Science should be as simple as possible, but no simpler – Albert Einstein
Einstein may not have said those exact words, but the quote has been credited to him, and what an important quote it is. In looking at racial differences in IQ, or any other topic, we must always seek the simplest most elegant explanation that can explain as much of the data as possible. To reduce the complexity of life to a simple formula is a triumph of science.
In his controversial 2006 book Race Differences in Intelligence, Richard Lynn argued that racial differences in IQ had a major genetic component and that it had two major causes: (1) some races evolved in colder climates and thus faced more selection for IQ, and (2) some races had larger ancestral populations, and thus more genetic mutations to select from.
This was a great hypothesis but had a few flaws. The first (as commenter MeLo is quick to point out) is that Neanderthals also evolved in a cold climate and most scientists think they were less intelligent than modern humans who evolved in Africa (though Neanderthals may have had tiny populations). Second, Ashkenazi Jews have arguably the highest IQs of any “race”, but they not only have roots in the warm middle east, but also had small populations.
In order to get beyond such anomalies, I propose an alternative grand theory for explaining the worldwide pattern of racially genetic IQ differences, also based on just two simple variables: 1) splitting off dates, and 2) neighboring dark caucasoids
Splitting off dates
In 1989, scholar J.P. Rushton (who only studied the three major races (Negroids, Caucasoids, and Mongoloids) noted that racial differences in IQ and other higher traits seemed to correlate with the time period when each of the races branched off the main trunk of the human evolutionary tree. “One theoretical possibility,” said Rushton, “is that evolution is progressive and some populations are more advanced than others”.
As science writer Perter Knudtson noted, such thinking flies in the face of the mainstream scientific consensus that all extant life forms are equivalent cases of time tested evolutionary success. Nonetheless modern humans clearly colonized different regions of the World at different times, and for whatever reason, the legacy of these ancient migration lives on in the IQ scores of current populations.
It seems that for whatever reason, races that evolved in regions that were colonized late in Earth’s history, have higher IQs than races that evolved in regions that were colonized early.
And indeed this is a pattern we see over and over again in Earth’s history. Animals lived in the ocean before they colonized land, and even after billions of years of evolution, land animals are more encephalized and intelligent than marine life on average (with notable exceptions such as dolphins, who were land mammals before returning to the ancestral ocean). Primates lived in trees before they lived on land, and those who are confined to the trees, never made the leap to human intelligence.
Similarly with human races: we lived in the tropics first but advanced technology didn’t appear until we migrated North, and Ashkenazi Jewish intelligence didn’t evolve until well after civilization and the emergence of advanced economies.
Intelligence is uniquely characterized by an ability to adapt to new challenges and solve novel problems, so perhaps leaving the ancestral environment stimulates brain evolution.
Neighboring dark Caucasoids
Over and over again in human genetic and cultural evolution, the Middle East has played a central role. It was the place where humans first lived once they first left Africa. It was the place where interbreeding with Neanderthals primarily occurred. It was the place where agriculture was first invented and the place of the first civilization. It was the place where the Prophet Muhammad and Jesus of Nazareth became two of the most influential humans of all time, the place where the World’s currently richest and most influential race (Ashkenazi Jews) originated and it’s the place that even today, dominates Worldwide headlines concerning everything from the death of Bin Laden to the war in Iraq to the Israeli-Palestinian peace feud.
Even more fascinating: I have found that human races that do not border the dark Caucasoids, who evolved in the Middle East and expanded to South Asia and Northern Africa, score significantly lower on IQ tests than races who do (on average). One possibility is that because the Middle East is so centralized in location, that it has long been a place to exchange genes among humans of all backgrounds, so those races that didn’t neighbour a dark Caucasoid population did not benefit from new genetic mutations and evolution stimulating innovations that went with them.
A simple formula
With the help of the above map, I tried to very crudely estimate the splitting off dates of various races, as well as determine whether their ancestral populations neighbored dark Caucasoids. In a previous article, I had crudely estimated the genetic IQ of each race, but these numbers are extremely rough and could contain large errors because of sampling problems, cultural biases, and a lack of systematic data selection. All the numbers are summarized below:
|race||splitting off date (years before present)||neighboring dark caucasoids
yes = 1 no = 0
|estimated genetic iq|
From this data I was able to create a simple formula for estimating the genetic IQ of a people:
Genetic IQ = 89.8266 – 0.000103591 (splitting off date) + 16.4043 (neighbouring dark Caucasoid)
This formula does a good job predicting the genetic IQs of each of the 11 human races, but that’s hardly surprising since that data was used to construct the formula. The real test will be whether it can predict the genetic IQ of a population not used to make the formula.
Predicting Neanderthal IQ
One such population are the Neanderthals. They colonized Europe about 300,000 years ago, so I’ll use that as their splitting off date. While evolving they had no contact with dark Caucasoids who didn’t exist yet. Thus applying the formula:
Genetic IQ = 89.8266 – 0.000103591 (300,000) + 16.4043 (0)
Genetic IQ = 58
Such a low IQ might be true because as scientist Steve Hsu has hinted, despite existing for nearly 100,000 years longer than modern humans, they never invented the bow and arrow, never created figurative art, never discovered agriculture, never developed civilization, and never went to the moon. On the other hand, using a within species formula to predict between species differences is extremely risky for several reasons, not least of which is Gould’s punctuated equilibrium.