31 October 2009

The Demographic Future of Europe?

The EU faces challenges in its demographic future. Most concerns centre around two related issues; an ageing population, and overall population decline.

The 2006 birth rate is 10 births per 1000 population, while the death rate is 10.1 deaths per 1000 people, making 2006 the first time in modern (non war) history where more people have died in Europe than were born. [11] The total fertility rate is an internationally low 1.47 children born per female, [11] where fertility rates above 2 per female are generally needed to maintain the current population. These figures mean the population of the EU is expected to decrease, while also suggesting the average age of European society will grow ever higher. _Wikipedia_EU_DEmographics
A century ago, Europe was home to 25% of the world's population. While the population of the continent has grown, it hasn't come close to the pace of Asia or Africa. As it stands now, around 12% of the world's people live on this continent, but if demographic trends keep their pace, Europe's share may fall to around 7% in 2050. _Demography_of_Europe_Wikipedia
For a far more in depth look at population trends in Europe, I suggest this post from Demography Matters blog. The author of the blog post, Edward Hugh, takes a detailed look at Thomas Subotka's ppt presentation "Fertility Trends in Europe". Using Subotka's data, Hugh arrives at somewhat different, more pessimistic conclusions than Subotka.

The following Wikipedia table looks at a breakdown of births in France, by geographic origin of birth mother. It addresses the question of how to account for recent increases in birth rates within France.
Average number of children in France

Average number of children in country of origin

All women living in metropolitan France 1.74
Women born in Metropolitan France 1.70
Immigrant women 2.16
Women born in overseas France 1.86
Immigrant women (country of birth)
Spain 1.52 1.23
Italy 1.60 1.24
Portugal 1.96 1.49
Other EU 1.66 1.44
Turkey 3.21 1.92
Other Europe 1.68 1.41
Algeria 2.57 3.64
Morocco 2.97 3.28
Tunisia 2.90 2.73
Other Africa 2.86 5.89
Asia (Mostly China) 1.77 2.85
The Americas and Oceania 2.00 2.54
The data only goes to 1998, but it suggests that immigration is responsible for the lion's share of recent increased fertility within France. The same is true, of course, in the USA.

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Mission Accomplished?

The current online version of Economist.com presents a triumphalist version of world population control, here and here.
SOMETIME in the next few years (if it hasn’t happened already) the world will reach a milestone: half of humanity will be having only enough children to replace itself. That is, the fertility rate of half the world will be 2.1 or below. This is the “replacement level of fertility”, the magic number that causes a country’s population to slow down and eventually to stabilise. According to the United Nations population division, 2.9 billion people out of a total of 6.5 billion were living in countries at or below this point in 2000-05. The number will rise to 3.4 billion out of 7 billion in the early 2010s and to over 50% in the middle of the next decade. The countries include not only Russia and Japan but Brazil, Indonesia, China and even south India. _Economist

At a time when Malthusian worries are resurgent and people fear the consequences for an overcrowded planet, the decline in fertility is surprising and somewhat reassuring. It means that worries about a population explosion are themselves being exploded—and it carries a lesson about how to solve the problems of climate change. _Economist
This victorious story line rests upon a fictitious statistic, known as the total fertility rate (TFR). What is the TFR and why is it fictitious?
...this rate [TFR] is the number of children a woman would have if she was subject to prevailing fertility rates at all ages from a single given year, and survives throughout all her childbearing years. _Wikipedia
In other words, TFR is a hypothetical rate, based upon a number of dubious assumptions. It is an artificial projection of the present into the future. The probability of the TFR corresponding to actual future fertility is close to 0.

It is assumed that as a wave of prosperity and modernisation sweeps over the hyper-procreating third world, that fertility rates in the nations that lie above the replacement line in the image above, will fall dramatically to replacement levels.

It is true that in most societies, as more women are educated and enter the skilled marketplace, fertility rates tend to fall. And it also seems obvious that as satellite and cable television extend their influence, that more women are exposed to the affluence and mindset of low-fertility societies. But is it realistic to expect that trend to penetrate the remaining countries that have proven to be so resistant to modernisation and prosperity?

In other words, what if there exists a hidden factor unexamined by population experts, which renders a culture, nation, society, or tribe immune to most of the forces of population reduction that have impacted half the population of the world? If so, what might that hidden factor be?

Some societies are resistant to the idea of educating girls and women. Further, in some societies women lack the protection of efficacious laws and law enforcement to assert their rights. Even further, in some societies women essentially have no rights.

Worse than all that, some societies are remarkably resistant to efforts to reduce corruption, to provide law and order, to build a prosperous middle class, and to build a sound educational and civic infrastructure. They seem to be immune from a broad based prosperity.
It is extremely unlikely that low IQ is the full story behind entire regions stuck in high corruption, low prosperity, high fertility circumstances. But it appears to be a crucially important factor.

If the continuing population growth of the planet is based upon a natural increase within such prosperity-resistant societies, it should be obvious that projecting past population trends upon the future may not be valid.

Perhaps it should also be said that if the USA, Australia, and Europe continue along their current path of wealth destruction via energy starvation, current levels of prosperity in those regions -- and everywhere except perhaps China, Brazil, and India -- may well not continue. In other words, if government policies are sufficiently suicidal, no amount of population control can save the nation.

The problem should be looked at differently for the developed world vs the third world. In the developed world the problem is one of underpopulation and the inability to sustain basic services -- including self defense. Even more ominous, within advanced countries, it is the most intelligent and best educated who are most likely to choose childlessness. The least intelligent and less educated more often choose above-replacement procreation. Such a trend is inherently dysgenic.

So we see this dysgenic trend acting at all levels -- regional, national, and international. Interestingly, this trend is not mentioned in either of the triumphal Economist articles. And yet the ongoing reduction of average world population IQ from 90 points to the mid 80s by the middle of the century is one of the most serious problems the world faces.

Ignoring the vitally important in order to highlight the hypothetical and outright fictitious. That is the intellectual life in a politically correct age.

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30 October 2009

Astrocytes: The Power Behind the Neuronal Throne?

Scientists are learning more about an interesting brain cell known as an astrocyte. Astrocytes are glial cells, or support cells of the brain. But is it possible that astrocytes were never told that they are mere support cells?
Scientists at Yale, most notably Ann H. Cornell-Bell and Steven Finkbeiner, have shown that calcium waves can spread from the point of stimulation of one astrocyte to all other astrocytes in an area hundreds of times the size of the original astrocyte. Furthermore, calcium waves can also cause neurons to fire. And calcium waves in the cortex are leading scientists to infer that this style of communication may be conducive to the processing of certain thoughts. If that isn't convincing, it was recently shown that a molecule that stimulates the same receptors as THC can ignite astrocyte calcium release. _SciAm
Those are the words of neuroscientist Andrew Koob, author of the book "The Root of Thought," which suggests that astrocytes may be an important key to human consciousness. Glia are the most numerous cells in the brain, and are crucial to the survival of neurons. But until recently, no one believed that astroglia may be active participants in human consciousness itself.

The means by which astrocytes may alter and control human consciousness is thought to be "the calcium wave."
Interestingly, astrocytes are excitable cells like neurons. They base their communication on spontaneous or evoked cytosolic Ca2+ variations, instead of membrane electrical transients. Their remarkable morphology supports intercellular signaling as they form interconnected networks of cells coupled by gap-junctions, where each unit occupies a virtually non-overlapping domain of the inter-neuronal space. Surprisingly, astrocytes communicate also to neurons and synapses. In fact, they extend membrane processes to simultaneously contact hundreds of neuronal dendrites, thousands of synapses and even blood vessels. Indeed, astrocytes control the vasculature tone and they are likely to sense neuronal energy-demand and gate its consumption. Their physiology is thus bidirectionally linked to neuronal and synaptic activity, as they are capable of selectively respond to it on a millisecond time scale, by releasing specific neuroactive molecules (Ni et al., 2007). Notable are the discoveries of the -interaction with synaptic physiology and plasticity that led to -revisiting -information transfer between neurons, with the proposed concept of a “tri-partite synapse” (Perea and Araque, 2002). _frontiers
Actually, science has just begun to understand astrocytes. Beneath the level of the "calcium wave" is the "calcium oscillation". Calcium oscillations occur within individual astrocytes spontaneously within the hippocampus -- the seat of human long-term memory formation. Connections between calcium oscillations, calcium waves, neuronal oscillations, and various neuronal correlates of consciousness, will take time to locate and solidify. Stay tuned, and don't forget to drink your high calcium beverage of choice.

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Protein Prince vs. Protein Pauper: Which Will it be Tonight?

Johns Hopkins researchers have made a discovery that may help explain why humans have so few genes to create such high complexity. It looks as if some common blue-collar proteins may be moonlighting as princely transcription factors -- controlling gene expression. One day a prince, another a pauper. Whatever is a protein to do?
Now, a collaborative effort at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine to examine protein-DNA interactions across the whole genome has uncovered more than 300 proteins that appear to control genes, a newly discovered function for all of these proteins previously known to play other roles in cells. The results, which appear in the October 30 issue of Cell, provide a partial explanation for human complexity over yeast but also throw a curve ball in what we previously understood about protein functions.

...The team suspects that many more proteins encoded by the human genome might also be moonlighting to control genes, which brings researchers to the paradox that less complex organisms, such as plants, appear to have more transcription factors than humans. "Maybe most of our genes are doing double, triple or quadruple the work," says Zhu. "This may be a widespread phenomenon in humans and the key to how we can be so complex without significantly more genes than organisms like plants."

...One of the unconventional transcription factors discovered was the protein MAP Kinase 1, also known as ERK2, a protein long studied for its ability to control cell growth and development via its ability to add phosphate groups to other molecules.

"It's one of the best studied proteins out there, but no one ever thought ERK2 could directly regulate gene expression by actually binding to DNA," says Seth Blackshaw, Ph.D., an assistant professor of neuroscience and a member of the High Throughput Biology Center and the Neuroregeneration Program at the Institute for Cell Engineering. _SD
It is said that testosterone levels for human geneticists fell significantly when they learned that many plants and lower animals possessed higher numbers of genes than the human genome. Perhaps understanding how a more complex gene expression mechanism can make up for a smaller number of genes, will restore these geneticists to their former prowess.

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Intelligence vs. Judgment: Is Dysrationalia Leading to the Downfall of Modern Civilisation?

U. of Toronto Psychologist Keith Stanovich has spent many years looking at "rational thought", and how IQ tests fail to measure the essence of human "rationality."  Stanovich uses the label "dysrationalia" for persons who have high IQ, but who exhibit faulty judgment.  He says that modern society is top-heavy with dysrational individuals of high intelligence, but low "rationality."
Intelligence tests measure important things, but they do not assess the extent of rational thought. This might not be such a grave omission if intelligence were a strong predictor of rational thinking. But my research group found just the opposite: it is a mild predictor at best, and some rational thinking skills are totally dissociated from intelligence.

...Critics of intelligence tests have long pointed out that the tests ignore important parts of mental life, mainly non-cognitive domains such as socio-emotional abilities, empathy, and interpersonal skills. But intelligence tests are also radically incomplete as measures of cognitive functioning, which is evident from the simple fact that many people display a systematic inability to think or behave rationally despite having a more than adequate IQ. For a variety of reasons, we have come to overvalue the kinds of thinking skills that intelligence tests measure and undervalue other important cognitive skills, such as the ability to think rationally.

...Intelligence tests measure mental skills that have been studied for a long time, whereas psychologists have only recently had the tools to measure the tendencies toward rational and irrational thinking. Nevertheless, recent progress in the cognitive science of rational thought suggests that nothing – save for money – would stop us from constructing an “RQ” test.

Such a test might prove highly useful. Suboptimal investment decisions have, for example, been linked to overconfidence in knowledge judgments, the tendency to over-explain chance events, and the tendency to substitute affective valence for thought. Errors in medical and legal decision-making have also been linked to specific irrational thinking tendencies that psychologists have studied.

There are strategies and environmental fixes for the thinking errors that occur in all of these domains. But it is important to realize that these thinking errors are more related to rationality than intelligence. They would be reduced if schools, businesses, and government focused on the parts of cognition that intelligence tests miss.... _Stanovich
Stanovich makes some excellent points, and an "RQ" test might prove extremely useful for modern institutions. Of course, if such a test were implemented, most college professors would have to be fired along with most media executives, government officials, and UN diplomats. But that would be a small price to pay for a more "rational" society.

My main quibble with Stanovich is with his use of the word "rational." Rationality should not be confused with "good judgment". IQ tests actually measure rationality quite well -- within the confines of the test. But IQ tests cannot measure the judgment required in using rational thought for widely varying circumstances.

The idea of rationality comes from the root "ratio", which implies the ability to splice, dice, and parse observable reality to its core. Sound logical deduction. Reductionism par excellence. Obviously, that is not the meaning that Stanovich uses for the concept of rationality.

In fact, there are many situations where rational thinking should be suspended in favour of more creative approaches such as lateral thinking. The entire basis of human conscious experience -- inductive inference and model building -- is a non-rational phenomenon, based upon pre-verbal metaphor. Rationality simply isn't in it.

But substituting the term "good judgment" where Stanovich uses "rationality" removes the smoke and fog, making the extreme importance of Stanovich's argument clear and compelling.

More: Here is an excellent example of a case where judgment might easily trump pure IQ. Knowing what to expect when you travel down a particular road can mean the difference between life and death.

Of course, the higher up the chain that a person with poor judgment is promoted, the more people that are likely to suffer.

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29 October 2009

In Solar Powered Climate CO2 is Secondary
In Solar Powered Climate CO2 is Secondary

The following is excerpted from a PDF document titled "The Sun Defines the Climate" by Russian academician Habibullo Abdussamatov. (see here or here for more discussion) The document describes one means by which solar variability drives Earth's (and Mars') climate, in conjunction with the ocean cycles and the water cycle. The reason for the far less important influence of CO2 on the climate is explained.
Over the past decade, global temperature on the Earth has not increased; global warming has ceased, and already there are signs of the future deep temperature drop (Fig. 7, 11). Meantime the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over these years has grown by more than 4%, and in 2006 many meteorologists predicted that 2007 would be the hottest of the last decade. This did not occur, although the global temperature of the Earth would have increased at least 0.1 degree if it depended on the concentration of carbon dioxide. It follows that warming had a natural origin, the contribution of CO2 to it was insignificant, anthropogenic increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide does not serve as an explanation for it, and in the foreseeable future CO2 will not be able to cause catastrophic warming. The so-called greenhouse effect will not avert the onset of the next deep temperature drop, the 19th in the last 7500 years, which without fail follows after natural warming.

The earth is no longer threatened by the catastrophic global warming forecast by some scientists; warming passed its peak in 1998-2005, while the value of the TSI by July - September of last year had already declined by 0.47 W/m2 (Fig. 1).
For several years until the beginning in 2013 of a steady temperature drop, in a phase of instability, temperature will oscillate around the maximum that has been reached, without further substantial rise. Changes in climatic conditions will occur unevenly, depending on latitude. A temperature decrease in the smallest degree would affect the equatorial regions and strongly influence the temperate climate zones. The changes will have very serious consequences, and it is necessary to begin preparations even now, since there is practically no time in reserve. The global temperature of the Earth has begun its decrease without limitations on the volume of greenhouse gas emissions by industrially developed countries; therefore the implementation of the Kyoto protocol aimed to rescue the planet from the greenhouse effect should be put off at least 150 years.

Consequently, we should fear a deep temperature drop, but not catastrophic global warming. Humanity must survive the serious economic, social, demographic and political consequences of a global temperature drop, which will directly affect the national interests of almost all countries and more than 80% of the population of the Earth. A deep temperature drop is a considerably greater threat to humanity than warming. However, a reliable forecast of the time of the onset and of the depth of the global temperature drop will make it possible to adjust in advance the economic activity of humanity, to considerably weaken the crisis. _
When you hear yet another news story describing how modern humans must revert to the stone ages to prevent catastrophic global warming, keep in mind that there is no catastrophic global warming outside of overheated brains of corrupt politicians, UN officials, and grant hungry former scientists.

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Fibromyalgia IS In the Head After All
Fibromyalgia IS In the Head After All

Fibromyalgia affects about two per cent of the population, women more so than men. The disease involves the enhancement of pain impulses, leaving sufferers highly sensitive to pain, which is both chronic and diffuse. Previously, the causes of the disease were unknown, and there were no objective measurements of the way the CNS processes pain. _SD
Of all the pain syndromes, Fibromyalgia can be one of the most frustrating. The patients often seem to be depressed, anxious, and personally ineffectual. Treatment with antidepressants -- traditionally tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline -- has been useful for managing the problem. But is it possible that the depression, anxiety, and helplessness are the result of the chronic pain, and not the cause? Swedish researchers have taken a deep look into the brain, at the foundations of Fibromyalgia.
In one of the studies presented in the thesis, subjects had both thumbs pressed hard enough for them to feel the same degree of mild pain as healthy controls. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers could show that the subjects had the same level of activity in the parts of the brain that deal with emotions as well assensory information from the thumb, regardless of which group they belonged to. However, the subjects with fibromyalgia had lower activity in a brain area that inhibits the experience of pain.

According to the team, treatment with drugs that work on the central nervous system (CNS), such as SNRI antidepressants, are effective against fibromyalgia. But this is not a question of treating depression but of other properties of these drugs.

"The patients who had had their pain symptoms for the shortest amount of time were those that responded best to the drug treatments tested," says Karin B Jensen. "This shows how important it is that fibromyalgia is detected and taken seriously as early in its development as possible."

Her thesis also confirms the existence of a relationship between genetics and pain regulation. Studies of healthy people revealed a relationship between a specific genetic variant and the effect of a morphine-like drug on repeated pain stimulation. The results suggest that the gene under study only affects the body's pain regulating system in the presence of greater psychological stress. This knowledge, say the researchers, could one day make possible the development of customised medical treatments and thus better and more effective pain relief. _SD
There may be many more than trillions of ways that humans experience the world differently, due to the combinatorial explosion of genetic and epigenetic mechanisms involved in turning biochemistry into conscious reality. Fibromyalgia is a relatively common -- and frequently disabling -- manifestation of human biodiversity via genetic and / or epigentic variability. How many uncounted other ways do we experience reality differently from each other, due to the quirks of our genes?

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28 October 2009

Knoxville Horror: End of the Line for Lemaricus Davidson
Knoxville Horror: End of the Line for Lemaricus Davidson

It is difficult to read the list of charges below, for Lemaricus Davidson -- one out of five accused of the horrendous rape / torture / murder of the young couple pictured below. If you have heard of the Knoxville Horror or the Wichita Massacre, you are one of the few. Most crimes of this type are not publicised, for reasons best known to the media.   You may need to be told that this was positively, most assuredly, not a hate crime.  Really.  (When dog bites man, it is not a hate crime.  Only when man bites dog.)

The couple went out for pizza and never came home.   If the trial had been in Los Angeles (OJ Simpson) or Detroit, would justice have been served?  


Accused: (Ringleader Lemaricus Davidson is in the center of photo)

Verdict is In for Lemaricus Davidson:

Count one: First degree felony murder of Hugh Christopher Newsom during the perpetration of robbery of Hugh Christopher Newsom

A. Guilty of First Degree Felony Murder of Hugh Christopher Newsom, during the perpetration of Robbery of Hugh Christopher Newsom.

Count two: Murder of Hugh Christopher Newsom during the perpetration of robbery of Channon Christian

A. Guilty of First Degree Felony Murder of Hugh Christopher Newsom, during the perpetration of Robbery of Channon Christian.

Count Three: First degree felony murder of Channon Christian during the perpetration of robbery of Hugh Christopher Newsom

A. Guilty of First Degree Felony Murder of Channon Christian, during the perpetration of Robbery of Hugh Christopher Newsom.

Count four: First degree felony murder of Channon Christian during the perpetration of robbery of Channon Christian

A. Guilty of First Degree Felony Murder of Channon Christian, during the perpetration of Robbery of Channon Christian.

Count five: First degree felony murder of Hugh Christopher Newsom during the perpetration of kidnapping of Hugh Christopher Newsom

A. Guilty of First Degree Felony Murder of Hugh Christopher Newsom, during the perpetration of Kidnapping of Hugh Christopher Newsom.

Count six: First degree felony murder of Hugh Christopher Newsom during the perpetration of kidnapping of Channon Christian

A. Guilty of First Degree Felony Murder of Hugh Christopher Newsom, during the perpetration of Kidnapping of Channon Christian.

Count seven: First degree felony murder of Channon Christian during the perpetration of kidnapping of Hugh Christopher Newsom

A. Guilty of First Degree Felony Murder of Channon Christian, during the perpetration of Kidnapping of Hugh Christopher Newsom.

Count eight: First degree felony murder of Channon Christian during the perpetration of kidnapping of Channon Christian

A. Guilty of First Degree Felony Murder of Channon Christian, during the perpetration of Kidnapping of Channon Christian.

Count nine: First degree felony murder of Hugh Christopher Newsom during the perpetration of rape of Hugh Christopher Newsom

A. Guilty of First Degree Felony Murder of Hugh Christopher Newsom, during the perpetration of Rape of Hugh Christopher Newsom.

Count ten: First degree felony murder of Hugh Christopher Newsom during the perpetration of rape by oral penetration of Channon Christian

A. Guilty of First Degree Felony Murder of Hugh Christopher Newsom, during the perpetration of Rape by Oral Penetration of Channon Christian.

Count 11: First degree felony murder of Channon Christian during the perpetration of rape of Hugh Christopher Newsom

A. Guilty of First Degree Felony Murder of Channon Christian, during the perpetration of Rape of Hugh Christopher Newsom.

Count 12: First degree felony murder of Channon Christian during the perpetration of rape by oral penetration of Channon Christian

A. Guilty of First Degree Felony Murder of Channon Christian, during the perpetration of Rape by Oral Penetrtion of Channon Christian.

Count 13: First degree felony murder of Hugh Christopher Newsom during the perpetration of theft of Hugh Christopher Newsom

A. Guilty of First Degree Felony Murder of Hugh Christopher Newsom, during the perpetration of Theft of Hugh Christopher Newsom.

Count 14: First degree felony murder of Hugh Christopher Newsom during the perpetration of theft of Channon Christian

A. Guilty of First Degree Felony Murder of Hugh Christopher Newsom, during the perpetration of Theft of Channon Christian.

Count 15: Felony murder of Channon Christian during the perpetration of theft of Hugh Christopher Newsom

A. Guilty of First Degree Felony Murder of Channon Christian, during the perpetration of Theft of Hugh Christopher Newsom.

Count 16: First degree felony murder of Channon Christian during the perpetration of theft of Channon Christian

A. Guilty of First Degree Felony Murder of Channon Christian, during the perpetration of Theft of Channon Christian.

Count 17: First degree premeditated murder of Hugh Christopher Newsom

A. Guilty of Premeditated First Degree Murder of Hugh Christopher Newsom.

Count 18: First degree premeditated murder of Channon Christian

A. Guilty of Premeditated First Degree Murder of Channon Christian.

Count 19: Especially aggravated robbery of Hugh Christopher Newsom

A. Guilty of Especially Aggravated Robbery of Hugh Christopher Newsom.

Count 20: Especially aggravated robbery of Channon Christian

A. Guilty of Especially Aggravated Robbery of Channon Christian.

Count 21: Especially aggravated kidnapping of Hugh Christopher Newsom accomplished with a deadly weapon

A. Guilty of Especially Aggravated Kidnapping of Hugh Christopher Newsom, accomplished with a deadly weapon.

Count 22: Especially aggravated kidnapping of Hugh Christopher Newsom with serious bodily injury

A. Guilty of Especially Aggravated Kidnapping of Hugh Christopher Newsom, with serious bodily injury.

Count 23: Especially aggravated kidnapping of Channon Christian accomplished with a deadly weapon

A. Guilty of Especially Aggravated Kidnapping of Channon Christian, accomplished with a deadly weapon.

Count 24: Especially aggravated kidnapping of Channon Christian with serious bodily injury

A. Guilty of Especially Aggravated Kidnapping of Channon Christian, with serious bodily injury.

Count 26: Aggravated rape of Hugh Christopher Newsom by coercive anal penetration, while armed with a weapon

B. Guilty of Facilitation of Aggravated Rape of Hugh Christopher Newsom, by coercive anal penetration while armed with a weapon.

Count 27: Aggravated rape of Hugh Christopher Newsom by anal penetration, with bodily injury

B. Guilty of Facilitation of Aggravated Rape of Hugh Christopher Newsom, by anal penetration with bodily injury.

Count 29: Aggravated rape of Hugh Christopher Newsom by coercive anal penetration, while aided and abetted by one or more persons

B. Guilty of Facilitation of Aggravated Rape of Hugh Christopher Newsom, by coercive anal penetration while aided and abetted by one or more persons.

Count 33: Aggravated rape of Channon Christian by coercive anal penetration, while armed with a weapon

A. Guilty of Aggravated Rape of Channon Christian, by coercive anal penetration while armed with a weapon.

Count 34: Aggravated rape of Channon Christian by coercive oral penetration, while armed with a weapon

A. Guilty of Aggravated Rape of Channon Christian, by coercive oral penetration while armed with a weapon.

Count 35: Aggravated rape of Channon Christian by coercive vaginal penetration, while armed with a weapon

A. Guilty of Aggravated Rape of Channon Christian, by coercive vaginal penetration while armed with a weapon.

Count 36: Aggravated rape of Channon Christian by anal penetration, with bodily injury

A. Guilty of Aggravated Rape of Channon Christian, by anal penetration with bodily injury.

Count 37: Aggravated rape of Channon Christian by oral penetration, with bodily injury

A. Guilty of Aggravated Rape of Channon Christian, by oral penetration with bodily injury.

Count 38: Aggravated rape of Channon Christian by vaginal penetration, with bodily injury

A. Guilty of Aggravated Rape of Channon Christian, by vaginal penetration with bodily injury.

Count 42: Aggravated rape of Channon Christian by coercive anal penetration, while aided and abetted by one or more persons

A. Guilty of Aggravated Rape of Channon Christian, by coercive anal penetration while aided and abetted by one or more persons.

Count 43: Aggravated rape of Channon Christian by coercive oral penetration, while aided and abetted by one or more persons

A. Guilty of Aggravated Rape of Channon Christian, by coercive oral penetration while aided and abetted by one or more persons.

Count 44: Aggravated rape of Channon Christian by coercive vaginal penetration, while aided and abetted by one or more persons

A. Guilty of Aggravated Rape of Channon Christian, by coercive vaginal penetration while aided and abetted by one or more persons.

Count 45: Theft of property of Hugh Christopher Newsom

A. Guilty of Theft of Property of Hugh Christopher Newsom, valued at $500.00 or less.

Count 46: Theft of property of Channon Christian

A. Guilty of Theft of Property of Channon Christian, valued at $10,000.00 or more but less than $60,000.00.

Source: Knox County Criminal Court verdict forms
Knox News, H/T Instapundit

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Human Rationality Has Designs on Itself

Human rationality -- such as it is -- seems to be looping back upon itself. It looks as if the human brain may become the beneficiary of "rational drug design." The methods of rational drug design are advancing by leaps and bounds, so that we should expect some significant benefits quite soon.  Researchers at Tel Aviv University are focusing rational design to create drugs for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Huntington's diseases.
Since Prof. Eldar-Finkelman linked GSK3 to insulin resistance in diabetes more than ten years ago, a race has been on among drug manufacturers to find a drug that can potentially turn off the harmful effects of GSK3. But rather than build on existing drugs, Prof. Eldar-Finkelman and her colleagues worked from the ground up. "I decided to take a completely different approach from all the big drug companies rushing to find the ultimate drug," says Prof. Eldar-Finkelman. "I designed my own."

Pre-clinical results have been positive, and the new drug does not exhibit dangerous toxic side effects, a problem with existing formulations. While L803-MTS cannot reverse the onset of a CNS disease once it has started, Prof. Eldar-Finkelman believes it can slow down the devastating effects of CNS diseases, like impaired memory and depression, or insulin-resistance.

"Ours is the first lab that showed the importance of GSK3 as a target in Type II diabetes, and was among the first to introduce a specific inhibitor against the GSK3," she says. "Our approach became so popular that today many pharmaceutical companies, big and small, are competing to work on a GSK3 inhibitor."

..."One important thing to note is that our drug acts differently than other compounds," she says. "Most GSK3 inhibitors are developed on the basis of ATP competitors. Ours are substrate competitors, meaning that they bind to a different site at the surface of the protein. This strategy is completely different, and yields a better and safer compound."

Prof. Eldar-Finkelman is now conducting additional pharmacological and toxicological tests on the new compound. She believes it will be a lead compound for treating CNS disorders, "because it was based on rational drug design. We started from scratch and thought through the design of a specific compound that would be safe and effective. Our aim is to slow the progression of CNS diseases, but the new drug might also be used as a preventative therapy," she adds. _SD
Rational drug design has come a long way in the past 10 years since Vertex began making waves. Advances in protein simulation, protein imaging, atomic force microscopy, haptics, bioinformatics, and other tools of research are allowing researchers to bypass tedious approaches such as "rapid screening" in order to aim directly at a drug target. Of course it is never really "either-or." In the end, many more tools will be developed, and all of the tools will be used to get us where we wish to be.

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27 October 2009

Fascinating Look Into the War on Mental Depression
Fascinating Look Into the War on Mental Depression

Northwestern University researcher Eva Redei recently presented her research on the underlying causes of depression at the Neuroscience 2009 in Chicago. The sophistication of the research is impressive, and suggests the promise of hugely important advances in the study of human cognition and mental illness in the relatively near future.
Redei used microarray technology to isolate and identify the specific genes related to depression in these animals. She examined the genes in the brain regions -- the hippocampus and amygdala -- commonly associated with depression in rats and humans.

Then she took four genetically different strains of rats and exposed them to chronic stress for two weeks. Afterwards, she identified the genes that had consistently increased or decreased in response to the stress in all four strains in the same brain regions.

Redei now had one set of depression-related genes that came out of an animal model of depression and one set of stress-related genes that came our of her chronic stress study.

Next she compared the two sets of genes to see if there were any similarities. "If the 'stress causes depression theory' was correct, there should have been a significant overlap between these two sets of genes," she said. "There weren't."

Out of a total of over 30,000 genes on the microarray, she discovered approximately 254 genes related to stress and 1275 genes related to depression, with an overlap of only five genes between the two.

"This overlap is insignificant, a very small percentage," Redei said. "This finding is clear evidence that at least in an animal model, chronic stress does not cause the same molecular changes as depression does." _SD
Redei claims to have shown that modern methods of treating depression are misconceived -- since they are aimed more at stress than at the real cause of depression. She also claims to have demonstrated that depression is caused by something significantly more profound than an imbalance of neurotransmitters. Redei believes that her findings point to potentially more powerful and effective treatments for depression.

I have not read the full study, so I cannot comment on Redei's claims. But I do admit to being impressed by the powerful genetic and bioinformatic methods used to tease out the differences between the genetics of stress and the genetics of depression. These tools can be used to solve many genetic problems that have been the source of heated philosophical arguments for centuries. But powerful and exotic tools do not guarantee valid results. Logical and philosophical rigour must be combined with a creative and adventurous spirit.

Redei suggests that the "real" problem of depression originates in the developmental stages of neurons, and may have to be solved at the same level. There is some evidence that some neurotransmitters can trigger neurogenesis via stem cell migration and differentiation. Better therapies for selective neurogenesis may well find their way into psychiatric treatment for depression. It is likely that deep brain stimulation, for example, and other electromagnetic stimulation techniques, will be found to stimulate neurogenesis at least indirectly.

For the animal depression model, Redei was apparently using a strain of rats that has been bred for decades to mimic physical and physiological human symptoms and signs of depression. The rats are said to be "the most depressed rats in the world." If so, they should be helpful in screening new therapies for depression.

It is not surprising that some therapies will work for depression and others will not.

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26 October 2009

Important Lecture on Thursday (29th) at IoP KCL On the Genetics of Neuropsychiatric Disorders (and Cognition)
Important Lecture on Thursday (29th) at IoP KCL On the Genetics of Neuropsychiatric Disorders (and Cognition)

Geneticists are beginning to close in on genetic risk variants for schizophrenia and other neuropsychiatric conditions with genetic predisposition. This broad category includes various forms of low intelligence with largely genetic causation.

Professor Michael Gill of Trinity College Dublin, will be presenting the guest lecture at Kings College London from 11:00 to 12:00 at the Institute of Psychiatry. Description:
Recent candidate gene and genome wide association studies have led to the identification of several new risk loci for the major psychoses. The biological role of these variants is largely unknown, making an understanding of the neural mechanisms they control a priority. Genetic variation may operate through intermediate traits or endophenotypes because of their role in underlying brain systems. To develop an understanding of the function effects of genetic variation contributing to risk for the major psychoses, we have assessed cognitive and neuropsychological, neurophysiological and neuroimaging measures in a large sample of patients with schizophrenia and related disorders. We have used this approach to interrogate risk variants at candidate gene risk variants and variants now emerging from Genome-wide Association Studies (GWAS).

We have shown that Dysbindin risk variants affect clinical symptom measures, spatial working memory, early processing of visual information, and brain structure. We have shown that lowered cognitive ability is likely to be at least part of the mechanism by which NOS1 associated alleles confer increased risk, consistent with the idea of ‘cognitive reserve’ as a risk factor for psychiatric disorders.

Furthermore, in a disorder characterized by heterogeneity, a genome-wide significant risk variant at ZNF804A appears to delineate a patient subgroup characterized by relatively spared cognitive ability. _IoP
The IoP at KCL is the home of Professor Robert Plomin, one of the world's leading researchers into the relationship between genes and IQ.

The pieces of the brain development puzzle are beginning to fall into place, as research tools improve. This type of research will be vitally important, if humans ever expect to find a higher destiny than was portrayed in the motion picture "Idiocracy."

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Economic Delusions and the Madness of Crows

Lately we have been treated to an excess of crowing about the amazing robustness of the Chinese economy (8.9% GDP growth) and the incredible US stock market run since March of 2009. Unfortunately, the majority of comfort to be derived from either crow song is largely delusionary.

First, China's amazing 8.9% GDP growth in the midst of a world recession:
The “resilience” of the Chinese economy right now is based, at least in part, on several factors that I find cause for concern:

* acceleration of a 20-year pipeline of infrastructure projects into a 5-year time horizon, including many seemingly redundant projects or vanity projects, or ones where the returns are far from clear (such as the construction of entirely new cities to replace perfectly good old ones);
* reconstruction in the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake (which needs to be done, but is actually the replacement of destroyed value, not — as growth figures imply — a form of genuine economic expansion; otherwise you could tear down the whole country just to rebuilt it and call it “growth”);
* construction of large-scale luxury condo developments that go entirely unoccupied and serve merely as investment vehicles, on the expectation of future appreciation;
* easy state-provided credit that has kept businesses — many of them poorly run and financed — from exiting sectors (such as steel) that have chronic excess capacity;
* misdirection of business loans into stock market and real estate speculation, fueling bubbles in both markets
* direct investment by government ministries in order to speculate in — and thereby prop up – the real estate market, on the misconception that a rising real estate market is a “driver” of growth (rather than a result of real demand for more and better usable space driven by business expansion and rising living standards);
* the possibility of “channel stuffing,” where wholesalers and retailers are forced to build up unsold inventories to keep factories (particularly state-owned factories) running. Ironically, this shows up in China’s official statistics as “retail sales” because in China, retail sales are counted when the manufacturer ships, not when the products is sold to a consumer. _SeekingAlpha
As for the US stock market rally, we might want to ask ourselves: Why is the market going up when jobs are going down? The most rational answer is the obvious: the market is not the economy. Companies can improve the bottom line -- and thus the stock price -- by lopping employees off the payroll. If enough companies use this approach to build a convincing enough Potemkin Village for investors, the stock market may very well rally convincingly -- for a time.

Certainly the US government can fudge GDP numbers as easily as the Chinese government. And it is certain that the US government has been fudging employment numbers for several months (years?) now. As stupid as government, media, and academic mouthpieces for the economy may be, a healthy economy that is based upon consumption requires healthy levels of employment and productive income.
....we're likely to see a fresh batch of encouraging numbers, there's plenty of reason to remain humble on expecting that salvation is imminent for one simple reason: the labor market continues to bleed.

"While job losses will likely end early next year, robust job gains may still be several quarters away," according to Christina Romer, the chair of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, in testimony to Congress last week.

That's a fairly stark assessment considering that it comes via the usual political spin that passes for debate in Washington. A cynic might argue that if the White House is preparing the nation for many more months of job destruction, the truth may be even harsher. Meantime, the next clue comes on November 6, with the monthly update on employment from the government.........

In short, talk is cheap and so the world waits for numbers _SA
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Problems with White Matter Central to Schizophrenia and Normal Low IQ

A recent study from King's College London in British Journal of Psychiatry, helps clarify the "timing" problem of mental function in schizophrenics.
The white matter of the brain consists of nerve fibres that connect parts of the brain and help regulate behaviour. The normal brain develops in a back to front fashion, i.e. posterior regions mature first and the frontal lobes last. The research discovered that if there are very severe deficits in the white matter in these posterior (specifically parietal) regions, then schizophrenia develops early in adolescence. As people grow older their deficits "migrate" in a back to front manner and in adulthood, they impact the frontal lobes of the brain quite dramatically.

...The team used Diffusion Tensor Imaging, a state-of-the-art neuro-imaging technique, to examine white matter connections in adolescents and adults with schizophrenia. Abnormalities in white matter appeared first in posterior parts of the brain in the younger patients and became more prominent in the frontal lobes in adult patients. In interpreting the results, Dr. Kyriakopoulos, the lead author, explained that the scans capture the interaction between brain development and disease mechanisms. _SD
Recent research published in the Archives of General Psychiatry appears to connect a NOS1 variant gene to both lower IQ and schizophrenia. In addition, diffusion tensor imaging studies are proving capable of detecting both schizophrenia and lower intelligence in humans.

It is easy to understand how defects in normal development could lead to persons with mental illnesses and / or lower intelligence than normal. What is not so easy to imagine is that what we think of as normal intelligence may actually be the result of defects in more optimal developmental pathways.

Only an acceleration of research into the biological underpinnings of intelligence can answer these questions. Inside the US and Canada, studies that look at the variability of intelligence among populations has to take place under the guise of specific disease research. Such need for pretense (to hide from the PC Thought Police) slows progress significantly. Perhaps researchers in Europe, Oceania, South Asia and East Asia may not be so hamstrung by reactionary cabals of academics, politicians, and media players as in North America.

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25 October 2009

Tracking Intelligence Using Tensor Imaging and MEG
Tracking Intelligence Using Tensor Imaging and MEG

In a study of 11,000 pairs of twins from four countries, we have recently shown that the heritability of IQ increases linearly from childhood (about 40 percent) to adolescence (about 55 percent) to young adulthood (about 65 percent). Why? No one knows, but my guess is that the answer involves what is called genotype-environment correlation: as children grow up, they increasingly select, modify, and even create their own experiences, partly on the basis of their genetic propensities. _Plomin
An exciting new approach to studying human cognitive function involves using diffusion tensor imaging to monitor the function of the brain's white matter connectivity. The white matter connections between gray matter brain centers contribute to overall cognition -- and they can be tracked in near real time. Studying human intelligence in this way completely bypasses so-called "stereotype threat", test design bias, and other excuses commonly given for why particular groups tend not to test well on IQ tests.
The type of MRI typically used for medical scans does not show the finer details of the brain's white matter. But with a technique called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), which uses the scanner's magnet to track the movement of water molecules in the brain, scientists have developed ways to map out neural wiring in detail. While water moves randomly within most brain tissue, it flows along the insulated neural fibers like current through a wire.

Most DTI scans break the MRI image into tiny areas and measure the diffusion of water molecules through each one in six to 12 directions, which is sufficient for detecting thick bundles of neural fibers. But places where wiring overlaps appear as a blur. Newer variations of diffusion imaging measure diffusion in 50 to 500 directions. Computer algorithms synthesize this data into a three-dimensional picture showing the most likely paths of nerve fibers through each area, and then stitch together the information from multiple points to create a wiring map.

The strength of the diffusion signal--the extent to which it reveals a clear direction--is used to gauge how organized the fibers of the white matter are. A stronger diffusion signal may indicate more fibers or thicker myelin; scientists don't yet know. But the newer diffusion imaging methods have revealed a strong correlation between the strength of this signal--what researchers refer to as the "integrity" of the white matter--and performance on a standard IQ test. "DTI turns out to be one of the most sensitive MRI measures we have for cognitive function," says Vincent Schmithorst, a neuroscientist at Cincinnati Children's Hospital.

Thompson refers to his diffusion maps as "pictures of mental speed." Previous research has repeatedly linked IQ to processing speed, and other studies show that processing speed in turn is tightly linked to the quality of one's white matter. Does that mean intelligence is determined by how fast the brain works? If so, does finding the key to processing speed in the brain mean researchers have finally found the secret to intelligence?

In reality, speed is probably not the only determinant of IQ. "One of the things that is important for IQ is frontal-lobe function, which is involved in planning, decision making, and weighing evidence," Thompson says. "I wouldn't think of those skills as being entirely reliant on mental speed."

Some of the newest theories of intelligence suggest that the crucial factor may be how efficiently information moves around the brain, rather than just how quickly. In a recent study led by Martijn P. van den Heuvel, a neuroscientist at University Medical Center Utrecht, in the Netherlands, researchers defined efficiency as the number of links it takes to get from one node to another--both in specific brain areas and all over the brain. Just as a direct flight from Paris to Chicago would be considered more efficient than one with a layover in London, a direct link between two parts of the brain would be more efficient than an indirect route.

Van den Heuvel and colleagues found that people with above-normal IQs of 120 and up had the most efficient brain networks. "Our hypothesis is that IQ is about how the human brain can integrate different types of information, how easily it can get information from one brain region to another," van den Heuvel says. "These activity patterns are highly influenced by white-matter structures in the brain, how the brain is connected."

Richard Haier and his collaborators are now working on a new method of measuring information flow around the brain using magnetoencephalography, or MEG. MEG measures the magnetic fluctuations around neurons as they fire, allowing scientists to track the millisecond-scale sequence of neural signaling in the brain as people perform different tasks, such as pressing a button in response to a light. Researchers hope to figure out how the flow of these signals differs with intelligence--whether smarter people follow the same sequence but faster, for example, or whether their brains skip a few steps in a circuit. "When you add the timing of the nodes and networks," says Jung, "then we're really talking about how the brain works in real time." __TechnologyReview
Development of such objective forms of intelligence testing was crucial, in order to put the field beyond reach of the HBD deniers such as Nisbet, Flynn, Kamin, Spelke, and the whole gang of "blank slaters." Cognitive science has grown beyond that reactionary group of obstructionists. It is time to get to work before the Idiocracy grows any more intractable and unstoppable than it already is.

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Making Retarded Brains Smarter

Researchers at Georgetown University are focusing on Brain Derived Growth Factor (BDNF) as a potential therapy for multiple forms of mental retardation. Genetic disorders that leave developing brains deprived of necessary developmental proteins can theoretically be reversed, at least partially, by replacing the deficient proteins and growth factors, such as BDNF.
Abnormalities in the number and shape of dendritic spines, the protrusions that allow communication between brain neurons, have been observed in patients with mental retardation. Previous research led by Baoji Xu, PhD, associate professor in the department of pharmacology, has shown that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a growth factor synthesized in dendrites, regulates the number and shape of dendritic spines required for spatial learning and memory.

...These results highlight the role of BDNF in mental retardation, Xu says, and indicate that increasing the transport of these growth factors may be a way to treat these conditions. __SD
This approach is the most obvious and currently the most promising theoretical approach to mitigating genetic forms of mental retardation. As the list of genetic causes of lower intelligence grows longer, the number of possible replacement proteins and growth factors for treating mental retardation and low intelligence will grow apace.

Beyond simple replacement of deficient growth factors and proteins (such as receptors), other approaches will involve modifying the number of genes involved (overexpression) and intervening further down the line of gene expression (epigenetics). Nanotechnological drug depots for time release of growth factors, and even artificial receptors may be involved as procedures advance.

Mental retardation is an age old scourge of humanity -- but it is particularly important at this time in history when less intelligent populations of tribal nations are exploding in size while more intelligent populations of advanced nations are vanishing before our eyes. Consequently, average human IQ across the world is dropping from an already low 90 IQ points down to the mid 80s by the middle of the century.

Advanced democracies in Europe and North America are dependent upon intelligent voters to prevent a complete descent into corrupt idiocracy. If the average voter IQ is 90 or below, rather than near 100 as at present, the advanced democracies will slowly sink into idiocracy -- like most of the third world. Low IQ immigrants to Europe and North America could never have built the civilisation that they are attempting to join (and sometimes overthrow). But if advanced democracies are overwhelmed by too many alien voters of below-threshold IQ, introduced too quickly, the civilisation can come to an end.

In other words, therapies for making people more intelligent are important for helping reduce the suffering from mental retardation. But a much larger and more universal suffering is coming to the advanced world if the problem of the coming low intelligence population is not dealt with.

This problem is the primary problem that humans face today. Not global warming, not peak oil, not overpopulation as such. A steadily decreasing average intelligence across the planet -- including most advanced nations. If science cannot solve this problem, future generations of humans will be living under a thousand variants of Idi Amin, Robert Mugabe, and Hugo Chavez.


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The General Intelligence Factor
The General Intelligence Factor

by Linda Gottfredson
Originally published in Scientific American

No subject in psychology has provoked more intense public controversy than the study of human intelligence. From its beginning, research on how and why people differ in overall mental ability has fallen prey to political and social agendas that obscure or distort even the most well-established scientific findings. Journalists, too, often present a view of intelligence research that is exactly the opposite of what most intelligence experts believe. For these and other reasons, public understanding of intelligence falls far short of public concern about it. The IQ experts discussing their work in the public arena can feel as though they have fallen down the rabbit hole into Alice's Wonderland.

The debate over intelligence and intelligence testing focuses on the question of whether it is useful or meaningful to evaluate people according to a single major dimension of cognitive competence. Is there indeed a general mental ability we commonly call "intelligence," and is it important in the practical affairs of life? The answer, based on decades of intelligence research, is an unequivocal yes. No matter their form or content, tests of mental skills invariably point to the existence of a global factor that permeates all aspects of cognition. And this factor seems to have considerable influence on a person's practical quality of life. Intelligence as measured by IQ tests is the single most effective predictor known of individual performance at school and on the job. It also predicts many other aspects of well-being, including a person's chances of divorcing, dropping out of high school, being unemployed or having illegitimate children [see illustration].

By now the vast majority of intelligence researchers take these findings for granted. Yet in the press and in public debate, the facts are typically dismissed, downplayed or ignored. This misrepresentation reflects a clash between a deeply felt ideal and a stubborn reality. The ideal, implicit in many popular critiques of intelligence research, is that all people are born equally able and that social inequality results only from the exercise of unjust privilege. The reality is that Mother Nature is no egalitarian. People are in fact unequal in intellectual potential--and they are born that way, just as they are born with different potentials for height, physical attractiveness, artistic flair, athletic prowess and other traits. Although subsequent experience shapes this potential, no amount of social engineering can make individuals with widely divergent mental aptitudes into intellectual equals.

Of course, there are many kinds of talent, many kinds of mental ability and many other aspects of personality and character that influence a person's chances of happiness and success. The functional importance of general mental ability in everyday life, however, means that without onerous restrictions on individual liberty, differences in mental competence are likely to result in social inequality. This gulf between equal opportunity and equal outcomes is perhaps what pains Americans most about the subject of intelligence. The public intuitively knows what is at stake: when asked to rank personal qualities in order of desirability, people put intelligence second only to good health. But with a more realistic approach to the intellectual differences between people, society could better accommodate these differences and minimize the inequalities they create.

Early in the century-old study of intelligence, researchers discovered that all tests of mental ability ranked individuals in about the same way. Although mental tests are often designed to measure specific domains of cognition--verbal fluency, say, or mathematical skill, spatial visualization or memory--people who do well on one kind of test tend to do well on the others, and people who do poorly generally do so across the board. This overlap, or intercorrelation, suggests that all such tests measure some global element of intellectual ability as well as specific cognitive skills. In recent decades, psychologists have devoted much effort to isolating that general factor, which is abbreviated g, from the other aspects of cognitive ability gauged in mental tests.

The statistical extraction of g is performed by a technique called factor analysis. Introduced at the turn of the century by British psychologist Charles Spearman, factor analysis determines the minimum number of underlying dimensions necessary to explain a pattern of correlations among measurements. A general factor suffusing all tests is not, as is sometimes argued, a necessary outcome of factor analysis. No general factor has been found in the analysis of personality tests, for example; instead the method usually yields at least five dimensions (neuroticism, extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness and openness to ideas), each relating to different subsets of tests. But, as Spearman observed, a general factor does emerge from analysis of mental ability tests, and leading psychologists, such as Arthur R. Jensen of the University of California at Berkeley and John B. Carroll of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, have confirmed his findings in the decades since. Partly because of this research, most intelligence experts now use g as the working definition of intelligence.

The general factor explains most differences among individuals in performance on diverse mental tests. This is true regardless of what specific ability a test is meant to assess, regardless of the test's manifest content (whether words, numbers or figures) and regardless of the way the test is administered (in written or oral form, to an individual or to a group). Tests of specific mental abilities do measure those abilities, but they all reflect g to varying degrees as well. Hence, the g factor can be extracted from scores on any diverse battery of tests.

Conversely, because every mental test is "contaminated" by the effects of specific mental skills, no single test measures only g. Even the scores from IQ tests--which usually combine about a dozen subtests of specific cognitive skills--contain some "impurities" that reflect those narrower skills. For most purposes, these impurities make no practical difference, and g and IQ can be used interchangeably. But if they need to, intelligence researchers can statistically separate the g component of IQ. The ability to isolate g has revolutionized research on general intelligence, because it has allowed investigators to show that the predictive value of mental tests derives almost entirely from this global factor rather than from the more specific aptitudes measured by intelligence tests.

In addition to quantifying individual differences, tests of mental abilities have also offered insight into the meaning of intelligence in everyday life. Some tests and test items are known to correlate better with g than others do. In these items the "active ingredient" that demands the exercise of g seems to be complexity. More complex tasks require more mental manipulation, and this manipulation of information--discerning similarities and inconsistencies, drawing inferences, grasping new concepts and so on--constitutes intelligence in action. Indeed, intelligence can best be described as the ability to deal with cognitive complexity.

This description coincides well with lay perceptions of intelligence. The g factor is especially important in just the kind of behaviors that people usually associate with "smarts": reasoning, problem solving, abstract thinking, quick learning. And whereas g itself describes mental aptitude rather than accumulated knowledge, a person's store of knowledge tends to correspond with his or her g level, probably because that accumulation represents a previous adeptness in learning and in understanding new information. The g factor is also the one attribute that best distinguishes among persons considered gifted, average or retarded.

Several decades of factor-analytic research on mental tests have confirmed a hierarchical model of mental abilities. The evidence, summarized most effectively in Carroll's 1993 book, Human Cognitive Abilities, puts g at the apex in this model, with more specific aptitudes arrayed at successively lower levels: the so-called group factors, such as verbal ability, mathematical reasoning, spatial visualization and memory, are just below g, and below these are skills that are more dependent on knowledge or experience, such as the principles and practices of a particular job or profession.

Some researchers use the term "multiple intelligences" to label these sets of narrow capabilities and achievements. Psychologist Howard Gardner of Harvard University, for example, has postulated that eight relatively autonomous "intelligences" are exhibited in different domains of achievement. He does not dispute the existence of g but treats it as a specific factor relevant chiefly to academic achievement and to situations that resemble those of school. Gardner does not believe that tests can fruitfully measure his proposed intelligences; without tests, no one can at present determine whether the intelligences are indeed independent of g (or each other). Furthermore, it is not clear to what extent Gardner's intelligences tap personality traits or motor skills rather than mental aptitudes.

Other forms of intelligence have been proposed; among them, emotional intelligence and practical intelligence are perhaps the best known. They are probably amalgams either of intellect and personality or of intellect and informal experience in specific job or life settings, respectively. Practical intelligence like "street smarts," for example, seems to consist of the localized knowledge and know-how developed with untutored experience in particular everyday settings and activities--the so-called school of hard knocks. In contrast, general intelligence is not a form of achievement, whether local or renowned. Instead the g factor regulates the rate of learning: it greatly affects the rate of return in knowledge to instruction and experience but cannot substitute for either.

The Biology of g

Some critics of intelligence research maintain that the notion of general intelligence is illusory: that no such global mental capacity exists and that apparent "intelligence" is really just a by-product of one's opportunities to learn skills and information valued in a particular cultural context. True, the concept of intelligence and the way in which individuals are ranked according to this criterion could be social artifacts. But the fact that g is not specific to any particular domain of knowledge or mental skill suggests that g is independent of cultural content, including beliefs about what intelligence is. And tests of different social groups reveal the same continuum of general intelligence. This observation suggests either that cultures do not construct g or that they construct the same g. Both conclusions undercut the social artifact theory of intelligence.

Moreover, research on the physiology and genetics of g has uncovered biological correlates of this psychological phenomenon. In the past decade, studies by teams of researchers in North America and Europe have linked several attributes of the brain to general intelligence. After taking into account gender and physical stature, brain size as determined by magnetic resonance imaging is moderately correlated with IQ (about 0.4 on a scale of 0 to 1). So is the speed of nerve conduction. The brains of bright people also use less energy during problem solving than do those of their less able peers. And various qualities of brain waves correlate strongly (about 0.5 to 0.7) with IQ: the brain waves of individuals with higher IQs, for example, respond more promptly and consistently to simple sensory stimuli such as audible clicks. These observations have led some investigators to posit that differences in g result from differences in the speed and efficiency of neural processing. If this theory is true, environmental conditions could influence g by modifying brain physiology in some manner.

Studies of so-called elementary cognitive tasks (ECTs), conducted by Jensen and others, are bridging the gap between the psychological and the physiological aspects of g. These mental tasks have no obvious intellectual content and are so simple that adults and most children can do them accurately in less than a second. In the most basic reaction-time tests, for example, the subject must react when a light goes on by lifting her index finger off a home button and immediately depressing a response button. Two measurements are taken: the number of milliseconds between the illumination of the light and the subject's release of the home button, which is called decision time, and the number of milliseconds between the subject's release of the home button and pressing of the response button, which is called movement time.

In this task, movement time seems independent of intelligence, but the decision times of higher-IQ subjects are slightly faster than those of people with lower IQs. As the tasks are made more complex, correlations between average decision times and IQ increase. These results further support the notion that intelligence equips individuals to deal with complexity and that its influence is greater in complex tasks than in simple ones.

The ECT-IQ correlations are comparable for all IQ levels, ages, genders and racial-ethnic groups tested. Moreover, studies by Philip A. Vernon of the University of Western Ontario and others have shown that the ECT-IQ overlap results almost entirely from the common g factor in both measures. Reaction times do not reflect differences in motivation or strategy or the tendency of some individuals to rush through tests and daily tasks--that penchant is a personality trait. They actually seem to measure the speed with which the brain apprehends, integrates and evaluates information. Research on ECTs and brain physiology has not yet identified the biological determinants of this processing speed. These studies do suggest, however, that g is as reliable and global a phenomenon at the neural level as it is at the level of the complex information processing required by IQ tests and everyday life.

The existence of biological correlates of intelligence does not necessarily mean that intelligence is dictated by genes. Decades of genetics research have shown, however, that people are born with different hereditary potentials for intelligence and that these genetic endowments are responsible for much of the variation in mental ability among individuals. Last spring an international team of scientists headed by Robert Plomin of the Institute of Psychiatry in London announced the discovery of the first gene linked to intelligence. Of course, genes have their effects only in interaction with environments, partly by enhancing an individual's exposure or sensitivity to formative experiences. Differences in general intelligence, whether measured as IQ or, more accurately, as g are both genetic and environmental in origin--just as are all other psychological traits and attitudes studied so far, including personality, vocational interests and societal attitudes. This is old news among the experts. The experts have, however, been startled by more recent discoveries.

One is that the heritability of IQ rises with age--that is to say, the extent to which genetics accounts for differences in IQ among individuals increases as people get older. Studies comparing identical and fraternal twins, published in the past decade by a group led by Thomas J. Bouchard, Jr., of the University of Minnesota and other scholars, show that about 40 percent of IQ differences among preschoolers stems from genetic differences but that heritability rises to 60 percent by adolescence and to 80 percent by late adulthood. With age, differences among individuals in their developed intelligence come to mirror more closely their genetic differences. It appears that the effects of environment on intelligence fade rather than grow with time. In hindsight, perhaps this should have come as no surprise. Young children have the circumstances of their lives imposed on them by parents, schools and other agents of society, but as people get older they become more independent and tend to seek out the life niches that are most congenial to their genetic proclivities.

A second big surprise for intelligence experts was the discovery that environments shared by siblings have little to do with IQ. Many people still mistakenly believe that social, psychological and economic differences among families create lasting and marked differences in IQ. Behavioral geneticists refer to such environmental effects as "shared" because they are common to siblings who grow up together. Research has shown that although shared environments do have a modest influence on IQ in childhood, their effects dissipate by adolescence. The IQs of adopted children, for example, lose all resemblance to those of their adoptive family members and become more like the IQs of the biological parents they have never known. Such findings suggest that siblings either do not share influential aspects of the rearing environment or do not experience them in the same way. Much behavioral genetics research currently focuses on the still mysterious processes by which environments make members of a household less alike.

g on the Job

Although the evidence of genetic and physiological correlates of g argues powerfully for the existence of global intelligence, it has not quelled the critics of intelligence testing. These skeptics argue that even if such a global entity exists, it has no intrinsic functional value and becomes important only to the extent that people treat it as such: for example, by using IQ scores to sort, label and assign students and employees. Such concerns over the proper use of mental tests have prompted a great deal of research in recent decades. This research shows that although IQ tests can indeed be misused, they measure a capability that does in fact affect many kinds of performance and many life outcomes, independent of the tests' interpretations or applications. Moreover, the research shows that intelligence tests measure the capability equally well for all native-born English-speaking groups in the U.S.

If we consider that intelligence manifests itself in everyday life as the ability to deal with complexity, then it is easy to see why it has great functional or practical importance. Children, for example, are regularly exposed to complex tasks once they begin school. Schooling requires above all that students learn, solve problems and think abstractly. That IQ is quite a good predictor of differences in educational achievement is therefore not surprising. When scores on both IQ and standardized achievement tests in different subjects are averaged over several years, the two averages correlate as highly as different IQ tests from the same individual do. High-ability students also master material at many times the rate of their low-ability peers. Many investigations have helped quantify this discrepancy. For example, a 1969 study done for the U.S. Army by the Human Resources Research Office found that enlistees in the bottom fifth of the ability distribution required two to six times as many teaching trials and prompts as did their higher-ability peers to attain minimal proficiency in rifle assembly, monitoring signals, combat plotting and other basic military tasks. Similarly, in school settings the ratio of learning rates between "fast" and "slow" students is typically five to one.

The scholarly content of many IQ tests and their strong correlations with educational success can give the impression that g is only a narrow academic ability. But general mental ability also predicts job performance, and in more complex jobs it does so better than any other single personal trait, including education and experience. The army's Project A, a seven-year study conducted in the 1980s to improve the recruitment and training process, found that general mental ability correlated strongly with both technical proficiency and soldiering in the nine specialties studied, among them infantry, military police and medical specialist. Research in the civilian sector has revealed the same pattern. Furthermore, although the addition of personality traits such as conscientiousness can help hone the prediction of job performance, the inclusion of specific mental aptitudes such as verbal fluency or mathematical skill rarely does. The predictive value of mental tests in the work arena stems almost entirely from their measurement of g, and that value rises with the complexity and prestige level of the job.

Half a century of military and civilian research has converged to draw a portrait of occupational opportunity along the IQ continuum. Individuals in the top 5 percent of the adult IQ distribution (above IQ 125) can essentially train themselves, and few occupations are beyond their reach mentally. Persons of average IQ (between 90 and 110) are not competitive for most professional and executive-level work but are easily trained for the bulk of jobs in the American economy. In contrast, adults in the bottom 5 percent of the IQ distribution (below 75) are very difficult to train and are not competitive for any occupation on the basis of ability. Serious problems in training low-IQ military recruits during World War II led Congress to ban enlistment from the lowest 10 percent (below 80) of the population, and no civilian occupation in modern economies routinely recruits its workers from that range. Current military enlistment standards exclude any individual whose IQ is below about 85.

The importance of g in job performance, as in schooling, is related to complexity. Occupations differ considerably in the complexity of their demands, and as that complexity rises, higher g levels become a bigger asset and lower g levels a bigger handicap. Similarly, everyday tasks and environments also differ significantly in their cognitive complexity. The degree to which a person's g level will come to bear on daily life depends on how much novelty and ambiguity that person's everyday tasks and surroundings present and how much continual learning, judgment and decision making they require. As gamblers, employers and bankers know, even marginal differences in rates of return will yield big gains--or losses--over time. Hence, even small differences in g among people can exert large, cumulative influences across social and economic life.

In my own work, I have tried to synthesize the many lines of research that document the influence of IQ on life outcomes. As the illustration shows, the odds of various kinds of achievement and social pathology change systematically across the IQ continuum, from borderline mentally retarded (below 70) to intellectually gifted (above 130). Even in comparisons of those of somewhat below average (between 76 and 90) and somewhat above average (between 111 and 125) IQs, the odds for outcomes having social consequence are stacked against the less able. Young men somewhat below average in general mental ability, for example, are more likely to be unemployed than men somewhat above average. The lower-IQ woman is four times more likely to bear illegitimate children than the higher-IQ woman; among mothers, she is eight times more likely to become a chronic welfare recipient. People somewhat below average are 88 times more likely to drop out of high school, seven times more likely to be jailed and five times more likely as adults to live in poverty than people of somewhat above-average IQ. Below-average individuals are 50 percent more likely to be divorced than those in the above-average category.

These odds diverge even more sharply for people with bigger gaps in IQ, and the mechanisms by which IQ creates this divergence are not yet clearly understood. But no other single trait or circumstance yet studied is so deeply implicated in the nexus of bad social outcomes--poverty, welfare, illegitimacy and educational failure--that entraps many low-IQ individuals and families. Even the effects of family background pale in comparison with the influence of IQ. As shown most recently by Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., the divergence in many outcomes associated with IQ level is almost as wide among siblings from the same household as it is for strangers of comparable IQ levels. And siblings differ a lot in IQ--on average, by 12 points, compared with 17 for random strangers.

An IQ of 75 is perhaps the most important threshold in modern life. At that level, a person's chances of mastering the elementary school curriculum are only 50-50, and he or she will have a hard time functioning independently without considerable social support. Individuals and families who are only somewhat below average in IQ face risks of social pathology that, while lower, are still significant enough to jeopardize their well-being. High-IQ individuals may lack the resolve, character or good fortune to capitalize on their intellectual capabilities, but socioeconomic success in the postindustrial information age is theirs to lose.

What Is versus What Could Be

The foregoing findings on g's effects have been drawn from studies conducted under a limited range of circumstances--namely, the social, economic and political conditions prevailing now and in recent decades in developed countries that allow considerable personal freedom. It is not clear whether these findings apply to populations around the world, to the extremely advantaged and disadvantaged in the developing world or, for that matter, to people living under restrictive political regimes. No one knows what research under different circumstances, in different eras or with different populations might reveal.

But we do know that, wherever freedom and technology advance, life is an uphill battle for people who are below average in proficiency at learning, solving problems and mastering complexity. We also know that the trajectories of mental development are not easily deflected. Individual IQ levels tend to remain unchanged from adolescence onward, and despite strenuous efforts over the past half a century, attempts to raise g permanently through adoption or educational means have failed. If there is a reliable, ethical way to raise or equalize levels of g, no one has found it.

Some investigators have suggested that biological interventions, such as dietary supplements of vitamins, may be more effective than educational ones in raising g levels. This approach is based in part on the assumption that improved nutrition has caused the puzzling rise in average levels of both IQ and height in the developed world during this century. Scientists are still hotly debating whether the gains in IQ actually reflect a rise in g or are caused instead by changes in less critical, specific mental skills. Whatever the truth may be, the differences in mental ability among individuals remain, and the conflict between equal opportunity and equal outcome persists. Only by accepting these hard truths about intelligence will society find humane solutions to the problems posed by the variations in general mental ability.

Related Links

IQ Tests on the WWW: Web Directory

Intelligence and Personality Assessment: A Study Guide by Jon Potter

IQ: A Structure for Understanding by Timothy Bates, Macquarie University Sydney

Great Ideas in Personality -- Intelligence by G. Scott Acton, Northwestern University

Intelligence and IQ: Book reviews, commentaries and links to other Net resources.

The Author

LINDA S. GOTTFREDSON is professor of educational studies at the University of Delaware, where she has been since 1986, and co-directs the Delaware-Johns Hopkins Project for the Study of Intelligence and Society. She trained as a sociologist, and her earliest work focused on career development. "I wasn't interested in intelligence per se," Gottfredson says. "But it suffused everything I was studying in my attempts to understand who was getting ahead." This "discovery of the obvious," as she puts it, became the focus of her research. In the mid-1980s, while at Johns Hopkins University, she published several influential articles describing how intelligence shapes vocational choice and self-perception. Gottfredson also organized the 1994 treatise "Mainstream Science on Intelligence," an editorial with more than 50 signatories that first appeared in the Wall Street Journal in response to the controversy surrounding publication of The Bell Curve. Gottfredson is the mother of identical twins--a "mere coincidence," she says, "that's always made me think more about the nature and nurture of intelligence." The girls, now 16, follow Gottfredson's Peace Corps experience of the 1970s by joining her each summer for volunteer construction work in the villages of Nicaragua.

This "full excerpt" is provided as background reading, for anyone who wants to better understand the scientific basis for intelligence research. It is hosted at the U. of Toronto Psychology Department, along with a wide range of links and reprints dealing with many aspects of human intelligence -- both real and fanciful. Thanks to Professor E. Reingold at U of T.

The Al Fin blog is focused more on the prospects for augmenting human intelligence, than in assessing it. But there is a mountain of ignorance and obfuscation that has been put in the way of most interested observers -- by academics and intellectuals who are threatened by what is being learned in the intelligence field.

If we are to ever be in a position to improve the IQ of most persons for the sake of creating a better world, we must confront the reality of human intelligence with open minds and open eyes. Anything less is to doom the future inhabitants of Earth to lifelong stupidity and idiocracy.


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