Friday, July 10, 2009

Falk forces thoughts about interactions between cholesterol and mood, aggressiveness

OneSTDV pointed out a rabid response to the previous post, eloquently described by author Geoffrey Falk as "dumbfuckery". Falk's comment section is closed, so I'll respond here to a few of his points of contention. Falk begins by arguing that concerns about image have no influence on why most vegetarians impose food restrictions on themselves:
What else do the underpaid teaching, therapy and social-worker professions have in common? [Being paid less is not synonymous with being underpaid. Relative to other jobs, these require even less productivity and industriousness than their modest pay rates would suggest, which is why people in such occupations make more in the public sector than they do in the private sector.] Maybe the idealistic wish to help other people, even if it means making less money? You know, making personal sacrifices to help others?

Would that perspective have anything, anything at all, in common with the concern for the welfare of animals and for the environment that drives many of the “conversions” to vegetarianism? You know, might the career choices and the diet choices be driven by a common psychological force, rather than by two different forces?

For myself, I had already decided that I should go vegetarian at age nineteen, for animal-rights reasons; but only actually did it when I started following my erstwhile fraud-guru, Yogananda. So you see, I did it for the best of all possible reasons, which had nothing to do with signaling my superiority to others, and which any conservative could and should approve of: I did it for God. And by the way, although I grew up in a very conservative Christian community, I’ve never believed anything in my life that’s even half as ridiculous as what every Christian believes, as their articles of salvation. Frankly, in all seriousness, I’m not even capable of being that gullible.

Uh huh. Well, I'm convinced. No image tied up in this one. Doesn't matter how other people react to such a non-statement. Doesn't matter at all!

After several more paragraphs of moral posturing, Falk takes aim at the substance of my post:
I was quite surprised to see (from a very small sample size of 42) the GSS data (from the same blog post quoting Peter, above) showing that vegetarians have a lower IQ than meat-eaters. But then I did a little Googling. And guess what? High IQ link to being vegetarian:


"The study of 8,179 [which, I will point out for those of you whose brains are sluggish from eating too much meat, is somewhat greater than 42] was reported in the British Medical Journal.

Twenty years after the IQ tests were carried out in 1970, 366 of the participants said they were vegetarian—although more than 100 reported eating either fish or chicken.

Men who were vegetarian had an IQ score of 106, compared with 101 for non-vegetarians; while female vegetarians averaged 104, compared with 99 for non-vegetarians."

That’s the same five-point gap which Audacious Epigone found in his number-crunching, but in exactly the opposite direction. From a sample size nearly 200 times larger. Plus, while AE’s numbers are from the 1993-4 GSS, the news item is from December of 2006. So there’s no contest at all about which study to take more seriously. It’s fucking hands down.
Given that he is exploding with righteous indignation throughout, I'm going to give Falk the benefit of the doubt and assume in his haste he accidentally made--and then emphatically repeated--an invalid apples-to-oranges comparison before making another errant comparison, no doubt as honest a mistake as the first.

Firstly, the total respondent pool for the GSS question is 1583, not 42. Falk compares the number of those who abstain entirely from meat from the GSS to all people included in the Southampton University study, the vast majority of whom are not vegetarians. The study is not 200 times larger than the GSS sample. It is five times as large.

Secondly, although the "news item" is from December 2006, the study is based on IQ tests administered in 1970 and data collected on dietary habits in 1990. The GSS data is from 1993 and 1994. But if he insists we use his methodology for determining which results are the most contemporarily relevant, the blog item is from July 2009. Either way, it's hands down for me.

Participants in the university study took IQ tests at age ten. Intelligence is relatively unanchored at that age, which plausibly fits with Peter's conception that vegans/vegetarians tend to be SWPL-types who come from middle- to middle-upper SES backgrounds, but who do not make big bucks in adulthood.

Falk admits causality cannot be determined, but the university study casts doubt on the idea that meatless diets boost intelligence:
There was no difference in IQ score between strict vegetarians and those who said they were vegetarian but who reported eating fish or chicken.
In other words, more than diet it is self-assigned labels (or possibly just avoidance of red meat) that were found to be associated with higher intelligence. SWPL posturing, anyone?

The GSS is a wide-ranging, mutli-year database that is considered the gold standard in social surveying. Still, as has been repeated here several times, the analyses run and the results presented are not claimed to be anything more than suggestive.

Falk insinuates that the research on the relationship between vegetarianism and intelligence is deep and mature. In reality, googling "vegetarianism intelligence" returns page after page of write-ups on the Southampton University study he references. There just isn't much out there.

That paucity is why it's worthwhile to glean what we can from the GSS. It's another source to consider. I'll allow readers to draw their own conclusions as to why Falk reacts so viscerally to it being tapped.


agnostic said...

At GNXP somewhere (maybe only in comments), we reviewed a study showing that on the Ravens Matrices test (most highly g-loaded IQ test), vegetarians shot up after taking creatine supplements. Creatine is something you get from animal products.

One of us contacted the author and he said there was no benefit of creatine supplements to omnivores' IQ.

So, vegetarians were lacking something that the creatine made up for.

OneSTDV said...

I can't imagine social posturing is completely absent from the average v/v's motivation. It's part of an entire mode of social operation, including long distance running, aversion to weight training, drinking wheat grass and tea, going on hikes instead of hitting the gym, wearing tight clothes that accentuate a small frame, and listening to hipster music.

Notice what these have in common with each other and with vegetarianism? They all represent a repudiation of mainstream/traditional norms and all would be classified as slightly feminine activities. This is reflected in the physique one attains by eating little protein and engaging in lots of cardio. As Roissy would say, men are becoming more beta (more obliging to women and their norms) and v/v is part of that progress. Many of these men are SWPLs.

Of course, this analysis doesn't include women. They do the v/v diet because it reinforces male subjugation. PLus, well other shit that I don't feel like thinking of right now.

But Geoffrey is not completely wrong, there is a substantial subset of v/v that do it for nutritional reasons (whether they're right or now is inconsequential). I would presume these people are of above average IQ. They do not eat v/v for social reasons.

bgc said...

You will need to be careful about enraged veggies - a friend of mine had some trouble with them:

Anonymous said...

"...wearing tight clothes that accentuate a small frame..."

Those "skinny jeans." Hipsters wear them. Looks terrible too. Same with the rest of their wardrobe. As someone once said being a hipster means spending big $ so that you look like you shop at Goodwill. Christ, those guys are pussies...I don't want to get all Conan and shit with my comment, but what the fuck. Seriously, I feel like an adonis around them, it feels good! And I have taken their women from them too.

Billare said...

I believe both you and Falk to an extent. Signaling one possible explanation to distinguish status between individuals - and self-righteous - not pejorative as used here - moral belief don't have to be completely divorced from one another. It is my uninformed opinion that the nutritional and shopping requirements of pursuing total veganism are much too onerous to be wholly explained by signaling. In any case, there is always a trade-off in any costly signaling model, whether the benefits acquired by signaling "likeness" to others is compensated by the attendant loss in "fitness", which could very well be, as Audacious seems to have discovered, some loss in IQ points.

rec1man said...

The high IQ segment in India, which consists of 60% of the US Indian diaspora, consists of brahmin and merchant castes
and these castes are mandatory vegetarian

as said...

"...wearing tight clothes that accentuate a small frame"

I love this. I think it looks great.

Audacious Epigone said...

Here's an article discussing the study. It looks like v/vers were used specifically because their levels of creatine intake were so low. Those taking creatine supplements performed better on IQ tests and BDS tests.


Right. Falk's position is silly for a reason similar to those held by blank slatists in the human nature debate--he argues social posturing plays no role at all, like many BSers claim nature plays no role. In referencing Peter's comment, I'm not suggesting social posturing is the only factor considered when adopting an herbivore's lifestyle, and of course its influence varies by individual.


Hah, you're quite the creator of bedlam, helping a travelling vagabond get those kinds of online privileges!

Vegetarianism is even more absurd than non-heterosexualism is as a 'protected class'. I guess SWPLs will soon be able to drop emphasizing their 1/128 Native American ancestry and instead enjoy victim status from diet.

Lots of fraud is sure to arise, though. Don't let anyone see you eating meat, and you're able to pass yourself off as one.

Audacious Epigone said...


Well said. I do not disagree. I guess it should've been stated explicitly, but I did not mean to insinuate that all v/vers are primarily motivated, or even motivated at all, by social posturing, but many are and Peter's comments appear to do a good job describing the segment of v/vers who follow the diets they do for signalling purposes.


Any idea how strictly that is followed?

rec1man said...

Vegetarianism in India

Vegetarianism in India started from the time of the Buddha, 600BC,

and Jainism 600 BC

Both these religions had the view of transmigration of souls / reincarnation
and that animals had souls
which made killing animals same as murder
Hinduism also from that time had the same doctrine
Similarly several types of trees are also considered sacred and cant be cut down when alive

Now lay people follow it to lesser extents

Jains ( north Indian merchants, very high IQ ) are the most strict vegetarians
100% vegetarian, no eggs
Being vegetarian is hard and fast rule for jains
Jains are 1% of the population

Buddhist holy texts like the Jataka tales, show animals as having souls and hunters as sinners

In Buddhist countries, while they eat meat, monks tend to be vegetarian. Also buddhists consider butchers as untouchables
Burakumin in Japan
In Japan, until it was opened up in 1850, they only ate fish, and no meat, due to buddhist influence

I saw a recent survey, that about 30% of the hindu population is vegetarian - no fish, no meat, no chicken
This 30% tends to be brahmins, merchants and upper level peasants
( the high iq segment )

Until 30 years ago, about 95% of hindus followed caste rules on eating

In my caste ( brahmin )for example
even now, during the matrimonial process, if we find that the other party or their relatives is not vegetarian, the matrimonial alliance will be dropped

Brahmins - vegetarian ( 5% )
( Bengali brahmins who eat fish, Konkani brahmins who eat fish and kashmiri brahmins who eat fish, chicken, mutton are considered impure lower level brahmins )

Merchants - vegetarian ( 15% )

Upper peasants - vegetarian ( 10% )

A sizeable segment ( 20% ) of the Indian army is vegetarian

Soldiers , Lower peasants - 30%
fish, chicken, mutton
The lowest segment of the lower peasansts ( about 5% ) also eats pork

Untouchables, tribals - 25% - beef, pork,

The key divider from touchable to untouchable castes is beef eating

In addition, there is a historic process called 'sanskritisation'
wherein lower castes adopt the mores of the upper castes to raise their caste levels in society

So, an untouchable caste wishing to become touchable, ( or a tribe wishing to join hindu society )
will first have a caste meeting to ban beef eating

A lower peasant caste, wishing to become upper peasant caste, will have a caste meeting to enforce compulsory vegetarianism

Those who do eat meat, will mostly never actually kill an animal
Since animal killing is done by muslims or untouchables

Fishermen, are barely above untouchables

Among sikhs, the more religious sikhs ( Amritdhari, Namdhari ) are vegetarians
Other Sikhs may eat fish, chicken, mutton, only if the animal is killed humanely ( no muslim halal / kosher )
The langar or free food in Sikh temples is compulsorily vegetarian

The jains for centuries have run free animal hospitals
Many hindus and sikhs run old age homes for cows
All as good karma

In indian religions all life,
human, animal, plant is viewed as part of a spectrum

In the Indian Rajasthan desert, there is a caste called bishnoi,
who reforest the desert and set up wild animal sanctuaries,
They are compulsorily vegetarian
Google up bishnoi

Due to the large incidence of vegetarianism, the ecological footprint of India is much less than can be expected for the population size

silly girl said...

Someone made a comment about animal fats and brain development in the previous thread on this topic. That brings a couple of ideas to my mind. If animal fats aid brain development/maintenance somehow, would the effect be greatest during the period where most growth occurs? Before birth, a developing baby's nutrients are all animal, coming from mom. After birth, a baby's nutrients are all animal derived if the child is breast feeding. The main ingredients in infant formula are corn syrup, soybean oil and dried cows milk (casein and whey). If too little animal fat were a problem, you would expect to see the most effect on intelligence of formula fed infants. However formula fed infants are just about the same intelligence.

The studies I have seen do not compare intelligence of infants on soy formula to infants on cows milk formula, so I wonder about the animal protein effect.

It seems highly unlikely that the intelligence of an adult can be altered much by dietary changes of minor degree such as veganism if the same restrictions do not affect intelligence of infants and children.

I would consider extreme malnutrition to be a significant dietary change, especially in if it occurs in infancy. However, I recently saw a study cited that showed severely malnourished Korean infants adopted by US families grew up to have above average intelligence. They were also more intelligent on average than their adoptive parents.

If extreme deprivation at a critical stage of development doesn't significantly impair brain function, it seems unlikely that minor deprivation after development is mostly complete will significantly impair function.

Of course I haven't considered all the possibilities but these are what came to mind.

As always, open minded but skeptical.

Anonymous said...

"Due to the large incidence of vegetarianism, the ecological footprint of India is much less than can be expected for the population size"

Still a disaster...

Stopped Clock said...

AE: You're still a vegetarian, right?

rec1man said...

Anon said

Still a disaster...

But much less of a disaster than
Pakistan or Bangladesh, which follow non-Indian religions

Razib, ( non-hindu ),for example in his blog has written, that Hindu immigrants are far more eco-conscious than 3rd world immigrants

For example, the main highway in North India, the Grand Trunk highway which goes from Pakistan thru India to Bangladesh, had trees planted on both sides of the road

In India, the trees are still around, whereas in Pakistan and Bangladesh, the roadside trees on this highway have been cut down

Also, consider tiger poaching.
In very many cases, the culprits are neo-converts to xtianity from former hindu tribes
When they were hindus, tigers were sacred and could not be poached
Once they converted out, tigers were no longer sacred and could be poached

Another example is the preservation of whale sharks
Whale sharks were an endangered species, and fished near Gujurat
Recently, hindu holy man, made a religious appeal to the hindu fishermen ( low caste ), to avoid fishing this species and most hindu fishermen in Gujurat have now avoided fishing the endangered whale shark

rec1man said...

Historically there were several Jain kings in India, and they all banned animal killing

Several buddhist emperors from
Asoka 300BC to Harsha 600AD also banned animal killing

Untouchability was first documented by Fahien, a chinese buddhist pilgrim around 400AD
He describes the Chandalas ( untouchables ) as people who persisted in animal killing

Anonymous said...

But much less of a disaster than
Pakistan or Bangladesh, which follow non-Indian religions

The Indian environment, only 80% of the disaster that neighboring nations are! Success! Seriously, if India was such a wonderful place full of vegan goodness and environmental stweardship, we wouldn't even be discussing this. And your examples are pathetic. Tress planted along the road? And who's killing the tigers? Why, Christians! How convenient.

rec1man said...

The world chess champion, Viswanathan Anand, is a tamil brahmin and a vegetarian from birth due to caste rules

as said...

Hey, what about my important point about SWPL guys in tight clothes? Namely, that it looks great.

Why the SWPL hate on this site? I know their politics are bad, but surely the things they like and the way they look is good?

Audacious Epigone said...


I think anon might be conflating the teenage dress of SWPL kids who have not become full-fledged SWPLs like their parents--the tight jeans with a sag, the flowing hair in the front that's regularly brushed aside with the back of the hand, the studded belts, slip-on shoes, etc.

Audacious Epigone said...

Stopped Clock,

About three months ago I added a caveat, because I ws having too much trouble gaining upper body strength, even with creatine and a high-protein diet. It seems a little silly, but it works for me, moralistically and otherwise: I don't buy meat products of my own accord, but if they are provided to me and will otherwise likely be thrown out, I'll eat them. So the day or two a week that I'm at the facility where I'm around the 18-20 yos, I usually go on a meatfest.

Anonymous said...

"The world chess champion, Viswanathan Anand, is a tamil brahmin and a vegetarian from birth due to caste rules."

So what?