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How Things Change: Perspectives on Intelligence in Antiquity

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Charles Darwin

Denis Noble

JP Rushton

Richard Lynn

L:inda Gottfredson

Goodreads

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1300 words

The cold winter theory (CWT) is a theory that purports to explain why those whose ancestors evolved in colder climes are more “intelligent” than those whose ancestors evolved in warmer climes. Popularized by Rushton (1997), Lynn (2006), and Kanazawa (2012), the theory—supposedly—accounts for the “haves” and the “have not” in regard to intelligence. However, the theory is a just-so story, that is, it explains what it purports to explain without generating previously unknown facts not used in the construction of the theory. PumpkinPerson is irritated by people who do not believe the just-so story of the CWT writing (citing the same old “challenges” as Lynn which were dispatched by McGreal):

The cold winter theory is extremely important to HBD.  In fact I don’t even understand how one can believe in racially genetic differences in IQ without also believing that cold winters select for higher intelligence because of the survival challenges of keeping warm, building shelter, and hunting large game.

The CWT is “extremely important to HBD“, as PP claims, since there needs to be an evolutionary basis for population differences in “intelligence” (IQ). Without the just-so story, the claim that racial differences in “intelligence” are “genetically” based crumbles.

Well, here is the biggest “challenge” (all other refutations of it aside) to the CWT. Notions of which population are or are not “intelligent” change with the times. The best example is what the Greeks—specifically Aristotle—wrote about the intelligence of those who lived in the north. Maurizio Meloni, in his 2019 book Impressionable Biologies: From the Archaeology of Plasticity to the Sociology of Epigenetics captures this point (pg 41-42; emphasis his):

Aristotle’s Politics is a compendium of all these ideas [Orientals being seen as “softer, more delicate and unwarlike” along with the structure of militaries], with people living in temperate (mediocriter) places presented as the most capable of producing the best political systems:

“The nations inhabiting the cold places and those of Europe are full of spirit but somewhat deficient in intelligence and skill, so that they continue comparatively free, but lacking in political organization and the capacity to rule their neighbors. The peoples of Asia on the other hand are intelligent and skillful in temperament, but lack spirit, so that they are in continuous subjection and slavery. But the Greek race participates in both characters, just as it occupies the middle position geographically, for it is both spirited and intelligent; hence it continues to be free and to have very good political institutions, and to be capable of ruling all mankind if it attains constitutional unity.” (Pol. 1327b23-33, my italics)

Views of direct environmental influence and the porosity of bodies to these effects also entered the military machines of ancient empires, like that of the Romans. Offices such as Vegetius (De re militari, I/2) suggested avoiding recruiting troops from cold climates as they had too much blood and, hence, inadequate intelligence. Instead, he argued, troops from temperate climates be recruited, as they possess the right amount of blood, ensuring their fitness for camp discipline (Irby, 2016). Delicate and effemenizing land was also to be abandoned as soon as possible, according Manilius and Caesar (ibid). Probably the most famous geopolitical dictum of antiquity reflects exactly this plastic power of places: “soft lands breed soft men”, according to the claim that Herodotus attributed to Cyrus.

Isn’t that weird, how things change? Quite obviously, which population is or is not “intelligent” is based on the time and place of the observation. Those in northern Europe, who are purported to be more intelligent than those who live in temperate, hotter climes—back in antiquity—were seen to be less intelligent in comparison to those who lived in more temperate, hotter climes. Imagine stating what Aristotle said thousands of years ago in the present day—those who push the CWT just-so story would look at you like you’re crazy because, supposedly, those who live in and evolved in colder climes had to plan ahead and faced a tougher environment in comparison to those who lived closer to the equator.

Imagine we could transport Aristotle to the present day. What would he say about our perspectives on which population is or is not intelligent? Surely he would think it ridiculous that the Greeks today are less “intelligent” than those from northern Europe. But that only speaks to how things change and how people’s perspectives on things change with the times and who is or is not a dominant group. Now imagine that we can transport someone (preferably an “IQ” researcher) to antiquity when the Greeks were at the height of their power. They would then create a just-so story to justify their observations about the intelligence of populations based on their evolutionary history.

Anatoly Karlin cites Galton, who claims that ancient Greek IQ was 125, while Karlin himself claims IQ 90. I cite Karlin’s article not to contest his “IQ estimates”—nor Galton’s—I cite it to show the disparate “estimates” of the intelligence of the ancient Greeks. Because, according to the Greeks, they occupied the middle position geographically, and so they were both spirited and intelligent compared to Asians and northern Europeans.

This is similar to Wicherts, Boorsboom, and Dolan (2010) who responded to Rushton, Lynn, and Templer. They state that the socio-cultural achievements of Mesopotamia and Egypt stand in “stark contrast to the current low level of national IQ of peoples of Iraq and Egypt and that these ancient achievements appear to contradict evolutionary accounts of differences in national IQ. One can make a similar observation about the Maya. Their cultural achievements stand in stark contrast to their “evolutionary history” in warm climes. The Maya were geographically isolated from other populations and they still created a writing system (independently) along with other cultural achievements that show that “national IQs” are irrelevant to what the population achieved. I’m sure an IQ-ist can create a just-so story to explain this away, but that’s not the point.

Going back to what Karlin and Galton stated about Greek IQ, their IQ is irrelevant to their achievements. Whether or not their IQ was 120-125 or 90 is irrelevant to what they achieved. To the Mesopotamians and Egyptians, they were more intelligent than those from northern climes. They would, obviously, think that based on their achievements and the lack of achievements in the north. The achievements of peoples in antiquity would paint a whole different picture in regard to an evolutionary theory of human intelligence—and its distribution in human populations.

So which just-so story (ad hoc hypothesis) should we accept? Or should we just accept that which population is or is not “intelligent” and capable of constructing militaries is contingent based on the time and the place of the observation? Looking at “national IQs” of peoples in antiquity would show a huge difference in comparison to what we observe today about the “national IQs” (supposedly ‘intelligence’) of populations around the world. In antiquity, those who lived in temperate and even hotter climes had greater achievements than others. Greeks and Romans argued that peoples from northern climes should not be enlisted in the military due to where they were from.

These observations from the Greeks and Romans about who and who not to enlist in the military, along with their thoughts on Northern Europeans prove that perspectives on which population is or is not “intelligent” is contingent based on the time and place. This is why “national IQs” should not be accepted, not even accounting for the problems with the data (Richardson, 2004; also see Morse, 2008; also see The Ethics of Development: An Introduction by Ingram and Derdak, 2018). Seeing the development of countries/populations in antiquity would lead to a whole different evolutionary theory of the intelligence of populations, proving the contingency of the observations.

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19 Comments

  1. ThatGuy CalledPhil says:

    I might eventually do an article based around the “resource rich Africa” notion and ad to the lack of mechanical explanations applied to the development in the region.

    Like

  2. Calvin Candie says:

    Even though i am not a fan of CWT and other “just so stories”, i disagree. The fact that Aristotle and some other ancient writers considered northern Euros as less intelligent solely based on their lack of a high civilization means nothing whatsoever. During that time they couldn’t quantify and measure inteligence as we can today (even whith an imperfect method like IQ), and, furhtermore, other factors were not -and could not be- taken into account. High IQ could very well be a necessary condition for the development and advancement of a high civilization, but not a SUFFICIENT condition. These northern “barbarians” could still have a very similar IQ to that of the Greeks, while not having developed a similarly high civilization at that time, due to the harsh conditions, the relative isolation and other factors. However, they did eventualy become just as culturaly and technologicaly advanced, and so did the Japanese and many other groups of people (that we now know that are characterised by a high mean IQ). On the contrary, the Afros and the Abos never managed to reach a high civilization influenced by a more advanced culture, even within the boundaries of a civilized society (ex Australia), and this seems to correlate with their low mean IQ. Lastly, we can now observe these groups (like Afros, Abos and Asians) in a very similar environment, which was hitherto impossible. So, even though an approach like Lynn’s is certainly overally dubious in a scientific sense, you can’t infer that “perspectives on which population is or is not “intelligent” is contingent based on the time and place” and, thus, that they just “should’t be accepted”.

    PS: “Seeing the development of countries/populations in antiquity would lead to a whole different evolutionary theory of the intelligence of populations” -That may be true in a specific moment in history (like in the time of Aristotle). But witnessing the general development of populations during a more extended period in antiquity would -in my opinion- probably lead to quite similar hypothetical syllogisms.

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    • Phil78 says:

      Where to begin? RR’s point was that the hypothesis isn’t consistent with CWT, pure and simple.

      As for the ability to measure IQ, that would be irrelevant by CWT has the expectation would be a link between development and IQ.

      RE doesn’t dismiss other factors, his point is that these factors are rarely used by Lynn to actually pinpoint a mechanical causations.
      As for the differences in modern IQs, historical development, and populations, “Abos” and “Africans” are not exempted from other factors that disrupt development.

      Once again, despite claims of me of neither achieving high civilization” this is clearly not adequately describing the whole course of their development compared to others.

      For instance, a long ignored issue on IQ testing admitted by HBD researchers.

      https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323398838_The_Raven's_test_performance_of_South_Sudanese_samples_A_validation_of_criticisms_of_the_utility_of_Raven's_among_Sub-Saharan_Africans

      Afrosapiens did a paper here on SSA development.
      https://notpoliticallycorrect.me/2017/09/25/pumpkinprson-on-the-history-of-black-africa/

      Lumping the two areas by IQ while ignoring developmental and demographic history only reinforces the problems you raise.

      Like

    • RaceRealist says:

      The fact that Aristotle and some other ancient writers considered northern Euros as less intelligent solely based on their lack of a high civilization means nothing whatsoever. During that time they couldn’t quantify and measure inteligence as we can today (even whith an imperfect method like IQ), and, furhtermore, other factors were not -and could not be- taken into account

      What about what the Arabs said, which was much closer to this time period than in antiquity when Aristotle wrote Politics?

      These northern “barbarians” could still have a very similar IQ to that of the Greeks, while not having developed a similarly high civilization at that time, due to the harsh conditions, the relative isolation and other factors

      Counterpoint: The Maya.

      PS: “Seeing the development of countries/populations in antiquity would lead to a whole different evolutionary theory of the intelligence of populations” -That may be true in a specific moment in history (like in the time of Aristotle). But witnessing the general development of populations during a more extended period in antiquity would -in my opinion- probably lead to quite similar hypothetical syllogisms.

      How far are you allowing in the “extended period in antiquity”? I’d claim that my hypothesis would still follow: A whole different theory of intelligence differences would follow.

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  3. dealwithit says:

    now rr is just copying me more verbosely.

    Like

  4. Calvin Candie says:

    @Phil78

    1)I mentioned that i am no fan of CWT or Lynn (while i do agree with the later on some stuff). I just disagree with the extreme over-generalization of this article.

    2)”the expectation would be a link between development and IQ”

    (I am not refering to CWT)There could very well be. As i said, a necessary condition is one thing and a sufficient condition is another.

    3)” “Abos” and “Africans” are not exempted from other factors that disrupt development.”

    I never said they were. I just said that we can now test intelligence (i repeat, even with an notoriously imperfect method like IQ) in the absence these factors to a great extent.

    4)”Afrosapiens did a paper here”

    LOL. Pointing out some inaccuracies in an article doesn’t automaticaly make a bunch of assumptions by a random guy significant.

    Like

    • Phil78 says:

      1 . I understand what you disagree with, I am clarifying DR’s point regard CWT’s predictions not lining up with history using development as a proxy for IQ.

      1. I understand the difference between conditions. See the above. Assuming the link, which Lynn accepts in his work, it fails. I of course am not rigid on interpreting IS on ancient development.
      2. In regards to IQ, my source notes that IQ tests in Africa are now acknowledge to be troubled by the presence of these factors.

      3. Please specify assumptions. The research AS did can be researched, and I myself can even cite sources the correspond with what he said.

      He links sources as well, so I am unsure what is arbitrary in the piece.

      Like

  5. dealwithit says:

    i don’t think most HBDers are so-called “nordicists”. in fact those people are ridiculed by the alt-right. recall italy was part of the axis, and spain was allied with germany formally but didn’t fight.//

    and italians in particular don’t score lower on IQ tests. and the iberians and greeks don’t either. or the difference between spain and germany or wharever is too small not to be easily explained by environmental differences.

    Like

  6. dealwithit says:

    THERE’S NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NATURAL AND CONVENTIONAL KINDS…

    THERE’S NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NATURAL AND CONVENTIONAL KINDS…

    THERE’S NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NATURAL AND CONVENTIONAL KINDS…

    Like

    • RaceRealist says:

      Natural kinds (NK) are kinds independent of human conventions, beliefs, biases, and preferences—they are discovered. Conventional kinds (CK) are dependent on human preferences and practices though they “seem” real. Then there are artificial kinds (AK) which are arbitrary.

      NK are mind-independent whereas CK and AK are mind-dependent.

      In any case, is realism or anti-realism about species the right way to go?

      Like

    • dealwithit says:

      kebabs gonna kebab….

      how can you not GRASP that the “definitions” you just quoted are…

      DUMB

      JIVE

      JUST…

      BLAH BLAH BLAH

      ???

      apparently you have never benched 300+ lbs.

      sad!

      Like

  7. dealwithit says:

    rr should follow bob iaccino on the CME, https://www.cmegroup.com/trading/energy/crude-oil/light-sweet-crude.html.

    he’s 100 IQ points above all the other commenters. there was a morbidly obese “nord” guy in a cow jacket who was great too, but i haven’t seen him in a while.

    why is a high IQ s. italian doing these PSAs?

    does he have a yuge cocaine habit or what?

    Like

  8. dealwithit says:

    the “CWT” is about the paleolithic, not the neolithic.

    you’re not au courant on your peepee/flushton bullshit.

    the idea is that…

    most of human history outside africa has been PRIOR to agriculture.
    agriculture changed everything…about 8,000 years ago at most…10,000 BP in the fertile crescent.
    the conventional “races of man” originated more than 20k years ago.

    4. the flushton/peepee claim is that…

    the ancestors of modern day koreans and japanese (and maybe the han too) vs the ancestors of modern day europeans (nords, slavs, and maybe kebabs)

    was…

    colder vs warmer.

    Like

  9. dealwithit says:

    how can rr not know that when he uses the phrase “metaphysics of race” he sounds retarded?

    rr is retarded.

    OR

    rr is a high-functioning autist.

    OR

    rr is a nigger.

    Like

  10. dealwithit says:

    so the british empire was bigger than the spanish empire, but it didn’t last any longer…

    so the uk is a ridiculous country today.

    all it has is its “special relationship” with the US.

    and its white dominions are much more successful in economic terms than spain’s former colonies because RACE.

    rr needs to ADMIT the OBVIOUS.

    but simultaneously DENY the pseudo-science that is HBD.

    until he can do both, he’s still an HBDer.

    BECAUSE he still accepts the terms of the debate/the rules of the game set by HBDers.

    he doesn’t GROK that the question of P or not-P can be answered in three ways:

    P is true OR not-P is true.
    whether P or not-P is IRRELEVANT.
    P or not-P is a false dichotomy. BOTH ARE FALSE.

    Like

  11. dealwithit says:

    the third possibility is what hegel called “absolute negativity”.

    the idea is that what is called “true” or “false” depends on what language game one is playing, and all games except one are self-contradictory.

    but when one sees this contradiction in the game he is led to another game one step above. this “led to” is what hegel calls “aufhebung”.

    it may sound like non-sense. but it’s not. i expect it corresponds to your own experience. you have a “picture of the world” which becomes increasingly unsatisfactory…until…

    you realize that the problem isn’t knowing what the true statements are within your picture…

    the problem is your picture.

    it’s really hard to imagine how hegel is wrong. how can humans do anything more than play games? they aren’t gods.

    Like

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