Thursday 5 June 2014

Richard Lynn, Kazakhstan, cold winters and the world


How bright are human beings? A first step to answer this question would be to make a list of intelligence test results in all the countries of the world. Perhaps out of fear at finding the answers, no official body has ever done this, even though they have the resources to do so. The OECD make sure that PISA (Programme for International Assessment) is very well funded, and they test children and sometimes adults. Measuring scholastic attainment is deemed acceptable, intelligence not.  The word “intelligence” never passes their lips. Too sensitive. Of course, one can derive intelligence scores from scholastic attainments, but why not measure it directly?

Instead of that, one retired professor working from home has done the job himself. Bereft of government patronage, he uses the same simple technique followed by Darwin: he makes professional relationships with other scholars across the world, encourages them in their work, and collates the results. The results have been published in numerous books. Richard has been working to flesh out the gaps in the register of national assessment results,  and to improve the findings from smaller and poorer countries in particular. All he needs is more co-workers across the planet. If you would like to help collecting data, please let me know.

Also, if you can help put together a proper database of all the world’s national IQ results, please have a look at the current list of intelligence studies listed in his most recent book. These studies need gathering into one place, and need to be assessed in terms of sample sizes, representativeness, measuring instrument characteristics and, wherever possible, demographic and genetic characteristics. There is a very large meta-analytic paper to be written by one (or several) of you.

Anyway, no sooner is Prof Richard Lynn back from Lappland than he sets off to Kazakhstan in the company of Grigoriev to measure Kazakhstan’s intelligence. They used a new version of Raven Matrices, and give their results in “British IQ” or as we used to call it Greenwich Mean IQ, that is to say standardized on a UK population.

Andrei Grigoriev and Richard Lynn. A study of the intelligence of Kazakhs, Russians and Uzbeks in Kazakhstan. Intelligence Volume 46, September–October 2014, Pages 40–46.

An IQ for Kazakhstan can be calculated from these results as follows:

The Russians have a mean British IQ of 103.2 and comprise 23.6% of the population; the Kazakhs have a mean British IQ of 82.2 and comprise 63.1% of the population; the Uzbeks have a mean British IQ of 86.0 and comprise 2.8% of the population. Weighting the IQs of these three groups by their percentages of the population gives an IQ of 87.9 for Kazakhstan. These three groups comprise 89.5% of the population. The remaining 10.5% consists of Chuvash, Tartars, Uyghurs and other south Asian peoples. Early studies of intelligence in the former Soviet Union found that these peoples had lower IQs than ethnic Russians (Grigoriev & Lynn, 2009). Their IQ is likely about the same as that of Kazakhs (82.2). On this assumption, adding this fourth group and weighting the IQs of the four groups by their percentages of the population gives an IQ of 87.3 for Kazakhstan.

This figure compares quite closely with the British IQ of 84.7 for Kazakhstan calculated byLynn and Vanhanen (2012, p.24) from the PISA 2009 study of the achievement of school students in grades 4 and 8 in mathematics and science and with the British IQ of 85.6 for Kazakhstan calculated from the PISA 2012 study of the achievement of 15 year old school students. The closeness of the estimates from the PISA studies and the present IQ study is a further confirmation that the PISA results give a good measure of the intelligence of nations. However, these results are not consistent with the 2007 TIMSS of the mathematical and science abilities of grade 4 and grade 8 school students from which an IQ 101 for Kazakhstan was calculated by Lynn and Mikk (2007). This suggests errors in the 2007 TIMSS data for Kazakhstan.their percentages of the population gives an IQ of 87.3 for Kazakhstan.

The low IQ of the Kazakhs and Uzbeks raises a problem for the explanation of the evolution of racial differences in intelligence. The leading theory for this is the cold winters theory proposed by Lynn, 1991 and Lynn, 2006 that higher intelligence evolved in environments with colder winters as adaptations to the greater cognitive demands of survival through these. This theory has been accepted by Rushton (2000), Kanazawa (2008) and Templer and Arikawa (2006) who have presented data for lowest winter temperatures and national IQs for 129 countries and reported a correlation of − .66, i.e. there is a tendency for the populations of higher IQ countries to have lower winter temperatures. More recently, this association has been confirmed by Meisenberg and Woodley (2013) who have reported a correlation of − .746 between lowest winter temperatures and national IQs for 143 countries.

These negative correlations support the cold winters theory, but Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are anomalies because they have very low winter temperatures but not high IQs. Templer and Arikawa (2006)give data for average winter temperatures for 129 countries including − 15 °C for Kazakhstan and − 6 °C for Uzbekistan, compared with around zero for northern and central Europe (e.g. − 3 °C for Germany, − 1 °C for Belgium, 2 °C for France and Britain), and − 3 °C for China and Japan.

In addition to the cold winters theory, it has been proposed by Miller, 2005 and Miller, 2014 and Lynn (2006) that it is necessary to posit the appearance of new alleles for enhanced intelligence that appeared as genetic mutations in some populations but failed to appear in others or, if they did appear, failed to spread throughout the populations. It has been shown by Cochran and Harpending (2009) that a number of new alleles appeared in different populations during the last ten thousand years. The present results showing the low IQs of Kazakhs and Uzbeks despite the very cold winters in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are a further anomaly for the cold winters theory of the evolution of racial differences in intelligence and a further strengthening of the hypothesis of the appearance of new alleles for enhanced intelligence that appeared as genetic mutations in some populations but failed to appear or failed to spread in others including central Asia.

It would seem that cold winters often, but not always, boost intelligence. I would say “Necessary but not sufficient” but I am not even sure how necessary they are, because genetic mutations should show up even balmy climates, and should confer advantage. Nonetheless, the grand aim of science is to cover as many observations with as few axioms as possible, and cold winter theory does a good job on that account. Lynn, the great protagonist of cold winter theory, is doing what all empiricists should do: reporting anomalies wherever he find them. New science grows out of the anomalous margins. Perhaps the theory should be amended to: cold winters favour intelligent survivors, thus boosting intelligence wherever favourable mutations occur.


  1. Kazaks were nomads. Pastoralism would have different implications for cognitive evolution than settled agriculture. Also Kazaks are Muslims, so they have marital custom differences relative to other cold-weather peoples in Inner Asia. In fact it would be interesting to compare the IQs of all the various Muslim and non-Muslim speakers of Altaic languages. We know Mongolia has pretty high IQ although they too were mostly nomads. There are other non-Muslim peoples speaking Turkic and Mongolic languages, some with their own "autonomous republics" within Russia : Chuvash, Tuvans, Khakass, Yakuts (Turkic) and Buryats, Kalmyks, Oirat, Dagur (Mongolic).

  2. Thanks. The authors wrote: The region north of Caucasus, near to Kazakhstan, is the origin of Indo-European language but the Kazahks have mixed (predominantly Mongoloid) ancestry. Kazakhstan had a population of approximately 17 million recorded in the 2009 census (Kazakhstan Statistical Agency, 2009). Until the late 1920s the Kazakhs were predominantly a nomadic pastoral people, very few of the children attended school and about 98% were illiterate. In the late 1920s they were required to become settled and elementary education became compulsory throughout the Soviet Union (The Big Soviet Encyclopaedia, 1953, vol 19, p. 347). Today, the population of Kazakhstan is ethnically diverse. The census of 2009 gives the population as 63.1% Kazakh, 23.6% Russian, 2.8% Uzbeck, 1.4% Uyghur, and 10.0% others (Kazakhstan Statistical Agency, 2009).
    So, in that sense what we are seeing now is many generations of nomads and three generations of agricultural environmentalism, suggesting that they should be at the Soviet level, which has not happened.

  3. I neglected to mention that Kalmykia ("the only Buddhist region of Europe", if you can consider being just north of Daghestan being in Europe) has a strange association with chess. Its former president is the current head of FIDE and as president he made chess compulsory in primary schools ! Anyway Kalmyks are also a predominantly Mongoloid people (in a Caucasoid sea), much like Kazaks and Turkmen (though not Uzbeks, who definitely are more Caucasoid). I'd really like to know what the Kalmyk IQ is and if it is higher why it would be higher than those of Kazaks. Kalmyks had also been nomads until the Soviets forced them to settle.

  4. If Kalmyk IQ is higher than Kazak then it must have something to do with religion/marital practices as they are otherwise quite similar.

  5. Confucius says “assumption is the mother of screw-ups”. Somehow many people automatically assume that the world map (with the corresponding local populations) we see now is the same as the world map from 1,000 years ago, which is again the same as the world map of 10,000 years ago… and so on. Obviously for many population groups, this is entirely false.

    “Cold Winter” theory is about the “cold winter effect” on populations from eons ago. The Cold slection process was likely to be 10s of 1,000s of years to be ‘effective”, otherwise why not just move Nigerians and Indians to Finland and Canada for a while and they all could have become high IQers. The ancestors of many or even majority of people (many of them are Eurasian-mix which happened much later than “Cold Winter Era” anyway) of nowadays Kazakhstan and Uzbeck were arguablely not from the region, hence arguablelly have not endured “Cold Selection” or the same degree of “Cold Selection” we automatically assume.

    For example, a big part of Uzbeckstan was heavily populated by Han Chinese merely 1,500 years ago belonging to Chinese Tang Dynasty map. One of the most famous Chinese poets of Tang Dynasty, called Li Bai, was born and raised in today’s Uzbeckstan. This btw refutes another mainstream media propagnada lie that "Uyghurs are indigenous people of XinJiang of Western China, while Han Chinese are recent immigrants there designed to invade Uygher's land". The historical fact is that the region (both Xin Jiang and nearby much of today's Stanland) has been living by the Han Chinese continuously for well over 2,000 years belonging to Han Dynasty, Tang Dynasty, Yuan and Qing Dynasties, while the very first group of Uyghers in history who came to the region and were allowed to settle -- by the Han Chinese elites there, how ironic! -- was about merely 400 years ago after the collapse of the Mongols. Nowadays mainstream political propaganda just turns entire history upside down at their will...

    Another example, people “naturally” assume, of course, that people from -3C Northern/middle Japan are more “cold-selected” than Han Chinese from today’s +20C Southern China Hunan province for instance. The reality is most likely just reverse, simplely because most current Hunan people are direct descendents of Han Chinese who were endured probably -30C “cold winter” for 1000s of years in Northern China before migrated to mountainous South China and isolated there since, whereas many of the partial ancestors of people of today’s northern or middle Japan were actually coming from SE Asia/Asian Pacific tropical weather 10 of 1,000s years ago without much “cold-selection” .

  6. Well, I hate to keep saying it, but the solution is simple: cold winter theory is hardly the whole story, or even most of it. The Kazakh, being generally pastoral and often not living under a strong state, never underwent Clark-Unz selection for intelligence. Hence, what you see. That's clearly the most parsimonious explanation.

    Also, see the sharp IQ discontinuity between Southern China and Southeast Asia (with only Vietnam being intermediate), as discussed by Peter Frost.

    Also related: Where HBD Chick’s Hypothesis Works | JayMan's Blog

    and her response: response to jayman’s post | hbd* chick. We discuss Central Asia.

  7. The solution is not simple because according to Lynn Mongols have IQ=101. That is, indeed, based on Inner Mongolia rather than Outer Mongolia. But that doesn't change anything because the inhabitants of both were just as nomadic and pastoralist as the Kazaks. Both populations were sedentarised only last century. So your general point is right -- cold weather doesn't explain everything -- but in this case Clarkian selection also seems unlikely because of the nomadism.

  8. Many of the links you provide require a UCL password and username just to view them, so I am unable to even see any details of the publications. Would you be able to provide more publicly accessible links? Once I can see the publication details I can access them through my own institution if I want read further.

  9. "Somehow many people automatically assume that the world map (with the corresponding local populations) we see now is the same as the world map from 1,000 years ago,"

    And why do Chinese nationalists always assume any piece of land that was at one time or another part of the Chinese empire must have been populated by Han ?

    1. That's not an assumption, because

      1) by 101 logic if it's a part of the national sovereign map, there must be some (Han) Chinese nationals living there, instead of e.g. Americans or Nato,troops, isn't it? and

      2) it is a fact, like it or not, that the (current) Western part of China, and "slightly" beyond to put it mildly, has been populated by Chinese border troopers/garrisons alongwith their families and the world's first "int';l import& export merchants", MASSIVE during some eras, since Han Dynasty for about 2,000 years in order to to protect and grow the "Silk Road". Actually they even discovered recently some long-wasted blocks of China's "Great Wall" in today's Stanland. Of course, the Han were not the only tribe living there. There were at least half a dozen minority tribes such as Mongols, Qiang, Hui, etc, since the very beginning. Some of these tribes died off naturally or were substutited by the new comers such as the Manchus etc lately. The fact is the Han has been there for 2,000 years, continuously across many dynasties, guarding it most of the time as a part of imperial China's sovereign land. In comparison, the Uyhgurs are relatively as new immigrants there in Western China (i.e. about 400-500 years history) as about Turks to the modern nation/state of Germany.

      The only question is do you think it's oke that 400 years from now for the Turks to claim that the Germans are new immigrants to South Bravaria and Lower Saxon, which btw are Turk's ancestral land, just because Turks will have more population living there then than the Germans due to much higher breeding rate with 400 years, exactly like how nowadays the Uyhgurs claim they're "native" to the Western China over the so-called "Han Chinese immigrants", with direct financial and political support of the US State department and the lying/crying/bleeding heart world mainstream media?

  10. well I would circumvent all your prattle with the following observation :

    1. the discussion is about Kazaks

    2. they were nomads until recently

    3. Turkestan is a big place. the eastern boundary of the Tang was the Pamirs where Kazaks do not live and have never lived

    4. so your entire twaddle about hypothetical han settlements in eastern turkestan is a nonsequitur

  11. "who have reported a correlation of − .746 between lowest winter temperatures and national IQs for 143 countries."

    Would the correlations be even better if you split the populations between coastal, near inland and far inland categories and calculated for each category?


    I think the likely components are

    1) cold weather adaptation
    2) civilization bonus (through cognitive competition)
    3) coastal bonus (environmental, iodine etc)

    So to me cold weather adaptation would simply provide the baseline IQ. A population at the tropics might be able to get by with an average of 70 and a population that has to cope with -30 winters might only need an average of 90 with diminishing returns beyond that.

    On top of this baseline, civilization - where possible (and the possibility would include both base IQ and local environment) - would add to this base through people competing for the most favored positions in a more complex society.

    So maybe Kazakhs represent the baseline IQ needed for that level of cold weather adaptation?

    However that doesn't explain the difference between them and the Mongols.

    Which leads to the 3rd category, environmental e.g. good sources of necessary IQ ingredients in diet, especially early diet e.g. iodine in fish or dairy.

    Did being forced to settle down change the nomadic Kazakh diet in some way which didn't change for the Mongols e.g. milk?

    I wonder if the Soviets did any IQ tests on Kazakhs when they were being forced to change lifestyle and if their IQ was different then?

  12. I think the correlation between ancestral climate and IQ would have been much higher pre-agriculture. But agriculture (or more precisely the population explosion it causes) boosted IQ by as much as 13 points. Some tropical populations got this 13 point boost, while some cold populations were too isolated, so as a result, the correlation between climate and population IQ is far from perfect.

    I also speculate that this may explain the rise and fall of the middle east:

  13. The study fails to take into account relatively recent changes in Kazakhstan (i.e., the breakdown of many institutions in the early 1990s). I also wonder if the rural\urban differences were taken into account as well. Kazakhs are predominantly rural (bad schools), while Russians are predominantly urban (better schools).

    Nomadism doesn't explain anything since rural Mongols and rural Kazakhs practice pretty much identical lifestyle.

    1. I get the feeling we could pull all these strands of commentary together into a paper if someone (not me) were willing to take a lead

  14. Islam might be another factor that could drive IQ scores down, it has had about 1000+ years to work.

  15. Have you ever looked into archaeological support for the "cold winters boosting intelligence" theory, like what global brain size looked like during the ice age? You'd find that brain size was much larger than it is worldwide, including Africa and Australia. This is almost always absent in any of these discussions, despite it being a principal piece of evidence in discussing the evolution of human intelligence in earlier periods. In a rare instance where I've seen it brought up, Nisbett's 2009 book, Rushton and Jensen, in response, used the encephalization argument, which has most often been used by people like Nisbett to argue there's no correlation between brain size and intelligence.

    Lynn isn't doing what all good empiricists should do, he's still ignoring a basic piece of evidence he and people like him have done for decades and trying to fit in an anomaly (based heavily on his generally less than reliable/honest IQ figures) into his understanding of human evolution in ignorance of something so basic. I'm reminded of how he explained why inuits scored poorly on IQ tests because their populations weren't dense enough for favorable mutations- that always struck me as spurious. I've also read he claimed the same for Mongolians* (they're not intelligent?), and that the Ainu, who are supposedly less intelligent than east asians, missed out on the demands of the ice age. Even though they, being a remnant of proto-mongoloids and essentially tied into the caucasoid-mongoloid split, would have indeed done so.

    *The fact they and other people from the same regions are among the most violent and destructive in history doesn't seem to bode well for ideas about behavior selection.

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