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Friday, March 29, 2013

One Way to Look at the War on Drugs

An interesting observation:
All illegal drugs combined are to alcohol as the Mediterranean is to the Pacific. We have our whole navy in the Mediterranean. [...]
Half the people in prison were drinking when they did whatever they did…
When I was young I remember thinking that it was ridiculous to pretend that alcohol was somehow radically different and more benign than the rest of the drugs people take.

I continue to tire of the War on Drugs.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Genius, Madness, and China

Via Instapundit, China Is Engineering Genius Babies, and I'm finding the reaction amusing (though I'm easily amused).  To me, the most amusing sort of reaction is, "this will end badly because geniuses are crazy!"  For example:
"High IQ correlates, almost always with highly undesirable characteristics of an intellectual and physical nature…"
Is it true?  Are smart people generally totally messed up mentally and physically?  That seems to be the narrative:
"The idea that creativity and psychopathology are somehow linked goes way back to antiquity--to the time of Aristotle. Centuries later, this belief was developed and expanded by various psychiatrists, psychoanalysts and psychologists. For instance, Cesare Lombroso, M.D., argued toward the end of the 19th century that genius and madness were closely connected manifestations of an underlying degenerative neurological disorder."
It's an emotional topic, bordering on political and ideological dogma.  As a result, when I did a bit of searching, I decided to stay away from mainstream media, which often likes to sensationalize everything.  Instead, I stuck with much drier sources like PubMed and Sage.  The bottom line is that when sticking to objective measures such as IQ, there's virtually no link between intelligence (as measured by IQ) and mental illness with the possible exception of bipolar disease.  Here are some representative links regarding IQ versus mental illness (except for bipolar disorder):

IQ and mental disorder in young men, Mortensen, et al 
RESULTS: Schizophrenia and related  disorders, other psychotic disorders,  adjustment, personality, alcohol and  substance-use-related disorders were significantly associated with low IQ scores,  but this association remained significant  for the four non-psychotic disorders only for the four non-psychotic disorders only  when adjusting for comorbid diagnoses. For most diagnostic categories, test scores were positively associated with the length of the interval between testing and first admission.  ICD mood disorders as well as  neuroses and related disorders were not significantly associated with low IQ scores. 
A longitudinal study of premorbid IQ Score and risk of developing schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe depression, and other nonaffective psychoses, Zammit, et al 
RESULTS: There was no association between premorbid IQ score and risk of bipolar disorder. Lower IQ was associated with increased risk of schizophrenia, severe depression, and other nonaffective psychoses. Risk of schizophrenia was increased in subjects with average IQ compared with those with high scores, indicating that risk is spread across the whole IQ range.
That's not very surprising to me.  It's tough to do intelligent things like ace IQ tests if you're a schizophrenic or otherwise mentally ill.  A common retort to that is that they are often geniuses, they just don't do well on IQ tests because of their disease.  To which my retort is that I'm a genius except my stupidity gets in the way of my doing well on IQ tests.  If genius is what might be achieved if all our limitations were removed, then we're all geniuses.  We're all special.

But bipolar disorder may well be different:
Is bipolar disorder more common in highly intelligent people? A cohort study of a million men, Gale, et al 
ABSTRACT: Anecdotal and biographical reports have long suggested that bipolar disorder is more common in people with exceptional cognitive or creative ability. Epidemiological evidence for such a link is sparse. We investigated the relationship between intelligence and subsequent risk of hospitalisation for bipolar disorder in a prospective cohort study of 1 049 607 Swedish men. Intelligence was measured on conscription for military service at a mean age of 18.3 years and data on psychiatric hospital admissions over a mean follow-up period of 22.6 years was obtained from national records. Risk of hospitalisation with any form of bipolar disorder fell in a stepwise manner as intelligence increased (P for linear trend < 0.0001). However, when we restricted analyses to men with no psychiatric comorbidity, there was a ‘reversed-J’ shaped association: men with the lowest intelligence had the greatest risk of being admitted with pure bipolar disorder, but risk was also elevated among men with the highest intelligence (P for quadratic trend=0.03), primarily in those with the highest verbal (P for quadratic trend=0.009) or technical ability (P for quadratic trend < 0.0001). At least in men, high intelligence may indeed be a risk factor for bipolar disorder, but only in the minority of cases who have the disorder in a pure form with no psychiatric comorbidity.
Excellent school performance at age 16 and risk of adult bipolar disorder: national cohort study., MacCabe, et al 
RESULTS: Individuals with excellent school performance had a nearly fourfold increased risk of later bipolar disorder compared with those with average grades (hazard ratio HR = 3.79, 95% CI 2.11-6.82). This association appeared to be confined to males. Students with the poorest grades were also at moderately increased risk of bipolar disorder (HR = 1.86, 95% CI 1.06-3.28).
But the version of bipolar disorder they're considering here affects about 0.2% of the population (in the referenced study).  So even with highly intelligent people having 4 times the prevalence, that's still less than 1% of the population.

So I'd say the Chinese are safe as far as vastly increasing mental illness in their genius breeding program.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Quote of the Day - Kling on Fiscal Governance

Arnold Kling on Jeff Sachs on the Administration’s Budget Plans:
I know that the conventional wisdom is that Republicans and conservatives are hopelessly irrational and self-contradictory on fiscal policy. Let us stipulate that such is the case. That does not mean that the Democrats and progressives are rational and coherent. If someone on the left can point me to a budget that does what you want, does not lead to explosive deficits, and does not depend on spending an imaginary dividend of “lower health care costs, through magic,” I would like to see it. 

To put it this another way, I think that even if the entire conservative side of the political spectrum were to collapse tommorrow, the left still could not govern. (emphasis added)