Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Islam calling: Sacred and profane

 

Reading the news these days is like getting a personal email from the Islamic State. Another day, another horror, driving home the intended message “You are not safe and your government cannot protect you”.

A Catholic priest near Rouen made to kneel at his own altar to have his throat cut, with nuns and parishioners held as hostages. The desecration of a holy place, by common European consent a refuge from the hurly-burly of life’s troubles, converted for a bloody morning into a studio for an Islamic slaughter video. This act drives home the message that Islam is more determined than Christianity, or at the very least has adherents determined to kill Christians.

This is hardly a surprise, given the large number of Christians driven from the Middle East, after centuries of apparent co-existence. It is a common pattern, now coming to a church near you, or that is the propaganda message.

Then the usual cavalcade of important politicians giving serious press conferences, with assurances of toughness in the prosecution of a war, but no specific explanations as to what is intended.

I don’t do policy, but I can give the authorities a little lecture on base rates. If you want to find a needle in a haystack, first find a hay bale in which people have been hiding needles.

Start by considering the base rates. France regards everybody as a citizen regardless of origins or number of generations of residency, so estimates of the Muslim population vary somewhat. Let us take the lower band of estimates used by Pew Research and say 4.7 million. (Others say 6.13 million). Most of these are not terrorists, so any screening system will throw up a smokescreen of false positives.

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/07/22/muslims-and-islam-key-findings-in-the-u-s-and-around-the-world/

Young men are the most likely to be involved in crime and violence, so let us guesstimate that 2.35 million men are Muslims. In 2010, the median age of Muslims throughout Europe was 32, eight years younger than the median for all Europeans (40). Perhaps 1 million of them are young men. Most are not terrorists, so not worth screening, because of too many false positives.

It depends on how they are asked about the issue, but some of these young Muslim men will have some “understanding” and sympathy for Jihadist actions. Pew Research estimates that young men are those Muslims most likely to understand (tacitly condone) suicide bombing. A figure of 42% has been claimed for 2006. Regarding British Muslims, on April 11 2016 The Times reported that “Only one in three British Muslims would tip off the police if they believed that somebody close to them had become involved with terrorist sympathisers, a poll has revealed.” I do not have the original questions, so cannot validate the estimate that 66%  of UK Muslims would keep quiet about Islamic terrorism. For the purposes of argument I will take the very low estimate of 25% turning a blind eye in France. That would give us 250,000 potential sympathisers. Too many to screen.

Criminals do criminal acts, and criminality is mostly a behaviour of young men. Being sent to prison is a double indicator: it indicates criminality, and a higher chance of being converted to Jihadist Islam while in prison.  Of the 67,500 people currently behind bars in France, it is estimated that 70 per cent are Muslim – when they comprise only 8 per cent of the French public. That gives us 47,250 prisoners to screen. This might be manageable, but given the rarity of jihadist perpetrators, it is probably too many.

Roughly 900 French Muslims have gone abroad to join Islamic State. Finally, this is a manageable number. These are the true believers. This is the hay bale in which the needles are hidden. These  volunteers cannot be watched full time, nor followed other than very occasionally, but some indicators could help narrow down the prime suspects: sudden changes of clothing towards more religious dress, or vice versa; more visits to Jihadist websites, purchases of weapons and other materiel, and other indicators like not using credit cards on Fridays.

(I digress, but my few contacts in the UK Prevent program regard returning Jihadis as an asset, because they generally come back very disillusioned with the Islamic cause, and do not like the reality of Islamic warrior life. The authorities would prefer to use them as counter-propagandists, rather than put them in jail. However, some come back disillusioned but even more dangerous and resentful.)

Adel Kermiche, 19, who murdered the priest, was twice arrested last year trying to reach Syria. He had been to jail, and was released with an electronic tag which, in a very French way, left him free to roam in the morning, but kept him under supposed surveillance in the afternoon and evening. I presume they thought he would sleep in till lunchtime.

This young man was a clear “person of interest”. Yes, there are 900 others to watch, so something has to be done to make the task manageable. Perhaps the task could be made easier by helping these wannabe Jihadis to move to a real Islamic state, and not stay in a France which is clearly not to their liking. Perhaps that is too obvious a suggestion, and it is much better to keep them in France.  It does not seem too big a step to say to a person who favours Islamic State over France: live in an Islamic State.

I do not make policy recommendations, but I hope someone in the French government considers making some.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(In England and Wales, Muslims account for 14 per cent of the prison population, and 5 per cent of the population nationwide.)

 

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Genes and education

 

I have always thought it unseemly to spring psychological tests on my readers, but here is one of my standard annual test items: I manage to extract the slide presentation from a distinguished speaker, who with great aplomb has raced through a complex keynote presentation, and leave you to work out from the slides exactly what she said.

With Prof Yulia Kovas’s ISIR Keynote Address your task will be relatively simple, because after some comments on St Petersburg and Russian science she has listed the key points which come out of genetic research on educational outcomes, and also shows the front pages of many of the key references. If the pages seem familiar the whole talk will dance before your eyes. If some of them are new to you, you know exactly what you need to read next.

You can get the background on Yulia here: http://www.gold.ac.uk/psychology/staff/kovas/

Here is the Powerpoint presentation she kindly sent me, which contains lots of useful information:

 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3c4TxciNeJZVEo3djAzNWNEM3c/view?usp=sharing

 

 

Прощай

Monday, 25 July 2016

Ansbach bomber pledged allegiance to ISIL

 

An hour is a long time in politics. The Ansbach bomber/failed asylum seeker has apparently been found, via his mobile phone, to have pledged alliance to Islamic State.

Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said the man, who has not been named, also "announced an act of revenge against Germans because they were standing in the way of Islam".

Herrmann said violent videos and bomb-making material were also found at the man's home in the Bavarian town of Ansbach.

Islam calling: a torrent

 

 

The pack back used to carry an explosive device is seen at the scene of a suicide attack in the southern German city of Ansbach

 

It is hard to keep up with the news these days. I recall the remark attributed to Lenin: There are decades when nothing happens, and weeks when decades happen.

Under the direction of Chancellor Merkel, Germany made the decision to admit over one million refugees. They were described as Syrian refugees, but like everything else in this story, this is probably factually incorrect. The entrants were not all of them or most of them Syrians, and they were not all of them or most of them refugees. According to journalists who looked at the passports being dumped at the border, many of the entrants were from Pakistan, a country not currently at war, other than endemically with itself. They had one thing in common: they wanted to go to Germany, and the German Chancellor had invited them. Many Germans welcomed them.

In this account I will do my best to keep up with recent events, and keep up with the varying accounts given of the perpetrators and their motives.

On 18 July we had an axe and knife rampage by what was described as an Afghan teenager shouting Allahu Akbar, who left several train passengers with severe wounds, and after running from the train later attacked two old ladies walking their dogs, injuring one of them. His obligatory YouTube testament revealed him to be a rather large and well-built young man, and his accent was said to be Pakistani.

On 22 July an Iranian teenager born in Germany went on shooting rampage in Munich, killing nine people, many of them migrants, before shooting himself. Witnesses reported that during his rampage he said “I am German”. The first accounts were of a depressed boy, complaining of being bullied, and said to have been obsessed with school shootings. Early reports said he was linked to the right-wing Norwegian Breivik, but now the Police say no manifesto from that murderer has been found in his room. Why the specific reference was made is unclear. Another boy who spoke to his before his rampage and knew he had a gun has now been arrested.

On 24 July what was described as a Syrian asylum seeker was arrested in the town of Reutlingen, Baden-Wuerttemberg, after killing a Polish woman with a machete or meat cleaver and injuring two other people before a driver knocked him down with his car, probably thus avoiding a far greater number of casualties.  Police have come up with the preliminary hypothesis that it was a crime of passion, because the Polish woman was pregnant, and was known to the asylum seeker. Unlike others, I make no claim that the perpetrator was Syrian and an asylum seeker, nor that he was in a reciprocated passionate relationship. He committed his murder and other attempted murders yesterday, so we haven’t yet seen his Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and YouTube declarations. He has a swarthy complexion and a beard, but I cannot judge from that whether he is in possession of a German passport.

On 24 July, what is described as a failed Syrian asylum seeker blows himself up in the small Bavarian town of Ansbach, injuring 12 other people, 3 very seriously. He had been turned away from a music festival because he did not have a ticket, so strolled down to a local bar. If he is a failed asylum seeker it seems that failing to get asylum (apparently he was turned down a year ago) is no bar to living in Germany and murdering its citizens, so I cannot currently attach much significance to him being a “failed” asylum seeker. Equally, I cannot vouch for him being Syrian. Anyway, something irritated him, so at least 12 have been injured by a bomb in a backpack with metal shavings packed round it. The assailant, named locally as Mohammed Daleel, was already known to police for possession of drugs and had also spent time in a psychiatric facility having attempted suicide on two occasions in the past. Residents at the man's asylum shelter described him as a 'lying attention seeker'. I cannot vouch for any of these descriptions.

As discussed in previous posts, there are distal and proximal explanations for human behaviours, but some patterns in these events can be detected if you know how to look: so far, none of these crimes have been committed by Germans, that is Germans with German parents and German grand-parents and German great-grand-parents. So far, those sorts of Germans have not being rampaging and saying that their god is the greatest. Not so far, though in the first half of the 20th Century they had a tendency to stray over other people’s borders.

The oxygen of publicity is drawing in larger numbers. A dangerous Jihadist meme has generalised and gained traction among the disaffected, who now feel validated in taking others to their deaths, for 15 seconds of fame.

At times like these there is a natural tendency to stay in one’s study and read improving literature. Rather than rush out into the street screaming or waving a bladed implement, I have been re-reading an opinion piece written last year by my colleague Prof Heiner Rindermann, which I reproduce in rough translation below:

Rindermann, H. (2015). Engineers to secondary school level. The standard of education of most immigrants from Western Asia and Africa is low, their capabilities are limited. The consequences will be bitter. Focus, 23 (43), 42-44.

In 1685, the Elector Friedrich Wilhelm gave asylum to the Huguenots persecuted by Prussia, a wise decision: For centuries the positive influence of the Protestant refugees has been recognized. Thus, the Humboldt brothers were instrumental in the development of local science. In cities, the economic productivity was higher, the more Huguenots lived in them. The achievement of the de Maizière family, for example, shows the wise decision made 300 years ago.

The Huguenots brought with them skills and attitudes and they reproduced through generations. The human capital approach applies this perspective to all countries: The better the human capital, the more prosperity and freedom, democracy and the rule of law, innovation, equality and social peace are there in those countries. In this context, how should we assess recent German immigration policy?


For years, and in recent months increasingly, there are many immigrants coming from South-East Europe, Middle East and Africa. The majority of them do not have high qualifications: In international university studies, the average results of these countries are at 400 points, which is more than 110 points less than in the US or Germany, which corresponds to approximately three years of schooling competence difference. Even greater is the gap with Africa with four and a half years gap in some schools. Student assessment studies in Europe show for immigrant children compared with their countries of origin somewhat more favourable results. However, the difference is still several years of school.


Even in an elite group, engineering students from the Gulf states, a great difference can be seen: Their skills are in the average range much lower than poorer Vietnamese, but two to four school years behind those of German engineering students. This pattern of results underpinned a recent study
in Chemnitz: asylum seekers with university studies presented in mathematical and figural tasks an average IQ of 93 equivalent to the skill level of local elementary and secondary students.


Of course, migrants have opportunities for development, but the experience with recent generations of students of foreign students shows that these opportunities are limited. The often mentioned problem of language is only secondary, the much more serious and momentous problems are basic skills weaknesses.

In school, these migrants will show weaker performance on average and rarely achieve high qualifications. The problem is exacerbated by the practice (frequent in Muslim communities and in Africa) of cousin marriage with corresponding impairments.

The unemployment rate will be higher, and requests for social assistance more frequent. These people will cope with the technological and cultural complexity of a modern country less
successfully. Cognitive errors in daily life, such as in traffic or in professional and financial decisions are more common, with consequences for others.

Migrant groups will interpret their experiences as discriminatory. In order to overlook such differences some companies may accept lower standards without admitting it, and may avoid the use of objective performance tests. Some financial businesses may be pressured to award more favourable loans and insurance premiums than objective measures would warrant. One way to deal with the lower scholastic ability of immigrant communities, a cause of frustration to them, it to seek alternative activities, such as sports or music. However, there are also dysfunctional issues leading to crime.

Internal factors, such as found in the culture and the practice of Islam in the country of origin, also play an important role. A variety of reports on violence within immigrant families, compared to other migrants,women, locals, political opponents and dissenters, in refugee camps, including sexual assault, sometimes in the form of eruptive violence of whole neighbourhoods, suggest significantly higher aggressiveness  in these immigrant groups.


According to official reports Muslims, although they represent only 12 percent of the population of France account for 60 percent of all prison inmates. In Belgium, Muslims are represented eight times more commonly,  in the Netherlands and Great Britain four times. In England more than 1,000
British girls were sexually abused by migrants from Pakistan. In Berlin immigrants are over-represented more than three times of violent crimes, in rape cases more than sevenfold.
Of course, people who violate the law within the migrant communities constitute a minority, and every offender behaves for the vast period of his life in a generally compliant manner!

But even rare exceptions cause extreme stress for others. To monitor a single Islamists, 20 to 30 police officers are necessary. A murder, expressed in monetary units which are certainly insufficient, causes a loss of several million, a rape of several hundred thousand and a theft of several thousand euros.

Through migration, often positively evaluated as a good thing, diversity increases. But on a societal level, higher diversity is associated with more income inequality, state fragility, higher crime rates and with less social trust.

For many people these effects of migration policy might be surprising or even disturbing. The reason is that politicians, and the media represent different interest groups. Decisions such as the policy of open doors of Angela Merkel may lead to unintended consequences for society. As the benefits and risks of open doors are distributed among different people and long periods of time, some reap the benefits of political reputational  gain immediately, while the cost will be borne by others for decades to centuries, in particular the relatively poorer classes including many less recent immigrants. The freedom and the everyday level of women will be more limited. The same applies to Jews, homosexuals, cartoonists or critical intellectuals like Salman Rushdie or Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

The professional life of police officers, judicial officials and staff in employment offices, even the firemen, teachers, doctors and paramedics, will be more difficult and risky.

The effects of letting in the Huguenots can be seen as a wise decision 300 years later. Merkel’s less wise decision will also have visible effects in 300 years time. 

Postscript.

Heiner’s university colleagues sought to haul him up before the University authorities to face the usual charges, but he answered them by suggesting a debate in which his critics pointed out any factually incorrect statement he had made in his opinion piece. They have not taken up the challenge.

Seen in the light of recent events his prognostications seem to be on the mild side.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

St Petersburg calling: The Gottfredson Bell Curve

 

Linda

 

 

If, despite her having made so may contributions to intelligence research, Linda Gottfredson had to be remembered for only one thing,  I think it would be for her exposition of the meaning of intelligence in everyday life.

Whereas most previous researchers talked about the abstract concept of intellectual power, and gave examples only in terms of academic qualifications, Linda looked at the practical impacts of ability on trainability and the successful completion of everyday tasks. Even among my clinical psychology colleagues, most of whom who had done lots of intelligence testing, her papers were received with enthusiasm and some amazement. She explained what people could do at all levels of intelligence, in a way that made sense to patients and clinicians alike.

Some people are brighter than others. This is the finding which has emerged from intelligence research over a century. Read Linda Gottfredson  “Why g Matters: The Complexity of Everyday Life” (1997) if only just page 117 for an explanation of the relationship between literacy, learning and intelligence.

http://www.udel.edu/educ/gottfredson/reprints/1997whygmatters.pdf

The video below shows David Lubinski talking to Linda for her Distinguished Contributor Interview.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1E6ayVcPks

 

At 14 minutes she talks about the meaning of g, general intelligence. She recalls the three things that are required to detect g, according to Hunter and Schmidt: reliable measures, no restriction in the range of intelligence, and no sampling errors.

As a consequence of some people being brighter than others, and some jobs being more complex than others “You cannot have equality and excellence too”.

At 24 minutes she talks about the real tasks that people can or cannot do according to their intelligence levels.

At 35 minutes she describes how she came to write the statement on intelligence for the Wall Street Journal that was signed by 50 leading intelligence researchers in 1994. She said she kept it simple, and just summarised the main findings in the literature, and asked them to sign or not, not allowing them to change a word.

At 42 minutes she explains why intelligence is so important in health care: prevention requires a high level of self-care, and in the case of modern medicine, that turns out to be complicated. The dull are dying before their time, because the cannot follow the instructions for self-care.

At 57 minutes she mentions The Mind’s Eye: the capacity of intelligent people to imagine to imagine hypotheticals, and evaluate them.

At 1:07 why g matters, at 1.12 her admiration for Arthur Jensen, at 1.31 the contortions that some test creators have got into when trying to build a valid test which also annuls racial differences, mostly by complicated cheating (for example, restricting the cognitive elements of the test to being able to read at the 1st percentile).

A summary of a lifetime’s contribution, gracefully done by a researcher who suffered harassment for daring to talk about intelligence.

 

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Islam calling: Distal and proximal

 

Blood stains are seen on the regional train on which a man allegedly wielding an axe attacked passengers in Wuerzburg, Germany

 

Correlations are indicative of possible causes, but not definitive. In the modern way, we now have a torrent of information about the perpetrator of the Nice massacre. The quality of that information varies considerably.

Neighbours have spoken variously of him being:

a normal person, just like others in the neighbourhood, and doing normal things like drinking and going to parties;

a weird person; who looked odd, would not hold doors open for others, and was asocial and a bit scary.

Conflicting reports of this sort are pretty usual. Ordinary social behaviour has some common ground rules, of which non-involvement is a large part. Many people do not know much about their neighbours. In ghettoes like the one in Nice there are incentives to say nothing, and to have seen nothing. Interviews off camera are probably more informative, free from possible community retaliation.

His family have said that he had a long psychiatric history including treatment for schizophrenia. Other family members have said that he had recently sent them £84,000 which is a substantial sum for a divorced truck driver with an estranged family to keep.

His mobile phone has revealed a string of female and male sexual contacts, with many admiring selfie photos. His main homosexual lover, a man in his 70s, has been identified. The perpetrator’s texts have led Police to a suspected small arms provider and to other contacts.

Video surveillance from street cameras showed that he practiced taking his truck down the route he used for his rampage, and photographed the route. He hired the truck some days earlier, and also acquired weapons. Other witnesses said they had seen the truck, being driven erratically half an hour before the attack. Apparently he sent some text messages in that half hour of waiting. He gained entry through the police cordon by claiming to be delivering ice-cream. Overall, it was not a spur of the moment act, but carefully considered.

At this point some commentators are tempted to jump to conclusions: conflicted gay murderer; schizophrenic murderer (5 times more likely to be violent than non-schizophrenics); both gay and schizophrenic; depressed after his divorce; not depressed but in a whirl of sexual promiscuity, or polymorphous perversity as Freud called it; suicide by cops; or “very rapidly radicalised” as a French government minister surmised, which recent reports put at a mere 8 days. All possibly true.

However, the general distal explanations do not really show why he committed mass murder. They fit better with a lonely suicide bid (the depression angle) or a deranged random stabbing of passers-by (the psychotic episode angle), not a planned mass murder. The particular method he used involved him seeing the people he murdered at first hand, and feeling the truck rise and fall as he went over their bodies. It was close and personal and protracted.

In trying to find out why he murdered we have a long list of possible distal causes: North African genes, Tunisian culture, previous criminal behaviour, low ability, confused sexuality and particularly conflicted homosexuality, and persistent propaganda from Jihadists about the need to attack infidels. More recently he had a divorce from his wife (more than a year ago I think) and then most recently whatever was happening on Jihadist websites or contacts or friendship groups. He has been claimed by ISIL as one of their soldiers, and this is a reliable guide, according to those who study these matters. However, I would not bank on this unless a real link is proved in later investigations. (In a sense their real claim is: “We inspire people to violence, without knowing who they are”.)

The act was terrorism on a large scale, and each distal cause increased the probability that a proximate cause would lead him to his performance: attacking French civilians on their national day. Whatever the personal shortcomings of the perpetrator, he terrorised France, which is what the Jihadist cause required him to do. Their aim is to show Europeans they are unwelcome in their own countries.

Yesterday a 17 year old Afghan refugee to Germany, given government support and fostered by a German family for two weeks, has attacked passengers in a train with an axe and a knife, leaving a blood-splattered carriage with three very seriously injured passengers and 14 in a state of shock. He had shouted Allahu akbar" ("God is great"), a witness said. In his bedroom Police have found a home-made Islamic State flag.

ISIL has also claimed this attack: "The perpetrator of the stabbing attack in Germany was one of the fighters of the Islamic State and carried out the operation in answer to the calls to target the countries of the coalition fighting the Islamic State”. Apparently this is a more “arm’s length” endorsement.

Distal causes: Afghan genes and culture and (the Facebook rest will be filled in quickly, I presume, his website history will take a bit longer). Proximate cause: ISIL?

The perpetrators have a common theme: they have been convinced that they should kill the citizens of the countries which took them in. The most obvious ultimate cause of their violence is The Cause they espouse.

 

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Islam calling: troublesome minorities

 

Minorities trouble in two main ways: by being a nuisance and by becoming majorities. Doing both in parallel is the greatest threat to the host nation.

Proportionality is the key here: in most places, most people, most of the time,  go about their business peaceably. They can rightly say of the troublemakers in their communities that “they are a minority”. True. However, those troublemakers are more frequent in some communities than others, and this is a subtlety that often gets lost in discussion. Troublemakers need some support from their own communities, even if just tacitly turning a blind eye.

The rate at which European communities commit mass murder of their own citizens is very low, though not zero. The US suffered casualties from anti-government bombers. The UK suffered more casualties from Irish Republicans. Basque separatists have bombed Spaniards. However, these dreadful events can be seen as localised grievances, not an over-arching plan.

What troubles most about the Jihadist meme is its generality: its scope is global, and although it has key Western targets, the Crusaders, it takes on all non-believers: white Europeans, Black Nigerians, and anyone else who gets in their way, including brands of Islamic belief they judge to be insufficiently pure.

Like any franchise, it attracts lone entrepreneurs: those who vaguely want to do something, and find a general plan excuse enough to vent anger, disappointment, and general malaise. Insurrections are begun by dreamers and implemented by criminals.

So now we have a dreadful calculus: Western Europe has sizeable Islamic populations, most of whom are not bent on committing murder. Within those populations there are a minority willing to murder on a large scale. Their spectaculars (as the IRA used to boastfully call them) are aimed at showing the population that their governments cannot protect them. They attack the presumption of safety on which civil society is based.

A nation is a protection system, and not a racket if you can leave of your own free will. In exchange for following the rules and paying your dues you get the protection of the state: the protection of borders and the protection of your safety within the boundaries of the state. Insurrections challenge that protection, and taunt both the governed and the government.

The paradox comes thus: any state which guarantees the rights of citizens must also grant them to those who would destroy the state and injure its people. Our interpretation of Magna Carta is that the big letter demands that no-one be arrested without due cause. A noble aim, though of course the original did not apply to all citizens, only to free men, say about 40% of the population at most. It did not contemplate millions of non-Christian non-Europeans, with perhaps 10% of them at least passively in favour of establishing the dominion of another religion and another system of law. That which would have been considered treason is now considered a right which must be defended by the very State which is the target of the attack.

The current European plan, avidly followed in Nice to deal with its sizeable Muslim population (in its own run-down, poor neighbourhood) is to try to spot the militant tendency as early as possible, and bring help, counselling and Police attention to those most likely to commit murder. It may have worked to some extent, but not sufficiently strongly to prevent a large number of volunteers to the global cause going off to do some beheading in Syria, and at least one depressed individual from planning to crush his fellow French citizens to death under the wheels of his truck.

The current plan will continue, I presume, as a careful calculation, that the Muslim minority must not be provoked into turning further against European states, but must be cajoled, convinced, and sometimes bribed to bring information to the Police. Hardest of all will be to explain to Muslims that Muslims in Europe are not poor because Europeans are nasty to them, but mostly because their skills, abilities, and educational achievements, though perhaps a bit higher than in their countries of origin, are not at European levels. European elites baulk at explaining that, and so are caught in a vicious circle of apology. They have assumed that all men are equal, and cannot concede that that is an ideal to which States pay homage (the French particularly, since they count all as Citizens without “noticing” origins) but which does not reflect reality.

So, the plan is for Europe to take casualties, often in very large numbers in very public spectacular executions, and hope that the ideals of the brotherhood of man will win through in the end. In the meantime the pernicious meme will be propagated to all believers: you are urged to kill the infidel by all means possible.

In historical terms, the dilemma is whether it is 1914 or 1939, the former being (according to one school of thought) a time when better diplomacy could have prevented war, the latter being a time when willingness to go to war could have preserved the peace. Perhaps neither war is the appropriate comparison point, and we need to go back as far as the siege of Vienna.

 

 

Friday, 15 July 2016

Islam calling: lorry attack in Nice

 

Police have identified the perpetrator of an attack in Nice, France, who has killed at least 84 people attending a 14th July firework display.

The perpetrator had weapons and hand grenades in the back of his truck.

Naturally, there is interest in who this person was. An Islamic petty criminal, known to the Police but apparently not to the security services.

In predicting intelligence we are guided by the indifference of the indicator. Any test will do, formal or informal, if it reliably distinguishes one person from another, and has real life predictive value.

In predicting mass violence we should also follow the indifference of the indicator. Muslim men, probably with a criminal background, watching lots of jihadi videos and sermons, recently becoming devout, and probably subject to some random change in personal circumstances which would otherwise not be significant. Noisy data, and hard to find the signal in time to do anything about it. More potential perpetrators than there are teams to follow them.

President Hollande has just told France they will have to get used to terrorist attacks. It would be good to have a Plan B.

 

 

Is St Petersburg Russia’s Disneyland?

 

In former times this would get me sent to the Gulag, but is St Petersburg Russia’s Disneyland? Intended to ape Versailles, Venice, and more generally the Western wonders of the world, it succeeded in showing Russia to advantage, and the West to Russians: an accomplishment in all ways. Perhaps every culture wants a magic castle: Russia got St Petersburg and the US got Disneyland. The key may be to start construction in 1703.

The ISIR conference brochure shows a young Lev Vygotsky, together with Luria probably the Russian psychologist best known to the West. Good to put a face to a classic figure, and a cue for a story of his I cherish: a peasant hearing two astronomers discussing distant stars one night was amazed, not that they knew the stars’ distances and types, but that they knew their names.

A conference is a grand place to know Names at close first hand, over many coffees. More details about the conference can be found here:

 http://www.isironline.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/ISIR-2016_full_programme.pdf

or just follow the hashtag #isir16 on Twitter.

Also very good to see a page in memory of Earl “Buz” Hunt. I can testify to the immense pains he took to improve papers he reviewed, saying “If I can find errors by spending 15 minutes on Google it would be best if the author reviewed his work again before anyone else sees it”. The obituaries did not exactly say so, but he was pretty tough-minded but admired for his forthright opinions. He tolerated me even when we differed, for which I am grateful.

It was Buz who some years ago reminded me of the work of Warner Schaie, who is being honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award. All I had remembered was that in studying ageing effects one had to distinguish between cohort effects and ageing effects, by some technique I needed to look up. Buz immediately understood that attempts to study the Flynn Effect ran up against the same problems as the study of ageing, and that repeated measures of age cohorts provided a better insight. That is, when comparing 60 year olds with 18 year olds you conflate cohort and ageing effects, but if you re-test both groups every 10 or 20 years you can distinguish between effects. Warner Schaie led the way.

In line with conference traditions, here is the Keynote, delivered by Yulia Kovas, who is hosting the conference with colleagues.

KEYNOTE ADDRESS
Behavioural Genetics for Education:
New Insights into the Origins of Academic Ability,
Motivation and Achievement
Yulia Kovas
Goldsmiths, University of London & Tomsk State University
Many  findings of importance for education have recently emerged from genetic research, suggesting that genetic effects are not static or deterministic, but change throughout life and in different educational and cultural contexts. For example, academic achievement – such as performance in reading, language and mathematics – has been found to be highly heritable throughout school education in the UK. On the contrary, heritability of general cognitive ability is only moderate in the early school years and increases gradually, reaching substantial levels in adulthood. It is possible that high heritability of reading and mathematics can be explained by the high homogeneity of educational environments. For example, the UK National Curriculum is highly uniform
and therefore may decrease the environmental contribution to the variance in these traits. On the contrary, general cognitive ability is not explicitly taught at schools, and therefore may be
under highly variable environmental influences across children, especially early in development.
Gene-environment correlations, whereby children experience, modify, and select their environments – partly because of their genetic propensities – may contribute to the observed increase
in heritability of IQ. Recent large-scale twins studies also provided insights into the origins of individual differences in such educationally-relevant characteristics as motivation, grit, academic anxiety, and choice of specific academic subjects. Incredible recent advances in molecular genetic research have led to identification of specific DNA polymorphisms responsible for ubiquitous genetic influence. Moreover, new methods allow us to make predictions about development directly from DNA, which opens up unprecedented opportunities for further research and educational practice.

More in a moment.

 

 

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Some thoughts from China

 

You may remember that I posted up some research on dysgenic trends in China,.

http://drjamesthompson.blogspot.fr/2016/06/china-getting-duller-perhaps.html

Mingrui Wang, the lead author, has now added some further comments.

The paradox of democracy
In democratic societies, the government is elected by the people and it will respect their wishes. Sometimes, their wishes can be conflicting. For example, there can be a paradox between differential fertility desire and the development of society.
Rational individuals ought to hate eugenic policy and love dysgenic fertility.
There are two kinds of eugenic policies that try to alter the relative fertility rate of individuals with different breeding value (e.g., IQ) - positive and negative eugenics. Positive eugenics policies aim to increase the fertility of high IQ individuals. Negative eugenics policies aim to decrease the fertility of low-IQ individuals. These two kinds of policies are self-evidently unwelcomed by affected individuals because they aim to deviate their behaviour from their wishes. The reproductive behaviour of individuals who fall between these two extremes is unaffected by eugenic policies. They should hate eugenic policies too because if the proportion of high IQ individuals rises while the proportion of low IQ individuals falls, they and their offspring tend to become the new low IQ individuals. Eugenic policies, therefore, conflicts the interest of every individual in the society.
In the real society, low and high IQ individuals both have their wishes respected. As the proportion of low IQ individuals rises and high IQ individuals decreases, IQ of medium IQ individuals and their offspring rises quietly. Don't forget IQ is actually a sorting tool, setting population average=100, SD=15. More than the performance on a test, their relative rankings in wealth also rise in the society. Don't forget, people feel happy because they are better than others. You may enjoy far more modern gadgets, eating more kinds of food, than any ancient emperors, but not feeling happy as they did. When controlling for an individual's own income,
higher earnings of neighbours are associated with lower levels of self-reported happiness. Dysgenic fertility and immigration will, therefore, increase the happiness level of individuals in the medium class. Hence, dysgenic fertility ought to be favoured by people from each class of the society.
On the other hand, individuals also desire the benefits from a strong society (e.g., defence and welfare), which might not be possible if dysgenic fertility persists for a long time. Therefore, democracy might be a paradox because it respects conflicting wishes from the people.
Although China is considered by the west as an authoritarian nation, the rise of thoughts on individual rights might make eugenic policies also not feasible here. Breaking fertility regulations in China will face fines, which make it look like a
crime. Behaviour genetic research suggests all psychological traits show significant and substantial genetic influence, so there might have been a selection favouring genes that predispose individual to break such policy. The rise of regulation-breaking genes will make any eugenic policy not long-term sustainable, even in China.
You may think China have already implemented a eugenic policy. The fertility policy indeed contains some element of "good birth". But it is mainly about a good rearing of children and the elimination of genetic defects. It completely ignores the literature of behaviour genetics. In the 1980s, there are Chinese scholars who have noticed the possible "inverse selection" on the urban status and they were ignored. In 2007, Di Zhenwu, the dean of School of social and population college of Renmin University of China published
an article rejecting this claim by pointing out the increase in the proportion of the urban population and the large gains in the quality of the rural population. He did not consider the possibility that selective immigration wakened genetic quality of rural population because those who have left were those had been less able to move out. I expect critics continue to urge that the lower IQ of individuals with a higher fertility is completely due to environmental reasons. So at the end of the paper, I challenged them to refute by conducting molecular studies.
Perhaps the only solution is genetic engineering, a kind of within-family eugenics, if it is technologically possible. For the issue of dysgenics, I am planning to write a Chinese language review to raise awareness on it. I hope more research in related areas can be done.
Recommended readings
Lynn, R. (2011). Dysgenics: Genetic deterioration in modern populations (2nd revise). London: Ulster Institute for Social Research.
Lynn, R. (2001). Eugenics: A reassessment. Greenwood Publishing Group.
Woodley, M. A., & Figueredo, A. J. (2013). Historical variability in heritable general intelligence: Its evolutionary origins and socio-cultural consequences. Buckingham: The University of Buckingham Press.
Kind regards,
Mingrui