I Will Now be Blogging at The Unz Review

Tomorrow the Russian Reaction blog at http://www.unz.com/akarlin/ will go live, so please reorient your bookmarks and feed subscriptions.


The Unz Review is a webzine dedicated to publishing “interesting, important, and controversial perspectives that are largely excluded from the American mainstream media.” You may know Ron Unz, its owner and chief editor, from my old discussions with him at this blog about the evolution of Chinese IQ, as well as from his many other journalistic and political activities. I am honored to join Steve Sailer and Razib Khan as The Unz Review’s third permanent blogger.

I will continue to enjoy editorial freedom, and posting will be more regular than even during the heydays of my independent blogging. As before, I will be writing about:

  • HBD & Psychometrics
  • Russia and the Ukrainian Conflict
  • Geopolitics/world affairs
  • Futurism and transhumanism
  • Ancestral health, paleo, nootropics
  • Gamergate/SJWs/the culture war
  • Book reviews
  • Various other odds and ends

My original plan after closing down Da Russophile had been to move all my blogging to a single platform at this blog. I got the email from Ron in the midst of cleaning it up and preparing it for a relaunch, making the exercise redundant. Since running two blogs on the same themes is unrealistic not to say pointless, this site will function only as an archive and a platform for important announcements, at least so long as I remain at The Unz Review.

Otherwise, you can also follow my work at:

  • @akarlin88 on Twitter.
  • Subscribe to me on Facebook (nothing personal… but please don’t Friend me unless I know you).
  • Subscribe to my YouTube channel (currently empty, but I finally have a video camera and plan to experiment with it as soon as I manage to figure out video editing).
  • Da Russophile will remain as an archive for my old (pre-2015) Russia-related work.
  • I might also get a column at RIA’s successor news agency, Sputnik News. Will update when/if that happens.

apollos-ascentFinally, I will also keep you posted here on my progress on a new book I’m writing, tentatively titled APOLLO’S ASCENT, about the role of intelligence in world history. Below is the basic thesis, as I’ve been describing it to my friends (while the “core” is about Western Europe vs. China, it will of course also extensively touch on other civilizations such as the Muslim world, India, Japan, and Russia). It is, I think, a somewhat new perspective in the “big history” literature, but requires quite a lot of research and statistics gathering to convincingly argue it.

My basic thesis is that the rate of technological progress, as well as its geographical pattern, is highly dependent on the absolute numbers of literate high IQ people. While medieval European literacy lagged China’s, the advanced areas of Europe had caught up by the 15th century, and were definitely well well ahead by the 17th (van Zanden). Now, IQ is a bigger puzzle, since the Chinese and other East Asians, if anything, score higher than Caucasians on IQ tests. However! There are four points to be made:

1) East Asians’ IQ is heavily weighted towards the visuo-spatial, whereas their verbal and logical IQ’s are almost indistinguishable from those of Germanics. (This is according to the PISA tests). Furthermore, a crucial point is that verbal IQ appears to be the most closely correlated with economic success (various studies).
2) Malnutrition is a major depressant on IQ. And there is evidence that the quality of East Asian diets was far lower than that of Europeans since at least the Black Death, e.g. almost all carbohydrates, very little meat. This is supported by historical height, skeletal evidence.
3) So is consanguineous marriage (inbreeding), which was firmly stamped out within the Hajnal Line thanks to the Church but not anywhere else. It’s an established fact that cousin marriage depresses IQ. There is also a good case to be made that it has some other “bad” effects, such as fostering clannishness. It is particularly endemic in the Muslim world, which surely explains their low national IQs, but was also quite prevalent in pre-Communist China if in less debilitating forms.
4) This is far shakier ground, but I’m also going to make the argument that the Chinese script (hieroglyphic-based) was far more maladapted for technological/commercial innovation than alphabetic systems.

So, my argument goes, there were in reality fewer high IQ (“smart fraction”) people in medieval China than Europe – especially in the critical verbal/logical component. And following the Reformation, which had the effect of massively expanding literacy across northern and western Europe, Europe pulled ahead decisively in that department too. And with that Europe attained the intellectual critical mass that eventually allowed it to carry out the industrial revolution.

Naturally, I will be throwing out various ideas and theories connected with this in the course of my subsequent blogging. See you over at The Unz Review!

The Farewell To Alms Theory – Older Than We Think

I am currently (re)reading The National System of Political Economy by Friedrich List (published in 1841), and this jumped out at me:

In no European kingdom is the institution of an aristocracy more judiciously designed than in England for securing to the nobility, in their relation to the Crown and the commonalty, individual independence, dignity, and stability; to give them a Parliamentary training and position; to direct their energies to patriotic and national aims; to induce them to attract to their own body the élite of the commonalty, to include in their ranks every commoner who earns distinction, whether by mental gifts, exceptional wealth, or great achievements; and, on the other hand, to cast back again amongst the commons the surplus progeny of aristocratic descent, thus leading to the amalgamation of the nobility and the commonalty in future generations. By this process the nobility is ever receiving from the Commons fresh accessions of civic and patriotic energy, of science, learning, intellectual and material resources, while it is ever restoring to the people a portion of the culture and of the spirit of independence peculiarly its own, leaving its own children to trust to their own resources, and supplying the commonalty with incentives to renewed exertion. In the case of the English lord, however large may be the number of his descendants, only one can hold the title at a time. The other members of the family are commoners, who gain a livelihood either in one of the learned professions, or in the Civil Service, in commerce, industry, or agriculture. The story goes that some time ago one of the first dukes in England conceived the idea of inviting all the blood relations of his house to a banquet, but he was fain to abandon the design because their name was legion, notwithstanding that the family pedigree had not reached farther back than for a few centuries. It would require a whole volume to show the effect of this institution upon the spirit of enterprise, the colonisation, the might and the liberties, and especially upon the forces of production of this nation.

So perhaps Gregory Clark wasn’t quite as original as many make him out to be.

PS. I myself am quite skeptical about the theory. As Ron Unz summarized it, “And I agree that Clark’s evolutionary model for England suffers from similar problems, namely that he’s produced an interesting theory explaining why the English are smarter and longer-time oriented than all the other Europeans. Except they aren’t.”

Flynn Effect DOES Apply To South Korea

Regular readers of this blog may remember my comments regarding Ron Unz’s theory that East Asians have high IQ’s independent of time/nutrition/urbanization whatever it is that causes the Flynn Effect. Here is his original article on his theory of the “East Asian Exception” and my two responses are here and here.

Anyway a new paper (well, July 2012) I think finally puts this theory to rest: The Flynn effect in Korea: large gains by Jan te Nijenhuis et al. Here is the abstract:

Secular gains in IQ test scores have been reported for many Western countries. This is the first study of secular IQ gains in South Korea, using various datasets. The first question is what the size of the Flynn effect in South Korea is. The gains per decade are 7.7 points for persons born between 1970 and 1990. These gains on broad intelligence batteries are much larger than the gains in Western countries of about 3 IQ points per decade. The second question is whether the Korean IQ gains are comparable to the Japanese IQ gains with a lag of a few decades. The gains in Japan of 7.7 IQ points per decade for those born approximately 1940 1965 are identical to the gains per decade for Koreans born 1970 1990. The third question is whether the Korean gains in height and education lag a few decades behind the Japanese gains. The Koreans reach the educational levels the Japanese reached 25 30 years before, and the gains in height for Koreans born 1970 1990 are very similar to gains in height for Japanese born 1940 1960, so three decades earlier. These findings combined strongly support the hypothesis of similar developmental patterns in the two countries.

So, similar processes (height is of course strongly associated with nutritional quality) leading to the same pattern of steady IQ gains that have been observed for all Western societies.

Incidentally, back during my discussion with Unz, I wrote: “Anyhow, I wish we could do tests on North Koreans. Their meat consumption is at less than 10kg a year and they have periodic famines. They are also directly comparable to South Koreans. They would conclusively prove your theory right or wrong!” The study authors concur on the benefits of testing the Norks:

Theoretically, it would be very interesting to do a study of secular score gains in IQ in North Korea. It appears that height has not increased in North Korea since the end of the Korean war. However, it may be that the quality and number of years of education has improved. This experiment of nature could throw some light on the question to what degree nutrition/hygiene and education influence score gains.

New Delhi Cuts Ties With PISA

India backs out of global education test for 15-year-olds.

Indians were put to test for the first time in the last assessment in 2009. On the global stage, they stood second last among 73 countries, only beating Kyrgyzstan on reading, math and science abilities… This time around, sources said India shied away from the assessment as government officials felt our children were not prepared for such a test.

“India didn’t sign up for the PISA 2012 assessment because when countries were asked to sign up for that assessment, India had only signed up for the PISA 2009 assessment, which it carried out with a year later delay in 2010,” said Juliet Evans, who handles communication and administration for the PISA Secretariat. Unlike India, several other countries like Costa Rica, Malaysia, Georgia and the UAE who had carried out the PISA evaluation in 2010 did sign up for the upcoming assessment.

Which of these Soviet leaders does this remind you of?

Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev are all travelling together in a railway carriage. Unexpectedly the train stops. Lenin suggests: “Perhaps, we should call a subbotnik, so that workers and peasants fix the problem.” Stalin puts his head out of the window and shouts, “If the train does not start moving, the driver will be shot!” But the train doesn’t start moving. Khrushchev then shouts, “Let’s take the rails behind the train and use them to construct the tracks in the front”. But it still doesn’t move. Brezhnev then says, “Comrades, Comrades, let’s draw the curtains, turn on the gramophone and pretend we’re moving!”

Anyhow, most countries will continue participating, including some new ones. I am especially looking forwards to seeing how Vietnam performs. It is about ten years behind China, and its genetic IQ level is probably about 5 points lower than China’s. As such, if its IQ comes out to be appreciable lower than 95 (my own estimate is 90-92) then it would be a further blow against Ron Unz’s theory of the East Asian Exception (to the Flynn Effect).

The Evolution Of Chinese IQ

In the discussion at the previous post, in which I took exception to Ron Unz’s theory of the East Asian Exception, he alerted me to so additional work on the matter he’d done as a Harvard freshman on Chinese IQ. You can read his summary of Social Darwinism and Rural China as well as Steve Sailer’s commentary on it.

Ron Unz’s Theory of Social Darwinism in Rural China

According to Ron Unz, Chinese peasants lived close to their Malthusian limits for millennia on end. That is correct. Furthermore, Chinese rural life was “remarkably sophisticated in its financial and business arrangements”, far more so even than in England. I do not have the comparative knowledge to offer informed commentary on this, though I would stop to note that such a system may not have been so much a generator of “selective pressure for those able to prosper” under complexity as a reflection of already high IQ’s. After all on most social, economic, and technological metrics China was far ahead of Europe until the 18th century or so (though there were important exceptions). Furthermore, “virtually all Chinese were on an equal legal footing”, with far fewer of the feudalistic or caste distinctions that proliferate in India and pre-Enlightenment Europe. This is also correct.

This environment included a number of mechanisms that promoted a highly eugenic development path for the Chinese population. Ron Unz says that only the relative affluent could afford their wives for their children. This is not quite correct, or should I say permanently correct, as this issue only heavily manifested itself during times of Malthusian stress, when families opted to kill baby daughters resulting in skewed sex ratios. Otherwise, we should note that Europeans within the Hajnal Line married late and that the poor sometimes didn’t marry at all, so this particular eugenic effect was if anything stronger in Europe.

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Disagree With Ron Unz’s Conclusions On Chinese IQ

He writes:

These scores are indeed truly remarkable, and completely confirm the apparent pattern of Lynn’s IQ samples, in which desperately poor East Asians tend to score at or above the levels of the most successful and well-educated Western populations… But since the total population is at least well into the hundreds of millions, heavily rural as well as urban, the average PISA score of 520—corresponding to an IQ of 103—cannot be too dissimilar from the overall Chinese figure. And with China’s per capita GDP still only $3,700 and well over half the population still living in rural villages when the tests were conducted, these are absolutely astonishing results… Although opinions may certainly differ, I regard this new evidence as very strong support for my “East Asian Exception” hypothesis.

China isn’t anywhere near as backward as he portrays it.

(1) The urban-rural ratio was essentially 50/50 according to the 2010 Census. Furthermore, rural Chinese don’t really suffer from the absolute destitution common to peasants in Third World countries. They own their own land and it is almost impossible for them to lose it. Malnutrition is now close to non-existent. Slums are now very rare. According to a Gallup poll, Chinese now actually struggle less than Americans to buy food.

(2) Total Chinese meat consumption overtook US meat consumption in 1990, signifying a nutritionally adequate figure (as Americans eat a lot of and perhaps a bit too much meat anyway). Today Chinese meat consumption is half the US level. The PISA 2009 cohort would have been born in 1993, when Chinese nutrition had already essentially converged with the First World.

(3) He uses nominal GDP per capita which is quite meaningless. The PPP level of Chinese GDP per capita is $8,400 and that figure is probably underestimated.

Basically, if we adjust for the fact that in terms of basics (food, education, housing) China is now essentially equivalent to developed countries, it would make sense that its average IQ level is now only about 5 points from its potential maximum.

But really my fundamental problem with the “East Asia Exception” hypothesis is the huge paradox it exposes: Why was it Europe, and not China, that first underwent the Industrial Revolution? And the (initially unrelated) Scientific Revolution, for that matter? If as Ron Unz says the Flynn Effect barely applies to East Asian populations, then what you’d have had five centuries ago is 100mn Chinese, 20% of them urban – with an average IQ of maybe 95; and 100mn Europeans, only 5% of them urban – with an average IQ of 75. Sure Europe had various advantages (as chronicled by Jared Diamond, Kenneth Pomeranz, etc) but surely it couldn’t have trumped the effects of a 1 S.D. IQ advantage? That is why I believe the East Asia Exception to be historically implausible.