Friday, August 03, 2007

Who's Matthew Syed ?

And does he always write as much nagombi as this ?

The prototypical argument for black athletic superiority can be found in Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We Are Afraid to Talk about it by Jon Entine. Entine’s central assertion is that it is not blacks as a whole that are good at sprinting but rather a subset who can trace their origins to western African coastal states. Indeed, he makes the point that “no white, Asian or East African runner has broken 10 seconds in the 100m” (my italics).

Yes. Nowt to argue with there. That's why Premiership clubs are signing players from Nigeria or Ivory Coast, why there are so many great black American athletes. People from that neck of the woods seem to have a slight edge in acceleration and pace over a shortish distance, and such small differences are magnified at the margins - in this case, the top end of sport.

East Africans, it turns out, have a rather different skill set: distance running. As has been well documented, Kenyans from well-defined areas in the Rift Valley are strikingly successful at running 3,000m and above. Up until 1993 the Kalenjin tribe won 317 medals and the neighbouring Gussi people won 78. These figures amounted respectively to 63 per cent and 15 per cent of the 506 medals won by Kenyan athletes in major competitions.

Yes, again. Oh, my Keino and Bikila long ago !

Let us assume that these results have genetic causes. Is Entine entitled to conclude that blacks are naturally better athletes ? Well, no. All he is entitled to say is that East Africans are naturally better at distance running and West Africans are naturally better at sprinting and that whites are probably somewhere in the middle at both disciplines. So why make the further claim that “blacks” are naturally better at sprinting and distance running ?

Does Mr Entine actually argue this ? He says that 'black athletes dominate sport' - very different from saying that all blacks can run - and something that happens to be true in America and fast becoming true in the UK - look at the enormous over-representation (and equally enormous under-representation for Asians) of black strikers in the Premiership. Mr Syed seems to be afraid of anyone saying that there are any differences between anyone at all. Lighten up, old chap.

UPDATE - Who's Mr Syed ? A failed Labour candidate for one thing - and a top table-tennis player.

Funny. He doesn't look Chinese.


Anonymous said...

Syed thinks that anyone who thinks that there is a 'racial aspect' to all this has an 'agenda'.

Unknown said...

I think North Europeans dominate in the marathon.

Actually it's striking how our running times match the top predator of primates in our native region. In West Africa it's the leopard, which attacks in a sudden lunge across a jungle clearing.

In East Africa lions will charge at their prey and exhaust themselves in less than a mile.

In Europe it's wolves, which chase prey at 16mph for up to 40 miles. 16mph happens to be the optimum speed for a long distance runner, and a young European man in training can keep it up for about 60 miles.

I'd say evolution works, wouldn't you?

Anonymous said...

Laban wrote “... look at the enormous over-representation (and equally enormous under-representation for Asians) of black strikers in the Premiership ... ”

Laban previously wrote

"I just think things like that are pretty unimportant. Anyone who looks at athletics records can see that there are physical differences between races, so there may be mental differences too. But these only tend to make a difference at the margins, which isn't where we live in our everyday interaction with people".

How are these statements to be reconciled? I suggest that they cannot be.

I repeat my comment to your previous post to highlight that differences in achievement will occur “where we live in our everyday interaction with people", far removed from the Olympic/Nobel or the rather lower Premier League level:

If we have two sets of people, say British average IQ 100 and Japanese average IQ 106. Then there will be many more Japanese with IQ over 130 than British and many more British with IQ less than 80 than Japanese. An IQ of 130 is where one would expect to find successful lawyers, doctors, engineers and managers. I would hazard a guess that top scientists would be much higher where virtually all in this example would be Japanese. At the other end of the scale, nearly all the road sweepers or labourers would be British, not Japanese.

So we do not need to get anywhere near the level of national or Olympic champions or tops scientists for large disparities to surface. The problem is that statistics (and economics according to Pinker, “Blank Slate”) are counter-intuitive and need to be studied to see how they work.

The whole situation is greatly exacerbated when comparing black Americans or West Indians, average IQ 85 with British or Japanese.

Anonymous said...

Andy wrote “... wolves, which chase prey at 16mph for up to 40 miles. 16mph happens to be the optimum speed for a long distance runner, and a young European man in training can keep it up for about 60 miles.”

That equates to a 26-mile marathon in about one hour 38 minutes, a performance level possibly even in excess of what a pharmaceutical Tour de France competitor could achieve without a bike. Perhaps your source was metric?

Ross said...

The only Matthew Syed article I can remember is one a couple of years ago saying that Alex Ferguson was old and out of touch and should be sacked:

But the United board is hamstrung by history, even if some of the directors are beginning to recognise that the manager has become dangerously out of touch. Of course, Ferguson has endured criticism before only to bounce back, but there will be no renaissance this time.

In sport, as in politics, those who go on and on eventually come unstuck. Ferguson’s unquestionable brilliance as a football manager has given United the most glorious period in the club’s history. His continued presence is jeopardising its future."

His ability as a pundit is limited.

Unknown said...

Bert wrote "Perhaps your source was metric?"

Whoops yes you're right! That should have read 16kph as optimum for both men and wolves. Both go faster when close together of course.

My apologies and thanks for spotting it.

Anonymous said...

Ive heard that east Asian IQs (including Japanese) are clustered closer to the mean than European. So that would mean there were more white Brits at the 80 IQ end of the spectrum but also more at the top end, the 130+ end, than Japanese.

"I would hazard a guess that top scientists would be much higher where virtually all in this example would be Japanese" - yet there are many more British Nobel prize winners than Japanese. Which might support the claim that while they have a higher average IQ its more narrowly distrbuted.

Anonymous said...

Or even distributed. Us 75IQ roadsweepers cant be expected to spell gud al the tyme.

Physiocrat said...

How many top swimmers are of African origin?

But the whole competitive sport circus is a bit of a freak show as the best swimmers are 1.95 metres tall and take size 17 shoes.

And it is essential to remember that competitive sport is particularly sponsored by totalitarian regimes.

Anonymous said...

I'd say evolution works, wouldn't you?

If we left Africa 100,000 years ago then we all faced the same beasts at one time. Moreover, Indians face Tigers and they aren't particularly fast runners.

Your idea reminded me of a similar evolution "proof": Why are Dutch people taller than the European average - because flooding lowlands favours tall people - the short drown. Also amusing, but doubtful.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11:59 AM wrote “ Ive heard that east Asian IQs (including Japanese) are clustered closer to the mean than European.” Reference?

I have read that male IQ is around 5 points higher on average than female IQ (see Lynn, R. and Irwing, P. (2004) Sex differences on the Progressive Matrices: a meta-analysis. Intelligence, 32, 481-498.) Also that male IQ is much more variable (reference not to hand). The latter being the reason why there are so many more really stupid males than females and so many more really clever males than females. This would be a partial explanation of the relative male/female success in professional and academic life. Contrary to what Laban implies these effects do occur at a much more pedestrian level than that of Nobel Prize winner or Olympic champion. As another example look at the male/female difference in crime in the UK. Or look at the world-wide comparison of crime rates Cross-national variation in violent crime rates or specifically in the USA Color of Crime

Anonymous 11:59 AM wrote “... yet there are many more British Nobel Prize winners than Japanese....” In fact, amongst British and USA Nobel laureates, Ashkenazi Jews (average IQ 108/112, see Lynn, R (2004) The intelligence of American Jews. Personality and Individual Differences, 36, 201-207) are around ten times over represented compared to their relative proportion in the underlying population. In addition I have read (reference not to hand) that Japanese and indeed Chinese are not as inventive as Europeans or Ashkenazi Jews. If you look at mathematics (Field’s Medal winners) or the physics Nobel Laureates, Japanese/Chinese do appear conspicuous by their absence.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, dont have any reference re east asian IQ clustering. Its just something Ive seen mentioned a few times.

Unknown said...

Anonymous said: "If we left Africa 100,000 years ago then we all faced the same beasts at one time."

OK yes, but what of it? Evolution is supposed to adapt a species to its current habitat, not a long-abandoned one. Evolution improves an animal to overcome the exact threats its parents faced: so a new disease is countered by disease resistance, increasing droughts by thirst resistance, an agile predator by a running style that matches its attack pattern, and so on. The effect on running speed is clear and accepted for every prey species on the planet, I simply remarked on its application to athletes.

As you say, India has tigers, but they are not the main predator of primates - very close-range ambushes by smaller carnivores seem far more common there, resulting in increased caution and close vision in Indians, rather than altered running speeds. Here's some useful research on it:

I can't say I'm clear from your comment which of these points you were trying to make:

> That evolution hasn't occurred
> That evolution hasn't occurred in humans
> That evolution hasn't occurred in humans for 100,000 years
> That evolution hasn't adapted humans to their habitats
> That, because Dutchmen are not taller than average to avoid drowning, then nothing can have bred them to be taller, and that is why they are so famously average in height....

Anonymous said...

Racial differences only matter at the margin? Only in so much as sexual differences only matter there.

Anonymous said...

yeah thanks Andy, correct, North Europeans spent most of their time running away from (and outpacing) wolves for 40 clicks instead of possibly climbing up a tree or throwing rocks at them or even, not going into the woods alone...

Anonymous said...

What do you expect? The man is a complete tool. After being the British #1 ping pong player in the 70s he's landed a job on EuroSport (The Andrew Ridgley of sports channels) and writes nonense for the Times.