Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Is there really a superior race?


Last month, James Watson, the legendary biologist, was condemned and forced into retirement after claiming that African intelligence wasn't "the same as ours." "Racist, vicious and unsupported by science," said the Federation of American Scientists. "Utterly unsupported by scientific evidence," declared the U.S. government's supervisor of genetic research. The New York Times told readers that when Watson implied "that black Africans are less intelligent than whites, he hadn't a scientific leg to stand on."

I wish these assurances were true. They aren't.
Gulp. Those are two powerful yet common words. And, man, Slate's William Saletan has some chutzpah for being able to write such a politically uncomfortable, if not incorrect, article. But facts are facts. And Saletan has sort of been down this road before with 'Jewgenics.'
More importantly, he isn't using this as a platform to bash blacks.

Tests do show an IQ deficit, not just for Africans relative to Europeans, but for Europeans relative to Asians. Economic and cultural theories have failed to explain most of the pattern, and there's strong preliminary evidence that part of it is genetic. It's time to prepare for the possibility that equality of intelligence, in the sense of racial averages on tests, will turn out not to be true. If this suggestion makes you angry—if you find the idea of genetic racial advantages outrageous, socially corrosive, and unthinkable—you're not the first to feel that way.
He relates the mental-visceral struggle over racial genetics to the challenges Christians faced a century ago as Darwin's theory of evolution became the scientific standard.

Evolution forced Christians to bend or break. They could insist on the Bible's literal truth and deny the facts, as Bryan did. Or they could seek a subtler account of creation and human dignity. Today, the dilemma is yours. You can try to reconcile evidence of racial differences with a more sophisticated understanding of equality and opportunity. Or you can fight the evidence and hope it doesn't break your faith.

I'm for reconciliation. Later this week, I'll make that case. But if you choose to fight the evidence, here's what you're up against. Among white Americans, the average IQ, as of a decade or so ago, was 103. Among Asian-Americans, it was 106. Among Jewish Americans, it was 113. Among Latino Americans, it was 89. Among African-Americans, it was 85. Around the world, studies find the same general pattern: whites 100, East Asians 106, sub-Sarahan Africans 70.
The article continues with more studies, more evidence and an explanation. It gets a bit boring at that point, especially because I couldn't stop wondering whether God would actually not create all men equally. Maybe.

The Bible states that we are made in God's image, but we are all different-- physically, mentally, emotionally, etc. -- so clearly there is no standard. I just don't know the answer to this.

Today, Saletan offered his third article on this topic, a breakdown of what the evidence of intellectual inequality teaches us and what we can do to close the gap.

Don't tell me those Nigerian babies aren't cognitively disadvantaged. Don't tell me it isn't genetic. Don't tell me it's God's will. And in the age of genetic modification, don't tell me we can't do anything about it.

No, we are not created equal. But we are endowed by our Creator with the ideal of equality, and the intelligence to finish the job.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

IQ tests measure aptitude at taking IQ tests.

If he's going to generalize it to intelligence, and then take those results and generalize them to race, and then take those results and generalize it to genetics, he's got some 'splaining to do.

Human genetics are a lot more fluid than that... and the races we claim to see are a lot of surface details that don't add up to a hill of beans when trying to predict what genetic differences lie underneath.

I don't believe Saletan for one minute.

-Siamang

Daniel said...

As my Chinese colleague always proudly points out to me" 3000 years of Chinese selective breeding for intelligence was bound to work"
Seriously if you can breed dogs for intelligence you can do the same with humans.

Nathan said...

I agree with Siamang. The IQ tests aren't blind or neutral. In fact, the "naturalists" (because they weren't really "scientists") who first began studying intelligence over 100 years ago essentially created the racial categories we use today. Intelligence testing developed out of a desire to rank race. I collected some references here.

Anonymous said...

As my Chinese colleague always proudly points out to me" 3000 years of Chinese selective breeding for intelligence was bound to work"

If you found that any people allowed themselves to be selectively bred, you would be selecting more directly for submissiveness than intelligence.

Which is why human eugenics on a societal scale cannot work. We're aware of what's going on, and we have the will to fight it, subvert it, etc. One marital affair monkeywrenches the whole shehbang.

I am unwilling to "breed" humans contrary to their own mating choices. The point where we embrace that idea is the point where we lose an essential part of our humanness.

Besides, ever seen an inbred dog? Weakest, shakiest, most disease-prone thing you ever saw. By selecting for one aspect, you weaken the others.

Human selective breeding went out with the hemophiliac blue-bloods of old.

-Siamang

Daniel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daniel said...

Daniel said...
"If you found that any people allowed themselves to be selectively bred, you would be selecting more directly for submissiveness than intelligence."

That is one of the silliest arguments I have ever heard.
The Confucian and Judaic cultures put a premium on intelligence and over thousands of years results have been achieved. Also there are many genetic diseaes among Jews asa reult of inbreeding , but that does not negate the fact that selective breeding for intelligence does happen.
The immigrants from India to the US are not the tired hungry , but rather the best and brightest form India. If we did IQ testing on Indian Americans they would be off the charts , but their average would be lowered if you include all of India in the ratio. What if pakistan than used their Islamic bomb and killed all of India? Would the remaining Indians be the super race ? Of course not, but circumstances can effect the intelligence of a community.

Anonymous said...

"The Confucian and Judaic cultures put a premium on intelligence and over thousands of years results have been achieved."

Documentation for this claim please?

How do you define "put a premium" how did these cultures define and assess intelligence, and can you show that these results indeed have been achieved across the genepool? When and how was this done? How are you defining the ingroup and the outgroup of the "confuscian and judaic cultures"? Yes, that's a good one... by what marker should we be able to tell if an individual is of a hereditary line that if we were to test, should be smarter than the outgroup of that hereditary line?

Who do we test... and what IS the test? Have you a culturally and educationally neutral intelligence test handy, so that we can test the sheer genetically-based variation on intelligence, rather than merely confirming that those people with better access to formal education score more highly on IQ tests?



You call my argument silly, but you don't elaborate as to why my argument is silly. You're long on claims and short on documentation.

Care to elaborate?


You wrote:

" If we did IQ testing on Indian Americans they would be off the charts , but their average would be lowered if you include all of India in the ratio. "

Are you making the claim that this is because of selective human breeding? If you are, are you prepared to support that claim with evidence?

-Siamang

Anonymous said...

Indians are the best!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!