January 21, 2018

The Impossibility of Equality

Many people think that racial populations are “equal” with respect to their genetic potential for cognitive traits. On this website, we look at a lot of data having to do with racial differences in various traits to assess the validity, or lack thereof, of this assumption. Sometimes, though, it is important to step back and recognize just how impossible the notion of equality truly is. If the races really are genetically equal with respect to most psychological traits, it is nothing short of an evolutionary miracle, and in this article, I will explain why.

We all accept that the races differ in various ways for genetic reasons. For instance, East Asians are shorter than Africans and Europeans. Certain body types were more likely to evolve in different climates. In response to environmental variables such as UV radiation, we evolved differences in skin color, hair color, hair texture, etc. Some historic populations had cows available to milk while others did not and, so, some populations are lactose tolerant while others are not. Some populations had to face malaria, while others did not, and this led to differences in our blood. The list could go on. This is all utterly uncontroversial.

The races also differ in brain size. This has been shown repeatedly, all over the world, dating back more than a century (Last, 2016). More recently, it has been shown that you can predict someone’s race by looking at the shape of their brain (Fann et al. 2015). Yet, it is supposed that, unlike the racial differences in virtually every other part of the body, these ones are due entirely to the environment. This is obviously a political move. Evolution doesn’t care that genetic differences in personality are politically controversial, it sees the brain as just another organ. If we evolved differences in all the others, we probably evolved differences in the brain too.

In fact, the brain is a more likely site for genetic differences between races than most other parts of the body are. Why? Because researchers have shown that genes involved in the brain are the ones that differ most between the races (Wu and Zhang, 2011) .


“Other genes that showed higher levels of population differentiation include those involved in pigmentation, spermatid, nervous system and organ development, and some metabolic pathways, but few involved with the immune system.” – Wu and Zhang (2011) (emphasis added)

Given this, if anything we should expect racial differences in the brain to be larger than other racial differences. The assumption that they are infinitely smaller, such that they do not exist, is not genetically plausible.

Ultimately, this is just common sense. Populations around the world had different food sources. They hunted different kinds of animals and picked different kinds of plants. They lived in different climates. They fought different diseases. These differences impact behavior. For instance, some animals require more group work to kill than others. Harsh winters require more pre-planning and delayed gratification (saving food) than more temperate climates. The more easily acquirable food is around, the less important working with the group is. The more predators and other humans are around, the more physical strength and aggression will be needed. The more pathogens are present, the more important cleanliness will be. This list could go on infinitely.

And maybe you think one of these explanations is wrong and an environmental difference will have the opposite effect of what I have said. That is certainly possible, but the idea that any one of these environmental differences, let alone all of them together, will have no effect whatsoever on the selective pressures for any mental traits is completely implausible.

And this is all before culture comes into the picture. Once that happens, these differences are magnified times a hundred. In some cultures, being smart is the best way to have lots of kids. In others, physical strength, or determination, or social intelligence, etc., will be the most effective way. The notion that in every culture every psychological variable has the exact same association with fertility, which is the logical implication of egalitarianism, is obviously insane.

That culture has sped up evolution is evident in our own DNA. By looking at our genome, researchers can estimate how the speed of evolution has changed over time. In 2007, a landmark paper was released showing that evolution sped up by a factor of 100 within the last 5000 years, suggesting that the development of civilization, which happened at different times and in different ways around the globe, had an extremely dramatic impact on evolution (Hawks et al., 2007).

Even more recently, we are starting to get some idea of how culture influenced evolution. For instance, a 2014 paper found that England’s “war on murder”, a time in which criminals were essentially sent to die for fairly petty crimes, had a significant eugenic effect on the population in terms of criminality (Frost and Harpending, 2015). And, after all, how couldn’t it? If you kill a ton of criminals every generation, genes that predispose people towards criminality are obviously going to become less common.

My pointing in bringing this up is not to suggest that England is especially non-criminal. Other countries no doubt had similar periods and England has had its share of crime problems in its history. Nonetheless, the “war on murder” is a vivid example of the fact that culture can, and in fact must, impact evolution. Anything that differentially impacts people’s probability of reproducing will. Given this, and given the enormous amount of culture diversity which has existed on earth for millennia, it is, once again, lunacy to suggest that this all led to every population on earth possessing the exact same genetic predisposition for every mental trait there is.

On top of all this, there’s the Neanderthals (and others). After humans left Africa they met, and bred with, other species or subspecies of human. These other humans had been evolving separately from us for a really long time and they are universally accepted to have been different from us physically, and mentally, due to evolution. Some populations bred with these groups more than others, and Africans didn’t breed with them at all. This has led to the races differing in their degree of Neanderthal admixture.

Moreover, Neanderthal DNA is associated with various traits, including mental ones. For instance, one researcher described their findings from early last year thusly: “We discovered associations between Neanderthal DNA and a wide range of traits, including immunological, dermatological, neurological, psychiatric and reproductive diseases.” Specifically, they found that Neanderthal DNA was related to traits like nicotine addiction, depression, and other mental traits.

How is it even possible, you might ask, for the races to differ in their level of Neanderthal admixture and still be “equal” if Neanderthals weren’t “equal”? It’s not. For this, and all the other reason’s laid out here, equality is, practically speaking, a biological impossibility.

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  • L.Q. Cincinnatus

    We also know that mendelian diseases have both different prevalence and different alleles that explain most of the variance in different populations. This is true for virtually all mendelian diseases, no matter what organs or tissues they affect. The same is true for genetic risk factors of multifactorial diseases.

    So, coupled with what you wrote, we know that when it comes to diseases of all kinds and to physiological non-mental traits human populations differ from each other. Somehow, despite different environments, despite different admixtures from ancient hominids, despite the presence of differences in phenotypes, despite that we know some alleles related to IQ are differently distributed among different races, we should assume that there is not even a single pair of human populations that are genetically different when it comes to cognitive ability or personality.

    Many people say that this is akin to creationism but it’s not, it’s far worse, creationists at least have magic and that can make everything happen, egalitarian atheists have nothing similar that allows for this kind of wishful thinking.

    • Hoosh

      That last point. Pure cognitive beauty. Thank you.

    • Jim Araya

      Egalitarian atheists believe in evolution and therefore natural selection, I don’t know where you got this idea from. Egalitarianism is simply treating people equally based on how they act. The way forward for equality is teaching people things like empathy and critical thinking skills to create decent smart human beings that can create a better future for the human race regardless of what we can measure of them on an IQ test. Belief in inequality is a large reason for oppression, war, and all sorts of heinous insane shit we delude ourselves into doing, if we could truly disregard it that would be a much larger evolutionary step than we could ever achieve through natural or human selection or whatever the fuck you believe in. Wishful thinking though, right? Maybe.

      Maybe I’m just an edgelord, I mean look how I’m spending my time. This site? lol. This site panders to bigots by ignoring cultural factors and just throwing out meaningless numbers so that idiots can delude themselves into thinking they’re right. If you truly believe some races, countries, whatever, are better than others you share a core principal and a world view responsible for the Holocaust, I mean good on you, just think of how much evil those Jews could have done without the damage ol’ Adolf did. Godwin’s Law.

      • Medieval Knievel

        Ryan and Sean constantly talk about cultural factors. So wrong there. Stop with this inferiority and superiority shit. Its not about that shit, its about looking at the very real differences between the races. You immediately start with the Nazi comparisons. You guys really need something original to say.

        • Jim Araya

          My point to Cincinnatus was that belief in equality is a moral question not a scientific one. Even if we can evaluate differences we should still treat everyone if not the same then with the equal respect based on how they act. Because a person’s race and sex are mostly shallow and meaningless in their lives, or at least they should be.

          Looking back my argument quickly devolved though, into that of an SJW. Especially the second paragraph, I’m not going to delete it myself because I would think it’s hilarious if I didn’t write it.

          • Medieval Knievel

            The point is though is that race and sex aren’t meaningless or shallow. They have a very real impact on us. Trying to ignore these differences is naive.

      • Just so we are all clear, you do not actually have any arguments against the material on this site, correct? Because so far all I have gleamed from your comments is that you don’t like what we say. Paragraphs are not necessary to express this. A simple “Boo!” would suffice.

        • Jim Araya

          I don’t stand by anything I said before at least in the second paragraph. The only argument I have against this article, really the title, is that “equality” is possible and it’s already happened in many places of the world. I know you mean scientific equality though.

      • L.Q. Cincinnatus

        Egalitarian atheists believe in evolution as long as evolution doesn’t entail significant innate differences in mental traits between different populations. Which isn’t that different from creationist who believe in evolution as long as it doesn’t entail speciation. In fact, it’s basically the same thing: there are some things which you don’t agree with a priori and if scientific findings seem to suggest they mightbe true, then science can go to hell.

        I doubt anyone here is against teaching empathy or critical thinking skills. Do you think I don’t have empathy towards someone who has a IQ of say 92? Why wouldn’t I?

        And no, egalitarianism is a lot more than “treating people equally based on how they act” for example, thinking that equality is a moral good, or that equality is just a fact and any evidence that goes against is incorrect, just because.

        Your last paragraph doesn’t even contain half an argument, you’re just committing a fallacy after another: “evil people agreed with you on this!” isn’t an argument, asserting that people are just wrong without any evidence isn’t an argument either, and so on and so forth

  • pymotes

    the null hypothesis (µ = µ) [aka population mean of group 1 = population mean of group 2] on any characteristic between groups is rarely supported by evidence. to believe in the null hyothesis a person must believe that mean height of group 1 = mean height of group 2, so that if a group 1 tall person dies, a group 2 tall person must die, for the population means to remain equal!

  • Marshall Lentini

    Very well done. Having to “prove” racial differences is in any case tautological: if there were no variation, there would be no subject whatsoever — and thus no controversy.

  • alan2102

    Has anyone ever suggested that humans are precisely equal in terms of talents or aptitudes? I don’t think so. Equality is about equality of opportunity, not about some ridiculous and non-existent genetic equality of constitution. We are still a long way away from equality of opportunity, and if the right has its way, we will remain a long way away from it forever.

    • Ryan Faulk

      It is a universal implicit belief that undergirds all policy.

      For example, racial income gaps. Racial test score gaps. Racial crime gaps.

      These are always considered “problems” that “need to be solved” – any when people get into university discussions to TV show discussions or political discussions on the internet, it’s always about what environmental factors cause these racial gaps.

      What’s happening with you here are two things:
      1. The complete absurdity of genetic equality is made obvious just by merely stating the proposition.
      2. Nobody actually states it explicitly, otherwise we wouldn’t have this problem of belief in equality. If it WAS stated explicitly on a regular basis, the obvious stupidity would be apparent and nobody could ever use the mere existence of group outcome disparity as evidence of unequal opportunity.

      • alan2102

        They are considered problems that need to be solved because they REFLECT PRIMARILY INEQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY, or other inequality, WHICH OUGHT TO BE CORRECTED.

        As opportunity and general conditions have improved, racially, we see consistent (over decades) test score increases for blacks relative to whites:

        That does not have to mean, and may not ultimately mean, that blacks are precisely equal to whites in I.Q. Perhaps blacks have lower I.Q. than whites, and perhaps that is genetically fixed. If that is true, we will come to know it some time over the next century or so. It is much too early to say. Meanwhile, the urgent work that faces us is of achieving social justice for all, i.e. APPROXIMATE equality of opportunity and general conditions, such that every human (black, white, whatever) has a decent shot at actualizing their potential. Outcomes of course will differ wildly, since human potentials differ wildly.

        Also, much more important than any “racial crime gap” is aggregate violent crime, which fortunately (miraculously!) has been in steep decline for the last couple decades. The reason, almost certainly (google: nevin lead crime) is the delayed effect of deleading of gas. Lead is a distinct neurotoxic risk factor for criminal behavior. As we continue to make environmental and social investments and improvements — e.g. radical conversion to renewables and complete elimination of fossil fuels, among other things — we will see further improvements in all aspects of human behavior, all else equal. Of course, all else might not be equal; i.e. we can still screw things up. But with a smidgen of smarts, we’ll do better than that.

        Unfortunately, we are in the midst of a massive crime wave perpetrated by whites at the highest levels of political and economic power, causing massive suffering, dispossession and death throughout the world. This is a “racial crime gap” that is seldom spoken of, as such. It is seldom spoken of, as such, because it is stupid to speak of it, as such. It is stupid to speak of it, as such, because criminal behavior — either violent or non-violent — has nothing to do with race. Blacks, in the same conditions and positions as the whites in question, would no doubt behave as criminally as do the whites.

        • Michael

          I get the impression you believe people that accept this reality are somehow happy about it. Sure, there are despicable racists out there who dehumanize other groups, but I believe most people just want to know the uncensored truth, even if it is heart-breaking.

          As far as I am aware, every single research study that has directly assessed race and IQ has come to the same conclusion – even when standardizing for a multitude of other variables. The question is – what do we do about this truth? Can the world handle it? Will it lead to more problems, or will it help solve them? I honestly don’t know, but you can’t solve a problem when you chose to ignore one of the most pertinent pieces of information.