2008 September 27 Saturday
Parents Abandoning Children At Nebraska Hospitals

Nebraska legislators (in their unicameral legislature btw) passed a law in July which allows parents to abandon their kids at a hospital without fear of prosecution. The legislators might have had in mind to allow babies to be given up for adoption. But they just said "child" in the law and now parents are abandoning children up the age of 17.

Between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Wednesday, three fathers walked into two hospitals in Omaha and abandoned their children. One left nine siblings, ages 1 to 17.

The men, unless proven to have abused the kids, won't face prosecution under a new Nebraska law that is unique in the nation. The law allows parents to leave a child at a licensed hospital without explaining why.

The guy didn't abandon his 18 year old because she's already an adult. His wife wouldn't be dead if he didn't knock her up 10 times.

Gary Staton went to Creighton University Medical Center to surrender his five sons and four of his daughters, who ranged in age from 1 to 17. He did not bring his oldest daughter, 18.

Staton's wife died in early 2007, shortly after giving birth to their 10th child. The man told police he hasn't worked since July and was struggling to make ends meet.

"I was with her for 17 years, and then she was gone. What was I going to do?" Staton said to Omaha television station KETV. "We raised them together. I didn't think I could do it alone. I fell apart. I couldn't take care of them."

Having 10 kids in the first place was irresponsible.

What can be done about this? Do we just have to pay to take care of all the children of the poor and downtrodden? A Louisiana state legislator would like to offer money to poor people to get sterilized.

Worried that welfare costs are rising as the number of taxpayers declines, state Rep. John LaBruzzo, R-Metairie, said Tuesday he is studying a plan to pay poor women $1,000 to have their Fallopian tubes tied.

"We're on a train headed to the future and there's a bridge out, " LaBruzzo said of what he suspects are dangerous demographic trends. "And nobody wants to talk about it."

Half Sigma says "I don't understand why John LaBruzzo is evil".

My own less ambitious proposal: Offer teenagers and poor women cash for using Norplant. This doesn't permanently remove the option of expanding the lower class. But it at least delays problems and will reduce the size of the lower class.

Reduced reproduction by drug addicts seems like the best place to start. Barbara Harris pays drug addicts to get sterilized or use birth control. She decided to do this after adopting 4 children of the same crack-head mother.

Update: The kids who are getting dropped off at Nebraska hospitals are violent, schizophrenic, and otherwise messed up. Many are cared for by grandparents, aunts, and other non-immediate relatives. A violent 11 year old.

Who: 11-year-old boy

City: Omaha

Reason: violent, destructive

Who used law: grandmother who adopted him

The 11-year-old's destructive streak still scars the grandmother's house.

A violent 15 year old.

Who: 15-year-old boy

City: Lincoln

Reason: disobedience, anger problems, possible gang involvement

Who used law: aunt with custody

He punched holes in walls of his aunt's house.

At home, he was increasingly disobedient. He would yell, throw things, break doors, punch holes in walls.

At school, he would mock teachers, throw things, kick over desks and blame others. School staff called almost daily, several times to say he was being suspended again.

He'd taken to wearing gang-related clothing, flashing gang signs and hanging around with the wrong sort of friends. Over the summer, he had an unexplained amount of money.

Schizophrenia and bipolar.

Who: 13-year-old girl

City: Omaha

Reason: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, behavior problems

Who used law: great-aunt who had adopted her

A suicidal drug abusing 15 year old and a mentally ill homicidal 11 year old were also dropped off. Sounds like this law is useful. These kids belong in mental institutions, not in neighborhoods and local schools.

It took this legislative mistake to bring to light the failures of the Nebraska social programs to deal with severely messed up kids.

Floyd Gulley fumed as a courtroom filled with strangers discussed what to do with his friend's 11-year-old grandson.

The friend had left the boy Sept. 13 at an Omaha hospital under the state's new safe haven law, saying she was unable to handle the boy's growing violence, threats and tantrums.

During a 15-minute hearing, the judge, lawyers and caseworkers agreed the boy needed several evaluations to determine his psychiatric, neurological and developmental problems and that he needed specialized therapy.

"Where were these people before?" Gulley asked after Wednesday's hearing.

"How many kids are we going to drop off before we do anything?" said Gulley, who has served on a local foster care review board. "This was a wake-up call. We need to wake up and do something about these kids."

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 September 27 03:06 PM  Civilizations Decay

Thai said at September 27, 2008 8:52 PM:


This posting (and many others) are just plane wrong in so many ways. You can solve 10 by 9+1 or 2+2+2+2+2 or 7+3 or any one of any of an infinite number of permutation.

If you are into evolution, as you claim you are, you really need to study fractals and scalability a lot more closely. There are just SO MANY wrong statements implicit in your blogging and the blogging of others as I read them. Foreget whether some of your bloggers might or might not be racist, they simply do not understand evolution and fractals.

If you somehow think a garden of ALL OAK TREES is either better or more efficient or more "honest" or more "predestined" than a complex garden of an infinite number of plants and animals with only 1 or 2 oak trees, you are sadly mistaken.

This idea of a general quotient of intelligence DOES NOT contradict scalability and fractals in intelligence. The problem is YOUR mind is failing to understand the connection.

Evolution is almost by definition scalable and fractal.

You are not seeing your own cognitive dissonance- your linear analysis to a non-linear idea (evolution)

This is pseudo science.

Randall Parker said at September 27, 2008 9:17 PM:


The glories of genetic heterogeneity: And for this reason you want a growing fraction of the human race to have genes that code for lower intelligence? This seems to be what you are saying.

I haven't seen any signs that you understand evolution as well as I do, let alone better. I know people who understand the mathematics of evolution far better than I do (and better than you too) and they aren't telling me to use fractals to improve my understanding.

Though you could be saying something else since you aren't being clear (or you are being clear and you really are as wrong as I think you are).

I also suspect you know squat about psychometrics. I could recommend reading. Or have I already done that?

Bob Badour said at September 27, 2008 9:25 PM:


I really don't see where you could be going with your post. When I look closely at an intelligent person, I don't suddenly see a whole bunch of stupid people unlike when I look closely at a large feature of a coastline and see a whole bunch of little features.

So Very Bitter said at September 27, 2008 9:36 PM:

A given number of children is in itself morally neutral. J.S. Bach had more than 20 children, and most of them did well (not that I'm suggesting our Nebraskan is anywhere near as good a gene donor). I did not read the whole article, but was his issue destitution or just a nervous breakdown?

In a well-run large family, the older children take up some of the child-rearing and housekeeping duties.

As my mom told me, "The problem isn't too many children; the problem is not enough people like *you* having children."

Thai said at September 27, 2008 10:08 PM:

Randall, I have no idea what you read but I am quite sure this is a linear analysis of a non-linear problem.

I am really not sure where to begin. At some level I think the only way to have this conversation is a socratic dialogue, but I am sure there are other ways.

The problem is I do not know what you know and you do not know what I know.

How about the following starting point for discussion: imagine an infinite information food chain from the smallest infinitely small subatomic to the largest large you can conceive in the universe (which by the way is a bounded infinite system I might add- sound fractal to you?).

Along this information food chain YOU sit somewhere.

You engage in non-zero sum cooperation with SOME entities on this food chain in a ZERO sum war within the total system of this information food chain.

That is evolution in a nut-shell. Do you see this?

Statements like "The problem isn't too many children; the problem is not enough people like *you* having children." are simply wrong.

Statements like "When I look closely at an intelligent person, I don't suddenly see a whole bunch of stupid people unlike when I look closely at a large feature of a coastline and see a whole bunch of little features." are powerful, since again are close- you are applying linear logic (how you understand fractals) to non-linear system (evolution).

Bob- What is your brain made of? What is your intelligence made of? Just assume for a moment that Randall is correct, and that there is a general intelligence quotient factor, how is that built? How was it created?

Let me say it another way: The cell is a fractal of DNA, the brain is a fractal of its building blocks (the cell)

Do you see where I am going?

Thai said at September 27, 2008 10:28 PM:

And Randall, one last comment. When you say- "The glories of genetic heterogeneity: And for this reason you want a growing fraction of the human race to have genes that code for lower intelligence?"

So by your linear definition of intelligence you think we should therefore put norplants on (say) horses or eagles?

This issue is not diversity- the issue is 'the threat' something represents to you personally.

I think you have a very odd sense of threat

HellKaiserRyo said at September 27, 2008 11:39 PM:

How much should people be paid to be sterilized? I propose $25,000 a year for the rest of their lives and comprehensive health coverage with no strings attached (they receive the money whether or not they work). I think the only acceptable offer for sterilization is permentant financial security.

$1,000 seems to be an insult to me.

Thai said at September 28, 2008 8:00 AM:

I still don't think you get it


Stopped Clock said at September 28, 2008 8:39 AM:

I wouldn't worry so much about IQ. Even if the entire population of Americans with IQs below 100 stopped having children completely, the average IQ of America as a whole would only inch up to the level of maybe Britain or Germany. Likewise, the Bell Curve estimates that it would take 300 years for the average IQ in the US to get down to the level of where Mexico is now, assuming all current demographic dysgenic trends continue.

I think he simply wants to prevent children from growing up with bad parents, and he feels that offering a monetary incentive to women who don't feel that they ever want to have children will encourage them to take the offer, and get sterilized, so that they'll be able to have sex without worrying about getting pregnant.

In general, I'm skeptical ... in my experience, low-income women regardless of race are the ones most likely to feel that having children is important in their life. Middle class women tend to be focused more on material goals such as career advancement and less interested in starting a family. If his offer were extended to people with higher incomes, he might find more people taking advantage of it, but as it stands, even putting aside the fact that he implies that they can't be good parents simply because they're poor, I don't think there will be many women willing to undergo the operation even if they are paid quite well for it.

Anyway, this maverick seems to have admitted he wasn't serious about the bill, but was really just trying to make a point, and has withdrawn it from consideration.

Thai said at September 28, 2008 9:22 AM:

Stopped Clock, well said (since I am honestly never going to validate the accuracy of your math- I'll take it at face value for now).

There is another way of looking at it.

Look at the fractal structure within your own body. You will see that the most metabolically active cells (richest?) have the least turnover and vice versa. The lifespan of a skin or gut cell is on the matter of days. The lifespan of a neuron can be ones entire life. (this is of course not a 100% rule- ovarian follicles come to mind as an exception).

But a neuron needs to cooperate with a skin cell and a gut cell in order to survive- yet their 'intelligence' (so to speak) is very very different.

Once boundaries have been established to a structure (in this case society), cooperation between specialized entities is far more efficient than autonomous entities "going it alone'. Of course the downside to this cooperative entity is the risk that one of the sub-specialized structures will not cooperate or do its job. Further certain hubs in the network increase the risk to the organism that a focused attack can bring the whole organism down (say a c2 spinal cord injury).

Society is no different.

Focusing on IQ at all is really suggesting you want to be someone else's lunch some time (at least imo).

Randall Parker said at September 28, 2008 10:09 AM:


Are you denying that people differ in intelligence?

Or are you denying that people differ in intelligence for genetic reasons?

Or are you denying that intelligence differences matter?

Or all of the above? Or what?

Linear/non-linear: I've had lots of math classes. I get the idea.

I have no idea what this means:

Focusing on IQ at all is really suggesting you want to be someone else's lunch some time (at least imo).
Randall Parker said at September 28, 2008 10:13 AM:


Horses and eagles do not contribute or subtract much from living standards. They also do not commit murder, rape, or theft against humans at any substantial level. Whereas the size of a nation's smart fraction determines national wealth. Also see La Griffe Du Lion's Smart Fraction Theory II: Why Asians Lag.

Thai said at September 28, 2008 10:32 AM:

Randall if you are using IQ as your definition of intelligence then:

Question (Q): "Are you denying that people differ in intelligence?"
My Answer (A): NO

Q: "Or are you denying that people differ in intelligence for genetic reasons?"

Q: "Or are you denying that intelligence differences matter?"
A: NO but I think it is in the exploration of this question we are not seeing eye to eye My question to you is: "relative to what"?

Randall said- "Horses and eagles do not contribute or subtract much from living standards."

Well really yes and no. All life depends on energy and they do use energy from the biosystem that 'people' could otherwise use- but we both know this is an incomplete answer.

What are the boundaries of the system you are describing?

Society is VAST- a society where everyone is smart enough to go to Harvard may still not be the society you want.

Bacteria kill people- they also created oil and we use them to make yogurt and biotechnology drugs to increase your lifespan.

You may look at low performance in school and see such students as a "waste"- I certainly do not.

As far as the collective- or society is concerned, it is a TOTAL WASTE of resources to put a Cambridge grad in a trash collector's job collecting garbage. But garbage collector's are VERY necessary.

So when I say "Focusing on IQ at all is really suggesting you want to be someone else's lunch some time (at least imo)"

I think you are going to have society full of garbage everywhere the way you are thinking- at least until you develop a way for your high IQ citizens to (say) develop robots which can do it-- but the robots still need to do it in a more cost effective manner.

The central processor of the computer you are writing your blog on may be the most advance piece of equipment in your computer system, but you could not afford to own a computer where EVERY processor in the computer was a clone of a central processor- it would be beyond the reach of all but the wealthiest 1 or 2 people in the world.

Once the boundaries of a system are defined, diversity is what makes that system succeed in an efficient manner against its competitors .

why do you think sexual dimorphism evolved in the first place?

Thai said at September 28, 2008 10:41 AM:

Perhaps this would help-http://books.google.com/books?id=eUoolrxSFy0C&pg=PA512&dq=origins+of+wealth&ei=UcHfSID6D4O6yATt1fiYAg&sig=ACfU3U3fT6LrtpXHvTUrVywh_tbjylyPtg#PPA79,M1

(I recommend reading chapter 4 page starting at page 79)

Bob Badour said at September 28, 2008 10:57 AM:

No Thai, I have no idea where you are going. Perhaps, if you simply stated your point directly instead of making hand-wavy allusions, your destination would be clearer.

If I am really generous at trying to extract sense or meaning from what you have written, the best I can come up with is you think biological systems are complex. I agree. Nevertheless, we often take simple measures of simple properties that are the result of complexity, and we draw valid conclusions from those simple measurements.

We can measure height for example and note all sorts of interesting correlations based on that measure. Shorter people tend to live a little longer, for example. Taller people tend to have greater success at basketball and corporate leadership.

We can measure skin pigmentation and note correlations with sunburn and vitamin D production.


These properties, including IQ, are simple properties that arise from complex interactions among genes and the compounds they code for. Because genes have such a large influence on the outcome, these properties are largely inherited.

Similarly, the genius behind Aubrey de Grey's SENS proposals lies in ignoring the complexities of metabolism to focus on the handful of relatively simple permanent state changes that result in the end.

Bob Badour said at September 28, 2008 11:06 AM:


"You may look at low performance in school and see such students as a "waste"- I certainly do not."

I have known Randall a long time. I can say with certainty he does not see such students as a waste. While Randall can speak for himself, I believe what he finds wasteful is forcing those students into the same classrooms with much brighter students and then diverting resources away from the brighter students to focus an inordinate amount of effort on attempting to achieve the impossible.

The problems the US faces are not the result of the less intelligent Americans but the result of importing huge numbers of less intelligent foreigners and encouraging them to breed in even larger numbers than they would have otherwise.

Bob Badour said at September 28, 2008 11:31 AM:

re: horses and eagles

We effectively control almost all breeding of horses and basically determine their population. In fact, most horses are the product of artificial insemination.

We have killed most competing predators to the brink of extinction--including eagles.

The human species has always been ruthless about dealing with nuisance animals. Many of our pest control programs from screw-worm irradiation to the flea control products I use on my dogs inhibit reproduction of the pest animal.

I see nothing wrong with paying people for behavior that tends to benefit the rest of us. As far as public service goes, I would rather pay for norplant use than for much of the current public service. I respectfully suggest that such a public service is closer to a real public service in the sense of a public good than what we pay for now.

Thai said at September 28, 2008 11:43 AM:

I am sorry I am not being clearer (FYI- Wonderful links, thanks! But they still do not invalidate my point (though I only read 1/2 and I will finish)).

Yes, I absolutely think biologic systems are complex and I therefore think intelligence is ONLY meaningful to the problem it is trying to solve. And in a system of limited resources with an infinite numbers of potential threats, sub-specialization and cooperation by these multiple types of sub specialized entities of "different" intelligences will always outcompete systems with fewer general larger intelligences cooperating together.

There is also strong data correlating wealth with social cooperation as I am sure you are aware. http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://bp0.blogger.com/_lIvfmDjltG0/R_Jnbt1SmKI/AAAAAAAAACQ/4OOTGUJ0oD8/s1600/HTG.gif&imgrefurl=http://londonchronicles.blogspot.com/2008/04/cooperation-and-economic-growth.html&h=485&w=719&sz=8&hl=en&start=1&sig2=m9Yus82oJCxJpT0NsH7bPg&usg=__oT0RzQLfZ6t5N1JBuo3uObFdrEw=&tbnid=nWsT3MVGp5HtYM:&tbnh=94&tbnw=140&ei=2MjfSP70O4ms8QT6n7XwDg&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dnational%2Bcooperation%2Band%2BGDP%26gbv%3D2%26ndsp%3D21%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN

And when you sat "I have known Randall a long time. I can say with certainty he does not see such students as a waste. While Randall can speak for himself, I believe what he finds wasteful is forcing those students into the same classrooms with much brighter students and then diverting resources away from the brighter students to focus an inordinate amount of effort on attempting to achieve the impossible." then if this is true, I truly apologize as I couldn't agree more with this statement (only I think its the parents of these low performing students are really the ones forcing the issue) and I have been misunderstanding his point-- really not hard to do with some of the comments made by some of the readers

I certainly agree that diversity is a double edged sword, and I still embrace this diversity... But the solution to the issue of diversity is not to 'stamp it out' (as it is easy to read into in some of the readers comments), it is to develop systems of cooperation between these diverse groups (imo). Reminding people that one group is 'IQ smarter' than another, while it may absolutely be true, and I would certainly NEVER either 'lie' or misstate one's views on this issue, can still get less 'focus' than cooperation which gets us all where we all want to go.

In fact, for what it is worth- my own two cents on the origins of our current debt crisis rest with the double edge sword that is America's greatest strength and its greatest weakness- our core embracement of diversity as our top national priority. 

For if you think about it, really from our inception, America developed a system to protect the individuality and autonomy of different groups within a much larger collective. And while it is true that this original vision of America was corrupted at inception with a kind of "original sin" (slavery), still our national template has allowed America to maintain, incorporate and indeed grow a VERY diverse mixture of cultures and nationalities with a large degree of social harmony unique (imo) for a nation of 300 million people.

But our system, which protects and encourages cultural diversity, also makes cooperation on THE MOST DIFFICULT issue of all- rationing- all the more difficult. For the reality of this world is that rationing and prioritization are simple facts of life. Every culture in the world rations in order to survive. But each culture rations in very different ways as they evolved different relationships with their environment, their neighbors and each other. They ration differently based on their life median expectancy, they ration differently based on their socioeconomic situation, they ration differently based on their differences in birth rates, etc…Even in the most homogeneous societies, rationing discussions are contentious. But it is MUCH easier to reach agreement on rationing when cultural values are similar. 

In America, with its separate and unequal cultures all remaining integrated yet autonomous within a much larger collective; getting agreement on the incredibly painful issue of rationing is VERY VERY difficult. As a result, we do not ration. It is the one concept that is almost uniquely ‘un-American’. It is too painful for us to address. For how do we agree on rationing when our cultures are so different? (I think it no accident that many of the areas where America spends the most on healthcare are precisely the areas where cultural and language differences are also the greatest vs. whatever "American benchmark" exists out there). 

Think about how hard it is for us to reach agreement on rationing when the cultural and socioeconomic differences are so great? 
Do I spend my money keeping my parents alive in a longer retirement with some reasonable quality of life? Do I try to shrink the classroom size of my children? Do I fund research and development into alternative energy systems? 
Do I put a (wo)man on Mars?

If I have no children or parents, and I am asked to keep someone else's ailing parents alive and instead have less to enjoy my own retirement, how do I do this when I do not approve of the attitudes an “other” culture has towards saving and investment? If I am asked to shrink the classroom size of someone else's children and again I do not have children of my own and further I do not approve of the spending or education choices I see being made by an "other" culture, how am I to react? 

What if one culture has not experienced longevity to the same degree a second culture has? And therefore the first culture does not have an experiential reference to understand what longevity truly implies? And then by some miracle of modern medicine the median life expectancy of the short-lived culture suddenly rises and yet cultural attitudes toward longevity do not change as quickly since they take many generations to change?

I think it is these issues (which are really attitudes about money, attitudes about trust-cooperation-consequence, which are really attitudes about rationing) that America has real problems addressing. And unlike the Europeans, without in any way sounding critical of Europeans) who were simply lucky enough to create social institutions for collective action at a time when their cultures were far more homogeneous than they are today, we have never been so fortunately cohesive. (Imo) America faces a reverse engineering issue that is not easy to overcome.

But I am getting off topic.

Bob- I will re-think how to make my point clearer regarding how intelligence is fractal (and you are actually validating it when you say: "These properties, including IQ, are simple properties that arise from complex interactions among genes and the compounds they code for. Because genes have such a large influence on the outcome, these properties are largely inherited" and again when you say: "the genius behind Aubrey de Grey's SENS proposals lies in ignoring the complexities of metabolism to focus on the handful of relatively simple permanent state changes that result in the end."

Isn't that what a fractal is, starting with a simple building block (say a triangle) and reiteratively using it to create a bounded structure of immense complexity? In this particular instance, the structure would be intelligence and the building block would be a "g factor" reiteratively combined to create something like (say ) IQ Intelligence. But it could be reiteratively combined in many other different ways?

Bob Badour said at September 28, 2008 12:18 PM:


The problem is not to explain what you mean by fractal but why you think it has any relevance. If one understands the macroscopic properties of a plank of wood, one can use it to suspend a roof over one's head without knowing a single detail of the plank's composition. Cells, molecules and atoms have little relevance to carpenters. Cells, molecules and atoms need have little relevance to psychometricians either.

You talk about intelligence with respect to a specific problem, and then you later refer to g. The concept of g is not relative to a specific problem but a general ability to overcome all manner of problems.

Randall Parker said at September 28, 2008 12:26 PM:

Thai claims,

Once the boundaries of a system are defined, diversity is what makes that system succeed in an efficient manner against its competitors .

I disagree.

The purpose of generating genetic variations in evolution is to give selective pressures variations to select between. At any given time some variations are being selected against and others are being selected for. So we have in our population variations that are less reproductively fit and others more reproductively fit because we haven't reach equilibrium.

But note that evolution selects for reproductive fitness. It doesn't select for economic fitness or peace-creating fitness or music-creating fitness. It might during some periods of time and under some local circumstances select for features that you or I would like. But it doesn't select for those features all the time and in all species.

In Europe up well into the 19th century selective pressures probably were selecting for higher intelligence. It is hard to argue now, however, that selective pressures are doing that today in Europe or America or in the world overall.

Diversity is not a glorious end in itself. Most functionally significant (as compared to silent) new mutations are harmful. Evolution produces a great deal of suffering in order to get better designs for various purposes. Since most new mutations are harmful and since a substantial number of existing genetic variations are getting selected against it is hard to argue rationally that most diversity is good.

Bob Badour said at September 28, 2008 12:35 PM:

re: rationing

Rationing is simply another word for resource allocation. Free markets allocate resources better than any alternative ever devised. Of course, free markets are not the end all and be all because they do not naturally deliver public goods. I think intelligent rational people can meaningfully discuss whether paying poor or unintelligent women to use long duration contraceptives constitutes a public good.

I suggest paying women for using something like norplant would constitute a minimal intervention in a free market to deliver a public good, and doing so would be entirely voluntary. Unfortunately, over longer time horizons it will not be enough to avoid a malthusian trap. We will just breed for dumb women who value having large numbers of children over having wealth or comfort.

A better approach would pay men for reversible sterilization, but even then, some poor and dumb men will value impregnating women. We will eventually just breed for those men.

HellKaiserRyo said at September 28, 2008 12:55 PM:

I would only support sterilization if the payment is extremely large (but I do not trust those people to spend the money wisely if it would be a lump sum payment). A long term monthy, or weakly payment scheme seems to solve the problem of time preferences that would arise if it was a lump sum scheme. I would support it if and only if the payment was extremely large; large enough that it would provide those who are sterilized permanent financial security as I mentioned earlier in a comment.

To reiterate: $1,000 is an insult. I want the payment scheme to be large enough that they would never have to work or rely on charity to provide an income for a living. Surely, they do not contribute to overall utility by procreating without considering the consequences, but we should try to make sure that those getting sterilized should have a decent guaranteed standard of living.

Bob Badour said at September 28, 2008 1:20 PM:


With all due respect, I respect the women themselves enough to let them decide for themselves how much is enough. Obviously, the price would have to be high enough to persuade enough poor or unintelligent women to opt in.

As soon as you force people to pay more than the market demands, you open the door for demands for greater compliance and the voluntary nature of the program vanishes. ie. When one pays a premium, one feels entitled to demand specific results.

Thai said at September 28, 2008 1:21 PM:

Randall, there is never truly equilibrium- just periods of relative calm interspersed with periods of tremendous change.

... Though I think we may be saying the same thing only differently (I am not sure) and that you may be misunderstanding me.

Let me ask you this: Why do you both have BOTH a hand AND a brain AND a kidney? And why do these separate structures all cooperate? And what happens when they do not cooperate? (What is cancer conceptually?) Why do we have an area of the brain for religion?

It is about cooperation which is every bit as much a part of evolution as competition is (in fact they are 50-50)

And selective pressures are occurring at ALL levels on the information food chain, not JUST at the level of (say) reproductive fitness or IQ. You and I both know what the latest theories are on the evolution of (say) homosexuality, etc... are

So in this rather distasteful example (sterilization), if you pay someone to agree to not procreate, and (he) she saves the money and gives it to (his) her siblings children, the genetic factors that selected that behavior in the sterilized woman will have a probability of being 'selected for' in his (her) nieces and nephews to the extent the resources auntie gave then help these nieces and nephews survive and bear offspring and they have the same gene that auntie has which let her agree to the idea in the first place.

Again, society is selecting cooperation (by paying her) over her own personal procreative agenda. Society is adding an additional evolutionary factor into what would might otherwise be a very linear way that she MIGHT look at her own reproductive fitness. What do you think suicide bombers are?

And Bob- "Yes", rationing is resource allocation. I don't buy what you say about the free market argument (but I don't think socialism is any better-- at some level I don't really think there is a difference between socialism and free markets except for the illusion of personal safety and responsibility) any more than I buy anyone that would make a socialism argument. The right decisions is what makes resource allocation effective (period), the wrong decisions is (well) the wrong decision!

There is no guarantee a free market will make the right decision over any other system (or we wouldn't see bubbles which you and I know are simply fundamental to all evolutionary systems). There is no guarantee a socialist system will make the right (or wrong) decision.

But I do understand that socialism cannot be any "kinder" to its citizens than free market systems are since they must still overcome the example I put in the other posting which I will again paste below:

But free market systems are pushing for cooperation in a musical chairs game of life as much as socialism is. Neither is any different from the other in this regard.

Free markets and socialism both need to solve the following problem:

If you have a society that has a total output of 10, is growing at 1 per year and is comprised of 4 citizens (A,B,C and D) who individually contribute the following amounts to the overall economic output of the society: A=5, B=3, C=2 and D=0 For this example let's assume everyone's productivity is growing equally at 10% a year (you could re-do the model where productivity growth rates were growing differently for A, B, C and D but the basic issue I am trying to covey is still the same).

Then how should a society spend its wealth on (say) healthcare for one of its citizens when they become sick? (you can substitute any other thing you want to for the word "healthcare". I just use it as one example since I think it good at illuminating the point I am trying to make)

If you spend more than 1 on D, the ENTIRE economy will contract. Will A, B and C let that happen? Might they do it once? And what if they are to do this forever and not just once, will they tolerate it?

You can spend up to 2 on C and the economy will still grow, etc… Again, if you spend more than 2 on C it will contract. Again, what if the society is to do this forever?

Should it spend more on C than D or on any other member?

And if it does OR DOES NOT, how do A, B, C and D trust each other in this model?

What if each member has different values when it comes to rationing, how do they bridge the divide?

What if some members even deny 'the truth' of the model (say those who disagree with the conservation of energy?), how do they bridge that divide?

But again, my original point was that intelligence is fractal and from its building blocks an infinite number of intelligences can be created and there will be infinite selective pressures to get these to cooperate with each other as much as there will be infinite selective pressures to get these to defect.

Thai said at September 28, 2008 1:45 PM:

Bob sorry, I missed responding to this: "You talk about intelligence with respect to a specific problem, and then you later refer to g. The concept of g is not relative to a specific problem but a general ability to overcome all manner of problems."

A fractal generator on g (and there are many g's) creates multiple forms of intelligence but each intelligence that is created is ether useful or not useful to a particular problem it tries to overcome. You need to reverse your sentence and we may be saying the same thing.

Further- there are design constraint on everything (including intelligence) which means when the intelligence created as a fractal of g (its particular building block) to solves one problem, the specialization of this intelligence will forever POTENTIALLY make it bad at solving another problem which a different intelligence (not so good at solving the first intelligence's problem) might be much better at solving- within the constraints of the entire system.

Much like the people that play linebackers in Football have different characteristics than either running backs or quarterbacks or wide receivers and once an intelligence has been created that is good a linebacker, it will not be good at quarterback. They have become specialized to the point that they now only solve particular problems.

And if a group of competing football teams all have great players except for their linebackers, and one of the teams 'evolves' a great linebacker, that new team will beat all the other teams until they too have great linebackers.

Most of these discussions talk about evolution as if it is specific to the individual when most of us forget we are like cells in a super-organism (society) that is placing selective pressures on us that most of us do not see- other than we see some people make more than others, others notice that 'idiots' seem to make more than geniuses, etc... These pressures want us to cooperate, want us to support other cells in the collective, etc...

Society is selecting this in us (altruism) all the while still constrained by the problem I mentioned in the model economy above.

Bob Badour said at September 28, 2008 1:49 PM:


The difference between free markets and socialism relates to the distribution of knowledge and decision. Since no central planner can know what I value and what my preferences are, no central planner can consistently make decisions I find kind to me. The only way to make kind decisions is if each of us makes our own decisions about how to allocate our own resources. The worst kind of tyrant is the tyrant who oppresses me "for my own good" because no signal limits the tyranny; instead, the signals feed back on themselves to ever increase it.

With all due respect, your example and your conclusions regarding contraction are absurd on their face. In your example, someone must provide healthcare. Suppose D manages to beg 1/3 from each of A, B and C for his healthcare then pays it to A, who contributes healthcare. How exactly did that contract the economy? A can contribute 1 of healthcare to himself, 2 to B and 1 to C. How exactly did that contract the economy? C can contribute 1/3 of his product to B and 1/3 to himself. B can contribute 2/3 of his product to himself. How exactly did any of that contract the economy? A, B and C all end up with resources to invest for expansion.

And all of that ignores the effects of money supply, accumulated wealth, and turnover, which make things even easier.

thai said at September 28, 2008 1:49 PM:

Thus we see things like this http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/steven_pinker_on_the_myth_of_violence.html

Bob Badour said at September 28, 2008 1:52 PM:


Your answer regarding g suggests to me you simply do not understand the concept of general intelligence.

Thai said at September 28, 2008 2:11 PM:

Oops, I didn't create a healthcare provider ;-0 !!!

And I see that I need to make more stipulations on the model or it does cause confusion (it seemed obvious to me what I was saying but .

Let's call that person E and he only gets his funding by what others give him- it has to come from the economy as a whole since he is not bringing "new" resources (energy) into the system He may extend the life of A, etc... but he is not actually bringing in new resources. For ease of discussion, let's also assume the characters do not know how to provide healthcare to themselves (I realize this is absurd) and again the total system is growing by 1. (so A contributes 0.5 to growth, B 0.3, C 0.2 and of course D contributes 0)

Your begging scenario still slows the growth of the economy when D did not actually contribute anything. If the economy is no longer growing or indeed shrinking by 10%, supporting D becomes very expensive.

Remember the total economy is 10 and growing 1 so ANY spending more than 1 shrinks the whole thing. But spending more than 1 makes sense to keep A, B, C in production.

You are correct- HOW amongst A, B, and C does "taxation" allocations fund E (whether it is real taxation or not)?

Now imagine that society has billions of individuals in it, how much easier is it for the collective to force A to give up most of what he produces for the society?

But of course, if he stops producing in revolt on this tyranny, the collective doesn't get very much then does it (as long as he has the unique ability to do it)?

Does the model still seem absurd?

Randall Parker said at September 28, 2008 2:19 PM:


You do not seem to know much about intelligence research.

On the predictive value of IQ read g: Highly general and highly practical. Or how about g, jobs, and life. Both are by psychometrician Linda Gottfredson. You can find more articles by her on her reprints page.

Also, read the Rushton and Jensen papers here. Also, read Charles Murray's recent Commentary article The Inequality Taboo.

For books on IQ start with The Bell Curve. Also read Intelligence,Race, and Genetics: Conversations with Arthur R. Jensen by Jensen and Frank Miele and The g Factor: The Science of Mental Ability by Arthur Jensen. If you want a free book on IQ then check out the free download of Chris Brand's IQ book g Factor (same title, different book). I haven't read Brand's book.

Also, seriously edit your comments before posting. Long comments are not more persuasive when the information content is low.

thai said at September 28, 2008 2:23 PM:

Does Wikipedia give what in your view is a good description:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_intelligence_factor

Randall, you gave me this link earlier.

Will shorten, sorry

Randall Parker said at September 28, 2008 2:25 PM:


Selective pressure on genes only operates on reproductive fitness.

As for your claim:

A fractal generator on g (and there are many g's) creates multiple forms of intelligence but each intelligence that is created is ether useful or not useful to a particular problem it tries to overcome.

The supposed multiple intelligences you refer to have high correlations with a single thing which psychometricians call "g". Again, you need to read the basic psychometric research rather than just relay feel good conventional wisdom with the word "fractal" sprinkled around to make it sound more convincing.

HellKaiserRyo said at September 28, 2008 2:42 PM:

"With all due respect, I respect the women themselves enough to let them decide for themselves how much is enough. Obviously, the price would have to be high enough to persuade enough poor or unintelligent women to opt in.

As soon as you force people to pay more than the market demands, you open the door for demands for greater compliance and the voluntary nature of the program vanishes. ie. When one pays a premium, one feels entitled to demand specific results."

Those people (by definition since people like Randall would argue that they have low intelligence) do not have the capacity to decide rationally.

I do not like the idea of paying poor people to be sterilized, but I do not like the idea of people without shelter, health care, food, drink, etc. So a very generous offer for sterilization (far more than the $1,000) seems to be the best compromise to ameliorate human suffering.

I do not think sterilization should be left off the table, but the payment for sterilization I believe should be much higher. Perhaps, my proposal removes the allure of sterilizing poor people.

thai said at September 28, 2008 2:45 PM:

You are saying "g" is the building block of intelligence, correct? And all other intelligences come from this single building block- correct?

I am confused, I will agree. Since IF this is what you are saying (it is what Wikipedia claims g is) how is this not fractal?

Randall Parker said at September 28, 2008 2:53 PM:


So then the dumb women do not have the capacity to decide whether to accept $1k to get sterilized but they do have the capacity to decide to have children and to raise them?

Think this thru. If we want to start saying that people have differing capacities to make decisions doesn't that apply to many kinds of decisions? Are you ready to walk thru that door?


Building block? Why do you say building block? What do you mean by that?

HellKaiserRyo said at September 28, 2008 3:06 PM:

Of course, I believe that incompetent parents raising their children will yield negative consequences.

Fine, eugenic sterilization might be a good idea (I never denied this explicitly), but I wanted the sterilization program to provide a living for the people being sterilized even if they do not work or "contribute" to society. $1,000 doesn't seem to be a satisfactory amount to achieve this. I want the sterilization program to be a very generous welfare program; not merely a way to sterilize those who are "inconvenient" for a low price.

Thai said at September 28, 2008 3:12 PM:

Imagine building block as being one or a cluster of genes.

Remember how we refer to "genes" as the building blocks of genetics, etc...?

Is wikipedia's description of g a reasonable representation of what you are talking about?

Randall Parker said at September 28, 2008 4:18 PM:


You are now talking about genes as building blocks. Before you were speaking of "g" as a building block. I asked you what you meant by the latter. So I still do not know what you are trying to say by referring to "g" as a building block.

What is "g": Think of it as a measure of capacity to process information. Someone with higher "g" tends to have a larger working set of short term memory for example. They tend process information more quickly.

Thai said at September 28, 2008 7:26 PM:

OK, I see I am am not being clear... Though I think you are being a little 'nit picky' with me and not letting me jump from 1 to 3 without pointing out 2 (AND I might add that at the same time you are requesting I remain short with my comments).

If you mean "Think of it (g) as a measure of capacity to process information" then we are still on the same page.

Fine let think this.

To this I would reply: Are you saying that "this capacity to process information" is a building block to "higher intelligence" (btw the capacity may be created from building blocks). And if you say "yes" I again ask, how is this not fractal?

And by the way I would point out: "HOW is this capacity to process information" itself created? Is it created from smaller building blocks?

And if you say "yes", I would again ask the same question: "how is this not fractal"?

Bob Badour said at September 28, 2008 9:06 PM:

A higher capacity to process information is not a building block to higher intelligence, it is higher intelligence or at least a measure of higher intelligence.

In your contrived example where you moved the goal post by adding another actor to the economy while pretending that actor is not a part of the economy, all I can say is: You confuse yourself with irrelevancies and absurdities. Your example and your arguments lack coherence. I think it is time to cite Date's _Principle of Incoherence_ and move on.


Randall Parker said at September 28, 2008 9:23 PM:


The building blocks are neurons. The amount of "g" you have is capacity to process information.

Whether something is fractal: I'm not seeing the relevance. This somehow relates back to a point you are trying to make. What point do you think you prove or demonstrate if you say intelligence is fractal?

To put it a different way: How is intelligence self similar at different scales? What scales are you talking about where this even matters? I'm having a hard time seeing why fractals are relevant.

What I see is that people with higher levels of intelligence (higher IQ scores and IQ tests are imperfect but useful measures of "g") can tackle problems that people with lower levels of intelligence can't understand. Differences in intelligence are important. Levels of intelligence determine what sort of society one can organize, how bad crime will be, how bad corruption will be, how safe structures will be, and other important aspects of societies.

If by fractal you are trying to claim that, say, 10 100 IQ people can do what 1 120 IQ person can do or something similar (choose your numbers) then, no, that is not correct. 1 billion 100 IQ people are never going to figure out quantum mechanics. A few 160 IQ people can think it up however.

Thai said at September 29, 2008 5:20 AM:

The point I am trying to make is that cooperation trumps 'raw processing power' ANY day of the week (imo).

I am not claiming "1 billion 100 IQ people (will) figure out quantum mechanics", I am not claiming "10 100 IQ people can do what 1 120 IQ person can do" as I agree they never will.

But not all jobs in society require knowledge of quantum mechanics- conversely it sure is easier for someone to focus on quantum mechanics when they don't need to build the automobile they drive to work in.

Further, IF intelligence is fractal as I think it is- genes are building blocks for proteins which are building blocks for cells (neurons) which are building blocks for specialized nervous tissues (the brain and nervous system does has sub structure within it like the Thalamus, Putamen, Hypothalamus, etc...) which are building blocks for general processing of information (is this "g" or is it one step lower at the level of neurons as you suggest earlier?) which are building blocks for "higher intelligence" like Randall Parker, etc... (and I should think the 'self similar' nature of this is obvious) then intelligence is also 'corruptible' or 'vulnerable' at every level where building blocks created its final structure.

And only from genetic diversity at every level of this fractal structure will there be 'alternatives' to use IF a problem arises.

Not Fractal said at September 29, 2008 7:27 AM:

You are full of shit and your posts are nothing but gibberish.

Thai said at September 29, 2008 7:51 AM:

Fine, I am clearly a nut.

Let's move on

Randall Parker said at September 29, 2008 8:36 AM:


The point I am trying to make is that cooperation trumps 'raw processing power' ANY day of the week (imo).

That sounds pretty. But it is wrong.

We have too many low IQ people for the amount of low skilled work available. Income at the bottom end has stagnated or dropped. The market prices for labor show that we way more than enough people to do the low skilled jobs that must get done. Lots of those low skilled jobs could be substituted with capital. For example, in some parts of agriculture (picking fruit trees) Australia has more automation than we do because they have higher relative prices for low skilled labor.

Also, Griffe's Smart Fraction Theory demonstrates how below a certain threshold people do not contribute to raising per capita GDP.

Read the psychometric research and stop just saying pretty things that sound nice but which are wrong.

c23 said at September 29, 2008 8:49 AM:

Thai, the problem with your analogy of humans:society to cells:organism is that all cells in an organism share the same DNA, so they can help themselves by helping each other. That's why they can work together in one organism instead of competing with each other for resources. They only appear diverse because different signals cause different cells to express different genes. There is no genetic diversity. Even then it sometimes fails, in the case of cancer, and cells regularly send out messages to the immune system that amount to "please kill me" when certain mutations that increase the chances of cancer occur.

Same thing with your link to the article kamikaze salmonella sacrificing themselves for other salmonella bacteria - they're sacrificing themselves for their immediate kin, who share the same kamikaze gene, which is randomly activated only part of the time.

Human societies, even "homogenous" ones like Iceland, heck, even inbred freaks like the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints who marry their 14-year-old nieces, are *far more* genetically diverse already than salmonella cultures or the examples you named. We are all competing with each other on some level. Adding more diversity just makes the analogy even worse. If you wanted it to be true, kicking out foreign immigrants would only be the first step. Marrying your sister would be another.

Thai said at September 29, 2008 9:10 AM:

I am reading your links! It takes a little while.

I just came across the following posting on someone's ideas on fractal intelligence while I was doing some searching and they seem relatively similar to my own (there is no scientific data to back it up that is clear). He was similarly criticized for misunderstanding-misapplying ideas of fractals.

I still think you miss my point on cooperation... Whether you 'pay to sterilize people or not, this issue will ultimately resolve itself, even if it may not be in a time frame you would like.

Again, I do not want to be a nut on this board.

Appreciate the dialogue

Let's move on

Thai said at September 29, 2008 9:21 AM:

@c23, I understand the argument for genetic relatedness very well and absolutely agree with it to a point- for remember at some time point in our past a mitochondria got together with another unrelated cell for cooperative purposes until the two became so interdependent that they simply could not live without each other any more and at that point they functionally ceased becoming separate units and instead became one unit.

As a 'hypothetical'- I give money to the wife and children of someone who dies for me in Afghanistan (gladly) even though our relationship as cousins may go back to a connection over 12,000 years old (say they are a recent arrival to America from the rain forests of Brazil). In so doing I am affecting their reproductive fitness in a positive way (taking care of their kids financially) because they are willing to die for me.

Self sacrifice for genetic relatedness absolutely makes sense, I get that, AND it is a lot more complicated than that.

Bob Badour said at September 29, 2008 10:25 AM:


I disagree that all of these kids necessarily need institutions. I do agree, however, with the quoted remark that this situation serves as a wakeup call.

Many of the kids who now look like they may need institutionalization only look that way due to a chronic lack of parental resources and support. It's like an integral calculus integrated over time. Had the support been available 5 and 10 years ago, in many cases, the kid would now have very different behavior.

When we all lived in small communities of closely related people, that support existed in society. I think it is important to ponder the question of how to provide that support in a large-scale urbanized society. I don't have an answer.

Institutions as a general rule are bad, traumatizing places that just make things worse. They serve punitive purposes better than they serve any other purpose. They are very much a last resort.

blue said at September 29, 2008 3:26 PM:

What struck me about many of the examples of abandonment you cited is that it isn't the kid's parents who are raising him. Instead, it's the kid's aunt or grandma or great aunt(!) who's raising him. So, I'm inclined to believe that the parents are really messed up and in jail or living under a bridge or died from an overdose or something.

blue said at September 29, 2008 3:30 PM:

I think it might be easier to ask men to get themselves sterilized because men typically don't want children as much as women and do.

Also, women who don't get married but have two or three boyfriends over the course of their reproductive years seem to want to have a child or two with each boyfriend, in order to cement the relationship. I don't think men feel this urge. So men are less likely to want to have as many children as women do.

Randall Parker said at September 29, 2008 6:42 PM:


Definitely messed up absent parents and messed up kids. Probably genetic for most of them.

As for sterilizing guys: If a woman is going to sleep with a series of guys it isn't going to help much if two or three of them are sterile. Though if guys with especially bad genes get sterilized that will help.

blue said at September 30, 2008 10:27 AM:

Randall, I think you've mentioned on your blog several times now that rapists and other violent criminals tend to have more sex partners and children than non-criminals. Is sthis correct?

You could create a CRACK type sterilization program for violent criminals.

kurt9 said at October 2, 2008 2:26 PM:

The wall street situation is being resolved in a manner that guarantees another financial crisis 10 years later.

The next crisis will occur at a time when large numbers of baby boomers will be drawing on social security. Perhaps we will be involved in another expensive war as well. The combination of these two disasters (three if you include the war) will force the liberal-left boomers a stark choice: Do they finance their retirements? Or do they continue to molly-coddle the non-asian minorities and the underclass in the belief of multi-culti Kumbaya?

I think its a foregone conclusion which choice they will pick, regardless of their flowery rhetoric.

Expect proposals like LaBruzzo's to become increasingly popular and implimented in the next 15 years.

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