I enjoy reading what other bloggers write about testosterone and its supposed link to crime, aggression, and prostate cancer; I used to believe some of the things they did, since I didn’t have a good understanding of the hormone nor its production in the body. However, once you understand how its produced in the body, then what others say about it will seem like bullshit—because it is. I’ve recently read a few articles on testosterone from the HBD-blog-o-sphere and, of course, they have a lot of misconceptions in them—some even using studies I have used myself on this blog to prove my point that testosterone does not cause crime!! Now, I know that most people don’t read studies that are linked, so they would take what it says on face value because, why not, there’s a cite so what he’s saying must be true, right? Wrong. I will begin with reviewing an article by someone at The Alternative Hypothesis and then review one article from Robert Lindsay on testosterone.
The Alternative Hypothesis
Faulk has great stuff here, but the one who wrote this article, Testosterone, Race, and Crime, 1) doesn’t know what he’s talking about and 2) clearly didn’t read the papers he cited. Read this article, you’ll see him make bold claims using studies I have used for my own arguments that testosterone doesn’t cause crime! Let’s take a look.
One factor which explains part of why Blacks have higher than average crime rates is testosterone. Testosterone is known to cause aggression, and Blacks are known to at once have more of it and, for genetic reasons, to be more sensitive to its effects.
- No it doesn’t.
- “Testosterone is known to cause aggression“, but that’s the thing: it’s only known that it ’causes’ aggression, it really doesn’t.
- Evidence is mixed on blacks being “… for genetic reasons … more sensitive to its effects” (Update on Androgen Receptor gene—Race/History/Evolution Notes).
Testosterone activity has been linked many times to aggression and crime. Meta-analyses show that testosterone is correlated with aggression among humans and non human animals (Book, Starzyk, and Quinsey, 2001).
Why doesn’t he say what the correlation is? It’s .14 and this study, while Archer, Graham-Kevan and Davies, (2005) reanalyzed the studies used in the previous analysis and found the correlation to be .08. This is a dishonest statement.
Women who suffer from a disease known as congenital adrenal hyperplasia are exposed to abnormally high amounts of testosterone and are abnormally aggressive.
Abnormal levels of androgens in the womb for girls with CAH are associated with aggression, while boys with and without CAH are similar in aggression/activity level (Pasterski et al, 2008), yet black women, for instance, don’t have higher levels of testosterone than white women (Mazur, 2016). CAH is just girls showing masculinized behavior; testosterone doesn’t cause the aggression (See Archer, Graham-Kevan and Davies, 2005)
Actually, no. Supraphysiological levels of testosterone administered to men (200 and 600 mg weekly) did not increase aggression or anger (Batrinos, 2012).
Finally, people in prison have higher than average rates of testosterone (Dabbs et al., 2005).
Dabbs et al don’t untangle correlation from causation. Environmental factors can explain higher testosterone levels (Mazur, 2016) in inmates, and even then, some studies show socially dominant and aggressive men have the same levels of testosterone (Ehrenkraz, Bliss, and Sheard, 1974).
Thus, testosterone seems to cause both aggression and crime.
No, it doesn’t.
Furthermore, of the studies I could find on testosterone in Africans, they have lower levels than Western men (Campbell, O’Rourke, and Lipson, 2003; Lucas and Campbell, and Ellison, 2004; Campbell, Gray, and Ellison, 2006) so, along with the studies and articles cited on testosterone, aggression, and crime, that’s another huge blow to the testosterone/crime/aggression hypothesis.
Richard et al. (2014) meta-analyzed data from 14 separate studies and found that Blacks have higher levels of free floating testosterone in their blood than Whites do.
They showed that blacks had 2.5 to 4.9 percent higher testosterone than whites, which could not explain the higher prostate cancer incidence (which meta-analyses call in to question; Sridhar et al 2010; Zagars et al 1998). That moderate amount would not be enough to cause differences in aggression either.
Exacerbating this problem even further is the fact that Blacks are more likely than Whites to have low repeat versions of the androgen receptor gene. The androgen reception (AR) gene codes for a receptor by the same name which reacts to androgenic hormones such as testosterone. This receptor is a key part of the mechanism by which testosterone has its effects throughout the body and brain.
The rest of the article talks about CAG repeats and aggressive/criminal behavior, but it seems that whites have fewer CAG repeats than blacks.
This one is much more basic, and tiring to rebut but I’ll do it anyway. Lindsay has a whole slew of articles on testosterone on his blog that show he doesn’t understand the hormone, but I’ll just talk about this one for now: Black Males and Testosterone: Evolution and Perspectives.
It was also confirmed by a recent British study (prostate cancer rates are somewhat lower in Black British men because a higher proportion of them have one White parent)
Jones and Chinegwundoh (2014) write: “Caution should be taken prior to the interpretation of these results due to a paucity of research in this area, limited accurate ethnicity data, and lack of age-specific standardisation for comparison. Cultural attitudes towards prostate cancer and health care in general may have a significant impact on these figures, combined with other clinico-pathological associations.”
This finding suggests that the factor(s) responsible for the difference in rates occurs, or first occurs, early in life. Black males are exposed to higher testosterone levels from the very start.
In a study of women in early pregnancy, Ross found that testosterone levels were 50% higher in Black women than in White women (MacIntosh 1997).
I used to believe this, but it’s much more nuanced than that. Black women don’t have higher levels of testosterone than white women (Mazur, 2016; and even then Lindsay fails to point out that this was pregnant women).
According to Ross, his findings are “very consistent with the role of androgens in prostate carcinogenesis and in explaining the racial/ethnic variations in risk” (MacIntosh 1997).
Testosterone has been hypothesized to play a role in the etiology of prostate cancer, because testosterone and its metabolite, dihydrotestosterone, are the principal trophic hormones that regulate growth and function of epithelial prostate tissue.
Testosterone doesn’t cause prostate cancer (Stattin et al, 2003; Michaud, Billups, and Partin, 2015). Diet explains any risk that may be there (Hayes et al, 1999; Gupta et al, 2009; Kheirandish and Chinegwundoh, 2011; Williams et al, 2012; Gathirua-Mingwai and Zhang, 2014). However in a small population-based study on blacks and whites from South Carolina, Sanderson et al (2017) “did not find marked differences in lifestyle factors associated with prostate cancer by race.”
Regular exercise, however, can decrease PCa incidence in black men (Moore et al, 2010). A lot of differences can be—albeit, not too largely— ameliorated by environmental interventions such as dieting and exercising.
Many studies have shown that young Black men have higher testosterone than young White men (Ellis & Nyborg 1992; Ross et al. 1992; Tsai et al. 2006).
Ellis and Nyborg (1992) found 3 percent difference. Ross et al (1992) have the same problem as Ross et al (1986), which used University students (~50) for their sample. They’re not representative of the population. Ross et al (1992) also write:
Samples were also collected between 1000 h and 1500 h to avoid confounding
by any diurnal variation in testosterone concentrations.
Testosterone levels should be measured near to 8 am. This has the same time variation too, so I don’t take this study seriously due to that confound. Assays were collected “between” the hours of 10 am and 3 pm, which means it was whenever convenient for the student. No controls on activities, nor attempting to assay at 8 am. People of any racial group could have gone at whatever time in that 5 hour time period and skew the results. Assaying “between” those times completely defeats the purpose of the study.
This advantage [the so-called testosterone advantage] then shrinks and eventually disappears at some point during the 30s (Gapstur et al., 2002).
This makes it very difficult if not impossible to explain differing behavioral variables, including higher rates of crime and aggression, in Black males over the age of 33 on the basis of elevated testosterone levels.
See above where I talk about crime/testosterone/aggression.
Critics say that more recent studies done since the early 2000’s have shown no differences between Black and White testosterone levels. Perhaps they are referring to recent studies that show lower testosterone levels in adult Blacks than in adult Whites. This was the conclusion of one recent study (Alvergne et al. 2009) which found lower T levels in Senegalese men than in Western men. But these Senegalese men were 38.3 years old on average.
Alvergne, Fauri, and Raymond (2009) show that the differences are due to environmental factors:
This study investigated the relationship between mens’ salivary T and the trade-off between mating and parenting efforts in a polygynous population of agriculturists from rural Senegal. The men’s reproductive trade-offs were evaluated by recording (1) their pair-bonding/fatherhood status and (2) their behavioral profile in the allocation of parental care and their marital status (i.e. monogamously married; polygynously married).
They also controlled for age, so his statement “But these Senegalese men were 38.3 years old on average” is useless.
These critics may also be referring to various studies by Sabine Rohrmann which show no significance difference in T levels between Black and White Americans. Age is poorly controlled for in her studies.
That is one study out of many that I reference. Rohrmann et al (2007) controlled for age. I like how he literally only says “age is poorly controlled for in her studies“, because she did control for age.
That study found that more than 25% of the samples for adults between 30 and 39 years were positive for HSV-2. It is likely that those positive samples had been set aside, thus depleting the serum bank of male donors who were not only more polygamous but also more likely to have high T levels. This sample bias was probably worse for African American participants than for Euro-American participants.
Why would they use diseased samples? Do you even think?
Young Black males have higher levels of active testosterone than European and Asian males. Asian levels are about the same as Whites, but a study in Japan with young Japanese men suggested that the Japanese had lower activity of 5-alpha reductase than did U.S. Whites and Blacks (Ross et al 1992). This enzyme metabolizes testosterone into dihydrotestosterone, or DHT, which is at least eight to 10 times more potent than testosterone. So effectively, Asians have the lower testosterone levels than Blacks and Whites. In addition, androgen receptor sensitivity is highest in Black men, intermediate in Whites and lowest in Asians.
Ethnicmuse also showed that, contrary to popular belief, Asians have higher levels of testosterone than Africans who have higher levels of testosterone than Caucasians in his meta-analysis. (Here is his data.)
Let us look at one study (Ross et al 1986) to see what the findings of a typical study looking for testosterone differences between races shows us. This study gives the results of assays of circulating steroid hormone levels in white and black college students in Los Angeles, CA. Mean testosterone levels in Blacks were 19% higher than in Whites, and free testosterone levels were 21% higher. Both these differences were statistically significant.
Assay times between 10 am and 3 pm, unrepresentative sample of college men, didn’t have control for waist circumference. Horribly study.
A 15% difference in circulating testosterone levels could readily explain a twofold difference in prostate cancer risk.
No, it wouldn’t (if it were true).
Higher testosterone levels are linked to violent behavior.
Causation not untangled.
Studies suggest that high testosterone lowers IQ (Ostatnikova et al 2007). Other findings suggest that increased androgen receptor sensitivity and higher sperm counts (markers for increased testosterone) are negatively correlated with intelligence when measured by speed of neuronal transmission and hence general intelligence (g) in a trade-off fashion (Manning 2007).
Who cares about correlations? Causes matter more. High testosterone doesn’t lower IQ. Racial differences in testosterone are tiring to talk about now, but there are still a few more articles I need to rebut.
Racial differences in testosterone don’t exist/are extremely small in magnitude (as I’ve covered countless times). The one article from TAH literally misrepresents studies/leaves out important figures in the testosterone differences between the two races to push a certain agenda. Though if you read the studies you see something completely different. It’s the same with Lindsay. He misunderstood a few studies to push his agenda about testosterone and crime and prostate cancer. They’re both wrong, though.
Racial differences in testosterone are tiring to talk about now, but there are still a few more articles I need to rebut. People read and write about things they don’t understand, which is the cause of these misconceptions with the hormone, as well as, of course, misinterpreting studies. Learn about the hormone and you won’t fear it. It doesn’t cause crime, prostate cancer nor aggression; these people who write these articles have one idea in their head and they just go for it. They don’t understand the intricacies of the endocrine system and how sensitive it is to environmental influence. I will cover more articles that others have written on testosterone and aggression to point out what they got wrong.