes this system of energy availability to make bigger brains. In the future the brain building gene might start adapting to the energy thing as well and big brains will be no more. But we are not there yet. As long as nothing with more fitness comes along this system of big brains built on digestive and propulsion adaptations will remain. See? no problem.

    I’ve read that twice and, sorry, but I can’t make any sense of it. The basic point is that brains are hugely expensive (anything that uses lots of energy is expensive, given that lack of food will have been the main constraint on humans over most of our evolutionary past). They are also hugely expensive in extending childhood and thus requiring much more nurturing. And they’re expensive in essentially requiring humans to be born premature (compared to most similar mammals), and thus needing more nurturing, and also in endangering the mother and child in childbirth, owing to the huge craniums.

    Thus brains won’t have evolved unless those brains were strongly selected for. It is logically possible that they were selected-for for some other purpose than psychology/behaviour, and that the psychology/behaviour is just a by-product, but then you’ve got a huge job of explaining what they were selected for.

    Your suggestion, which seems to me to add up to “they were selected for to use up energy” is just bonkers and the very opposite of what natural selection would do (I may have misunderstood your suggestion, I confess to not understanding it.)

  102. coelsblog says

    592 Tethys:

    Nobody is argueing that genes dont play a role in psychology, quit erecting that strawman. …and has the gall to call us idealogues.

    First, the label “ideologue” was aimed primarily at Nerd, not at everyone. Nerd has indeed been arguing to minimise the role of genes, wanting to default to it being “infinitessimal”, unless dragged kicking and screaming away from that by very strong evidence, all the time trying his/her best to scheme up reasons for ignoring that evidence. There is a clear and strong ideological bias away from accepting genetic influence in Nerd’s posts.

    If anyone else thinks that the hat fits them also then they’re welcome to wear it.

    We are argueing that you cannot make an arguement for evolution, without controlling for the variables of environment and culture because the evidence proves the last two factors outweigh the genetic factors.

    Really? What is this evidence that — in general — environment and culture outweigh genetic factors in explaining (1) psychology/behaviour in common to most humans, and (2) psychological/behavioural differences between humans?

  103. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    First, the label “ideologue” was aimed primarily at Nerd, not at everyone. Nerd has indeed been arguing to minimise the role of genes, wanting to default to it being “infinitessimal”,

    You misrespresent what I keep saying ideologue. What I keep saying is that if you want to do good science, that is your null hypothesis, not your answer. You use it to go out and actually find the genetic association to make your claim it there is a genetic component. You use the opposite of what you want to your answer to be, so that you have to define what you are looking for solidly, and then find the evidence. With you unscientific null hypothesis, you do nothing but make your claims anyway. I don’t care what the final answer is, I have no idiotology, just that you do the science properly. Which you won’t with your inane hypothesis, which is the answer you desire.

  104. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Really? What is this evidence that — in general — environment and culture outweigh genetic factors in explaining (1) psychology/behaviour in common to most humans, and (2) psychological/behavioural differences between humans?

    Try cultural anthropology, and everybody lives is a culture. Good null hypothesis. You haven’t shown genetic control of all behaviors, just presupposed it. Bad science. Show me the gene for English. The ability to speak, no problem. But speaking English is entirely cultural.

  105. coelsblog says

    604/605 Nerd:

    You misrespresent what I keep saying ideologue. What I keep saying is that if you want to do good science, that is your null hypothesis, not your answer

    The trouble is you’re not nearly so demanding about claims that something is cultural. Your demands are one-sided.

    With you unscientific null hypothesis, ….

    And, as has been expalained to you about eight times, you are confusing a “null hypothesis” with a default position in the absence of evidence. You are right that, if testing “there is a genetic component” you then adopt a null of “there is no genetic component”, and if you’re testing “there is a cultural component” you then adopt a null of “there is no cultural component”. And if you’re testing “it is purely cultural” then the null is “there is at least some genetic influence”.

    HOWEVER, not being able to *reject* the null is *not* the same as *accepting* the null. Failure to reject on evidence “there is no genetic component” does *not* mean you should then accept “there is no genetic component”, because you have not shown that! Most likely the failure to reject a null on evidence results from our lack of ability and lack of evidence!

    To adopt “it is purely cultural” you first need to be able to reject the null of “there is at least some genetic influence”. But you never attempt that!

    That is the big double standard in your stance, you adopt a high standard of proof for the claim “there is a genetic component” but then want no hurdle at all for adopting “it is purely cultural”. *That* is your ideological bias.

    You haven’t shown genetic control of all behaviors, just presupposed it. Bad science.

    First, I’ve argued for genetic *influence* not *control* (as you’ve been told). Second, I do not “just presuppose it”, which is just your strawman. Third, the proposals that I am making are entirely good and valid science, and if you don’t recognise what is good or bad science then it’s not me to blame.

    But speaking English is entirely cultural.

    Well yes, we’re agreed on that one. Now, how about maths ability? Let’s take the range of maths ability within a typical US city, what fraction of that range would you attribute to genes and what fraction to environment?

    It is this question that seems to reveal you as ideologically biased, rather than as objectively assessing evidence.

  106. coelsblog says

    605 Nerd:

    Really? What is this evidence that — in general — environment and culture outweigh genetic factors in explaining (1) psychology/behaviour in common to most humans, and (2) psychological/behavioural differences between humans?

    Try cultural anthropology, and everybody lives is a culture.

    And everyone has genes. Really, is that the best you can do?

  107. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    And everyone has genes. Really, is that the best you can do?

    And if you can’t show any association between a gene and behavior, you have nothing but presupposition. Is that the best you can do? Or the field, which needs to upgrade its scientific requirement for publication?

    is this question that seems to reveal you as ideologically biased, rather than as objectively assessing evidence.

    No, you are the idiotologist, pretending genetics is a major component to behavior without any evidence to back up that claim. And the math paper was nothing but weak. Anybody who asses the evidence without your presuppositions saw that. You just saw “association”, not what the amount of linkage was.

  108. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Coelsblog, my point is that if you want to do good science, you use a null hypothesis that requires you to show solid evidence, in order to refute said null hypothesis, to support your claims. You want to demonstrate genetic components, you use as the null hypothesis all behavior is cultural/environmental, and then define and go about getting the evidence to show what you want, namely the genetic association.

    Bad science is presupposing the genetic linkage exist, and then making the claim without supporting evidence. That is the problem with EP. They make claims, but when asked for evidence to back up the claims, they point to their presuppositions. That’s faith, not science.

    The answer will be what it is. I don’t care, I’m not wedded to any particular conclusion. My suspicion is that there is huge cultural component to a lot of behavior on top of the large plastic human brain.

  109. coelsblog says

    608 Nerd:

    No, you are the idiotologist, pretending genetics is a major component to behavior without any evidence to back up that claim.

    There is plenty of evidence that genetics affects behaviour. (1) the basic point that the brain is a physical structure resulting from genetic programming, and thus the behaviour of that structure is likely to depend on the programming. (2) the evolutionary argument, that big, intelligent brains would not have evolved unless genes affected the resulting behaviour of those brains. (3) twin studies, which reveal significant heritability in many human traits. (4) genetic defects and brain damage being linked to behavioural differences. (5) behavioural differences such as autism being linked to genetic/sex differences, in a way that’s hard to explain as just culture. (6) genetic knock-out studies in mice and other animals, showing behavioural differences. (7) genome-wide association studies linking genes to behaviour. There are a few more but that’ll do for starters. There is plenty of reason to suspect that *in general* genes may well influence many behavioural traits. To discount all of this and make a presumption against genetic influence is simply ideological.

    Oh, and you totally avoided my question: Now, how about maths ability? Let’s take the range of maths ability within a typical US city, what fraction of that range would you attribute to genes and what fraction to environment?

  110. coelsblog says

    609 Nerd.

    Coelsblog, my point is that if you want to do good science, you use a null hypothesis that requires you to show solid evidence, in order to refute said null hypothesis, to support your claims

    And for the 11th time *I* *agree*! And this applies just as much if you want to claim “purely cultural” for which one needs to present evidence to reject the null “at least some genetic influence”.

    Bad science is presupposing the genetic linkage exist, and then making the claim without supporting evidence.

    I agree.

    That is the problem with EP. They make claims, but when asked for evidence to back up the claims, they point to their presuppositions.

    And you’re absolutely sure that there is no element of strawman in that accusation, not even a smidgeon?

  111. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    And this applies just as much if you want to claim “purely cultural” for which one needs to present evidence to reject the null “at least some genetic influence”.

    No it doesn’t. I’m not presuming a damn thing. The null hypothesis against you idea must be used to for you do good work. You are trying to pretend I’m doing EP. Not my thing. I’m just telling you how to do good science. And you appear to want to prove to the world you do bad science.And you’re absolutely sure that there is no element of strawman in that accusation, not even a smidgeon?Gee, given the lack of evidence from YOU, no straw. Again, the null hypothesis is for YOU to do science against, not me. Since I’m not doing that science. I’m just sitting here sipping coffee watching you avoid the fact that you and EP are doing bad science at the moment, and in order to do good science, needs to change the methodology you us, not what you want to demonstrate. Just how you connect the dots.

    There is plenty of evidence that genetics affects behaviour.

    Gee, where have YOU presented such data? I’m not saying it can’t. I’m just saying that in order to do good science, you presume there are no genetic effects, and then show otherwise with good scientific associations. When EP claims a adaptation, and can’t even show an association to any gene, it is bad science.

  112. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Coelsblog, I’m not talking results. I’ talking how you get those results to make them reliable. The end data is what the end data is. I don’t give shit what it is. Just that you arrive at your conclusions using solid science, and not having and presuppositions. You keep confusing the issue, due to your ideological presupposition that behavior is mostly genetic, and get vapors when you might have to consider cultural/environmental is even used to make your science better. You won’t allow yourself to do good science.

  113. coelsblog says

    612/613 Nerd:

    I’m not presuming a damn thing.

    Oh yes you are, in your own words you presume “cultural with a possible infinitesimally small genetic component” unless a larger genetic component is shown, That is ideological.

    you and EP are doing bad science at the moment

    Really? What bad science have I done? Please be specific.

    When EP claims a adaptation, and can’t even show an association to any gene, it is bad science.

    No, on that you’re wrong. There can be other types of evidence other than associations with particular genes. In the same way, a controlled medical trial can give strong evidence that a drug works, even if you have no idea about the biochemistry by which it works.

    You … get vapors when you might have to consider cultural/environmental is even used to make your science better …

    Oh look, another strawman. It’s me who has all along been emphasizing the importance of *both* genes and environment. It’s you who thinks that “good science” comes from discounting one of them without evidence.

  114. botulf says

    600 gillt:

    But I think there’s some general, casual confusion of culture and prenatal environment in these arguments. One happens in the womb and can strongly effect developmental pathways and gene expression and cell fate, hence prenatal environment impacts traits in an irreversible way that cultural influences do not. Can you point to the study you are referring to…or where in the comments it’s hidden? Because it seems to me the point you’re raising is different from the criticism leveled here against the heritability of math ability. Those arguments all focused on cultural influences such as class and gender and not early environmental ones such as alcohol, maternal diet and hormones. (Perhaps the researchers were only interested in the first and for the scope of the study lumped shared prenatal environment with genetics) With a large enough and diverse sample set it seems reasonable to expect the random variability in prenatal environments across many twin sets to show up as background noise, thus establishing a baseline for comparing raised environment/cultural vs genetic contribution to math ability. Observable developmental delays can of course be screened for and either eliminated or controlled for prior to the analysis.

    I should probably not have used alcohol as an example. Consider instead the common notion that the prenatal human at some point starts to recognize specific voices and languages which implies interactivity different from exposure to toxic chemicals. This is just one example. (I am not claiming these things are purely cultural, but then no one is claiming anything like that)

    I would not really make any distinction between environment and culture for the purpose of discussing the relative importance of genes to environment/culture. In that respect culture is just a specific part of environment. That being said of course culture determines a lot of the prenatal environment. So it would seem valid to say that if “prenatal environment impacts traits in an irreversible way…” then, by extension “…cultural influences do…” as well.
    “alcohol, maternal diet and hormones” must certainly be decided to some extent by culture. Class springs to mind as a factor for all three.
    The point is that prenatal environment, just like the cultural criticism you refer to are fudge factors for the amount of genetic influence over whatever we are discussing. Since the discussion is about amount of environment to gene influence over stuff it is to my mind highly relevant.
    To conclude; Using these twin studies cited by coelsblog as an argument for the relative importance of genetics over environment won´t fly.

    601 coelsblog:

    However, what the twin studies are really doing is comparing fraternal twins reared apart with identical twins reared apart, and asking how much more similar are the identical twins than the fraternal twins. If fraternal twins are more similar owing to effects in the womb, and identical twins are also more similar owing to effects in the womb, then this effect won’t (to first order) affect the *difference* in the similarities of fraternal v identical twins, and it is that difference that is attributed to genetics.

    Are you arguing that shared prenatal environment would effect fraternal and identical twins equally? I do not understand how that would be possible.

  115. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Oh yes you are, in your own words you presume “cultural with a possible infinitesimally small genetic component” unless a larger genetic component is shown, That is ideological[scientific].

    Fixed that for you ideologue. You don’t understand how to do good science. And you are afraid to do good science, since I think you know you are probably wrong.

    What bad science have I done? Please be specific.

    By not doing and expecting people to do good science. Where is your evidence good science is being done?

    There can be other types of evidence other than associations with particular genes.

    Then the endpoint must be well defined. And nowadays, there is usually a good idea of the mechanism of action of a drug by the time it hits the market. Still not making your point.

    It’s you who thinks that “good science” comes from discounting one of them without evidence.

    It is good science for the null hypothesis to be anti to your position. Since your prefer genetic explanations, you must use cultural/environmental as the major or sole contributor until you can show, and not jus presuppose, genetic associations. And you have not shown one method to directly calculate the cultural/environmental contributions, whereas I have shown 100 – genetic contribution = cultural contributions. Still not making your point, other than your ego won’t allow you to be wrong.

  116. coelsblog says

    615 botulf:

    Are you arguing that shared prenatal environment would effect fraternal and identical twins equally? I do not understand how that would be possible.

    I’m arguing that the extent to which two fraternal twins are affected equally in the womb is the same extent to which two identical twins are affected equally in the womb.

    If you have two twins in the womb, and they’re being affected equally or unequally by environmental effects, why would this depend on whether they are fraternal or identical?

    Further, if there were a reason why this environmental effect would depend on them being identical v fraternal, isn’t that (by definition) a result of genetic differences?

  117. coelsblog says

    616 Nerd:

    … you presume “cultural with a possible infinitesimally small genetic component” unless a larger genetic component is shown, That is … [scientific].

    Damned out of your own mouth, declaring an ideological position to be a scientific one.

    It is good science for the null hypothesis to be anti to your position.

    And you are ***still*** confusing the null hypothesis in a test with the default position in the absence of evidence!

    Since your prefer genetic explanations, ….

    Not true.

  118. botulf says

    602 coelsblog:

    At present the big brains are strongly selected for, but by the digestive and propulsory systems.
    This happened in steps; digestion and propulsion were originally selected for as adaptations to maximize energy available, when this happened the brain, which is an adaptation for smell and produces as much neocortex as possible based on available energy, started to grow. This indeed uses up the available surplus of energy but as the brain turns out to be an advantage due to the possibility of quick adaptation by culture it sticks around till actual adaptation of brains stop hogging energy at which point brains might shrink (If that adaptation turns out to increase fitness compared to us big brains). So digestive and propulsory systems are at present selected for to keep brains big.
    How is this not logical to you?

  119. coelsblog says

    619 botulf:

    At present the big brains are strongly selected for, but by the digestive and propulsory systems.

    Eh? “Selection” is not done by organs such as the digestive system, “selection” means that those genes helping to leave more descendants are then more prevalent in succeeding generations.

    This happened in steps; digestion and propulsion were originally selected for as adaptations to maximize energy available, …

    Yes, they are there to provide energy for the body.

    … when this happened the brain, which is an adaptation for smell …

    Hold on, plenty of animals have far better senses of smell than us while having far smaller brains. I don’t see how this is going to produce selection for large, intelligent brains.

    and produces as much neocortex as possible based on available energy, started to grow.

    Eh??? Why does the brain “produce as much neocortex as possible”?? This would *use* *up* energy, it’s the opposite of what would be selected for. Natural selection would select for the *smallest* neocortex and the *least* energy use necessary to do the job.

    Thus to select for large brains you need a “job” that really, really needs those large brains. As above, that cannot be sense of smell, since that doesn’t need large brains.

    This indeed uses up the available surplus of energy …

    Why on earth would “using up surplus energy” be selected for?? Surely putting the “surplus energy” to use in either survival or in having more children would be a better evolutionary strategy. For most of our evolutionary heritage we would have been severely limited by available energy (food).

    but as the brain turns out to be an advantage due to the possibility of quick adaptation by culture …

    Here we are back to arguments made up-thread. Yes, on-the-spot decision making is exactly what the brain would have been selected for (and, yes, cultural factors are important in that), however this on-the-spot decision making still needs to be under sufficient genetic control in order evolve.

    Unless, that is, it has already evolved (in which case, how?), and you are now arguing a group-selection argument for the persistence of the large brain (and, although you could try to argue that, most biologists are of the opinion that group selection is not a powerful enough mechanism, compared to normal selection, to explain much).

    it sticks around till actual adaptation of brains …

    So they are only an adaptation late on? In which case how did they evolve so far?

    … stop hogging energy

    Eh? Why would they stop hogging energy, just when they’ve got something useful to do?

    at which point brains might shrink

    It may be true that our brains are *slightly* smaller than in the recent past (e.g. Neanderthal brains, likely owing to their larger bodies), but our brains are still very large and energy-hogging compared to most of our evolutionary past.

    How is this not logical to you?

    It’s not logical (and utterly bonkers) in just about every conceivable way, since you ask.

  120. gillt says

    The point is that prenatal environment, just like the cultural criticism you refer to are fudge factors for the amount of genetic influence over whatever we are discussing. Since the discussion is about amount of environment to gene influence over stuff it is to my mind highly relevant.
    To conclude; Using these twin studies cited by coelsblog as an argument for the relative importance of genetics over environment won´t fly.

    I agree that cultural and environmental are the same. But it’s a timing issue. There are certainly environmental/cultural effects that alter genetics, especially brain development–and this is more pronounced when we’re embryos for obvious reasons–and there are cultural/environmental effects that shape behavior transiently (the same factors perhaps but later in life) and have no or little genetic influence. That’s an important distinction when interpreting these studies because it’s one the authors are likely already aware, notably in how they sample from the same socio-economic background. And of course you can’t control for every environmental factor because these are NOT laboratory studies, which I think PZ fails to appreciate sometimes. And that seems to be the implied place from which this criticism is coming. It might be more fruitful if you found research that looked at how similar shared pre-natal environments longitudinally effected human development. Or, also, how these twin studies failed to control for pre-natal environments.

  121. botulf says

    617 coelsblog:

    I’m arguing that the extent to which two fraternal twins are affected equally in the womb is the same extent to which two identical twins are affected equally in the womb.

    By this logic, why bother with twins reared apart at all?

    If you have two twins in the womb, and they’re being affected equally or unequally by environmental effects, why would this depend on whether they are fraternal or identical?

    Further, if there were a reason why this environmental effect would depend on them being identical v fraternal, isn’t that (by definition) a result of genetic differences?

    Now you asked the question and answered it at the same time. Of course it is because of their differing genetic similarities. The fraternal twins, having greater genetic diversity, should have a greater propensity for divergent development as a result of gene/environment interaction within identical environments. This would lead to a greater difference between fraternal/identical twins tested and a misleading result of the involved genetics.

    The effects of genes on phenotype are not as simple as it some times would seem you think. The effect a small genetic difference may have is not easily predictable. Take your example (I think?) of genes for getting mugged; I seem to recall you saying that this could stem from genes increasing the likelihood of walking down dark alleys among other things. continuing on that track, the genes for walking down dark alleys could in turn be genes for good night vision and curiosity, these things in turn would be higher order descriptions of stuff the involved genes are doing all the way down to coding for polypeptides. So saying that there are genes for getting mugged would be an abstraction of what is happening in our culture. It would there fore be as much a cultural thing as a genetic. In other environments the combined genetics of getting mugged could be the genetics of working under ground or some other such. This is not even taking in to account that these genes under different environments may give rise to differing phenotypes (as for instance fair hair would be greenish in a copper rich environment) and all of the sudden it would be the genetics for gardening or something.

    I think this applies to the case of twins in the way of small differences in genetics having large impact on differing phenotypes as a result in the same way as small differences in environment can do.
    It is also something that buggs me about EP, taking high level descriptions as something genes code “for”.

  122. Tethys says

    I’m just checking in to see if the EP defenders have provided any evidence to support their claims.

    *reads*

    No, still not one single link to a study that supports their position, lots of engaging in arguments that they pull out of their ass, and massive failure to engage with the evidence provided. (Lovehuts, why oh why do they keep ignoring them?)

    Its a virtual field of smoldering straw, though I see that gillt added a shiny ad hominem to his troll score.

  123. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    And you are ***still*** confusing the null hypothesis in a test with the default position in the absence of evidence!

    NO, that is you. I fully understand the situation, and have since my first posts. What is the null hypothesis used during clinical trials? The new drug is no better than Placebo. That is why they must work so hard to show efficacy. Otherwise, if they can’t refute the null hypothesis, they can’t market the drug.
    Same here. You claim genetic associations. The proper null hypothesis is all culture/environmental until you can demonstrate with evidence (not presuppose as your unscientific null hypothesis demands) the genetic associations. Otherwise, if you can’t/won’t refute the null hypothesis by showing genetic associations, you can either acknowledge your lack of association at this time with some weasel words, or you don’t write the paper. I suggest the latter course, it being more honest.

  124. botulf says

    621 gillt:

    So you are saying it probably does not matter on accounts of researchers somehow maybe controlling for it in a more or less arbitrary way?

    The fact that you can not control for every environmental factor is a problem since it is a major confounder and studies like this seem highly susceptible to all kinds of logical fallacies. It is reminiscent of how gender differences used to be portrayed in maths.

    It might be more fruitful if you found research that looked at how similar shared pre-natal environments longitudinally effected human development. Or, also, how these twin studies failed to control for pre-natal environments.

    Yes it would be more fruitful.

  125. gillt says

    Lovehuts, why oh why do they keep ignoring them?

    I’m not here to defend EP (where did you get that idea?) and therefore have zero interest in addressing your reactionary and superficial criticisms of the field–as a molecular biologist, I think it’s a borderlands field in need of better methodology. I’m only interested in looking at or considering criticisms of EP supported with actual papers and evidence. That pretty much excludes most of your contribution here, such as this lovehut thing your hung-up on.

  126. Tethys says

    botulf

    I would not really make any distinction between environment and culture for the purpose of discussing the relative importance of genes to environment/culture. In that respect culture is just a specific part of environment. That being said of course culture determines a lot of the prenatal environment

    Why? Environment and culture do overlap, but they aren’t the same thing for purposes of statistical analysis.. Since culture is observed to overide genes and/or environmental effects it should be measured and weighted accordingly.

    Lead exposure or the climate you are born in is an environmental variable.
    Stereotype threat is a cultural variable.

    The last link at comment #556 is a good example of accounting for all of the variables, but its not EP, its social science.
    It accounts for possible evolution, but concludes that the results of their study are better explained by sexual double standards.

    gillt actually left several links at #556, too bad he failed to notice that none of them support EP.

  127. coelsblog says

    622 botulf:

    By this logic, why bother with twins reared apart at all?

    Identical twins reared apart offer the same genes in a different environment, and thus are a very useful way of disentangling environmental from genetic effects. (Identical twins not reared apart would have similar environments, so they are not as useful for the disentangling.)

    The fraternal twins, having greater genetic diversity, should have a greater propensity for divergent development as a result of gene/environment interaction within identical environments. This would lead to a greater difference between fraternal/identical twins tested and a misleading result of the involved genetics.

    I’m not sure I follow this. Different results from different genetics “within identical environments” is more or less by definition a result of genetics.

  128. gillt says

    So you are saying it probably does not matter on accounts of researchers somehow maybe controlling for it in a more or less arbitrary way?

    I never said arbitrary, but that’s about all I can reasonably say about a study I don’t have in front of me. Can you make reference to it?

    The fact that you can not control for every environmental factor is a problem since it is a major confounder and studies like this seem highly susceptible to all kinds of logical fallacies. It is reminiscent of how gender differences used to be portrayed in maths.

    It’s a fact that you can not control for every environmental factor in observational research, full stop. However, I don’t think you’re willing to toss out all observational science, including, ethology, ecology, evolutionary biology, conservation biology, etc. I’ve said it before, some of the criticisms being leveled at EP around here, unknowingly it appears, extend way beyond EP research. If you’re not willing to toss out most of the life sciences the only way to rescue that slide down the slippery slope is to get specific about actual twin/EP studies and how they fail…specifically.

    I mentioned the high probability that researchers in their respective fields have probably considered the objections you’re raising. Do you know for certain whether they’ve dealt with it and if so how? And finally, does their handling of it seem sufficient to you?

    For instance, I’ve read a lot of the research being done on STEM and gender differences and completely agree, the interpretation of the data that claims a gender difference is unimpressive, even reckless…for reasons we can get into if you want.

  129. coelsblog says

    627 Tethys:

    Since culture is observed to overide genes and/or environmental effects

    I don’t think it makes sense to say that culture “overrides” genes and/or environment, rather all three have influence on the result, and which predominates is dependent on which trait, which genes, which environment, etc.

  130. botulf says

    620 coelsblog:

    Eh? “Selection” is not done by organs such as the digestive system, “selection” means that those genes helping to leave more descendants are then more prevalent in succeeding generations.

    Yes, that was poorly worded, what was on my mind was “selected for by extension”: The digestive and propulsory systems energy amassment were selected for and this allowed for big brains. Big brains are an evolutionary advantage in spite of no genetic control other than for smell since it allows for quick adaptation to novel environments. Therefore the adaptations of digestion and propulsion now stays around for allowing for big brains; selection by extension.
    The genes coding for as much cortex as possible have nothing to do with this and so selection for new adaptations of the brain, and then probably shrinking of the brain, are likely to happen eventually. They will though only come as some actual adaptation surfaces.

    Hold on, plenty of animals have far better senses of smell than us while having far smaller brains. I don’t see how this is going to produce selection for large, intelligent brains.

    It is selection for specific digestive and propulsory energy maximizing systems allowing for bigger brains. Not selection for the brains themselves although, as stated, the advantage in fitness of having these non selected brains is strong enough to keep them around by upholding the selection of the digestive and propulsory system. The reason for other animals having better sense of smell than us is primarily from having more non cortical areas devoted to smell, such as well developed snouts and specific sub-cortical areas like the amygdala. When they have ample sub-cortical areas devoted to this projections to the cortex becomes more abundant than for us.

    Eh??? Why does the brain “produce as much neocortex as possible”?? This would *use* *up* energy, it’s the opposite of what would be selected for. Natural selection would select for the *smallest* neocortex and the *least* energy use necessary to do the job.

    What you are missing is that energy wasting brains has not been selected for. What was once selected was a process of making neocortex for processing smell. This adaptation certainly used up energy but the cost was worth the added fitness. The more neocortex available for processing smell the better the animals fitness became up to the point where energy expenditure for cortex got to big. This is what is meant by “as much neocortex as possible”.
    As the adaptation of maximizing energy became more efficient the genetics for making neocortex could make more of it without harm to the animal and as that turned out to increase fitness even though it no longer serviced smell it stayed around and so on.

    I think you should give up the adaptationist notion of evolution as having agency. Natural selection does not give a shit about what should be. What exists is that with fitness enough to stay alive long enough to breed. Nothing more power efficient has come around to beat us at our own niche.

    Thus to select for large brains you need a “job” that really, really needs those large brains. As above, that cannot be sense of smell, since that doesn’t need large brains.

    Exactly; it started out with small brains adapted to processing smell, when available energy rose the brain started growing as a weed (though I choose to call it a prize).

    Why on earth would “using up surplus energy” be selected for?? Surely putting the “surplus energy” to use in either survival or in having more children would be a better evolutionary strategy. For most of our evolutionary heritage we would have been severely limited by available energy (food).

    The thing is that the weed like big brains as a coincidence happened to increase fitness, giving more offspring with a chance to mate, in spite of not directly being selected for or being under direct control of genes aside from the smell thing. I would say it seems like our kind has lasted quite well in spite of our big brains, don’t you think?

    Here we are back to arguments made up-thread. Yes, on-the-spot decision making is exactly what the brain would have been selected for (and, yes, cultural factors are important in that), however this on-the-spot decision making still needs to be under sufficient genetic control in order evolve.

    No, it is sub cortical areas making use of cortical estate that gives rise to on the spot decision making. This has not been directly selected for but has been appearing as a weed on the energy maximization.

    Unless, that is, it has already evolved (in which case, how?), and you are now arguing a group-selection argument for the persistence of the large brain (and, although you could try to argue that, most biologists are of the opinion that group selection is not a powerful enough mechanism, compared to normal selection, to explain much).

    I do not think I need the group selectionist argument. I used the word cultural originally but I should probably have gone with your “on the spot decision making”.

    So they are only an adaptation late on? In which case how did they evolve so far?

    No. should have been made clear above. No adaptations of brains leaves them open to other adaptations that might come.

    I hope this makes things a little bit clearer.

  131. botulf says

    627 Tethys:

    Why? Environment and culture do overlap, but they aren’t the same thing for purposes of statistical analysis.. Since culture is observed to overide genes and/or environmental effects it should be measured and weighted accordingly.

    My understanding of this discussion is that it is, at present, about the relative importance of genes for behaviour. I do not see why that would require an account of the relative division of genes to culture to environment. Why not lump the two together in this case?

  132. botulf says

    628 coelsblog:

    Identical twins reared apart offer the same genes in a different environment, and thus are a very useful way of disentangling environmental from genetic effects. (Identical twins not reared apart would have similar environments, so they are not as useful for the disentangling.)

    So when it turns out they have a lot of important environment in common it should make them “not as useful for the disentangling” to put it quite harsh.
    Otherwise you could take some regular twins, send one of them of for holidays, and two weeks later claim to be testing twins from different environments.

    I’m not sure I follow this. Different results from different genetics “within identical environments” is more or less by definition a result of genetics.

    It gives the identical twins an unfair advantage since we do not get to see what differing environments would do to identical genetics which is what this sort of study claims to be showing.

  133. botulf says

    629 gillt:

    I never said arbitrary, but that’s about all I can reasonably say about a study I don’t have in front of me. Can you make reference to it?

    It is the study coelsblog referred to a bit back;

    219 coelsblog:

    One cite is the following:

    Science. 1990 Oct 12;250(4978):223-8. Bouchard etal
    Sources of human psychological differences: the Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart.

    It’s a fact that you can not control for every environmental factor in observational research, full stop. However, I don’t think you’re willing to toss out all observational science, including, ethology, ecology, evolutionary biology, conservation biology, etc. I’ve said it before, some of the criticisms being leveled at EP around here, unknowingly it appears, extend way beyond EP research. If you’re not willing to toss out most of the life sciences the only way to rescue that slide down the slippery slope is to get specific about actual twin/EP studies and how they fail…specifically.

    I agree. I must say much of observational science seems pretty poorly done and often for the reasons that haunt what I have seen of EP.

    I mentioned the high probability that researchers in their respective fields have probably considered the objections you’re raising. Do you know for certain whether they’ve dealt with it and if so how? And finally, does their handling of it seem sufficient to you?

    I have no idea and have not really aspired to check. I had this same problem when I first red it a long time ago though and I can not recall that they handled it well. Since it is my claim this is a problem I do not suspect any of you would take my word for it and so better if someone else checks.

    For instance, I’ve read a lot of the research being done on STEM and gender differences and completely agree, the interpretation of the data that claims a gender difference is unimpressive, even reckless…for reasons we can get into if you want.

    Yes, it is frightening at the same time as it is instructional to see how influenced the research can be by cultural presuppositions.

  134. gillt says

    Since culture is observed to overide genes and/or environmental effects it should be measured and weighted accordingly.

    Observed by whom? You know, for someone who is continuously chastising others for not providing evidence it’s telling that…oh never mind. Do you really think cultural effects trump math ability when measured in someone with trisomy 13? What about childhood lead exposure? So no, only when one has controlled for known genetic and environmental effects does culture variation rise to the fore.

  135. Tethys says

    botulf

    My understanding of this discussion is that it is, at present, about the relative importance of genes for behaviour. I do not see why that would require an account of the relative division of genes to culture to environment. Why not lump the two together in this case?

    Thats my understanding too, but those goalposts keep getting moved and irrelevant objections keep being raised, so it is difficult to keep track of who is arguing what after threads stretch out for months.

    For the example of prenatal environment, there is no meaningful distinction between environment and culture, so lumping them is fine.

    —–

    gillt

    If you disagree with EP, why are you arguing with me at all? Why does your argument take the form of strawmanning and personal attacks? If you object to being called an asshole troll, quit acting like one.

    A Romanian orphan will live in the same culture as a non-orphan, but will display different behavior due to environment. In this instance, there is a meaningful and measureable distinction.
    Quantifying the effects seperately makes it possible to check your work, so to speak, when you get the inevitable outliers.

  136. Tethys says

    dammnnnnnnnnnit preview…..what did you do to my comment?

    This section is supposed to be separate and at the bottom. No idea why it reformatted itself into the middle of my reply to botulf.

    gillt

    If you disagree with EP, why are you arguing with me at all? Why does your argument take the form of strawmanning and personal attacks? If you object to being called an asshole troll, quit acting like one.

  137. gillt says

    I agree. I must say much of observational science seems pretty poorly done and often for the reasons that haunt what I have seen of EP.

    I appreciate the frankness. There appears to be an enrichment of people here who feel the same.

    If you come for a genomics/molecular biology background of course what goes on under controlled, sterile conditions in a lab with model organisms is always going to appear more rigorous, but just not necessarily more reflective of reality. But that still doesn’t explain why EP gets singled out so often. The motivation appears more political, which isn’t a bad thing, necessarily.

    Thanks for the source; I’ll look it over.

  138. gillt says

    If you disagree with EP, why are you arguing with me at all? Why does your argument take the form of strawmanning and personal attacks? If you object to being called an asshole troll, quit acting like one.

    Quit gaslighting, I apologized to you immediately for what you interpreted as a personal attack, which was me calling your argument or argument style hypocritical. You soon escalated by calling me a troll, telling me to fuck off and that I’m an asshole. If you don’t like being called anti-intellectual you can start by curbing your temper tantrums.

  139. coelsblog says

    631/633 botulf:

    Big brains are an evolutionary advantage in spite of no genetic control … The genes coding for as much cortex as possible have nothing to do with this … Not selection for the brains themselves … these non selected brains … in spite of not directly being selected for …

    If there is no selection for brains, if they are not adaptations, then they would not have evolved. Your whole proposal is a non-starter.

    So when it turns out they have a lot of important environment in common it should make them “not as useful for the disentangling” to put it quite harsh.

    It is well established, and well known by those doing the studies, that the twin studies do indeed only tell you about the effect of diversity of environment/culture actually sampled by the separated twins.

    It is entirely correct that not all possible environmental/cultural diversity is sampled. Thus it is entirely correct that the twin studies don’t answer every possible question on this issue.

    Despite that, however, they do tell us a lot of important and revealling information about the diversity of environmental/cultural that is sampled and how that compares in influence to the range of genetic diversity.

    All of these attempts to denigrate and fault twin studies is really just an ideological aversion to accepting the role of genetics and genetic diversity in human psychology and behaviour.

  140. gillt says

    It is entirely correct that not all possible environmental/cultural diversity is sampled. Thus it is entirely correct that the twin studies don’t answer every possible question on this issue.

    It’s a silly expectation that every single study, or even every study in a field is supposed to address everything at once. That’s just not how science is done.

  141. alwayscurious says

    If you’re not willing to toss out most of the life sciences the only way to rescue that slide down the slippery slope is to get specific about actual twin/EP studies and how they fail…specifically.

    Agreed. But I find it telling that Paul Gibson, in a short dozen posts, has provided as much evidence as coelsblog has in several pages on topic. I also suspect that’s partly why Tethys is so upset at you: you’ve managed to provide more links to related materials than the lead dissenting voice and you’ve not obviously hopped on the bandwagon against EP.

    “twin studies show…” is as helpful as saying “clinical studies show…”: it gets tiring after a while without links to specific studies about specific topics. Nobody gets enlightened and nobody gets to criticize the evidence upon which the conclusions are based. That’s part of the game coelsblog is playing.

  142. Tethys says

    Quit gaslighting, I apologized to you immediately for what you interpreted as a personal attack

    You notpologied, which is unacceptable. The fact that you are unaware that you did it again in your reply to my complaints about your behavior in this thread is gaslighting.

    thus…more evidence that you are an asshole with some serious reading comprehension issues.

  143. gillt says

    In response to Botulf’s point about pre-natal environment.

    The Minnesota Study of reared apart twins makes no mention of the pre-natal environment. However, the issue has apparently been investigated by others.

    What this research suggests is that sharing the same chorion and placenta causes identical twins to be more similar in some traits, but more different in others, depending on how the attributes in question are influenced by specific aspects of gestation. Shared hormones, for instance, appear to increase resemblances in personality, whereas a shared blood supply appears to create disparities in fetal growth and various correlated traits. With regard to overall intelligence and most other cognitive measures, such contrasting influences appear to counterbalance one another, resulting in few demonstrable differences between monochorionic and dichorionic twins in IQ (and hence in the calculation of the extent to which IQ is inherited).

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2007/oct/25/how-to-inherit-iq-the-fetal-question/?pagination=false#fn1-843653652

    PZ:

    When evolutionary psychologists try to drill down and identify the shared components, I’m much more willing to see their efforts as interesting.

    Contra what has been offered by PZ as a general indictment of EP, the authors from the Minnesota reared apart twins study conclude:

    Whereas behavioral geneticists study variations within a species, evolutionary psychologists or sociobiologists attempt to delineate species-typical proclivities or instincts and to understand the relevant evolutionary developments that took place in the Pleistocene epoch and were adaptive in the lives of tribal hunter gatherers…Modern society not only augments the influence of genotypes on behavioral variability, as we have suggested, but permits this variability to reciprocally contribute to the rapid pace of cultural change.

  144. gillt says

    Tethys, admit that you hold yourself to a much looser standard of conduct than you hold those with whom you disagree. Calling your opponents assholes and trolls while expecting them to handle you with kid gloves is laughably hypocritical. I stand by my original accusation as it seems inherent to your debating style.

    For the record, here’s what I said that the delicate Tethy’s interpreted as a personal attack.

    It’s obviously hypocritical for you to be hyperskeptical about things you disagree with, EP, while making arguments with YouTube videos.

    here’s how I responded

    Calling your debating style hypocritical does not in my mind qualify as a personal attack, but I apologize if that’s how it came off.

    Now you arrogantly presume to impugning my motivations as a not-pology. I’m done with you.

  145. coelsblog says

    642 alwayscurious:

    “twin studies show…” is as helpful as saying “clinical studies show…”: it gets tiring after a while without links to specific studies about specific topics. Nobody gets enlightened and nobody gets to criticize the evidence upon which the conclusions are based. That’s part of the game coelsblog is playing.

    Sorry, I’d presumed that awareness of twin studies and what they show would be reasonably common knowledge among an audience interested in this sort of topic. One reason why I haven’t pointed to specific papers is that it’s not really about specific papers, it’s a pattern over a whole body of literature. For comparison, creationists often ask for *one* paper that “proves” evolution, when the proof isn’t about any one paper, it’s about how vast numbers of things fit together into an overall picture, that picture and the abundant evidence not really describeable at less than book length.

    I’d also note a similar lack of specific cites to EP papers that critics want to complain about, most of the complaints seem to have an element of strawman to me.

  146. alwayscurious says

    Gillt, your link to http://www.epjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/EP11762780.pdf was interesting. The author (psychologist) validated many of the criticisms (in direction, not necessarily degree) we’ve been tossing around.

    (starting around page 13):

    * EP started as an attempt to bridge a gap in understanding “natural” human behaviors (human ethology originally). There was some consternation when the field of EP started regarding how it should conduct its research (and what should be researched). {Ironically the prevailing view that nonhuman animals are unworthy of subjects for evolutionary psychology remains a contemporary weak point of the field}

    * Early work largely failed to differentiate EP from these other fields and EP didn’t bring as much to the table as the other fields did. Instead, work done to fill in the void is better described by expansions & interactions between other fields, specifcally sociology, biology & anthropology.

    * Many recent publications from the 90’s & onward have generally been too focused on sex & sex selection. He blames this partly on The Adapted Mind, a high points for EP but crippling to it ever after.

    * Recent work in the field (in general) is relying too heavily upon outdated methods or methods too weak for the hypothesis being considered. What is trending up are hypotheses being tested with surveys & questionaires, which isn’t appropriate.

    The author’s recommendations: EP needs to develop new methods, borrowing more heavily from biology & sociology and generate serious heaps of relevant empirical data. Also, EP needs to consider a wider variety of topics beyond sex: motivation, emotion, behavior in other animals (maybe even beyond primates). Additionally there is a push for stronger education components including basic concepts of evolutionary biology & animal behavior. EP’s tarnished & confused history has bred mistrusted with other fields, especially neurobiology, which desparately needs remedy if EP is to remain afloat.

    Where the blog here differs from the author most largely is on the future direction of EP. The author feels EP has slowly been turning around over the last decade–some of its key practitioners recognize the state they’re in and have been pushing for positive changes. The whole enterprise is salvageable if they can keep making improvements and team up with other fields for research. If the whole field collapsed overnight and the research topics absorbed into every other nearby field, it sound as if comparative psychology is now primed to pick up many remaining psychology-specific questions.

  147. gillt says

    In response to what’s trending in EP research please see my comment #120 about this paper:

    Hot Topics and Popular Papers in Evolutionary Psychology: Analyses of Title Words and Citation Counts in Evolution and Human Behavior, 1979 – 2008 which is looking at different criteria and is more indicative of trends and themes in EP.

    Based on the above, I don’t see any evidence for the oft-repeated claim around here that EP researchers are fixated on an adaptationist paradigm.

    alwayscurious:

    What is trending up are hypotheses being tested with surveys & questionaires, which isn’t appropriate.

    Agreed, in so much that self-reporting can be useful as supplementary data buoying more robust findings.

    alwayscurious:

    Where the blog here differs from the author most largely is on the future direction of EP.

    This blog and many of the commenters want to see EP scrapped completely or labeled a pseudoscience. I’m also really critical of EP…for instance, its preoccupation with gender differences. I just don’t agree with the above consensus.

    I found this back and forth communication on gender differences regarding a specific behavior interesting in so far as it shows alternative hypothesis are being considered and debated, indicative of a healthy if not perfect research program.

    http://www.epjournal.net/articles/gender-differences-in-human-interpersonal-conflicts-a-reply-to-ingram-et-al-2012/

    http://www.epjournal.net/articles/gender-differences-in-human-interpersonal-conflicts-a-reply-to-ingram-et-al-2012/

  148. botulf says

    636 Tethys:

    A Romanian orphan will live in the same culture as a non-orphan, but will display different behavior due to environment. In this instance, there is a meaningful and measureable distinction.
    Quantifying the effects seperately makes it possible to check your work, so to speak, when you get the inevitable outliers.

    I agree. Could still be described as different environments in this context I think.

    638 gillt:

    But that still doesn’t explain why EP gets singled out so often. The motivation appears more political, which isn’t a bad thing, necessarily.

    Psychology in general seem to me to generate a lot of doubtful research. By way of black boxes we have come from behaviourism to cognitive psychology to evolutionary psychology and at no point has there been a solid foundation for the flavour of the day. (Se this for an interesting read)
    A fact that makes the building of coherent theories hard and leaves the field open for cultural bias and logical fallacies. EP is special in that it seem to have an even weaker starting point, as pointed out in the OP. (Something that makes it even more vulnerable to bias and fallacies.)

    641 gillt:

    It’s a silly expectation that every single study, or even every study in a field is supposed to address everything at once. That’s just not how science is done.

    Good thing then that’s not an expectation. When something is being presented as a larger fact, as in “twin studies show the relative importance of genes are about this large” in a context of mere scale the claimant should be able to dig up support for the claim beyond “it might be”.

    644 gillt:

    The Minnesota Study of reared apart twins makes no mention of the pre-natal environment. However, the issue has apparently been investigated by others.

    Ok. I buy that. Though the paragraph just before the one you quote stated:

    In contrast to these collective findings for intellectual ability, significant differences according to chorionicity have been documented for a variety of personality and physical traits. For example, monochorionic identical twins have been found to be more similar than dichorionic identical twins in measures of Type A behavior (hostility) and for various aspects of temperament (irritability, impulsivity, and hyperactivity).5 At the same time, monochorionic twins tend to show greater differences than dichorionic twins in birth weight and in some physical attributes—differences that persist into adulthood.

    Remember that I am not specifically discussing the math thing. And also there are other environmental effects besides this chorionicity.

    646 coelsblog:

    One reason why I haven’t pointed to specific papers is that it’s not really about specific papers, it’s a pattern over a whole body of literature. For comparison, creationists often ask for *one* paper that “proves” evolution, when the proof isn’t about any one paper, it’s about how vast numbers of things fit together into an overall picture, that picture and the abundant evidence not really describeable at less than book length.

    You seem to claim you are aware of the complete field, why do you not present us with the best the field has to offer? The request for one good article is a minimum, nothing more.

    I’d also note a similar lack of specific cites to EP papers that critics want to complain about, most of the complaints seem to have an element of strawman to me.

    This is irrelevant since the same request could be done for any field. The thing with EP is it’s so hard to find good stuff which would not be true for most other fields. But as a gesture of good will:
    Example 1.
    Example 2.

  149. botulf says

    640 coelsblog:

    If there is no selection for brains, if they are not adaptations, then they would not have evolved. Your whole proposal is a non-starter.

    I get sloppy; I am writing about neocortex, not the whole brain. Neocortex was selected for to process smell. I have been really clear on that.
    If that’s your last objection you should now accept my hypothesis. It is falsifiable after all, I provided ways of testing it.

    So when it turns out they have a lot of important environment in common it should make them “not as useful for the disentangling” to put it quite harsh.

    It is entirely correct that not all possible environmental/cultural diversity is sampled. Thus it is entirely correct that the twin studies don’t answer every possible question on this issue.

    Then I suggest you stop using them as if they did.

    Despite that, however, they do tell us a lot of important and revealling information about the diversity of environmental/cultural that is sampled and how that compares in influence to the range of genetic diversity.

    But not as exact as would be necessary for this discussion. Bring it to a debate with someone who does not believe in genetics.

    All of these attempts to denigrate and fault twin studies is really just an ideological aversion to accepting the role of genetics and genetic diversity in human psychology and behaviour.

    Do try to pay attention. You are primarily being told you are too simplistic.

  150. gillt says

    Remember that I am not specifically discussing the math thing. And also there are other environmental effects besides this chorionicity.

    Right, it appears the impact of pre-natal environment effects vary depending on what you’re looking at. I presumed we were discussing it in the context of general IQ or math ability. And I thought the link discusses others besides chorionicity.

  151. alwayscurious says

    In 647, I intended for the entire last paragraph to be the author’s feelings, I then tacked on my personal feeling to the final sentence. For clarity, the author seemed to indicate that EP was recoverable whereas the rest of the community here wants it to die a hasty death. I myself don’t care which way it goes, as long as the trash gets hauled out.

  152. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I’d also note a similar lack of specific cites to EP papers that critics want to complain about, most of the complaints seem to have an element of strawman to me.

    Whereas you lack of cites to “good EP”, which doesn’t seem to exist, tells your critics you are full of shit. Welcome to reality, where you must evidence YOUR CLAIMS.

  153. Paul Gibson says

    Ah, NerdofRedhead is still here, still writing EVIDENCELESS BULLSHIT about something xe knows nothing about. I have to comment again to make sure that lurkers understand the BULLSHIT this TROLL is spreading here. Xe is ANTI-SCIENCE, and may even be a religionist who is just here to cause trouble and spread BULLSHIT about SCIENCE.

    I have shown you a scientific paper showing genetic links to math ability. YOU have never shown me anything but BULLSHIT and LIES.

    You DO NOT UNDERSTAND the “null hypothesis”, which makes me think maybe you are also LYING about being a “scientist”. You never took up coelsblog’s request for your credentials.