Sunday, November 28, 2010

HBD (Human Biodiversity) and "Race Realism"

If, like me, you read a lot of stuff on the web and are interested in the nature of race, racism and ethnicity, you will more than likely come across the HBD crowd. HBD stands for "Human Biodiversity", which sounds like a nice thing, no?

But it's not so nice; rather, it is an online community of people who are obsessed with race, and the idea of races being better and worse than others. It's also known as "Race Realism"; the two things are not quite the same, but they are often used interchangeably.

The basic idea is that race is far more than a social construct. Not only is it very real, but the differences between each race affect not just appearance, but behaviour and intelligence as well. Now, most reasonable people would probably agree that genetics and ancestry have some bearing on how a person's life turns out, but for HBDers, they are everything.

A lot of HBD discussion revolves around IQ, and fittingly the holy books of HBD include Richard Lynn's IQ and the Wealth of Nations, and The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray. The assumptions are as follows:

  • IQ tests can accurately measure something as complex as human intelligence.
  • IQ is strongly hereditary and is barely affected by environment or education.
  • Northern Europeans and East Asians are on average more intelligent than other races.
  • They are smarter than Africans because their ancestors evolved thusly to deal with the cold climates they faced after leaving Africa.
  • The average IQ scores of countries are the major factor in how rich, successful and stable they are.

It's an interesting contrast with Left-Liberal thinking, which tends to focus on social contexts for why certain people or populations perform better than others. For example, the social factors that go along with being the member of a disadvantaged class or living in poverty might have a negative influence on someone's academic ability, and thus their IQ score. But for HBDers, it is usually the other way around; if someone is disadvantaged or poor, it is probably BECAUSE their IQ is low.

Likewise, the more technologically advanced civilisations of Europe and East Asia are seen as reflections of the high IQ of the inhabitants. Of course, one problem with this is that civilisations rise and fall. Despite the relatively high IQ of Northern Europe (98-102), that region was quite backward until less than a 1000 years ago, when they began to absorb some of the cultural innovations of the Mediterranean and Middle East. By contrast, the countries who invented so many of the things Northern Europe benefited from, perform more poorly in average IQ; Greece averages 92, Egypt 83, Iran 84 and Iraq 87. Israel, full of apparently intelligent Jews, averages only 94.

The best alternative to this kind of thinking that I have read is found in Jared Diamond's seminal book Guns, Germs and Steel, which I shall endeavour to post on at some point. While it's by no means a perfect book, Diamond outlines convincingly how different populations were largely subject to what was available in terms of influences and their environment. For example, Australian Aborigines never developed agriculture not because they were stupid, but because the plants and animals around them were not suited to such a lifestyle. The Aztecs, Mayans and Olmecs, by contrast, had a rich ecosystem of plants to domesticate, and developed their own systems of writing and astronomy. Yet they never invented the wheel, because they had no draught animals to attach it to. Likewise, certain innovations that developed in the Middle East could diffuse into Europe or Asia quite easily, but never made it into say, Australia or the Americas, due to geographical barriers.

Not every HBDer is necessarily a racist - some don't really dwell on the racial stuff that much - but most seem to be, to some extent. HBD blogs seem to devote an enormous amount of time to discussing the primitive nature of black people. And while most are white, there are a few Asian HBD bloggers as well. Thus the use of the term NAM, which means "non-Asian minority", to denote those brownish racial groups who apparently don't stack up intellectually. Asian HBDers are interesting; it's hard to escape the conclusion that deep down, they really, really want to be white.

There also seems to be a lot of links between HBD and the PUA (pick-up artist) scene, which I don't really get. My guess is that the PUAs favour a sexist and biologically determinist view of women, which gels well with HBD's determinist outlook on the hierarchies of society.

Reading HBD blogs, I can't help but get a sense of the bloggers' and commenters' self-absorption and entitlement at finally having a science-based theory that backs up their racist instincts. So where antagonism towards, say, blacks or Hispanics, is normally seen as an unsavoury characteristic, HBD gives an intellectual basis for such sentiment. It is merely the "natural order of things" that some people are on top and others are on the bottom, and thus it is a natural match with those tendencies that exist within conservatism.

What is the goal of HBDers? Generally speaking, they are against multiculturalism and immigration from the Third World, since they believe that such people are intrinsically incapable of integrating and performing in a Western context. They are generally against affirmative action, since that is based on the assumption that disadvantaged minorities are disadvantaged due to lack of opportunity, rather than lack of ability.

For all the criticisms that can be directed at Left-Liberalism, one of it's core ideas - that disadvantaged groups are worthy of respect and support - is a pretty admirable one, rooted in compassionate principles. By contrast, HBD in many ways is an intellectual justification for being an compassionless asshole.

Some blog posts that exemplify the HBD/race realist mentality:

Racial reality and the New Orleans nightmare by Steve Sailer

The racial tallies are in at Planet Grok's blog.

Would blacks survive in Finland? at Guy White's blog.

And some countering points of view:

Half Sigma: Spreading the truth through lies at Abagond's blog, if you want an idea of the tactics of some of this crowd.

Asian Racism and the "Asian of Reason" at Big WoWo's blog.

You might also like my post, Race, IQ and Penis Size.


  1. This is a great synopsis of HBD (with the added benefit of its links to PUAs), and another book I might add to the reading list would be The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould.

  2. Thanks for the analysis Eurasian. I do think human intelligence is too complicated to measure by IQ tests. I remember reading about an award-winning architect who admitted, during his award acceptance ceremony, that he's socially stupid and easily fooled. IQ can measure one's ability to solve math problems but it cannot measure social intelligence, for example.

    Even so, the HBD ppl have conveniently overlooked the Eskimo/Inuit people, who, by their own reasoning, should be dominating the world.

    PS. I read Guns, Germs and Steels, and while I highly disagree with Diamond's racial division of Africa, since it falls along colonial lines, I think the book is quite good in putting human civilization into perspective for people who want insight into geo-cultural politics of the world.

  3. @ Mel:
    I'm curious, what did you find problematic with Diamond's racial division of Africa? It's a while since I've read the book so I can't quite remember, but I thought it seemed OK.

  4. Jesus Christ, I just had a look at Planet Grok's blog. How sick does a man have to be to actively get up and post stuff like that? I am all for examining different races, cultures etc., but its hard to believe that his "scientific reasoning" is anything but a lame-ass attempt at trying to compensate for his own insecurities.

  5. @ Nihar:
    interesting, huh? And of course, white people come out of his tally pretty unscathed, as the "happy medium".

  6. Nice summary of the HBD position.

    Be careful to avoid any more reading of the HBD canon (Eysenck, Jensen, Lynn, Rushton, Herrnstein, Murray, Gottfredson, Harpending, Sesardic et al.) or you may be converted over to the views of those evil HBD racists!

    But seriously, the interesting question to a person with a rational empiricist scientific frame of mind is not whether or not the HBD position is "racist", or "compassionless", but whether or not the HBD position is TRUE in a strictly factual sense.

    According to our modern Western moral doctrines it is wrong to be a racist. But to believe that Blacks are inherently stupider than Whites is an a priori racist viewpoint--YET IT MAY BE THE SCIENTIFICALLY TRUE VIEW. This modern paradox, where it is considered morally wrong for a person to admit that they believe in what they see to be the truth is why HBD is still only openly endorsed by a fringe element. Most people would rather pretend to disbelieve the truth and thus maintain their claim to the moral highground that is held by the non-Racist doctrine of ethnoracial group equality in innate cognitive ability levels.

    I think any reasonably cogent observer of our modern ethnically diverse societies can see that the HBD position is probably much closer to the truth than the competing Boasian equalitarian viewpoint.

    FYI -A major effort to discover the genes that modulate IQ is currently underway in China.

  7. @ Galtonian:

    Interesting comment. It begs the question, are HBDers, or anti-racists for that matter, really genuine in their beliefs about race and IQ and the scientific basis to back those beliefs up?

    You could convincingly argue that anti-racists are too eager to gloss over anything that challenges an "equalitarian" viewpoint. Likewise, HBD circles seem to be dominated by people with an agenda, and are only too eager to trust any reading of data that paints certain groups as biologically inferior. There is an almost palpable joy amongst some HBDers anytime they come across a news article that shows blacks or Hispanics doing something violent or stupid, because it seemingly validates their beliefs about them.

    Personally, I have no argument with the fact that some groups tend to perform less well on IQ tests than others. What I do have a problem with are the following:

    * The assumption that IQ is an accurate and complete representation of the complex workings of human intelligence and vis a vis human behaviour and performance.

    * The assumption that intelligence is almost entirely genetic, and not particularly influenced by environments, nutrition and other factors.

    * The assumption that anyone from any culture has a level playing field when it comes to taking an IQ test.

    I took 2 IQ tests recently, just for something to do. I can't say how "real" they were in terms of being "proper" IQ tests. But on the first one, I scored 108. The second time, I scored 138. Thats a huge gap, and a few factors would account for it, such as the frame of mind I was in, and the extra level of comfort with that form of testing on the second one. But anyway, what that says to me is that it's not the be-all and end-all of intelligence analysis and we shouldn't pretend that it is.

  8. @ Eurasian. I had real issues with Diamond classifying East Africans as Caucasian, or the Khoikhoi people as "not black" for example. I have issues with the term Caucasian and its colonial roots, for example. "Race," as he used it was defined along strict Eurocentric lines. You'll probably disagree, and I can expand on this more thoroughly, but we'll just leave it at that. (PS. he did refer to New Papua Guinea ppl as black, strangely).

  9. @ Mel:

    I don't have the book in front of me, but I recall him describing North Africans as Caucasian, which is basically true... As for East Africans (by which I take it to mean Ethiopians/Somalis/etc) they clearly have a Caucasian component.

    I realise that dividing people up into racial categories is problematic and often subject to outdated terminology, but since people understand those terms, they are still useful.

  10. Eurasian Sensation,

    Thanks for the linkage!

    I actually debated with the Asian of Reason, and I agree with your assessment. HBD people LOVE to find instances of black people failing, as if no one else failed. We debated AOR on podcast (hear it here), and when we pressed him on the fact that he had no evidence of this achievement gap, he said that it was because people were afraid to do research to find the evidence. I guess it's just a matter of what people want to believe.

    As for the link between HBD and PUA, I think the connection is that they both categorize people and believe that people act a certain way based on nature. On the surface, PUA is just lines ("Who lies more, men or women?"), but if you talk to PUA instructors, most have researched the evolutionary psychology behind it. Not all PUAs are racist, and not all HBD'ers study PUA, but there are similarities between "I can game any woman" and "I'm a White guy whose genes make me smarter than most black people." The first takes individual agency away from women, the second does the same against black people. AOR blogs on both topics, and in both cases, the feeling that I got from his words were similar--it was either "this is how women act" or "this is how black people are."

    Anyway, great blog you have here. Keep up the awesome work!

  11. @ Big WoWo:

    Nice work. I think you nailed it with your description of the PUA-HBD linkage.

  12. There are a few obvious errors you made.
    "it is an online community of people who are obsessed with race, and the idea of races being better and worse than others"

    Some race-themed blogs will attack races and give a racial hierarchy of "good" and "bad". They're race-themed blogs which acknowledge HBD, not HBD blogs which talk race. HBD at its core is just a subset of human population genetics.

    "The basic idea is that race is far more than a social construct. Not only is it very real, but the differences between each race affect not just appearance, but behaviour and intelligence as well. "

    Why wouldn't it?

    "Now, most reasonable people would probably agree that genetics and ancestry have some bearing on how a person's life turns out, but for HBDers, they are everything. "

    There are no HBD blogs I know of that put the heritability of traits like intelligence and behaviour at 1. All of them acknowledge environment's (smaller) role.

    "By contrast, the countries who invented so many of the things Northern Europe benefited from, perform more poorly in average IQ; Greece averages 92, Egypt 83, Iran 84 and Iraq 87. Israel, full of apparently intelligent Jews, averages only 94."

    Contrary to what many people now think, the Arab countries didn't give us much. Astronomy? Not much. Mathematics? Took Hindu numerals and passed them along. Cultural advances, philosophy, literature, secularism? Forget about it.

    Israel's (apparent) national IQ of 94 would be higher if its population was majority Asheknazi Jewish (Ashkenazi Jews have an average IQ of 112-115). It's only 40% Ashkenazic. The rest of its population is made up of Jews from Arab countries (Mizrachim), Arabs and Africans.

  13. @ Jammer:

    I take your point about the difference between what you think HBD is and what I think it is. Given that it is a loose "movement" of a variety of people, no one description is going to fit everyone.

    "Contrary to what many people now think, the Arab countries didn't give us much. Astronomy? Not much. Mathematics? Took Hindu numerals and passed them along. Cultural advances, philosophy, literature, secularism? Forget about it."

    Forget "Arabs" for a minute. Where did the first civilisations start? The Middle East. The Arabs and others that live their today would be genetically little different to the people who invented agriculture, writing and cities, while Nordics were still hunting and gathering.

  14. I am a Latina who happens to have an IQ of 112. My heritage comprises of Portuguese, Swiss, Amerindians, and some African Slaves. Unlike most Latinos, however, I am fortunate of being born to educated parents who gave me an opportunity of having a healthy childhood and sending me to the best schools, and raising me to have an open mind, which would not allow me to think like HBDers do.

    What might explain the apparent lack of intelligence to most of the minorities that you mention is having all the opportunities that me and you had being denied to them.

    For example, the colonization of Africa, Americas, South East Asia, and other countries whose native population you deem "inferior" cannot show their full potential due to outsiders, especially European activities, such as making sure they would not have their voices heard and nor educated to stand up against you, but fortunately they became independent.

    All I ask you is, please, think twice before you lump everybody in a group and deem them inferior, not deserving equal rights, making their lives less valuable due to skin color. I hate to say that, but the belief that genetics predetermine an individual's accomplishments throughout his or her life is, at best outdated and very primitive.

  15. I am not saying this in a mocking way, but I seriously respect you! You are a multiculturalist who knows what you are talking about but still believe in your views!! I was kind of middle ground myself until I read excerpts of classical historians' writing, and reading about the American soldiers' rapes in Okinawa just sealed the deal.

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  17. no worries least they have athleticsm all the whites are always saying that they are the strongest race...well not anymore

    black bodybuilders are dominating

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  19. Hi Eurasian! I found this googling around, and I'd like to say that you give an excellent review of HBD / race realism. As someone who is sympathetic to HBDers, I can corroborate most of what you say, especially this:

    "I take your point about the difference between what you think HBD is and what I think it is. Given that it is a loose 'movement' of a variety of people, no one description is going to fit everyone."

    Ironically, this itself is HBD-style thinking. Just as conservatives aren't typically as imaginative or well educated as liberals, and just as East Asians generally do well in math, HBDers tend to be, well, Machiavellian and unsavory. There are a lot of exceptions, of course, like...

    * Robert Lindsay, a leftist and a race realist:

    * Charles Murray, a right-libertarian and co-author of the (in)famous Bell Curve:

    * Peter Frost, anthropologist

    ...but none of them disprove the rule.

    Although I wouldn't be surprised if there were something innately harsh about the psychology of HBDers, part of the reason HBDers tend to be so cynical may be that they're so badly stigmatized by modern society. They're the new communists - ideological enemies of the establishment who seem to be lurking everywhere. And in a sense, they are, because in order to function in day-to-day society they need to hide their beliefs from almost everyone they know; family, romantic partners, co-workers, everyone.

    Personally, I believe in genuine tolerance, and that means accepting people not only how they look or what color they are, but even if they don't believe the same things I do. I feel lucky to have known people who deny the moon landings happened, people who believe in telepathy, vegetarians and paleo-diet fanatics, and of course HBDers as well. Different ideas may be crazy, but they're almost always enriching, and I think life would be a lot better if more people felt the same way!

  20. IMO the most important point one needs to know in order to disprove or support HBD is the speed, with which human genes adapt to their environment.

    Suppose that one generation lasts 20 years (which IMO is rather too high than too low):

    If IQ can increase/decrease for instance 20 points in 50 generations, if the circumstances favored smart people, then this could explain why Greek and Romans lost their intellectual superiority in Europe and the Nordic States became smart in about 1000 years.
    If one could prove that such changes take longer, then the fact, that the Southern Europeans were once superior to the Northerners could be used to disprove the theory.

    Let's also not forget that a lot happened in Europe between the year 0 and 1000 that could have played a role. One could for instance look at England:
    First the Romans invaded England around 50 past Christ. Since a lot of Roman soldiers settled down in England (and married English women), this led to admixture of Roman DNA in England.
    At around 600 the Angles and Saxons (Germanic tribes) invaded England, which also led to a lot of admixture with English DNA. At 1066 the Normans invaded England, which again changed their DNA. So the English at the year 0 genetically were quite different from the English at the year 1100, even if you suppose that the DNA did not evolve independently from those admixtures.

    In mainland Europe there were also great migrations, especially after the fall of the Roman Empire around 500 after Christ.

    A point that IMO supports HBD is the fact, that sickle cell disease is far less prevalent in African Americans than in West Africans (since there was no malaria in the United States and sickle cells are somewhat effective against malaria), even though the descendants of former slaves had only been in America for a maximum of 400 years.

  21. One of the reasons I think HBD is important and it's not about "superior" or "inferior" is that when living in Western societies, "racism" is blamed for black people, on average, not succeeding to the same level as white people. I believe this amounts to nothing less than blood libel and fuels hatred against white people.

  22. Pity you focused only on IQ, like many people actually, as a result they simply feel insulted as some old "inferiority" complexes show up. HBD isn't about that, it's not a "philosophy". Anyway, I come from a European country where we don't have any significant minorities and we really don't want that. We are very open, we love diversity and other cultures, races, people from all over the world, but we don't want to change our country, we just want to preserve our race, culture and values. Are we racists? (we're not, but if you think we are, it means marxism really works, sorry). Do we really need to be multicultural to be "equal"? Besides, why, do you think, there are high crime rates in multicultural countries? Not because some particular race is exceptionally stupid or aggressive, but people fight for dominance when they're all in one place - this is our nature.