Thursday, June 10, 2010

Fjordman: Cold Climate = High Intelligence

A new essay by Fj. He says:

This was published at the website Honest Thinking, which is run by the Norwegian writer Ole Jørgen Anfindsen.

He recently published the book Selvmordsparadigmet (“The Suicide Paradigm”), to which I contributed a chapter. The book is excellent, but its primary emphasis is on biology and Western censorship, not Islam

The Neanderthals and the Evolution of High IQ

I am personally convinced that Michael H. Hart’s book Understanding Human History will be remembered as an important work in the emerging field of biohistory.

As I have argued before, I agree with its basic premise that genetic intelligence measured in average IQ tends to rise the further north you get. However, it is strange that the Neanderthals were displaced by more recent African immigrants even though it has now been proven that the newcomers interbred with them. This seemingly contradicts the cold climate theory for the evolution of high intelligence.

We don’t yet know why Homo sapiens sapiens displaced the Neanderthals in northwest Eurasia, where the latter had managed to survive in a challenging climate for tens of thousands of years and had evolved brains that rivaled our own in size:
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  • One possibility is that anatomically modern humans carried a parasite that was relatively harmless to them but dangerous to Neanderthals.

  • Another possibility is that modern humans, who were physically lighter than Neanderthals, consumed less energy while hunting similar prey.

  • A popular, though unproven, hypothesis is that modern humans carried mutations that gave them an edge in social and verbal communications.

Whatever the cause, we did replace them so we must have enjoyed some crucial advantage over them. What we know indicates that Neanderthals were never very numerous and had a rather low population density.

In their fine book The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution, authors Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending suggest that a larger population mass and growing population density in itself became a major factor in human evolution by greatly increasing the total number of potential mutations:

“Human numbers had already been on the increase since the advent of behavioral modernity, partly as the result of migration into the far northern regions of Asia, over the sea into Australia, and across a land bridge into the Americas - all places that archaic humans had been unable to settle - and partly because of improvements in food production technology (such as nets and bows). An educated guess puts the total population of the world 100,000 years ago at half a million, counting both anatomically modern humans in Africa and archaic humans (Neanderthals and evolved erectus) in Eurasia. By the end of the Ice Age some 12,000 years ago, there may have been as many as 6 million modern humans - still hunter-gatherers, but far more sophisticated and effective hunter-gatherers than ever before. Farming, which produces 10 to 100 times more calories per acre than foraging, carried this trend further. Over the period from 10,000 BC to AD 1, the world population increased approximately a hundredfold (estimates range from 40 to 170 times). That growth in itself transformed society - sometimes, quantity has a quality all its own.”

My personal opinion is that the correlation between cold climates and high average IQ is so strong that it is unlikely to be coincidental.

Yet there are a few exceptions to this general rule, for example with the Eskimos/Inuits in Arctic North America, who have a lower average IQ than northeast Asians and northern Europeans. One could potentially explain this by saying that America was the last major landmass to be settled by humans and that evolutionary pressures consequently had less time to work there.

That still leaves the case of the Sami peoples, or Lapps, who live with their reindeer in Lapland in northern Scandinavia, about as far north as you can get in the European mainland. While there is admittedly a lack of data here I haven’t seen any convincing evidence or indications that they have a higher mean IQ than the Dutch or the Germans, who live much further south.

As a matter of fact, the statistics I have seen indicate that the highest mean IQ among European populations is found in north-central Europe, for instance among the Dutch and the Germans and southern Scandinavians.

If we postulate that (1) cold winters triggered evolutionary pressures for high IQ, but (2) this effect could be modified by population density and population mass, we can solve this riddle. The most favorable combination would then be a place with cold winters, but at the same time good enough natural conditions to make possible a relatively large population…

To read the rest of Fjordman’s essay, go to Honest Thinking, here. You can start the rest of his essay at the paragraph which begins provocatively with “This leaves the case of the Ashkenazi Jews…” and ends at Fjordman’s observation on what is likely to happen to our DNA in the future.

Implicit in his conclusion is the possibility that we might well tamper ourselves into extinction. Of course, that’s only implicit for those of us who find schadenfreude in every news headline about the wonders of technology



Zenster said...

In their fine book The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution, authors Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending suggest that a larger population mass and growing population density in itself became a major factor in human evolution by greatly increasing the total number of potential mutations…

Whether or not you agree with Julian Jaynes, the possible interplay between population mass and evolution certainly lends potential weight to his theory that living in and interacting with other large scale communities placed additional stress upon proto-conscious humans in ways that may have facilitated both intelligence and − most importantly to him − the eventual emergence of human consciousness.

The nature of consciousness and intelligence tends to predict their accelerating influence on human mutations (i.e., evolution). Smarter beings will necessarily expose themselves − and, concomitantly, be exposed − to a wider range of circumstances and, at least eventually, more frequently manage to survive them intact. This, in turn, will allow for increased interbreeding among disparate or distant populations thus comingling more genetic material (e.g., alleles), and thereby giving rise to additional − and an increased rate of − permutations within the genetic code.

I have always viewed the development of blue eyes − with their ability to withstand brighter ambient lighting plus possibly conferring better night vision − and lactose tolerance as forms of “genetic intelligence” resulting from life in northern climes.

A simple thought experiment seems to support the notion of colder climate driving IQ. How is it that Africa − with a several million year head start − did not become the seat of all human achievement? The Egyptians seemed to hold out promise for this but were unable to maintain a consistent rate of innovation or growth.

It stands to reason how the warm African climate, with its abundant food supplies, would necessarily facilitate rapid evolution and that such comfortable surroundings could make it more convenient to develop technology. Yet, it seems that the exact opposite it true. It would appear as though the rigors and challenges posed by survival in harsh environmental conditions spurred problem solving and the development of survival skills to new heights.

It is equally tempting to bring up the conspicuous dearth of Nobel prizes won by Muslims as further evidence of a correlation between cold climate and IQ but such speculation shall be left to the reader’s discretion.

Anonymous said...

During the Medieval Warm Period vikings settled Greenland, with traditional animal husbandry and farming. Later on the Inuit moved into the area, not without coming into conflict with the earlier Norse settlers, as we know from history books.

Then the climate changed. It got colder and the 'traditional ways of living' became more difficult. The hunter-gatherers adapted, while the Norsemen was incapable. They built bigger churches and prayed harder, but that was not enough to prevent them from going, literally, extinct. The Inuit are still there.

Which group was more intelligent?

A "settled culture" have problems recognizing problems arising. A "complacent culture" have difficulties seeing threats to its survival.

Findalis said...

The reason Jews have a high intelligence is not climate but culture. Every Jew had to be educated. Not just the boys, but girls also. Reading and writing, arithmetic, even logical reasoning was taught to and mastered by both the Ashkenazi and the Sephardi Jews (Maimonides was born in Spain shortly before the fanatical Muslim Almohades came to power there. To avoid persecution by the Muslim sect — which was wont to offer Jews and Christians the choice of conversion to Islam or death — Maimonides fled with his family, first to Morocco, later to Israel, and finally to Egypt. He apparently hoped to continue his studies for several years more, but when his brother David, a jewelry merchant, perished in the Indian Ocean with much of the family's fortune, he had to begin earning money. He probably started practicing medicine at this time.). Many of the Great Jewish thinkers were Sephardic (Non-European) Jews, living in a warm climate.

Compare these people with their Muslim or African counterparts and notice the higher intelligence in the Jewish community, and a much higher literacy, infant mortality, income, and skill rates there are.

The secret every Jew knows by heart is EDUCATION! Without that even the most gifted mind will be considered stupid.

xlbrl said...

It has not been proven that Neanderthal bred with humans, but that they did not.

The homo-sapien population won the land from Neanderthal because he was weaker; the meek did indeed inherit the earth. He was more inventive and more diverse in his development because he had to be. Neanderthal did what he did because he could, homo-sapien because he couldn't. It is the difference between male and female strengths, a tension that endures today.

Mike Courtman said...

"The reason Jews have a high intelligence is not climate but culture."

If intelligence was merely about culture then every race would be highly intelligent. What would be the point of not being intelligent and being stuck at the bottom of society if you could consciously choose to be intelligent by adopting cultural values which increased intelligence? Do you think people like being dominated by other people who are smarter than they are?

Saying IQ differences don't exist is actually more racist than saying they do exist, since if they don't exist then races with lower IQs must be lazy or parasitic.

One of the reasons why Nazis saw the Jews as parasitic was because they couldn't admit that Jews might have a higher IQ than ethnic Germans, subsequently they had to conclude that the Jews must have gained their wealth or academic success by cheating or being selfish.

People don't kill others just for being smart or stupid, they kill others because they perceive them to be of bad moral character.

Rocha said...

What people do not get about the climate thesis is that it's based in scacity and the need to deal with it. In a cold or warm desert there's nothing that intelligence will change. That's the reason of the modest intelligence gain of Eskimos and Lapps. Intelligence needs a "balance" to be an advantage, it needs to be needy. So it the climate of northen europe where it was advantegeous in was passed more often than in Africa where food was "plentifull" or in desert like in Sahara or Greenland.

Why it did not grow faster in northern africa is to be studied, was it because of a gene flow between northen africa and subsaharan africa? Was the driving force weaker than in the north? Is it at least in part cultural, Islam hampering the development of intelligence in modern northern africa?

Anonymous said...

Mike Courtman wrote,

"Saying IQ differences don't exist is actually more racist than saying they do exist, since if they don't exist then races with lower IQs must be lazy or parasitic."

Very well put. Low achievement is either a result of inferior ability or inferior motivation. If you don't achieve much, it's either because you can't or you won't.

I'd also ask Findaris: Whence culture? So People A achieves more than People B because People A has a better culture than People B. Well, why? Did the culture fairy play favorites or what?

Findalis said...


The culture fairy is a very busy being.

Ask yourself this:

Why is it that Europeans, and Asians domesticated the horse, the cow, sheep, rabbits, etc... and the indigenous peoples of N. and S. America, Africa, and Australia did not?

Why has the bulk of scientific discoveries been done by Europeans and Asians?

Why didn't the people of the New World ever invent the wheel?

What did the cultures of Europe, China, Japan, India and Judaism have that these native people never had?

Answer: A written language.

Yes the culture fairy was very generous to these people.

Anonymous said...

And the whence the written word?

This is infinite regress, Findaris. said...

An important reason because IQ grew in North Europe is due to the size of population and resources.
A large population with enough density allow for a greater specialization of labour. But you need also an habitat with enough diverse resources to allow specialization. Desert (cold or hot) will not be useful, as they allow thin population and few resources. In these habitats it is not possibile or useful to specialize so people is not selected for the works they are able to do and high IQ people is not selected.

But it is important to understand that IQ is not alone to explain this. Other factors, behavioural factors, were selected for. They could be as or more important than IQ and its direct selection.

For example, colder climates with seasons select for neurotic people: people that worry for the long term future and act. This could not be so useful in the coldest climate (there is a limited number of things you can do) or in the warmest climate (there is a limited advantage to worry and, for example, amassing food could simply turn you in a interesting prey for others).

Blue eyed men could be able to detect cuckcolded babies from blue eyed women with dark eyed men. This is in the genes, as blue eyed men are more attracted by blue eyed women (but not the reverse).

Cooperation and generosity probably were selected for, as altruistic punishment. Given that all the population need to prepare for the winter, attacking and stealing would be not very useful as a long term strategy (if you are successful, the robbed would die and stop to be a source of food, shelter and so on - if unsuccessuful, the robber would die).

IQ is not a single driver. It never was and it will never be.

tanya said...

The Hohokam, who lived in the Phoenix area for 1,000 years, must have been quite intelligent in order to devise ways to survive in the desert and create 135 miles of irrigation canals.

It is possible that they weren't as intelligent as some populations because they couldn't make life in that area work in the long-term and they couldn't survive droughts and flooding. We won't really know unless we compare the kinds of environmental hardships they faced to the kinds of environmental hardships other cultures faced. It would be an interesting study, for sure!