Its an interesting study but I don’t think it proves your point. Wealthy people out bred poor people in a span of 10 generations in England. But I have no particular reason to think that the reason the rich outlived the poor was their ability to read. Access to better food, more sanitary living, less stress all indicate higher survival rates. Its not surprising the the children of the wealthy were more likely to survive into adulthood.
Now maybe we think the rich were better readers to begin with and the gene spread that way. But we have no particular reason to believe this either- or rather we might have reason to believe the rich were better readers but we have no reason to believe this advantage was genetic.
Being able to learn and absorb written material allows a person to create more wealth. This is presumably why people go to school at all. Being able to accumulate more wealth as a result of learning allows a person to have increased reproductive fitness. So when you say “Access to better food, more sanitary living, less stress all indicate higher survival rates”, these things could be the result of learning information. Like if you learned how to build something from a book that could improve your surrounding living conditions. Of course this could be highly variable depending on an individual person’s evolutionary past.
Genes have been correlated with reading ability.
I would imagine their could have been selection pressure on these genes in the recent past.
See here for more info.
Well the second article claims that ev psych cannot explain reading ability and that this is—wait for it!-- evidence of intelligent design. Pretty sure thats neither of our advocacies.
Being able to learn and absorb written material allows a person in our economy to create more wealth. Its not clear to me at all that that has always been the case- at least in degrees high enough to exert enough selection pressure over only a handful of generations to account for a reading ability gender gap. Your average man in 17th century England doesn’t learn to read because his best opportunity to increase his earning is to put in an extra hour on the farm. Or apprentice as a black smith. Or become a sailor. Those with the means might go to school and become lawyers or doctors- but they were already rich. Its not like they had academic scholarship or pell grants.
Its also recalling that in this time period the literacy rate was considerably lower than it is today. And thats not because vast majorities in Europe didn’t have the genes to read during the 18th—its because they weren’t taught to read. That means any selection that was happening was only happening within the small subset of the population that was given the opportunity to learn.
30 percent of english men could read in 1600. I would say that is a considerable amount. Only 10 percent of women could read at that time. By 1700 50% of men could read.
So I would bet that the 30 percent that could read in 1600 out bred those who couldn’t. It’s possible that the increase in reading literacy was partly genetic in origin.
Rational/logical/analytical abilities could help with learning.
There are obviously a lot of complex interactions at work in our evolutionary past that I think we are just begining to understand.
All those older literacy statistics, as it says in the very next sentence in your source, are based on the ability to sign one’s name. Thats not exactly evidence of superior analytic reading and writing skills.
There are perfectly ordinary, non-genetic reasons for the increase in literacy. For one, doesn’t it seem strange to you that literacy rates increased all across Europe at roughly the same time? Shouldn’t some nations have remained illiterate until they interbred with the literate ones? Instead, literacy correlates perfectly with widespread economic and cultural changes. How exactly did people start reading in Europe at all? For a long time it was only the monks who could manage it and they weren’t passing their genes on.
Also, from a quick google it looks like the dyslexia gene set, which is the one you previously identified as evidence for the genetic basis of reading, is autosomal, which means its spread should be equal among males and females.
About the literary statistics, it specifically says “These figures may be pessimistic because reading was taught before writing at school”. So the figures may actually underestimate the literacy rate. I don’t have the time to found other sources.
I’m not saying the increase in literacy rates was all genetic in origin. The fact that literacy increased on a societal scale probably had to do with new inventions that made it easier to publish and distribute written material (I’m not sure of the whole history to be honest so that is somewhat of a guess). However these societal changes may have also led to genetic changes as well. Read the “10,000 year explosion” for more examples of how societal changes lead to gene frequency changes that led to more societal changes. Some animals have rudimentary reading capabilities. Being able to read may just be an offshoot of some other brain process (reading facial expression for example). So evolution is often good at co-opting brain processes for alternative uses. With a wider distribution of reading material it is possible that evolution selected gene frequencies that altered reading ability (speed of reading, logical analysis, etc.)
I don’t think the it matters if the dyslexia gene is the same in females versus males. The phenotypical effect of the gene on the host (male vs. female) would likely be different. The fact that men and women have different hormones could alter the expression of any single gene (for example). The phenotypical effect of any gene in an organism is going to depend on a multitude of factors (like environment, other genes).
That’s all I can say for now.
I think you may have your cause and effect backward here.
in the 1600′s wealth is the cause of people going to school—not the other way around.
The vast majority of people had no access to schooling at all (unless they joined the clergy and thereby their line ended).
Accessible schooling is a very modern phenomenon.
You may thereby be confusing correlation with causation. Reading and wealth are correlated because the latter causes the former, rather than vice versa.
Genes are correlated with reading simply because wealth is correlated with the ability to multiply and support many descendants. Therefore we should not be surprised that reading correlates with genes, any more than that there is likely a correlation between genes and wearing expensive, fashionable clothing.
Agreed. Furthermore, I think that we should consider the fact that even if there was significant selection pressure for the ability to be literate (I would argue that this is most likely not the case) that there is insufficient evidence that this pressure could result in a significant social difference so quickly.
Furthermore, the converse appears to be currently true: the more educated a women is (I would assume this relates to reading comprehension, although not necessarily so) the expected number of children she will have generally decreases (http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/25/educated-women-opting-for-motherhood/).