[ExI] Genetics doesn't explain why people are poor

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Mon Jan 27 18:17:42 UTC 2020

"'BillK'" <pharos at gmail.com> wrote

"A Study Tried to Use Genetics to Explain Why People Are Poor
Scientists wanted to explain health disparities and ended up with a
right-wing talking point."

As a minor point, Vice is a publication with a strong bias.  I often
agree with them but not this time.  When science runs up against
political bias, I go with the science and damn political correctness.

The Nature article didn't cite Gregory Clark who has been discussed
here for the last 12 years.  His paper "Genetically Capitalist?" is
entirely supportive of the findings and vice versa.


Here is the oldest mention I can find in my email.

Dec 20, 2007, 10:09 AM

Being much influenced by the concepts of evolutionary psychology, I
have tended to discount the idea of humans being much shaped by
recent evolution.  Exceptions have been accumulating, the taming of
wild foxes in as few as 8 generations, and the acquisition of genes
(a number of them!) for adult lactose tolerance in peoples with a
dairy culture.  Yes, you can get serious population average shifts if
the selection pressure is high enough.

Now Dr. Gregory Clark, in one of those huge efforts that lead to
breakthroughs has produced a study that makes a strong case for
recent  (last few hundred years) and massive changes in population
average psychological traits.  It leaves in place that a huge part of
our psychological traits did indeed come out of the stone age, but
adds to that recent and very strong selection pressures on the
population of settled agriculture societies in the "Malthusian trap."

I came a bit late to this party, Dr. Clark's book _A Farewell to
Alms_ peaked at 17 on Amazon's sales months ago.  My copy has not
come yet so I read this paper off his academic web site.


"Genetically Capitalist? The Malthusian Era, Institutions and the
Formation of Modern Preferences."

There is lots of other material
here:  http://www.econ.ucdavis.edu/faculty/gclark/research.html but
this paper is just stunning because of how much light it shines on a
long list of mysteries.  Such as: Why did the modern world grow out
of a small part of Europe and why did it take so long?  Why are the
Chinese doing so well compared to say, Africa?

The upshot of his research was that in the Malthusian era in England
people with the personality characteristics to become well off
economically had at least twice as many surviving children as those
in the lower economic classes--who were not replacing
themselves.  This, of course, led to "downward social mobility,"
where the numerous sons and daughters of the rich tended to be less
well off (on average) than their parents.  But over 20 generations
(1200-1800) it did spread the genes for the personality
characteristics for accumulating wealth through the entire population.

        "In the institutional and technological context of these societies,
a new set of human attributes mattered for the only currency
that mattered in the Malthusian era, which was reproductive
success. In this world literacy and numeracy, which were irrelevant
before, were both helpful for economic success in agrarian
pre-industrial economies. Thus since economic success was
linked to reproductive success, facility with numbers and wordswas
pulled along in its wake. Since patience and hard work found
a new reward in a society with large amounts of capital, patience
and hard work were also favored."

Fascinating work, memes that slot right into the rest of my
understanding of the world and the people in it.  I very strongly
recommend reading this paper at least.

**** (end of quote from 2007)

There are about 160 mentions of this subject on Ext-chat since then.

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list