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E.O. Wilson on Rushton’s r/K Theory and More on Endemic Disease

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JP Rushton

Richard Lynn

L:inda Gottfredson

Goodreads

1300 words

I thought I’d address what E.O. Wilson’s thoughts on Rushton’s theory and clarify some things on endemic disease and cold winter and how they relate to this r/K paradigm. Proponents of Rushton may look to it and say ‘Well, E.O. Wilson said X, so therefore the reason why it’s not accepted is Y!” However, this comes from a faulty misunderstanding of what Wilson said.

I think Phil is an honest and capable researcher. The basic reasoning by Rushton is solid evolutionary reasoning; that is, it is logically sound. If he had seen some apparent geographic variation for a non-human species – a species of sparrow or sparrow hawk, for example – no one would have batted an eye. … when it comes to [human] racial differences, especially in the inflamed situation in this country, special safeguards and conventions need to be developed.

This little blurb does not address anything, really. Yes, it does address the fact that people attacked Rushton for his research on human racial differences. What it does not address is Rushton’s incorrect application of the theory, as covered yesterday. So, bringing up Wilson’s thoughts on Rushton and the controversy surrounding his theory is a moot point.

I don’t understand why people cannot just accept that Rushton was wrong with his misuse of the theory. Notice how I never said anything about his data—I only talked about his misuse of the theory. People act as if both his data and theory need to be correct, well, why can’t one be right and the other wrong (the data and the theory)? Because that’s how it is in reality.

Rushton’s data was largely correct, however, his misapplication of r/K theory shows that he just saw, for instance, current TFRs (total fertility rates) and just arbitrarily placed Africans as r and Eurasians as K, when looking at what Rushton said about both environments—tropical and cold—would lead to K selection for the tropics, since Rushton asserts that endemic and infectious disease is a selective agent (with no references) while Asia was ‘unbearably cold (also with no reference). This characterization of Pleiositicine environments as ‘hot and endemic disease’ and ‘unbearably cold’ has literally no basis in reality.

Tropical environments are more challenging than cold/temperate ones (Dobzhansky, 1950: 221). Knowing this, Rushton’s assertion of cold winters selecting for higher levels of intelligence in Eurasians compared to Africans is wrong since life is easy nowhere. This characterization of life being ‘easy’ in tropical environments has no basis in reality. It’s like people assume that in the tropics you can just laze around all day while fruits fall onto your lap and you have to do nothing that’s cognitively demanding. This is not true at all. Just look at how a savanna looks, does that look ‘easy’ to live in?

There are also a few more things I’d like to talk about in regards to Rushton’s theory, mainly on endemic disease and why it is an agent of K-selection; not r. Even then, r characteristics probably wouldn’t be able to evolve in the savanna (Miller, 1991: 670). The thing is, populations that evolve in disease-ridden places are expected to select for high population growth—increasing r. However, populations in other areas would increase K as they would be selected for survival and not disease resistance. So if disease was a main difference in so-called r/K differences between populations, r-selected people would be more disease resistant AND they would live longer lives (Miller, 1991: 672).

Case closed, right? Wrong. Miller (1991) writes: “If differences in disease rates do prove to be part of the explanation, the theory would not be an r vs K selection theory, because resistance to disease and a long life span are considered K characteristics, rather than r characteristics” (pg: 672). It is also doubtful that conditions in Africa are much more variable in comparison to other continents.

Furthermore, if an alien observed us with no prior knowledge of our species and only had Pianka’s (1970) paper to go off of, he would conclude that Mongoloids would be r-selected due to the cold winter temperatures which bring a high mortality rate. This is the direct opposite of what Rushton claimed.

Miller states at the end of the article that these differences between populations clearly need explaining. However, the explanation is not r vs. K selection, as Afrosapiens and I showed yesterday, Rushton reversed r and K for the three races, making Africans r when they really would be K and making Mongoloids K, when in reality they would be r. Miller addresses other possibilities, such as testosterone, citing Ellis and Nyborg (1992) for racial differences in testosterone, however, he notes that the difference is only 3 percent which wouldn’t account for racial differences in behavior. (Also recall my critique of having no measure of central adiposity.) I’ve definitively shown that even if the races did differ largely in testosterone that it would not account for disease acquisition nor higher rates of crime.

agentsofselection

from Anderson (1991: 53)

Above are the agents of selection, their defining characteristics, and independent and dependent variables. Notice how for r-selection the typical agents of selection are temperature extremes, drought, and natural disaster. For K-selection, the usual agents of selection are limited food supply, endemic infectious disease, and predation. Alpha-selection selects for competitive ability and is thus closer to K than r. Limited resources that can be collected or guarded such as shelter or food are agents of selection.

Clearly, as you can see, if this theory did apply to the human races, Mongoloids would be r and Africans would be K. Endemic disease is an agent of K-selection, not r. This is because endemic disease usually imposes density-dependent selection while cold winters impose density-independent selection. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, intelligence can be selected for due to agents of r- or K-selection! Rushton had no reason to add intelligence as a ‘K trait’, as Pianka did not even add it to his continuum. Further, Pianka gave no experimental rationale as to why he placed those traits on r or K (Graves, 2002: 135)! So due to this, Rushton’s claims are wrong and people should stop pushing his r/K theory.

Clearly, Rushton reversed r and K selection and wrongly applied them to the races of man. The three races he describes are NOT local populations, so any inferences made off of any so-called evolutionary environment are not warranted because he did not use the right variable (r or K) for Africans or Eurasians. However, some people may not want to admit that Rushton—and by extension, them—were wrong so they will attempt whatever kind of mental gymnastics possible to attempt to prove that Rushton was ‘right’. As I’ve already said, I don’t have a problem with Rushton’s data; I have a problem with his misapplication of r/K to humans—which I’ve made a strong case that he was wrong and didn’t know what he was talking about in terms of ecology and evolution.

Rushton’s theory was no longer viable 3 years after it was proposed when Judith Anderson got her hands on it, writing the paper Rushton’s Racial Comparisons: An Ecological Critique of Theory and Method. There is literally no saving his application of r and K to humans because he used it wrong! I don’t care what E.O. Wilson said, because he didn’t address Rushton’s application of r/K to human races. He only said if he noticed this variation between another species that no one would have batted an eye. That says absolutely nothing about Rushton’s erroneous application of r/K selection to the races of man.

I hope any HBDers reading this will stop and think for a moment before stating that Eurasians are K and Africans are r. This canard needs to stop in this sphere and I hope I set the wheels in motion to end it.

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7 Comments

  1. bbloggz says:

    In the third edition of RE&B, Chapter 12: Challenges and Rejoinders, the sub-section “Is r-K Theory Correct?” Rushton does defend his application of r/K selection from Anderson, Miller and others. His main point is that r/K selection is driven by the predictability of the environment.

    B.B.

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    • RaceRealist says:

      Rushton writes (p. 249):

      Predictability is the ecological necessity for K-selection. This can occur in either a stable environment or a predictably variable one. What has apparently been misunderstood is that subtropical savannahs, where humans evolved, because of sudden droughts and devastating viral, bacterial, and parasitic diseases, are less predictable for long-lived species than are temperate and especially Arctic environments. Although the Arctic climate varies greatly over one year, it is highly predictable, but harsh, over many years (Rushton & Ankney, 1993).

      Endemic disease is an agent of K since it acts in a density-dependent way whereas Arctic environments would be agents of r since cold weather acts in a density-independent manner. It’s about population density, whether independent or dependent. Temperature extremes, drought, and natural disasters are density dependent—that is, natural selection when the effects are independent of population density. Winter storms impose density-independent mortality which is an agent of r-selection whereas endemic and infectious diseases—contrary to what Rushton states—is an agent of K-selection since it imposes density-dependent mortality.

      Many critics have made the classic mistake (many ecologists do also) of confusing variable and unpredictable. Weizmann et al. (1990: 2) claimed that, because of their longer ancestry in stable tropical climates, blacks should be more JiT-selected than other human groups. Miller (1993) also suggested that the converse might be true, that arctic animals with variable winter cycles, would be r-selected. But, of course, they are not. Long-lived arctic mammals like polar bears, caribou, muskox, seals, and walruses are highly K-selected, as are Arctic people. The reason is that the Arctic environment is not only highly variable, but more importantly, is highly predictable as well. (More generally, data show that plants, lizards, and mammals become more K-selected with increasing elevation and latitude [Zammuto & Millar, 1985].) (pg. 249)

      That study was only done on ground squirrels in low and high elevations. Some support was found, but they weren’t testing for ‘K traits’. Further, Rushton talks about ‘organisms becoming more K-selected’ as latitude increased is wrong because he’s describing organismal characteristics—not density dependence. As noted in the article, that denotes circular reasoning and not support for his hypothesis. r/K selection is density-dependent selection; describing ‘r traits or ‘K traits’ makes no sense.

      Regarding Rushton’s claim that Barash states that environmental predictability is characteristic of glacial environments has no basis in the literature. r/K selection doesn’t deal with environmental predictability either.

      The most important part is that Rushton didn’t study the three populations in their natural habitat.

      It’s also more challenging to live in Africa, so his claim that the ‘harsh Asian winter’ selected for higher intelligence is incorrect since Africa is more challenging to survive in.

      Rushton’s verbal theory—just like Pianka’s—is wrong.

      Like

  2. Afrosapiens 🇫🇷🇪🇺 says:

    Which is not the case.

    Like

  3. […] reader linked to this article and this article, both of which attempted to argue against Rushton’s analysis on race and r/K […]

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  4. Samuel Skinner says:

    I’d recommend reading anonymous conservative for a better over view of your errors, but I’ll give a short run.

    Endemic disease is a mechanism of r selection because it favors having children as fast as possible to keep up with the high mortality rate AND increases the availability of free resources by keeping the population well below Malthusian limits.

    Tropical environments being easier is simple- which environment requires investment by both mothers and fathers in order to survive? Which one can mothers alone support their offspring?

    ” So if disease was a main difference in so-called r/K differences between populations, r-selected people would be more disease resistant AND they would live longer lives”

    Nope. We should expect them to be more disease resistant and live SHORTER lives. Why? Because high levels of disease reduce the benefit of a longer life span; you have a higher chance of dropping dead or simply being disabled.

    “paper to go off of, he would conclude that Mongoloids would be r-selected due to the cold winter temperatures which bring a high mortality rate.”

    Deaths from cold winter temperature ARE NOT RANDOM. As such they are not an r-selective factor.

    “Notice how for r-selection the typical agents of selection are temperature extremes, drought, and natural disaster.”

    Not for humans. For humans those do not cause random mortality.

    “For K-selection, the usual agents of selection are limited food supply, endemic infectious disease, and predation.”

    Predation can produce r OR k selection depending on if the mortality is selective (the species in question can fight of the predator) or random (the species is at complete mercy of the predator).

    “This is because endemic disease usually imposes density-dependent selection”

    Truly malaria only strikes urban centers. Just like sleeping sickness!

    “Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, intelligence can be selected for due to agents of r- or K-selection!”

    Intelligence is a cost. Since r optimizes for reproduction, intelligence is a k trait.

    Like

    • Afrosapiens 🇫🇷🇪🇺 says:

      “Endemic disease is a mechanism of r selection because it favors having children as fast as possible to keep up with the high mortality rate AND increases the availability of free resources by keeping the population well below Malthusian limits.”

      No, endemic disease is an agent of K-selection because it constantly reduces carrying capacity. And organisms react by evolving an efficiency trait (K) genetic resistance, not a productivity one (r) such as increased reproductive power.

      “Tropical environments being easier is simple- which environment requires investment by both mothers and fathers in order to survive? Which one can mothers alone support their offspring?”

      As far as humans are concerned, survival depends on the community, not mating pairs. No tropical community consist of just one or two parents and their children.

      “Nope. We should expect them to be more disease resistant and live SHORTER lives. Why? Because high levels of disease reduce the benefit of a longer life span; you have a higher chance of dropping dead or simply being disabled.”

      Disease is not well defined here. Endemic (constant) is more common in the tropics and selects for resistance as every individual will be infected in their lifetime. Epidemics (occasional) won’t lead to resistance because too many individuals will never be affected, just by chance.

      “Deaths from cold winter temperature ARE NOT RANDOM. As such they are not an r-selective factor.”

      If an abnormally cold winter leads to crop failure, the resulting famine will be an agent of r-selection.

      “Not for humans. For humans those do not cause random mortality.”

      Natural disasters definitely cause random mortality. Humans can react to drought by adopting a nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyle or planning for food storage if it’s a regular occurrence. However, if drought is abnormally extreme and none of the usual coping strategies help, it will be an agent of r-selection.

      “Predation can produce r OR k selection depending on if the mortality is selective (the species in question can fight of the predator) or random (the species is at complete mercy of the predator).”

      No, predation is only a r-selection agent if the predator attacks infrequently and unpredictably. If the predator is always around, the species will evolve K-selected efficiency traits like defensive or fleeing ability, or fear.

      “Truly malaria only strikes urban centers. Just like sleeping sickness!”

      Completely wrong, malaria affects rural areas more are the breeding grounds of mosquitoes are more frequent here.

      “Intelligence is a cost. Since r optimizes for reproduction, intelligence is a k trait.”

      Not really, ants are pretty much r-selected yet seemingly smarter than the vary K selected pandas.

      Humans have had the typical growth pattern of a K selected species until industrial era. The population explosion corresponds to an explosion of carrying capacity due to progress in agriculture, medicine and mass manufacruring.

      an r-selected species would have a growth curve that looks like that. Populations explodes until an unpredictable hazard causes it to drop dramatically, then explodes again and so on.

      Like

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      “No, endemic disease is an agent of K-selection because it constantly reduces carrying capacity.”

      No, because not all factors that reduce carrying capacity are K; random death selects for r.

      “And organisms react by evolving an efficiency trait (K) genetic resistance, not a productivity one (r) such as increased reproductive power.”

      Those aren’t mutually exclusive; we should expect both to occur and that is what we see.

      “As far as humans are concerned, survival depends on the community, not mating pairs. No tropical community consist of just one or two parents and their children.”

      Oddly enough ‘raised exclusively by the community’ is not the default mode for non-tropical groups. It is almost like there is a difference in the level of paternal investment.

      “Epidemics (occasional) won’t lead to resistance because too many individuals will never be affected, just by chance.”

      Epidemics also select for resistance. There is evidence that Europeans have a degree of genetic resistance against the plague due to occasional epidemics. The selective pressure is weaker, but it still exists. It just won’t result in the same outcomes as constant disease (which gets you things like sickle cell).

      “If an abnormally cold winter leads to crop failure, the resulting famine will be an agent of r-selection.”

      Because ‘granaries’ don’t exist. No human has ever stored food for more than a single year and there certainly isn’t a difference between k and r attitudes towards food storage!

      “However, if drought is abnormally extreme and none of the usual coping strategies help, it will be an agent of r-selection.”

      Since the most r-selected individuals will die first, it will be a force for k-selection.

      “No, predation is only a r-selection agent if the predator attacks infrequently and unpredictably. If the predator is always around, the species will evolve K-selected efficiency traits like defensive or fleeing ability, or fear.”

      If predator attacks are infrequent, it can’t be a significant selective pressure.

      Also flight and fear are not pure k-traits; if a species is capable of fighting, but members choose those, they are r-traits.

      “Completely wrong, malaria affects rural areas more are the breeding grounds of mosquitoes are more frequent here.”

      That was sarcasm. You might have noticed urban centers are relatively recent and minor on a human evolutionary timescale.

      “Humans have had the typical growth pattern of a K selected species until industrial era. ”

      If you zoom out enough r-selected species have the same growth pattern as k-selected species. In the case of this graph, this would be because most of the values are from estimates, not censuses so populations that were in flux would not be recorded.

      Like

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