“Racists Love Race Science”

Andrew Sullivan —  May 21 2013 @ 10:07am

Freddie DeBoer has a new post on the race and IQ debate that deserves to be read in full. A key part:

People insist: hey, you’ve got to let the science be the science, you’ve got to look at the facts, you’ve got to let them make the case. And I try. I read their essays. I follow their links. I do make a good faith effort. But I do not make that effort with similar credulity or sympathy that I do when I read someone write about tweaking the Earned Income Tax credit or make an argument about alcohol licensing. Why? Because one of these arguments has been used for the perpetuation of a system of chattel slavery and racist domination. That’s why. And, sure enough: whenever people pop up to tell me, “Here, check this link, read the facts,” and I click and read around, and then I follow more links, inevitably, I end up at Stormfront or similar houses of explicit racism. Inevitably, the people who are arguing about inherent black and Hispanic tendency to be unintelligent are also arguing about “black aggression” or “hypersexuality” or “inherent tendency to criminality.” This will apparently come as a shock to Andrew: racists love race science.

Is the correlation between belief in race science and racism 1? No. But it’s a lot closer to 1 than it is to 0. Is that dispositive of the question? Of course not. If there’s a racial bias towards low IQ, and if IQ is really an adequate gauge for real-world, lived intelligence, then the truth will out, just as it will if homosexuality is pathogenic. But to pretend as if people who are pushing the idea of inherent racial inferiority in IQ don’t tend to be the kind of people who believe all sorts of racist things is stupid. It’s moronic. It’s exactly the kind of willful failure to see connections that Andrew is accusing other people of.

I do not doubt that many of those pursuing this question are doing so for ugly reasons. Probably a hefty majority. That should make one especially leery of their arguments and make one very aware of the need to use empiricism almost pathologically. But, of course, one reason why this area is so clogged with racists is that non-racists don’t want to go there. My worry is that not going there will only rebound against the case that such data should not in any way be used for public policy. If affirmative action is finally abolished, we may be able to get race as an identifier out of policy discussions altogether. But what happens if affirmative action goes and we have universities that are overwhelmingly Asian-American and Jewish? What will liberals do then? Another important section from Freddie:

I appreciate that Andrew has, as he always does, engaged with criticism and opposing opinion on this issue. But I am frustrated by Andrew’s continuing ahistorical credulity on this issue, his tendency to read the people making these arguments with the most possible charity. And he matches that with a distinct lack of charity for those resisting them, the constant invocation of liberal piety and political correctness.

I would like very much for Andrew to consider whether his long history with this issue, and the attendant criticism he’s received, has rendered him too ready to see those pushing the race-IQ connection as principled empiricists untouched by emotion or animus. To posit that they are sober-minded, rational minds merely pursuing the scientific truth disinterestedly while their opponents are motivated by groupthink and emotion is a pretty great way to make yourself gullible on an issue where gullibility has profoundly negative consequences.

I cannot analyze myself – but I’m sure I am affected by my history on this. One part, as I’ve written before, is that my entire education was made possible by an IQ test at age eleven, which gave me entrance to what Americans would call a magnet school. I owe a lot to that test – and it was initiated by the left. Today’s liberals forget that testing IQ was once a leftwing idea. It was designed to rescue the poor from the trap of poverty by giving bright kids from poor backgrounds a swift entry to the British elite. That was the left of the 1940s – and you can look up Keynes and eugenics for further insight into how socialist this idea was in origin. Another part was, indeed, the reaction to my convening a debate on “The Bell Curve” at TNR, in the best-selling issue in that magazine’s history. I saw how some liberals really do not believe in free debate where race is concerned.

But I do not believe that critics of the whole project are fueled by groupthink or emotion alone. There’s a very solid case against race as anything meaningful in our culture, and an even stronger case that in the process of constant miscegenation, we are rendering the whole idea of race moot. I sure hope so. There’s also a strong argument that IQ is of extremely limited use – and, in fact, misses a whole range of intelligences that are often more important to our lives and cultures as humans.

I just refuse to wish the data away. The data shocked me when I first read it, and shocks me still.