The Study Of Intelligence, Ctd

Nov 29 2011 @ 12:27pm

TNC goes another round:

On the broad question–Should researchers be free to explore the nexus of race, IQ and intelligence?—Andrew and I are in harmony. Onward, indeed. Where we differ is the following: Andrew, like most conservatives who write about race, is more concerned with a vague p.c. egalitarianism than the forces that birthed such things. (Unlike "political correctness" those forces can actually be quantified, and their impact demonstrated.) 

Well, yes, I do tend to get concerned when politics cramps research and when certain facts are suppressed. And the subtle but clear differences in IQ between broad racial groups are a reality – across country and continent and world. They do not only persist when controlling for economic class, on some measures, they increase. Now, this is only the first baby step in the discussion, but it strikes me as the most important one. And it is this finding – staring right out at us from vast amounts of data that no one disputes – that prompts the question: why? At least that's what I can say for myself. I had no interest in this subject until I saw the data in Murray's and Herrnstein's book. I was, frankly, astounded by it. As a highly educated person, I had never been exposed to this data. And yet, it turned out it was undisputed. Merely the interpretation of it was open to real and important debate.

My own empirical inquiry was birthed not because of some long legacy from slavery, or some racism, or utter indifference to the experience of African-Americans and foul claims about their inferiority. It was provoked by empirical data acquired from the measurement of intelligence in the 20th Century – and immediate liberal hysteria denying that race as a biological construct existed at all. Piffle. And note that there are many interesting ways to debunk this or interpret it non-genetically: IQ is culturally biased against African Americans; IQ is meaningless outside the needs of modern, technocratic societies; IQ does not exist; race as a category is far too muddled and vague a term to be a part of this debate – and that shift is accelerating with more miscegenation; IQs improve with training; and so on and on. But surely they are worth investigating without the fear of p.c. reprisal. Let's say, for example, that we discover that cultural differences in bringing up infants plays a big role in creating this gap. Isn't that worth knowing? And yes, as one reader who is a doctoral student in genetics explains, some of the motives of the research can be and often are suspect:

Many of the scholars who open study IQ differences amongst races are racist and shoddy in their scholarship. But that's because there's a selection effect: only they have the motivation to continue this research. Respectable and normal scholars avoid it. Who wants to be rude? How many people noticed that James Watson endorsed Obama and is a conventional liberal otherwise? E. O. Wilson has the same views as Watson on IQ and race, but keeps quiet about it, and is greeted with acclaim in his dotage because he does keep quiet (his views are clear if you go to Google Books and look up "E. O. Wilson" and "Rushton").

More broadly the silence of scholars due to social norms means that most educated people are totally ignorant of the 1 standard deviation IQ difference between blacks an whites, and that the average black American scores at the 15th percentile in relation to the average white American. Perhaps these facts should be suppressed, I don't know. But they sure have been. I've been in rooms where graduate students argue about the underrepresentation about blacks in their field, but have no idea that their GRE scores are just far lower (this does not speak to why "the gap" exists, just that it exists, but many people are unaware of its existence because of its shocking impoliteness).

Freddie DeBoer joins the fray:

The rush to find genetic origins for any and all human phenomena has become so popular, particularly with the press, that the standards of evidence have eroded everywhere. Genetic or evolutionary speculation has become an obsession of our media, frequently undertaken without a shred of scientific credibility, and defined by faddishness and imprecision. Take homosexuality and genetics. I find it remarkable the number of educated people who I meet who assume, quite confidently, the homosexuality (in both men and women) is purely and straightforwardly the product of genetic predisposition. This is a politically palatable idea– one might call it PC– but it can't yet be proven, even conditionally. There are complications, such as the (controversial) older brothers hypothesis, which is important because it posits a mechanism that is non-genetic and yet nonetheless physiological in origin (and thus not "chosen"), as well as other evidence contrary to the assumed genetic origins of homosexuality.

But as it became politically important for people to insist that homosexuality is genetic, that insistence became more and more prevalent. Never mind that the dichotomy between "homosexuality is purely genetic" and "homosexuality is a choice" is flagrantly false, or that "they can't help it" is not a stirring cry for equality. 

For the record, I have never argued that homosexuality is genetic, since we simply do not have the data to show it conclusively. For the record as well, the second chapter of Love Undetectable plunges into identical territory with respect to some of the hoariest psychological theories behind homosexual orientation: absent father, domineering mother, etc. Many of these theories caused incalculable harm to countless homosexuals in history and still do. But that is a different question as to whether they are true or not. And our absence of a better understanding of homosexual orientation is inhibited by the same impulses that chill discussion of racial differences in IQ. I am no more motivated by racial animus in understanding the dynamics of race, evolution and IQ than I am by homophobia in understanding the dynamics of genes and the environment in homosexuality.

The p.c. left did to Love Undetectable what they did to Virtually Normal: ignore its arguments and demonize its inferred motives. I know whereof I speak. Most people subscribe to general liberal principles. It is harder to live by them.