A paper from the Victorian times visits us this Christmas. It brings with it the eugenical ghosts of Christmas past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet To Come. You will now learn why Ebenezer Scrooge was so rich (genetical superiority and high IQ), and why Tiny Tim and all these destitute little people in Victorian London actually deserved to remain poor (bad genes).
This is the paper and its abstract, fresh from the University of Edinburgh:
W. David Hill, Neil M. Davies, Stuart J. Ritchie, Nathan G. Skene, Julien Bryois, Steven Bell, Emanuele Di Angelantonio, David J. Roberts, Shen Xueyi, Gail Davies, David C. M. Liewald, David J. Porteous, Caroline Hayward, Adam S. Butterworth, Andrew M. McIntosh, Catharine R. Gale & Ian J. Deary Genome-wide analysis identifies molecular systems and 149 genetic loci associated with income Nature Communications (2019) doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-13585-5
“Socioeconomic position (SEP) is a multi-dimensional construct reflecting (and influencing) multiple socio-cultural, physical, and environmental factors. In a sample of 286,301 participants from UK Biobank, we identify 30 (29 previously unreported) independent-loci associated with income. Using a method to meta-analyze data from genetically-correlated traits, we identify an additional 120 income-associated loci. These loci show clear evidence of functionality, with transcriptional differences identified across multiple cortical tissues, and links to GABAergic and serotonergic neurotransmission. By combining our genome wide association study on income with data from eQTL studies and chromatin interactions, 24 genes are prioritized for follow up, 18 of which were previously associated with intelligence. We identify intelligence as one of the likely causal, partly-heritable phenotypes that might bridge the gap between molecular genetic inheritance and phenotypic consequence in terms of income differences. These results indicate that, in modern era Great Britain, genetic effects contribute towards some of the observed socioeconomic inequalities.”
There you have it, genes for being rich found, and those are the same genes which code for intelligence, which intelligence researchers like these define by a high IQ.
The paper follows a preprint published just in March this year, back then everyone wondered which journal (if any) will take that bizarre opus. It is a Genome-Wide-Association Study (GWAS), a fishing-expedition method used to correlate any trait to some specific genomic loci and then issue a press release to have found genes for literally anything, and nothing is too stupid there. Psychologists love GWAS.
The Ghost of Christmas Past
The money-genes study’s last author Ian Deary is psychology professor at the University of Edinburgh, his research field is: ” Human intelligence differences”. In his office, Deary displays a picture of Francis Galton, Victorian statistician and founding father of eugenics, Galton also invented the term. Eugenics is a pseudoscience and seems innocuous initially, since its pretends to advocate for smart people to have children, for the benefit of humanity. The assumption being, intelligence is genetically inherited. Before World War II, eugenics was tremendously popular, many scientists were into it.
As it turned out, eugenics is actually about cementing class and race supremacy while “birth-controlling” those it sees as unfit or damaging for society, meaning in practice forced sterilisations, euthanasia and genocide. The Nazi Germany did all of that, culminating in the Holocaust, and since then eugenics has a bad reputation. Nobody wants to be called eugenicist these days, even if what they advocate for is actually eugenics.
Now, Deary made his academic career as PhD student and mentee of former Edinburgh academic Chris Brand, a vile misogynist and a racist eugenicist of the worst kind. Brand was eventually sacked from his lecturer post, but not for being a basically a Nazi, no, for advocating paedophilia (for reasons of eugenics, sic!), a dismissal for which Brand blamed the Jews. He died in 2017, but his disgusting website is still online, where he, among other things, lamented the death of his hero Augusto Pinochet. How many young academic careers did that fascist monster Brand destroy in his times, while helping Deary establish himself in Edinburgh? Now their legacy, a study claiming that poverty and lack of access to higher education are both caused by bad genes.
Deary previously tried to connect IQ to the socio-economic status and to health, in a paper in The BMJ, Batty et al 2006, titled: “Does IQ explain socioeconomic inequalities in health? Evidence from a population based cohort study in the west of Scotland“. It was not part of a BMJ Christmas edition and hence not meant as a joke. That paper was quite measured, in fact the authors failed to prove their initial hypothesis. Maybe the peer review at The BMJ was more serious, while at Nature Communications the editors are motivated by the publication fee of €4,290.
Another author of the discussed Nature Communications paper is the psychologist Stuart Ritchie, formerly PhD student at Edinburgh, now lecturer at King’s College London. Ritchie is a very vocal champion for quality science and authored a number of papers with the US psychologist and King’s College professor Robert Plomin, about the inheritance and genetics of intelligence. A topic incidentally very popular with eugenicists and racists. It is worth reading Angela Saini‘s book “Superior” to know that also Plomin waded into racism theories: Plomin used to defend the racist psychologist Arthur Jensen against his critics up to his death. Jensen namely claimed IQ was inheritable, and black Americans had lower IQ than white people, with all the eugenics consequences; the infamous racist book “The Bell Curve” was based on Jensen’s studies.
Plomin regularly keeps discovering the gene or the genes for intelligence, which he wants to put on a “gene chip“, to be used by school officials to decide which children should be educated and which best not to bother with. Both Plomin and Ritchie are huge fans of twins studies, and they love to use these to find new IQ genes.
Speaking of. The only named reviewer of the Nature Communications paper was the Dutch economist Aysu Okbay, who over 3 years ago published a paper in Nature itself. Okbay et al 2016 discovered 74 gene loci for educational attainment, basically genes for those mysterious inheritable traits which influence your teachers to give you better grades because they respect your parents.
I was of course joking, educational attainment depends always and exclusively on intelligence (ie, IQ), just look how frightfully clever the present US and UK leadership is, all with degrees from the very best universities. And indeed, just last year, the Edinburgh psychologists Ritchie, Deary and David Hill issued a paper where genes for intelligence were located: Hill et al Molecular Psychiatry 2018. The new one in Nature Communications is the follow-up, with a bigger message.
The Ghost of Christmas Present
Many have already criticised the paper’s actual data and methodology. Like the previous study, it used the publicly available dataset of half a million of volunteer participants from UK Biobank. But since this is human data, you need to apply for access and an ethics approval. As it turned out, the authors tricked UK Biobank with a decoy grant proposal which had absolutely nothing to do with their real plans of eugenics research on IQ and income. As a reader commented:
“According to this paper, “Ethical approval for UK Biobank was received from the Research Ethics Committee (REC reference 11/NW/0382). This work was conducted under UK Biobank application 10279.”
Under Approved Research, the Biobank website lists application 10279 as “The relationship of cognitive function and negative emotions with morbidity and mortality: an aetiological investigation.”
The PI listed on the grant is Catherine Gale, visiting psychology scholar in Edinburgh. In order to secure access to UK Biobank for this income genetics study, Gale had to apply for an extension. This is how she argued:
“One outcome we are also interested in exploring in relation to prior cognitive function and other factors is dementia. For instance, we would like to investigate the extent to which prior cognitive function helps predict later onset of vascular dementia independently of other risk factors. We have research experience in the cognitive epidemiology of dementia. This is not an outcome that we specified in our original application so I am writing to ask for approval to expand the scope of our project to include dementias as an outcome.”
Not really honest, to pretend you strive to help dementia patients while your real aim is to prove that your comfortable financial status as white middle class is due to your superior genes. And: falsifying an ethics approval is usually reasons enough for a retraction.
Of course the paper will be based on weak data poorly analysed (at best), as it always proves the case with studies seeking to promote an eugenicist world-view. After all, there is no science behind Social Darwinism or “race realism”, just right-wing scientism. Even authors’ supporters like the UK Biobank Steering Committee member and EMBL-EBI director Ewan Birney seem to feel queasy, and defend them from their own claims:
But the damage is already done when such a paper gets published, especially after receiving the seal of peer review approval at an allegedly elite journal (which Nature Communications pretends to be).
Hence, some gems from the paper, which, since they passed peer review now count as scientific facts:
“We identify neurogenesis and the components of the synapse as being associated with income. Furthermore, we link transcription differences across multiple cortical tissue types, as well as both GABAergic and serotonergic neurotransmission, to income differences. We also show that the genes linked to differences in income are predominantly those that have been previously linked with intelligence8, and that intelligence is one of the likely causal factors leading to differences in income.”
Now we know for a fact that rich people are rich because of their superior intelligence which is coded in their superior genes. And this is how GWAS works, you decide what trait you want to connect to genes, and you will always succeed:
“Although income, as a biologically distal phenotype, will not be directly linked to genetic variation (Fig. 1)7, genes that may exert a causal influence are likely to do so through their effect on more proximal phenotypes30. “
This translates: of course income has scientifically nothing to do with genes, but we decided we will find some connection even if we have to break into UK Biobank for it. A mysterious connection, which goes through other organs in the body, not just the brain:
“This combination of data provides evidence that some of the individual differences in income are related to gene expression differences in the brain (Figs. 4b and 5c–e), as well as highlighting the role of specific classes of neurons (Figs. 4c and 5f). As importantly, we show the role for some tissue types outside of the central nervous system (Fig. 5d), indicating that genetic factors associated with income differences may also lie outside the phenotype of intelligence, and outside cortical tissue types.
Fourth, using MR, we provided evidence implicating intelligence as one of the potentially causal, partly heritable, phenotypes that might be one bridge in the gap between molecular genetic inheritance and phenotypic consequence. This result could help explain why individual differences in income are found to be partly heritable.
Fifth, our data show that income and education each have similar genetic correlations with many variables. However, some genetic correlations differ depending on whether income or education is used as a measure of SEP, and those that differed tend to be those related to mental health.”
Yeah, maybe poor people are not only retarded but also crazy and antisocial, and so are their kids. Rich people on the other hand are not only highly intelligent, they also also perfectly calm, social and well-adjusted, and so are their kids. That perfectly scientific reasoning would explain how both poverty and wealth get inherited over generations throughout the history. The paper concludes again, for those who missed the beautiful simplicity of it all:
“We also prioritize 24 genes for further follow-up and evidence from eQTL analysis, chromatin interactions, with previous associations of intelligence converging to implicate 18 of these genes. Furthermore, we identify intelligence as one of the likely causal psychological traits partly driving differences in income and SEP in Great Britain today. “
18 genes code both intelligence and income. Science Has Spoken! This is an invitation to revive Social Darwinism, a Victorian concept based on a (wilful) misunderstanding of the evolutionary theory and its concept of “survival of the fittest”. The reality of complex social cohesion, reciprocity and mutualism in, say canid societies, is thrown out of the windows because the dog-eat-dog idea sound so much more exciting. And because it is only natural and scientific, also in the human society the poor are to be robbed and exploited till they drop dead so the rich can get even richer, because the genetics allegedly says so.
Of course the authors will say they never meant to endorse Social Darwinism. But their paper and its claims provides the scientific groundwork for social injustice, and it would insult the authors’ self-proclaimed high intelligence to suggest they lack the brains to figure out the connection. Of course they know. They simply think as academics it is not their responsibility, because science is on their side. Even if it is not, just Nature Communication‘s bloated impact factor.
The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come
Great Britain is a multi-ethnical nation, torn by many internal conflicts while still obsessed with social class system, and this is where the paper does its main damage. Especially in view of current events of Brexit and the newly elected Tory government which main characteristic is its unashamed hatred for the poor and the immigrants. Deary and colleagues provide Boris Johnson and his cabinet of crooks and sociopaths the perfect scientific arguments to say that no, there is no such thing as discrimination, neither of women nor of minorities. The darker-skinned UK citizens are probably genetically inferior, that’s why they get paid less for doing the same job as whites, and rarely get Oxbridge degrees and top jobs like white upper classes do. The immense wealth inherited and amassed by freaks like Jacob Rees-Mogg is in fact justly deserved, because the upper classes do have better genes.
Science apparently has spoken that it is pointless to waste education, welfare and job integration programmes on the poor, because their genes are bad anyway. Why not sending their kids to work in factories and mines, if their genetic makeup prevents them from educational attainment? And if there are not enough jobs to keep the working classes busy, let’s have a war on. Who needs immigrants if those are genetically so inferior, as evidenced by their relatively low income? And NHS can be safely sold to US capitalists, because poor people have poor health anyway, congenitally. Why wasting money of these dumb and sickly subhumans, would certain Tories think, while the genetically superior Prime Minister Johnson impregnates another mistress, for England.
Also elsewhere in sciences eugenics gains popularity again. Harvard’s star scientist and God-impersonator George Church previously suggested to use CRISPR technology to breed a disease-free, quasi-immortal race of super-humans. Now Church is developing a dating app software to help people breed according to best genetic match. The idea is also here to eliminate all diseases for the benefit of humanity. It is worth remembering that Church used to receive money from the paedophile sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein (now deceased), who himself designed a project to “seed humanity” via mass insemination of sex slaves with his own semen and that of academic and other elites.
Eugenics doesn’t work. Nobody will ever succeed in breeding smarter humans, or wealthier ones, even if the Deary team may think they provided solid scientific groundwork for that. Every eugenicist ran into the problem that their breeding project doesn’t really work as efficiently as planned, while those humans they see as inferior are still out there, some even having children. The logical solution for the frustrated eugenicists was to stop them, either by mass-sterilisation, or much simpler, by mass murder. What Nazis did was just applied eugenics.
Thanks, Nature Communications, for that very useful paper.
The article was updated on 18. and 19.12.2019
I decided this story needs an update. First of all, there was a follow-up article of mine on this same UK Biobank case (spoiler: UK Biobank is perfectly happy about eugenics). Ritchie has since became a bestselling book author and guru of research ethics, now even saving the world from COVID-19 disinformation.
Threfore, meet some earlier research by Ritchie and Deary. Like this paper:
Stuart J Ritchie, Simon R Cox, Xueyi Shen, Michael V Lombardo, Lianne M Reus, Clara Alloza, Mathew A Harris, Helen L Alderson, Stuart Hunter, Emma Neilson, David C M Liewald, Bonnie Auyeung, Heather C Whalley, Stephen M Lawrie, Catharine R Gale, Mark E Bastin, Andrew M McIntosh, Ian J Deary Sex Differences in the Adult Human Brain: Evidence from 5216 UK Biobank Participants Cerebral Cortex, (2018) doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhy109
I shall let some professional science communicators at Science sum it up:
“Meanwhile, men had higher brain volumes than women in every subcortical region they looked at, including the hippocampus (which plays broad roles in memory and spatial awareness), the amygdala (emotions, memory, and decision-making), striatum (learning, inhibition, and reward-processing), and thalamus (processing and relaying sensory information to other parts of the brain). […] That’s intriguing because it lines up with previous work looking at sex and IQ tests.“
The paper that link references is:
Wendy Johnson, Andrew Carothers, Ian J. Deary Sex Differences in Variability in General Intelligence: A New Look at the Old Question Perspectives on Psychological Science (2008) doi: 10.1111/j.1745-6924.2008.00096.x
Does this mean men have smarter brains than women? Here Ritchie himself explains his and Deary’s research:
” [Johnson et al 2008] finds no average difference in intelligence, but males were more variable than females,” Ritchie says. “This is why our finding that male participants’ brains were, in most measures, more variable than female participants’ brains is so interesting. It fits with a lot of other evidence that seems to point toward males being more variable physically and mentally.”
Those “variability” differences are a very insidious concept perpetuated by all eugenicists who don’t want to appear outright sexist. You see, their findings that male brains have bigger variability than females translates into two things:
- Men can be either extremely dumb or extreme geniuses (like Deary, Ritchie, Plomin and others with superior genes)
- Women remain in their narrow IQ spectrum, which means there are no extremely dumb women, but neither are there any exceptionally smart ones.
Which explains why most senior academics are male. Can’t argue with science.
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