Tag Archives: heritability

The Heritability of Criminal Behavior

Forbes is reporting that Bernard Madoff’s folks were criminals (courtesy gnxp).

This is not surprising, as criminal behavior is partially inheritated, in the same way that the number of ridges on your pinky finger – or your inelligence — is.

More on this — and the role that recent human evolution plays in variation in such available — is available via Greg Clark (book review or PDF, also courtesy of gnxp).

This is an important point. Courtesy of zenpundit, in a discussion on jokers, Fabius Maximus (covering ground already seeded at Dreaming 5GW confuses honor-killing and honor-violence for senseless, Joker-like behavior:

Well I guess the killing was OK then, since it was in response to a previous massacre! I thought it was just soft-headed liberals who excused crimes on the basis of such things. Perhaps Quick will write a similar note about “human-style desire to have nice things” when his house is burgled, or “human-style desire to spread his genes” when his daughter is raped.

As Bill Quick at Daily Pundit noted, Fabius is confused about this. Rape is a heritable human behavior. Theft is a heritable human behavior. Honor killing is a heritable human behavior.

This does not make rape, theft, and honor violence “OK.” Indeed, confusing a normative finding (which is right and wrong) with an empirical one (which is observed and not observed) is a basic error of logic.

But it does mean that we need to consider the sort of people we plan on providing security for, and the manner in which we provide that security. “Middle class values” are more common in places where evolution has had the time to instill them. They are rarer in places it hasn’t.

In other words, providing security to populations which were until recent times (the last few centuries) hunter-gatherers is going to require more attentiont to stamping out theft, killing, and hono-rviolence than when providing security to populations which have been settled, agricultural, and peaceful for the last few centuries.

That is for now. Eventually, we will use eugenics to make the problem easier.

The Unfairness of Working Memory

Several interrelated posts this morning, including “Intelience and the President of the United States, “Capturing my Thoughts: How could Demographic Warfare me used with 5GW?,” “Fixing Milwaukee Notes: Milwaukee School District Governance,” and “U.S. college panel calls for less focus on SATs.”

The topics all revolve around Working Memory, the capacity of the adult to keep 7 (ish) things in mind at the same time. Some people have more, some have less. Working memory is heritable and impacts life outcomes. Working memory is not “fair.” It is predicted by your class origin, your socio-economic status, your race, and so on while its variance is predicted by your sex. (Being male is risky business.)

Many social problems will be eleviated when we can use retroviruses or stem cell therapy to increase the working memory of the underclass. At the same time, any individual with low working memory can more than compensate by building up his long-term memory (his knowledge and experience), his self-efficacy (how he responds to failure), and his behavior.

Intelligence Did Not Matter Much

A recent post by Gene Expression has mind-opening implications, if you read closely:

Gene Expression: Selection, drift, disease and complexity, all rolled into one….
I would have to say that the distributions here are not totally surprising based on other things we know, this is an empirical confirmation to a great extent of rules-of-thumb which many hold because of the theoretical and experimental insights of a century. For example, it is well known that complex-traits which exhibit a continuous distribution and are highly heritable tend to have weak fitness implications. Conversely, Mendelian diseases are usually classified as diseases for a reason! Additionally, the authors find that diseases which are expressed dominantly, that is, one copy results in the disease, have lower values of Dn/Ds, than those which express recessively so that two copies are necessary. This is what we would expect from the fact that when low frequency alleles which only express as homozygotes are segregating within the population randomly most copies are carried within heterozygotes who are not subject to selection; in other words, there is little purification of these genes unless their frequencies are very high as per Hardy-Weinberg. To make the difference between complex-disease loci and Mendelian ones more concrete, think of it in a non-disease context. Height is a quantitative trait, while eye color seems quasi-Mendelian. HMGA2 is a height locus which explains 0.3% of the variation within a population for the trait in question, while the region around OCA2 seems to account for 75% of the variation in blue-brown eye color. In addition the region around OCA2 may have been subject to selection and this selection may explain the difference in eye color across populations. It seems unlikely that we’ll find strong signatures around height loci that explain the variation of height across populations.

General intelligence is a complex trait that has a continuous distribution and is highly heritable.  So, for that matter, do political orientation and personality.  Thus, it is likely that general intelligence, personality, and political orientation did not do much for your ancestors.

Your ancestors were winners, because unlike the vast majority of humans who ever lived, they spawned offpsring who are still alive today.  But the secret of their succeess was probably something other than how quick they were.