A Beagle and a Border Collie

However, the thoughtful may be uneasy with some of this. Boilerplate evolutionary theory holds that when a beneficial mutation accidentally arises, its possessor has an advantage in the struggle for survival, has more children, and thus passes on the new trait. This makes sense, at least if the mutation does something really desirable.

But.

Wade points out that certain Asians, due to a mutation, have hair with thicker hair shafts. One is hard pressed to see how slightly coarser hair would promote survival so efficaciously as to result in having more children. It is not clear why it would be an advantage at all. In the absence of reason or evidence, various solutions may be adduced: thick hair cushioned the blows of clubs, or girls thought it was sexy and said yes, or … something. It smacks of desperation.

While traits conferring very small or no advantage spread through populations, many that would seem to offer great advantage in surviving and reproducing do not. No mutations are needed to produce the phenomenal eyesight of Ted Williams, the brains of Stephen Hawking, the body of Muhammad Ali, or the phenomenal running endurance of Patrick Makau: The genes already exist. Would not these things, at least in the premodern world, have produced much more advantage than coarse hair, or some slight tendency toward collectivism, and thus have become general?

And it has always seemed curious to me, though not necessarily inexplicable, that a brain which evolved to make crude clothes and pointed sticks for hunting should just happen to be able to produce Mozart’s music, Renoir’s paintings, tensor calculus, and Mars landers. Such minds existed 2500 years ago, as for example Euclid, Archimedes, and Plato. It looks like evolutionary overkill.

A minor defect of the book, understandable since Wade works for a very PC newspaper and may want to keep his job, is that he dances away from the conclusions one might draw from what he says. Differences among people are actually small, he asserts, and only in cumulative effects on societies do they really count. Yet he puts the mean IQ of Sub-Saharan Africans at 67, of Europeans at 100, and of Jews at 115. He also says that four of every thousand Europeans have IQs in excess of 140, but 23 Jews. These are huge differences and, if real, they have equally huge implications.

Which would surprise no one at Joe’s Bar.

 



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