Snooki and her ex-boyfriend were mocked for their height


Of course nowhere in the study do the scientists use the term “genetically inferior” but here’s what they actually say:

By studying height, a classic polygenic trait, we demonstrate the first human signature of widespread selection on standing variation. We show that frequencies of alleles associated with increased height, both at known loci and genome wide, are systematically elevated in Northern Europeans compared with Southern Europeans (P < 4.3 × 10−4). This pattern mirrors intra-European height differences and is not confounded by ancestry or other ascertainment biases. The systematic frequency differences are consistent with the presence of widespread weak selection (selection coefficients ~10−3–10−5 per allele) rather than genetic drift alone (P < 10−15).

Now you might say genetically short is different from genetically inferior, but when Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein said blacks might average genetically low IQs, here’s the reaction:

  • Paul Krugman of The New York Times wrote “…Charles Murray, most famous for arguing that blacks are genetically inferior to whites.”
  • Scholar Shirley Steinberg said “As educators, we cannot imagine a stronger disincentive to our non-White students than to be told that they are genetically inferior to Whites and there is nothing they can do about it.”

Some might say that genetically low IQ implies genetic inferiority because intelligence is such a valued trait.  But height’s an extremely valued trait too.   We metaphorically “look up” to people we admire and “look down” on those we disdain.  “Standing tall” is a metaphor for dignity.  Tall men earn more money, attract more mates, and are far more valued by sperm banks, so if calling blacks “genetically low IQ” is “racist” because it implies “genetic inferiority”, then calling Southern Europeans “genetically short” is racist too.  Indeed I suspect most men would rather boost their height by a couple inches than boost their IQ by 10 points.

More interesting from a scientific perspective is this comment from Steve Hsu:

 If the results on selection hold up this will be clear evidence for differential selection between groups of a quantitative trait (as opposed to lactose or altitude tolerance, which are controlled by small sets of loci). We may soon be able to conclude that there has been enough evolutionary time for selection to work within European populations on a trait that is controlled by hundreds (probably thousands) of loci.

Hsu hits the nail on the head because one of the arguments by HBD skeptics like our very own Afrosapiens is that populations differ primarily on genetically simple traits like skin colour, yet here we have groups as closely related as Northern and Southern Europeans showing genetic differences on a trait influenced by an estimated 10,000 SNPs.

Hsu quotes a blog called Genetic Inference stating:

 Europeans differ systematically in their height, and these differences correlate with latitude. The average Italian is 171cm, whereas the average Swede is a full 4cm taller. Are these differences genetic? Have they been under evolutionary selection in recent human history?

It’s worth noting that a within sex difference of 4 cm equates to about 0.76 standard deviations within developed countries.  An IQ difference of 0.76 SD equals 11 IQ points.  If a 0.76 SD difference between groups as genetically similar as Italians and Swedes might be mostly genetic for a complex trait like height, then how big of a genetic IQ gap might we expect for far more genetically distant human groups?


J.P. Rushton, on group differences