The Study Of Intelligence, Ctd

Thanks for all the emails. And the surprisingly civil debate on our Facebook page. I've reached out to some academic pros in the intelligence field, and the feedback I get is that the exploration of IQ and race is effectively toxic as a subject. But the rest of the research area is more complex than my first post suggested. An academic writes:

Within some subfields of psychology, there is a small degree of pushback against studying intelligence, but this is not true of psychology as a whole–there are thriving societies and journals, and reports of intelligence measures are not uncommon in mainstream journal articles. Nor is it unusual for researchers to document the degree of heritability of IQ (once again, within races). The study of racial differences in intelligence, however, particularly when it comes to assessing the possibility of genetic contributions, is still radioactive. Few researchers other than Jensen and Rushton are willing to go there, while marginal phenomena such as "stereotype threat" that superficially seem to suggest that the race difference is 100% environmental are avidly pursued.

And there are distortions in the larger hot zone around the race-IQ Ground Zero, such as the provably false claims that race is entirely a social construction, that general intelligence is an artifact of IQ tests, that the tests are worthless, that IQ was the basis of immigration restrictions and the Holocaust, and so on. Fortunately these are not as common (particularly within psychology) as they were in the 1970s and 1980s.

So there is some veiling of the truth here – or a decision just not to go there. Notice that there is also a great deal of research attempting to disprove any genetic component to intelligence. It's worth noting here that Murray and Herrnstein, despite the relentless smear campaign against them, never stated that genetics was responsible for all the racial gaps. They were merely debating the balance between genes and environment, and conceded that there was no firm way to calculate the balance. So we know that environment affects IQ – malnutrition depresses it in the developing world. But since IQ is proven to be inheritable, the notion that genes play no role whatever – that we remain the "blank slate" some left-liberals want us to be – is a reach. Razib Khan, a genetics expert, adds the following:

The problem here is the word "race." It has a whole lot of baggage. So many biologists prudently shift to "population" or "ethnic group." I don’t much care either way. Let’s just put the semantic sugar to the side. I contend that:

1) Human populations can be easily separated into plausible clusters using a random set of genetic markers

2) The differences between human populations are not trivial

You can say that both positions apply to human races. Or, you can say that race does not exist as a biological concept, and that both positions apply to human populations. Call it what you will, style is secondary to substance. Just as half-siblings and full-siblings are clearly genetically distinct, and those distinctions matter in terms of their traits, so French and Chinese are genetically distinct, and those distinctions matter in terms of their traits.

That's helpful. Whatever we call it, "race" has a biological component that can be genetically mapped. When you apply robust intelligence tests based on general intelligence (g) to this map, there are non-trivial differences between races that are strikingly resilient across the world. Quite why is unclear. My position is simply a) that the notion that genes are not involved in this area is highly unlikely; and b) that, as Razib says

I think an understanding of the phylogeny of the human race is a grand story. Population structure in the present is a shadow of histories past. And with the possibility of admixture with archaic lineages and recent adaptations that story has a lot of novel plot elements to keep your attention.

I'll tackle the question of whether we are better off simply ignoring this in another post soon. If you are just joining the thread, previous posts here, here, here, here, here and here.