Featured Articles

Man’s Estrangement from Nature as Considered by the Transcendentalists and the Modernists

The Transcendentalists were immensely influential in the United States as the mid-nineteenth century approached, not least of which was because of their attempts to explore the essence of nature and to consider its value and its interaction with man and vice versa. As the nineteenth century wore on in America, there was a decided shift in cultural values and even composition of the country from agrarian to increasing urbanization and industrialization and intellectually, as Kevin MacDonald has recounted, the influence of the Darwinian school began to eclipse that of this older tradition. Today the Transcendentalists are rarely-evoked and little remembered.

Following the War of 1812, the United States became acutely aware of the need for an improved transport system and greater economic independence, resulting in a concerted effort to develop manufacturing and to expand domestic trade through increasing the accessibility of the nation’s abundant natural resources. By the 1820s, the transition was underway, with factory cities springing up particularly in the Northeast and technology improving at a rapid rate. The United States witnessed unprecedented development and growth. There was a flip side to all of this, however, which served as the impetus for the Transcendentalists to expound on the value of nature. The increased emphasis in American culture on industrial development, with little thought to the adverse effects it may have on the environment or man himself, is the primary issue that Transcendentalists were responding to when they turned their criticism and attentions to the value and influence of nature, once so central to the American experience.

The Transcendentalists were not so naïve as to think of nature as merely a pastoral retreat, nor did they think that it should never be touched by human hands. Ralph Waldo Emerson recognized that nature should be appreciated for its beauty, but that it certainly had its uses as a commodity (also evident in Henry David Thoreau’s actions in Walden). It is telling that Thoreau knew categorically the flora and fauna around him, and sought to understand every dimension of the world writ small around him, from the minute geographic details to the very core of life itself. The Transcendentalists acknowledged the need for and uses of industry; in fact, Thoreau was fascinated by the machines of the Industrial Revolution, trains in particular. He recognized their uses. But was not willing to be held in thrall to them. The Transcendentalists cautioned people against being blinded by the constant push to industrialize at the expense of their own enlightenment or of nature. Nature has many uses; to engage in a singularly exploitative relationship with nature would be to destroy it, and, indeed, to miss the point entirely. Emerson urged people to turn to nature to find God and a feeling of one-ness with the universe:

In the woods, we return to reason and faith. … I become a transparent eye-ball. I am nothing. I see all. The currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God…In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages.[1]

Emerson recognized that there was much more that man could gain through a relationship with nature beyond material gain; if man could commune with nature, he could better himself. Nature can be a commodity, but it is not limited to simply that which can be extracted from it, particularly without regard to its stewardship. Its power is something to be revered and respected, something the modern “glampers” don’t seem understand. It does not conform to man’s expectations and desires, much as we may try to bend it to our will. Nature constitutes the understood and the unknown. It is the soul—that is, all that is outside of man, as well as something that is inside, shared with the rest of the universe. To commune with nature is to tap into this elemental, spiritual force that could lead to truly “knowing thyself.” As Emerson discussed in 1842:

The Transcendentalist adopts the whole connection of spiritual doctrine. He believes in miracle, in the perpetual openness of the human mind to new influx of light and power; he believes in inspiration, and in ecstasy. He wishes that the spiritual principle should be suffered to demonstrate itself to the end, in all possible applications to the state of man, without the admission of anything unspiritual; that is, anything positive, dogmatic, personal. Thus, the spiritual measure of inspiration is the depth of the thought, and never, who said it? And so he resists all attempts to palm other rules and measures on the spirit than its own.[2]

The Transcendentalists were realistic in their interpretations of the uses of nature, and not only acknowledged but supported them within reason, but they also urged people to look to nature for more than just something to be conquered. Nature was to be appreciated as a spiritual force as well as something that should not be plundered and destroyed wholesale as it is crucial to the survival of man. This was quite radical, as species were being slaughtered wholesale across the country, forests were being clear-cut, and the atmosphere and lands were being poisoned by unregulated output by industry.

The irony of the Industrial Revolution was that as the means of mass communication and infrastructure increased, communication with the self and with nature decreased. In a way this has never really resolved itself, but the Transcendentalists saw the roots of this blooming problem of estrangement and urged mankind not to lose their connection with nature. By seeing themselves as outsiders and nature as something totally other, as separate from humanity, is to make an egregious error. Men like Thoreau and Emerson recognized this and their writings have served as the basis for much of what would become conservationist thought. In many ways, John Muir was the personification or even intensification of these Transcendentalists; they saw that there was much to be gained from a relationship with nature, and to view it merely as something that men could conquer and bend to their will was a grave mistake. Anne Woodlief writes:

The major premise of transcendental eco-wisdom is that connection with nature is essential for a person’s intellectual, aesthetic, and moral health and growth. One must see and experience nature intimately, whether defined as the ‘not-me’ or as landscape, to participate in the unity of Spirit underlying its visible processes. This connectedness is the basis of the self-reliance which determines how a person lives with integrity in nature and society.[3]

Thus, man’s relationship not only with the harmony of nature and the ecosystem, but his relationship with himself and his relationships with others could be improved through communing with nature.

Emerson acknowledges that it is difficult for everyone to attain personal enrichment through nature, but that it can be achieved as long as we try to attune ourselves to it. Indeed, it is clear that unlike Thoreau, Emerson himself spent very little time in nature, but through contemplation he was able to theorize on nature’s power. Anyone else could do the same, and it teaches us humility as well as fosters empathy and connectedness. For Emerson:

Under the general name of Commodity, I rank all those advantages which our senses owe to nature. This, of course, is a benefit which is temporary and mediate, not ultimate, like its service to the soul. Yet although low, it is perfect in its kind, and is the only use of nature which all men apprehend. The misery of man appears like childish petulance, when we explore the steady and prodigal provision that has been made for his support and delight on this green ball which floats him through the heavens.[4]

As more and more Americans left their farms and went to cities to participate in the rapid industrializing process, they became estranged from the agrarian spaces that Americans had previously inhabited, as well as doubly removed from the “blank spaces”—the wilderness—that lay beyond. The sense of living off the land was replaced by an increased consumerism and drive to not just master the span of the continent but to subdue it and crisscross it with railways.

Unfortunately today things are much worse, and the commodity aspect of nature is the only popular aspect ever discussed; even saving the planet from carbon emissions (!) is framed in purely economic and transactional terms. Emerson’s ideas on nature were broad and thus interpretive, while Thoreau wrote and lived conservationism. Although Emerson only obliquely tackled some of these issues, and some never occurred to him at all, his ideas still inspired many of the Transcendentalists as they took their own interpretations from his texts and expounded on them.

Henry Adams’s “The Dynamo and the Virgin,” a chapter in The Education of Henry Adams(1900), frames the tectonic shift in the American experience as a transition from the values of the nineteenth century to the changing views of the twentieth. “Dynamo” is a manifestation of the uniquely American intellectual conflicts and challenges. It reflects the shift into a new paradigm and the modernist idea of searching for spirituality. It discusses the estrangement many Americans were beginning to feel from religion; the search for a maternal figure is another central theme of Adams’s essay, a search imbued with semi-spiritual undertones, perhaps also connected with an estrangement from Mother Nature.

Wallace Stevens’s “Anecdote of the Jar” (1919) is important because it reflects the changing relationship between man and nature. This issue remains as pertinent as ever. “Anecdote” is very relevant to us today, both because of current events sense as well as illustrating a change in style from the nineteenth century. In this respect it ties in very well with “Dynamo.” Also linking the two works is the notion of just how great art has an impact on us. Interpreted another way, the jar can be looked at as cold and impersonal—an imposition of the corporate and consumerist culture that was about to become so prevalent in the 1920s.

The poem: 

Anecdote of the Jar by Wallace Stevens

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.

The most striking feature of this jar is that it has no striking feature—it is totally “gray and bare.” It is lifeless.

The packaging and commoditization of art (and its vulgarizing) has also become a major part of popular culture (insofar as one can call it culture), and in a way this poem presages the coming of mass marketing and the omnipresence of homogenous corporatization, reflected in the familiar landscape of interstate highway exit ramps with their predictable assortment of fast-food restaurants and gas stations; it also presents this cold monolith with no defining features other than that it is utterly lifeless and gray. It forces nature to accommodate it, not the other way around, and seems very much like the growing urbanization of the United States. The setting of Tennessee, a generally “wild” place, particularly the eastern half, and its “taming” is quite ominous, and the reader could certainly map socio-political and historical events on to this image.

Southern literature has always had a strong sense of place, an overarching sense that the setting is inextricably intertwined with the very fabric of the stories themselves. There is a pervading feeling that is distinctly Southern, that to remove the sense of place from, say, Stevens’s poem or Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People” would cause it to become as monochrome and dead as the jar. The setting is the context; there is an almost palpable sense of the history of the American South, a feeling that it cannot, and should not, be escaped. The role of the setting is absolutely critical to Southern literature; a sense of place is very strong, a curious amalgam of the particular and the universal, much like one encounters in Thoreau’s Walden or The Maine Woods. This is epitomized in William Faulkner’s “Dry September” and Tennessee Williams’s “The Angel in the Alcove.” The very lifeblood of Mississippi and New Orleans, respectively, flows through them.

One of the many great tragedies of the (post-) modern era, beyond the many Orwellian repercussions of the modern surveillance state and the unnatural sardine-tin existence of urbanity, is the demise of regionalism. It is just one more instance of the ersatz meaninglessness wrought by neo-liberalism. The many unique flavors of the United States are being drowned in a uni-cultural onslaught of corporatized multi-culturalism. Corporatized multi-culturalism actually destroys cultures. Its end-stage is that it makes everywhere the exact same. What’s more, the notions of animal rights, conservation, and eco-responsibility are wholly Western concepts, and much like the cherished Bill of Rights and Constitution, most non-Whites do not value environmental preservation the same way the sons and daughters of Europe do. Anyone who’s ever traveled the Third World (or even places like China) can attest to this. Yet another tragedy in the long series of tragedies wrought by the loathsome globalists.


[1] https://www.thirteen.org/wnet/historyofus/web04/features/source/docs/C16.pdf

[2] https://harpers.org/blog/2008/01/emersons-transcendentalist/

[3] https://transcendentalism.tamu.edu/ecotran

[4] https://emersoncentral.com/texts/nature-addresses-lectures/nature2/commodity/

The War on White Australia: Cheap Labor Importation Schemes

I have written extensively about the pivotal role played by Jewish intellectuals and activists as ideological and political handmaidens of the demographic transformation of Australia over the last fifty years (see here, here, here, here and here). In this essay I want to explore another key driver of this transformation: business interests fixated on suppressing wages and boosting profits through the expedient of mass immigration and cheap labor importation schemes.

The White Australia policy (1901–1973) was, while it lasted, a hugely successful attempt to preserve the genetic and cultural legacy of the founding racial stock of the nation. It was also an industrial relations policy designed to prevent the capitalist class from flooding the Australian economy with cheap labor. This was a key part of the original rationale for the policy as articulated by Alfred Deakin, Australia’s first Attorney-General, who argued that:

a white Australia does not by any means just mean the preservation of the complexion of the people of this country. It means the multiplying of homes, so that we may be able to defend every part of our continent; it means the maintenance of conditions of life fit for white men and white women; it means equal laws and opportunities for all; it means protection against underpaid labour of other lands, it means the payment of fair wages. A white Australia means a civilisation whose foundations are built on healthy lives, lived in honest toil, under circumstances which imply no degradation; a white Australia means protection.”[i]  

An analogous view had been expressed as early as 1841 by James Stephen, the head of the British colonial office in London, who warned that large-scale non-White immigration to Australia would inevitably “beat down the wages of poor labouring Europeans … [and] cut off the resource for many of our own distressed people.”[ii] In the four decades before the enactment of the White Australia policy in 1901, some 60,000 South Sea Islanders (called “Kanakas”) were imported and indentured to Queensland sugar plantation owners who built a business model on this ultra-cheap imported labour and who regarded themselves as a “plantocracy” in the manner of the American south. This practice alarmed Australian scholar Charles Pearson who observed in 1893 that: “We know that coloured and white labour cannot exist side by side; we are well aware that China can swamp us with a single year’s surplus of population; and we know that if national existence is sacrificed to the working of a few mines and sugar plantations, it is not the Englishman and Australian alone, but the whole civilized world, that will be the losers.”[iii]

The closing down of this and other cheap labour importation schemes with the enactment of the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901 hugely benefited White Australian workers. Wages paid by business rose to secure labour. The sugar industry continued to thrive, but without cheap imported labour the plantation model struggled against the family farm model, and the industry came to comprise many smaller-scale enterprises. The White Australia policy was thus a policy of economic protectionism designed to benefit the entire racial group by preventing capitalists from importing cheap labour to undercut the living standards of White Australians. The policy reflected the desire of Australians to build a strong and prosperous society founded upon the principles of racial and cultural homogeneity. Reflecting this view, one commentator noted in 1939 that: “The Australian prides himself on his high standard of living; he wishes to do nothing that will endanger it. Neither does he wish to bring into being a colour problem such as he sees in South Africa.”[iv]

Advertisement for Australian-made furniture from the early twentieth century

Since the Jewish-led overthrow of the White Australia policy in the 1960s and 1970s, Australian policymakers have progressively embraced not only the Jewish diasporic strategic imperatives of increased racial diversity and multiculturalism, but also the cheap labor importation schemes prohibited under the White Australia policy. A dramatic increase in cheap labor importation into Australia took place after 1996 when the “conservative” government of Prime Minister John Howard created the Section 457 Visa for temporary workers—a visa program designed to be uncapped and totally driven by the putative needs of the Australian labor market.

The 457 Visa led to a massive increase in cheap non-White labor brought into the country, including in industries experiencing flat or no growth, such as cooks in the hotels/restaurant industry and shop assistants in the retail sector. One union noted how there was a 53% increase in the number of 457 Visa holders over a period when total employment in relevant industries fell by six per cent. Many businesses used 457 Visas to replace their existing workforces with cheaper migrant workers. Australia’s peak union body, the ACTU, noted how the proliferation of 457 temporary work visas meant that young people and graduates who previously would have been offered an apprenticeship or other entry-level opportunity have been effectively shut out of a number of industries.

Amid growing community anger and a Senate Inquiry into the scheme, the 457 Visa was replaced in 2018 with the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) Visa, which, while ostensibly including more rigorous labor market testing and salary assessment requirements, has had minimal effect in limiting temporary migrant numbers. There are currently about 2.2 million temporary visa holders in an Australian workforce of 12.9 million—or about 17 per cent of the total (not including illegal workers). This is a massive 54 per cent increase from a decade earlier. Almost a fifth of the nation’s cleaners, store packers, and food and hospitality workers are on temporary migrant visas—at a time when nearly two million Australians are either unemployed or underemployed.

International Student Explosion

In addition to creating the 457 temporary work visa, it was the Howard government that, from the early 2000s, encouraged overseas students to apply for permanent residence after completing their courses in Australia. This was partly in response to lobbying from the universities who sought to promote overseas student enrolments as another revenue source. The inevitable result was an explosion in overseas student enrolments, and by 2017–18 overseas students had become the largest contributor to Australia’s very high level of Net Overseas Migration (NOM) which numbered 271,700 people in 2019. According to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) estimates, overseas students comprise around 44 per cent of total NOM. Between 2012 and 2017, the share of commencing overseas students of all commencing students in Australian universities grew from 21.8 per cent to 28.9 per cent and to around 40 per cent in Group of Eight (Go8) leading universities. The majority of these students were from China and India.

The head of The Australian Population Research Institute, Dr. Bob Birrell, estimates that around one in five overseas students is granted Permanent Residency each year, noting that “Most of these students had been in Australia for years. They had managed to stay here by transferring from one temporary visa to another before eventually finding a PR pathway, mainly by finding an employer to sponsor them or a resident to sponsor them as a partner.” An overseas student studying for a bachelor’s degree typically extends their stay to pursue a post-graduate qualification and then moves on to a 485 visa to work for up to 18 months. Overseas students (especially those from India) show a high propensity to seek and obtain another temporary visa each year, and an equally high propensity to appeal any decision to deny them an additional visa. This enables them to stay in Australia while their appeal is heard by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Overseas students are by far the largest contributors to population growth in inner Sydney and Melbourne. As well as contributing to a collapse in academic standards at Australian universities (who have a vested financial interest in setting low English language standards for their courses), their presence in the labor market actively harms Australian workers:

Many thousands of overseas students are being enrolled who do not hold the funds needed to finance their stay in Australia for more than a short period. They have to rely on obtaining employment here. They have created an underclass of workers with little choice but to accept whatever terms employers are prepared to offer. Most of those holding an overseas student visa do not possess professional or trade qualifications accepted in Australia. And, because they hold temporary visas, employers are usually only willing to recruit them on a casual or part-time basis. They enter low-skilled labour markets (notably in hospitality, retail and other service industries). The costs are borne by the many young domestic workers who do not possess post-school qualifications and who are also seeking work in these occupations. These domestic job seekers face ferocious competition from overseas students and other temporary migrants. This has eroded wages and conditions.

While this labor supply abundance persists, employers don’t have to raise wages or invest in labor saving capital equipment. Real incomes have, consequently, stagnated in Australia for a decade and in 2018 the labor productivity growth rate fell to zero. Between 2008 and 2016 Australia’s labor market created an extra 474,000 full time jobs but only 74,000 went to people born in Australia. The bulk (400,000) went to migrants (both permanent and temporary)—the vast majority of whom arrived in the country after 2001. Close to 30 per cent of Australian residents are now born overseas.

The Scale of Recent Australian Immigration

In 2000, the Australian Bureau of Statistics forecast that Australia’s population wouldn’t reach 25.4 million until 2051. As a result of mass immigration and a population growth rate much faster than other developed countries, Australia got there in 2019. Jewish Monash University professor and leading immigration and diversity propagandist, Dr. Andrew Markus, recently enthused: “You have to pinch yourself. In 2006 our population was under 20 million, and now it’s over 25 million. I can’t think of a developed Western country that’s experienced a change of that magnitude.” The Chinese-born population of Australia grew by half to 650,000 in the five years to 2018 (more than eight times faster than the overall population), and by 2023 is on track to surpass the English-born. The Indian-born population grew even faster to 590,000. In 2019 more people from Nepal settled in Australia than from the United Kingdom, mainly due to the high number of students who come here and remain after graduation, and who then use chain migration to bring in their relatives.

Australia’s Nepal-born population is now about 95,000, compared with only 1,410 in 1996. Tara Gaire arrived from Nepal as a student in 2008, and now works as a trainer in the vocational education sector. Living with his family in the northern suburbs, Mr Gaire said he felt very at home in Melbourne’s multicultural environment. “We catch up with community members, we go to the temple, it doesn’t feel like overseas,” he said. … Dr Bob Birrell, from the Australian Population Research Institute, said Nepalese students had created a bridgehead in Australia from which the community grew rapidly. “We have former students who got permanent residency through skilled entry and marrying locals, and then inviting relatives from the homeland to join them,” he said.     

Pro-immigration political commentator George Megalogenis recently noted that demographic trends in the city of Melbourne point “to a future in which Australia is no longer a majority white nation.” Melbourne is the first Australian city in which the largest ethnic community are migrants born in India, followed by those born in China. “Melbourne’s ethnic face, with the Indians first, the Chinese second and the English [born] third, is” he observes, “expected to become the nation’s before the end of the 2020s, as cities and regions increasingly rely on migration for population growth.” Megalogenis, a leftist with a longstanding animus to Anglo Australia, celebrates the fact “history will be made at the core of our identity. Indigenous Australians will outnumber the English-born for the first time since the 1820s. At that point we can stop pretending we are just a white nation.” While this is obviously a change Jewish intellectuals and activists will be cheering, it’s something unlikely to alarm White Australian business leaders devoid of any racial or national feeling.

Scene from Boxing Day sales in Melbourne 2019

Despite growing community unease, successive governments have steadfastly refused to reduce Australia’s high immigration intake due to the pleadings of ethnic lobbies, universities, and a business sector that finds it far easier to recruit cheap migrant workers than train locals. A report by the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia recently advocated totally unrestricted inflows of temporary migrants and the abolition of any labor-market testing for positions filled by migrants. Noting that Net Overseas Migration now accounts for about 60 per cent of Australia’s population growth, David Alexander, writing in The Australian, observes that:

Many of the policy themes of recent years echo those of earlier eras. Labour importing businesses argue that they shouldn’t be expected to pay market rates for labour, and on this basis deem there to be labour shortages that government must assist with. These businesses have increased competitiveness against those that do not use cheaper imported labour, and this is contributing to the structure of industries reverting to a more manorial model. Looking across historical episodes, we can identify the economic principles at work; high differentials between wealthy-country wages and poorer-country wages will always create incentives for some businesses to arbitrage away the difference through labour mobility schemes. And, correspondingly, the pressure for wage convergence with poor countries can be expected to elicit opposition from domestic workers.

Clearly racial and cultural imperatives would, in a sane country, override government support for large-scale cheap labor importation schemes. It is disingenuous to declare labor shortages on the basis that businesses decline to pay the market rate, and it is also unfair to give structural advantage to labor-importing firms over local-employing firms. The Indian government recently cited spurious “labor shortages” in Australia (i.e. the unwillingness of businesses to pay market wage rates) to argue for even greater access for Indian workers to “fill the gaps” in the Australian economy, proposing that Indian health workers, infrastructure specialists and security guards be given enhanced access to the labor market. The Indian population of Australia has, as mentioned, exploded in the last two decades: Melbourne and Sydney have been the destination of choice for more than 60 per cent of the 500,000 Indians and more than 70 per cent of the 500,000 Chinese who have migrated here since 2001. The Australian Chamber of Commerce has welcomed this unprecedented surge in permanent and temporary migration, noting “The biggest reason for the growth in our NOM (net overseas migration) is international students [with the right to work], something to be celebrated.”

Increased Scope for Worker Exploitation

Australia’s extremely high per capita level of immigration, fueled by uncapped temporary work and overseas student visas—where over two million workers in Australia are currently on visas—creates tremendous scope for worker exploitation. In 2015 it was revealed that thousands of workers, generally Indian students on visas, were paid as little as $5 an hour by 7-Eleven and were blackmailed, or threatened with deportation if they spoke up. The company apologized and paid back more than $160 million to thousands of workers in back pay. A long list of companies have since been caught underpaying staff or using fake traineeships to avoid paying workers their entitlements. A recent study found underpayment of wages to temporary workers is rife, with as many as a third being paid less than half the legal minimum wage. The underpayment of workers in the hospitality industry is so widespread as to be standard practice. Most recently, a restaurant fronted by Jewish celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal was found to owe employees at least $4.5 million “in what appears to be the worst case of underpayment yet in the high-end restaurant sector.”

Such practices inevitably have a flow on effect throughout the entire economy where high school and university students are widely underpaid and overworked. Business journalist Adele Ferguson noted how “These companies have come to symbolize what is wrong in a number of sectors of the economy, where underpayment or wage suppression is part and parcel of doing business and vulnerable workers are like lambs to the slaughter in this insidious practice. It isn’t an overstatement to say that worker exploitation is widespread and have become entrenched over time.” A lawyer leading a class action of former employees subjected to such practices observes how employers “have been allowed to build empires and expand their business portfolios on the backs of employees being paid less than their minimum award [legal] entitlements.”

Stagnant Wages in Australia

It is little wonder, in such an environment, that real wages in Australia have stagnated. Wage underpayment fueled by mass immigration (temporary and permanent) has seen Australian wage growth fall off a cliff since 2013 and remain at low levels. Economics professor Roger Wilkins notes over the last decade “the almost complete absence of any growth in household incomes. After tax, the typical Australian household earned $80,600 in 2009. In 2017 the same household earned $80,100. Meanwhile, ultra-low interest rate policies by Australia’s central bank has inflated asset prices, fanning inequality, and supercharged an already high debt burden without much increase in genuine economic activity.” Since 2000 the volume of loans outstanding in Australia—to households, businesses and governments—has soared from $740 billion to 2.9 trillion. The average mortgage on an existing dwelling in New South Wales recently hit an all-time high of $621,500.

Australian politicians are fond of boasting that, during a period of time when other major developed economies experienced several recessions, the Australian economy has experienced almost three decades of uninterrupted economic growth. This disguises the fact that, due to record high immigration, Australia’s annual growth in Gross Domestic Product per capita has, in the last decade, averaged less than one per cent, lower than America, Japan, and even the Eurozone. Per capita incomes have gone backwards during 18 quarters of the past 28 years (including two technical recessions). In per capita terms, both the Victorian and Melbourne economies have gone backwards four times in the past ten years. On that measure, it is the worst performing state and city in Australia—despite being the favored destination of new Chinese and Indian migrants. “The population growth has disguised the fact that Victoria has become a poor state,” notes economist Saul Eslake. “Let me put it this way, economic growth that’s only driven by population growth is not really worth having, as it is not improving people’s living conditions.”

Mass immigration has so transformed the demographics of Melbourne that more than 40 per cent of residents are now migrants. And this is only the start: if current trends continue a city the size of Brisbane will be piled on top of Melbourne in the next two decades. A consequence has been that house prices have risen to among the most expensive in the world as house size and quality have declined. A 2017 survey of 406 cities ranked Sydney the world’s second most expensive (housing costs against inflation) only behind Hong Kong (which it increasingly resembles). Melbourne came in sixth, more expensive that London, Tokyo and New York. Wage stagnation amid soaring house prices has made shelter a luxury, and priced a generation out of the property market. The amenity of local suburbs is declining, congestion is worse, there are fewer parks and “green spaces” and most modern apartment blocks are cheap eyesores. Meanwhile, Australia’s annual intake of around 20,000 mainly African and Middle-Eastern refugees has fueled a surge in violent crime.

Australia’s New Economic Strategy

Population growth fueled by mass immigration and the servicing of it with cheaply-built houses, apartments, and supermarkets has essentially become Australia’s economic strategy. Former Australian Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, pointed out that “Australia digs up and sells raw materials. In the cities the economy is based on building apartment blocks and shopping malls. The idea of Australia as a clever country is a myth, it’s an illusion.”

Unsurprisingly, surveys have found a steep fall in public support for immigration over the last decade. A 2018 survey found that more than 69 per cent of respondents felt the country didn’t need more people. Community concerns about the deleterious effects of mass immigration are not, however, represented by Australia’s political class. At the 2019 federal election, despite some clear differences between the two major political parties in a range of policy areas, they effectively ran a joint ticket on immigration. Economics journalist Judith Sloan notes that immigration is “a no go subject for many in the political class,” who are “in heated agreement in their support for high migrant intakes, both permanent and temporary, and the associated high population growth.”

Conscious of the public’s growing hostility to mass immigration, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a small cut in Australia’s permanent migrant intake (from 190,000 to 160,000) in 2019—while failing to mention the nation’s massive temporary migrant intake wouldn’t be constrained. According to the 2019-20 federal budget, Net Overseas Migration is expected to average 268,600 annually for the next four years—an increase on the 228,700 estimate from the previous budget. A former Department of Immigration bureaucrat notes that “If [Morrison] sticks to that plan [to lower permanent migration to 160,000], then Treasury’s rise in net migration inevitably means a huge surge in long-term temporary migration to more than offset the reduction in permanent migration.” Moreover, the 160,000 permanent immigration figure also does not include the 20,000 people granted permanent residence each year through Australia’s refugee program.

The Labor Party opposition in Australia, like its counterpart in the UK and the Democratic Party in the US, has essentially abandoned any pretense of representing the interests of the White working class. Most of the “creative destruction” that followed the economic globalization of the post-Cold War era has been in jobs lost by blue-collar White men. White manual workers across the West now face fewer jobs and, spurred by mass immigration (both legal and illegal) falling real wages and unaffordable housing. Rather than representing these people (their traditional constituency) by supporting immigration restriction, the Australian Labor Party panders to ethnic communities. In the wake of its shock 2019 election loss, the party is “prioritizing engagement with migrant communities” and will focus on “reviewing legislation from a multicultural perspective.”

Australia’s Plutocratic Elite and Mass Immigration

Noting the reasons for the major parties’ flagrant disregard for wishes of the electorate, Judith Sloan notes that “The lobbying behind immigration is so strong that both parties have concluded the views of ordinary folk can be ignored. These forces include the bureaucracy—check out the Treasury’s reports—big business, property developers, the universities, and various interest groups, some ethnically based.” These business and ethnic groups lobbying for unrelenting waves of mass immigration often overlap. Australia’s largest property developer, the Jewish tycoon Harry Triguboff (known as “high-rise Harry”) is a pro-immigration zealot for ethnic and business reasons. Born to Russian-Jewish parents who fled to China, Triguboff, who came to Australia as a young boy in 1948, pioneered selling apartments to the Chinese, and hopes mass immigration will see Australia’s population soar to 55 million by 2050 and 100 million by the end of the century.

High-rise Harry Triguboff

Fellow Jewish plutocrat, Frank Lowy, is also “an advocate for an ambitious immigration program.” In response to talk of a small cut to the permanent immigration intake in 2018, Lowy, claiming to be “disturbed by the negative tone of the debate over immigration,” protested that “we are moving in the wrong direction. We should bend that curve back upwards. We should be talking about targets, not caps.” Mass immigration proponents like Triguboff, Lowy, and fellow Jewish property tycoon John Gandel, were leading donors to both major political parties in the lead up to the 2019 election. All three, meanwhile, strongly support Israel’s ethnically-restrictive immigration policies, with Lowy recently moving to Israel after retiring from active involvement in his business affairs.

Downward Social Mobility of White Australians

Pivotal to the growing backlash against neo-liberal economics in the West has been the downward social mobility that has resulted from decades of the kind of plutocratic rentier capitalism championed by Triguboff, Lowy, Gandel and other pillars of Australia’s corporate elite. Analysis by a Harvard economist in 2016 found that just half of children born in the 1980s were better off than their parents, compared with 90 per cent of baby boomers. The downward social mobility of younger generations of White Australians is especially acute because of the crushing rise in house prices and the incredible corruption of the banking and financial systems that has accompanied it. Plutocratic rentier capitalism is an economic system where certain players are able to extract a “rent” from everybody else because they have an excess of economic and/or political power.

While these and other business interests are undoubtedly made better off as a result of mass immigration, its negative effects are mainly borne by White working people and taxpayers. Taking just public infrastructure—covering roads, public transport, hospitals, schools, electricity, water and sewage, policing, law and justice, parks and open space and much more—Sustainable Population Australia estimates every extra migrant requires well over $100,000 of infrastructure spending. A failure to make this kind of investment in infrastructure results in growing congestion on roads and public transport. Infrastructure Australia forecast that the annual cost of road congestion will increase from $19 billion in 2016 to $39 billion in 2031. Exacerbating this is the fact two-thirds of migrants settle in the already crowded cities of Sydney and Melbourne—each of whose populations are projected to reach 10 million in the next fifty years. The only way this doubling of the populations of Melbourne and Sydney can be occur so rapidly is by moving to a lot more high-rise living—a fundamental and profoundly negative change to the Australian way of life.

It is little wonder that, when asked, Australians feel their living standards are declining, especially those struggling to squeeze into an overheated housing market. Asked how they felt about the level of change during the past decade, more Australians opted for “concerned,” “overwhelmed,” and “fatigued” than “positive,” “empowered” and “energized,” according to research published late last year. These results reflect growing sentiment throughout the West where growing numbers of White working people are becoming heartily sick of plutocratic rentier capitalism fueled by unrelenting waves of permanent and temporary immigration.


[i] Ian Cook, Liberalism in Australia (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1999), 179.

[ii] Eric Richards, “Migrations: The Career of British White Australia,” In: Australia’s Empire, Ed. Deryck Schreuder & Stuart Ward, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 163-185; 167-168.

[iii] Charles Pearson, National Life and Character: A Forecast, (London: MacMillan & Co., 1893), 16.

[iv] Richards, “Migrations: The Career of British White Australia,” 173.

Bravery Signaling

This article originally appeared at the National Policy Institute website and is reposted with permission.

Review

Charles Murray, Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Class, and Race (New York: Twelve, 2020)

In writing Human Diversity, Charles Murray finds himself in an invidious position. His followers are eagerly expecting a work of outstanding insight, immense originality, and incredible intellectual bravery, along the lines of The Bell Curve (1994) or Human Accomplishment (2003). But, at the same time, Murray wants to make a significant contribution to, as he puts it, “the most incendiary topics in academia”: racial differences, gender differences, and also social-class differences. So, pleasing his fans won’t be easy.

Murray wishes to challenge the fanatical and woefully empirically inaccurate yet widespread view among academics that “race is a social construct,” “gender is (mostly) a social construct,” and social-class differences are the product of social factors, such as nepotism, a rigged system, or the legacy of racism. The problem is that anti-science ideologues are so influential that they are likely to work for most major publishing houses, including for the one that has given us this book. And even if they don’t, they have the political power to do serious financial damage to publishers who are courageous enough to put out books that speak heresy towards this latter-day religion.

Furthermore, Murray himself is a almost-Establishment academic—a scholar at the neoconservative think-tank The American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC—whose niche involves creating cracks in the postmodern echo chamber, while still being “respectable” and at least partially—sometimes completely—submitting to the postmodernists. He has carefully positioned himself on the border between respectable and radical (in Clown World, being “radical” means going where the evidence takes you). The way to strike Murray’s balance is to engage in what I term “Bravery Signaling.”

In order to signal bravery, you present yourself as a controversialist, utterly unafraid of the postmodern mob, and, in so doing, you slightly enflame that mob, making you appear brave and interesting. You wax lyrical about how “I’m at a point in my career where I’m immune to many of penalties that a younger scholar would risk,” such as losing his job or facing ostracism at work. But you ultimately hold your fire when it comes to the most incendiary, yet empirically accurate, scientific research—the “monsters in the closet” of the kind that would have you labelled, in Murray’s words, “eccentric at best . . . a terrible human being at worst.” This allows you to write things like: “The differences among human groups are interesting, not scary or earthshaking.” And this permits you to remain part of the Establishment (or just outside of it) and continue to receive invites to smart dinner parties, while concomitantly gaining a less than fully deserved reputation as a “Defender of Truth” against the anti-Science Woking Classes that now predominate in academia and the Establishment.

Human Diversity is a manifestation of these pressures under which Murray labors. It is a compromise. It is an act of “Bravery Signaling.” And, therefore, for many readers, it will be a rather disappointing read. It should be said that Human Diversity does read beautifully. As we would expect of Murray, it is well-written, permitting the pages to flow by like a river on a summer’s day. The mass of information it gives you is, as usual, presented in well-explained and easily digestible chunks. It is aimed at the scientific layman, so it is at pains to carefully elucidate the assorted scientific and mathematical concepts that the reader needs in order to get his head around Murray’s argument.

Murray’s argument is one that many academics express to him privately, because they dare not do so in public, due to pressure from their fanatical colleagues. It is that there are evolved sex differences in personality and cognition, reflected in sex differences in life outcomes. There are evolved, genetic race differences, including in cognition, which also help to explain assorted life outcomes. And there are social class differences because there are differences in intelligence, for example, and these are partly genetic and strongly heritable. Along the way, Murray also provides us with a very useful reference work on the extent of sex, race, and even class differences in all manner of pathologies. For example, he neatly sets out the sex differences in everything from autism to anorexia. He provides us with hard data for stereotypes such as females tending to ruminate more, males being better at finding the way, and males being better able to focus on minor detail. I learnt many new things, such as that females have a more acute sense of touch.

So far, so insightful . . . and so brave. Readers who are not familiar with the research on these topics will come away concluding that Human Diversity is an extremely heroic piece of work. But I am afraid this is an illusion. Murray concludes that there are no sex differences in intelligence—a conclusion he comes to by appealing to authorities who are either leftist or out-of-date—and that, if there are, they are “trivial.” Murray completely ignores the most recent research, which indicates that there is a difference of a third of a standard deviation between adult males and adult females, as discussed by Richard Lynn in a series of studies.[1]

Murray does look at race differences in IQ. However, he completely ignores the cutting-edge research by Italian anthropologist Davide Piffer, which has found that these are on general intelligence (“g,” the most genetic aspect of IQ) and race differences in IQ correlate almost exactly with race differences in the prevalence alleles associated with high IQ.[2] Incredibly, he totally ignores the body of research on race differences in Life History Strategy—first presented by J. Philippe Rushton (1943-2012) in his 1995 book Race, Evolution, and Behavior. Race differences in Life History Strategy (whether you are evolved to an unpredictable but plentiful ecology at one extreme or a predictable but harsh one at the other) are numerous and highly consistent and include race differences in personality, age at puberty, number of sex partners, age at menopause, size of secondary sexual characteristics, extent of twinning, life expectancy, and so much else. Murray concedes that there are race differences in the magnitude of gender differences in personality. But he fails to even look at the argument that this is likely a reflection of race differences in Life History Strategy. In summary, as the ecology becomes harsher and more predictable, the species’ carrying capacity is reached. Therefore, there is increasing inter-species competition, leading to a growing search for niches, leading to males and females pursuing increasingly distinct niches and becoming increasingly psychologically different.

The people doing the genuinely fearless research into race and sex differences are those associated with the London Conference on Intelligence. This was the subject of much media controversy when it was revealed, in 2018, that it had been taking place at University College London for many years, right under the noses of the academic Stasi who run the place.[3] Many of the attendees have braved serious consequences, such as being fired from their university, for going where the data takes them. They include Richard Lynn, Michael Woodley of Menie, Davide Piffer, Noah Carl, Helmuth Nyborg, Heiner Rindermann, Guy Madison, Emil Kirkegaard and myself[4]. The only one of these who is cited is Richard Lynn—on sex differences in IQ—and, even then, his most recent research, refuting his critics is completely ignored.[5]

If I was being uncharitable about this book I would ask: “Do Charles Murray’s friends call him “Chuck”? If so, perhaps the “h” should be removed from that nickname.” If I was being charitable, I would suggest that Murray is playing a political game. The book is a means by which he can help to move public discourse in the direction of accepting the empirical truth. However, he recognizes that if he tells them the full the truth, then, indoctrinated as they are, they may put their fingers in their ears, so . . . gently does it. But, either way, Charles Murray is a “Bravery Signaler.”

 


 

  1. See Richard Lynn and Gerhard Meisenberg, “Sex Differences in Intelligence,” The mankind Quarterly (September 2016), 57(1), 5-8, ↩︎
  2. Davide Piffer, “Correlation Between PGS and Environmental Variables,” March 31, 2018, https://rpubs.com/Daxide/377423 (accessed February 15, 2020). ↩︎
  3. Michael Woodley of Menie, Edward Dutton, et al., “Communicating Intelligence Research: Media Misrepresentation, the Gould Effect, and Unexpected Forces,” Intelligence (2018) 70. ↩︎
  4. Noah Carla and Michael A.Woodley of Menie, “A Scientometric Analysis of Controversies in the Field of Intelligence Research,” Intelligence (November–December 2019), Vol. 77, 101397.
  5. Richard Lynn, “Sex Differences in Intelligence: The Developmental Theory,” Mankind Quarterly (2017), 58:1. ↩︎

Murray on Race Differences in IQ

Charles Murray’s Human Diversity contains little on the genetic basis of racial differences in average intelligence; it is clear Murray doesn’t want to be the subject of another moral panic like that which greeted The Bell Curve. He merely mentions that it is “tough” to defend the belief that “ethnic differences in IQ are meaningless,” (206) and explains why in a long endnote (416–18). Here he points out that attributing the Black-White gap in America (or other Western countries) to “racism” predicts that Blacks would score higher in all-Black countries; in fact, scores are uniformly lower in Black Africa and Haiti than among for American Blacks. If you then appeal to “the legacy of colonial racism” (416), you must explain how colonialism affects IQ. The most plausible suggestion is through parental SES. To test this hypothesis, one must adjust scores for parental SES. Murray notes that “this has been done frequently,” and the literature “consistently shows that doing so diminishes the size of the B/W difference by about a third.” In other words, two-thirds of the gap cannot be accounted for in this way. Moreover, most studies indicate that the B/W difference increases as parental SES rises; in other words, higher parental SES is associated with a rise in Black IQ, but with an even bigger rise in White IQ.

Other explanations offered for the race gap include Blacks’ relative unfamiliarity with standard English, the administering of tests by White rather than by Black teachers, or Blacks’ lack of motivation to work hard on tests which “clearly reflect White values.” In response, Murray cites the consensus statement “Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns” published in the February 1996 issue of the APA flagship journal American Psychologist in response to the public controversy surrounding The Bell Curve. The eleven experts reported that controlled experiments have revealed no substantial contribution to the racial gap from any of these causes (although they may play a role in particular cases). The statement also notes the high predictive value of tests for academic performance.

Since that statement was issued, experimental evidence has been produced indicating that the racial gap is “effectively eliminated” when Black and White students are “tested on the basis of newly learned information.” The difficulty here is that such tests inherently measure short-term memory as much as, or more than, IQ; the gap disappears because the test is no longer so g loaded.

Murray acknowledges the possibility of arguing that the role of bias is too broad to be captured by any assessment of language and predictive ability. He calls this “the ‘background radiation’ theory of racism’s effect on IQ.” (418) This perspective would make “racism” an occult but omnipresent reality not unlike what Africans call “bad juju.” As Murray says, such a perspective cannot be refuted with data, since it conceives all data as vitiated a priori by racism; in other words, it is an unfalsifiable metaphysical commitment.

Recent Advances in the Study of Human Differences, Part 3 of 3: Behavior Genetics and Social Class

More is known about the influence of genes on social class than upon race and sex; indeed, Murray writes that “the basics have been known for decades.” (209) The technical literature treats socioeconomic status as the sum of heredity (genetic influence) and environmental influence. The latter component can be further divided into shared and nonshared environment. The nonshared environment includes things not shared by people in the same family, like birth order, differential parental treatment, extrafamilial networks, accidents and illnesses. Studying twins, especially monozygotic twins, is a useful technique for reducing the effects of the nonshared environment; usually such twins attend the same schools and have similar social circles. In practice, measurement error must be allowed for as well: e.g., the number of books in a child’s home is one factor sometimes counted as part of its environment, but it is clearly a very imperfect proxy for how much intellectual stimulation the child actually receives in the home.

Hereditability, as it is understood in the technical literature, is “a ratio calculated as the variance attributable to genes divided by the total variance in phenotype.” (210) It is a property of human groups, not individuals:

Suppose that genes explain 70 percent of a population’s variance in height. You can use this information to conclude that “genes probably have a lot to do with how tall Joe is,” but it does not mean that “genes explain 70 percent of how tall Joe is.” (211)

Heredity is not a fixed number for any particular trait. For example, the heritability of IQ rises with age, a result many find counterintuitive. A child’s IQ may be temporarily boosted, e.g., by a preschool educational program, but over time the effect fades and the full effect of genes increasingly apparent.

Heredity varies by population. For example, the heredity of SAT scores at an elite high school will be higher than at an ordinary school where the students were brought up in similarly excellent environments—educated, involved parents and plenty of money. This makes the variation due to the environment less within that sample so that the remaining variation is more likely due to variation in genes.

Heritability is a ratio—the ratio of the variation due to variation in genes to the total variation in the variable being measured. A basic formula is

H= Vg/(Vg+Ve)

where H is heritability, Vg is variation due to people having different genes and Ve is variation due to people experiencing different environments (shared and unshared). The narrower range of environments experienced by students at the elite school (i.e., a smaller Ve) means that a smaller denominator is used for calculating that ratio; since Vg remains the same in both the numerator and the denominator, the ratio as a whole is greater; at the extreme, if there is no variation due to the environment (i.e., Ve = 0, as would be the case if all the sample subjects were reared in exactly the same environment), the ratio would equal 1—all of the variation would be due to people having different genes; H=1.

As a result, the more environmental influences are equalized, the higher heredity becomes. As Murray explains:

It is a statistical necessity: the phenotype is the result of genes and environment. In a perfect world where everyone had completely full opportunity to realize their talents, heritability of those talents would converge on 100 percent because the environment relevant to those talents would no longer vary. (212)

As early as 1976, two researchers noted that

a consistent—though perplexing—pattern is emerging from the data. Environment carries substantial weight in determining personality—it appears to account for at least half the variance—but that environment is one for which twin pairs are correlated close to zero. We seem to see environmental effects that operate almost randomly [resulting in nonshared environmental influences]. (219)

As another researcher put it, “theories of socialization had assumed that children’s environments are doled out on a family-by-family basis. In contrast, the point of nonshared environments is that environments are doled out on a child-by-child basis.” (227) For example, within a family, two siblings may have different experiences at school, or they may seek out or elicit different environments (say, music vs. sports) because of genetic differences. Accordingly, Murray’s eighth proposition states: “The shared environment usually plays a minor role in explaining personality, abilities and social behavior.”

In 2015, a group of seven scholars published a meta-analysis of nearly every twin study carried out between 1958 and 2012; it involved 2748 publications, 14,558,903 twin pairs, and explored 17,804 traits. From this enormous assemblage of data, Murray extracted the evidence on thirty traits relevant to personality, abilities and social behavior. Only for two of them was the contribution of the shared environment greater than one third: 36 percent for ‘basic personal interactions’ and 34 percent for ‘problems related to upbringing.’ “Yes, these data seem to say, you can have some effect on your kids’ manners and you can also cause problems.” (223) For all 28 other traits, shared environment accounts for no more than 26 percent of variance. For such important traits as temperament and personality functions, work and employment, intimate relationships, and family relationships, shared environment contributes no more than 6 percent.

One must add the caveat that an extremely bad home environment can make a significant difference: i.e., truly awful parenting which involves severe deprivation and abuse can damage children permanently.

Wealthy parents can give their children a high standard of living. Often, they can get them out of youthful scrapes or into desirable first jobs. But, says Murray, “it’s not so easy for parental influence to get the child promoted. The more competitive the industry and the more cognitively demanding the job, the less influence family wealth has.” (221) And, of course, wealthy and high-status parents pass on to their children the genetic factors which partly explain their own wealth and success. What they cannot do is use their wealth or status to make their “children more than trivially ‘better’ than they would otherwise have been where ‘better’ is defined in terms of personality, abilities, or social behavior.” (221)

Murray’s ninth proposition states that “class structure is importantly based on differences in abilities that have a substantial genetic component.” The basic reasoning behind this was set forth by psychologist Richard Herrnstein in 1973: 1) if differences in mental abilities are inherited, and 2) if success requires those abilities, and 3) if earnings and prestige depend upon success, then 4) social standing (which reflects earnings and prestige) will be based to some extent on inherited differences among people. This argument was set forth with 800 pages of detailed empirical support in The Bell Curve, a book cowritten by Herrnstein and Murray in 1994 and subtitled ‘Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life.’

In the present work, Murray immediately follows up his ninth proposition with the following caveat:

The bulk of the variance in success in life is unexplained by either nature or nurture. Researchers are lucky if they explain half of the variance in educational attainment with measures of abilities and socioeconomic background. They’re lucky if they can explain even a quarter of the variance in earned income with such measures. The takeaway for thinking about our futures as individuals is that we do not live in a deterministic world ruled by either genes or social background, let alone by race or gender. But Proposition #9 is about social classes, not individuals. (228–9)

Time and chance happen to us all, but they do not push us all in the same direction; spread over an entire society, the effect of genes will inevitably tell.

The general factor of intelligence, known as g and measured by IQ tests, is not only the most important heritable trait contributing to success, but far more important than any other individual trait. Recent confirmation comes from a study of 6653 UK twins which correlated scores on the British school-leaving exam known as the GCSE with nine heritable traits. IQ alone statistically explained 34 percent of variation, while the other eight combined explained just 28 percent.

In the US, criticism of testing has focused on the high correlation between socio-economic status (SES) and performance on college admissions tests such as the SAT. The big question concerns the direction of causation: is SES causing high scores, or is inherited intelligence what put these families in the high-SES category?

An exhaustive analysis of this question, along with a comprehensive review of previous studies was published in 2009 by a team of psychologists at the University of Minnesota. They found that controlling for admission test scores reduced the correlation of parental SES and college grades from +.22 to –.01. On the other hand, controlling for measures of parental SES only reduced the correlation between admission test score and grades only from +.53 to +.50. This would seem to leave little room for argument.

Evidence for the influence of IQ and parental SES on success in later life is less clear, but Murray cites thirteen measures based on six databases and in only two cases is the correlation coefficient for SES higher than that for IQ.

The final proposition states that “outside interventions are inherently constrained in the effects they can have on personality, abilities, and social behavior.” In practice, ‘outside interventions’ usually refer to such practices as counseling, tutoring, mentoring, after-school activities and job training. The reasoning behind the proposition is simple: 1) if the shared environment explains little of the variance in cognitive repertoires (as stated in proposition eight); and 2) if the only environmental factors that can be affected by outside interventions are part of the shared environment; then 3) outside interventions are inherently constrained in the effects they can have on cognitive repertoires. In other words, “it is not within our power to do much to change personalities or abilities or social behaviors by design on a large scale.”

The truth of this final proposition mostly follows from what has gone before, so rather than adducing evidence directly in its favor, Murray devotes his discussion to showing why five major objections fail. The first three dispute the first premise above, asserting that it is 1) wrong for some important outcomes, 2) wrong for the early stages of life, or 3) wrong when it comes to changing self-concept.

We saw that shared environment accounted for more than one third of variation for only two out of thirty traits related to personality, abilities and social behavior discussed in a thorough 2015 meta-analysis of twin studies. But there is no a priori cutoff for how much variation a factor must explain to be considered substantial. For six other traits, the shared environment accounted for over 20 percent of variation, including such important items as educational attainment (25 percent) and disorders due to multiple drug use (26 percent). If outside interventions could have an effect on the shared environment factor contributing to these traits, might they not be worth the effort?

The best-case scenario for improving shared environment is adoption:

In effect, adoption at birth to competent parents gives us a glimpse of what would happen if an outside intervention could magically be successful at changing a wide variety of parenting behaviors from bad to good … . But adoption is as good as it gets. (246) If the shared environment explains just 26 percent of the variance, the outside intervention has to be big—boarding school, for example, or moving that family out of the neighborhood, or adoption into a new family. (242)

Short of establishing a police state bent on socializing all children in the same manner (as occurred in ancient Sparta and was aimed at in the USSR), the sorts of outside interventions that can be applied to larger numbers of people later in life generally amount to no more than a few hours a week, and must compete against all sorts of other past and present influences. Social agencies simply do not have the means to apply more radical remedies on a large scale. And of course, all it would do would be to reduce Ve in our ratio, so that a greater percentage of the variation would be due to genetic variation. Getting rid of variation is a difficult task indeed.

It is sometimes suggested that outside interventions can work in the early stages of life before habits have set and the child is more malleable. Murray acknowledges that

if interventions are ever going to work, they’re going to work in infancy and early childhood. But it’s one thing to believe that; it’s another to confront the empirical findings about the difficulties and constraints that have attended a half century of attempts to intervene early in life. (246)

When pre-school programs for disadvantaged youth were instituted in the 1960s, they produced a large effect: 35 percent of a standard deviation, nearly equivalent to half the Black-White kindergarten achievement gap. But subsequent experience showed this effect faded at a rate of 3 percent of a standard deviation per year. After 1980, even the initial effects of such interventions had shrunk to 16 percent, a finding which probably reflected improved conditions for children in the control groups.

In 1998, congress mandated a large and rigorously designed evaluation of Head Start; the report was published in 2010.

After one academic year in the program, effect sizes in six language and literacy areas ranged from .09 to .31 [i.e., 9–31 percent of a standard deviation], but there was negligible impact on math skills or on children’s attention, antisocial [behavior] or mental health problems. The limited effects at exit disappeared within two years. “By the end of the first grade, both achievement and behavioral ratings of treatment group children were essentially similar to control-group children.” (251)

It is sometimes asserted that outside interventions can have a positive effect on a student’s “self-concept.” The original version of this theory led to the self-esteem movement, comprehensively de-bunked in the early 2000s. More recently, a somewhat more plausible variant has been put forward.

Researchers administered a Standard Progressive Matrices test to fifth graders. One group of children was praised for their intelligence, while another was praised for the effort they put into the test.

Children praised for being intelligent subsequently displayed less task persistence and less task enjoyment. They became more concerned about getting a good score than about learning new things. They became protective of their image as “smart” and reluctant to jeopardize it. (256)

As Murray wryly notes, this finding “was especially jarring for a society in which many upper-middle-class parents incessantly tell their children how smart they are.” (256)

These findings have spawned the “growth mindset movement.” Advocates believe an emphasis on intelligence is harmful because it teaches children that their results follow from a fixed trait. They strive to convey to students the efficacy of effort, teaching them to interpret failure as a mere stepping stone to later success.

Common sense suggests such an approach could be beneficial for at least some students, but empirical assessments of growth mindset interventions have yet to reveal large effect sizes. It is also difficult to disentangle the effects of the interventions from pre-existing personality characteristics such as openness and conscientiousness, as well as from cognitive ability.

A fourth objection to the constraints on outside interventions questions whether nonshared environment really cannot be affected by outside interventions.

The best way to study the nonshared environment is by looking at monozygotic twins reared together: they have the same genes and the same home environment, so differences must be due to the nonshared environment.

But it has been found that those differences are not stable over time. Cognitive differences last no more than a few years and personality differences change even more quickly. No identical twin differences are stable over many years. The necessary implication: the nonshared environmental factors are not stable, but more like random noise. (259–260)

Effective interventions, however, could only be based on stable patterns.

The fifth objection is a recently fashionable appeal to “epigenetics.” This is a relatively new field of study dealing with auxiliary mechanisms which document that environmental events can switch off the expression of some genes (by making them less accessible to transcription machinery) or in some cases switch them on or modulate the intensity of their expression. This is something which goes on in the human body all the time, but there does not seem to be any evidence that we will soon be able to control the process for our own ends. Murray warns that

with rare exceptions, the mainstream media’s reporting on the science behind epigenetics bears little resemblance to what’s actually been discovered. (261) … As far as I can tell, no serious epigeneticist is prepared to defend the notion that we are on the verge of learning how to turn genes on and off and thereby alter behavioral traits in disadvantaged children (or anyone else). (268)

Murray points out that his final proposition, viz., that “outside interventions are inherently constrained in the effects they can have on personality, abilities, and social behavior,” may not remain true forever.

Who knows what role future drugs might play in enhancing learning and positively affecting personality traits and social behavior. At some point, the promise of … genetic editing will be realized, and all bets about the ability to change people by design in substantial numbers will be outdated. (269–270)

But we are definitely not there yet.

Recent Advances in the Study of Human Differences, Part 2 of 3: The Biological Basis of Race

Go to Part 1, on gender differences.

Social constructivist orthodoxy has been more successful at shaping popular perceptions of race than of sex. As Murray notes, the idea that “gender is merely a social construct” is widely perceived as too extreme, but many of our contemporaries labor under the mistaken impression that “significant racial differences in cognitive repertoires are known to be scientifically impossible.” (133)

Nevertheless, the author’s discussion of race generously begins with a section entitled “What the Orthodoxy Gets Right.” Richard Lewontin was correct that there is more variation within the major races than between them. Stephen Jay Gould was correct to criticize the theory of polygenesis, viz., that humans evolved independently in Europe, Asia and Africa for hundreds of thousands of years. No one today claims that races can be arranged in an unequivocal hierarchy from “best” to “worst.” But all this merely means that “we have before us an exercise in modifying our understanding of race, not resurrecting nineteenth-century conceptions.” (135)

In 2005, newly acquired data from the sequenced human genome confirmed that Homo sapiens originated in Africa; researchers found that “no origin outside Africa had the explanatory power of an origin anywhere within Africa.” The circumstances of human dispersal from Africa are less clear. Some Homo sapiens seem to have been in the Mideast by about 200,000 years ago. It was long assumed there must have been many distinct migrations out of Africa, but evidence has recently emerged that today’s non-Africans are mostly descended from a single small group:

In 2016, a new whole-genome study based on 300 genomes from 142 diverse populations provided evidence for a one-wave scenario, indicating that just one band of anatomically modern emigrants from Africa has descendants among today’s humans. But, as usual, there were complications. The genomes of Papuans gave signs that about 2 percent of their genomes might have come from an earlier population. That’s not much, but it suggests something more complicated than a single band of emigrants. (147)

Some of the Homo sapiens of Eurasia mated with Neanderthals and Denisovans already there, acquiring useful genes in the process. As the population grew, bands would occasionally split off into new territory, resulting in stepwise increases in genetic drift and decreased genetic diversity; this is called “serial founder effect.” The end result was a species in which differences in gene frequencies increased with distance and were subject to new evolutionary pressures across a wide variety of local environments.

As we know, there is no unequivocal number of human races. In such situations, it is helpful to run a statistical cluster analysis, in which a software program divides members of a sample first into two clusters, then three, increasing the number for “as long as the clusters produced continue to be informative.” (149)

We now turn to the evidence for Murray’s proposition five, viz., “Human populations are genetically distinctive in ways that correspond to self-identified race and ethnicity.”

In 2002, a team of scholars associated with the Human Genome Diversity Project ran a cluster analysis on a sample of 1056 persons from 52 distinct populations, using 377 genetic variants. They found the cleanest set of clusters was produced when K—the number of clusters—was set to five, and that these clusters corresponded to the major continents: Africa, Europe, East Asia, the Americas and Oceania (the Pleistocene continent which included Australia, New Guinea and Tasmania). In general, genetic discontinuities are clearest where they correspond to geographic barriers.

Six years later, following the complete sequencing of the human genome, another group of scholars ran a cluster analysis on the same sample, but taking account of 642,690 variants rather than 377. Murray summarizes the results:

At K = 2, two sets of the 51 populations had virtually no overlap: populations in sub-Saharan Africa versus populations in East Asia plus a few in the Americas. All the other populations were mixtures of the two clusters.

At K=3, the people who showed virtually no admixture across clusters consisted of individuals from sub-Saharan Africa, today’s Europe and Middle East, and the East Asian-Americas group.

At K=4 the Amerindians split off to form a separate cluster.

At K=5, the Oceania populations [=Australian Aborigines, New Guineans, Melanesians, and Micronesians] split off.

At K=6, the Central and South Asians split off.

At K=7, the configuration that the authors assessed as the most informative, those in the Mideast split off from the Europeans. (151)

Nota Bene: At no point does any increase in K fundamentally change the pattern of clusters; each increase splits one of the clusters already obtained, merely adding detail.

Murray draws our attention especially to the last two steps:

As in the 2002 study, the first five clusters corresponded to the five continental ancestral populations… [including] a cluster that corresponded to the classic definition of Caucasian—an odd agglomeration of peoples from Europe, North Africa, the Mideast, South Asia and parts of Central Asia. There had been a reason why physical anthropologists had once combined these disparate populations—all of them have morphological features in common—but it never made much sense to people who weren’t physical anthropologists. With K = 7, one of the new clusters split off the peoples of the Mideast and North Africa and the other split off the people of Central and South Asia—precisely the groups that had always been visibly distinctive from Europeans and from each other in the Caucasian agglomeration. (152)

I am reminded of Steve Sailer’s observation that Luigi Cavalli-Sforza’s laboriously produced map of the world’s “genetic population groups” resembles what Strom Thurmond might have sketched out with a box of crayons. In short, the common man’s perceptions of the races of mankind turn out to be fairly well supported by cutting-edge genetic research.

Recent studies have focused on more fine-grained distinctions. For example, a 2016 review article showed

what happens when several European subpopulations are plotted with different numbers of sites. When only 100 or even 1000 sites are used the subpopulations are indistinguishable. At 10,000 sites, some separation is visible. At 100,000 sites, Italians, Spanish, Germans, and Romanians are all reasonably distinct, with the British, Dutch, Swedish, and Irish fuzzily distinct. (154)

The upshot of these advances is that a geneticist can now say, in effect:

Give me a large random sample of [genetic variants] in the human genome, and I will use a computer algorithm, blind to any other information about the subjects, that matches those subjects closely not just to their continental ancestral populations, but, if the sample is large enough, to subpopulations within continents that correspond to ethnicities.

As the author notes, “if race and ethnicity were nothing but social constructs, that would be impossible.” (156)

Murray’s proposition six states that “Evolutionary selection pressure since humans left Africa has been extensive and mostly local.”

Indeed, the exodus from Africa accelerated evolution: not because mutations became any more common, but because new pressures were applied to pre-existing gene frequencies. For instance, the switch to a cooler Eurasian climate may have made certain previously neutral gene variants valuable, so that they spread within that local population (without necessarily reaching fixity). The transition to agriculture some ten thousand years ago led to a further series of drastic changes in human environments, generating intense new selective pressures and further accelerating evolution.

Before the sequencing of the human genome, researchers had to make educated guesses about where to look for genes recently subject to selection. Today, they can search the entire genome systematically in what are called “genome wide association studies.” Even tiny changes in frequency at individual loci can have large cumulative effects over the whole genome. Geneticists have also developed methods for dating adaptations less than about 30,000 years old.

A 2016 review article summarized the results of 73 studies which have revealed recent adaptations affecting cell function, connective tissue development, the brain and central nervous system, vision, hearing, olfactory receptors, skin pigmentation, immunity and metabolism.

Such adaptations tend to be local, meaning (at a minimum) confined to particular continental races. A 2009 German study found that

68 percent of the regions [of the human genome] under selection were under selection for a single [continental] population. Another 20 percent were under selection in just two of the six. Only 1 percent were under selection in all six populations. (179)

This research is still at an early stage, and we will not know for a long time just how much recent evolution there has been in various geographical regions. But Stephen Jay Gould’s claim that evolution since humans left Africa cannot have been extensive, while perhaps defensible when he made it in the 1980s, is now known to be mistaken.

Murray’s seventh proposition states that “Continental population differences in variants associated with personality, abilities, and social behavior are common.” Here is the evidence.

Research into continental differences in gene variants of all types is becoming more extensive in response to a growing awareness that diseases can affect different racial groups differently. This means that existing genomic data, collected mainly in Europe and the United States, may not be appropriate for use in medical research concerned with other parts of the world. Articles filled with fustian about “institutional racism” in medical science have even begun appearing in the popular press (if geneticists weren’t “racist,” they would presumably have been just as quick to collect samples from the deserts of Central Asia and the African jungle as in their own backyards).

Of course, this kerfuffle is having the positive result that genomic databases drawn from a wider array of racial groups are now being compiled. The goal is improved medical care around the world. But a side effect will be massive amounts of new data about racial differences in gene frequencies, many of which will correlate statistically with differences in personality, abilities and social behavior. Human Diversity provides information for 22 such traits for which evidence is already available (192-193). We cannot assume that all these differences have been produced by natural selection: founder effects and genetic drift probably made a larger contribution to some of them. But they are real racial differences in gene frequencies, whatever their cause.

As of yet, the task of assembling the genetic story for specific phenotypic traits has barely begun, but Murray assures us that “progress is accelerating nonlinearly” (201). By 2030, geneticists will be able to predict personality characteristics, abilities, and social behavior on the basis of genetic information alone, amounting to “an ironclad, you-can’t-get-around-this-one refutation” (300) of social constructivism. The orthodox may still resist the evidence, but they will eventually succumb to the ridicule.

Recent Advances in the Study of Human Differences, Part 1 of 3: Gender Differences

Human Diversity:
The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class
by Charles Murray
New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2020

“We are in the midst of a uniquely exciting period of discoveries in genetics and neuroscience (6),” notes Charles Murray near the beginning of his latest book Human Diversity, yet it remains something of a secret. Knowledgeable specialists avoid publicizing the discoveries, frequently claiming to be afraid the information will be misinterpreted and misused (i.e., by “white supremacists” and such). What they are really afraid of is retaliation by an aggressive minority of their colleagues who enforce a scientifically unsupported orthodoxy that Murray sums up in three assertions:

1) Gender is a social construct. Physiological sex differences associated with childbearing have been used to create artificial gender roles that are unjustified by inborn characteristics of personality, abilities, or social behavior.

2) Race is a social construct. The concept of race has arisen from cosmetic differences in appearance that are not accompanied by inborn differences in personality, abilities, or social behavior

3) Class is a function of privilege. People have historically been sorted into classes by political, economic, and cultural institutions that privilege heterosexual white males and oppress everyone else, with genes and human nature playing a trivial role if any. People can be resorted in a socially just way by changing these institutions. (3)

This orthodoxy has been on the defensive for many years now, and Murray is optimistic it will collapse within the coming decade. Plenty of individual believers will remain, but collectively they will lose their ability to enforce their beliefs through intimidation.

Human Diversity is a report on the revolution in our understanding of race, sex and class differences over the last thirty years. The author draws on genetic advances made possible by the sequencing of the human genome and also on neuroscience, but avoids extensive appeals to evolutionary psychology: “I decided that incorporating its insights would make it too easy for critics to attack the explanation and ignore the empirical reality.” (7)

This is part of a strategy “to stick to the low-hanging fruit” of findings “that have broad acceptance within their disciplines,” even if it leaves expert readers “yawning with boredom.” (6) Though soft-spoken by nature, Murray clearly hopes to strike an unanswerable blow against the Lysenkoist mafia whose power he has experienced personally. He conveniently summarizes his basic message in ten propositions for which “the clamor of genuine scientific dispute has abated,” (7) and there is little room left for empirically informed dispute. The first four propositions deal with sex differences, the next three with race, and the last three with class. Each proposition is given a chapter of its own.

The first proposition states that sex differences in personality are consistent worldwide and tend to widen in more gender-egalitarian cultures. Few will be surprised to find the latest studies confirming that women tend toward the warm, sympathetic, accommodating, altruistic and sociable end of the personality scale, with men more inclined to be reserved, utilitarian, unsentimental, dispassionate and solitary. Such differences emerge early in life are found around the world in radically different cultural environments.

A more counterintuitive finding is that such sex differences in personality widen rather than diminish in more egalitarian countries: this was the consistent result of five extensive international studies published between 2001 and 2018. As Murray notes, social constructivists are not the only ones surprised by this: “I know of no ideological perspective that would have predicted greater sex differences in personality in Scandinavia than in Africa or Asia.” He offers the conjecture that stronger enforcement of social norms in more traditional societies may suppress the expression of inborn personality traits, while in the modern West the sexes are “freer to do what comes naturally.” (43)

The second proposition states that “on average, females worldwide have advantages in verbal ability and social cognition while males have advantages in visuospatial abilities and the extremes of mathematical ability.” Social cognition refers to the ability to infer mental states from external clues and predict other people’s intentions and reactions. Women’s superior verbal skills are a consistent finding of international student assessment tests. Women also have better sensory perception and fine motor skills, and are better than men at remembering the minutiae (peripheral detail) of events.

Men are better at remembering the gist, and have markedly superior visuospatial skills. There has also long existed a widespread perception that men are better at math than women. Recent evidence makes some qualification necessary. Within the normal ability range, the male advantage is not statistically significant. It is clearer at the high end, but even here diminished greatly during the 1980s. Among the top one percent of one percent of human mathematical ability, there were 13 boys for every girl in the 1970s; by the early 1990s, the ratio had sunk to 3 to 1, where it has remained stable ever since.

Even where men and women solve problems equally well, they may do so in different ways. For example, women tend to navigate by identifying and remembering landmarks, while men are more likely to construct mental maps. Women more often use verbal forms of logic to solve math problems, whereas men tend to use symbolic or spatial reasoning.

Among the most cherished of feminist beliefs is that female under-representation in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) reflects differences in socialization—differences that would disappear in a gender-neutral society. To test this hypothesis, Murray examines the preferences and choices of a cohort chosen for a Johns Hopkins Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY). Focusing on such a sample allows him to ignore sex differences in abilities: all these people were qualified to pursue any undergraduate major they liked.

In the upper-middle-class schools and neighborhoods where most of the SMPY girls grew up, courses were filled with inspirational stories about women scientists, political leaders, artists, and authors. High schools were putting boys and girls in the same gym classes, and high school counselors were urging female students to go into male-dominated careers. When they reached college age in 1982–5, they all knew that the most famous universities in the nation were eager to add them to their student bodies and even more eager for them to populate their majors in science, technology, engineering, and math. On campuses, young women were hearing faculty and their fellow students urging them to forgo marriage and childbearing in favor of a career. (72)

It would not be easy to find a hypothesis which has been given a fairer or larger-scale trial than the explanation of female underrepresentation in STEM fields by sex-specific socialization.

The SMPY women were, indeed, about twice as likely as women in the general population to major in STEM subjects—but so were the men compared to men in the general population, so that the sex ratio was about the same. Twice as many of the women got degrees in the social sciences, business, and the humanities as did the men. Those of the women who did major in STEM subjects inclined more to the life sciences rather than math or the physical sciences.

An important reason for the persistent underrepresentation of women in STEM fields even among the mathematically gifted elite may be that many of these women also enjoyed their sex’s natural advantage in verbal intelligence, giving them “an attractive array of alternatives to STEM” (78)—whereas the men’s intelligence was more likely to skew heavily toward mathematics.

In 2012–13 a team of Vanderbilt psychologists interviewed these SMPY men and women, by then in their late forties, about their work preferences. The women indicated a much greater willingness to consider part-time careers and a greater unwillingness to work more than forty hours a week. They sought flexibility in their work schedule and placed a high value on such things as “having strong friendships.” Murray notes that since these women were in their late forties, their preference for shorter hours and a flexible schedule was not likely to be due to the presence of small children at home.

The men expressed a strong preference for a full-time career with a high salary, and agreed with such statements as “The prospect of receiving criticism from others does not inhibit me from expressing my thoughts’ and “I believe society should invest in my ideas because they are more important than those of other people in my discipline.” They viewed “being able to take risks on my job” as a positive good, and reported that they enjoyed working with computers, tools and machines.

In short, the stated preferences of these highly talented men and women who had come of age at the height of the feminist educational and career revolution were utterly sex-typical. Yet their widely differing preferences “were not accompanied by corresponding sex differences in how they viewed their career accomplishments and close relationships, or in their positive outlook on life,” according to the Vanderbilt researchers. (76) Forcing statistically equal life outcomes on the women in this sample might have been possible under totalitarian conditions, but would almost certainly have left them less happy.

The patterns observed in this cohort of unusually talented men and women holds for people general. Consider, for example, the RIASEC psychological assessment battery widely used for career guidance: of the six dimensions of preferences and abilities it measures, two reveal large and consistent sex differences. Those who score highest on the trait labelled “Realistic” enjoy working with tools, instruments, and mechanical or electrical equipment, as well as activities such as building, repairing machinery, and raising crops or animals. Men are higher on this measure by 84 percent of a standard deviation, indicating a robust average difference. Those who score highest on the trait labeled “Social” enjoy helping, enlightening or serving others through activities such as teaching, counseling, working in service-oriented organizations and engaging in social and political studies. Women are higher on this measure by 68 percent of a standard deviation, also quite robust. And these differences do not just show up in career assessment tests, but are closely mirrored by the actual jobs men and women go on to hold.

All of this evidence goes to confirm an observation made in 1911 by Edward Thorndike, a founder of the discipline of educational psychology, that the greatest cognitive difference between men and women lies “in the relative strength of their interest in things and their mechanisms (stronger in men) and the interest in persons and their feelings (stronger in women).” (19–20) This provided the inspiration for Murray’s third proposition: “on average, women worldwide are more attracted to vocations centered on people and men to vocations centered on things.” He notes that in the late 1980s, observers could have been forgiven for predicting that the career preferences of men and women

would converge within a few decades. From 1970 through the mid-1980s, the percentage of women in Things jobs had risen and the male-female ratio had plunged. If those [trends] had been sustained, the percentages of men and women in Things jobs would have intersected around 2001. But convergence was already slowing by the late 1980s and had effectively stalled by 1990. (87)

For example, between 1971 and 1986, the percentage of women’s bachelor of science degrees in the most things-oriented STEM fields—physics, chemistry, earth sciences, computer sciences, mathematics and engineering—more than doubled, but from a base of only 4 percent to a high of 10 percent. By 1992 it had declined again to 6 percent, where it has remained ever since, give or take a percentage point. The author concludes:

It looks as if women were indeed artificially constrained from moving into a variety of Things occupations as of 1970, that those constraints were largely removed, and that equilibrium was reached around 30 years ago. (88)

The fourth proposition states that “many sex differences in the brain are coordinate with sex differences in personality, abilities and behavior.” As neurobiological researcher Larry Cahill wrote in 2017: “The past 15 to 20 years witnesses an explosion of research documenting sex influences at all levels of brain function. So overpowering is the wave of research that the standard ways of dismissing sex influences have all been swept away.” Some of the most obvious sex differences in temperament are due to sex hormones, of which testosterone and estrogen are the best known (there are many others). Both men and women produce both of these hormones, but men produce much more testosterone and women much more estrogen.

Studies have demonstrated that a single dose of testosterone administered to women

significantly altered connectivity of the network in the brain that underlies the integration and selection of sensory information during empathic behavior. This finding suggests a neural mechanism by which testosterone can impair the recognition of emotions. (100)

The administration of testosterone has also been found to diminish women’s accuracy in inferring mental states, and women with higher natural levels of testosterone have been observed to be less risk-averse than other women. Supplemental testosterone administered to men diminishes their performance on the Cognitive Reflection Test, which measures capacity to override intuitive judgments with deliberated answers. Estrogen administered to men increases their emotional response to watching a distressed person.

Among the most important but less widely known functions of testosterone is to masculinize the fetal brain. Testosterone surges in human males occur twice before birth, during weeks 12-18 and again during weeks 34-41; a third occurs in the first three months after birth. In the absence of these testosterone surges, the brain develops according to the female pattern, which is thus in some sense the “default” type of human brain.

Since this discovery was made in 1959, many experiments have been conducted on nonhuman mammals in which hormones are manipulated during critical periods of prenatal and neonatal development. It has been established that certain regions of the brain have receptors which accept chemical signals from hormones. These signals affect a cell’s anatomical connectivity and neurochemicals, and even whether it survives or not.

Complete androgen insensitivity syndrome (CAIS) is a rare but instructive disorder that affects genetically male humans, i.e., persons with a Y chromosome. Such persons produce normal amounts of testosterone at the proper time—but to no effect, because their androgen receptors do not work. Persons with CAIS are born with externally normal female genitalia, are reared as girls, and are in most respects indistinguishable from girls behaviorally.

A 2017 Swedish study identified many specific ways in which fetuses with a Y chromosome but affected by CAIS develop brains that are a mix of characteristically “male” and “female” patterns. To give just one example: they are characteristically female with regard to hippocampus volume and male with regard to caudate volume. The study concluded that similarities in brain structure between the CAIS women and female controls are due to the CAIS condition, while similarities with male controls were due to the effects of their Y chromosome.

A few defenders of feminist orthodoxy have written books critical of hormone research, and been rewarded with “uniformly and sometimes gushingly enthusiastic… reviews in the mainstream press,” according to Murray. (106) But the best that can be said for their critiques is that they have succeeded in pointing out how some research has fallen short of perfection due to “small samples, inconsistent results, and scarce replications.” (105) But neuroscientists have not put much effort into refuting these books, apart from a few of them “having had scathing things to say in blogs.” One researcher told Murray that “one reason you don’t find many critiques… is that people in the field really don’t care. It’s so evidently nonsense.” (106) In short, empirically oriented scientists live in a largely separate mental world from the armchair theorists of social constructivism.

Among the best attested neurological sex differences is the greater “laterality” of the male brain, meaning that it is “structurally optimized for communicating within hemispheres” (112) as a result of fetal masculinization. The female brain is optimized for communication across hemispheres: the corpus callosum, which connects the two hemispheres is thicker in women, even after controlling for brain size and age. Men primarily use their right hemisphere for spatial tasks and their left hemisphere for verbal tasks, while women use both hemispheres for both.

When women suffer brain damage to the left hemisphere, they are less likely than men to develop language difficulties. Women’s language test scores after brain damage suffer the same effect whether the damage occurred to the left or right hemisphere, whereas men are more affected by damage to the left hemisphere. (110)

A recent study found that males have greater connectivity between the motor and sensory systems, and in systems associated with complex reasoning and control. Females have higher connectivity with the subcortical regions associated with emotion processing. Researchers say these results “suggest a better perception-action coordination in males, and better anticipation and subsequent processing of socially and emotionally relevant cues in females.” (115)

Go to Part 2.