Category Archives: Science And Society

Brain Size Follow Up

I think that a lot of people misunderstood me in this post, judging by the comments.

I’m not claiming that brain size correlates perfectly with intelligence, and that size is the only factor of interest. Obviously, there’s no reason to think that a non-human brain twice the size of a human brain would be expected to be smarter. My point was that for humans, with normal brain configuration, it’s a reasonable assumption that a bigger brain is generally going to be smarter than a smaller one. There’s just room for more brain stuff that constitutes smarts (and I don’t think that transport speeds have much relevance, relative to numbers of neurons).

With regard to Gould, yes, I did read The Mismeasure of Man, and I also read between the lines. He was a dedicated Marxist, and the very notion that there could be a correlation between “race” (and yes, I know that this is an imprecise concept, and a social rather than biological construct) and intelligence would have been anathema to him, which was why it was so important to him to debunk it. I have no particular beliefs about whether or not whites are on average smarter than blacks, or vice versa, but I think that it’s absurd to claim that it’s impossible for there to be any gross correlation between intelligence and melanin content. Anything that’s heritable will have variability in human populations, and anyone who doesn’t think that IQ, however measured or defined, doesn’t have a heritable component is indulging themselves in the blank slate fallacy.

Of course, the whole issue, while it may be of scientific interest, shouldn’t be so societally controversial. So what if whites are dumber, on average, than blacks, or vice versa? We don’t deal with average people–we do, or at least should, deal with individuals. It doesn’t matter what group I come from if I have a high IQ, and am one of the people raising the average for that group. Such research cannot rationally be used to justify any particular social policy, at least any that’s congruent with the Fourteenth Amendment.

Duh

Here’s a research result that will be sure to shake up the academic community–people with bigger brains tend to be smarter than people with smaller brains.

While I guess there’s some utility to quantifying the effect, what person with a reasonably sized brain would have thought otherwise? The effect may not be linear with brain volume, but it’s almost mathematically provable that there would have to be a positive correlation. Does anyone imagine that a brain the size of a walnut could be as smart as one the average size of a human brain? To argue otherwise seems as spurious as the stubborn insistence by some (such as the late Stephen J. Gould) that there’s no relationship whatsoever between “race” and IQ–it has to be driven more by political correctness than by logic.

Save The Skeletons

John McCain is at it again. I’m frankly mystified at why he’s in such a rush to close off scientific inquiry. Unless perhaps he’s on the take from Indian casino money…

Maybe next year he’ll sponsor a new law making it illegal to criticize sanctimonious Senators. Given their track record with his other anti-speech legislation, the Supreme Court would probably have no problem with it.

[Update at 12:20 PM EDT]

For those who, like the commenter, are wondering what this is all about, here’s a good article describing the situation. And yes, a Google on “NAGPRA McCain” would provide many helpful links.

Good News For Bill Clinton

They may have finally found a cure for herpes–licorice (sorry, subscription required). You can’t just eat it, though–you have to mainline it:

Researchers at New York University ran lab tests on white blood cells, some of which were infected with the herpes virus. Exposing the infected cells to the licorice ingredient, glycyrrhizic acid, shuts down LANA. That starts a chain reaction of biochemical changes in the white blood cells, leading to their suicide and the virus’ death. The uninfected cells showed no detrimental effects from glycyrrhizic acid, the researchers report in the March Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Cool.