For a bit of context, the good Dr. Thompson, on his excellent blog, gives a brief summary of the most important things to know about intelligence (emphasis added):
Intelligence does not guarantee good decision-making in all circumstances, simply better decision-making in more circumstances than a duller person. Some problems forms are inherently difficult and ambiguous. For example, it is easier to understand natural frequencies than percentages with decimal point. Apart from intelligence, social pressures and emotional attachments influence decisions.
Modern IQ tests give one overall figure, and also figures for 3 to 4 component indices, usually verbal comprehension, perceptual organisation, working memory, plus processing speed. The single figure is usually the best predictor, but the others have their place in specific circumstances. The fact that one single number is the best predictor of human achievements is testimony to its power.
40% is the heritability estimate for children, but it rises to 60% plus for adults. 70/30 is not a bad estimate for wealthy countries, 50/50 for very poor ones.... People from profoundly different cultures make the same sorts of errors on culture reduced tests, and the pattern suggests a largely universal problem-solving capacity. The predictive power of intelligence is similar in culturally different countries.
The point in bold is key. Out of all the factors that people think explain why certain people fail at life and others succeed, intelligence, even as imperfectly but reliably measured by one simple number, is the most important. The way science discovered this is also interesting: by controlling for intelligence in studies of other factors. Level of education, parental socio-economic status, reaction times, etc. turn out to be strongly correlated with, and very likely caused by, intelligence. On average, in the aggregate, the wealthier you are, the smarter you are, and wealthy parents pass those genes onto their children.
This is very different from what many people believe, or wish were true.
The blank slate theory of human development holds that human beings are all born with roughly equal capacities, and that variations between humans on an individual and group level exist solely (or almost solely) because of environmental factors. This idea has always had its supporters, and they gained the upper hand in the early 20th century, bolstered by a few fairly primitive ethnographic studies and the ideological backlash against the crimes of 20th-century eugenicists, including genocide. To this day, the blank slate theory is often taught as proven fact in schools of education, which is a very foolish and dangerous thing to do.
One way to check the blank slate theory is to examine twins. They come in two flavors: monozygotic (one egg splits into two embryos) which are virtually genetically identical, or dizygotic, which are basically just siblings who happen to be born at the same time. Early twin studies began to seriously undermine the blank slate theory, which didn't surprise geneticists and psychologists but made some people quite nervous. Twins adopted into completely different cultures, unaware even of each others' existence, had similar traits at a rate completely incompatible with random chance. Modern genetics has also destroyed the blank-slate theory, but many people don't understand or trust these studies. Few people now subscribe to the full-on blank-slate theory, but there are still millions of people who are eager to downplay the influence of heredity as far as possible.
But now, Nature Genetics has just published a blockbuster 14-million subject twin-study meta-analysis, possibly the most important research on heredity in decades, which has now definitively destroyed, once and for all, the blank-slate theory of human development. The authors studied dozens of human traits, from purely biological to social, and found the overall heritability for these traits about 49%. The strongest associations were for biological givens (height, bone density, etc.), the weakest proof for social attitudes (although there was still detectable hereditary influence on these). Cognitive ability, the best predictor of success in modern societies, is somewhere between, but still highly heritable, as Dr. James Thompson notes:
All human traits contain a substantial heritable element. The blank slate is totally false. If you have colleagues who doubts the twin method or who have difficulty accepting the power of ancestry, shall I repeat for them Rhett Butler’s last words to Scarlett O'Hara right now, or is it better that I tell you a little more about the findings?
I expect you have an interest in the results on cognition, so rest easy, heritability is high, though not as strong as for skeletal, metabolic, ophthalmological, dermatological, respiratory, and neurological traits. Usually there is a big difference (top line of figures) between the high correlations for monozygotic and the lower correlations for dizygotic twins, showing a strong genetic effect. The exception is social values, in which the environment makes a bigger contribution than usual, though not quite as big as heredity.
Cognitive traits correlate 0.646 in identical twins, 0.371 in fraternal twins, with miniscule error terms of .01 in these enormous samples. An additive model seems appropriate for cognition.
They conclude: Our results provide compelling evidence that all human traits are heritable: not one trait had a weighted heritability estimate of zero. The relative influences of genes and environment are not randomly distributed across all traits but cluster in functional domains. In general, we showed that reported estimates of variance components from model-fitting can underestimate the true trait heritability, when compared with heritability based on twin correlations. Roughly two-thirds of traits show a pattern of monozygotic and dizygotic twin correlations that is consistent with a simple model whereby trait resemblance is solely due to additive genetic variation. This implies that, for the majority of complex traits, causal genetic variants can be detected using a simple additive genetic model.
So, intelligence has a strong heritable component, and other personality attributes have weaker, but still quite important heritability. The blank-slate hypothesis is now folklore. It joins phrenology, alchemy, astrology, and thousands of other theories of human behavior in the Mausoleum of Disproven Hypotheses.
I've blogged before about social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, especially his writings about 'sacralization' and political discourse. Crudely oversimplified by me, the theory goes: he proposes that much of what we consider someone's political ideology is choices about who is open to criticism or mockery. Humans have a strong tendency to divide ourselves into tribes in many different ways. In politics we define ourselves by sacralizung certain people, groups, values, and institutions. Conservatives identify with family, authority, church, entrepreneurship. Thus, they exempt these institutions from criticism among their own tribe, and rush to their defense when they are attacked by left-liberals. Left-liberals, for their part, have just as strong a desire to find sacred objects or ideas that elevate human life above selfish struggle and identify individuals with a greater cause.
The sacralized groups and objects can change over time; many conservatives no longer think marriage has to be protected from gays anymore, and few seriously think the Pope's ex cathedra pronouncements are infallible. For liberals, the workers were once sacred, but then came the 1960s and 1970s, when a lot of the workers turned out not to have very educated or progressive views about women, minorities, and gays. So left-liberals tended to identify with these historical targets of discrimination. And, as things go, sacralized them. Each member of a particular minority group was considered a living embodiment of social injustice, and liberals worldwide began to identify each other by deep concern over how these groups were treated. These social movements, of course, brought plenty of wholesome social progress which only reactionaries would want to turn back.
But it also brought plenty of excesses, such as mid-1980s gay pride parades, those cavalcades of perversion that, as the Onion put it, set back acceptance of gays by decades. Another part of sacralizing victims is taboo on criticizing the statements or actions of gays, ethnic minorities, women, the disabled, and other designated minority groups.
Which brings us to the German Green Party. Founded in the late 1970s as the Alternative List, it was at first a chaotic but stimulating party for people who felt excluded by the three-party system prevailing in Germany. The early Greens comprised gays, environmental activists, pacifists, vegetarians, and the like, and its platform was green, anti-nuke, pro-gay, and multicultural. In the following decades, the Green party itself and most of its concerns have become completely mainstream, so we can say the 'march through the institutions' worked. In the early 1980s, a widely-despised social group found a home in the Green Party: pedophiles. They analogized themselves to gays: people ostracized by society by their unconventional sexual orientation.
And some (not all!) regional Green Party branches, disastrously, bought the argument. Pedophiles were permitted to join the party and even hold leadership positions. Pro-pedophile groups called the 'Urban Indian Communes' protested Green party political gatherings, insisting (g) that the Party adopt planks advocating the decriminalization of sex between adults and children. Fred Karst, convicted of pedophile offenses several times, started a 'working group' within the Green party called 'Old and Young.' It was an official party organization within the 'Gay Issues' group of the party. The members of the group often organized special trips where men could cavort with boys (my translation):
The working group was a meeting-point for pedohiles, who among other things organized special road trips for young men -- and abused them. The group belonged to the 'Gay Issues' group within the Green Party and was thus an official component of the overall party. "We are ashamed for the institutional failure of our party" says Berlin regional Green Party director Bettina Jarasch. "This blindness to abuse of power still baffles and enrages me."
Things could go so far because of a special characteristic of the Berlin greens. A so-called "minority dogma" guaranteed the "Young and Old" working group far-ranging autonomy and a special rule: opinions which couldn't command majority support could still be propagated for years in the party's name -- including the idea that sexual relationships with children were legitimate.
The last pedophiles were kicked out of the party only in the mid-1990s. The Greens, faced with renewed revelations in 2013, commissioned a political scientist from Göttingen, Franz Walter, to create a report on how pedophiles were allowed to gain so much influence within the party. One of his conclusions in the report (g, pdf) was that of the four main factors contributing to acceptance of pedophiles, two were (1) a tendency to 'affective solidarity' with excluded outsider groups that led the Greens to unconditionally accept their demands and grant them disproportional influence in the party; and (2) a 'strongly anti-repressive' tendency within the party which led members to sympathize indiscriminately with those who faced 'repression' by the state, including pedophiles and imprisoned RAF murderers.
Fortunately the Green Party has finally realized what a horrible mistake the party made, has unequivocally denounced pedophilia, and has promised counseling and compensation to victims. But the startling prospect of a major political party with national representation allowing child molesters to propagandize from within its ranks demonstrates the dangers of exempting marginalized groups from all criticism.
From the window of a bookstore on the Frankfurter Allee, Berlin. A book on elevator repair, and a book of 'Humoristic Sketches from German Commercial Life'. Not cheap!
I wonder if this is the same George Weerth:
Georg Weerth (17 February 1822 – 30 July 1856) was a Germanwriter. Weerth's poems celebrated the solidarity of the working class in its fight for liberation from exploitation and oppression. He was a friend and companion of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who described Georg Weerth as the first and most significant poet of the German proletariat.
I popped over to Berlin for the weekend and this time stayed in Friedrichshain. Friedrichshain is part of the former East Berlin which was pretty rundown 10 years ago, last time I visited, but is now gentrifying, as the phrase goes. I'd say the process is about 65% complete in Friedrichshain. You still have some hard-rock bars and blotchy, disgruntled East German retirees, but they increasingly look bewildered by what is happening to their Kiez ('hood). What you get instead are:
Boutiques with aggressively unique handmade purses and clothes out of rescued fabrics or ancient leather.
Self-consciously crudely hand-drawn posters for various kinds of punk that were all the rage when I was in college 25 years ago (Psycho-Trash Punkabilly from France, Runaway Monks Buddhist punk, Ska-Punk from Ipswich).
Small clever cryptic stickers showing faces in silhouette, Third World children, or bearing mysterious slogans like '435%' or 'BBAN' or 'whyisnow.com'
Posters demanding solidarity with Blockupy, with migrant workers seeking back wages, with the political prisoner Sürgül Amedölügcülügünülcü, with refugees, with the 'anti-Fascist resistance', with Mumia Abu-Jamal, with Pussy Riot, Gaza, homosexuals, squatters, and so many more!
Spray-painted anarchist symbols, haunting symbols of the imminent Revolution that will soon sweep us all into the Spree.
Small, ancient travel vans with faded stickers for bands, political causes, and football teams.
That most insufferable of all claques, white people with dreadlocks. These people should be forcibly shaved, and their greasy hairworms used to make comfy pillows for refugees. After thorough sanitization, of course -- the refugees deserve no less.
Community centers surrounded by multicolored murals with vaguely Eastern or ethnic themes.
Ads featuring ironic clipart of clean-cut, smiling 1950s housewives and businessmen. Again, all the rage in the US in 1988.
The Netherlands consistently ranks as one of the best places in the world to live. Dutch kids are among the happiest in the world, according to Unicef. Some attribute their high quality of life and general good nature to a rather laid-back approach to work: more than half of the Dutch working population works part time, a far greater share than in any other rich-world country. On average only a fifth of the working-age population in EU member states holds a part-time job (8.7% of men and 32.2% of women); in the Netherlands 26.8% of men and 76.6% of women work less than 36 hours a week (see chart).
...and Dutch politics was dominated by Christian values until the 1980s: the focus was mainly on providing state aid (implicit subsidies in the fiscal system) so that women could stay at home with children.
This changed in the late 1980s, when the state realised that it would be a good idea to mobilise women into the job market. But the cultural conviction that families still needed mothers home for tea-time prevailed, and thus the state worked closely with employers to ensure that the new part-time jobs would enjoy similar legal positions to their full-time equivalents. This has, to an extent, been continued: in 2000 the right for women and men to ask for a job to be part-time was written into law. But Ronald Dekker, a labour economist at Tilburg University, thinks this law is a confirmation of existing practice and therefore largely symbolic, only necessary for certain “archaic industries”. Instead, he reckons the high prevalence of part-time jobs is largely down to the wide availability of good quality, well-paid “first tier” part-time jobs in the Netherlands: jobs often considered inferior in many other countries.
One of the many benefits of welfare states: the system makes it easy for people to adjust the amount of work they do according to their individual wishes and needs.
Yesterday I rode down the Rhein to Urdenbach. The bike route takes you through an industrial area in which there's basically one house left: No. 73, Reisholzer Werftstrasse. The 4-story building stands there completely alone next to a large, empty field. The building has become a favorite for artists and countercultural types (including the sculptor and painter Ute Wöhle, who has a studio there), profiled in this photo essay (g) in the local newspaper.
The facade is being renovated, but the owner lets graffiti artists decorating the back part of the building. Yesterday they were hard at work:
Here's what it looked like a few weeks ago. Is that supposed to be Freddie Mercury?
So, Germany's going to be inundated this year with up to 500,000 unsolicited immigrants, who for some reason are referred to as 'refugees' by most mainstream German media outlets even though most aren't. Meanwhile, Germany already has a backlog of 200,000 asylum applications, and local governments are begging for billions of Euro (g) -- not millions, billions -- to house, feed, and monitor these immigrants, as well as processing their asylum requests and teaching them German. Many cities have had to shut down sports facilities (g) and pack thousands of people into them.
Something like half of these refugees, if not more, come from West Balkan states. There is currently no war in those states and they are government by more-or-less democratic governments, so there is no justification in German law for them to receive asylum unless they can prove a specific threat to themselves, which most of them can't. Many of the immigrants come from Bulgaria and Romania, which are EU Member States.
These people need to be warehoused before their (mostly unverifiable and unprovable) asylum claims are evaluated, so governments are either requisitioning or hastily erecting housing. And where do they put the immigrants? In the areas with the cheapest rent, of course! Where they live right next to working- and lower-middle-class Germans who don't want them there and don't want them allowed to compete for German jobs. This, of course, leads to immigrant housing being defaced and damaged, and to right-wing rallies. The arson and defacement are ugly criminal behavior, but anyone who didn't see this coming is a fool. Many on the German left derive tremendous satisfaction from denouncing the racism of the working-class Germans who resent refugees, but I can't help noticing that these self-righteous fulminations don't actually help anyone. Perhaps the leftists should be working on developing magic pixie dust which will make working-class people approve of a large influx of foreigners.
A friend of mine who probably would like to remain nameless proposed a simple answer to housing refugees in Germany. Find out which neighborhoods have the highest number of open borders / quasi open-borders supporters (Green party vote % could be a proxy). Then put all the refugees in those neighborhoods. Putting the immigrants where people don't want them is a recipe for disaster. Put them instead among the people who claim to want them there! Surely the bien pensant left-liberal urbanites who urge Germany to open its borders won't have a problem with the apartment next to theirs being requisitioned by the state to house an extended family of 10 Roma from Bucharest. I'm sure they will also volunteer to teach immigrants German in evening classes after they leave their day jobs as graphic designers and marketing consultants . And isn't converting your basketball, volleyball, or handball court to shelters a small price to pay for humanity? You could also move all the treadmills and stairsteppers out of your €80-per-month Holmes Places gym if more room were needed.
Prenzlauer Berg, get ready to have your lifestyle cash the checks your ideology has been writing!*
* Adding, just to prevent confusion, the target of my mockery is reality-denying German fantasists, not the immigrants themselves. Refugees from war zones certainly should be relocated in Germany. And you can hardly blame people from rural Albania or Romania for wanting to get out of those places. If I were them, I would try to get into stable, prosperous Germany, too! But that doesn't mean Germany has any moral duty to oblige these people, and it certainly doesn't mean Germany has the practical ability to host them all. They should be processed quickly, and sent back. Except, of course, as Franziska Giffey, the Social Democratic mayor of Neukölln notes, Germany has no way of knowing if they actually did go back when they were ordered to.