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Nature Vs. Nurture: Waging War Over the Soul of Science

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the born-this-way dept.

Science 235

derekmead writes "Wherever determinism appears, controversy attends, raising specters of days when colonialists, eugenicists, public health officials, and political idealists believed they could cure the human condition through manipulation and force. Understanding those fears helps shed light on the controversy surrounding a recent paper (PDF) published in the American Economic Review, entitled, 'The "Out of Africa" Hypothesis, Human Genetic Diversity, and Comparative Economic Development.' In it, economists Quamrul Ashraf and Oded Galor argue that the economic development of broad human populations correlate with their levels of genetic diversity—which is, in turn, pinned to the distance its inhabitants migrated from Africa thousands of years ago. Reaction has been swift and vehement. An article signed by 18 academics in Current Anthropology accuses the researchers of 'bad science' — 'something false and undesirable' based on 'weak data and methods' that 'can become a justification for reactionary policy.' The paper attacks everything from its sources of population data to its methods for measuring genetic diversity, but the economists are standing by their methods. The quality of Ashraf and Galor's research notwithstanding, the debate illustrates just how tricky it's become to assert anything which says something about human development was in any way inevitable."

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235 comments

Sounds like Republicans (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42938751)

Yup, the entire summary.

Re:Sounds like Republicans (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42938843)

It's funny how left wing jack wads support Science and the Scientific Method until it conflicts with Political Correctness.

Re:Sounds like Republicans (4, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year ago | (#42938881)

Alright, I'll bite. They aren't attacking science or the scientific method here, they're attacking the specific methods used here and the conclusions.

An article signed by 18 academics in Current Anthropology accuses the researchers of 'bad science'—'something false and undesirable' based on 'weak data and methods' that 'can become a justification for reactionary policy.' The paper attacks everything from its sources of population data to its methods for measuring genetic diversity,

If you missed that part of the summary, you might try leaving the fertile crescent and seeing if it makes sense afterward.

Re:Sounds like Republicans (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42939103)

"They" is the AC, which is who I replied to.

Just a guess that he's a left winger based on his knee jerk attack against Republicans.

But, to address your point and based on the dynamics of the AGW arguments here, attacking methods and data and conclusions is tantamount to attacking the Scientific Method.

But, who cares...I have pr0n to download. Busy busy..so much pr0n, so little bandwidth.

Re:Sounds like Republicans (0)

tqk (413719) | about a year ago | (#42939163)

... attacking methods and data and conclusions is tantamount to attacking the Scientific Method.

I take it you're drunk, possibly stoned, and besotted on pr0n. Have fun, but please don't inflict any more of this sort of drivel on us.

Re:Sounds like Republicans (1)

buybuydandavis (644487) | about a year ago | (#42939871)

Alright, I'll bite. They aren't attacking science or the scientific method here, they're attacking the specific methods used here and the conclusions.

It's always bad science when runs counter to their preferred political narrative. Suggest that there are biological differences in intelligence, skill, or behavior between the sexes or races, and the villagers race out with their pitchforks. "Your science is impotent. You can't *prove* your claims." Suggest that we're all racist, sexist, homophobes based on some half assed psychology experiment, and it's "that's the way, uh huh uh huh, we like it, uh hu uh huh".

Quamrul Ashraf and Oded Galor (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42938789)

Are you serious?
Just upgrade to win 8 and get it over with.
windows defender would have filtered this out.

Economists aren't Exactly Neutral (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42938793)

Economists tend to be interested in how human behaviour relates to the study of money. Which is not exactly a neutral research direction.

It was also an economist (Herbert Spencer) that studied Darwin and to give us the famous "Survival of the Fittest" instead of the more accurate "Survival of the Fit".

Re:Economists aren't Exactly Neutral (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42938999)

Meh. The only rational approach here is, "I don't care what the implications are, I only care if it's true or not. Figure it out amongst yourselves and get back to us."

Re:Economists aren't Exactly Neutral (1, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#42939219)

Economists have just about the worst track record of any major specialty in terms of quality research.

In this case, diversity is far less likely to do with it than the fact that Africa is less than a century out of independence from various European powers. Look what Europe was like until relatively recently. Corruption is still rampant and there isn't a lot of investment that's going on there.

Re:Economists aren't Exactly Neutral (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42939697)

India has about the same time away from being a colony, yet it is a major economic power and produces hundreds of thousands of extremely successful, well educated people. So much for your thesis.

Re:Economists aren't Exactly Neutral (5, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#42939851)

Africa is less than a century out of independence from various European powers.

Using colonialism as an explanation for lack of economic progress isn't supported by the evidence. The African country with the longest and most pervasive colonization was South Africa. The country with the least was Ethiopia, which maintained its independence except for a few years of Italian control in the 1930s. Yet South Africa is near the top of the African economic pile, while Ethiopia is near the bottom. There are plenty of other examples. Countries with long periods of colonization, much interaction between the locals and the colonists, and lasting European-style laws and civil institutions, are doing far better than countries where colonialism was less influential.

Tough. The world is deterministic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42938801)

All things are inevitable if they happened. You just don't know that before they happen.

Re:Tough. The world is deterministic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42938983)

But in a different universe, the waveform collapsed into a different state, and the event didn't happen. You just happen to be posting in this one rather than that one.

Re:Tough. The world is deterministic. (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about a year ago | (#42939417)

But in a different universe, the waveform collapsed into a different state, and the event didn't happen. You just happen to be posting in this one rather than that one.

Prove it :)

JSTOR: An Error Occured (3, Informative)

medv4380 (1604309) | about a year ago | (#42938829)

Not to be picky, but the url to "An artile signed by 18 academics" is http://www.jstor.org/action/cookieAbsent [jstor.org] "cookieAbsent" doesn't exactly look like it was ever supposed to work. Does someone have a link to the actual signed article?

This isn't a war within science (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42938847)

this is a war between scientists and a bunch of postmodernists parading around in lab coats shouting down results they don't like (cultural anthropologists.)

Re:This isn't a war within science (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42938867)

Economists are not scientists. Nice trollbait, bro.

Re:This isn't a war within science (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42938911)

Hmm, what field of "science" most deserves those quotation marks? Macroeconomics, or cultural anthropology?

This is seriously a tough one.

That depends (1)

davidwr (791652) | about a year ago | (#42939377)

Does adding the qualifier dismal before the word science increase or decrease the "deservedness" of quotation marks?

Re:That depends (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42939603)

"By dubbing econ DISMAL SCIENCE adherents exaggerate / The DISMAL's fine, it's SCIENCE where they patently prevaricate"

Re:This isn't a war within science (1)

MrHanky (141717) | about a year ago | (#42939857)

Well, cultural anthropology is at least in part an empirical study, whereas economics is pure abstract idealism.

Re:This isn't a war within science (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#42939921)

whereas economics is pure abstract idealism.

Did you realize when you wrote this that it's false? Do you understand that economics actually does empirical studies? The level of ignorance in your post is somewhat alarming.......

Re:This isn't a war within science (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42940101)

Except that, without any empirical basis whatsoever, studies of real things don't have much value. Sure, dollars and people are real, but when your studies of them are based on wishful thinking and imaginary models without any basis in fact, your conclusions are worthless. Economics isn't science. It's fortune telling.

Re:This isn't a war within science (5, Informative)

Smallpond (221300) | about a year ago | (#42939431)

this is a war between scientists and a bunch of postmodernists parading around in lab coats shouting down results they don't like (cultural anthropologists.)

Umm, no. I take it you didn't even read the summary of either paper.

The economists claim that “the high degree of diversity among African populations and the low degree of diversity among Native American populations have been a detrimental force in the development of these regions.” In other words, that only populations with the "right" amount of genetic diversity (i.e. matching Europe) are likely to be successful. The rest of the scientific community points out that they have defined their terms in a way that gives the results that they want, and ignore existing standard means of measuring genetic diversity.

That backwards African continent... (5, Insightful)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year ago | (#42938849)

Clearly, the African continent is home only to the most primitive peoples. It's not a place that would birth historically powerful, flourishing civilizations whose large-scale engineering feats would be regarded among the "wonders of the world" millennia later. Oh, wait...

Re:That backwards African continent... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42938939)

Note that you used the present tense to set up your strawman argument and then the past tense to tear it down. So you failed to even dismantle a strawman... quite sad.

Re:That backwards African continent... (3, Insightful)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year ago | (#42939051)

For arguments based on racial/genetic makeup, a couple thousand years don't matter (significant genetic changes and the timescale for the initial "out-of-Africa" spread of humanity are over tens of thousands of years). Over the time scale of just a couple millennia, accidents of history unrelated to underlying racial makeup will be the dominant source of fluctuations in where the centers of geopolitical power (and corresponding economic advancement) lie. If Africans a couple thousand years ago were producing world-leading centers of technology and culture, that is a strong indication that the present-day underdevelopment of the African continent is due to factors besides racial/genetic disability (such as centuries of colonial exploitation following the shift of the regional center of power from Egypt to Rome, and eventually Northwestern Europe).

Re:That backwards African continent... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42939191)

Communist Dictators
Radical Islam
Presidente's for Life
Corruption
Warlords
etc.

That's what's fucking up Africa.

Re:That backwards African continent... (3, Insightful)

tqk (413719) | about a year ago | (#42939453)

For arguments based on racial/genetic makeup ...

It's exceedingly difficult for me seeing that people are still doing that. The genetic difference between homo sapiens and Chimpanzies is vanishingly small, yet some portion of the population continues to believe the outward physical differences between Blacks, Caucasians, and Orientals are significant. Why haven't we outgrown that crap yet?

Alexandria is in Africa. Egypt was the world's first superpower. Ancient Uganda was a superpower. The Zulu were a superpower. Africa's had a few lousy centuries mostly due to the bullies (European empires and various slavers) that surrounded them. Now they've finally been shaken off, I expect greatness from Africa in the future (if they can fend off the Chinese).

I wish I'd gone off grid and stayed in Khartoum. :-( Sigh.

Re:That backwards African continent... (1)

Swampash (1131503) | about a year ago | (#42939573)

some portion of the population continues to believe the outward physical differences between Blacks, Caucasians, and Orientals are significant

Turn on ESPN sometime.

Re:That backwards African continent... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42939885)

some portion of the population continues to believe the outward physical differences between Blacks, Caucasians, and Orientals are significant

Turn on ESPN sometime.

OK.

Hmmm, all I see here is a lot of hybrid vigor.

Wait, was I supposed to draw some conclusion about the mental acuity of any group that would watch this absurd drivel? It's a bunch of grown men and women playing little kids games as though they actually mattered. Is this a therapy channel for people too fat and dumb to get up off the sofa and go play a game themselves? This is noise.

Re:That backwards African continent... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42940011)

Those athletes should be doing something important, like speculating on the price of oil or writing a FPS.

Re:That backwards African continent... (1)

tqk (413719) | about a year ago | (#42940049)

Turn on ESPN sometime.

OK. Hmmm, all I see here is a lot of hybrid vigor.

Yeah. They kind of trivialize athletic accomplishment ("Basketball" == "Black Ball", and all that (apologies to Fletch and the Bird)). Jackie Robinson mattered. Pele mattered. Jesse Owens mattered. This's [wikipedia.org] an interesting read:

However, when threatened with a boycott of the Games by other nations, he relented and allowed Black people and Jews to participate, and added one token participant to the German team—a German woman, Helene Mayer, who had a Jewish father.

Schmuck!

The next scheduled games in 1940 were awarded to Tokyo even though Japan was becoming an aggressive militaristic, nationalist state. Ironically in 1938 the Japanese rejected hosting the games because they saw the Olympics and its pacifist values as 'an effete form of European culture'.

That's pretty funny, considering what happened next.

Re:That backwards African continent... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42939509)

For arguments bases on racial/genetic makeup, *one generation* can matter. It's called "genocide",a nd it's been commonplace throughout hunan history. If you don't believe me, ask the "native Americans" of Cuba, where Columbus first landed.

And don't try to pretend it's all white Western Europeans doing it. The Khmer Rouge genocide, modern Tibetm, Iraq's massacre of the kurds, and the genecodes of Rwanda are ongoing problems. It only takes one successful invasion to drive a successful culture or race back to poverty or even extenction.

Re:That backwards African continent... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42939707)

it's been commonplace throughout hunan history

Excuse me, but we aren't talking about provinces of China.

Re:That backwards African continent... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42939259)

Studies have found no corelation between this and the use of Nokia phones. However, stupid people are more efficient at maintaining life support functions than the rest of us. They have sex more often too.
Scientists estimate the sun's energy output is 3.8 x10^26 watts. Other scientists say we have an energy crisis.

The real definition of stupid is within those bounds.

Er, I Think You Misread That ... (2)

eldavojohn (898314) | about a year ago | (#42939047)

Clearly, the African continent is home only to the most primitive peoples. It's not a place that would birth historically powerful, flourishing civilizations whose large-scale engineering feats would be regarded among the "wonders of the world" millennia later. Oh, wait...

Um, the article was confusing, it showed like a White Pride info graphic ... yet if you read the paper, the genetic diversity is noted as being increasing over time the closer you are to the birthplace of humanity (as pictured here [motherboard.tv] the heterozygosity is reduced the further away from Africa). The second part that the article woefully left out was that this article examined the year 1500 CE.

Re:Er, I Think You Misread That ... (4, Informative)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year ago | (#42939213)

In that case, though, similar historical arguments hold just as as well --- highly economically advanced civilizations also formed far from the original "cradle of civilization." From the Inca and Aztec empires in South America, to continent-wide trade relations and the mound-building cultures in North America (basically "re-discovered" only after the invention of aerial photography, when people started realizing that some big oddly-placed hills were actually man-made structures), highly sophisticated and economically advanced civilizations have sprung up all over the place, from all sorts of "genetic stock." Tying genetic characteristics to economic advancement is an extremely iffy proposition, since there are far stronger fluctuations from historically contingent accidents. At best, you'll end up confusing cause and effect from correlating powerful, aggressive societies (conquering, assimilating, and intermarrying other surrounding populations) with the resultant genetic diversity of expansionist conquest.

Re:Er, I Think You Misread That ... (4, Interesting)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year ago | (#42939291)

Just looked at the actual paper... wow, that's a load of rubbish.

The figures showing the data that they use to prove the "hump shaped" correlation of economic status against an optimal "middle ground" genetic diversity are just big sprays of uncorrelated points, through which you could draw basically any curve you want with equal statistical probability. The parabolic-shaped curves that they've chosen are basically entirely determined by a couple outliers in South America. No statistically reasonable interpretation of their results would give them anything publishable to say --- at least outside the especially low standards of Economics.

Re:That backwards African continent... (-1, Troll)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#42939095)

It's not a place that would birth historically powerful, flourishing civilizations whose large-scale engineering feats would be regarded among the "wonders of the world" millennia later.

No, it's not. Any example?

Re:That backwards African continent... (5, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#42939331)

It's not a place that would birth historically powerful, flourishing civilizations whose large-scale engineering feats would be regarded among the "wonders of the world" millennia later.

No, it's not. Any example?

The Egyptian pyramids, and the lighthouse of Alexandria were both considered to be Wonders of the World [wikipedia.org], and both are/were located in Africa.

Re:That backwards African continent... (1)

arcite (661011) | about a year ago | (#42939115)

No kidding, as I am here in Cairo, Egypt, there are these piles of rocks known as the only remaining wonders of the ancient world. But no, it must have been aliens!

Re:That backwards African continent... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42939215)

The argument concerns the impact of genetic diversity on their population as a whole, not their genetic worth as individuals. Imagine if you will a "dream team" of basketball players who each play with a distinct style and fail to come together as a team to achieve their best potential. Their diversity is a hindrance, regardless of their individual qualities. The authors are arguing that a middle ground of genetic diversity, not too little and not too much, is best for development. It so happens that this middle ground was reached sometime during the long migration out of Africa, where genetic diversity was being shed all along the way.

Re:That backwards African continent... (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about a year ago | (#42939893)

And what have they done the LAST 5000 years?

Don't get me wrong, the Pyramids are a stunning achievement - but you can't really contend that the last, say, 1000 years have been anything but pathetic.

Seriously, though: I'm not sure where the answer lies.

The fact is that it is a bloody interesting question: North-East Africa/South-West Asia and "humanity worth speaking of" were pretty much synonymous in the 1000+ BC era. Yet, by about 1000 BC they were clearly being outstripped and outcompeted by their near Northwestern neighbors. What did Greece have that Persia didn't? Why did Egypt essentially vanish into historical insignificance

China, on the other hand, pursued its own track of fantastic innovation, brilliant thought and widespread civilization...only to likewise fall prey to a sort of somnolence technologically and even culturally so that by 1900 it may have been the largest empire the world had ever seen in some respects, in others it was a laughingstock.

Is the "frontiers are the source of dynamism while the center becomes decrepit'" just too Toynbee (or Robert E Howard, for that matter) for the modern, enlightened era? I don't see a lot of more compelling hypotheses?

I find these questions absolutely fascinating, and I'm quite certain about one thing: histrionics about racism every time someone asks them is not conducive to developing ANY understanding of the forces at play.

Re:That backwards African continent... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42939919)

... that's in the middle east.

This is one of the reasons... (4, Insightful)

medcalf (68293) | about a year ago | (#42938851)

This is one of the reasons that the whole idea of "scientific consensus" or "the science is settled" bugs me. People try to act like science is a completely rational activity. It's simply not: it's a human activity, fraught with all the prejudices, biases and shortcomings — as well as the wonder and majesty and achievement — that implies. Here is an excellent example of exactly that.

Re:This is one of the reasons... (5, Insightful)

Desler (1608317) | about a year ago | (#42938899)

That is said in regard to hard sciences. Not the soft, "social" sciences. Trying to equate the two is to try to muddy things.

Re:This is one of the reasons... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42939205)

Heh. It always amuses me when someone points to a study from a few psychologists that reaches a conclusion that they like and then talks about how wrong the other side is for daring to disagree with them. Their overconfidence never goes away until you present a study that reaches a different conclusion.

The thought that the studies may never have been reproduced never occurs to them. The thought that the interpretation of the data might have led the researchers to reach the wrong conclusion never occurs to them. Asking for a consistent, reproducible, and reliable series of studies that most of the scientific community agrees with sounds insane to them. And then they go on and on about how video games are porn are pure evil, or even that they're not.

Re:This is one of the reasons... (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42939275)

> That is said in regard to hard sciences. Not the soft, "social" sciences. Trying to equate the two is to try to muddy things.

I can see how creating a false dichotomy helps clear the muddiness.

In reality, though, "hard vs soft" is not a meaningful distinction. Social sciences can make concrete falsifiable hypotheses just as easily as any other, just as "hard" sciences can make untestable extrapolations to untestable systems.

For example, if I take the GP to be referring to climate science (with models oft describes as being a consensus), then scientists can test effects in the lab (e.g. carbon dioxide's greenhouse effect). And while they can make modes and extrapolate from them, they can never conclusively test CO2's effect on the Earth because there is only one Earth.

Compare and contrast to a psychologist that runs a scientific study. They can then use their data to make a model, but they cannot fork all of civilization into two separate universes and change one target variable; all they can do is model it and make some reasonable estimations.

All it comes down to is that the "soft sciences" are a hell of a lot _harder_. There are so many more variables to account for and almost no ability to control them. Chemistry? Easy: you can create almost perfectly isolated systems and test as much as you want. It's pretty rare to see arguments over things (esp with modern tech). You can though: was that glassware contaminated with some metal ions that catalyzed something? etc. There it's a lot easier (and less expensive!) to retest. Sociology? No dice. Studies are expensive and variables are numerous. It's not that it's some kind of lesser science, it's just that so much work needs to be done (and even when it is, it can become outdated quickly as environmental factors change that you can't change back). Maybe you are willing to write it off as impossible and call it "soft science", but that doesn't mean it's not science and that the problems it faces aren't identical to those faced by every other branch of science.

Re:This is one of the reasons... (5, Insightful)

Your.Master (1088569) | about a year ago | (#42939399)

You have to be kidding. The very definition of hard sciences is in the rigour. Things like testable predictions, controlled experiments, quantifiability, etc., are the hallmarks of the hard sciences.

It's not that the soft sciences are without any rigour, but it isn't to the same degree because we can't do it to the same degree.

Also, in the last paragraph, there are two problems. First, the whole paragraph is an argument that hard vs. soft is a meaningful distinction that is more prone to the science being settled, which was exactly the GPs point that you were arguing against, so you paradoxically just started arguing against yourself.

Second, you say

the "soft sciences" are a hell of a lot _harder_

. It's hard to tell whether this is meant to be cute wordplay or you're really equivocating, but you should say "more difficult" instead of "harder". I would agree that it's more difficult to come to a consistent conclusion in the soft sciences. I would disagree that they are simply more difficult -- the fact that you can take more steps in physics and chemistry is an invitation to take those steps. All the sciences are beyond humanity's grasp so they are all basically equally difficult on their frontiers.

Re:This is one of the reasons... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42939153)

How DARE You question science. From you unscientific heresay, I can scientifically determine that you are in fact a faggot, and more to boot a rascist southerner. (Probably from the state of Alabama)

Faggots like you should be stuffed in gas chambers. The one thing that has science has taught us is that science is always right, and that religious idiots (as i am sure u r) r always wrong.

I mean before science people thought the sun was carried around the earth by chariots. Now we know scientifically that it is a big ball of fire in the sky. Scientist can see electrons, and know that magnetism is caused by magnetic fields. So scientists can't possibly b wrong. Sriously, I demand that /. the great bastion of common sense and enlightenment vote down this faggot into irrelevance.

Science is settled ... until it's not (2)

davidwr (791652) | about a year ago | (#42939289)

When scientists in the "hard sciences" use terms like "settled science" it should be taken with the understood "... unless of course we get new evidence."

"Settled science" means that just about all scientists agree that the existing evidence leads to a given conclusion, and that the evidence and logical arguments have already been picked to death and barring actual new evidence or some currently-inconceivable way of interpreting existing evidence, the "scientifically settled conclusion" will be treated as scientific fact.

Newtonian physics was "settled science" for centuries ... until new data rolled in that made scientists think "um, that's odd, this data doesn't match the known laws of the universe, and we've looked at this new data over and over again and it's not a case of a bad measurement. Perhaps what we thought was fact isn't," at which point previously-settled science became ... unsettled.

As for the "soft" sciences, well, it's probably unfair to use the term "settled science" at all. A less-definitive phrase like "most psychologist agree that..." or "the social anthropology community generally accepts ..." are sufficiently strong to allow the layperson to treat the "generally accepted scientific idea" as fact, while giving scientists the wiggle room to quickly admit they were wrong if it turns out they are.

Re:Science is settled ... until it's not (1)

FrangoAssado (561740) | about a year ago | (#42939973)

Newtonian physics was "settled science" for centuries ... until new data rolled in [...] at which point previously-settled science became ... unsettled.

I agree with your main point, but this example doesn't fit in it very well. It's true that Newtonian physics has been superseded by relativity and quantum mechanics, but it's still "settled science" -- it's taught in every physics course and it's widely used. Just because we know some model doesn't fit perfectly every possible situation, it doesn't necessarily mean we stop using it.

Newtonian physics (like classical electromagnetism, thermodynamics, and a lot of other theories in Physics) is still useful when the system you're studying is guaranteed to be within some range of parameters -- not moving too fast, not too dense, not too cold or too hot, not too small, etc.

That's not to say there aren't many examples of "settled science" that have been completely abandoned. If you want a nice and clean example to illustrate your point, you might want to use the phlogiston [wikipedia.org] theory. It was dominant for a large portion of the 18th century, but we now know it's completely useless.

Re:This is one of the reasons... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42939311)

Cue the people who will say science is therefore bogus or make sarcastic jabs at it, or promote their englightened findings acquired from Fox News or the internet. In fact, they are already here.

"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”

Re:This is one of the reasons... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42939545)

No, it's a terrible example. It's a social "science". How you can conclude anything about actual science is beyond me.

It's like the first naked woman you saw was your 89 year old grandmother, and you conclude therefore that women simply can't be sexy.

It can't be true! (1, Funny)

buybuydandavis (644487) | about a year ago | (#42938857)

And anyone who suggests otherwise is a racist, sexist, homophone!

Re:It can't be true! (2)

Dantoo (176555) | about a year ago | (#42938935)

"racist, sexist, homophone!"

It's all just personal taste of course, but that's the first thought I had when I saw those new Window's Nokias. ;)

Re:It can't be true! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42940063)

And anyone who suggests otherwise is a racist, sexist, homophone!

Your saying this is bad scions?

Genetic vs. Cultural Diversity (3, Insightful)

Smidge204 (605297) | about a year ago | (#42938869)

It seems to me that genetic diversity and cultural diversity would be related. In other words, cultural isolation and genetic isolation tend to go hand-in-hand.

Therefore, if the argument is that economic development is correlated to genetic diversity, then it is also necessarily correlated to cultural diversity. This now frames the issue in a more intuitive way; The more ideas and ways of looking at the world you bring to the table, the more diverse your solutions and creativity, and the more developed your economy becomes. This seems to be broadly supported by history as well, since the most prosperous trade often occurred when and where cultures mingled freely.

And now that the genetic element has been effectively abated, the controversy evaporates. You're welcome.
=Smidge=

Re:Genetic vs. Cultural Diversity (2)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about a year ago | (#42938945)

The more ideas and ways of looking at the world you bring to the table, the more diverse your solutions and creativity, and the more developed your economy becomes. This seems to be broadly supported by history as well, since the most prosperous trade often occurred when and where cultures mingled freely.

The Middle East and the US Senate/Congress of late would seem to be exceptions...

Re:Genetic vs. Cultural Diversity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42939411)

The middle east proves GPs point. In the middle east you have many people NOT embracing outside ideas. This leads to technological and social stagnation, and senseless wars. US Congress is not really that diverse. Essentially two POV on every issue, all coming from people who are wealthy, and mostly lawyers.

Re:Genetic vs. Cultural Diversity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42939117)

It seems to me that genetic diversity and cultural diversity would be related.

Citation needed.

Re:Genetic vs. Cultural Diversity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42939477)

It seems to me that genetic diversity and cultural diversity would be related.

Citation needed.

Statements of opinion are, by definition, self-citing.

That's Some Nice Armchair "Feels Like It" Science (1)

eldavojohn (898314) | about a year ago | (#42939221)

And now that the genetic element has been effectively abated, the controversy evaporates. You're welcome.

Thanks, but you offered absolutely zero proof or research nor did you even talk about how you verified that "genetic diversity and cultural diversity would be related." Armchair genetics is not progress.

I mean, I can pull explanations out of my ass too: the paper focuses on the distance from the cradle of humanity so while they may be correct in genetic diversity they are actually witnessing the exploitation of resources in new lands as humans traveled further and further. Their "just so" sweet spot of heterozygosity has nothing to do with economic productivity. The economic productivity comes from the untapped resources that the free new land provided the encroaching humans.

And that explanation is about as helpful as yours (hint: not at all).

Re:Genetic vs. Cultural Diversity (1)

m00sh (2538182) | about a year ago | (#42939449)

This seems to be broadly supported by history as well, since the most prosperous trade often occurred when and where cultures mingled freely.

An economist in a talk said that he found that economic power came from the social structure. A social structure that is created to funnel the efforts and innovation of the society to a select few powerful group of people will very quickly stagnate. Good economic development is correlated with societies where these efforts and innovations benefit widely and are distributed.

When cultures mingle, there is a bit of lack of central power in these boundaries. So, maybe this is the cause of good economic development.

Another misleading headline? Perish the thought. (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42938889)

The summary's typical inflammatory crap. THe paper takes an existing economic hypothesis ("Genetic diversity plays a role in economic development, and there is an optimal amount of diversity which has a net positive effect. There are also suboptimal amounts which have negative effects.") and then tries to justify it by pointing out that certain _genetic regions_ of the globe (not geographical, though they tend to fall along those lines) are better off than others.
Most importantly, this study does not correct for external factors, and as is typical for most of the junk that economists push, it assumes that if there's a correlation, that correlation will hold true no matter how many factors are not analyzed in the data. Further, it's a bunch of "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" arguments with some handwaving to hide the stark (and, at least from the references in the paper, unsupported) assumptions they make.

Is it bad science? Sure. But economics isn't a science, and if you disagree, you probably don't have a degree in a hard science.

"The quality of Ashraf and Galor's research notwithstanding, the debate illustrates just how tricky it's become to assert anything which says something about human development was in any way inevitable.""
Let me fix that for you:
"Data be damned. If two people with degrees say it, they must be pioneers of truth hunted by the system, and if you say their argument is weak and laughable, you can't even see how deep your own bias runs!" Thank you, Slashdot. Sometimes I forget that you got bought out by sensationlists.

Distance (1)

schneidafunk (795759) | about a year ago | (#42938901)

It seems their main argument has less to do with genetic diversity and more to do with distance from each other. They claim superior technological advances are a driving factor and I do not see how that relates to genetic diversity.

From Page 3 in here [brown.edu]:

"The beneficial effect of diversity, on the other hand, concerns the positive role of heterogeneity in the expansion of society's production possibility frontier. A wider spectrum of traits is more likely to contain those that are complementary to the advancement and successful implementation of superior technological paradigms. Higher diversity therefore enhances society's capability to integrate advanced and more efficient production methods, expanding the economy's production possibility frontier and conferring the benefits of improved productivity."

Re:Distance (1)

Carewolf (581105) | about a year ago | (#42939035)

Intersting side note. It almost sound like that they think diversity is possitive correlation. We might be reading it backwards, because the genetic diversity among humans is greater in Africa, especially south of Sahara than anywhere else in the world. So are they arguing the diversity is harmful, or are can the authors really be the retarded racists they sound like?

Re:Distance (1)

schneidafunk (795759) | about a year ago | (#42939105)

They are saying there is a middle ground where diversity plays a beneficial role towards economic development. Here is the beginning of the abstract:

Abstract
This research advances and empirically establishes the hypothesis that, in the course of the prehistoric exodus of Homo sapiens out of Africa, variation in migratory distance to various settlements across the globe affected genetic diversity and has had a persistent hump-shaped effect on comparative economic development, reflecting the trade-off between the beneficial and the detrimental effects of diversity on productivity.

The Bell Curve Redux (1)

big_e_1977 (2012512) | about a year ago | (#42938907)

This is the same argument that IQ is tied to race. The IQ to race connection has been debunked as it is largely the availability of resources that effect learning and systemic racial biases in the tests that have been producing the effect. Also the IQ tests have been regularly readjusted as intelligence of the global population has risen to bring the middle of the bell curve back down to 100.

When China overtakes the USA as the world's largest economic power, does that mean that the White man is now the inferior group and Asians are the superior? What would happen if nuclear war breaks out and Africa escapes unscathed? Then they would have a chance of becoming the dominate world power. Economic success is more about about which countries happens to hold most of the world's wealth and resources.

Re:The Bell Curve Redux (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42938973)

But it's not the same argument, in fact you debunk your OWN point. IQ means nothing, it's jsut a stupid number. "Intelligence" means many different things. So, if you debunk the idea of IQ, and say "race is tied to IQ" or even "race is not tied to IQ", by invalidating the idea of IQ you've invalidated any notion tied to IQ.

Just sayin'...

We're Too Close For Objective Research (1)

cmholm (69081) | about a year ago | (#42938929)

A caption from the linked article sums it up: "Opponents of genetic determinism argue that it ignores the effects of colonialism."

Within the US, at least, I believe that the on-going effects of 250 years of slavery, and an added 100 years of systematic segregation, still leave Americans as a group unable to divorce ourselves from their effects when trying to ascertain what - if any - biological basis there may be to the economic performance of southern Africans, and their diaspora in the US. There is such an ingrained belief that it's "their" fault, I don't think researchers are yet to the point to where their research can be trusted.

Re:We're Too Close For Objective Research (1)

countach (534280) | about a year ago | (#42939097)

It is possible that different races have different characteristics because of genes, but I'm pretty skeptical about all such claims. It's really really hard to show such things, and if they can be shown, I really think a study like the one under discussion is not the way to do it.

Guns, Germs, and Steel (2, Interesting)

fermion (181285) | about a year ago | (#42938931)

I am working my way through this book but so far it makes a pretty good case that human development is a combination between genetics and natural resources. For instance, it talks of one genetically identical group, separated over a long period of time to two disimilar environments, and when they met again one slaughtered the other.

He talks of certain events happening repeated in different groups and at different times. For instance, the development of crops and the different rates of adoption of those crops, even by neighbors who can be assumed to genetically similar.

This really has nothing to do with fear, anymore than saying that a light bulb is turned on by a human flipping a switch and not a human praying to a god who then allows the flip to be switched. It has to do with a long line of research that shows simplifying variation amount humans is problematic, and mostly a result of forcing generalities. For instance, asian people are short and thin is a genetic disposition. But when fed an western diet, many become tall and fatter.

We all know that economist are basically are free to say whatever they want, because really, they make no testable conclusions. Cutting income does increase the amount of stuff we can buy, because, really,, how can we say that it is the conclusion that is incorrect and not just that we are too stupid to apply it. OTOH, if a geneticist says something, and it later proved false, the gentisist is not free to go around and say that her failure is caused by the lame media, and not bad science.

Re:Guns, Germs, and Steel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42939243)

Economists are rightly derided in many fields for the sloppiness of their arguments.

Re:Guns, Germs, and Steel (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42939257)

I am working my way through this book but so far it makes a pretty good case that human development is a combination between genetics and natural resources

Diamond stresses all the way through the book that genetics have nothing to do with it.

Hmm. Some thoughts. (3, Insightful)

MrLizard (95131) | about a year ago | (#42938947)

a)If this is the case, then, the most economically successful (based on the premise described in the Slashdot article, I haven't read the paper) would be the Native Americans on the East coast, as they came from Africa, through Asia, across the Bering Strait, and then across what is now the United States, putting them about as far from Africa as you can get. While the American natives had a far more advanced culture than classic stereotypes portray, I'm not sure you could call it more economically advanced than the Europeans had when they landed here, as the Europeans had already invented such advanced economic developments as usury, debtor's prison, embezzling, and insurance fraud. I have not heard of any Native American cultures having developed those vital economic tools prior to contact with Europe, but I will accept I could be wrong.

b)I'm absolutely certain the xenophobic far-right will seize with gleeful delight on a study that says "exogamy, multiculturalism, and mixing of ethnic groups/continual intermarriage is the key to success". (That was sarcasm.)

c)Given that, I'm not sure why the left, which presumably favors multiculturalism, mixing ethnic groups, etc, would OPPOSE a study that says, "Yes, the more genetically diverse your population is, the better off you're going to be."

d)"Argument from consequences" is a severe logical fallacy. If the paper is factually wrong, then, prove it wrong -- but don't say, "This can't be true because it would be BAD if it was true." That's the equivalent of saying, "I know my spouse isn't cheating on me, because I'd be utterly heartbroken if they were. That proves they're not."

Oh, please ignore the above (1)

MrLizard (95131) | about a year ago | (#42938987)

I managed to misread the original summary, which implied generic diversity, in the study, correlated with economic success, rather than the LACK of genetic diversity correlating with economic success.

Which, in turn, implies that the Alabama and other states in the "mah family tree doesn't fork" regions of the US should be the more economically successful. Still doesn't seem right.

Re:Oh, please ignore the above (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42939635)

I managed to misread the original summary, which implied generic diversity, in the study, correlated with economic success, rather than the LACK of genetic diversity correlating with economic success.

Which, in turn, implies that the Alabama and other states in the "mah family tree doesn't fork" regions of the US should be the more economically successful. Still doesn't seem right.

He's saying genetic diversity of a population, defined as a factor of how closely related two people selected at random from that population are likely to be. As in, New York is a very diverse location, with immigrants from all over the world. If you take a similarly populated location, as in Mexico City, which has somewhat lower diversity, you'd expect New York to be more economically successful. Maybe. Because there's a sweet spot in there somewhere.

There are also tons of different variables involved that are *really* hard to control. He's operating on the assumption that if you sample enough locations, then the effects from the other variables will average out. All in all, it's not really strong evidence, but the reaction from everybody else going, "you mentioned genetics in the same paper with the word 'success'! You must burn at the stake!" is really counterproductive. It's certainly worth investigating and seeing if there's still a correlation after sampling and statistical methods are improved.

Re:Oh, please ignore the above (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42939989)

the Alabama and other states in the "mah family tree doesn't fork" regions of the US

Is casual prejudice by an anti-racist ironic or just sad?

Article is Crap, Move Along (2, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | about a year ago | (#42938977)

Wherever determinism appears, controversy attends, raising specters of days when colonialists, eugenicists, public health officials, and political idealists believed they could cure the human condition through manipulation and force.

Well that sounds pretty epic ... also, very confusing. "Cure the human condition"? "Manipulation and force"? What does any of that have to do with this paper? Also, I find it counter-intellectual to take a paper that has been submitted for peer review and renounce it along with colonialists, eugenicists, public health officials and political idealists just because it contains correlated determinism. You're free to attack it based purely on what it says but to say that just because it suggests determinism in humanity's history doesn't mean that they are Nazi scientists and Ku Klux Klan members.

Curiously the article accompanying this paper leaves out a key detail. From the paper:

This study therefore employs cross-country historical data on population density as the dependent variable of interest in the historical analysis and examines the hypothesized eect of human genetic diversity within societies on their population densities in the year 1500 CE.

(emphasis mine) Okay, after reading the article I would have said this study is obviously overlooking the British Empire that came back and started to systematically colonize the world despite it being further from the cradle of civilization than the very people it was colonizing. So 1500 CE was prior to a lot of the counter examples I could think of but I also feel like China and Japan had to be fully operational at these points in time and I wish I could pull up GDP numbers for 1500 but, gosh darn it, they weren't very good at record keeping at this point in time.

I think that if these authors had placed their time frame in pre-Holy Roman Empire or pre-Zoroastrian times they would have met with less kick back from their academic community. Personally, I feel like we as humans by 1500 CE had already transcended the epoch period where our intelligence removed us from the uncaring hand of nature. Granted, that was a long struggle, but I think it's foolish to say that "At not time in humanity's history has our genetic diversity played a role in our survival." We are of the animal kingdom, the mistake this paper made was trying to bring that too close to the present. We had already had inventor-geniuses. History had already shown that technology like the Romans roads could be critical in enforcing dominance on other cultures.

The paper attacks everything from its sources of population data to its methods for measuring genetic diversity, but the economists are standing by their methods.

Welcome to academia. I mean, when it comes to publishing papers on historic events you can't exactly take their experiment and run it 50 times in your own lab to independently verify your results, can you? So I would imagine that economists, social sciences, historical studies and the like are filled with disagreeing camps that can't rectify their differences.

The quality of Ashraf and Galor's research notwithstanding, the debate illustrates just how tricky it's become to assert anything which says something about human development was in any way inevitable.

Or perhaps if you publish something about the past and you make flimsy assumptions, you can almost guarantee your "colleagues" will roast you alive.

Geographer and author Jared Diamond, for example, who wrote Guns, Germs, and Steel, has been branded an environmental determinist who cuts culture and colonialism too much slack with regard to the rise and fall of civilizations—criticism that has been renewed recently with the publication of his new book, The World Until Yesterday.

So you're saying an author is being attacked for his theories not being 100% sound and accounting for all possible cases over the history of human civilization? Stop the presses.

Evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson has come under similarly scathing attack by big name thinkers from Robert Trivers to Richard Dawkins for suggesting that highly social animals from ants to bees (and perhaps humans) may be driven to driven to divide labor and act altruistically--what’s known as eusociality--because of a eusocial gene or set of genes.

Is that because he's trying to make an observation about human determinism or is it because his research is shit? I assume he has conducted experiments with lab mice that lack their eusocial genes? And done tons of comparative societal observations with said mice? Look, if you're the Timecube guy, you can't go around saying random shit and asking why it makes physicists uncomfortable to debate you. If you say "there's a gene that means you're good with money and only the Jews have it" then you had better have some real research to back that up or else people are going to question why you said that.

The debate over whether our genes can determine our future is fierce. But why? Why does the contemporary scientific community posses such a basic discomfort with the idea of determinism wherever they smell it?

I think you're confusing "a basic discomfort with the idea of determinism" and "a desire to know the truth." I think this is a pretty relevant article [guardian.co.uk]. The answer to this article's alleged problem is probably more simple than they make it out to be: The researchers noticed a correlation that carried on for longer than most of their colleagues were comfortable with. When they published it, their colleagues were vocal that the underlying reason is almost certainly not genetics. I mean at some point, you've gotta admit that something like a society with a strong and persistent education system will beat out a society that revolves around the physically strongest winning and leading -- genetics be damned.

Complete and utter dribble (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42938993)

Even 5 minutes of research shows times when massive populations of NON-diverse genetic make-up were the big economic winners on the Earth. Other times, isolated peoples would stagnate, until 'fresh' blood from outsiders reinvigorated their society, creating a new economic power house.

Simplistic conclusions are always drawn by simpletons who select the evidence carefully to support their assertions.

There is only ONE Human race. 'Genetic diversity' is usually a code-word for racist depravities who want to claim that 'whites' for instance, are superior to 'blacks'. Cultural diversity, on the other hand, is clearly a real and significant phenomenon. Your 'culture' has nothing to do with your 'genes' except by accident of birth.

Racist scumbags say that your genetic makeup says the most important things about you as a person. The 'race'-based slavery promoted by the sickos that created the USA followed this pseudo-scientific philosophy. American slavery was based on the principle that it was scientifically inconceivable that a black person could ever be president of the USA. The authors of this article are cut from the same cloth.

The depravities currently patenting the hell out of the Human genome NEED you to believe that your genes matter. They are the current day eugenicists so beloved by Adolf Hitler. Never forget that the eugenic movement that gave birth to forced sterilization, death camps, medical experimentation on Human victims, forced adoption for the children of 'single' mothers, modern forced female circumcision, lobotomies and electro-shock treatment was centred in the USA, and supported by the most powerful American politicians, intellectuals and industrial barons. When Americans could no longer own slaves, they got behind a movement that 'proved' black people were inferior to whites. The scientific community in the USA is sick to the core.

The owners of Slashdot push this story, because powerful eugenicists, like Bill Gates, are funding race-based pseudo-science with more money than ever before. While the scientific mainstream of Europe will continue to deplore such racist garbage as always, US money will seek out powerful racists within Europe in an effort to make their voices louder.

Eugenics was a dead-duck in Europe in the early 20th century, but very powerful and rich American eugenicists backed every racist politician they could find. The result of this was terrifying. While the mainstream European scientific community described race based science as junk, smaller European nations, receiving large sums of money from America, implemented widespread social policies based on eugenics, including forced sterilizations policies that continued into the 1980s. The owners of Slashdot are proudly doing their part to ensure these policies continue.

Off Topic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42939023)

I do have an account here; how do you post without preview?
Thanks,
******* ********

Breeding and genetic variation + environment (2)

erroneus (253617) | about a year ago | (#42939055)

There is no escaping that we, as humans vary widely in terms of potential of all sorts whether it be for learning, violence or what have you. We know we can breed dogs and other animals to have specific behavioral characteristics and abilities. Is it so far fetched that humans, also being animals, would demonstrate the same variances and potentials based on breeding? But breeding is just the basis. Since we as humans have an amazing ability to teach and learn, additional variabces exist based on how much a community of humans values certain behaviors whether it is physical strength and violence (sports?) or more passive advancements (academics, getting good jobs?) or even merely physical appearance (models, entertainment?).

It is both. It has always been both and until humans evolve into more purely intellectual creatures, it will always be both. And we *ARE* the living planet of the apes. The gorillas are more suited to certain roles while the chimps are more suited to others. And the damned orangutans are ruling everything.

As it should be. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42939109)

"the debate illustrates just how tricky it's become to assert anything which says something about human development was in any way inevitable."

Asserting inevitability about the course of human development should, in fact, be tricky. It's plainly a tricky thing to do. There's no reason it shouldn't receive higher levels of scrutiny and skepticism.

A few, among many, reasons why this is so: Reading actual history makes it difficult to believe that history's outcomes were inevitable. Speculations about history invite all manner of foolish prejudices - not just big, racial or gendered ones, but a million tiny ones about what individual bits of information mean. Relatedly, history isn't 'measurable' in the easy ways that most things geneticists study are. The methodologies for studying it aren't there, or close to there - neither in disciplines like history and economics, nor in disciplines like genetics, where our measurements of things like 'diversity' are still pretty basic! These are all ways in which saying "Western Europe did awesome at economics because it had the right amount of genetic diversity" is radically different and much more tricky, as a scientific claim, from saying "Western Europeans don't seem to get sickle-cell anemia much because of a genetic thing."

Further, claims about history, race, gender, genetic determinism and the like attract enormously more kooks and bad science than do claims about the inheritability of sickle cell anemia, for obvious reasons. There's no reason you shouldn't turn your kook-meter on when you're objectively far more likely to encounter nonsense. This study sounds, near as I can tell from looking at it, like taking an existing curve (some places are richer than others) and fitting some terribly mushy data to it, then deciding they match. It's awfully easy to think of reasons it could be wrong. I can't even figure how it's supposed to make any sense, since we're working from an 'expected genetic diversity' that doesn't match the actual genetic diversity in question in the places studied in the relevant time periods. Europe is richer now because they had the right amount of genetic diversity in 8,000 BC or so? really?

To put it another way, the article seems to think scientist think determinism is bad, or something, because really really lousy science that has deterministic implications gets criticized loudly. But that's very much what should happen. Thinking that's evidence for what scientists think about determinism generally is... bad science.

To put it a third way, as someone's said elsewhere on the web: http://xkcd.com/882/.

Poor development of Native American populations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42939175)

The original paper reads as a bad example of mistaking correlation with causation.

If "While the low degree of diversity among Native American populations and the high degree of diversity among African populations have been a detrimental force in the development of these regions", then why did Tenochtitlan have a population of around 200,000 in 1519 (http://www.tenochtitlanfacts.com/), between twice to four times the size of London at the time (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_London#Population)?

Enviornment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42939357)

I have a similar theory -- that those further away from the equator progressed technologically at a faster rate out of the necessities of dealing with their cold environments. Progress isn't necessarily born out of necessity, but necessity surely accelerates it. A similar phenomena can be observed regarding war -- wars tend to accelerate technological progress. When one's life is at stake, new motivations arise.

I recently had a discussion with someone from Florida about this. He mentioned how here in the midwest our destitute were much better off than the Floridian destitute, how we seemed to have far less homeless. My response was a version of the aforementioned theory: People around here have no choice but to have some essentials taken care of by the time winter hits or they'll freeze. That's not to say there are no homeless and no one's poverty stricken, it's just that there are extra motivating factors that drive people to avoid being bums. Most of our homeless suffer from schizophrenia -- anyone with a half ounce of sense will find some way to be sheltered during the winter, whether it be staying with friends/relatives, gaming the government entitlement systems, or just removing themselves from society by committing a crime (a lot of people go to jail on purpose in the winter time). Or they just find some way to get to Venice Beach where they love the homeless. [youtube.com]

The difference between my theory and the one postulated by this article is that I don't claim to have any scientific veracity behind mine. Also, mine is a more plausible explanation for the same observed phenomenon.

Therefore (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year ago | (#42939359)

In conclusion one could say that the Inuit and other northern indigineous people of the Americas had the greatest and most diverse economies, being about as far away from Africa as you can get.

Eric Raymond (3, Interesting)

Jodka (520060) | about a year ago | (#42939587)

Open source advocate Eric Raymond [wikipedia.org], author of The Cathedral and the Bazaar [amazon.com] and The Art of Unix Programming [amazon.com] has entered the Nature-Nurture debate, stating here: [ibiblio.org]

And the part that, if you are a decent human being and not a racist
bigot, you have been dreading: American blacks average a standard
deviation lower in IQ than American whites at about 85. And
it gets worse: the average IQ of African blacks is lower
still, not far above what is considered the threshold of mental
retardation in the U.S. And yes, it’s genetic; g seems to be about
85% heritable, and recent studies of effects like regression towards
the mean suggest strongly that most of the heritability is DNA rather
than nurturance effects.

For anyone who believe that racial equality is an important goal,
this is absolutely horrible news. Which is why a lot of
well-intentioned people refuse to look at these facts, and will
attempt to shout down anyone who speaks them in public. There have
been several occasions on which leading psychometricians have had
their books canceled or withdrawn by publishers who found the actual
scientific evidence about IQ so appalling that they refused to print
it.

Unfortunately, denial of the facts doesn’t make them go away.

Common sense (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#42939607)

The answer is right there, it' just a bunch of scientist fighting with muddled words about who did what when. It's both, how can it not be? You are the sum of your creation and experiences, nothing more, nothing less. Sure people are born a certain way, with certain perks and downsides, at a certain time, and to certain people, but what that person does past that is their choice and their responsibility. There's going to be a million choices and factors to take into account, but ultimately it's that individual making the choices. You can argue something like being born into slavery, but that's us creating our own pot of shit, that person had choices and now they're limited due to one of those million factors, and still at some point some time somebody chose to rise above it, that's nurture, the enslaved got fed up with slavery and did something about it.

Make your own economic theories! (2)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year ago | (#42939617)

You too can use the rigorous methods of this paper to prove your own theories explaining why European culture is the best!

Ingredients:
(A) a measure of economic/social/cultural development that puts Europe on top, 1500-2013CE (plenty to choose from; Europe was really good at conquering/enslaving/looting over this period)
(B) a second characteristic correlated with "Europeanism" (in the paper's case, genetic diversity based on migratory distance from Africa --- pick another to support your own pet theory).

Method:
Plot (A) vs. (B). Note the graph peaks around the maximally-European value of (B).
Conclude that having just the right value for (B) was a cause for Europe's maximal (A).

Yay! Now you too can "prove" why nice-sounding attributes (like "optimal genetic diversity for cultural cooperation") put Europe (deservingly!) on top, instead of bothering with the distasteful details of actual history (genocide, colonialism, neo-colonism, ...).

A 'Law' of Social Science (1)

mothlos (832302) | about a year ago | (#42940007)

This is an example of social scientists challenging a 'law' of the social sciences, namely that there is no genetic reason why almost any reasonably large population of people should perform significantly better or worse than any other and any discrepency should be attributed to other socio-environmental factors.

Compare, for a moment, to the 'laws' of the physical sciences. These aren't necessarily completely accurate descriptions of the universe, but they are persistently true despite numerous challenges and the scientific community has essentially decided that they will disregard all but the most compelling challenges and that people who try to advance uncompelling challenges regarding these topics had better be prepared to be publicly shamed for it. If you look at the example of the CERN faster-than-light neutrino results where the team responsible essentially said that they got a strange result, please help them figure out how their instruments are malfunctioning, we still ended up with denunciations from all corners of the physics community.

Even though social scientists work in a field where it is difficult to be anywhere near as certain as physicists and thus they tend to shy away from the term 'law', but this is a law which is quite defensible. The history of challenges to this assertion is long and storied with very little utility arising from it; every claim of the genetic superiority of some populations over others in social matters has been handily discredited as not able to isolate genetic and social factors. When researchers try to isolate social factors, they are unable to identify genetic signals on the population level greater than the (admittedly strong) statistical noise. Compare that to the history of social engineering which uses bad research in this area to claim legitimacy and the atrocities they cause, and we have an example of a very poor risk/reward ratio. It is only fitting that social scientists should demand that people making these sorts of claims show due reverance to the political implications of their statements and back their assertions with highly compelling evidence. As many of the other comments to this article note, not only is this evidence not 'highly compelling', it is downright poor work and by this measure deserves the shaming it is receiving.

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