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Nature Vs. Nurture: Waging War Over the Soul of Science 235

Posted by samzenpus
from the born-this-way dept.
derekmead writes "Wherever determinism appears, controversy attends, raising specters of days when colonialists, eugenicists, public health officials, and political idealists believed they could cure the human condition through manipulation and force. Understanding those fears helps shed light on the controversy surrounding a recent paper (PDF) published in the American Economic Review, entitled, 'The "Out of Africa" Hypothesis, Human Genetic Diversity, and Comparative Economic Development.' In it, economists Quamrul Ashraf and Oded Galor argue that the economic development of broad human populations correlate with their levels of genetic diversity—which is, in turn, pinned to the distance its inhabitants migrated from Africa thousands of years ago. Reaction has been swift and vehement. An article signed by 18 academics in Current Anthropology accuses the researchers of 'bad science' — 'something false and undesirable' based on 'weak data and methods' that 'can become a justification for reactionary policy.' The paper attacks everything from its sources of population data to its methods for measuring genetic diversity, but the economists are standing by their methods. The quality of Ashraf and Galor's research notwithstanding, the debate illustrates just how tricky it's become to assert anything which says something about human development was in any way inevitable."
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Nature Vs. Nurture: Waging War Over the Soul of Science

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Economists tend to be interested in how human behaviour relates to the study of money. Which is not exactly a neutral research direction.

    It was also an economist (Herbert Spencer) that studied Darwin and to give us the famous "Survival of the Fittest" instead of the more accurate "Survival of the Fit".

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by hedwards (940851)

      Economists have just about the worst track record of any major specialty in terms of quality research.

      In this case, diversity is far less likely to do with it than the fact that Africa is less than a century out of independence from various European powers. Look what Europe was like until relatively recently. Corruption is still rampant and there isn't a lot of investment that's going on there.

      • by ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Monday February 18, 2013 @07:34PM (#42939851)

        Africa is less than a century out of independence from various European powers.

        Using colonialism as an explanation for lack of economic progress isn't supported by the evidence. The African country with the longest and most pervasive colonization was South Africa. The country with the least was Ethiopia, which maintained its independence except for a few years of Italian control in the 1930s. Yet South Africa is near the top of the African economic pile, while Ethiopia is near the bottom. There are plenty of other examples. Countries with long periods of colonization, much interaction between the locals and the colonists, and lasting European-style laws and civil institutions, are doing far better than countries where colonialism was less influential.

        • by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday February 18, 2013 @09:41PM (#42940661) Homepage

          Let's forget about colonialism and the last 100 years.

          What I'm interested in is how the paper reconciles the notion that genetic diversity correlates with economic growth, that genetic diversity correlates with migratory distance from Africa, and the periods in time where the greatest centers of civilization, trade and economic growth were in Africa, while areas more distant were as to Ethiopia today?

          Are they suggesting that genetic diversity rapidly tracks up and down with the rise and fall of nation-states absent any explanatory mass influx of immigrants or genetically-selective die-offs? Where did all the genetic diversity come from in Europe that led to today's economic growth if it was not there when Europe was in economic doldrums?

          Or could this simply be yet another case of a researcher starting with the assumption that the socio-economic tapestry of today and only today is the natural, inevitable workings of biology?

          I give them props for considering the entire globe, at least. It's really funny when someone only looks at a specific time and place and declares it the perfect reflection of inherent biological differences.

      • by Dr. Tom (23206)

        It seems to me the argument is backwards. Genetic diversity should be, and is, larger in Africa because that population has been evolving longer. Japan? A study in cooperation among genetically similar people.

  • by medv4380 (1604309) on Monday February 18, 2013 @05:10PM (#42938829)
    Not to be picky, but the url to "An artile signed by 18 academics" is http://www.jstor.org/action/cookieAbsent [jstor.org] "cookieAbsent" doesn't exactly look like it was ever supposed to work. Does someone have a link to the actual signed article?
  • by femtobyte (710429) on Monday February 18, 2013 @05:12PM (#42938849)

    Clearly, the African continent is home only to the most primitive peoples. It's not a place that would birth historically powerful, flourishing civilizations whose large-scale engineering feats would be regarded among the "wonders of the world" millennia later. Oh, wait...

    • Clearly, the African continent is home only to the most primitive peoples. It's not a place that would birth historically powerful, flourishing civilizations whose large-scale engineering feats would be regarded among the "wonders of the world" millennia later. Oh, wait...

      Um, the article was confusing, it showed like a White Pride info graphic ... yet if you read the paper, the genetic diversity is noted as being increasing over time the closer you are to the birthplace of humanity (as pictured here [motherboard.tv] the heterozygosity is reduced the further away from Africa). The second part that the article woefully left out was that this article examined the year 1500 CE.

      • by femtobyte (710429) on Monday February 18, 2013 @05:55PM (#42939213)

        In that case, though, similar historical arguments hold just as as well --- highly economically advanced civilizations also formed far from the original "cradle of civilization." From the Inca and Aztec empires in South America, to continent-wide trade relations and the mound-building cultures in North America (basically "re-discovered" only after the invention of aerial photography, when people started realizing that some big oddly-placed hills were actually man-made structures), highly sophisticated and economically advanced civilizations have sprung up all over the place, from all sorts of "genetic stock." Tying genetic characteristics to economic advancement is an extremely iffy proposition, since there are far stronger fluctuations from historically contingent accidents. At best, you'll end up confusing cause and effect from correlating powerful, aggressive societies (conquering, assimilating, and intermarrying other surrounding populations) with the resultant genetic diversity of expansionist conquest.

        • "Tying genetic characteristics to economic advancement is an extremely iffy proposition, since there are far stronger fluctuations from historically contingent accidents."

          From the abstract, it does appear that the authors suggest a cause, rather than mere correlation. That might have been unwise on their part.

      • by femtobyte (710429) on Monday February 18, 2013 @06:08PM (#42939291)

        Just looked at the actual paper... wow, that's a load of rubbish.

        The figures showing the data that they use to prove the "hump shaped" correlation of economic status against an optimal "middle ground" genetic diversity are just big sprays of uncorrelated points, through which you could draw basically any curve you want with equal statistical probability. The parabolic-shaped curves that they've chosen are basically entirely determined by a couple outliers in South America. No statistically reasonable interpretation of their results would give them anything publishable to say --- at least outside the especially low standards of Economics.

        • just big sprays of uncorrelated points, through which you could draw basically any curve you want with equal statistical probability.

          So it's up to the level of the usual grad student paper.

    • by arcite (661011)
      No kidding, as I am here in Cairo, Egypt, there are these piles of rocks known as the only remaining wonders of the ancient world. But no, it must have been aliens!
    • by argStyopa (232550)

      And what have they done the LAST 5000 years?

      Don't get me wrong, the Pyramids are a stunning achievement - but you can't really contend that the last, say, 1000 years have been anything but pathetic.

      Seriously, though: I'm not sure where the answer lies.

      The fact is that it is a bloody interesting question: North-East Africa/South-West Asia and "humanity worth speaking of" were pretty much synonymous in the 1000+ BC era. Yet, by about 1000 BC they were clearly being outstripped and outcompeted by their near No

  • by medcalf (68293) on Monday February 18, 2013 @05:12PM (#42938851) Homepage
    This is one of the reasons that the whole idea of "scientific consensus" or "the science is settled" bugs me. People try to act like science is a completely rational activity. It's simply not: it's a human activity, fraught with all the prejudices, biases and shortcomings — as well as the wonder and majesty and achievement — that implies. Here is an excellent example of exactly that.
    • by Desler (1608317) on Monday February 18, 2013 @05:19PM (#42938899)

      That is said in regard to hard sciences. Not the soft, "social" sciences. Trying to equate the two is to try to muddy things.

    • When scientists in the "hard sciences" use terms like "settled science" it should be taken with the understood "... unless of course we get new evidence."

      "Settled science" means that just about all scientists agree that the existing evidence leads to a given conclusion, and that the evidence and logical arguments have already been picked to death and barring actual new evidence or some currently-inconceivable way of interpreting existing evidence, the "scientifically settled conclusion" will be treated as s

      • Newtonian physics was "settled science" for centuries ... until new data rolled in [...] at which point previously-settled science became ... unsettled.

        I agree with your main point, but this example doesn't fit in it very well. It's true that Newtonian physics has been superseded by relativity and quantum mechanics, but it's still "settled science" -- it's taught in every physics course and it's widely used. Just because we know some model doesn't fit perfectly every possible situation, it doesn't necessarily mean we stop using it.

        Newtonian physics (like classical electromagnetism, thermodynamics, and a lot of other theories in Physics) is still useful whe

  • by Smidge204 (605297) on Monday February 18, 2013 @05:15PM (#42938869) Journal

    It seems to me that genetic diversity and cultural diversity would be related. In other words, cultural isolation and genetic isolation tend to go hand-in-hand.

    Therefore, if the argument is that economic development is correlated to genetic diversity, then it is also necessarily correlated to cultural diversity. This now frames the issue in a more intuitive way; The more ideas and ways of looking at the world you bring to the table, the more diverse your solutions and creativity, and the more developed your economy becomes. This seems to be broadly supported by history as well, since the most prosperous trade often occurred when and where cultures mingled freely.

    And now that the genetic element has been effectively abated, the controversy evaporates. You're welcome.
    =Smidge=

    • The more ideas and ways of looking at the world you bring to the table, the more diverse your solutions and creativity, and the more developed your economy becomes. This seems to be broadly supported by history as well, since the most prosperous trade often occurred when and where cultures mingled freely.

      The Middle East and the US Senate/Congress of late would seem to be exceptions...

    • And now that the genetic element has been effectively abated, the controversy evaporates. You're welcome.

      Thanks, but you offered absolutely zero proof or research nor did you even talk about how you verified that "genetic diversity and cultural diversity would be related." Armchair genetics is not progress.

      I mean, I can pull explanations out of my ass too: the paper focuses on the distance from the cradle of humanity so while they may be correct in genetic diversity they are actually witnessing the exploitation of resources in new lands as humans traveled further and further. Their "just so" sweet spot

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 18, 2013 @05:17PM (#42938889)

    The summary's typical inflammatory crap. THe paper takes an existing economic hypothesis ("Genetic diversity plays a role in economic development, and there is an optimal amount of diversity which has a net positive effect. There are also suboptimal amounts which have negative effects.") and then tries to justify it by pointing out that certain _genetic regions_ of the globe (not geographical, though they tend to fall along those lines) are better off than others.
    Most importantly, this study does not correct for external factors, and as is typical for most of the junk that economists push, it assumes that if there's a correlation, that correlation will hold true no matter how many factors are not analyzed in the data. Further, it's a bunch of "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" arguments with some handwaving to hide the stark (and, at least from the references in the paper, unsupported) assumptions they make.

    Is it bad science? Sure. But economics isn't a science, and if you disagree, you probably don't have a degree in a hard science.

    "The quality of Ashraf and Galor's research notwithstanding, the debate illustrates just how tricky it's become to assert anything which says something about human development was in any way inevitable.""
    Let me fix that for you:
    "Data be damned. If two people with degrees say it, they must be pioneers of truth hunted by the system, and if you say their argument is weak and laughable, you can't even see how deep your own bias runs!" Thank you, Slashdot. Sometimes I forget that you got bought out by sensationlists.

    • I have degrees in both "hard" and "soft" sciences.

      I disagree that economics isn't a science - it is. Whether or not this paper is bad science is beside the point from your rather broad generalisation to the whole of economics. You seem to be mistaking the inherent difficulty of the subject with the quality of the practitioners.

      The distinction between "hard" and "soft" is usually the ability to conduct experiments to verify your hypothesis. In "soft" sciences people get really annoyed when you arbitrarily ex

      • Kudos to you for getting it completely, right down to the point about ethics. Of course, most of the people you respect to fancy themselves some sort of intellectual elite that think that since they are good at some parts of (say, physics) that they can disregard something like psychology in favor of their own intuitions.

  • It seems their main argument has less to do with genetic diversity and more to do with distance from each other. They claim superior technological advances are a driving factor and I do not see how that relates to genetic diversity.

    From Page 3 in here [brown.edu]:

    "The beneficial effect of diversity, on the other hand, concerns the positive role of heterogeneity in the expansion of society's production possibility frontier. A wider spectrum of traits is more likely to contain those that are complementary to the ad
    • by Carewolf (581105)

      Intersting side note. It almost sound like that they think diversity is possitive correlation. We might be reading it backwards, because the genetic diversity among humans is greater in Africa, especially south of Sahara than anywhere else in the world. So are they arguing the diversity is harmful, or are can the authors really be the retarded racists they sound like?

      • They are saying there is a middle ground where diversity plays a beneficial role towards economic development. Here is the beginning of the abstract:

        Abstract
        This research advances and empirically establishes the hypothesis that, in the course of the prehistoric exodus of Homo sapiens out of Africa, variation in migratory distance to various settlements across the globe affected genetic diversity and has had a persistent hump-shaped effect on comparative economic development, reflecting the trade-off
  • A caption from the linked article sums it up: "Opponents of genetic determinism argue that it ignores the effects of colonialism."

    Within the US, at least, I believe that the on-going effects of 250 years of slavery, and an added 100 years of systematic segregation, still leave Americans as a group unable to divorce ourselves from their effects when trying to ascertain what - if any - biological basis there may be to the economic performance of southern Africans, and their diaspora in the US. There is such a

    • by countach (534280)

      It is possible that different races have different characteristics because of genes, but I'm pretty skeptical about all such claims. It's really really hard to show such things, and if they can be shown, I really think a study like the one under discussion is not the way to do it.

  • by fermion (181285) on Monday February 18, 2013 @05:23PM (#42938931) Homepage Journal
    I am working my way through this book but so far it makes a pretty good case that human development is a combination between genetics and natural resources. For instance, it talks of one genetically identical group, separated over a long period of time to two disimilar environments, and when they met again one slaughtered the other.

    He talks of certain events happening repeated in different groups and at different times. For instance, the development of crops and the different rates of adoption of those crops, even by neighbors who can be assumed to genetically similar.

    This really has nothing to do with fear, anymore than saying that a light bulb is turned on by a human flipping a switch and not a human praying to a god who then allows the flip to be switched. It has to do with a long line of research that shows simplifying variation amount humans is problematic, and mostly a result of forcing generalities. For instance, asian people are short and thin is a genetic disposition. But when fed an western diet, many become tall and fatter.

    We all know that economist are basically are free to say whatever they want, because really, they make no testable conclusions. Cutting income does increase the amount of stuff we can buy, because, really,, how can we say that it is the conclusion that is incorrect and not just that we are too stupid to apply it. OTOH, if a geneticist says something, and it later proved false, the gentisist is not free to go around and say that her failure is caused by the lame media, and not bad science.

  • by MrLizard (95131) on Monday February 18, 2013 @05:24PM (#42938947)

    a)If this is the case, then, the most economically successful (based on the premise described in the Slashdot article, I haven't read the paper) would be the Native Americans on the East coast, as they came from Africa, through Asia, across the Bering Strait, and then across what is now the United States, putting them about as far from Africa as you can get. While the American natives had a far more advanced culture than classic stereotypes portray, I'm not sure you could call it more economically advanced than the Europeans had when they landed here, as the Europeans had already invented such advanced economic developments as usury, debtor's prison, embezzling, and insurance fraud. I have not heard of any Native American cultures having developed those vital economic tools prior to contact with Europe, but I will accept I could be wrong.

    b)I'm absolutely certain the xenophobic far-right will seize with gleeful delight on a study that says "exogamy, multiculturalism, and mixing of ethnic groups/continual intermarriage is the key to success". (That was sarcasm.)

    c)Given that, I'm not sure why the left, which presumably favors multiculturalism, mixing ethnic groups, etc, would OPPOSE a study that says, "Yes, the more genetically diverse your population is, the better off you're going to be."

    d)"Argument from consequences" is a severe logical fallacy. If the paper is factually wrong, then, prove it wrong -- but don't say, "This can't be true because it would be BAD if it was true." That's the equivalent of saying, "I know my spouse isn't cheating on me, because I'd be utterly heartbroken if they were. That proves they're not."

    • I managed to misread the original summary, which implied generic diversity, in the study, correlated with economic success, rather than the LACK of genetic diversity correlating with economic success.

      Which, in turn, implies that the Alabama and other states in the "mah family tree doesn't fork" regions of the US should be the more economically successful. Still doesn't seem right.

  • by gerddie (173963) on Monday February 18, 2013 @05:24PM (#42938951)
    The wrong link in the summary should be http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/669034 [jstor.org]
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Monday February 18, 2013 @05:26PM (#42938977) Journal

    Wherever determinism appears, controversy attends, raising specters of days when colonialists, eugenicists, public health officials, and political idealists believed they could cure the human condition through manipulation and force.

    Well that sounds pretty epic ... also, very confusing. "Cure the human condition"? "Manipulation and force"? What does any of that have to do with this paper? Also, I find it counter-intellectual to take a paper that has been submitted for peer review and renounce it along with colonialists, eugenicists, public health officials and political idealists just because it contains correlated determinism. You're free to attack it based purely on what it says but to say that just because it suggests determinism in humanity's history doesn't mean that they are Nazi scientists and Ku Klux Klan members.

    Curiously the article accompanying this paper leaves out a key detail. From the paper:

    This study therefore employs cross-country historical data on population density as the dependent variable of interest in the historical analysis and examines the hypothesized eect of human genetic diversity within societies on their population densities in the year 1500 CE.

    (emphasis mine) Okay, after reading the article I would have said this study is obviously overlooking the British Empire that came back and started to systematically colonize the world despite it being further from the cradle of civilization than the very people it was colonizing. So 1500 CE was prior to a lot of the counter examples I could think of but I also feel like China and Japan had to be fully operational at these points in time and I wish I could pull up GDP numbers for 1500 but, gosh darn it, they weren't very good at record keeping at this point in time.

    I think that if these authors had placed their time frame in pre-Holy Roman Empire or pre-Zoroastrian times they would have met with less kick back from their academic community. Personally, I feel like we as humans by 1500 CE had already transcended the epoch period where our intelligence removed us from the uncaring hand of nature. Granted, that was a long struggle, but I think it's foolish to say that "At not time in humanity's history has our genetic diversity played a role in our survival." We are of the animal kingdom, the mistake this paper made was trying to bring that too close to the present. We had already had inventor-geniuses. History had already shown that technology like the Romans roads could be critical in enforcing dominance on other cultures.

    The paper attacks everything from its sources of population data to its methods for measuring genetic diversity, but the economists are standing by their methods.

    Welcome to academia. I mean, when it comes to publishing papers on historic events you can't exactly take their experiment and run it 50 times in your own lab to independently verify your results, can you? So I would imagine that economists, social sciences, historical studies and the like are filled with disagreeing camps that can't rectify their differences.

    The quality of Ashraf and Galor's research notwithstanding, the debate illustrates just how tricky it's become to assert anything which says something about human development was in any way inevitable.

    Or perhaps if you publish something about the past and you make flimsy assumptions, you can almost guarantee your "colleagues" will roast you alive.

    Geographer and author Jared Diamond, for example, who wrote Guns, Germs, and Steel, has been branded an environmental determinist who cuts culture and colonialism too much slack with regard to the rise and fall of civilizations—criticism that has been renewed recently with the publication of his new book, The World Until Yesterday.

    So you're saying an author is being attacked for his theories not being 10

  • by erroneus (253617) on Monday February 18, 2013 @05:35PM (#42939055) Homepage

    There is no escaping that we, as humans vary widely in terms of potential of all sorts whether it be for learning, violence or what have you. We know we can breed dogs and other animals to have specific behavioral characteristics and abilities. Is it so far fetched that humans, also being animals, would demonstrate the same variances and potentials based on breeding? But breeding is just the basis. Since we as humans have an amazing ability to teach and learn, additional variabces exist based on how much a community of humans values certain behaviors whether it is physical strength and violence (sports?) or more passive advancements (academics, getting good jobs?) or even merely physical appearance (models, entertainment?).

    It is both. It has always been both and until humans evolve into more purely intellectual creatures, it will always be both. And we *ARE* the living planet of the apes. The gorillas are more suited to certain roles while the chimps are more suited to others. And the damned orangutans are ruling everything.

  • In conclusion one could say that the Inuit and other northern indigineous people of the Americas had the greatest and most diverse economies, being about as far away from Africa as you can get.
  • Eric Raymond (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jodka (520060) on Monday February 18, 2013 @06:54PM (#42939587)

    Open source advocate Eric Raymond [wikipedia.org], author of The Cathedral and the Bazaar [amazon.com] and The Art of Unix Programming [amazon.com] has entered the Nature-Nurture debate, stating here: [ibiblio.org]

    And the part that, if you are a decent human being and not a racist
    bigot, you have been dreading: American blacks average a standard
    deviation lower in IQ than American whites at about 85. And
    it gets worse: the average IQ of African blacks is lower
    still, not far above what is considered the threshold of mental
    retardation in the U.S. And yes, it’s genetic; g seems to be about
    85% heritable, and recent studies of effects like regression towards
    the mean suggest strongly that most of the heritability is DNA rather
    than nurturance effects.

    For anyone who believe that racial equality is an important goal,
    this is absolutely horrible news. Which is why a lot of
    well-intentioned people refuse to look at these facts, and will
    attempt to shout down anyone who speaks them in public. There have
    been several occasions on which leading psychometricians have had
    their books canceled or withdrawn by publishers who found the actual
    scientific evidence about IQ so appalling that they refused to print
    it.

    Unfortunately, denial of the facts doesn’t make them go away.

    • Re:Eric Raymond (Score:4, Informative)

      by Thomas Miconi (85282) on Monday February 18, 2013 @10:41PM (#42940987)

      American blacks average a standard
      deviation lower in IQ than American whites at about 85.

      AKA the IQ of an average Scotsman in the 40s, when evaluated on a modern scale.

      Taking ESR seriously about anything scientific is a losing proposition. His antics on climate science are widely known (sees some piece of code that adjusts a timeseries for temperature increases, and immediately concludes that global warming is a hoax), but it's not common knowledge that he's also an HIV denialist. [ibiblio.org]

    • Dog breeds are certainly more tightly genetically controlled than humans. But they're still all dogs. They can all interbreed. And they share certain typical characteristics within breeds.

      A German Shepherd has a certain set of typical attributes. A Siberian Husky has another set of typical attributes. A Shepherd-Husky cross has yet another set of attributes. Dogs are grouped into logical classes on the basis of those attributes.

      Humans are pretty diverse even within races and ethnicities, in terms of their

    • One characteristic I often see ignored in the discussion of successful versus unsuccessful groups is this: High intra-group empathy. Empathy and esteem the group members have for each other.

      Intra-group empathy means less internal violence, more cooperation, less corruption and criminality, less preying of one group member on another. Leaders see this and make use of it. "Our group is the best! Each of you is fabulous because you're a member of this group!"

      And then another important, somewhat coincident ch

  • The answer is right there, it' just a bunch of scientist fighting with muddled words about who did what when. It's both, how can it not be? You are the sum of your creation and experiences, nothing more, nothing less. Sure people are born a certain way, with certain perks and downsides, at a certain time, and to certain people, but what that person does past that is their choice and their responsibility. There's going to be a million choices and factors to take into account, but ultimately it's that indi

  • by femtobyte (710429) on Monday February 18, 2013 @06:59PM (#42939617)

    You too can use the rigorous methods of this paper to prove your own theories explaining why European culture is the best!

    Ingredients:
    (A) a measure of economic/social/cultural development that puts Europe on top, 1500-2013CE (plenty to choose from; Europe was really good at conquering/enslaving/looting over this period)
    (B) a second characteristic correlated with "Europeanism" (in the paper's case, genetic diversity based on migratory distance from Africa --- pick another to support your own pet theory).

    Method:
    Plot (A) vs. (B). Note the graph peaks around the maximally-European value of (B).
    Conclude that having just the right value for (B) was a cause for Europe's maximal (A).

    Yay! Now you too can "prove" why nice-sounding attributes (like "optimal genetic diversity for cultural cooperation") put Europe (deservingly!) on top, instead of bothering with the distasteful details of actual history (genocide, colonialism, neo-colonism, ...).

  • This is an example of social scientists challenging a 'law' of the social sciences, namely that there is no genetic reason why almost any reasonably large population of people should perform significantly better or worse than any other and any discrepency should be attributed to other socio-environmental factors.

    Compare, for a moment, to the 'laws' of the physical sciences. These aren't necessarily completely accurate descriptions of the universe, but they are persistently true despite numerous challenges a

  • I skimmed over the original paper. It presents an interesting hypothesis, but the evidence is correlational, the analysis is complicated and indirect, and the relationship they found is not simple (not that bell-shaped curves can't occur, but they offer a lot more freedom in fitting data than monotonic relationships). If anybody actually is basing policy recommendations on it, I'd question their motives. But the attack on it seems a bit over the top, and I get the impression that the authors of the attack d

  • Move further away from Africa and you'll be richer. So obviously that moon-based civilization will be unbelievably rich!

  • ... the economic state of certain regions of the USA. Everyone is a blood relative.

  • If memory serves, "Guns , germs and steel" discusses at length the reasons for the large differences in technological advancement between countries/races. Surely Diamond is not perfect but what I read there made quite a bit of sense. Had nothing to do with genetics and much more with geography and a few key technologies. The part dedicated to the extermination of the Maya and Aztec civilizations was very insightful...

  • Psychology, sociology, and several other ###ologies will never be sciences. They may use statistical methods (well or badly) but one of the fundamentals of science is that experimental results should be repeatable, and I suppose refutable. They key here is experimental - this is not an experiment, it is data crunching. Sorry, data crunching is not science and never will be (yes it may be a tool of science). This is as bad as the correlation = causality moronic statements that we see frequently.

There is no distinction between any AI program and some existent game.

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