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It’s well-known that blacks have narrower hips than whites (Rushton, 1997; Handa et al, 2008). These pelvic differences then account for part of the variation in elite sporting events such as sprinting and jumping (Entine, 2000). These pelvic differences are the result of climatic variation and sexual selection.
The evolution of the pelvis is due to bipedalism. We are bipeds because of our S-shaped spine, which helps us to cope with differing loads. The human pelvis had to evolve in two ways—to make birthing babies easier and to become more efficient for bipedal walking. Termed the ‘obstetric dilemma’, it has implications for osteoarthritis in both men and women (Hogervorst, Heinse, and de Vos, 2009). Having a more efficient bipedal gait meant the body could allocate energy to other parts of the body—mainly our growing brains/neuronal count. Over time, the brain grew while the pelvis had to shrink for more efficient bipedalism. The pelvis also got narrower in our evolution, being wider in Australopithicenes, while becoming more narrow when erectus appeared—which is the first instance of a humanlike pelvis in the fossil record—which increased how far we could travel as well as reduce our energy expenditure (Lieberman, et al, 2006). Further discussion can be found in my article Man the Athlete.
So we began evolving a narrower pelvis in comparison to our ancestors because it was more efficient for heat dissipation. Smaller trunks are more efficient for heat dissipation (Lieberman, 2015), whereas wider trunks are more efficient for thermoregulation in colder climes (Weaver and Hublin, 2008; Weaver, 2009; Gruss and Schmidt, 2015). Now, simply applying this logic to Eurasians and Africans (I am grouping East Asians and Europeans together since they were a single breeding population up until about 23,000-6,500ya), we can see one reason why that population has wider pelves than Africans.
When anatomically modern humans (AMH) left Africa between 50-100kya, human skeletal morphology was just like modern-day Africans’ today. When Man migrated into northerly climes, however, a wider pelvis was needed to retain heat in colder climes (Gruss and Schmidt, 2015). So, along with a wider pelvis evolving due to climatic demands on the body, as we migrated north the human brain expanded due to the climate of the area, along with expanding the pelvis to better thermoregulate (which a bigger brain also does in northerly climes). I did argue two months back (and added to Skoyles’ (1999) theory) that brain size increased for expertise capacity and not IQ since Arctic people needed more tools, as well as tools that were more complex, in comparison to peoples who evolved in a hotter climate. So selection then occurred for larger brains and pelvis due to the demand for thermoregulation and bigger brains—which then led to earlier births and more helpless babes, which higher levels of intelligence were then needed to care for them (Piantadosi and Kidd, 2016). The helplessness of infants predicts the intelligence of adults in the primate genera (Piantadosi and Kidd, 2016), so I will assume that this holds within primate species as well (I am not able to locate a citation that this doesn’t hold within the primate genera; if I am in error, please provide a citation). Since African children are born earlier and more mature than Eurasian children who are born slightly later and more helpless/less developed, this is one reason why Eurasians have higher levels of intelligence than Africans (which is independent of any direct effects of climate I may add!).
So since Eurasians needed a larger brains to make more tools in the Arctic/colder climes, their brains needed to expand in size for increased expertise capacity, which would then have further selected for wider pelves in Eurasian women. Climatic variation caused the wider hips/bigger brains in Eurasians, which then allowed the evolution of larger brains in comparison to those who remained in Africa.
Finally, the obstetric dilemma has been recently called into question; there is evidence that a wider pelvis does not increase locomotor costs in humans (Warrener et al, 2015), a treadmill tracked their gait, as well as the motion of their pelvis. This study is used as evidence that the obstetric dilemma is wrong—they argue that there is no trade-off between narrower hips in men and wider hips in women. However, as the authors point out, all subjects in the study walked/ran at the same speed. Let’s say that the speed was heightened; do you think the women/men with wider pelves would have had the same locomotor costs as the men/women with narrower pelves? The answer is, obviously, no.
The pelvis of all of the races of Man has evolved the way they are due to environmental/climatic demands. A wider pelvis is better for thermoregulation in colder climates, while a narrower pelvis/body is more efficient for heat loss (Gruss and Schmidt, 2015).
Thus, we can look at the evolution of brain size/pelvic size in a few ways: 1) The amount of tools/complexity of the tools in the area that led to a need for an increase in brain size for more ‘chunks’ (Gobet and Simon, 1998), which then—along with colder climates—selected for larger brains and a wider body/pelvis which made birthing babes with large heads/brains easier along with helping to conserve heat due to the wider body (Gruss and Schmidt, 2015); 2) Since people in higher altitudes needed a high amount of expertise to survive, further selection for bigger brains, wider pelves occurred because of this; 3) Africans have smaller pelves in comparison to Eurasians because they evolved in hotter climes and didn’t have the amount of tools that peoples in more northerly climes did—which also increased brain size; 4) putting this all together, we can say that because Africans live in hotter climates, they need narrow pelves in order to lose body heat; Eurasians, after they migrated into more northerly climes, needed a wider body/pelvis in order to retain heat. When Man migrated north, he needed the ability to become an expert in, say, tool-making and thus needed a bigger brain for more informational chunks (Simon and Gobet, 1998; Skoyles, 1999). Due to this, Eurasians have wider pelves since they needed larger brains for a higher expertise capacity (Skoyles, 1999).
When Man migrated north, he needed the ability to become an expert in, say, tool-making and thus needed a bigger brain for more informational chunks (Simon and Gobet, 1998; Skoyles, 1999). Due to this, Eurasians have wider pelves than Africans; so they can birth larger-brained children. The width of the female pelvis, too, was shaped by sexual selection (Lassek and Gaulin, 2009). Therefore, the evolution of the modern pelvis in human populations comes down to climatic variation, which, in turn, affects how large of a brain the babe is able to have. Climate constrains brain size in either ‘direction’, big or small. We don’t even need to look at the variation within modern Homo sapiens to see the pattern in pelvic size we do today; because the pelvic differences noted among Man definitely were in effect millions of years ago, with hominids in colder climates having wider pelves while hominids in warmer climates had narrower pelves.
Along with everything above, the evolution of the human pelvis has a few implications for the human races today. Some recent studies have shown that there is no obstetric dilemma at all, with birth complications being caused by babies with higher weights than in our ancestral past, due to environmental mismatches causing higher-weight babies (Warrener et al, 2015; Betti, 2017), which was also beneficial for the evolution of our large brains (Cunnane and Crawford, 2003) with the largest amount of cortical neurons in the animal kingdom. However, marked differences in locomotion would be seen in people who had wide pelves compared to narrow pelves; which is what we see in elite running competitions: the elite runners have narrower pelves. So wider pelves don’t impede normal bipedal walking, but it does impede being able to efficiently run, as evidenced in participants of elite sprinting and marathon competitions. Looking at champion athletes and studying their locomotion (along with other traits as I’ve covered here) you can see that those with narrower pelves win more competitions than those with wider pelves (and happen to have different muscle fiber competition, fat distribution/percent, and morphology).
Racial differences in the pelvis explain the reasons behind why a certain race dominates in certain elite competitions; it largely comes down to skeletal morphology. These skeletal differences have evolutionary underpinnings, with the same pelvic differences seen in hominins that evolved in colder/warmer climates in the past. These pelvic differences (along with body fat percentage/distribution, musculoskeletal morphology, muscle fiber type, lean mass percentage, lower Vo2 max, poorer running economy, a larger Q-angle [4.6 degrees greater than men], etc) are why women are less efficient runners. People with wider hips are more likely to have be endomorphic while people with narrower hips are more likely to be ecto and meso. Not surprisingly, people from northerly climes consistently win WSM competitions whereas East and West Africans dominate bodybuilding and sprinting/marathons due to having a narrower pelvis and other advantageous morphological traits that lead to success in the sport. Nevertheless, pelvic differences between the races largely come down to differences in climate, which was also seen in ancient hominins. These pelvic differences further lead to racial differences in elite sporting competition.
Betti, L. (2017). Human Variation in Pelvic Shape and the Effects of Climate and Past Population History. The Anatomical Record,300(4), 687-697. doi:10.1002/ar.23542
Cunnane, S. C., & Crawford, M. A. (2003). Survival of the fattest: fat babies were the key to evolution of the large human brain. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology,136(1), 17-26. doi:10.1016/s1095-6433(03)00048-5
Dr. John R. Skoyles (1999) HUMAN EVOLUTION EXPANDED BRAINS TO INCREASE EXPERTISE CAPACITY, NOT IQ. Psycoloquy: 10(002) brain expertise
Entine, J. (2000). Taboo: why Black athletes dominate sports and why we are afraid to talk about it. New York: PublicAffairs.
Gobet, F., & Simon, H. A. (1998). Expert Chess Memory: Revisiting the Chunking Hypothesis. Memory,6(3), 225-255. doi:10.1080/741942359
Gruss, L. T., & Schmitt, D. (2015). The evolution of the human pelvis: changing adaptations to bipedalism, obstetrics and thermoregulation. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences,370(1663), 20140063-20140063. doi:10.1098/rstb.2014.0063
Hogervorst, T., Heinse W.B., & de Vos J., (2009) Evolution of the hip and pelvis. Acta Orthopaedica, 80:sup336, 1-39, DOI: 10.1080/17453690610046620
Lieberman, D. E., Raichlen, D. A., Pontzer, H., Bramble, D. M., & Cutright-Smith, E. (2006). The human gluteus maximus and its role in running. Journal of Experimental Biology,209(11), 2143-2155. doi:10.1242/jeb.02255
Lieberman, D. E. (2015). Human Locomotion and Heat Loss: An Evolutionary Perspective. Comprehensive Physiology, 99-117. doi:10.1002/cphy.c140011
Piantadosi, S. T., & Kidd, C. (2016). Extraordinary intelligence and the care of infants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,113(25), 6874-6879. doi:10.1073/pnas.1506752113
Rushton J P (1997). Race, Evolution, and Behavior. A Life History Perspective (Transaction, New Brunswick, London).
Handa, V. L., Lockhart, M. E., Fielding, J. R., Bradley, C. S., Brubakery, L., Cundiffy, G. W., … Richter, H. E. (2008). Racial Differences in Pelvic Anatomy by Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 111(4), 914–920.
Warrener, A. G., Lewton, K. L., Pontzer, H., & Lieberman, D. E. (2015). A Wider Pelvis Does Not Increase Locomotor Cost in Humans, with Implications for the Evolution of Childbirth. PLoS ONE, 10(3), e0118903.
Weaver, T. D., & Hublin, J. (2009). Neandertal birth canal shape and the evolution of human childbirth. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,106(20), 8151-8156. doi:10.1073/pnas.0812554106
Weaver, T. D. (2009). The meaning of Neandertal skeletal morphology. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,106(38), 16028-16033. doi:10.1073/pnas.0903864106
Numerous academics have been looked at as pariahs for uttering this word. This word has a pretty long history offending people. The word I’m talking about is natural. This “N” word—especially today—is extremely divisive in today’s society. If you say that something is ‘natural‘, are you taking away any accomplishments that one has done, all because it’s ‘natural‘?
Take what I’ve been writing about for the past three weeks: athletics. If you say that one is a “natural” at athletic competition, are you taking away the hard work it took for that specific athlete to accomplish his goal? No way. You’re acknowledging that that specific individual has something special that sets him apart from the average person. That’s not to say that hard work, determination, and confidence don’t matter; on the contrary. They DO matter. However, like I said with the Kalenjin Kenyan distance runners (who do have anatomical/physiologic advantages in regards to sprinting): you can take someone with elite genetics who has done elite training and put him up against someone who has subpar genetics (in terms of the athletic event) with elite training—the same training as the athlete with elite genetics—and the athlete with elite genetics/muscle fibers/physiology will constantly blow away the individual who is less genetically gifted.
People readily admit that certain races excel at certain physical activities whereas other races don’t fare as well. As I’ve extensively covered (and provided more than enough evidence/arguments for), the races differ in the number of muscle fibers which cause higher rates of obesity in blacks; this causes strength differences which then correlate with mortality. Finally, somatype is extremely important when speaking about athletics. Blacks have a mesomorphic somatype, which, along with their fiber typing and physiologic differences on average compared to whites, cause blacks to dominate most sporting events. However, when you say that certain races are “naturally more intelligent than others“, people all of a sudden have a bone to pick.
This “N” word when it comes to athletics is perfectly fine to use in our vocabulary, yet when we begin talking about intelligence differences—between races and individuals—all of a sudden we think that everyone is the same and that all brains are made the same. We believe that, although humans evolved genetically isolated for thousands of years and have incurred anatomic/physiologic differences, that one organ—the brain—is somehow exempt from the forces of natural selection. I can think of no traits that WON’T get selected for/against, and so I can think of no reason why the brain wouldn’t be under different selective pressures in Siberia/Northern Europe/the Americas/Africa/PNG/Australia.
However, as far as I can tell, we have not found any alleles that differ between populations. It was proposed in 2005 that the genes ASPM and Microcephalin influenced brain growth (Evans et al, 2005; Mekel-Brobov et al, 2005). However, two years later, Rushton, Vernon and Ann Bons (2007) showed that there was no evidence that Microcephalin and ASPM were associated with general mental ability (GMA), head circumference or altruism. Peter Frost cites Woodley et al, (2014) showing that the correlation between microcephalin and IQ is .79, whereas the correlation with ASPM and IQ was .254. Woodley et al (2014) also show there is a correlation between Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALY) and Microcephalin. The reasoning is that Microcephalin may improve the body’s immune response to viral infections, enabling humans to live in larger societies and thus get selected for higher IQ. Since the allele seems to give better disease resistance, then, over time, selection for higher intelligence can be selected for since fewer people are dying from disease due to increased resistance.
Nevertheless, the debate is still out on this allele. However, the data does look good in that we may have found certain polymorphisms that differ between populations which may explain some racial differences in intelligence. (For more information on IQ alleles, see Race and IQ: the Case for Genes).
Now, we are beginning to have some good evidence pile up showing that there are population differences in these alleles, and that they do predict intelligence. Racial differences in intelligence aren’t accepted by mainstream science and the public at large (obviously) like physiologic/anatomic differences are between human populations. Populations are split for thousands of years. They evolve different anatomy/physiology based on the environment. So, then, why wouldn’t psychological differences appear between the races of Man, when other, physical changes occurred from the OoA migration? It literally makes no sense.
People readily admit that athleticism is largely “natural“, yet when someone says that differences in intelligence are largely due to genes they get shouted down and called a ‘racist’, as if that adds anything to the dialogue. People readily admit that individuals/races are “naturally” leaner/stronger/faster/have quicker reflexes. But if one just even hints at thinking about “natural” differences between populations when it comes to general mental ability, they will be shouted down and their careers will be ruined.
Why? Why are people so scared of the “N” word? Because people want to believe that what they do or do not accomplish comes down to them as an individual and only them. They don’t want to think about the complex interaction between genes x environment and how that shapes an individual’s life path. They only think about environment, and not any possible genetic factors. Certain people—mostly social science majors—deny that evolution had ANY impact on human behavior. The “N” word, especially in today’s society, is a completely divisive word. State that you hold hereditarian views (in terms of mental ability) in regards to differences between populations and athletic events and no one will bat an eye.
“Didn’t you see Usain Bolt blow away the competition and set a new world record in the 100m dash at 9.58 seconds?!”
“He’s naturally good, he was born a gifted athlete.”
No one will bat an eye if you say this. This is where the tables will be flipped if you say:
“Don’t you know that differences in intelligence are largely genetic in nature and no matter how much you ‘train the brain’ you’ll stay at that intelligence level?”
“Man, that’s racist. That shouldn’t be looked at. We are all the same and equal. Except when it comes to certain athletic events, then we are not equal and some populations have natural predispositions that help them win. Evolution stopped at the neck 100kya; the only parts of the body under selective pressure over the past 100kya is below the neck!”
People who say this need to explain exactly what shields the brain from selection pressures. Man originated in Africa, the descendants of the soon-to-be coalesced races spent tens of thousands of years in differing environments. You need to do different things to survive in different environments. Just as the races differ physically, they differ mentally as well. Evolution did not stop at the neck. Significant changes in the brain have occurred in the past 10,000 years. There was a trade-off with agriculture, in that it was responsible for the population explosion which was responsible for mutations that affect intelligence and thus get selected for.
The “N” word is not a scary word. It is, in fact, it’s just common sense. People need to realize that by accepting genetic explanations for black domination in sports, that they would then, logically, have to accept racial differences in intelligence. It makes no sense to accept evolutionary theories (even if you don’t know it) in regards to athletics and not accept the same evolutionary theories for racial differences in the brain. There are real differences between populations, in both anatomy/physiology and our mental faculties and brain organization. If you accept one, you have to accept the other.
One’s somatype is, really, the first thing they notice. Somatypes are broken down into three categories: ectomorph (skinny build), endomorph (rounder, fatter build) and mesomorph (taller, more muscular build). Like numerous other traits, different races and ethnies fall somewhere in between these three soma categories. Africans are meso, while Europeans are endo, while East Asians are more endo than Europeans. Differences in somatype, too, lead to the expected racial differences in sports due to differing anatomy and fat mass.
History of somatyping
The somatype classification was developed by psychiatrist William Sheldon in the 1940s, while releasing a book in 1954 titled Atlas of Men: Somatotyping the Adult Male At All Ages. He theorized that one’s somatype could predict their behavior, intelligence, and where they place socially. Using nude posture photos from his Ivy League students, he grouped people into three categories based on body measurements and ratios—mesomorph, endomorph, and ectomorph. Clearly, his theory is not backed by modern psychology, but I’m not really interested in that. I’m interested in the somatyping.
The three somatypes are endomorph, mesomorph, and ectomorph. Each type has different leverages and body fat distribution. Endomorphs are rounder, with short limbs, a large trunk, carry more fat in the abdomen and lower body, large chest, wide hips, and has hardly any muscular definition, yet gain strength easily. Ectomorphs, on the other hand, are taller, lankier with longer limbs, a narrow chest, thin body, short trunk and has little muscle.
There are further subdivisions within the three main types, mesomorphic-endomorph (meso-dominant), mesomorph-endomorph (both types are equal with less ectomorphy), ectomorphic-mesomorph, endomorphic-mesomorph, endomorph-ectomorph, and ectomorphic-endomorph. This can be denoted as “7-1-1”, which would indicate pure endomorph, “1-7-1” would indicate pure mesomorph and “1-1-7” would be a pure ectomorph. Further breakdowns can be made such as “1.6-2.7-6.4”, indicating the somatype is ecto-dominant. On the scale, 1 is extremely low while 7 is extremely high. The races, however, fall along racial lines as well.
Racial differences in somatype
West Africans and their descendants are the most mesomorphic. They also have the highest amount of type II muscle fibers which is a leading cause of their success in sporting events which call for short bursts of speed. Due to having longer limbs, they have a longer stride and can generate more speed. West Africans also have the narrowest hips out of all of the races (Rushton, 1997: 163) which further leads to their domination in sprinting competitions and events that take quick bursts of speed and power. However much success their morphology lends them in these types of competitions, their somatype hampers them when it comes to swimming. The first black American qualified for the Olympic swimming team in the year 2000. This is due to a narrower chest cavity and denser, heavier bones.
East Africans are most ectomorphic which you can see by their longer limbs and skinnier body. They have an average BMI of 21.6, one of the lowest in the world. Their low BMI, ectomorphic somatype and abundance of slow twitch muscle fibers are why they dominate in distance running events. Many explanations have been proposed to explain why East Africans (specifically Kenyans and Ethiopians) dominate distance running. The main factor is their somatype (ectomorphic) (Wilbur and Pitsiladis, 2012). The authors, however, downplay other, in my opinion, more important physiologic characteristics such as muscle fiber typing, and differences in physiology. Of course their somatype matters for why they dominate, but other important physiologic characteristics do matter. They clearly evolved together so you cannot separate them.
Europeans are more endo than East Africans and West Africans but less so than East Asians. Europeans have a strong upper body, broad shoulders, longer and thicker trunk and shorter extremities along with 41 percent slow twitch fibers compared to blacks’ 33 percent slow twitch fibers. This is why Europeans dominate power sports such as powerlifting and the World’s Strongest Man. Eighty to 100 percent of the differences in total variation in height, weight, and BMI between East Asians and Europeans are associated with genetic differences (Hur et al, 2008). If the variation between East Asians and Europeans on height, weight and BMI are largely attributed to genetic factors, then the same, I assume, should be true for Africans and Europeans/East Asians.
East Asians are the most endomorphic race and have lighter skeletons and more body fat. They have short arms and legs with a large trunk, which is a benefit when it comes to certain types of lifting movements (such as Olympic lifting, where East Asians shine) but hampers them when it comes to sprinting and distance running (although they have higher rates of type I fibers). East Asians also have more body fat at a lower BMI which is further evidence for the endomorphic somatype. This is also known as ‘TOFI’, ‘Thin on the Outside, Fat on the Inside’. Chinese and Thai children had a higher waist circumference and higher trunk fat deposits than Malay and Lebanese children (Liu et al, 2011). This is a classic description of the endomorphic individual.
Human hands and feet are also affected by climate. Climatic variation played a role in shaping the racial somatic differences we see today. The differences seen in hands and feet “might be due to the presence of evolutionary constraints on the foot to maintain efficient bipedal locomotion” (Betti et al, 2015).
Black-white differences in somatype
Fifty percent of the variability in lean mass is due to genetic factors (Arden and Specter, 1997) with the heritability of stature 85 percent in a meta-analysis (Peeters et al, 2009). Racial differences in somatype are also seen at a young age (Malina, 1969). Blacks had better muscular development and less fat-free mass at an early age. Vickery et al (1988) argued that since blacks have thinner skin folds that caliper measurements testing differences in body fat would be skewed. Malina (1969) also reports the same. Note that Malina’s paper was written in 1969, literally right before it got pushed on the American populace that fat was bad and carbohydrates were good.
Looking at the two tables cited by Malina (1969) on somatype we can see the difference between blacks and whites.
|Data from Malina, (1969: 438)||n||Mesomorph||Ectomorph||Endomorph|
|Data from Malina (1969: 438)||Blacks||Whites|
|Thin-build body type||8.93||5.90|
|Submedium fatty development||48.31||29.39|
|Fat and very fat categories||9.09||21.06|
Since this data was collected literally before we went down the wrong path and wrongly demonized fat and (wrongly) championed carbohydrates, this is an outstanding look at somatype/fat mass before the obesity epidemic. There is a clear trend, with blacks being more likely to have lower levels of fat-free body mass while also more likely to be mesomorphic. This has a ton of implications for racial differences in sports.
Somatype is predicated on lean mass, stature, bone density and fat-free body mass. Since racial differences appear in somatype at an early age, there is a great chance that the differences in somatype are genetic in nature.
College (American) football players are more likely to be endo-mesomorphs while high-school football players were more likely to be mesomorphs (Bale et al, 1994). This partly explains black over representation in football. Further, basketball, handball, and soccer players in Nigeria were taller, heavier, and had lower percent body fat than other athletic groups (Mazur, Toriola, and Igobokwe, 1985). Somatic differences have a lot to do with domination in sports competition.
Somatic differences are also seen in boxing. Elite boxers are more likely to have a mesomorphic somatype compared to non-athletes. Higher weight divisions were also more likely to be mesomorphic and endomorphic than the lower weight divisions which skewed ectomorphic (Noh et al, 2014). Blacks do well in boxing since they have a more mesomorphic somatype. Due to their higher levels of type II fibers, they can be quicker and throw more forceful punches which translates to boxing success.
Racial differences in somatype are another key to the puzzle to figure out why the races differ in elite sporting competition. The races evolved in different geographic locations which then led to differences in somatype. West African sports dominance is explained by their somatype, muscle fiber type, and physiology. The same can be said for Europeans in strength sports/powerlifting sports, and East Asians with ping-pong and some strength sports (though, due to lower muscle mass they are the least athletic of the races). I am not, of course, denying the impact of determination to succeed or training of any kind. What one must realize, however, is that one with the right genetic makeup/somatype and elite training will, way more often than not, outperform an individual with the wrong genetic makeup/somatype and elite training. These inherent differences between races explain the disparities in elite sporting competitions.
Arden, N. K., & Spector, T. D. (1997). Genetic Influences on Muscle Strength, Lean Body Mass, and Bone Mineral Density: A Twin Study. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research,12(12), 2076-2081. doi:10.1359/jbmr.19220.127.116.116
Bale P, Colley E, Mayhew JL, et al. Anthropometric and somatotype variables related to strength in American football players. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 1994;34:383–9
Betti, L., Lycett, S. J., Cramon-Taubadel, N. V., & Pearson, O. M. (2015). Are human hands and feet affected by climate? A test of Allen’s rule. American Journal of Physical Anthropology,158(1), 132-140. doi:10.1002/ajpa.22774
Hur, Y., Kaprio, J., Iacono, W. G., Boomsma, D. I., Mcgue, M., Silventoinen, K., . . . Mitchell, K. (2008). Genetic influences on the difference in variability of height, weight and body mass index between Caucasian and East Asian adolescent twins. International Journal of Obesity,32(10), 1455-1467. doi:10.1038/ijo.2008.144
Liu, A., Byrne, N. M., Kagawa, M., Ma, G., Kijboonchoo, K., Nasreddine, L., . . . Hills, A. P. (2011). Ethnic differences in body fat distribution among Asian pre-pubertal children: A cross-sectional multicenter study. BMC Public Health,11(1). doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-500
Malina, R. M. (1969). Growth and Physical Performance of American Negro and White Children: A Comparative Survey of Differences in Body Size, Proportions and Composition, Skeletal Maturation, and Various Motor Performances. Clinical Pediatrics,8(8), 476-483. doi:10.1177/000992286900800812
Mathur, D. N., Toriola, A. L., & Igbokwe, N. U. (1985). Somatotypes of Nigerian athletes of several sports. British Journal of Sports Medicine,19(4), 219-220. doi:10.1136/bjsm.19.4.219
Noh, J., Kim, J., Kim, M., Lee, J., Lee, L., Park, B., . . . Kim, J. (2014). Somatotype Analysis of Elite Boxing Athletes Compared with Nonathletes for Sports Physiotherapy. Journal of Physical Therapy Science,26(8), 1231-1235. doi:10.1589/jpts.26.1231
Peeters, M., Thomis, M., Beunen, G., & Malina, R. (2009). Genetics and Sports: An Overview of the Pre-Molecular Biology Era. Genetics and Sports Medicine and Sport Science, 28-42. doi:10.1159/000235695
Rushton J P (1997). Race, Evolution, and Behavior. A Life History Perspective (Transaction, New Brunswick, London).
Vickery SR, Cureton KJ, Collins MA. Prediction of body density from skinfolds in black and white young men. Hum Biol 1988;60:135–49.
Wilber, R. L., & Pitsiladis, Y. P. (2012). Kenyan and Ethiopian Distance Runners: What Makes Them so Good? International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance,7(2), 92-102. doi:10.1123/ijspp.7.2.92
I am currently reading Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We’re Afraid To Talk About It and came across a small section in the beginning of the book talking about black-white differences in baseball. It appears I am horribly, horribly wrong and it looks like I may need to retract my article HBD and Sports: Baseball. However, I don’t take second-hand accounts as gospel, so I will be purchasing the book that Entine cites, The Bill James Baseball Abstract 1987 to look into it myself and I may even do my own analysis on modern-day players to see if this still holds. Nevertheless, at the moment disregard the article I wrote last year until I look into this myself.
Baseball historian Bill James, author of dozens of books on the statistical twists of his favorite sport believes this trend [black domination in baseball] is not a fluke. In an intriguing study conducted in 1987, he compared the careers of hundreds of rookies to figure out what qualities best predict who would develop into stars. He noted many intangible factors, such as whether a player stays fit or is just plain lucky. The best predictors of long-term career success included the age of the rookie, his defensive position as a determinant in future hitting success (e.g., catchers fare worse than outfielders), speed, and the quality of the player’s team. But all of these factors paled when compared to the color of the player’s skin.
“Nobody likes to write about race,” James noted apologetically. “I thought I would do a [statistical] run of black players against white players, fully expecting that it would show nothing in particular or nothing beyond the outside range of chance, and I would file it away and never mention that I had looked at the issue at all.
James first compared fifty-four white rookies against the same number of black first-year players who had comparable statistics. “The results were astonishing,” James wrote. The black players:
* went on to have better major-league careers in 44 out of 54 cases
* played 48 percent more games
* had 66 percent more major league hits
* hit 93 percent more triples
* hit 66 percent more home runs
* scored 69 percent more runs
* stole 400 more bases (Entine, 2000: 22-23)
Flabbergasted at what he found, James ran a second study using forty-nine black/white comparisons. Again, blacks proved more durable, retained their speed longer, and were consistently better hitters. For example, he compared Ernie Banks, a power hitting shortstop for the Chicago Cubs, and Bernie Allen who broke in with Minnesota. They both reached the majors when they were twenty-three years old, were the same height and weight, and were considered equally fast. Over time, Allen bombed and Banks landed in the Hall of Fame. (Entine, 2000: 24)
In an attempt to correct for possible bias, James compared players with comparable speed statistics such as the number of doubles, triples, and stolen bases. He ran a study focused on players who had little speed. He analyzed for “position bias” and made sure that players in the same eras were being compared. Yet every time he crunched the numbers, the results broke down across racial lines. When comparing home runs, runs scored, RBIs or stolen bases, black players held an advantage a startling 80 percent of the time. “And I could identify absolutely no bias to help explain why this should happen,” James said in disbelief.
James also compared white Hispanic rookies whom he assumed faced an uphill battle similar to that for blacks, with comparable groups of white and black players. The blacks dominated the white Latinos by even more than they did white North Americans, besting them in 19 of the 26 comparisons. Blacks played 62 percent more games, hit 192 more home runs, drove in 125 percent more runs, and stole 30 percent more bases.
So why have blacks become the stars of baseball far out of proportion to their relative numbers? James eventually concluded that there were two possible explanations: “Blacks are better athletes because they are born better athletes, which is to say that it is genetic, or that they are born equal and become better athletes. (Entine, 2000: 24-25)
Homo nerdicus or Homo athleticus? Which name more aptly describes Man? Without many important adaptations incurred throughout our evolutionary history, modern Man as you see him wouldn’t be here today. The most important factor in this being our morphology and anatomy which evolved due to our endurance running, hunting, and scavenging. The topics I will cover today are 1) morphological differences between hominin species and chimpanzees; 2) how Man became athletic and bring up criticisms with the model; 3) the evolution of our aerobic physical ability and brain size; 4) an evolutionary basis for sports; and 5) the role of children’s playing in the evolution of human athleticism.
Morphological differences between Man and Chimp
Substantial evolution in the lineage of Man has occurred since we have split from the last common ancestor (LCA) with chimpanzees between 12.1 and 5.3 mya (Moorjani et al, 2016; Patterson et al, 2006). One of the most immediate differences that jump out at you when watching a human and chimpanzee is such stark differences in morphology, in particular, how we walk (pelvic differences) as well as our arm length relative to our torsos. Though we both evolved to be proficient at abilities that had us become evolutionarily successful in the environments we found ourselves in, one species of primate went on to become the apes the took over the world whereas the chimps continued life as the LCA did (as far as we can tell). The evolution of our athleticism is why we have a lean body with the right morphology for endurance running and associated movements. In fact, the evolution of our brain size hinged on a reduction in our fat depots (Navarette, Schaik, and Isler, 2011).
One of the largest differences you can see between the two species is how we walk. Chimps are “specially adapted for supporting weight on the dorsal aspects of middle phalanges of flexed hand digits II–V” (Tuttle, 1967). Meanwhile, humans are specifically adapted for bipedality due to the change in our pelvis over the course of our evolution (Gruss and Schmitt, 2015). Due to staying more arboreal than venturing on the ground, chimp morphology over the course of the divergence became more and more adapted to life in the trees.
Our modern gait is associated with physiologic and anatomic adaptations throughout our evolution, and are not ‘primitive retentions’ from the LCA (Schmitt, 2003). There are very crucial selective pressures that need to be looked at to see which selection pressures caused us to become athletes. Parts of Austripolithicenes still live on in us today, most notably in our lower leg/foot (Prang, 2015). Further, our ancestor, the famous Lucy had the beginnings of a modern pelvis, which was the beginning of the shift to the more energetically efficient bipedality, one thing that fully separates Man from the rest of the animal kingdom.
Of course, no conversation about human evolution would be complete without talking about Erectus. Analysis of 1.5 million-year-old footprints shows that Erectus was the first to have a humanlike weight transfer while walking, confirming “the presence of an energy-saving longitudinally arched foot in H. Erectus.” (Hatala et al, 2016). We have not yet discovered a full Homo erectus foot, but 1.5 million-year-old footprints found in Kenya show that whatever hominin made those prints had a long, striding gait with a full arch (Steudel-Numbers, 2006; Bennett et al, 2009). The same estimates from Steudel-Numbers (2006) show that Erectus nearly halved its travel costs compared to australopithecines. This is due to a longer stride which was much more Manlike than apelike due to a humanlike pelvis and gluteus maximus (Lieberman et al, 2006).
However, the most important adaptations that Erectus evolved was the ability to keep cool while walking long distances. Loss of hair loss specifically allowed individuals to be active in hot climates without overheating. Our ancestors’ hair loss facilitated sweating (Ruxton and Wilkinson, 2011b), which allowed us to become the proficient hunters—the athletes—that we would become. There is also thermoregulatory evidence that endurance running may have been possible for Homo erectus, but not any other earlier hominin (Ruxton and Wilkinson, 2011a) which was the beginnings of our selection to become athletes. The evidence reviewed in Ruxton and Wilkinson (2011a) shows that once hair loss and sweating ability reached human levels, thermoregulation was then possible under the midday sun.
Moreover, our modern gait and bipedalism is 75 percent less costly than quadrupedal/bipedal walking in chimpanzees (Sockel, Raichlen, and Pontzer, 2007), so this extra energy that was conserved with our physiologic and anatomic adaptations due to bipedalism could have gone towards other pertinent metabolic functions—like fueling a bigger brain (more energy could be used to feed more neurons).
Born to run
Before getting into how we are able to run so efficiently, I need to talk about what made it possible for us to be able to have the energy to sustain our distance running. That one thing is eating cooked food (meat). This one seemingly simple thing is the ‘prime mover’ so to speak, of our success as athletes. Eating cooked food significantly increases the amount of energy obtained during digestion. That we could extract more energy out of cooked food—no matter what type of food it was—can not be overstated. This is what gave us the energy to hunt and scavenge. We are, of course, able to hunt/scavenge while fasted, which is an extremely useful evolutionary adaptation which increases important hormones to have us search for food. The hormones released during a fasted state aid in human physiologic/metabolic functioning allowing one who is searching for food more heightened sensibilities.
We are evolutionarily adapted to be endurance runners. Endurance running is defined as the ability to run more than 5 km using aerobic metabolism (Lieberman and Bramble, 2007). Since we are poor sprinters, the idea is that our body has evolved for walking. However, numerous anatomical changes in our phenotypes in comparison to our chimp ancestors have left us some clues. In the previous section, I talked about physical changes that occurred after Man and Chimp diverged, well those evolutionary changes are why we evolved to be athletic.
Endurance running first evolved, most likely due to scavenging and hunting (Lieberman et al, 2009). Through natural selection—survival of the ‘good enough’, those who had better physiologic and anatomic adaptations could reach the animal carcass before other scavengers like vultures and hyenas could get to it. Over time, this substantially changed how we would look. Numerous physiologic changes in our lineage attest to the evolution of our endurance running. The nuchal ligament, as well as the radius of the semicircular canal is larger in Homo sapiens than in chimpanzees or australopithecines. This stabilizes our head while running—something that our ancestors could not do because they didn’t have a canal our size (Bramble and Lieberman, 2004).
Skeletal evidence that points to our evolution as athletes consists of (but not limited to):
- The Nuchal ligament—stabilizes the head
- Shoulder and head stabilization
- Limb length and mass (we have legs longer than our torsos which decreases energy used)
- Joint surface (we can absorb more shock when our feet hit the ground due to a larger surface area)
- Plantar arch (generates spring for running but not walking)
- Calcaneal tuber and Achilles tendon (shorter tuber length leads to a longer Achilles heel stretch, converting more kinetic energy into elastic energy)
So people who had anatomy closer to this in our evolutionary past had more of a success of getting to that animal carcass, divvying it amongst his family/tribe, ensuring the passage of his genes to the next generation. Man had to be athletic in order to be able to run for long distances. Where this would have come in handy the most would have been the Savanna in our ancestral past. Man could now use persistence hunting—chasing animals in the heat of the day—and kill them when they tired out. The evolutionary adaptation sweating due to the loss of our fur is the only reason this is possible.
One of the most important adaptations for endurance running is thermoregulation. All humans are adapted for long range locomotion rather than speed and to dump rather than retain heat (Lieberman, 2015). This is one of the most important adaptations we evolved that had us become successful endurance runners. We could chase down prey and wait for our prey to become exhausted/overheat and then we would move in for the kill. Of course, intelligence and sociality come into play as we needed to create hunting bands, but without our superior endurance running capabilities—that no other animal in the animal kingdom has—we would have gone down a completely different evolutionary path than the one we went down. Our genome has evolved to support endurance running (Mattson, 2012). Since there is an association between too much sitting and all-cause mortality (Biddle et al, 2016), this is yet more evidence that we evolved to be mobile, not sedentary hominins.
Further evidence that we evolved to be athletic is in our hands. When you think about our hands and how we can manipulate our environments with them—what sets us apart from every other species—then, obviously, in our evolutionary past, those who were more successful would have had a higher chance of reproducing. Aggressive clubbing and throwing are thought to be one of the earliest hominin specializations. If true, then those who could club and throw best would have the best chance of passing their genes to the next generation, thusly selecting for more efficient hands (Young, 2003). While we may have evolved more efficient hands over time warring with other hominins, some are more prone to disk herniation.
Plomp et al (2015) propose the ‘ancestral shape hypothesis’ which is derived from studying bipedalism. They propose that those who are more prone to disk herniation preferentially affects those who have vertebrae “towards the ancestral end of the range of shape variation within H. sapiens and therefore are less well adapted for bipedalism” (Plomp et al, 2015). One of the most amazing things they discovered was that humans with signs of intervertebral disc herniation are “indistinguishable from those of chimpanzees.” Of course, due to this, we should then look towards evolutionary biology in regards to a lot of human ailments (which I have also argued here on dietary evolutionary mismatches as well as on obesity).
Of course there are some naysayers arguing that endurance running didn’t drive our evolution. He wrongly states that it’s about what drove the evolution of our bipedalism; however, what the endurance running hypothesis argues is that there are certain physiologic and anatomic changes that only could have occurred from endurance running. Better endurance runners got selected for over time, leading to novel adaptations that stayed in the gene pool and got selected for. One thing is a larger gluteus maximus. A humanlike pelvis is found in the fossil record as far back as 1.9 mya in Erectus (Lieberman et al, 2006). Furthermore, longer toes had a larger mechanical cost, and were thusly selected against, which also helped in the evolution of our endurance running (Rolian et al, 2009). All in all, there are too many adaptations that our bodies have that can only be explained by adapting to endurance running. Just because we may have gotten to the weaker animals sometimes doesn’t falsify the hypothesis; Man still needed to sweat and persist in the hot mid-day temperatures chasing prey.
Brain size and aerobic physical capacity
When speaking about the increase in our brain size/neuronal count, fire/cooking, the social brain hypothesis, and other theories are brought up first. Erectus had a lot of humanlike qualities, including the ability to control/use fire (Berna et al, 2012), and the appearance of our modern gait/stride which first appeared in Erectus (Steudel-Numbers, 2006; Bennet et al, 2009). This huge change also occurred around the time our lineage began cooking meat/using fire. Without the increased energy from cooking, we wouldn’t be able to hunt for too long. However, we do have very important specific adaptations during a fasted state—the release of hormones such as catecholamines (adrenaline and noradrenaline) which have as react faster to predators/possible prey. Though, a plant-based diet wouldn’t cut it in regards to our daily energy requirements to feed our huge brain with a huge neuronal count (Fonseca-Azevedo and Herculano-Houzel, 2012). Cooked meat is the only way we’d be able to have enough energy required to hunt game.
What kind of an effect did it have on our cranial capacity/evolution?
Four groups of mice selectively bred for high amounts of “voluntary wheel-running”, ran 3 times further than the controls which increased Vo2 max in the mice. Those mice had higher levels of BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) several days after the experiment concluded as well as also showing greater cell creation in the hippocampus when allowed to run compared to the controls. In two lines of selected mice, the hormone VEGF (Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor) which was correlated with higher muscle capillary density compared to controls. This shows that the evolution of endurance running in mice leads to important hormonal changes which then affected brain growth (Raichlen and Polk, 2012).
The amount of oxygen our brains use increased by 600 percent compared to 350 percent for our brain size over the course of our evolutionary history. This is important. What would cause an increase in oxygen consumption to the brain? Endurance running. There was further selection in our skeleton for endurance running in our morphology such as the semicircular canal radii. The first humanlike semicircular canal radii were found in Erectus (Spoor, Wood, and Zonneveid, 1994). This meant that we had the ability for running and other agile behaviors which were then selected for. There is also little to no activation of the gluteus medius while walking (Lee et al, 2014), implying that it evolved for more efficient endurance running.
Controlling for body mass in humans, extinct hominins and great apes, Raichlen and Polk (2012) found significant positive correlations with encephalization quotient and hindlimb length (0.93), anterior and posterior radii (0.77 and 0.66 respectively), which support the idea that human athletic ability is tied to neurobiological evolution. A man that was a better athlete compared to another would have a better chance to pass on his genes, as physical fitness is a good predictor of biological fitness. Putting this all together, selection improved our aerobic capacity over our evolutionary history by specifically altering signaling systems responsible for metabolism and oxygen intake (BDNF, VEGF, and IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1), responsible for the regulation of growth hormone), which are important for blood flow, increased muscle capillary density, and a larger brain.
Putting this all together, selection improved our aerobic capacity over our evolutionary history by specifically altering signaling systems responsible for metabolism and oxygen intake (BDNF, VEGF, IGF-1). More evidence is needed to corroborate Raichlen and Polk’s (2012) hypothesis. However, with what we know about aerobic capacity and the hormones that drive it and brain size, we can make inferences based on the available data and say, with confidence, that part of our brain evolution was driven by our increased aerobic capacity/morphology, with the catalyst being endurance running. Though with our increased proclivity for athleticism and endurance running, when we became ‘us’, this just shifted the competition and athletic competition—which, hundreds of thousands/millions of years ago would mean life or death, mate or no mate, food or no food.
Clearly, without the evolution of our bipedalism/athleticism we wouldn’t have evolved the brains we have and thus we would be something completely different today.
Sport and evolutionary history
We crowd into arenas to watch people compete against each other in athletic competition. Why? What are the evolutionary reasons behind this? One view is that sport (and along with it playing) was a way for men to get practice hunting game, with playing also affecting children’s ability to assess the strength of others (Lombardo, 2012).
In an evolutionary context, sports developed as a way for men to further develop skills in order to better provide for his family, as well as assessing other men’s physical strength so he can adapt his fighting to how his opponent fights in a possible future situation. Men would then be selected for these advantageous traits. You see people crowd into arenas to watch their favorite sports teams. We are ‘wired’ to like these types of competitions, which then leads to more competition. Since we evolved to be athletes, then it would stand to reason that we would like to watch others be athletic (and hit each other as hard as they can), as a type of modern-day gladiator games.
Better hunters have better reproductive success (Smith, 2004). Further, hunter-gatherer men with lower-pitched voices have more children, while men with higher-pitched voices had higher child mortality rate (Apicella, Feinberg, and Marlowe, 2007). This signals that the H-G men with more children have higher testosterone than others, which then attracts more women to them. Champion athletes, hunters, and warriors all obtain high reproductive success. Women are sexually attracted to certain traits, which events of human athleticism show. However, men follow sports more closely than women (Lombardo, 2012), and for good reason.
Men may watch sports more than women since, in an evolutionary context, they may learn more about potential allies and who to steer clear from because they would get physically dominated. Further, men could watch the actions of others at play and mimic their actions in an attempt to gain higher status with women. Another reason is a man’s character: you can see a man’s character during sports competition and by watching one’s actions closely during, for instance, playing, you can better ascertain their motivations during life or death situations. Men may also derive thrills from watching “idealized men” perform athletic activities. These are consistent with Lombardo’s (2012) male lek hypothesis, “where male physical prowess and the behaviors important in conflict and cooperation are displayed by athletes and evaluated primarily by male, not female, spectators.”
Testosterone changes based on whether one’s favorite sports team wins or loses (Bernhardt et al, 1998). This is important. Testosterone does change under stressful/group situations. Testosterone is also argued to have a role in the search for, and maintenance of social status (Eisenegger, Haushofer, and Fehr, 2011). Testosterone responses to competition in men are also related to facial masculinity (Pound, Penton-Voak, and Surrin, 2009). Male’s physical strength is also signaled through facial characteristics of dominance and masculinity, considered attractive to women (Fink, Neave, and Seydel, 2007). Since testosterone fuels both competition, protectiveness and confidence (Eisenegger et al, 2016), a woman would be attracted to a man’s athleticism/strength, which would then be correlated with his facial structure further signaling biological fitness to possible mates. Testosterone doesn’t cause prostate cancer, as is commonly stated (Stattin et al, 2003; Michaud, Billups, and Partin, 2015). Testosterone is a beneficial hormone; you should be worried way more about low T than high T. Further, young men interacting with similar young men increases testosterone while interacting with dissimilar men decreases testosterone (DeSoto et al, 2009). This lends credence to the hypothesis that testosterone raises in response to male-male competition.
Since testosterone is correlated with the above traits, and since athletes have higher testosterone than non-athletes (Wood and Stanton, 2011) then certain types of males would be left in the dust. Athleticism can be looked at as a way to expend excess energy. Those with more excess energy would be more sexually attractive to women and mating opportunities would increase. This is why it’s ridiculous to believe that we evolved to be the ‘nerds’ of the animal kingdom when so much of our evolutionary success has hinged on our athleticism and superior endurance running and other athletic capabilities.
Child’s play is how children feel out the world in a ‘setting’ in which there are no real-world consequences so they can get a feel for how the world really is. Human babes are born helpless, yet with large heads. Natural selection has lead to large brains to care for children, causing earlier childbirths and making children more helpless, which selected for higher intelligence causing a feedback loop (Piantadosi and Kidd, 2016). They show that across the primate genera, the helplessness of an infant is an extremely strong predictor of adult intelligence.
Indeed, a lot of the crucial shaping of our intelligence and motor capabilities are developed in our infancy and early childhood, which we have over chimpanzees. Blaisdell (2015) defines play as: “an activity that is purposeless in that it tends to be detached from the outcome, is imperfect from the goal-directed form of the activity, and that tends to occur when the individual is in a non-stressed state.” Playing is just a carefree activity that children do to get a feel for the world around them. During this time, skills are honed that, in our ancestral past, allowed us to survive and prosper during times of need (persistence hunting, scavenging, etc).
Anthropological evidence also suggests that the existence of extended childhood in humans adapted to establish the skills and knowledge needed to be a proficient hunter-gatherer. Since there are no real-world outcomes to playing (other than increased/decreased pride), a child can get some physical experience without suffering the real life repercussions of failing. Studies of hunter-gatherers show that play fosters the skills needed to be proficient in tool-making and tool-use, food provisioning, shelter, and predator defense. Play time also hones athletic ability and the brain-body connection so one can be prepared for a stressful situation. In fact, children’s fascination with ‘why’ questions make them ‘little philosophers’, which is an evolutionary adaptation to prepare for possible future outcomes.
Think of play fighting. While play fighting, the outcome has no important real life applications (well, the loser’s pride is hit) and what is occurring is the honing of skills that are useful to survival. During our ancestral evolution, play fighting between brothers could have honed the skills needed during a life our death situation when another band of humans was encountered. As you begin to associate certain movements with certain events, you then become better prepared subconsciously for when novel situations occur. The advantage of an extended childhood with large amounts of play time allow the brain and body to make certain connections between things and when these situations arise during a life or death situation, the brain-body will already have the muscle memory to handle the situation.
Studying our evolution since the divergence between Man and chimp, we can see the types of adaptations that we have incurred over our evolutionary history that have lead to us being specifically adapted for long-term endurance running. The ability to sweat, which, as far as we know began with Erectus, was paramount in our history for thermoregulation. Looking at the evolution of our pelvis, toes, gluteal muscles, heads, shoulders, brains, etc all will point to how they are adapted to a bipedal ape that is born to run—born to be an athlete. Without our athleticism, our intelligence wouldn’t be possible. We have a brain-body connection, our brain isn’t the only thing that drives our body, the two work in concert giving each other information, reacting to familiar and novel stimuli. That’s for another time though.
We didn’t evolve to be Homo nerdicus, we evolved to be Homo athleticus. This can be seen with how exercise has such a huge impact on cognition. We can further see the relationship between our athletic ability and our cognition/brain size. Without the way our evolution happened, Man—along with everything else you see around you—would not be here today. In a survival situation—one in which society completely breaks down—one who has better control over his body and motor functions/capabilities will outlast those who do not. Ultimate and conscious control over our bodies, reacting to stimuli in the environment is fostered in our infancy during our play time with others. Playing allows an individual to get experience in a simulated event, getting important muscle memory to react to future situations. The brain itself, of course, is being molded during playing as well. This just attests to the large part that playing has on cognition, survival skills and athletic ability over our evolutionary history.
Aerobic capacity throughout our evolutionary history beginning with Erectus was paramount for what we have become today. Without the evolution of certain muscles like our gluteus maximus along with certain appendages that gave us the ability to trek/run long distances, we would have lost a very important variable in our brain evolution. Aerobic activity increases blood flow to the brain and so the more successful endurance runners/hunters would increase their biological fitness (as seen in Smith, 2004) and thusly those who were more athletically successful would have more children, increasing selection for important traits for endurance running/athleticism throughout our evolutionary history.
We still play sports today since we love competition. Testosterone fuels the need for competition and sports is the best way to engage in competition in the modern day. Women are much more attracted to men with higher levels of testosterone which in turn means a more masculinized face which signals dominance and testosterone levels during competition. Women are attracted to men with higher levels of testosterone and a more masculinized face. This just so happens to mirror athletes, who have both of these traits. However, being in top physical condition is not enough; an athlete must also have a strong mental background if, for instance, they wish to break world records (Lippi, Favaloro, and Guidi, 2008).
The evolution of human playing ties this together. These sports competitions that we have made hearken back to our evolutionary past and show who would have fared best in the past. When we play, we are feeling our competition and who we can possibly make allies with/watch out for due to their actions during playing. One would also see who he would likely need to avoid and form an alliance with as to not get on his bad side and prevent a loss of status in his band. This is what it really comes down to—loss of status. Higher-status men do have higher levels of testosterone, and by one losing to a more capable person, they show that they aren’t fit to lead and they fall in the social hierarchy.
To fully understand human evolution and how we became ‘us’ we need to understand the evolution of our morphology and how it pertains to things such as our cognition and overall brain size and what advantages/disadvantages it afforded us. Whatever the case may be, it’s clear that we have evolved to be athletic and any change in that makeup will lead to a decrease in quality of life.
Homo athleticus, not Homo nerdicus, best describes Man.
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Everyone sees how athletic blacks are, for instance in football, but why don’t blacks like swimming? Black children drown at a rate almost three times higher than white children. 70 percent of black children can’t swim, compared to 60 percent of ‘Hispanic’ children and 40 percent of white children. A combination of genetic and environmental factors are involved in this.
JP Rushton writes in Race, Evolution and Behavior (pg. 163):
Body structure differences likely account for the differential success of blacks at sporting events. Blacks are disproportionately successful in sports involving running and jumping but not at all successful at sports such as swimming. For example in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, blacks won every men’s running race. On the other hand, no black swimmer has ever qualified for the U.S. Olympic swim team. The bone density differences mentioned above may be a handicap for swimming.
Rushton noted above this paragraph that there are bone density differences between blacks and whites which have been noted at all ages and skeletal sites, remaining even after controlling for body mass. These differences even appear before birth, prenatally. Divergence in length and width of the bones in black and white fetus is followed by greater weight of black infants in comparison to white infants. These skeletal differences in weight obviously persist into adulthood, which then have implications for blacks with swimming, but give them advantages in other sports.
At the time of the writing of Race, Evolution, and Behavior in 1997, no black had ever qualified for the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team. However, Anthony Ervin became the first black swimmer to qualify for the Olympic swim team in the year 2000. The fact that it took so long for a black swimmer to make the Olympic swim team shows a genetic component.
Also contributing to this phenomenon is the fact that blacks have narrower chest cavities along with heavier skeletons (as mentioned above), this makes it harder for blacks to stay afloat and swim in the water. A smaller chest cavity brings with it less mobility while doing strokes in the water in comparison to one with a wider chest cavity.
Hochberg (2007) notes that fracture risk, particularly hip fractures, in whites is higher than for blacks in both sexes at 10.1 and 4.1 percent for white and black women respectively while the percentage is 4.3 and 3.1 percent for white and black men respectively. Other analyses of people aged 65 to 90 show 16.3 and 5.3 percent in white and black women while the percentage is 5.5 and 2.6 percent for white and black men respectively. Why do white women suffer more fractures? When women hit menopause, the drop in estrogen coincides with bone loss and osteoperosis. Moreover, in 2010, the Food Surveys Research Group published Fluid Milk Consumption in the United States, which shows women drink less milk then men, with seniors drinking less milk than all age groups (pg. 4). We can then infer from this that senior white women drink less milk, which is then another cause for more hip fractures and weaker bones. Though, there is of course a genetic component with blacks having stronger bones. However, stronger bones means heavier bones, which is a disadvantage when it comes to swimming.
Another funnier reason for blacks non-ability for swimming is that since blacks have a higher single mother rate (72 percent) they didn’t take them to the pool and teach their kids how to swim because they “didn’t want to get their hair wet”, as they put so much time in their hair. This may contribute to this slightly, but the physiological and biological differences mentioned above contribute a far greater amount of variance.
Blacks also wouldn’t be good swimmers due to them having more type II muscle fibers than type I, meaning their muscles fire off quicker and therefore tire quicker. This is why blacks are good sprinters, but would suffer in swimming events. Blacks also have a higher fat free bone density than whites, which leads to blacks not being able to float since fat floats.
For the same reasons why blacks wouldn’t be good swimmers, whites can’t jump, on average. Type II muscle fiber doesn’t allow for the explosive power needed to be able to jump as well as blacks. Even though blacks have a heavier skeletons than whites on average, they can still jump due to their muscle fiber typing. This is also why whites are underrepresented in the NBA (which is 74.4 percent black). Testosterone and musculoskeletal differences are the causes for racial differences in sports.
Whites drown more than blacks before 5 years of age, but after 5 years, more blacks drown in comparison to whites. Drowning in natural water settings was significantly higher for blacks than for whites, with blacks drowning more than whites at ages 7-8 through 17-18 years of age. Swimming pool drowning rates was also shown to be elevated for black children This data shows that after 5 years of age, blacks drown at a significantly greater amount than whites or ‘Hispanics’, which is attributed to the data above.
In our ‘post-racial society’, it’s become taboo to study, and even speak of differences so prevalent in our society, seeing as sports is a huge part of many peoples’ lives around the world. Most of the stars everyone speaks of are black. They must, subconsciously atleast, notice that these differences are there seeing the racial differences on the screen (except for baseball). Of course practice has a part in becoming elite in whatever sport is chosen, however, the best also have a higher inclination to want to do better as well as already being genetically gifted. Those who are more genetically different are, obviously, on the right side of the bell curve, thus, are extremely rare. Though, we can see these genetic disparities in racial differences in sports, with swimming being a huge tell.
It’s not just “a racist joke” that blacks can’t swim, there is biological and physical evidence that blacks, on average, have a more difficult time in the water due to difference in fat-free body mass as well as more narrow chest cavities and heavier skeletons than whites. The same reasons why blacks dominate other sports (football, soccer, boxing, basketball) is the same reason why blacks are underrepresented as swimmers: their biology. However, the trope that white men can’t jump is true as well, and also has it’s origin in genetic differences between the races.
The cause for racial disparities in drowning, as well as in swimming competitions is due considerably to genetic factors such as bone density and chest cavity narrowness. Other environmental factors include children not being taught how to swim due to them being more likely to be raised by single mothers. Bone density and heaviness also shows why blacks suffer less fractures than whites, with white women suffering from it the most. That same bone heaviness is also a reason why blacks are not good swimmers. Muscle fiber typing play a difference in racial differences in sports ability, which the races also vary in significantly. For these reasons, “White men can’t jump.” That’s OK, because “Black men can’t swim.”
In my first post in this series, I talked about HBD and Baseball. With the Super Bowl being tomorrow, I figured I’d talk about HBD and how it fits in to football.
According to TIDES (The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports), in 2014, the racial mix of the NFL was 68.7 percent black, 28.6 percent white, “Latinos” at .7 percent, Asian at 1.1 percent and Pacific Islanders at .9 percent. International players made up the last 1 percent.
That’s basically the reverse ethnicity for baseball which is 75 percent white, 23 percent black and 2 percent Asian in 2014. As you see, when we start talking about sports with more athleticism involved, the number of blacks increases. With a more timing-based sport, such as baseball, they will be a lower portion of the racial mix in baseball, seeing as timing based (reaction time) sports are geared more towards people with high IQs, seeing as there is a high correlation between IQ and reaction time.
Blacks are over-represented in the NFL due to evolutionary selection pressures in the sub-Saharan desert. Africans have longer limbs, can sprint for longer distances and have higher stamina. This works out with what they had to do in Sub-Saharan Africa. They had to chase food, chuck spears etc.
Those longer limbs help them get them more space from defenders, allowing them to catch the ball at the highest point. Evolution also gave an advantage for jumping as well.
The above chart gives a racial breakdown of positions by race in the NFL, and what I will be referencing for the rest of this article.
The Center position (the one who snaps the ball to the QB) is majority white. That position requires the use of type I muscle fibers. Those fibers, which use oxygen to fire, which takes longer to get going, can go for a longer period of time before tiring out. The force per contraction of the muscle is spread out over time. So because those fibers take longer to get going, the white Center has a physiological advantage, on average, over black Centers. Their muscle fiber typing helps them
Conversely, for the speed positions (RB, WR, somewhat CB), those fibers fire without oxygen (so they fire anaerobically), they fire extremely quickly, and also tire out just as fast as they fire off. Because the muscle generates so much force in such a small period of time, this is better for those positions that take near pure speed, agility and quickness (there is a difference). Agility is defined as the ability to be quick and graceful. Speed is defined as the rate at which someone or something is able to move or operate. Quickness is defined as a high rate of movement or performance.
This is why CB is majority black. It takes an extreme amount of athleticism to be able to do what CBs do. They need to be quick off the snap, stay with the WR and then be able to react quickly for an interception or a tackle.
DE is another position that is majority black. That position is used to pressure the QB into throwing the ball before he’s ready. DEs also have longer limbs, which is helpful when attempting to maneuver around the Tackle to get to the QB. This is another position where those fast twitch muscle fibers come in handy.
DTs need to be at least 260 pounds. They need to be quick off the ball and have good vision to see above and around the Offensive Tackles. This is where the height advantage of blacks is again useful. Their longer limbs also has theme excel at this position.
Fullbacks are equally white and black. You need to be a big body to be able to block, you don’t need to be too quick, but be able to exert force for a small amount of time so you can block the defender who’s attempting to tackle the RB or another player who has the ball.
Guards, again are equally black and white. The same intangibles that hold for Centers also hold true for guards. All players on the offensive line are pretty damn big, long limbs again is a positive trait for those positions, with blacks obviously having the advantage there. But as I noted with Centers, they need to be able to hold a block, so the slow twitch muscle fibers of the white players help them there. The type II fibers of blacks also help on the offensive line, as their muscle fibers allow them to exert more force in a shorter amount of time, pushing back the defender so the one with the ball has a lane to get through.
Kickers are all white. This makes sense. Again, as this whole post is basically about, this comes down to differing amounts of type I muscle fibers between the races. Punters are needed to kick a ball, at times over 55 yards. This is where those slow twitch muscle fibers come in handy, and the reason why there are no black kickers.
Linebackers are majority black. They are called “the QBs of the defense”. You can see this where the MLB (the one who is the “QB” of the defense) directing calls and sometimes calling audibles. It doesn’t give a breakdown of Middle and Outside linebackers by race, but I’d assume that more MLBs are white, and more OLBs are black. The OLBs use their speed and agility to attempt a sack on the QB while the MLB needs to know where the ball is at all times.
Long snappers are all white. The long snapper is a Center who snaps the ball more than 15 yards during punts and 7 to 8 yards during field goals and extra point attempts.
The NT position is all black. A NT is the middle man on the defensive line in a 3-4 defense (3 down linemen, 4 linebackers as opposed to a 4-3 defense with 4 down linemen and 3 linebackers). The position is called “nose tackle” because the linemen lines up over the nose of the ball. The NT is usually the biggest player on the defense and pushes through the line to get to the QB to put pressure on him.
The same things that apply to punters, also apply to kickers.
Just what I was waiting for. QB. 65 white QBs compared to 14 black QBs. Why? Because the QB is, on average, the most intelligent player in the offense. He needs to remember calls, plays, audibles, needs to be calm under pressure and be analytical in where the ball is placed when there is a defender right on top of his receiver. Most all of the good QBs in the NFL are white. Those QBs in the NFL who are black, mostly are running QBs. That gets one dimensional over time, and the defense can better cue in to what the QB is doing so it gets stopped more often. The QB position is a proxy, IMO, for racial differences in intelligence because intelligence is a pretty big factor in regards to the QB position. To be able to think slightly into the future on where you need to throw the ball so your receiver can get to the ball away from the defender, to changing plays when you see a defensive alignment that doesn’t look right with the offensive alignment you already have called, the QB needs to be a highly intelligent person. Most black QBs are only liked because they make the game more exciting by 1) keeping the defense on their toes and 2) they break off huge runs when all players are covered and there is no one to tackle the QB.
Running backs are majority black. They need agility, quickness and speed to be able to shake defenders. Long limbs also help with covering more ground per step. This is why those players, such as Chris Johnson, had a 40 time of 4.24 seconds. Those with the fast twitch fibers are West African descended while those blacks with slow twitch fibers are East African descended. Most power backs are white in the NFL, which again comes back to slow twitch muscle fibers. They are usually stronger than those speed backs.
Safetys are majority black. As is the case with CB, safetys need the athleticism, long limbs, speed, quickness, agility and vision to be able to anticipate where the ball is, and then they need to be able to have the speed and agility to get to where the ball is on time, before a member of the opposing team has a chance to get to the ball.
Tackles, again are basically even, the same things apply for Guards and Centers.
Tight end is another position that’s about even. You need a bigger body to be able to position yourself better than the defender that’s covering you. Along with that bigger body comes longer limbs to be able to catch the ball at its highest point so the defender can’t tip or intercept the ball. You have some tightends, such as Vernon Davis, who are tall and have good speed. But he’s a rarity in tight ends in the NFL. The tightend is usually another blocker for the QB, so he needs the slow twitch muscle fibers. As I have alluded to above, the slow twitch muscle fibers have tightends able to hold blocks for a longer amount of time.
Finally, wide receiver is majority black. The same things as the other skill positions (RB, TE, QB), you need to have a big body to catch the ball at its highest point. They also need speed, quickness and agility to be able to get separation from the defender. You have some wide receivers who are short, but extremely fast like Washington Redskins receiver Desean Jackson, with a 4.35 40 time.
In this study by Wagner and Heyward, they note that biological differences exist between blacks and whites. They reviewed the literature on the differences between blacks and whites in fat free body mass (water, mineral and protein) fat patterning and body dimensions and proportions. Blacks, in general, have greater bone mineral density and body protein content than do whites, resulting in lower fat-free bone density. They also note racial differences in the differences of subcutaneous body fat, which is the body fat that’s just below the skin, as opposed to visceral body fat which is found in the peritoneal cavity, which can be measured with calipers to give a rough estimate of total body fat adiposity. The conclusion reached in the study was that differences in FFB (fat free body) was statistically significant between blacks and whites. They also have a greater BMC (bone mineral content) and BMD (bone mineral density) than do whites. They also argue that for a given BMI (body mass index), blacks might have less adiposity because they tend to be more mesomorphic. Researchers push for the development of racial-specific equations to better see differences in FFB.
The two races also differ in the width of hips, which less wide hips are better for more speed production in comparison to whites who have wider hips on average.
Differences in body type (somatype) are also linked to race. As I noted above, blacks skew more towards mesomorphy. Whites do as well, but it’s more prevalent in blacks. Endomorphs skew more towards Asians and whites. Ectomorphs skew more towards Asian populations.
In conclusion, football proves HBD right as well. The racial mix of differing positions, as well as strengths and weaknesses with them, show the reasons for certain races performing better than other races in certain positions. Innate physiological differences in blacks and whites show why there are racial disparities in all sports. Because of lower average fat mass in blacks, this allows for more speed because there is less body fat to weigh them down, on average. Somatypes also, roughly correlate with race.
We know and accept physical differences between the races that lead to over or underrepresentation in sports, but once someone brings up intelligence differences, you get shunned. So we all have the ability to be as intelligent as any other individual? Blacks have this innate advantage to be good at sports, but whites and Asians don’t get to say they are more intelligent on average?
Football is one of the 4 major sports in America that proves HBD.
Racial differences in sports also prove HBD. The differences are extremely clear to the naked eye, but there are many physiological differences between races that lead to disparities of one being over-represented over another race. I will touch on the three main races (Europeans, Asians and Africans), what they excel in and what they are below average in. Sports, as does academic achievement, prove HBD right. Sports prove innate athletic differences, whereas academic achievement proves innate differences in the brain, as well as intelligence. This is on average of course.
The word ‘sport’ is defined as an athletic activity requiring skill or physical ability, often of competitive nature. The sports I will touch on are baseball, basketball, soccer, football, weightlifting, bodybuilding, chess, gaming and hockey.
Baseball is predominantly white (MLB’s 2015 Racial/Gender Report Card), at 58.8 percent white (down from 60.9 in 2014), 8.3 percent black (up from 8.2 percent in 2014), 29.3 percent ‘Latino’ (up from 28.4 percent in 2014), and 1.2 percent Asian (down from 2 percent in 2014). Baseball is actually one of the only sports in America to be close enough to the ethnic mix of the country. According to the SABR (Society for American Baseball Research), the highest rate for black players in the MLB was in 1981 at 18.7 percent.
Before getting in to why the disparity is that large, I need to touch on ‘Latinos’ in baseball.
According to MLB.com, in 2014, 224 out of 853 players (750 active 25-man roster players and 103 disabled or restricted Major League players) were foreign-born, accounting for 26.3 percent of the players that year. Highest is the Dominican Republic with 83 players, followed by Venezuela with 59 players, Cuba with 19, Puerto Rico with 11, Mexico with 9, Colombia with 4, Panama with 4 and Nicaragua with 3. That makes 192 ‘Latino’ baseball players.
This article talks about how ‘black Latinos’ don’t get treated as black, but as ‘Latino’, when they are racially black (I will show some notable examples below). People like to think that it’s its own separate racial category when that’s not true at all.
Using 2014’s numbers, 520 players were white, 72 were black, 243 were ‘Latinos’, and 18 were Asians. We know that all ‘Latinos’ aren’t black, so using 2014’s numbers by country I will try to estimate the number of black ‘Latino’ players to try to get a real look at the racial breakdown in the MLB.
For brevity, I will just add each country up as what the majority mix of that particular country is. So, adding to the 72 black players I will add 83 from D.R., Cuba with 19, I’ll split P.R. with 5. Venezuela has a mix of blacks, whites and mulattoes, so I will just say 25 percent are black. That’s 15. Adding those up you get 194 black players. Keep in mind, a conservative estimate. So that makes the MLB about 23 percent black (this is only for those from foreign-born countries, I may make a comprehensive list one day if I feel up to it about this).
(I will just group mestizos as white for brevity to only have 3 categories.) So with that being said, 641 white players, 194 black players, and 18 Asian players. So with my guesstimate, baseball is 75 percent white, 23 percent black and 2 percent Asian in 2014.
Why the huge disparity? Simple. Baseball, at its core, is about reaction time. To quote Rushton and Jensen from their magnum opus Thirty Years of Research on Race Differences in Cognitive Ability (pg 244):
Reaction time is one of the simplest culture-free cognitive measures. Most reaction time tasks are so easy that 9- to 12-year-old children can perform them in less than 1 s. But even on these very simple tests, children with higher IQ scores perform faster than do children with lower scores, perhaps because reaction time measures the neurophysiological efficiency of the brain’s capacity to process information accurately—the same ability measured by intelligence tests (Deary, 2000; Jensen, 1998b). Children are not trained to perform well on reaction time tasks (as they are on certain paper-and-pencil tests), so the advantage of those with higher IQ scores on these tasks cannot arise from practice, familiarity, education, or training.
And from pg 245:
The same pattern of average scores on these and other reaction time tasks (i.e., East Asians faster than Whites faster than Blacks) is found within the United States. Jensen (1993) and Jensen and Whang (1994) examined the time taken by over 400 schoolchildren ages 9 to 12 years old in California to retrieve overlearned addition, subtraction, or multiplication of single digit numbers (from 1 to 9) from long-term memory. All of the children had perfect scores on paper-andpencil tests of this knowledge, which was then reassessed using the Math Verification Test. The response times significantly correlated (negatively) with Raven Matrices scores, whereas movement times have a near-zero correlation. The average reaction times for the three racial groups differ significantly (see Figure 2). They cannot be explained by the groups’ differences in motivation because the East Asian children averaged a shorter response time but a longer movement time than did the Black children.
Those with higher IQs average faster times on the simple RT, choice RT and odd-man-out RT. They follow Rushton’s Rule of Three, in which blacks will be at the bottom, whites in the middle and Asians at the top.
In this article, Mind Games: What Makes a Great Baseball Player Great, they say that studies done by Columbia University on Babe Ruth while he was playing showed that he could react to visual and sound cues better than the normal population, as well as having better hand-eye coordination than 98.8 percent of the population. A great proportion of MLB players have 20/20 vision or better. Within higher-skilled players, even then there are huge differences in reaction time (IQ differences). Hitters also have to predict where the ball will be, all within a 4/10ths of a second. This infographic explains it well. So you need an extremely high reaction time to hit a fastball coming at you at 95 miles per hour. All of this proves that, on average, baseball players have high IQs because of a lot of the things associated with baseball, also correlate highly with IQ.
Personality also is a factor. According to the previously linked article, with the example of Darryl Strawberry and Billy Beane, Strawberry handled the pressure well, while Beane folded under pressure. Seems this has to do with extroversion and introversion. Strawberry says that self-confidence and mental toughness come in to play because they fail 66 percent of the time they come up to hit.
Athletic ability is also important. The top two record holders for stolen bases in the MLB are blacks. Has to do with fast twitch muscle fibers (muscle fibers that exert force faster, but tire out more quickly than slow twitch). So you can see how natural fast twitch muscle fibers help blacks on the field, as well as the base pads, in baseball.
To touch on a previous point, even in the upper end of hitters (the elite ones), there are still marked differences in reaction time (IQ). That makes sense, seeing as I alluded to before that it takes 4/10ths of a second for a 95 MPH fastball to reach home plate.
Why the low rate for Asians? Well, natural athletic ability for one. The second reason is myopia. Those with myopia do have a higher IQ on average (as the correlation is .25), but those that are nearsighted are often late in their reactions to higher speed pitches. For something anecdotal, I’ve noticed that most Asians are pitchers, either starters of relievers. This article talks about the critical vision skills that pitchers need, and all though Asians are only 2 percent of the MLB, their high visio-spatial ability, along with high reaction times, they are able to succeed as good pitchers in the MLB.
Outfielders are generally fast and quick. Blacks round out a good amount of outfielders, whereas whites round out catcher, as well as a majority of the infield, due to a lot of line-drive hits coming at them, which the player needs high reaction times to be able to catch/field the ball.
Sports prove HBD, just like academic/monetary achievement. Intelligence, as well as physical differences, are pretty much innate. They show in all facets of life. Even though they are obvious to most, no one ever speaks out on it.