"Substantial" Genetic Influence on Choice of A-Levels

Your genes play a key role in deciding whether you decide to take A-levels and which subjects you decide to take them in:

We have previously shown that individual differences in educational achievement are highly heritable throughout compulsory education. After completing compulsory education at age 16, students in England can choose to continue to study for two years (A-levels) in preparation for applying to university and they can freely choose which subjects to study. Here, for the first time, we show that choosing to do A-levels and the choice of subjects show substantial genetic influence, as does performance after two years studying the chosen subjects. Using a UK-representative sample of 6584 twin pairs, heritability estimates were 44% for choosing to do A-levels and 52–80% for choice of subject. Achievement after two years was also highly heritable (35–76%). The findings that DNA differences substantially affect differences in appetites as well as aptitudes suggest a genetic way of thinking about education in which individuals actively create their own educational experiences in part based on their genetic propensities.

This result would surprise and probably alarm many Germans, but they won't hear about it. One of the problems with the insular clique of German mainstream journalists is the blinders they wear. The majority studied sociology, German literature, comparative literature, political theory, history, philosophy, or some other liberal-arts subject. There, they learned plenty about Kant and Mann, but nothing about economics, the military, or hard science.

I think this explains why German journalism on these areas is often terrible. Conditioned by their highly moralized culture and the ideological slant of liberal-arts education, they immediately seek out the underlying moral 'lesson' to be drawn from nuclear research, or the Higgs boson, or gene therapy, etc. They may spend a few paragraphs actually explaining what is going on from a scientific perspective (often getting key things wrong), but before they're even done with that, they start reciting their tired old platitudes (this is what mankind gets for trying to play God, nature's way is always the best, human dignity is the prime directive, etc.) and canned Lessons of History™.

And that goes triple for genetics. If they did learn anything about genetics in their seminars, it was usually accompanied by stern, moralizing lectures about how the Nazis used genetic pseudo-science to justify genocide. The result is a nearly-unshakable belief in the discredited 'blank slate' theory of human variation (i.e., that it's all caused by nurture, not nature). Anyone who points to the ever-growing mountain of evidence that genes play a crucially important role in human personality, achievement, and behavior is automatically assumed to be a crypto-eugenicist until proven otherwise.

I don't have a solution to this problem, but I suppose scholarships and training programs for aspiring science journalists might be something to think about.

The NY Times Shows German Journalists How It's Done Again

If you want to learn interesting background on events in Germany, you'll just have to wait until the New York Times gets on the case. There'll be a slight delay, but you'll finally get specifics:

To the German authorities, he was Mohammad Daleel, a 27-year-old Syrian traumatized by war who arrived in Europe seeking refuge.

To the Islamic State, he was Abu Yousef, a jihadist who went to Europe for medical treatment after being wounded, intending to return to battle....

[The bombing] has also reinforced doubts about whether the authorities actually know whom they have admitted into the country, and highlighted the challenges of verifying the identities, documents and back stories of those allowed to stay. A 17-year-old who carried out an ax attack on a train the same week that Mr. Daleel blew himself up, for example, has yet to be properly identified, even though he had already been assigned to a foster family in Germany.

As he sought asylum in Europe, Mr. Daleel appears to have either embellished or omitted key parts of his history in constantly shifting accounts....

Mr. Daleel was one of 290 asylum seekers who had appealed to the organization for help in November 2013. Mr. Daleel told the organization that he had no money and nowhere to live, and that he required medical treatment for his knee.

“I particularly remember this case because we don’t see people with shell fragments in their legs very often,” Ms. Savova said. “He told us he got the fragments in his legs when a shell exploded in his house and killed his wife and children.”

The Islamic State called Mr. Daleel a soldier, too, but in his case, it also provided a long account of his ties to the group, including as a fighter in Aleppo, Syria. Last week, the group said Mr. Daleel had first joined its ranks in Iraq and later fought in Syria, “where he was injured by shrapnel of a mortar.”

After seeking treatment in Europe, it said, Mr. Daleel wanted to return to Syria to fight but was unable to do so, and instead “started creating accounts” on the internet to support the Islamic State.

The German police say Mr. Daleel opened six Facebook accounts, at least one of which was under a false name.

The Islamic State also claimed that Mr. Daleel had studied how to make a bomb for three months, was in contact with a handler and had visited the site of the attack the day before.

Even before the attack, Germany had tightened laws to register and share data about newly arriving refugees. It has also been sending out teams of customs officers or soldiers to locate unregistered asylum seekers....
The teams record basic personal information and country of birth, and take biometric photos and fingerprints, said Andrea Brinkmann, a spokeswoman for the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. Those are checked against the domestic intelligence office’s databases and data on refugees already registered elsewhere in the European Union. Since February, all offices dealing with refugees, from the border police to state and local officials, have been able to review that information.

But whether those steps will be sufficient remains to seen. Officials and humanitarian groups say they have long tried to balance the protection of refugees against security.


  1. The German coverage of this case is so vague as to be near-useless, because it doesn't name names or give specifics. Also, just about every assertion of fact is prefaced by a 'supposedly' or 'is said to' wishy-washy hedging phrase. Except for things Yousef/Daleel himself reported (such as that his leg injuries came from a shell which killed his family) which were often reported straight ("His family were killed by a bomb," not "He said his family were killed by a bomb"). This is politically-correct taboos getting in the way of understanding. To avoid 'stoking anti-foreigner resentments', German journalists tend to leave out the most interesting facts and cover up others in a stultifying baffle of euphemisms.
  2. As always, German coverage provides a few superficial reports on what actually happened, then shifts immediately into stories about what politician X said about what politician Y said about politician Z's comments on the attack. Much easier to cobble together quotations from wire services than to leave your office, pound the pavement, collect leaked documents, and try to find out why a trained IS terrorist was allowed into Germany. Or, heaven forbid, how many others might in Germany now, patiently waiting for the right opportunity.
  3. This man was in the country for years, went to counseling sessions, got therapy and treatment and subsidies, and still nobody had an inkling what he was preparing to do. As I've said before, the language and cultural barriers are so immense in these cases that the authorities are basically flying blind.
  4. Not all the young men who entered in 2015 are terrorists, of course. But Germany has no way of knowing which ones are or may become terrorists. This is why the situation is so unsettling: Both of the recent attackers sent no warning signals, and were considered pleasant, helpful, and stable (note that these adjectives describe their demeanor, which is all you have to go on when there's a language barrier). IS specifically tells agents to lie low. Which is even easier to do when your hosts wouldn't even recognize any warning signs because they don't speak your language or understand your culture.

German Journalists Effortlessly Scooped Again

While German newspapers are currently full of cookie-cutter opinion pieces denouncing Trump and Erdogan, American reporters write about things that actually matter. To Germans. In this case, how IS recruits and trains terrorists to infiltrate into Europe. And they do so by interviewing a German man in Germany. And publishing his full name and picture. Right under the noses of tens of thousands of German journalists who were too busy pursuing internecine cat-fights and bloviating about events half a world away.

This may be a slight exaggeration, but I wager you will learn more from reading this article than you would have learned from reading everything the German press has published on this issue since IS was formed. One interesting finding:

The bureaucratic nature of the intake procedure was recently confirmed by American officials after USB drives were recovered in the recently liberated Syrian city of Manbij, one of the hubs for processing foreign fighters.

Mr. Sarfo checked all the necessary boxes, and on the third day after his arrival, the members of the Emni came to ask for him. He wanted to fight in Syria and Iraq, but the masked operatives explained that they had a vexing problem.
“They told me that there aren’t many people in Germany who are willing to do the job,” Mr. Sarfo said soon after his arrest last year, according to the transcript of his interrogation by German officials, which runs more than 500 pages. “They said they had some in the beginning. But one after another, you could say, they chickened out, because they got scared — cold feet. Same in England.”
By contrast, the group had more than enough volunteers for France. “My friend asked them about France,” Mr. Sarfo said. “And they started laughing. But really serious laughing, with tears in their eyes. They said, ‘Don’t worry about France.’ ‘Mafi mushkilah’ — in Arabic, it means ‘no problem.’” That conversation took place in April 2015, seven months before the coordinated killings in Paris in November, the worst terrorist attack in Europe in over a decade.

'Refugees' Will Shortly Turn Back into 'Migrants' in the German Press


During the 2015 Summer of Love, German journalists unanimously decided to call all migrants headed toward Europe 'refugees', in a transparent attempt to cultivate sympathy and to downplay the distinction between refugees fleeing war and persecution and those simply hoping to reach a country with a higher standard of living.

This was propaganda. A person moving from one country to another is a migrant. This person only becomes a 'refugee' after a formal legal process has conferred that title on him or her. Calling all migrants 'refugees' is like calling all females 'wives'. The BBC explains this basic fact at the end of its articles on migrants, including this article about the brother of the Prime Minister of Kosovo claiming 'political asylum' in Germany because he wanted a free operation at a German hospital:

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

The problem with the German press' unilateral, unanimous decision to mislabel migrants is becoming clear right now. As a result of an agreement with Turkey, nobody will be allowed to enter Europe from that country unless they can prove they face life-threatening persecution in Turkey. This 180° lurch in policy was rushed into place just a few days ago, and is already leading to chaos. Of course, since almost nobody will be able to prove they are in danger in Turkey, almost all the 'refugees' will be turned back. Only a handful of Syrians will be let through.

Which leaves German journalists with a serious problem. In 2015, calling all migrants 'refugees' made Germany seem noble and pure. Now, when the websites roil with videos of screaming, desperate migrants being forced against their will back to Turkey, the notion that Germany is doing these horrible things to refugees suddenly makes Germany look like quite the bad guy.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave / When first we practise to deceive!

So here's yet another one of my pretty darned reliable predictions: In the German press, 'refugees' sill shortly turn back into 'migrants', like Cinderella's carriage turning into a pumpkin. Of course, this being the German press, where accountability is a four-letter word, there will be no explanations or corrections. We'll also see a spate of articles and opinion pieces about how it's really not so bad that the migrants are being sent back, since most of them are economic migrants entitled to no protection anyway.

A Fine Article About Justice in Texas

I’ve been hard on many German journalists who report on the USA. Sometimes tough love, sometimes tough hate! The cardinal sin of German reporters is not getting facts straight and not correcting mistakes even after I or someone else points them out.

The venial sin – by no means limited to coverage of the USA – is telling us what they think about everything they report. I know you have a lot of profoundly civilized feelings about guns or prisons or the death penalty or racism, Maximilian or Felicitas, but they don't interest me. I neither know nor care very much who you are. Tell us what you saw and heard, not what you think about it, and certainly not what you think we should think about it.

That’s why it’s a pleasure to recommend this fine in-depth piece (g) by Andreas Ross about a ‘drug court’ in Dallas, Texas. The point is to single out those criminals whose basic problem is drug addiction, and to divert them into an alternative program designed to keep them straight and out of jail. It’s still pretty strict – participants have to pass constant random drug tests and can be summarily thrown in jail if they mess up – but it’s been effective. And keeps people out of Texas prisons, which have a deservedly awful reputation. The author drills down into the subject, lets people speak for themselves, and stays in the background, where you always find the best reporters.

Well done!

All German Newspapers Need Corrections Columns

As I've pointed out on this blog before, German newspapers have a decidedly mixed record on correcting the mistakes in stories they publish. One of the worst offenders is Die Zeit: I've pointed out several factual errors to them, and the results have been mixed. Sometimes they never bothered to correct the mistake (as with this howler-filled piece which appeared on the front page), other times they corrected it, but only by updating the online version of the article, without noting the fact that the error had been corrected.

However, I don't want to single out Die Zeit -- I can't think of a single German newspaper that has a regular 'corrections' feature as you might see in U.S. or British newspapers. The closest you might come is to see a court-mandated 'opposing viewpoint' (Gegendarstellung (g))  when a newspaper is successfully sued. If a court finds an article inaccurate, it will require the newspaper to publish a correction written by the affected party in at least as prominent a location as the original story. But a correction that you have to win a lawsuit to enforce is hardly sufficient. And the opposing viewpoint only applies to errors that affect the reputation of individuals, a tiny subset of all the mistakes that get printed in the German press each day.

So this recent article (g) by Georg Mascolo, former editor-in-chief of Der Spiegel, could hardly be more timely. He points out that German press outlets constantly make mistakes, yet have no institution like the 'corrections' column in American or British newspapers. He calls for a 'culture of mistakes' (my translation): 

America is, by the way, far ahead in so-called "media accountability". Reading the corrections column in the New York Times is often a pleasure. There are long descriptions on topics such as exactly how Obama's attitude towards same-sex marriage has developed. What the actual policy of United Airlines on free beer and wine is. If the context is wrong or incomplete, it will be expanded and corrected. In the American magazine Rolling Stone, a story about an invented campus rape made headlines. The magazine's editors allowed the well-regarded Columbia School of Journalism to minutely examine the magazine's failure. Many American newspapers have editorial ombudspersons. I've met some of htem. Excellent journalists who investigate mistakes in their own newspapers just as thoroughly as journalists do to politicians or business leaders. The motto of the ombudspersons is: "We require journalists to take responsibility for their conduct just as journalists do for all other people".

The New York Times hired its first ombudsman in 2003, after a journalistic debacle. Its reporter Jayson Blair had engaged in plagiarism and invented facts. Almost twenty years earlier, Stern had published the Hitler Diaries. 

The idea for ombudspersons could actually have come from Germany.

Jörg Albrecht's Drive-By Insult of Charles Murray

If Germans often have peculiar ideas about the rest of the world, you can often chalk it up to the journalists on whom they rely for information.

Case in point: I open up German's leading broadsheet, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and there's a long article (g) by the German science journalist Jörg Albrecht.* Much of it is a detailed discussion about Nicholas Wade's recent book A Troubled Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History. Albrecht prefaces the discussion thus (my translation):

Since the book has been on the market, there has been a reprise of the discussion triggered twenty years ago by the psychologists Richard Herrnstein and the political scientist Charles Murray. Their message, put forward in an 800-page doorstep called 'The Bell Curve', was, to abbreviate slightly, that negroes (Neger) are on average dumber than whites, that this is true from birth onward, and that therefore there's not much reason to invest in their education.

Wade's book is not quite this coarse (grobschlächtig).

There is no higher responsibility for a translator or someone writing about a book in a foreign language than to give a reasonably fair representation to his or her readers. I read The Bell Curve shortly after it was published to see what all the fuss was about, and I can say Albrecht's characterization is, as it was intended to be, nothing but a drive-by insult. Like so much German journalism, his description of The Bell Curve is not meant to enlighten readers, but to condescendingly warn them away from ideas the journalist disagrees with. 

Also, importantly, the word Neger, which I translated as 'Negro', is a racial insult. In context, in German, it's not as explosive as 'nigger' in English, but it's regarded as intentionally insulting and is never used in polite conversation. Blacks are never referred to by racial insults in The Bell Curve, except in quotations from other works. Whatever you think of Charles Murray's ideas, he never uses racially insulting language.

I think I'll tweet this to Charles Murray in case he might wish to pursue matters.

Continue reading "Jörg Albrecht's Drive-By Insult of Charles Murray" »

Germans Think the World's Worse Than It Is



The image above is from the Germany Ignorance Report (pdf) of 2014, which quizzed Germans on how much they know about global progress on poverty, illiteracy, women's rights, child mortality, family size, etc. On almost every question, Germans err on the side of underestimating progress.

Why is this? Well, I got me a theory.

Educated Germans like to congratulate themselves on being unusually worldly. They have more money and leisure time than educated folks in many other countries, and they often use it to travel. And educated Germans are, in my experience, quite knowledgeable people.

So much for the educated upper crust, perhaps 15-20 percent of any society.

Ordinary Germans get their news mostly from the tabloid Bild and the 15-minute news segments broadcast at 8:00 PM every night on public television stations. And these follow the time-honored journalistic tradition of 'it bleeds, it leads'. For Bild, that includes crime, war, disasters, celebrity cocaine catastrophes and botox breakdowns.

The nightly news is written and delivered by educated Germans and conceived as a re-education and de-Bild-ification propaganda instrument aimed at the reechy-necked mob. Their priorities are different. Perhaps a little celebrity news as groundbait, especially if the celebrity is endorsing a socially-responsible cause. No news about violent crimes in Germany unless it's unavoidable. But plenty of news, tons of it, about war, poverty, and disaster, especially in the Third World.

I've always wondered exactly how interested ordinary Germans are in crop failure in Indonesia or the machinations of Congolese warlords, but interested or not, the TV nightly informs them. I suppose the ideological justification is to ensure Germans appreciate just how prosperous and peaceful their country is, and to induce vague feelings of survivor guilt about this fact. I surmise that the Third World Disaster Porn component of German public TV news may explain the result of the Ignorance Report.


Migrants Reject Finland as Too Cold and Boring

Agence France Presse reports from the Finland/Sweden border: 

Hundreds of predominantly Iraqi migrants who have travelled through Europe to reach Finland are turning back, saying they don't want to stay in the sparsely-populated country on Europe's northern frontier because it's too cold and boring.

Migrants have in recent weeks been crossing back into Sweden at the Haparanda-Tornio border just an hour's drive south of the Arctic Circle, and Finnish authorities have seen a rise in the number of cancelled asylum applications.

"You can tell the world I hate Finland. It's too cold, there's no tea, no restaurants, no bars, nobody on the streets, only cars," 22-year-old Muhammed told AFP in Tornio, as the mercury struggled to inch above 10 degrees Celsius (50 Fahrenheit) on a recent blustery grey day.
"Finland is no good," the men echoed each other. Sweden may be just as cold as Finland, but Sweden has bigger immigrant communities because of a longer history of integration.

A few comments:

-- More accurately, Sweden has a 'longer history' of admitting immigrants. Nobody who's paying attention thinks Sweden has 'integrated' more than a fraction of its immigrants, who are much more likely than Swedes to commit crimes, live on welfare, and be unemployed.

-- Note how after quoting the Iraqi men complaining about the weather and the street life, the reporter cites incidents of anti-immigrant protests and violence in Finland. She wants to suggest that they may be a reason the Iraqis want to leave, but apparently can't find an Iraqi who actually says this.

-- Why would you travel 5000 kilometers to an arctic-circle straddling country that is one of the most sparsely-populated on the planet and then complain about it being 'cold' and 'boring'? I thought they were all supposed to have smartphones and be ultra-internet savvy.

-- Iraq faces a geographically-limited insurgency but is not at war, and has in fact taken in refugees from Syria.

-- Can you begin to see why the vaunted European-relocation program is a dead letter? The only way you'll get migrants to stay in the 'cold, boring' places you put them is with fences or ankle monitors, and I doubt Europe's going to go for that.

-- Note how instead of calling every migrant a 'refugee', as the German press does, this reporter for AFP follows the vast majority of worldwide news sources in accurately and responsibly calling these men 'migrants'. Calling every migrant a 'refugee' is like calling every man a 'husband' and every woman a 'wife'. 

Let's have a look at the law on refugees. According to the leading international treaty on refugees, the 1951 UN Refugee Convention (which you can read in a variety of languages here), a refugee is a person who cannot return to his or her home country because of a fear of persecution. The background to refugee law is this: Every sovereign nation is entitled to determine who comes into its country and who doesn't. In fact, that very power is one of the fundamental elements of sovereignty.

If you are a refugee, and only if you are a refugee, you can compel another country to provide safe haven to you. That country must set aside its normal criteria for accepting immigrants and permit you to live there. It cannot send you back to the country if you would face persecution there. In the country of refuge, you are entitled to be treated the same way as normal immigrants who were invited. Once conditions improve in your country, or the source of persecution ceases to exist, the country of refuge may send you back, but is not required to do so.

Note that under this treaty, a person who is migrating from one country to another in search of better opportunities is not a refugee. That person is an economic migrant, and has no right to compel another country to take him or her in. Note also that refugees do not have a right to choose their country of refuge. People who traipse all over Europe, picking and choosing which country has the highest welfare benefits, the best job opportunities, the nicest people, and the best weather are not refugees. They are migrants. Any particular European country may choose to accommodate these people if it wishes, but is also completely within its rights to exclude or deport them.