Friday, November 29, 2013

Label GMO foods!

For the purposes of this note only, let me stipulate that a GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) food by itself is no more dangerous than non-GMO food.   I still say that one might want GMO foods to be labelled.

The most common used genetic modification is to give the food crop herbicide-resistance, specifically glyphosate-resistance.  The idea is that farmers can control weeds but not harm the food crop by using herbicides.  And so the use of Monsanto's glyphosate-based herbicide, Roundup, has increased tremendously.   As some weeds have gained resistance to glyphosate, the genetic engineers are trying to confer further herbicide resistance to crops, so that other ones, like 2-4-D can also be used.  So a lot more of these chemicals are entering the environment, and also, leaving residues in food.

Are these chemicals dangerous to humans? Tested individually, for a short period of time, the answer is "scientifically no deleterious effects are found".  But no one has tested these for long term exposure, and more importantly, no one has tested the effects of a cocktail of these chemicals.

Even in the context of just Roundup, it is claimed that the surfactant used therein plus glyphosate is much more dangerous to people than glyphosate on its own.  It is also claimed that these chemicals have effects on our microbial environment (remember, your body carries ten times as many microbes as cells with your own DNA).  For instance, the rise of botulinism in cattle is supposedly because glyphosate affects negatively the bacteria that normally keep the botulinum bacteria in check.  I say "it is claimed" because I haven't yet examined all the literature for myself.

We already know of environmental effects, such as the loss of milkweed, which is essential in the habitat for Monarch butterflies, and that provides sustenance for a number of other species.
E.g., Milkweed loss in agricultural fields because of herbicide
use: effect on the monarch butterfly population
in Insect Conservation and Diversity (2012) doi: 10.1111/j.1752-4598.2012.00196.x

Agriculture needs to be done in a sustainable way, and that means taking a systems approach to evaluating the effects of changes in agricultural practices.  One cannot take the piecemeal approach of reductionism, because the class of problems involved cannot be reduced to a single dominant cause. 

Another example of where the search for a single cause has been futile is that of the Colony Collapse Disorder afflicting honey bees.   No single cause has been identified for this, it is likely a melange of small but significant interacting factors in the environment that is proving to be deadly.

In light of the above, a responsible citizen may want to be made aware of their choices in the grocery store,  and it is therefore, in my opinion, the right thing to do - label GMO foods.

PS: incidentally, software systems that have grown over years by evolution, with little refactoring, show this kind of terminal complexity.  There may be 80 different causes of failures, each contributing to 0.5% of the defects reported by users.  Many managers are simply unable to grasp this, and keep looking for a silver bullet, the one thing to fix, that would eliminate all problems. 

PPS: I think in general, we do not have the societal ability to address multi-dimensional problems.  The problems with schools, higher education, health care, poverty, increasing inequality, etc., all require lots and lots of small fixes, I think, but politically, it is difficult to implement a program of manifold small fixes, no single one of which will show a significant impact.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


From Slate:
The MSUM and UDC decisions demonstrate something crucially important and monumentally depressing about the state of the American public university: It is an immaculately landscaped corporate park with its own apparel store, full of the sound of tuition money disappearing and the fury of a thousand feet on a rock wall, but signifying nothing.

12 days of Christmas - old favorite

Boy Mongoose:

A wee bit more on Genetic Determinism

The FDA is in a spat with the genetic information company  A lot of people on the web support the FDA, because they say 23andMe provides medical diagnosis and medical advice.  I really don't think so, I think they just take your genetic features and compare with the available scientific literature.    Anyway, it prompted me to look more closely at what they do.

To take a specific example, PBC (Primary Biliary Cirrhosis).  They give the scientific research 4 stars out of 4 for level of confidence.   They tell me that the average risk in European populations is 0.08%, i.e., on the average 0.08 out of 100 men of European ancestry will develop PBC between the ages of 20 and 79, assuming it is absent at age 20; and that in European men who share my genotype, the risk is 0.11%, i.e., 0.11 out of 100 men of European ancestry with my genotype will develop PBC between the ages of 20 and 79, assuming that it is absent at age 20". 

They tell me that this genetic marker has not been tested in people of African or Asian descent. Further, in the technical review, where they go into more detail, they say about a particular SNP and the risk of PBC associated with it (what is an SNP?):
Multiple studies have confirmed this association in populations with European ancestry. A Japanese study examined this SNP in an Asian population but was not able to confirm the association, possibly because the version of the SNP associated with risk in European populations is very common in Asian populations.
Notice the highlight.  As far as I can tell from Google searches is that the PBC incidence rate in China and Japan is not higher than that in Europe (but the numbers are sketchy).  It is believed to be rare in India also,  but suspected to be higher in migrant populations than in India.

Just another grain of sand that the whole system - whole genome and environment - will need to be considered in all but the simplest of cases. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Reporting versus Opinionating

Lara Logan of the CBS News show "60 Minutes" has been put on a leave of absence, because her story was based on a rather uncritical acceptance of Dylan Davies' story of having been there at the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, when she could have rather readily checked that Davies had told to the FBI quite the opposite.

It turns out Lara Logan has a strong point of view,  and Al Ortiz, the CBS News Executive Director of Standards and Practices found (via Digby)
In October of 2012, one month before starting work on the Benghazi story, Logan made a speech in which she took a strong public position arguing that the US Government was misrepresenting the threat from Al Qaeda, and urging actions that the US should take in response to the Benghazi attack. From a CBS News Standards perspective, there is a conflict in taking a public position on the government’s handling of Benghazi and Al Qaeda, while continuing to report on the story.
 Digby also notes that Lara Logan has rather strong opinions about the war in Afghanistan.  She thinks America was/is fighting the wrong fight. 
The best analogy I can give you, what you're doing to your U.S. troops on the ground, line up all hundred thousand or so of those troops, handcuff them behind their backs, give them a shove, send them straight into the Taliban guns. Because that's effectively what you're doing. The enemy is not in Afghanistan. The low hanging fruit, the expendable people, are in Afghanistan. The real enemy is across the border in Pakistan, and I'm not advocating for war in Pakistan. But there are a thousand things you could do to address that. As long as you are not going after the command and control and the true source of the enemy-- and by the way, we have the capacity and the information to do that and we have not because of our foreign policy towards Pakistan-- then you have no business being in the fight.
...The Quetta Shura runs the Afghan war from the city of Quetta inside Pakistan..... You take them out the same way you took out al-Loki and Nek Muhammad and all the others that have been killed that way.....And you do it, you target not just the Quetta Shura, you target the Miran Shah Shura, the Peshawar Shura, the Haqqani Network. 
You take 24 to 48 hours out of your day where you target all the people who you know where they are and you send a message to the Pakistanis that putting American bodies in Arlington Cemetery is not an acceptable form of foreign policy.
And there is this, Lara Logan points out to Gen. John Allen some unpleasant facts about Pakistan, and he says, she is telling the truth.

No one can be both a reporter and an advocate for a point of view. Lara Logan was exactly right about the problem that Pakistan posed. Gen. Allen and I - we agree. But she had a choice to report on the problem and on what policies the US was following to address the problem; or else, to have policy opinions and be a pundit, and not be a reporter.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Cape May Monarch Migration Monitoring

The numbers are dismal. 
Table reproduced below.
The slim hope is that a rebound is possible just as after 2004.

Table #1. CAPE MAY POINT ROAD CENSUS - 1992-2013
Week 19921993 19941995 1996 1997 1998 19992000 200120022003200420052006 2007200820092010201120122013
1 7.7 12.0 95.5 43.0 9.1 185.6 3.0 23.92.523.46.624.8 5.532.025.042.414.3 25.921.88.6316.876.95
2 14.2 13.5 213.6 26.9 4.2 65.4 54.6 10.93.342.242.814.8 3.2 21.874.423.96.07.3 143.25.88141.716.21
3 14.5 109.9 120.6 16.2 141.9 216.4 4.3 298.832.967.962.73.3 9.2 22.2132.6131.128.438.3 500.39.76171.189.17
4 15.3 152.9 143.3 22.1 78.5 226.1 93.5 413.4112.8134.370.35.4 11.7 115.5750.259.111.624.2 42.913.0236.7727.86
5 7.7 149.1 162.2 25.4 127.3 71.2 96.9 1536.853.7189.68.578.3 16.3 79.4629.764.677.287.4 49.4210.0442.1921.91
6 14.3 57.2 15.427.0 48.6 77.346.2531.418.0 53.234.2135.716.9 13.0 52.338.048.367.5 233.4261.075.225.95
7 18.9 20.5 17.036.6 49.6 65.071.320.915.1 58.520.590.36.7235.253.8262.2 63.2 4.421.390.034.0612.32
8 0.9 14.9 54.115.0 33.3 8.333.35.68.8 75.626.228.42.2 15.4 17.879.012.420.2 9.369.8294.8714.94
9* 0.0 14.6 18.136.3 11.1 3.7 7.645.74.46.0 4.913.64*9.397.42
Final11.3 66.6 93.527.4 60.1 113.447.9359.830.6 77.332.945.28.9 63.2 216.781.231.134.4 130.085.29183.1512.74
                      *week 9 is a partial week and in 2012 census route roads were closed on Oct 29 and 30 due to storm Sandy

Extinction of the Monarch Butterfly Imminent

The NYTimes has this:

ON the first of November, when Mexicans celebrate a holiday called the Day of the Dead, some also celebrate the millions of monarch butterflies that, without fail, fly to the mountainous fir forests of central Mexico on that day. They are believed to be souls of the dead, returned. 

This year, for or the first time in memory, the monarch butterflies didn’t come, at least not on the Day of the Dead. They began to straggle in a week later than usual, in record-low numbers. Last year’s low of 60 million now seems great compared with the fewer than three million that have shown up so far this year. Some experts fear that the spectacular migration could be near collapse. 

“It does not look good,” said Lincoln P. Brower, a monarch expert at Sweet Briar College. 

It is only the latest bad news about the dramatic decline of insect populations.
Another insect in serious trouble is the wild bee, which has thousands of species. Nicotine-based pesticides called neonicotinoids are implicated in their decline, but even if they were no longer used, experts say, bees, monarchs and many other species of insect would still be in serious trouble.

For the past 15 years, scientists have been watching monarch numbers plummet, as much as 81 percent between 1999 and 2010.

Nearly every link in the monarchs’ chain of being, he said, is at risk. Illegal logging in Mexico has reduced their winter habitat — an already vanishingly small area, which is itself being altered by the warming climate. Ecotourists who come to witness the congregation of so many butterflies disturb the creatures they have come to see. But perhaps most damaging is the demise of milkweed. 

Monarchs have the misfortune to rely exclusively on a plant that farmers all across the Midwest and Northeast consider a weed. There is a direct parallel between the demise of milkweeds — killed by the herbicide glyphosate, which is sprayed by the millions of gallons on fields where genetically modified crops are growing — and the steady drop in monarch numbers. 

To anyone who has grown up in the Midwest, the result seems very strange. After decades of trying to eradicate milkweed, gardeners are being encouraged to plant it in their gardens, and townships and counties are being asked to let it thrive in the roadside ditches. What looks like agricultural success, purging bean and corn fields of milkweed (among other weeds), turns out to be butterfly disaster. This is the great puzzle of species conservation — it has to be effective at nearly every stage of a species’ life cycle. And this, too, is the dilemma of human behavior. We live in a world of unintended consequences of our own making, which can never be easily undone.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Quote from Theodore Roosevelt

A colleague pointed me to this speech by Theodore Roosevelt from 1910, and specifically the following:

.....Yet there are certain failings against which it is especially incumbent that both men of trained and cultivated intellect, and men of inherited wealth and position should especially guard themselves, because to these failings they are especially liable; and if yielded to, their- your- chances of useful service are at an end.
Let the man of learning, the man of lettered leisure, beware of that queer and cheap temptation to pose to himself and to others as a cynic, as the man who has outgrown emotions and beliefs, the man to whom good and evil are as one. The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer.
There are many men who feel a kind of twister pride in cynicism; there are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt. There is no more unhealthy being, no man less worthy of respect, than he who either really holds, or feigns to hold, an attitude of sneering disbelief toward all that is great and lofty, whether in achievement or in that noble effort which, even if it fails, comes to second achievement.
A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticise work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life's realities - all these are marks, not as the possessor would fain to think, of superiority but of weakness. They mark the men unfit to bear their part painfully in the stern strife of living, who seek, in the affection of contempt for the achievements of others, to hide from others and from themselves in their own weakness. The rôle is easy; there is none easier, save only the rôle of the man who sneers alike at both criticism and performance.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
Shame on the man of cultivated taste who permits refinement to develop into fastidiousness that unfits him for doing the rough work of a workaday world. Among the free peoples who govern themselves there is but a small field of usefulness open for the men of cloistered life who shrink from contact with their fellows. Still less room is there for those who deride of slight what is done by those who actually bear the brunt of the day; nor yet for those others who always profess that they would like to take action, if only the conditions of life were not exactly what they actually are.
The man who does nothing cuts the same sordid figure in the pages of history, whether he be a cynic, or fop, or voluptuary. There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder. Well for these men if they succeed; well also, though not so well, if they fail, given only that they have nobly ventured, and have put forth all their heart and strength. It is war-worn Hotspur, spent with hard fighting, he of the many errors and valiant end, over whose memory we love to linger, not over the memory of the young lord who "but for the vile guns would have been a valiant soldier."

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Sent to me:  the 14 habits of highly miserable people, a sort of parody of the 7 habits of highly effective people?  There are fewer habits to have to be effective, but one must have all of them;  it takes only one of the fourteen to make oneself miserable.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Why not NJ - 2?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Why not in NJ?

The NYT tells us:
A study conducted last year by two Stanford professors estimated that nearly 40,000 active companies generating annual revenue of $2.7 trillion can trace their roots in some way to Stanford.
Amazing what a entrepreneurial culture and a great university can do.

But apart from Mayor Bloomberg in New York City,  I don't see anyone around who is doing anything - I think the NYC - Philadelphia corridor ought to be another great technology center.

New York City’s ambitions to challenge Silicon Valley as a technology center are taking root on a narrow isle in the East River, where Cornell University is building a $2 billion campus and startup incubator.


The graduate school, known as CornellNYC tech, is part of a broader push by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to make the city a global technology leader. In December, Cornell and the Technion- Israel Institute for Technology beat out six competing bids to build the campus, including one from Stanford University. A $350 million donation from Cornell graduate Charles Feeney helped seal the university’s victory.

The city is donating space on Roosevelt Island and as much as $100 million for infrastructure improvements. The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.

The project is meant to bolster job creation in the city and generate 600 spinoff companies and $23 billion in economic activity over the next three decades. Until the Roosevelt Island campus opens in 2017, it will run in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, in space leased rent-free from Google.

QOTD - Dallas

James McAuley, in the New York Times:
Dallas — with no river, port or natural resources of its own — has always fashioned itself as a city with no reason for being, a city that triumphed against all odds, a city that validates the sheer power of individual will and the particular ideology that champions it above all else. “Dallas,” the journalist Holland McCombs observed in Fortune in 1949, “doesn’t owe a damn thing to accident, nature or inevitability. It is what it is ... because the men of Dallas damn well planned it that way.”.........The country musician Jimmy Dale Gilmore said it best in his song about the city: “Dallas is a rich man with a death wish in his eye ... a rich man who tends to believe in his own lies.”
 On the few occasions I have visited Dallas, I have felt it was a city without a soul.  Maybe I'm wrong, but that is why Jimmy Dale Gilmore resonates with me.

McAuley further writes of Dallas' economic vibrance but notes:
But those are transient triumphs in the face of what has always been left unsaid, what the now-defunct Dallas Times Herald once called the “dark night of the soul,” on which the bright Texas sun has yet to rise. The far right of 1963 and the radicalism of my grandparents’ generation may have faded in recent years, they remain very much alive in Dallas.

"The Lakes of Pontchartrain" - Aoife O'Donovan - 11/16/2013

I was awakened from a deep nap yesterday, by this song on the radio. In my drowsy condition, the notes sounded like showers of silver coins and pearls. And it seemed twice as long. Of course, with waking up, the magic diminishes.

This is an old traditional song of unknown origin, if you believe youtube, which has many versions of this song.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Custom-made employees

With the advent of Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs)  one of the bees buzzing in CEOs' bonnets is the idea that they can have custom-educated employees.  E.g., to get an entry-level position in such-and-such-role at MegaCorp, the applicant must have successfully completed such-and-such MOOCs. 

Of course, Gigantic Inc., whose offices are next door, might have a different course list.  I cannot but sympathize in advance with the job-seeker of the future.

Piling of correlations upon correlations

In a previous blog post, I had linked to R. Plomin et. al.'s results that literacy and numeracy are more heritable than "g" (IQ).    One of the things to understand is that at least one set of "g" measurements they used was a test conducted by telephone.  The paper says, and it is expounded on here, about how much telephone tests correlate with in-person tests.

"Testing cognitive abilities by telephone in a sample of 6- to 8-year-olds" (2002)
Intelligence Volume 30, Issue 4, July–August 2002, Pages 353–360


Telephone-administered measures of cognitive ability have been shown to be efficient and cost-effective alternatives to in-person-based assessments. The current study examined the validity of a telephone-assessed measure of cognitive ability using a sample of fifty-two 6–8-year-old children. The telephone test was composed of verbal- as well as performance-based measures of cognitive ability. The telephone-assessed measure of general cognitive ability correlated r=.65 with in-person-assessed measures. After correction for range restriction, the correlation was r=.72. Thus, measures of cognitive ability administered by telephone appear to be feasible, even in elementary school-age children.

About IQ measurement:

Alan S. Kaufman, clinical professor of psychology at the Yale University School of Medicine:

There's no such thing as "an" IQ. You have an IQ at a given point in time. That IQ has built-in error. It's not like stepping on a scale to determine how much you weigh.

The reasonable error around any reliable IQ is going to be plus or minus 5 or 6 points, to give you a 95 percent confidence interval. So, for example, if a person scores 126, then you can say with 95 percent confidence that the person's true IQ is somewhere between 120 and 132; within our science we don't get any more accurate than that.

But as soon as you go to a different IQ test, then the range is even wider, because different IQ tests measure slightly different things.

But while there is no single IQ – it's a range of IQs – you can still pretty much determine whether a person is going to score roughly at a low level, or an average level, or a high level.

However, IQ is a relative concept. IQ is how well you do on an IQ test compared to other people your age, and that is true whether you are 4 or in your 40s.
Now I'm wondering how much do the errors pile up.  I need to read the papers carefully to see if they indeed say, "what we have measured is "g" +/- 4%.  

PS: another annoying thing about these papers is that they are all about the variance - they do not mention the value of the mean.   I for one, can think of possible anomalies that would be made visible by the mean.

Caught my eye

Ta-Nehisi Coates:

Jelani did his doc researching black anti-communists. He pointed out that part of the attraction for people like Robeson was the fact that the Soviets had no colonies in Africa. 
But the U.S.S.R. was ultimately as much a colonizer, as much an imperial power,  as any other European power. The difference was that Russia colonized white people:...

The Readiness Potential?

This, via Bee.  Random Brain Waves Save Free Will?
A new paper adds to the perennial free will debate, by casting doubt on the famous Libet experiment.

Back in 1983, neuroscientists led by Benjamin Libet found that, about two seconds before someone presses a button ‘of their own free will’, a negative electrical potential – dubbed the Readiness Potential (RP) – began to build up in the cortex. Their EEG study showed that the brain seemed to have ‘decided’ before the conscious mind did – bad news for free will.
Since then, the meaning of the RP has been extensively debated. But the new study by Han-Gue Jo and colleagues of Freiburg makes a strong case that the “RP” is not really a ‘thing’ at all.
Bee's interest is because of the implications or non-implications for free will.  My interest is just to point out  that the interpretation of this experiment is made difficult because what we have are correlations, we cannot trace from cause to effect.

On Correlations of Cultural Traits

Al Jazeera reports on press freedom in Alabama.


PS: dailykos on Alabama justice in an entirely different case.

Mean, variance, heritability confusions

This passage is typical (Mary Wakefield in the Spectator, interview with Robert Plomin, July 27, 2013) of a certain confusion:
Crucially, I suppose, what educationalists of a leftish bent must consider is this: if IQ is measurable (it is) and highly heritable (that, too), then the diversity we see now in exam results isn’t going to melt away. In fact, in the best school, with excellent teachers and rigorous exams, a normal, randomly selected bunch of kids will see a greater spread of results, reflecting their inherited abilities. The little Plomins, rich and poor, will pull away. The other kids’ results will get better too, but the gap will grow.
If we could give everyone a good school environment that is identical in all the relevant factors, then the heritability of school achievement will be 100%.   That is, all the variation in the trait will have to be the result of genetic variation, because the variation due to environment, by construction, is zero.   Moreover, having eliminated the variance caused by environment, the variability in this population would be less than the variability if the same population was placed in a diversity of environments. Moreover, while reducing the variance, we would also have increased the average (which is vaguely noted in the above as "the other kids' results will get better too".   We will see a lesser spread of results (and not "the gap will grow").  As a side effect, we will see higher heritability, which just serves to remind that heritability is not the same as inheritability.

Friday, November 15, 2013

IQ and non-shared environmental experience

A quote from a paper by Robert Plomin (2011)
Despite the slow progress towards identifying specific sources of non-shared environment, the basic finding of the 1987 paper remains unchallenged: children growing up in the same family are very different. It is rare in a field as complex as the behavioural sciences to discover such clear and consistent evidence for a finding that radically alters the way we think about an issue as basic as how the environment influences development. It was reasonable to assume that the key influences on children’s development are those that are shared by children growing up in the same family: their parents’ personality and family experiences, the quality of their parents’ marital relationship, their parents’ educational background and socioeconomic status, the neighbourhood in which they are raised and their parents’ attitude to school or to discipline. Yet to the extent that these influences are shared environmentally, they cannot account for individual differences in children’s development because the salient environmental influences are non-shared. The message is not that family experiences are unimportant but rather that the relevant experiences are specific to each child in the family, not general to all children in the family. However, my main conclusion has to be that the key question largely remains unanswered: why are children in the same family so different?
Something to remember.  I may bring it up later.

Shorter More GIGO?

"The variation in people's proficiencies in learned behaviors is more dependent on genetic variation than is their ability to learn."

BTW, it is not just reading and literacy, the grade received in the British GSCE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) is more heritable than "g" (IQ).

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

More GIGO?

This one is a doozie.
Title: On the Nature and Nurture of Intelligence and Specific Cognitive Abilities: The More Heritable, the More Culture Dependent
Psychological Science OnlineFirst, published on October 8, 2013 as doi:10.1177/0956797613493292


To further knowledge concerning the nature and nurture of intelligence, we scrutinized how heritability coefficients vary across specific cognitive abilities both theoretically and empirically. Data from 23 twin studies (combined N=7,852) showed that (a) in adult samples, culture-loaded subtests tend to demonstrate greater heritability coefficients than do culture-reduced subtests; and (b) in samples of both adults and children, a subtest’s proportion of variance shared with general intelligence is a function of its cultural load. These findings require an explanation because they
do not follow from mainstream theories of intelligence. The findings are consistent with our hypothesis that heritability coefficients differ across cognitive abilities as a result of differences in the contribution of genotype-environment covariance. The counterintuitive finding that the most heritable abilities are the most culture-dependent abilities sheds a new light on the long-standing nature-nurture debate of intelligence.

What this is saying is that the more the culturally loaded the test that the IQmetricians use, the more it appears to be heritable (i.e., a larger fraction of the observed variation in test scores is attributed to genetic variation).  Put that in your pipe and smoke it.   My personal unexpert opinion is that if this result holds then the whole field of IQology has been shown to be gibberish.

Let's reason it out. 

1. A test that say, consists of puzzles based on visual patterns of lines and dots is said to be less culturally loaded, or culture-reduced, as compared to say, a test based on vocabulary.  To put it crudely, people who speak English and those who speak Swahili are presumed to approach the first kind of test on an equal basis, but the second kind of test favors the speakers of whichever language the test is in.

2. The results above say that genetic variation explains more of the variation in the scores of culturally-loaded tests than it does of culturally-reduced tests.  The theory behind IQ actually requires it to be the other way around.   The paper argues (my crude rendition of the argument) that no, it can be explained as follows - across most environments,  genetically smart people master the culture-loaded stuff, while genetically less smart people don't, so culturally-loaded tests separate out genetically smart people and less smart people better than culturally-reduced tests.  In these very same set of environments, these very same sets of people, however, have the aspect of intelligence that cannot be learned (per IQ theory), as measured by culture-reduced tests, have less of the variation in test scores determined by their genetically smartness/less smartness.

3.  Since the above is not very clear, let me give you an analogy.  Let consider a general sports ability (say, agility), and the ability to play particular sports (say, tennis.).  The metaphor for IQ theory is that agility ought to be more heritable than prowess at tennis.   The finding is that, sorry, the statistics show it is the other way around.  The explanation is that people with  higher genetic ability in tennis tend to play tennis more and thus hone their tennis skills and the others don't, so that the variation in tennis ability correlates more strongly with genes;  while in the area of agility  there is less of this effect. It of course begs the quuestion of why avid tennis players are not correspondingly more agile.

(This metaphor fails because someone could be playing soccer and thus keeping agile. The theory of IQ does not admit of any such other avenue, however.)

4. But never fear, IQology will never fade or waver.  It is the Energizer Bunny of pseudo-sciences.

5. I can with fairly high confidence predict that I will be told that but for IQ studies we would not know that IQ theory is nonsense, and why am I against the march of knowledge?

Title: Literacy and Numeracy Are More Heritable Than Intelligence in Primary School
Because literacy and numeracy are the focus of teaching in schools, whereas general cognitive ability (g, intelligence) is not, it would be reasonable to expect that literacy and numeracy are less heritable than g. Here, we directly compare heritabilities of multiple measures of literacy, numeracy, and g in a United Kingdom sample of 7,500 pairs of twins assessed longitudinally at ages 7, 9, and 12. We show that differences between children are significantly and substantially more heritable for literacy and numeracy than for g at ages 7 and 9, but not 12. We suggest that the reason for this counterintuitive result is that universal education in the early school years reduces environmental disparities so that individual differences that remain are to a greater extent due to genetic differences. In contrast, the heritability of g increases during development as individuals select and create their own environments correlated with their genetic propensities.
The paper is available for free at the same page.

Some quotes:
Another reason for thinking that literacy and numeracy are less heritable than g is that literacy and numeracy are relatively recent human inventions, whereas the abstract reasoning and problem solving central to g seem to be key to human evolution.
I've previously proffered my opinion that if "g" was key to human evolution, then the variability of whatever genes caused/correlated with "g" would be subject to strong selection, and "g" would be less heritable, not more.

The policy hook:
Regardless of the causes of the high heritability of literacy and numeracy, finding that two thirds of the total variance in these taught skills can be attributed to genetic differences between children highlights the need to incorporate genetics into educational policy.
Just how do we follow this policy prescription?

PS: what Plomin, one of the co-authors of the paper,  thinks is rather clear.
Let us not hear any apologia for him.
‘There’s this slightly misleading fact,’ says Plomin, ‘that kids’ cognitive abilities is related to the number of books in the house. And it’s true that kids who grow up in houses with books are smarter. But that’s not why they’re smarter!

‘Sometimes, if you talk to teachers they behave as if it’s books themselves that cause the cognitive development of kids. They say: “See? Books don’t have DNA!” But they don’t consider that the fact that there are books in the house is because the parents are smart and like to read! Oh, it makes me feel as if I’m in Alice in Wonderland!’


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Education and inequality - QOTD

Professor Katz illustrates this with a nifty calculation. Between 1979 and 2012, the share of national income captured by the richest 1 percent of taxpayers increased from 10 percent to 22.5 percent. Had their share instead remained at 10 percent and the rest been distributed equitably among taxpayers in the bottom 99 percent, each would have $7,105 more to spend. 

By contrast, between 1979 and 2012 the gap between the annual wages of a typical family of two full-time workers with college degrees and one made up of two high school graduates grew by $30,000, after inflation. 

“Nothing we do with the education supply will have a big impact among the top 1 percent,” Professor Katz said. But “could it improve the upward mobility and the prospects of a better job for Americans born in the bottom half of the income distribution? Yes.”

Unpleasant associations

Mike Lofgren, in his "The Party is Over - How Republicans went crazy, Democrats became useless and the middle class got shafted",  records what I think is a momentary moment of sanity from former House majority leader, the Republican Dick Armey.  This was in 2006, and was a blast against the religious right:
[James] Dobson and his gang of thugs are real nasty bullies.  I pray devoutly every day, but being a Christian is no excuse for being stupid.  There's a high demagoguery coefficient to issues like prayer in schools. Demagoguery doesn't work unless it's dumb, shallow as water on a plate.  These issues are easy for the intellectually lazy and can appeal to a large demographic.  These issues become bigger than life, largely because they're easy.  There ain't no thinking.
Ah, James Dobson - I had the misfortune of hearing of him years ago, in graduate school, where a classmate of mine almost fell prey to his brand of Christian fundamentalism.  Fortunately common sense intervened, and he reverted back to his Indian Christianity.

But I encountered the name of Dobson just a day ago.  To tell you how requires a digression.  In the history of American eugenics, one eminent name is Paul Popenoe.  He wrote what is termed as the first college textbook, "Applied Eugenics", which was published around 1918.  The book is available on and  There are many things to be noted from there.  For instance, Popenoe recommends a eugenic income tax scheme, including an income tax exemption "for a wife and each child". Now I'm wondering whether the US tax code has a eugenic origin.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The scale of scientific confidence

It is a truism that no scientific result is final.  Scientists are open to their most cherished scientific principles being overthrown.  Nevertheless, any scientist will have a scale of confidence in scientific results.  An interesting question is where on this scale would one place the finding of climate science predicting global warming and climate change compared to say, to some of few results of IQ and genes.


Mike Lofgren worked 28 years on Capitol Hill - for John Kasich(R) when he was House Defence Committee Chairman, and for John Kasich(R) when he was House Budget Committee Chairman and then for Senator Judd Gregg(R) Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.  His book "The Party Is Over" contains many gems, but this one really resonated, earlier ones I encountered today I posted on Facebook.
For most of my three decades on Capital Hill, threat inflators have claimed that Iran has been two years away from possessing nuclear weapons.

Eugenics and all that

Knowledge on the whole is a good thing, but one does not know how new knowledge will affect the society that it arrives in.  The recipient of knowledge always has a history and practices and tendencies.   A simple example is the gender determination of fetuses.  In India and China, it turned out to be a deleterious thing.  I don't know about China, but in India, regulation has been insufficient to curb the problem.

We worry about an Iran getting the knowledge and capabilities centered around nuclear fission - not because knowledge is bad, but because we do not know what use their ideology will make of this knowledge and capabilities.

We may worry less about the arrival of new industrial processes in countries that have effective environmental protection agencies than in those that have none.

The United States has a long history of eugenics.  Eugenicists gave their ideas a scientific sheen.   Tens of thousands of people were compulsorily sterilized under these laws.  The eugenics movement closed the doors on immigration for "inferior" peoples.  Eugenics was apparently the ideology behind widespread IQ testing, and the US remains an IQ-obsessed country till this day.  Eugenics was supposedly discredited by Nazism, but states had laws on the books till even the early 1980s.

Further the forces that are behind these kinds of ideas are not dead, they are dormant; they may be senescent, but they may spring back with full vigor.  We see this already in the movement that was soundly defeated a hundred and fifty years ago - the Confederacy reawakens, perhaps because of the catalyst of a black President.   Maybe when Obama retires, this will go away.  Maybe not.

One must therefore worry about what the effect of finding genes that correlate with intelligence will have on the American society.   It is knowledge in the abstract that is good; but knowledge, I repeat, always arrives in a specific social, political, economic, ideological context, and people interpret and act on knowledge not as purely rational beings, but rather, conditioned by their circumstances; and can lead them into huge blunders and even atrocities.

PS: for example. 

PPS: some bad typos corrected.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

What is the risk?

In countries like India and China, a long-standing cultural preference for having at least one son plus modern (state-induced in China or otherwise) reduction in number of children a family wants plus the reliable detection of the sex of the fetus plus the ready availability of abortion has combined in significant female feticide, so that the sex ratio is severely distorted.  What happens is that if a (modern) couple is going to have only one or two children, then the desire that at least one be a boy plus modern technology leads to female feticide.  In pre-modern days, the couple would simply have had a lot of children.

I wonder what the effect will be of a potential discovery of genes correlated to IQ plus ready fetal genetic testing plus the availability of abortion in an IQ-obsessed society like that of the US of A.  I wonder what the effect will be if these are able to be exported via American soft power and general Indian inferiority complex to Indian society.

PS: Mensa is an international organization for which the only qualification for membership is high IQ.  Mensa was founded in Great Britain in 1946.   Per Mensa pages,  China has around 80 members, Japan around 440, India around 700, Sweden around 4000, Germany around 10,000, the United Kingdom has around 22,700, and the US has around 50,000 (around 45% of the world total).

PS: Updated the first sentence.

In My Genes

The genes are there, per my report from   What they might mean and the firmness of the finding rates from one star to four stars.  The findings are actually all from people of European ancestry.  Whether they might be different for people of South Asian ancestry is not known.


From Peter Woit's Not Even Wrong:

...Max Tegmark, known for his work on the multiverse, is running a “Project Einstein”, which has found 400 theoretical physicists and mathematicians who have agreed to have their genes sequenced......

If Project Einstein identifies a common gene among its participants, and uses the knowledge to breed a race of übermenschen, they may find they have selected not for unusual mathematical genius, but for unusual ego.

Breaking oneself free of the inherited IQ myth

In today's NYT, Nicholas Kristof has a column praising Oklahoma's pre-school program.  We are told:
The Oklahoma initiative is partly a reflection of the influence of George B. Kaiser, a Tulsa billionaire who searched for charitable causes with the same rigor as if he were looking at financial investments. He decided on early education as having the highest return, partly because neuroscience shows the impact of early interventions on the developing brain and partly because careful studies have documented enormous gains from early education.
“Maybe the reason that rich, smart parents had rich, smart children wasn’t genetics,” Kaiser told me, “but that those rich, smart parents also held their kids, read to them, spent a lot of time with them.” 
Just another sign of the grip that hereditarian IQologists have on this society, that this billionaire thought he was breaking with the received wisdom.

PS: George Kaiser speaking in 2007, as reported in the NYT:
...I think we all have grown up with a strong emotional commitment to the concept of equal opportunity and a suppressed, secret intellectual conclusion that genes play a more important part in cognitive potential than experience.....

Friday, November 08, 2013

The "Creative" Class

Thomas Frank in Salon:  Read the whole thing (much better) or some brief excerpts below.  It resonates because at the place of work there are these classes on how to  be an innovator.  We are told that identical twin studies show that the heritability of IQ is 80% but tada, the heritability of creativity is only 33%, and therefore anyone can learn how to be a innovator.  Then, innovate from a dishwasher and microwave. 

Arthur Silber

On occasion he hits one out of the park.


On its long, torturous path out of the fetid swamps of ignorance and despair, humanity has been granted but a few shining moments of profound transformation. Some will claim the discovery of the wheel, or of fire, or of the printing press to belong in the sacred pantheon devoted to the contemplation of those rare, tragically brief occasions when humanity could raise its stuporous stare from the gutter to bask in the distant glory of star fire, to wipe the sweat from its tormented brow, and to say, "Yeah, this is some fine shit."

In our time, we have been blessed to witness another such moment. We do not refer to the development of the internet or, somewhat earlier, the discovery of nuclear power. Humanity has always displayed a lamentable enthusiasm for incessant burbling and babbling, and we do not see that pixels on screens are markedly superior to scrawlings on cave walls. "Ooohhh, mastodon!" "Ooohhh, Kardashian!" You feel me, man? And we have always had a love affair with death. The apex of human achievement, at least in the view of humanity itself, will apparently arrive when we finally eradicate ourselves entirely from the universe. We are inclined to think humanity has gotten that one right.

But no, we think another discovery is far more significant. After interminable dreary centuries of feigned concern with the weak, the suffering, the oppressed, the halt, the lame, the sick -- Jesus H. the Fuck Christ, but you have been a tedious collection of gloomy Gertrudes -- humanity has finally realized that all those miserable nitwits have it coming. If your life is pain and deprivation from sunup to sundown, that's because you are one lazy SOB. You deserve to suffer! Opportunity lies all around you. Get up off your fat, boil-ridden ass and make your own chance for success! The world is your oyster. Eat it! Eat the shell too!

And so we have finally arrived at the moment of True Enlightenment. We have grasped the truth to which we have blinded ourselves for so long:
The rich are much, much better than everyone else.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Some Indian goods

Here.  Celebrating:
  1. The Election Commission
  2. The Supreme Court
  3. The National Disaster Management Authority
  4. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India
  5. The Indian Space Research Organization

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Understanding heritability

CIP wrote:
Interesting (or not) as that story may be, it starts becoming irrelevant if genes linked to IQ are found. If there aren't any, then the statistical studies showing such heritability must be flawed.

Let's go over heritability again, in case Cosma Shalizi's essay was not understood.
  1. The observable characteristics of an organism constitute its phenotype. 
  2. In a population of organisms that lives in some range of environmental conditions, we observe variations in their phenotypes.
  3. In a simple model, we attribute the variations in a population's phenotypes to genetic variation and environmental variation.  Heritability is the fraction of the variance of a phenotype attribute in the population in that set of environments that can be attributed to genetic variation.

    (Variance is the average squared difference from the mean.  E.g., if my population pf n organisms had heights h1, h2, h3, ..., hn,  then the mean hmean =  (h1+h2+...+hn)/n.
    The variance is then  hvariance =  ((h1-hmean)^2 + (h2-hmean^2) + ...+ (hn-hmean)^2 )/n.

    If height was determined by genes and environment in a simple additive way,
    h = g + e   (i.e., h1 = g1 + e1; h2 = g2 + e2, etc., g being the component of height determined by genes, and e is the component of height determined by the environment.  Then there is a gmean, emean, gvariance and evariance, and if genes and environment vary independently, then a little arithmetic and the definitions above will show that hvariance = gvariance + evariance.

    Heritability is  just gvariance/hvariance.
  4. Heritability does not tell you how much an attribute under genetic control.
  5. To borrow an example from Cosma Shalizi: Having two eyes is entirely genetically determined.  The genetic variation for having one or three eyes is virtually zero, any such mutations are rapidly weeded out by natural selection.  The environment (disease, accident, etc.) causes phenotypes to lose one or two eyes, and is thus the only source of variation.  Thus the heritability of having two eyes is zero, though two eyes is a genetically determined feature.   This is because all the variation in the number of eyes arises from the environment.
  6. Suppose we don't know what specific genes are responsible for number of eyes, but discover them. We haven't learned anything new about heritability.
  7. Likewise with genes for intelligence.  Of course,  if we discover the genes that govern IQ, it may be possible to do a from-first-principles study of genetic variation versus IQ variation.  It will still be only the simple model which neglects things like gene-environment interactions.
  8. While Cosma Shalizi mentions it, on the subject of gene-environment interactions,  let's go to someone CIP trusts more,  Steve Hsu (Hsu is on CIP's blog roll.) Childhood Socio-Economic Status amplifies genetic effects on adult IQ, we are told.   Hsu quotes Alison Gopnik from the Wall Street Journal:
  9. ... When psychologists first started studying twins, they found identical twins much more likely to have similar IQs than fraternal ones. They concluded that IQ was highly "heritable"—that is, due to genetic differences. But those were all high SES twins. Erik Turkheimer of the University of Virginia and his colleagues discovered that the picture was very different for poor, low-SES twins. For these children, there was very little difference between identical and fraternal twins: IQ was hardly heritable at all. Differences in the environment, like whether you lucked out with a good teacher, seemed to be much more important. In the new study, the Bates team found this was even true when those children grew up. IQ was much less heritable for people who had grown up poor. This might seem paradoxical: After all, your DNA stays the same no matter how you are raised....
  10. Note for the above: identical twins have identical genes; fraternal twins share only half their genes.  Hence a heritability estimate is possible.  But such twin studies took place only with very limited environmental variation.  (Roughly speaking, all were in the same privileged middle/upper class.)  What the quote from Gopnik is saying is that the heritability of intelligence is greatly reduced when the population being measured is subject to the full range of environments that humans are subjected to - most of the variation then arises from environmental variation, not from genetic variation.

    Or in other words, the twin studies by their circumstances, have limited variation in environment.  Therefore they show a high heritability.
  11. Another way of looking at gene-environment effects.  Suppose you have a population with variation.  The variation is due to genetic differences and environmental differences, (but not necessarily expressible as a simple additive model.).  Suppose you could take that population and put it in a common, uniform environment. The variation they show could then be all attributed to genes.  Heritability would be the variance in this common, uniform environment divided by the variance of the population in the original situation.

    But what should this common, uniform environment be?  I could pick one of the many original environments.  If there are gene-environment interactions, then the variation (due to genes)would depend on which environment I picked to be the common, uniform environment.   Which is essentially the thrust of the quote on twin studies.

  12. I'd also record my inexpert opinion here, that if IQ is strongly selected for in evolution, then IQ variation due to genetic variation should be expected to be low, i.e., heritability should be low.  We see this in the example of the two-eyed phenotype - the heritability is zero.
    A high heritability for IQ means, in my opinion, that IQ was only weakly selected for in evolution.
  13. I don't think the IQ hereditarians (the authors of the Bell Curve and anyone who thinks that that book is great) have decided which way they want the world to work.  Ideally, they want IQ to have high heritability, so that they can argue (within their simple additive model) that social programs won't work - we can't induce much improvement in IQ by improving the environment in which people live.   But they want IQ to have been strongly selected for during human evolution, because they believe IQ is strongly determinative of life outcomes, including presumably reproductive success (this last at least until the Industrial Revolution.  The changes in fertility post-industrial revolution dismay the IQ hereditarians - the "smart" people have fewer children.) .  Strong selection for IQ fits their Social Darwinist inclinations.  But for that,  IQ must have low heritability.
PS: for another example of gene-environment interactions, I quote Shalizi:

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Cosma Shalizi on the heritability of IQ


Excerpted from the comments on
The ability to remain grimly determined even in the face of overwhelming odds and with little or no hope of success is a deeply rooted ethos in Anglo-Saxon (and many other) culture(s) that needs to be tapped again.
It was perhaps best expressed in the Old English poem, “The Battle at Maldon” by words set in the mouth of a member of a small retinue of warriors whose chief had been slain and who were in the process losing a battle against Vikings who were about to overwhelm them. He said:
hige sceal the heardra heorte the cenremod sceal the mare the ure maegen lytlath(Here’s the manuscript version: 
Which is something like: “Our minds must be that much firmer, our hearts that much keener, our spirit must be that much greater, as our strength diminishes.” 
(Probably a good motto for facing old age, generally, come to think of it.)

Monday, November 04, 2013

More on Rangoli

One rangoli featured on Michael Wall's TEDxHonolulu talk in 2011 (at around 2:50).

Rajan Parrikar reminds us of the old gold:

Rangoli 2013

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Intelligence Amplification

Walter Isaacson reviews Clive Thompson's "Smarter Than You Think" in the NYT Sunday Book Review.

With regard to chess, we are told:
The result: human-machine teams, even when they didn’t include the best grandmasters or most powerful computers, consistently beat teams composed solely of human grandmasters or superfast machines.
The insight is thus that perhaps the future of human and machine intelligence is not "exclusive OR".  It is "AND".

Snakes and human hardwiring

Macaque monkeys seem to have neural circuits specialized to detect snakes in the visual field.   What about humans?  If you look at the references I've posted in the comments on my previous post on this topic,  whatever wiring humans may have (which we cannot poke electrodes into them like we do with monkeys), the effect on human behavior is that they detect threats in the visual field faster than non-threatening items such as flowers, but guns just as fast as snakes (i.e., guns are a recent innovation and could not have influenced human evolution, unlike snakes - yet humans detect each equally fast, and faster than non-threatening items.)

PS: this, IMO, fits in with what I see as Stephen Jay Gould's idea, namely, that evolution took primate features and added a great deal of flexibility to them.  So where maybe apes have circuits honed to detect very specific threats, human brains have circuits that are honed to detect threats, just what threat is rather trainable.

Don't Complain About The Mud If You Lie Down With Pigs

From CIP's blog, where he is trying to prove that scientists who want to research intelligence face a big taboo.  He quotes a piece about a Professor Hsu who is trying to identify genes for high intelligence.
He hadn't really considered how negative the public reaction might be until one of the study's participants, New York University psychologist Geoffrey Miller, made some inflammatory remarks to the press. Miller predicted that once the project turned up intelligence genes, the Chinese might begin testing embryos to find the most desirable ones. One article painted the venture as a state-endorsed experiment, selecting for genius kids, and Hsu and his colleagues soon found that their project, which had barely begun, was the target of fierce criticism.

Perhaps Hsu had not considered the participants in the study.

Previously in 2008, Professor Miller's research had received an Ig Nobel prize.  Later, one of Miller's tweets ignited a firestorm.
"Dear obese PhD applicants: if you didn’t have the willpower to stop eating carbs, you won’t have the willpower to do a dissertation #truth."
Mlller claimed it was research.  Per Wiki, "The institutional review boards of UNM, Miller's home university, and NYU, where he is a visiting professor, released statements saying that Miller's tweet was "self-promotional" and cannot be considered research. UNM formally censured Miller in August 2013."

Miller has written and spoken about his fascination and respect for Chinese eugenics, and—remarkably—he recently disclosed that he participated in its next phase. The country currently employs a kind of economic eugenics by allowing wealthy couples to purchase the right to have more than one child. It is rapidly building its capacity for more detailed genetic selection for traits, including intelligence. BGI Shenzhen, which Miller described to Vice as the largest genetic research center in China, reached out to him requesting a genetic sample along with many other people of Chinese and European descent that they determined must have a high IQ. Miller actually complied, donating his DNA, and said in a recent Edge essay that he didn’t realize the full consequences until after he’d made the donation.* I find that more unbelievable than his claim of Twitter research.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Howard Gardner: Beyond IQ

Howard Gardner in 1986 (PDF). By all means, read the whole thing. I'm taking excerpts out of there to make a point.

What is the vision that led to the excitement about IQ? {in the early 1900s} ...Now intelligence seemed to be quantifiable...We had one dimension of mental ability along which we could array everyone.
I want to suggest that along with this one-dimensional view of how to assess people's minds comes a corresponding view of school, which I will call the 'uniform view'.  In the uniform school, there is a core curriculum, a set of facts that everybody should know, and very few electives.   The better students, perhaps those with the higher IQs are allowed to take courses that call upon critical reading, calculation, and thinking skills.  In the "uniform school" there are regular assessments, using paper and pencil instruments, of the IQ or SAT variety.  They yield reliable rankings of people, the best and the brightest get into the better colleges, and perhaps - but only perhaps - they will also get better rankings in life.   There is no question but that this approach works well for certain people- Harvard is eloquent testimony to that....

....Dissatisfaction with the concept of IQ and with unitary views of intelligence is fairly widespread- one thinks, for instance, of the work of L.L. Thurstone, J.P. Guilford, and other critics.  From my point of view, however these criticisms do not suffice.  The whole concept has to be challenged; in fact it has to be replaced. {emphasis added, here and later}

{While naming the seven intelligences - linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal} 

....Although I name the linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences first, it is not because I think they are the most important- in fact, I think all seven of the intelligences have equal claim to priority.  In our society, however, we have put linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences, figuratively speaking, on a pedestal.  Much of our testing is based on this high valuation of verbal and mathematical skills.

....These thoughts and the critique of a universalistic view of the mind with which I began, lead to the notion of an individual-centered school, one geared to optimal understanding and development of each student's cognitive profile.  This vision stands in direct contrast to that of the uniform school that I described earlier.

....We now have the technological and human resources to implement such an individual-centered school.  Achieving it is a question of will, including the will to withstand the current enormous pressures towards uniformity and unidimensional assessments. There are strong pressures now, which you read about every day in the national and local newspapers, to compare students, to compare teachers, states, even entire countries, using one dimension or criterion, a kind of a cypto-IQ assessment.   Clearly everything I have described today stands in direct opposition to that particular view of the world.  Indeed that is my intent - to provide a ringing indictment of such one-track thinking.

I believe that in our society we suffer from three biases, which I have nicknamed "Westist", "Testist" and "Bestist"......."Testist" suggests a bias towards focusing upon those human abilities or approaches that are readily testable.  If it can't be tested, it sometimes seems, it is not worth paying attention to.....

....Perhaps if we can mobilize the full range of human intelligences, and ally them to an ethical sense, we can help to increase the likelihood of our survival on this planet, and perhaps even contribute to our thriving.