At IOZ I left a comment that many of the folks who come there for laughs (or venting) won’t give a shit about. I suppose it might fit better here, although it might strike readers as banal.

Professor Coldheart, a great deal of academia consists of publishing things of no relevance to anything at all and whose only possible justification (other than it’s a job and we’ve got to publish something) is functionalism-free love of truth. And “truth” is stretching it with theory papers that merely find implications of premises that have nothing to do with the actual world. What distinguishes them from “HBD” is that they don’t have a similar body of criticism. Both “HBD” and Pinker’s theories on violence, along with many other ideas that for our purposes we can categorize under “social science” have real implications beyond “so what”. Human minds specialize in thinking about other humans, you don’t have to be that big a nerd (relative to math theorists) to find the topics interesting. If you don’t need that extra bit to make topics interesting, you can read Terence Tao’s blog.

Example implications are whether the recent decline in violence should be regarded as a fluke (as Pinker suggests for the 60s upsurge) and predicted to revert to the mean or whether we should expect it to continue. And since he has ideas on what causes changes in the violence level that has implications for how we might act to lower it. Or increase it, if that’s your bag.

There was initially hope that genetic research would find genes for certain desired traits (finding deleterious mutations is easier, though if you’re a deaf parent who wants a deaf kid it’s another story). We’ve made a lot of progress in certain superficial traits, but those aren’t the contentious bits of hereditarianism. First height had a GWAS showing it to be significantly heritable (as twin-adoption studies predicted) and massively polygenic, Deary has recently found the same for IQ, I expect researchers will start doing the same for personality and we’ll see how that turns out. That polygenism makes it difficult to actually identify the genes, but not impossible. Thanks to Moore’s Law computational genetics has advanced dramatically in recent years. I expect “designer babies” to take off not too far into my lifetime, starting with the traits closest to the simple Mendelian model and advancing toward the extremely polygenic in the more distant future. In the shorter term, more accurate measurements of relevant factors like genetics will help us to find where “environmental” interventions are most effective, perhaps even beginning to tailor them for more specific genotypes (as is a current goal in medicine). And since a huge factor escaping conventional “nature” vs “nurture” breakdowns is unpredictable “noise“, I’ll add that it’s not going to remain dark matter.

I haven’t said anything here about whether “race” is a scientifically valid concept. I hope that’s not the end-all-be-all of “HBD”, it’s less interesting than the broader scientific revolution happening under our noses. But there are already officially designated racial groups and race is a politicized topic. If that hadn’t been the case, a lot of this would be a lot simpler. But eventually science will reach the point where we’ll feel awfully stupid about the energy wasted in arguments under a condition of ignorance.

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