Biochemical Soul Musings on Nature, Science, Evolution, Biology, and Education

8Oct/08Off

John Derbyshire Claims Barack Obama Will Kill Science

Trust me - there is a good scientific reason for being racist

"Trust me - there is a good scientific reason for being racist"

In an incoherent leap of bad logic, John Derbyshire over at the National Review (I know – why did I even bother reading it?) has come to the conclusion that an Obama Administration will kill science (his article title: “Will Obama Kill Science?”).

However, upon reading his incredibly ridiculous argument, it becomes clear that he only thinks Obama will kill one aspect of science: the science that he believes will eventually, inevitably prove that some races are better and smarter than others.

Why does he think this? It’s not clear. His only real argument is that Obama once wrote a piece for NPR in which he criticized someone for wanting to package racism in science.

Basically, his argument is: “Barack Obama is black. So Obama is anti-racist. Therefore, any science dealing with the nature of human variation will be outlawed by an Obama administration.”

He also does some rambling on Barack’s “cultural Marxist” upbringings, and some anecdotes about researchers not being funded when they want to study differences between races. One of the funny aspects of the article is that the initial paragraphs only hint at the actual subject of the article. He hints at future biological discoveries with

“metaphysical implications more disturbing than were those of quantum mechanics... “The conceptual revolution among human-sciences researchers has in fact already taken place. This is not widely understood because (a) news outlets are very reluctant to report it, (b) powerful political forces have an interest in suppressing it, and (c) researchers prefer getting on quietly with their work to having their windows broken by mobs of angry protestors.”

One can only think, “Wait. What is he talking about?” He certainly dares not explicitly state what his entire article is about. Then he says,

“Most people still think of human-science controversies in terms of nature/nurture. As a matter of real scientific dispute, that is all long gone…The dust of battle has pretty much settled now, in science departments if not in the popular press, and nature is the clear victor. Name any universal characteristic of human nature, including cognitive and personality characteristics. Of all the observed variation in that characteristic, about half is caused by genetic differences. You may say that is only a half victory; but it is a complete shattering of the nurturist absolutism that ruled in the human sciences 40 years ago, and that is still the approved dogma in polite society, including polite political society, today.”

Oh, I see. I think he’s hinting that race is real and determined by genetics and that genetic differences in race will show that some are “better” than others.”

“That dam now has more cracks than the surface of Europa and water is spraying out all over. The only thing that could stop a complete collapse would be the power of government …”

In other words, “Oh, we’re so close…our racism is almost supported by science! Only the government can stop it now!” I particularly like his use of the phrase "human-science enthusiasts" which seems to be a euphemism for "people with a vested interest in proving physical and mental inequalities between races." He rambles some more and then ends with,

“We are about to find out whether our traditional devotion to free speech and free enquiry can survive real, incontrovertible results from the human sciences; and in particular, in the event of an Obama victory, whether that devotion can survive under a left-liberal administration headed by a cultural Marxist — an administration much more interested in shoring up the soft totalitarianism of “diversity” and “multiculturalism” than in permitting the discovery of true facts about human nature.”

He finishes still without ever having acknowledged the actual subject the entire article alludes to. However, he clearly means to state that the “human-sciences” will soon show real differences in race at the genetic level and he strongly hints that this will show differences in actual equality and intelligence.

What a douchebag! It is also quite clear that he knows next to nothing about molecular biology, population genetics, or genomics.

Read it for a laugh.

Update (10/8, 2PM): Welcome Pharyngulites (or whatever the correct term for Pharyngula lovers is). PZ Myers over at Pharyngula has now linked to my post and he has his own, much more eloquent take on this piece, and a good batch of comments following it.

Update 2 (10/8, 6PM): Michael White at Adaptive Complexity has picked up on this issue and has some very good comments as well, linking the issue back to James Watson's infamous remarks on race and intelligence. Go check it out.

Comments (84) Trackbacks (2)
  1. People like that make scientists look bad. I mean, really? He even mentions IQ genetics – which if you know anything about the history of the IQ test you would know is scientifically invalid anyway (oo, i know! let’s design a test that people we think are smart do well on by changing the questions until they do better than other people… then call it some biological measure of intelligence!). Which is probably why there’s no funding for it… the whole it’s-not-a-real-measure-of-anything bit.

  2. Christie,

    Among scientists who actually work on this or related topics, there is strong consensus that IQ is real, predicts outcomes in an incredible variety of situations, that within-group variation is heavily or mostly heritable in developed countries, and that it maps on to physiological correlates such as the development of particular brain regions.

    The consensus report of the American Psychological Association is that IQ is valid and reliable, predicting a vast host of outcomes, from the ability to solve math problems to rates of car accidents, the time it takes to teach almost every skill in military training, job performance in almost every task for which performance can be measured objectively, etc. It is highly heritable, thus monozygotic twins are much more similar in IQ than dizygotic twins, whether raised together or apart.

    Here is the full report:
    http://michna.com/intelligence.htm

    Anonymous polling of psychologists, geneticists, and related disciplines way back in 1987 revealed that most believed that the black-white gap (this was an American study) was at least partially genetic, with a quarter saying that there was too little data to draw a conclusion and less than a fifth saying that black-white differences were all environmental.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snyderman_and_Rothman_(study)

    Since that time further research has shown that IQ is strongly related to MRI measurements of brain size, trajectories of brain development, and the development of particular brain regions. These neuroanatomical characteristics are much more similar between monozygotic than dizygotic twins.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroscience_and_intelligence

    James Flynn, discoverer of the ‘Flynn Effect’ (the secular increase in IQ scores during the second half of the 20th century), a committed egalitarian socialists who thinks and hopes that black-white IQ differences are probably environmental, nonetheless admits that the evidence is mixed and he may be proved wrong (or right) soon using modern DNA technologies.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_R._Flynn

    Scientists whose work touches on IQ usually attack research to test whether racial differences are genetically based using arguments based on the negative consequences of learning that the gap was genetic. But arguments of that type only make sense if you think that there *really is a substantial chance that the gap is significantly genetic,* otherwise you would just do the tests and prove the Bell Curve people wrong. Many explicitly say that they don’t want to know the truth, and want to prevent anyone from finding out.

    Moving on from the formal consensus, you have to consider the the actual data and arguments of the scientists who have published numerous peer-reviewed articles strongly suggesting that black-white and white-Asian (people of Chinese and Japanese ancestry consistently outscore whites) are substantially due to genetic factors. The review article below, by Arthur Jensen (considered one of the top 50-100 psychologists of all time, and an honest and open-minded scholar by scientists who disagree with him) and Phil Rushton (who has been tarred with accusations of racism more often). Examining this data, it’s extremely difficult to argue that an at least partially genetic explanation for racial IQ differences better explains the collection. At the least, it shows that the question is open. Within 10 years it will be fairly simple to resolve the question decisively using genomics (it could be done even now, but no one will fund the research, so it probably won’t happen until the cost is low enough to do with a small amount of money)

    http://www.udel.edu/educ/gottfredson/30years/Rushton-Jensen30years.pdf

  3. I think one of the key points we as scientists must acknowledge is that, yes, we will likely find certain allelic difference between individuals in different populations that can lead to different potentials for things like IQ.

    But we are no longer in the nature/nurture war, as Dirbyshire admits. Evirnoment, upbringing, and education plays a strong role in how “smart” one can become. In reality I think the differences one will find between races in genetic IQ will be found to be miniscule with regards to the actual cognitive abilities of said populations.

    From a societal perspective, such small variations in intellect based on genetics should have no role whatsoever in any policies, worldviews, or any other utilitarian aspects of the functioning of human civilization.

    The problem with people like Derbyshire (a self-proclaimed racist – see below) is that they promote this science not to undertand subtle differences in human genetic makeup and physiology, but to rationalize their own bigotry and percieved self-superiority.

    “I am a homophobe, though a mild and tolerant one, and a racist, though an even more mild and tolerant one, and those things are going to be illegal pretty soon, the way we are going.” – John Derbyshire

    • Have you read Derbyshire’s piece following the Watson controversy? He makes a point, also made by Dan Seligman, in “A Question of Intelligence” that while people focus on group differences this kind of research is inescapable. The alternative, is that people who focus solely on the discrimination/oppression model is that any disadvantage must be due to unfair privilege of other groups. History shows that this kind of thinking leads to persecution, ie. the Armenian Jews or the Chinese in Malaysia. However, there is ample evidence to show these groups, on average, score above average on IQ tests & that this is partly due to genetic advantages (see the Cochran/Harpending paper on Ashkenazi Jewish intelligence). Therefore their overrepresentation in the professions is due to intelligence (along with culture/hard work etc) not some unfair or institutional advantage.

      • You could also posit that there is no such thing as “race” and that your preoccupation with such leads one to believe that you are nothing but a racist piece of trash that wants to play with the big boys and justify your superiority complex.

        • “but a racist piece of trash that wants to play with the big boys and justify your superiority complex.”

          Why do you resort to ad hominem attacks? Either you agree with what I say, or disagree and give reasons. It’s embarrassing.

          • Why would I resort to ad hominem attacks and snark as an answer to your prototypical racial inequity BS? Because you’re a cut and paste kiddie without the mental capacity to understand a real debate on the issue.

            You came here for two things: To defend Derbyshire and to justify your own idea of race and superiority.

            So on one hand you’re defending a racist, and on the other, well, you are a racist.

            No one with any sort of intellectual capacity should bite, because doing so would only give the appearance that you have anything resembling real data or facts. No, sorry little man, no one should ever give your “arguments” the credibility that a reasoned discussion would bring.

        • “You came here for two things: To defend Derbyshire and to justify your own idea of race and superiority.

          So on one hand you’re defending a racist, and on the other, well, you are a racist.”

          Jay, that’s the kind of “incoherent leap of bad logic” the original poster accuses Derbyshire of. Perhaps you could read what I’ve posted and address that (I think if you did, you’d find it isn’t racist). It’s more productive than resorting to name calling which is basically the first refuge of the incompetent.

  4. “But we are no longer in the nature/nurture war, as Dirbyshire admits. Evirnoment, upbringing, and education plays a strong role in how “smart” one can become.”

    For adults in non-abysmal environments (nutrient deficiencies, etc) 50-80% of the differences between people are the result of genetics. In addition, the non-genetic factors are mostly things that differ within families, not between families. Socioeconomic status and education don’t have major effects on adult IQ. Even *adoption into upper-middle-class households in neighbourhoods with good schools* only temporarily raises IQ, with the effects disappearing in adulthood.

    “In reality I think the differences one will find between races in genetic IQ will be found to be miniscule with regards to the actual cognitive abilities of said populations.”
    The African-American vs white gap is one standard deviation (85 versus 100). That means that 1/6th of blacks have IQ over 100, versus 50% of whites, and 75+% of Ashkenazi Jews. Kids with one black and one white parent regress to a mean halfway between, even if adopted into middleclass households. The children of black middle class couples earning $100,000+ underperform the children of whites earning less than $10,000 in school. Because of the shape of a normal distribution, the effects become more extreme at the far right tail.

    When you control for IQ, almost all the racial gaps in crime, unemployment, high school dropout rates, child abuse, poverty, representation in science, college graduation, etc, shrink to a small fraction of their previous size or disappear. In many cases, this would eliminate an absolute majority of the problem (if black and Latino americans had average IQs of 100, most high school dropouts and most murders would be averted).

    If these differences are not genetic, then we should be investing massively in finding ways to alter the relevant environmental factors, but in order to do that we need to understand the genetics to control for them. If the differences are heavily genetic, then many of our policies are probably chasing environmental effects correlated with genes, and we should shift resources to social programs with better cost-benefit ratios (perhaps shifting money from educational programs with no effect to wage subsidies or food stamps).

    “From a societal perspective, such small variations in intellect based on genetics should have no role whatsoever in any policies, worldviews, or any other utilitarian aspects of the functioning of human civilization.”

    However, these environmental variables are often correlated with genes, so if you don’t take into account the genetic factors you will wind up overestimating the effects of various environmental interventions. For instance, the children of people with graduate degrees have higher adult IQs, and a natural inference might be that people with graduate degrees provide more cognitive enrichment in the home or better schooling. But then when you look at kids put up for adoption, you find that their adult IQs are about as high even if raised in lower SES homes by less-educated parents.

    Turkheimer is a fellow on the political left (he thinks that people looking for genetic explanations of racial IQ gaps should be attacked and censored because he is afraid of what they will find) but he does work showing that estimates of the costs and benefits of interventions and the impact of social problems are systematically mistaken because of failure to take into account genetic effects. Here’s a paper of his on divorce using a twin study framework:

    http://people.virginia.edu/~ent3c/papers2/Articles%20for%20Online%20CV/(2)%20D%27Onofrio%20et%20al%20(2007).pdf

    The No Child Left Behind law requires universal ‘proficiency,’ and penalizes schools for failing to achieve it. The demands of the act are impossible to fulfill, because of well-accepted research on individual differences in genetics and IQ. If genetic information could be incorporated, then we could create algorithms to predict children’s potential performance and pay teachers for results relative to the difficulty of achieving them.

    Programs for gifted children, which are important in nurturing future great scientists, are subject to intense attacks in the United States because fair tests result in few African-American or Hispanic kids qualifying. Either the programs are shut down, or they are forced to accept unqualified kids to ensure racial demographics matching the general population, and have to lower the challenge of the gifted program.

    From my perspective, the most pernicious effect of the taboos around race and intelligence is that it may slow our development of the scientific understanding of IQ and genetics to enable embryo selection and germline genetic engineering, which can raise IQ (and thus increase income, health, marital stability, atheism, scientific research, understanding of political issues and thus good voting behavior, etc, etc) in children of all races. We talk a lot about the value of education in building a better society, but most of the variation in educational attainment is a result of IQ, and many of the favorable differences of educated people relative to the population at large reflect IQ rather than education. Ashkenazi Jews earn a quarter of American Nobel Prizes with ~2% of the population. Imagine if the entire American population performed at that level and we had a tenfold improvement in the rate of scientific advance. Imagine a place where the average voter is sufficiently intelligent that he or she can understand evolutionary theory, basic economics, statistics, etc. Imagine a reduction in the poverty and high school drop out rates of 95%.

    We have the technology for embryo selection, and the DNA sequencing to guide that embryo selection could be done within ten years. If the government then provided it free of charge through universal health care we could have a radically different civilization in 50 years, one that would be able to easily cope with threats of global warming, disease, etc. That’s the vision that motivates people like Godless Capitalist (who is Indian, not white, BTW). James Watson wants to use genetic engineering to give all kids the cognitive capabilities scientists like ourselves enjoy, as he has said in public and in private (he really means it, and his son matters to him), and it is in that context that he mentioned the research (see below) indicating low IQs in Africa (lower than African-American IQs because of vitamin deficiencies, disease, and possibly less white admixture). With modern reproductive technology, the discovery that social outcomes hinge heavily on genetics does NOT mean that there’s nothing we can do about them.

    The book below reviews and collects hundreds of studies conducted by a variety of researchers (not ideologically homogenous) on national IQ levels and relates them to economic data.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IQ_and_Global_Inequality

    Sorry for the long comments, but this is an important issue where discussion is usually clouded by outside political concerns, and it’s important to engage with the science. Things are also confounded by a structural effect of the taboo: if you speak too candidly about these things you do get in trouble (death threats, funding cuts, denial of tenure), so those who talk about them under their own names (note my anonymous handle) are more likely to be those with some special motivation.

    “The problem with people like Derbyshire (a self-proclaimed racist – see below) is that they promote this science not to undertand subtle differences in human genetic makeup and physiology, but to rationalize their own bigotry and percieved self-superiority.”

    People like Derbyshire are unpleasant spokesmen, but the response should not be to decry him for mentioning the science. Instead, people with progressive sympathies should study the issues and how we should respond.

    Peter Singer has suggested this, and Steve Pinker has made contributions as well.
    http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/singer30
    http://www.utilitarian.net/singer/by/1999—-02.htm

    A similar phenomenon pertains to funding of the research. People attack studies that were financed by the Pioneer Fund (which has a racist past
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer_Fund), suggesting bias, but then they refuse to fund independent scholars to replicate and test those claims (published in peer-reviewed journals).

  5. “For adults in non-abysmal environments (nutrient deficiencies, etc) 50-80% of the differences between people are the result of genetics.”

    To clarify, I am referring to heritability here, i.e. these differences are much less pronounced (only 20-50% as great in identical twins). Genetic variations may lead to changes in environment (your genetic variants make you read more books, get more mental exercise, etc), and changes in environment change heritability. However, despite decades of trying (and continuous subsequently falsified claims of success) no one has found environmental interventions that produce lasting increases in healthy kids (nutrition, particularly supply of nutrients like iodine and iron, has had big effects, likewise removal of pollutants such as mercury).

  6. Let me clarify what I meant by my response…

    The problem with IQ testing is that it is designed to work. How do they decide what questions to ask, for example? The test questions are chosen because those who tend to do well on them also do well in school/life/etc in one particular culture, not for their inherent merit or connection to anything biological. The test, therefore, does what it should – connects how well you do on the test with how well you do in life.

    The key part is that none of that is a measure of biological ability or anything ‘genetic’. It’s a social construction which predicts social outcomes, with no real connection to any specific biological quality, therefore studying it in the sense of Biology has no meaning. Studying it in Psychology and Sociology, it could be useful, maybe, but not in biology. For that matter, ‘brain development’ could be highly environmental – nutrition as a child, for example, which is not a genetic trait. After all, height, which is considered exceptionally “genetic,” is highly variable with nutrition. So what does it mean for something to be “genetic”?

    The report does say there are differences between races and groups in general. As the report given above says, “It is clear, however, that [differences], whatever their origin, are well within the range of effect sizes that can be produced by environmental factors.” AND, for that matter, “It is sometimes suggested that the Black/ White differential in psychometric intelligence is partly due to genetic differences (Jensen, 1972). There is not much direct evidence on this point, but what little there is fails to support the genetic hypothesis.” So where in that report does it say that the differences between groups are genetic?

    Basically, IQ tests are not a biological measure of intelligence, at least not in any scientific studies that I have seen to date. Not even to mention that intelligence is poorly defined in general, and there is likely a whole host of genes working in complex, inexplicable ways to create what we think of as intelligence, and I highly doubt there’s any difference between races in those genes (the fact that “race” is a social construct not a biological one will be saved for another day).

    • “(the fact that “race” is a social construct not a biological one will be saved for another day).”

      Christie,

      Have you read the Risch study? Risch et al., Am. J. Hum. Genet. 76:268–275, 2005.)?

      Professor Steve Hsu discusses it here:

      Consistent with prior studies, the major genetic clusters consisted of Europeans/West Asians (whites), sub-Saharan Africans, East Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans. ethnic groups living in the United States, with a discrepancy rate of only 0.14%…

      We see that there can be dramatic group differences in phenotypes even if there is complete allele overlap between two groups – as long as the frequency or probability distributions are distinct. But it is these distributions that are measured by the metric we defined earlier. Two groups that form distinct clusters are likely to exhibit different frequency distributions over various genes, leading to group differences.

      This leads us to two very distinct possibilities in human genetic variation:

      Hypothesis 1: (the PC mantra) The only group differences that exist between the clusters (races) are innocuous and superficial, for example related to skin color, hair color, body type, etc.

      Hypothesis 2: (the dangerous one) Group differences exist which might affect important (let us say, deep rather than superficial) and measurable characteristics, such as cognitive abilities, personality, athletic prowess, etc.

      Note H1 is under constant revision, as new genetically driven group differences (e.g., particularly in disease resistance) are being discovered. According to the mantra of H1 these must all (by definition) be superficial differences.

      A standard argument against H2 is that the 50k years during which groups have been separated is not long enough for differential natural selection to cause any group differences in deep characteristics. I find this argument quite naive, given what we know about animal breeding and how evolution has affected the (ever expanding list of) “superficial” characteristics. Many genes are now suspected of having been subject to strong selection over timescales of order 5k years or less. For further discussion of H2 by Steve Pinker, see here.

      The predominant view among social scientists is that H1 is obviously correct and H2 obviously false. However, this is mainly wishful thinking. Official statements by the American Sociological Association and the American Anthropological Association even endorse the view that race is not a valid biological concept, which is clearly incorrect.”

      http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2007/01/metric-on-space-of-genomes-and.html

      “Further technical comment: you may have read the misleading statistic, spread by the intellectually dishonest Lewontin, that 85% percent of all human genetic variation occurs within groups and only 15% between groups. This neglects the correlations in the genetic data that are revealed in a cluster analysis. See here for a simple example which shows that there can be dramatic group differences in phenotypes even if every version of every gene is found in two groups (i.e., 100% of the variation is found within each group) — as long as the frequency or probability distributions are distinct. Sadly, understanding this point requires just enough mathematical ability that it has eluded all but a small number of experts.)”

      http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2008/01/no-scientific-basis-for-race.html

  7. “The test questions are chosen because those who tend to do well on them also do well in school/life/etc in one particular culture, not for their inherent merit or connection to anything biological.”
    The tests turn out to work on other things for which they were not validated, and many of the culture-related things they predict are pretty fundamental, e.g.:

    1. Reaction time, even just pressing a button upon seeing a stimulus.
    2. Mental arithmetic.
    3. Remembering pictures.
    4. Learning physics, mathematics, biology, chemistry, etc.
    5. Driving a car without crashing.
    6. Succeeding as a hunter-gatherer. (The assessments of one’s fellow hunter-gatherers as to one’s proficiency are correlated with IQ).
    7. Reading written language.
    8. Writing a letter.

    Restructuring society to do without those abilities looks tough.

    “The key part is that none of that is a measure of biological ability or anything ‘genetic’.”

    Here you go for neurology:
    http://journals.cambridge.org/production/action/cjoGetFulltext?fulltextid=1305784

    On ‘genetic,’ the difference between monozygotic and dizygotic twins, is that the former share 100% of their genetic material, while the relatedness of the latter is only 50%. If pairs of people increasingly resemble each other on a trait as the proportion of their genetic material they share increases, we have a genetic influence.

    “After all, height, which is considered exceptionally “genetic,” is highly variable with nutrition. So what does it mean for something to be “genetic”?”
    Differences in height between people in America are largely predicted by genes in a given generation. Improving nutrition has changed average heights, but because that affected the country as a whole, you can still predict someone’s height just by knowing the height of their identical twin raised apart. Likewise, if know the IQ of a middle-class American’s identical twin raised apart, I can predict his or her IQ.

    If racial differences in IQ are due in part to genetic factors, then when we sequence the genomes of large numbers of blacks and whites and find the genetic variants that lead to decreased or increased IQ (such that when we consider sibling pairs where one sibling inherits the variant and another does not, there will be a statistical difference between the IQs of the two groups) differing frequencies of those variants in the different groups will explain the differences in IQ between the groups.

    “So where in that report does it say that the differences between groups are genetic?”
    It doesn’t, it was a consensus statement and so didn’t take a stance on that controversial issue. Immediately below that section of my comment I linked to a survey of researchers showing the majority believing that the gap was in part genetic, and about a sixth believing that it was wholly environmental.

    “Basically, IQ tests are not a biological measure of intelligence, at least not in any scientific studies that I have seen to date.”
    Do you not consider twin studies to be biological evidence?

    Have you read this review article yet? It is a concise statement of the hereditarian arguments and rich in citations to check.
    http://www.udel.edu/educ/gottfredson/30years/Rushton-Jensen30years.pdf

  8. By the way, Derbyshire is wrong to think that Obama would be much more likely to suppress this sort of research than McCain. The current censorship efforts have been spearheaded by Bush Administration appointees such as Francis Collins.

  9. “The tests turn out to work on other things for which they were not validated, and many of the culture-related things they predict are pretty fundamental…
    Restructuring society to do without those abilities looks tough.”

    Well, yeah, because those abilities would make you do better in life, don’t you think? Does that mean that the connection is a biological one? And were all those tests done in all races? I’m just interested if blacks are all worse drivers, too. In science we tend to get too caught up in correlation and mistake it for causation. Especially when genetics are involved.

    “a survey of researchers showing the majority believing that the gap was in part genetic, and about a sixth believing that it was wholly environmental”

    Scientists aren’t always right. Is our opinion mean it’s true?

    You might want to check out Ken Richardson’s book “The Making of Intelligence.”

  10. Also, just to add, the tests are hard to really trust in general, because we have no understanding about how almost everything in the methods of a test might affect the outcome. For example, one study found that races perform differently just by being told what’s being tested. They were told to try and putt a ball into a hole. When told this tested their athletic ability, blacks did better. When told it tested intelligence, whites did better. So simply calling it an intelligence test, for whatever reason, might make people do worse on it.

  11. AND, just for the record, intelligence could be largely influenced by fetal conditions. Twin tests don’t show differences in that. After all, isn’t playing classical music supposed to make a baby smarter? And a lot of twin tests vary in when and how the children are separated, making them unreliable.

  12. You two have pretty much surpassed my own knowledge in the details of the current research.

    However, Christie hit on the point that I think alot of people are making when she said

    As the report given above says, “It is clear, however, that [differences], whatever their origin, are well within the range of effect sizes that can be produced by environmental factors.”

    That is, even if and when we discover the actual genetic determinants behind “intelligence” (ignoring the definition problems), the differences may be significant scientifically, but they will remain irrelevant to any claims of intelligence as the word is used by the lay-public. We should be careful on how we study and report these findings. Our society is not particularly scientifically literate.

    But I also completely agree with Utilitarian in that this knowledge will be necessary down the road, when humans have reached the point of enacting trans-humanist goals (i.e. self-directing our own evolution – I’ve written on this before, though not very eloquently or technically).

    Again, Derbyshire is a racist and I doubt he understands any of these more-complex scientific issues that you two are arguing (quite well I might add). He thinks in terms of simple quality of the “races” (which I agree with Christie’s hint that it is not a useful term).

    • “Again, Derbyshire is a racist and I doubt he understands any of these more-complex scientific issues that you two are arguing (quite well I might add). He thinks in terms of simple quality of the “races” (which I agree with Christie’s hint that it is not a useful term).”

      He is married to a Chinese women, hardly the behaviour of a racist.

      Also, Christie is wrong about their being no biological basis for race.
      http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2008/01/no-scientific-basis-for-race.html

      • You’re late to the party and stupid. Did you actually think you had something to offer other than evidence of your own limited intelligence on this topic?

        • Thank you for your comment. Your hostility suggests that you are unsure of how to rebutt the evidence I have provided. Calm down. No need for the abuse.

  13. “After all, isn’t playing classical music supposed to make a baby smarter?”

    Such claims are rather laughable until evidence of correlation and at least a suggested (even if not established) causation are presented.

  14. “Scientists aren’t always right. Is our opinion mean it’s true?”

    It’s a reasonable presumption that when the people who know most about an emotionally-charged topic come to an unpopular view about reality, generally reluctantly in the face of the evidence, that they’re more likely to be right than the public. Of course, it’s better to engage directly with the evidence (which I don’t think I have skimped on providing), but that’s a quick and easy-to-communicate reason to think that the evidence will be convincing.

    “You might want to check out Ken Richardson’s book “The Making of Intelligence.”

    I have, and found that it suffered from unfamiliarity with relevant literature in a number of ways. For instance, Richardson argues that the high heritability of IQ and high adaptive value of intelligence indicate that heritability studies must be flawed. However, intelligence comes with costs: the brain consumes 20% of calories in the human body, higher IQ is associated with slower maturation, and pleiotropy creates tradeoffs (e.g. patients with Gaucher’s disease and certain forms of torsion dystonia show greatly elevated IQ and representation in intellectually demanding fields such as science, but also suffer from spasms and risk of paralysis). Further, and most importantly, even traits subject to strong selection still have mutation-selection balance. Genomics has by and large refuted the Common Disease, Common Variant hypothesis: the heritability of many diseases (seriously fitness-impairing genetic variants) is mainly the result of a continuous influx of rare new mutations that are then selected against. Because thousands of genes are expressed in the brain, there are many loci where mutations can arise, resulting in high heritability and few alleles of large effect.

    http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0160289606000031

    “AND, just for the record, intelligence could be largely influenced by fetal conditions. Twin tests don’t show differences in that.”

    Actually, studies of twins and other siblings are possible and do show effects of shared prenatal environment, as a significant component of the non-genetic variation.
    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/20731

    In general, for adults, biological variables and effects such as prenatal environment, exposure to heavy-metals, disease exposure, vitamin deficiency, neuroanatomy, and genetic makeup predict IQ better than family or school.

    “And were all those tests done in all races?”

    A lot of validation data comes from the U.S. army, which tests the IQ of all its recruits, who come from all racial groups, and collects enormous amounts of data. Numerous civilian studies show that the predictive validity of IQ tests is equally good for African-American, Asian-American, and European-Americans.

    “For example, one study found that races perform differently just by being told what’s being tested.”

    The stereotype threat literature finds effect sizes that are far too small to account for group differences, and many of the experiments have dubious ecological validity. The original much-hyped study was reported as finding that racial differences disappeared when stereotype threat was removed, but this was only true when *controlling for the SAT scores of the students.* In other words, adding stereotype threat could make minority students perform worse on a test than they did on the SAT, but removing it couldn’t make them perform better or reduce the gap relative to normally observed levels.

    “Does that mean that the connection is a biological one?”

    You seem to be using ‘biological’ in a sense that I’m not very familiar with. What does your definition refer to, i.e. what would make the connection biological in your view?

    “Which is probably why there’s no funding for it… the whole it’s-not-a-real-measure-of-anything bit.”
    In what sense is this true?

  15. The fact that Obama is smarter that Derbyshire would, if Derbyshire were bright enough, alert him to the fact that, even if it were true, “whites are genetically smarter than blacks” would be a statistical statement about averages among populations from which no useful (to racists) inferences can be drawn.

  16. “For adults in non-abysmal environments (nutrient deficiencies, etc) 50-80% of the differences between people are the result of genetics.”

    This is meaningless drivel, as differences between people are not discrete enumerable equally-weighted items. Most of the differences of interest between people are consequences of their differing brain states — memories, beliefs, etc. — which are primarily a result of experience.

  17. “If the differences are heavily genetic, then many of our policies are probably chasing environmental effects correlated with genes, and we should shift resources to social programs with better cost-benefit ratios (perhaps shifting money from educational programs with no effect to wage subsidies or food stamps).”

    Funny how you use that loaded (intellectually dishonest) word “heavily”; from your own claim, at least half of the differences are environmental. You really ought to read what the authors of “The Bell Curve” concluded about the implications for social policy before engaging in such foolishness.

  18. FYI @ Utilitarian

    your comments are delayed because my spam filter catches all posts with multiple links – I have to approve them (which is the way it must be considering the loads of spam I get).

  19. Given the rather abysmal historical genetic records and the mixing of races over a long amount of time, along with social awareness of a future “brown world”, would seem to indicate that focus on racial genetics will quickly become a part of humanity’s sorry past.

    Communities are not closed environments to be used as petri dishes of genetic materials carried through extended generations. The very nature of a “small world” genetic pool gives an indication of a melting pot situation where, even today, races are neither pure, nor can their purity be determined. That is, unless there happens to be some new research in genetic makeup that is able to fully indicate racial purity. Given the dominance of melatonin controlling genes as well as the promiscuity of plantation owners, racial purity in America can no longer be determined by a simple family tree, nor a review of one’s skin color.

    All of that would quickly make identification of subsets of race impossible, therefore giving more weight to the idea that environment, and not genetics, determines IQ much more readily.

    Also missing from the above discussions are the implications of poor nourishment of growing embryos and how those effects may be greater than future out-of-womb determinants.

    • From Steve Hsu’s blog on European Journal of Human Genetics (2008) 16, 1413–1429; doi:10.1038/ejhg.2008.210

      “) Genetic distances between population clusters are roughly as follows: the distance between two neighboring western European populations is of order one in units of standard deviations and the distance to the Russian cluster is several times larger than that — say, 3 or 4. From HapMap data, the distance from Russian to Chinese and Japanese clusters is about 18, and the distance of southern Europeans to the Nigerian cluster is about 19. The chance of mis-identifying a European as an African or E. Asian is exponentially small! (Table 5)”

      http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2008/11/european-genetic-substructure.html

  20. Finally, let me comment on the deeply racist assumption in Utilitarian’s argument — somehow, if the statistical average difference in IQ between populations is “heavily” genetic, we shouldn’t spend money on educating African Americans and instead give them food stamps. After all, all African Americans are equivalent, so if the statistical average among populations is “heavily” genetic, no African American could benefit from educational spending.

    Ok, maybe Utilitarian is just stupid and, for all his blather about science, has no understanding of statistics and populations. Or, more likely, the racism and functional stupidity are correlated.

    • Truth Machine,

      Abusing someone is hardly the sign of a good argument. I don’t think the point is that people should not spend money on those at the lower end of the IQ spectrum (whatever their skin colour), but that the potential of a genetic explanation (rather than blaming it on discrimination/oppression etc) should be considered.

  21. “would seem to indicate that focus on racial genetics will quickly become a part of humanity’s sorry past.”

    Agreed that racial genetics will fade from view, primarily because of reproductive biotechnology that will decouple traits of interest from race, or other futuristic technologies, but given current patterns of intermarriage it would take many centuries or millenia to achieve panmixia.

    “Given the dominance of melatonin controlling genes as well as the promiscuity of plantation owners, racial purity in America can no longer be determined by a simple family tree, nor a review of one’s skin color.”

    You can just use SNP-chips and look for clustering in a space of very high dimension, and compare to ancestral populations. 23andme does it all the time.

    http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1196372

    “All of that would quickly make identification of subsets of race impossible, therefore giving more weight to the idea that environment, and not genetics, determines IQ much more readily.”
    That doesn’t follow at all. Twin studies, adoption studies, etc, don’t go away because of hypothesized future events.

  22. even today, races are neither pure, nor can their purity be determined

    Which triggers this thought: In Utilitarian’s world, because differences in IQ are “heavily” genetic, it would have been a waste to give Obama a scholarship if he hadn’t been half-white.

    Like Derbyshire, Utilitarian needs to come to grips with the implications of the fact that numerous individual blacks — e.g., Obama — are much smarter than numerous individual whites — e.g., Derbyshire and Utilitarian.

    • “In Utilitarian’s world, because differences in IQ are “heavily” genetic, it would have been a waste to give Obama a scholarship if he hadn’t been half-white.”

      That’s silly. Obama is an extremely smart guy (smarter than McCain, for instance), who earned a magna cum laude at Harvard Law, with blind anonymous grading. He had a good LSAT score, since he declined to check the affirmative action box for HLS (although he used it for Columbia). His father was a brilliant African. When you’re giving a scholarship, the academic information (tests, grades, publications, etc) essentially screens off information you would use only to predict the academics (although because of the implicit attitude research I would remove names and indicators of racial group to prevent bias on the part of the reviewers).

      “Like Derbyshire, Utilitarian needs to come to grips with the implications of the fact that numerous individual blacks — e.g., Obama — are much smarter than numerous individual whites — e.g., Derbyshire and Utilitarian.”

      I understand high school math and discuss this very fact in the comment above, which was in moderation when you commented. Information about populations is relevant when thinking about groups, e.g. in designing studies to determine the effects of divorce or education on life outcomes, or in investigating the causes of health disparities.

      I don’t mind that other people have handier genetic endowments for various purposes, and likewise I don’t mind if there are families or countries or ancestry groups with higher average intelligence, or strength, or conscientiousness than mine. I certainly don’t mind if Roland Fryer is smarter than me (http://www.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/fryer). Those are just facts about the world that we can use in our planning to figure out how to make things better.

      • That’s silly.

        No it’s not silly, it’s an implication of what you wrote about policy.

        Obama is an extremely smart guy

        Duh; that was the point. There are smart blacks who can benefit from the social programs you would eliminate in favor of food stamps, and genetic contributions to differences in statistical averages among populations are irrelevant.

    • Truth Seeker,

      Have you read any of Derbyshire’s articles about the Watson controversy? He makes quite explicit the fact that their is overlap:

      “Or take this: If the figure of 15 points usually given for the black-white gap in mean I.Q. scores is correct, then around six million — that’s 6,000,000 — black Americans have higher I.Q.s than the average white American. Should they be worked up? Or should the average white American be worked up? Who should be worked up about this?”

      http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=NzEyZjFmOWQ4YzlmZDRhMTdlMWYyNWJlNjEwM2Q5NDI=

  23. Let me first say, this discussion is completely random, and if you don’t want me cluttering up this post with epic comments please say so, but I do appreciate the clear-headed conversation.

    “That is, even if and when we discover the actual genetic determinants behind “intelligence” (ignoring the definition problems), the differences may be significant scientifically, but they will remain irrelevant to any claims of intelligence as the word is used by the lay-public.”

    I don’t quite understand what you mean here. I discussed the size of the gaps above, these are fairly huge effects, e.g. 1 SD for the black-white gap. That means that less than 3% of African-Americans will have an IQ above 115, the level required to complete a fairly rigorous college degree, versus 16% of whites, and over a third for Ashkenazi Jews. Non-genetic effects (including prenatal environment, disease, mercury poisoning, iodine deficiency, developmental noise, etc) can create differences of that size but there’s no known means of creating lasting boosts of half that size in Americans not suffering from things like heavy metal poisoning or vitamin deficiency.

    “We should be careful on how we study and report these findings. Our society is not particularly scientifically literate.”
    Agreed! People consistently misinterpet claims of average statistical differences as categorical statements that apply to all members of the group. But ‘men are on average taller than women, but not all men are taller than all women’ does seem feasible for the general population to grasp if explained carefully and repeatedly.

    I also wonder exactly what negative effects do we fear would stem from such knowledge, even if misinterpreted? That people would think of African-Americans as having on average lower IQs, less able to perform analytical reasoning, comprehend written material, perform most jobs, etc? But that is already well known among experts in the field, and has had very few detectable policy effects.

    “Again, Derbyshire is a racist and I doubt he understands any of these more-complex scientific issues that you two are arguing (quite well I might add).”

    I don’t want to defend Derbyshire too much (certainly not on the homophobic claim), but Godless Capitalist, who happens to be a top-notch scientist IRL, says that he does understand the science, and when he says he is a racist he means in part that he has that understanding. For instance, (mostly liberal/progressive) criminologists know that racial disparities in incarceration rates are generally not caused by biased cops, judges and juries, but because of disparities in actual rates of crime (according to the current laws, which include prohibition of the sale of narcotics, etc), but avoid publicly discussing that fact and being accused of racism (and have devoted incredible energies to disproving this finding, which emerged as a result of many failed attempts to pinpoint bias).

    In this diavlog (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/11427) conservative commentator Heather MacDonald is amazed when her progressive academic interlocutor admits the facts about bias and is left sputtering, since in public life this is constantly denied and she is called a racist for stating the facts. (For instance, Obama blames incarceration disparities on discrimination of the type that criminologists have spent decades in a futile search for on the campaign trail, just as he endorses Iowa ethanol and blames foreigners for economic problems).

    Many activists explicitly define ‘racist’ to include anyone who thinks that there are racial differences in socially salient traits, *even if that is true,* i.e. that it is possible that one must choose between having true beliefs and being a racist. In that case the two of us will be racists if the data comes out a certain way. As a Bayesian who thinks that it is more likely than not that the data will come out that way, I am already a racist by that definition, regardless of my policy preferences or implicit attitudes (my significant other is African-American, and my IAT (https://implicit.harvard.edu/) show a favorable response to African-Americans, unlike most African-Americans and whites).

    Others say anyone who opposes racial quotas in hiring and education is automatically a racist. I think Derbyshire wants to get rid of racial quotas in hiring where this results in hiring less competent employees, spend less on social programs that don’t work, and alter immigration policies to take in more immigrants with genetic predispositions to high IQ, conscientiousness etc (perhaps by reducing illegal immigration and increasing immigration for people with college degrees or jobs in technical fields). Is that intrinsically racist? I suspect that he would turn out biased against African-Americans on an IAT test, and so is racist by that measure, but I am wary of overinterpreting the quote.

    “He thinks in terms of simple quality of the “races” (which I agree with Christie’s hint that it is not a useful term).”

    He certainly does understand basic statistics, and that he is referring to means, the proportion of groups at different cutoffs, etc. Since we set social policy with the aim of reducing disparities between racial groups (defined through self-identification, or by the observations of Census workers), it makes sense to talk about them. Self-identified race maps quite well to continental ancestry (hence the ability of SNP chips to determine degree of ancestry so reliably) and clustered traits because of thousands of years of fairly strong reproductive isolation in environments with different selective pressures (see the explosion of lactase alleles, adjustments to the carbohydrate-heavy agricultural diet, disease resistance, personality, etc).

    If the ‘race’ that is used to guide social policy and reduce group disparities maps well to continental ancestry, and relevant disparities can be explained by that fact, then that’s relevant, no matter how we decide to talk about it here.

  24. from your own claim, at least half of the differences are environmental

    I misstated Utilitarian’s claim; my apologies. Still, his inferences about social policy are appallingly ignorant. The Bell Curve, regardless of the validity of its arguments about correlations between race and IQ, was much more enlightened on the subject of social spending.

  25. “given current patterns of intermarriage”

    Who said anything about marriage? Current patterns of procreation of mixed race parentage is a statistic that isn’t very well kept, and given a lack of encouragement to be truthful about the results of unmarried couplings, or even extracurricular couplings, our knowledge of current interracial mixtures is incomplete and should be considered somewhat indeterminate.

    As well, I pointed out that ancestral traces may be less than indicative of racial purity, especially in regards to “blacks” of American decent.

  26. there’s no known means of creating lasting boosts of half that size in Americans not suffering from things like heavy metal poisoning or vitamin deficiency.

    So I guess the closing of the IQ gap is just some temporary anomaly.

    Others say anyone who opposes racial quotas in hiring and education is automatically a racist.

    Anyone who mischaracterizes affirmative action as “quotas” certainly has been influenced by racist memes.

    • “Anyone who mischaracterizes affirmative action as “quotas” certainly has been influenced by racist memes.”

      This is an ad hominem argument, however, very effective in silencing debate. I will grant you that.

  27. “Still, his inferences about social policy are appallingly ignorant.”

    Could you be more specific? I gave some hypothetical examples to illustrate the principle, e.g. if more accurate studies and analysis indicated that a certain educational intervention was relatively ineffective at relieving poverty and other negative outcomes, while wage subsidies such as the EITC got more bang for the buck, then one could reallocate funding from less effective ones to more effective ones. My recommendation is just to get accurate information, and then use that to determine the best policy.

  28. truth machine just said what I was trying to say:

    numerous individual blacks — e.g., Obama — are much smarter than numerous individual whites — e.g., Derbyshire and Utilitarian.

    What I’m saying is very simple: most of the population simply cannot and will not understand the scientific basis and implications of any findings of racial differences. Utilitarian, your own stats that only X% with sufficient IQ to succeed in college is a testament to this.

    What happens when the populace get the mere (wrong) idea that “whites are statistically more likely to have a higher IQ than blacks” (which I don’t accept as having been validly proved)? What happens is that they instead take up the worldview that “whites” are better than “blacks”. It causes hatred, fear, bigotry, and true racism.

    Look at what happened with the mere alleging that Obama was associated with Ayers. What happened? Screams of “Terrorist”, “kill him”, “treason”, and a mob of supporters hurling epithets at a black sound engineer at a rally.

    Even *if* science could show clear cut significant differences in IQ based solely on genetics, that would have no real meaning on any intrinsic “value” of either race.

    But people would tend to see any black as inferior, even when that individual may be (and likely would be many times more intelligent than that person).

    • “What happens when the populace get the mere (wrong) idea that “whites are statistically more likely to have a higher IQ than blacks” (which I don’t accept as having been validly proved)?”

      What would it take to validly prove it other than the tests over the last 40 years or so? Has any test been designed (despite years of trying to avoid disparate impact) that results in equal outcomes in group averages?

  29. Truth machine,

    “there’s no known means of creating lasting boosts of half that size in Americans not suffering from things like heavy metal poisoning or vitamin deficiency.

    So I guess the closing of the IQ gap is just some temporary anomaly.”

    I assume you are referring to this paper:
    http://www3.brookings.edu/views/papers/dickens/20060619_IQ.pdf

    I think it shows a real change, and that Flynn was correct in excluding the samples that he excluded. However, this is not contrary to the statement you quoted.

    1. The gap seems to have shrunk somewhat in children, and then rebounds in adults. Hence the ‘lasting’ in my comment, and distinctions between child and adult IQ. All sorts of things, including Head-Start type programs and adoption temporarily boost child IQ, and then the effects fade out. This has been known for decades.
    2. It’s not a ‘known means,’ the mechanism is quite unknown.
    3. The change is not equal to ‘half the size’ of the gap.

  30. if more accurate studies and analysis indicated that a certain educational intervention was relatively ineffective

    How could studies about the genetic component of the average IQs among populations show such a thing? Perhaps if you were to use proper tenses, you wouldn’t fool yourself so badly: “was” (observation) -> “would be” (inference). Such an inference entails a large number of assumptions.

    My recommendation is just to get accurate information, and then use that to determine the best policy.

    And just how does one “determine” that? By applying ill-informed and racist-tinged assumptions, in your case.

  31. The change is not equal to ‘half the size’ of the gap.

    The change is ongoing. Sheesh. It takes an extraordinary act of will to ignore the massive social factors that would have contributed to a gap regardless of whether there were a genetic component and the amelioration of those factors over time. Regardless of whether there is a genetic component or how large it is, it is still important to implement social policies that continue to ameliorate those factors; in fact, The Bell Curve argues that a lasting, genetic component makes it all the more important to do so.

  32. To add to Irradiatus’s 6:09pm post:

    Given utilitarian’s point that class, and possibly IQ, create divergent “communities” (I’m not trying to quote exactly, but summarize). As those communities become more divergent we will should able to observe significant IQ shifts when comparing the two “communities” and we should get increased divergence of bell curves across the two populations.

    I’m not sure I can fully explain how incredibly dangerous this would be, nor can I point out how such an occurrence would be overwhelmingly detrimental to a society of significant size, and could possibly happen in only a handful of generations. As well, the divergent effect would have an exponential curve, and the trend would be difficult to even identify before any sort of societal correction could be acted upon by socialized forces.

    This brings up a question: If there is a genetic quality to IQ that indicates racial determinates, how should this data be presented to society at large?

    And another question: Who would anyone trust to make the determination about how this information is shared with not only the scientific community, but with the academic community and the general public without starting a massive racial divergence?

    Already American society is faced with increasing segregation due to the widening income gap (class warfare). Why add to it?

    • “This brings up a question: If there is a genetic quality to IQ that indicates racial determinates, how should this data be presented to society at large?”

      You’re underestimating people’s common sense. People already quite readily realise that some people are smarter than others. People notice that some families tend to be particularly smart (“the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” etc). Does society fall apart because of this? Are we rushing to implement eugenics?

      The point is that equality under the law is not contingent on everyone having the same ability. Individual rights apply regardless of whether you’re smart, mortally ill, injured or otherwise.

  33. “What I’m saying is very simple: most of the population simply cannot and will not understand the scientific basis and implications of any findings of racial differences.”

    Do they have to find out about it?

    “What happens when the populace get the mere (wrong) idea that “whites are statistically more likely to have a higher IQ than blacks” (which I don’t accept as having been validly proved)?”

    Wait a second, what you wrote has been proved and is pretty much universally agreed upon in psychology, it’s the causes that are in dispute. Yet this knowledge hasn’t caused great social upheaval.

    “What happens is that they instead take up the worldview that “whites” are better than “blacks”. It causes hatred, fear, bigotry, and true racism.”

    White racists hate this stuff when it shows Chinese and Japanese samples outscoring whites. The Nazis went after IQ tests for showing Jewish people outscoring ‘Aryans’ on average. Won’t showing that whites don’t have the highest average IQ help to defuse this?

    “Even *if* science could show clear cut significant differences in IQ based solely on genetics, that would have no real meaning on any intrinsic “value” of either race.”

    Obviously.

    “But people would tend to see any black as inferior, even when that individual may be (and likely would be many times more intelligent than that person).”

    Rural people on average have lower IQs than ‘Harvard elites,’ but they don’t see this as a mark of inferiority. Most MIT graduates have higher IQs than most non-MIT graduates but they don’t see the latter as less worthy human beings.

    • White racists hate this stuff when it shows Chinese and Japanese samples outscoring whites. The Nazis went after IQ tests for showing Jewish people outscoring ‘Aryans’ on average. Won’t showing that whites don’t have the highest average IQ help to defuse this?

      Spend some time on Stormfront and you won’t have to speculate or depend on the speculations of people here.

      Rural people on average have lower IQs than ‘Harvard elites,’ but they don’t see this as a mark of inferiority.

      Scientific reports of differentials in IQ don’t cause racist whites to see blacks as inferior, it supports those beliefs through confirmation bias.

      • Do you think those same people would think differently if the tests showed blacks scored above whites? They hold those views because they have extreme ingroup bias based on race. Not IQ.

  34. “whites are statistically more likely to have a higher IQ than blacks” (which I don’t accept as having been validly proved)?

    There’s no doubt of the statement, but it’s the “lasting genetic cause” that is unproven, and which is frequently left out of the statement — another distinction that a scientifically illiterate populace would have difficulty making.

    Even *if* science could show clear cut significant differences in IQ based solely on genetics, that would have no real meaning on any intrinsic “value” of either race.

    And, even if such differences were shown, they would not support the sorts of policy changes that Derbyshire, Utilitarian, and others who grind this axe are seeking — eliminating “quotas”, affirmative action, and other levelers.

  35. “Given utilitarian’s point that class, and possibly IQ, create divergent “communities” (I’m not trying to quote exactly, but summarize).”

    I have no idea where this came from, I didn’t say anything of the sort. I mentioned that there had been low rates of gene flow between continents for many millenia, but there are high rates of gene flow across class lines. I also said that gene flow between continental ancestry remains low enough that it would take many generations before randomly selected individuals would all have the same mix of continental ancestry, i.e. panmixia.

    “As those communities become more divergent we will should able to observe significant IQ shifts when comparing the two “communities” and we should get increased divergence of bell curves across the two populations.”

    No strong reason to expect this, especially if advanced reproductive technologies are used.

  36. LOL

    “Even *if* science could show clear cut significant differences in IQ based solely on genetics, that would have no real meaning on any intrinsic “value” of either race.”

    Obviously.

    NO – That’s the entire freaking point. It is NOT obvious to the uninformed or unintelligent public. They do in fact view these types of issues as impinging directly on inherent value of people. That is WHAT RACISM IS.

    “Rural people on average have lower IQs than ‘Harvard elites,’ but they don’t see this as a mark of inferiority. Most MIT graduates have higher IQs than most non-MIT graduates but they don’t see the latter as less worthy human beings.”

    I can’t believe from this that you know many “rural” people. Yes they do see it as a mark of inferiority – only in reverse. Why do you think there is all this class warfare between “Joe-six pack” and “liberal elites”. Most less-than-intelligent rural people I know (I’m from Arkansas and Texas) DO think that the “elites” are less worthy. Only the direction is reversed with regards to IQ. Because intellectualism is “bad”.

    I know this contradicts the entire previous notion that racists see themselves as smarter than other races. But again, this is the whole point – people are not rational when it comes to racial differences (at least the specific people were talking about here).

    • I don’t think he knows many MIT graduates either … or is in denial about them.

      Oh well, this whole discussion has been entirely predictable. The “scientific” approach of Utilitarian is summed up by his comment: “perhaps shifting money from educational programs with no effect to wage subsidies or food stamps”. No effect — not because, you know, the effects were measured and found non-existent, but because it can be inferred from that fact that blacks are dumb (with all the necessary qualifications when called upon to make them, immediately forgotten in the next sentence) that they can’t be ejukatid.

      Feh. Good bye.

      • On educational interventions with no effect, I’m thinking about the various large-scale early preschool and Head Start type programs. Nobelist Jim Heckman has done a lot of econometric work on these, (he is often cited by the Obama campaign), using IQ measures in ways essential to the research, and found that many don’t pay off, while others do.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Heckman

        • Nice of you to cite work that contradicts your position … “others do”, and he ain’t talking about food stamps.

          • I would also note that “don’t pay off” is nothing like “no effect”. The issue is IQ and genetics, not the economic costs of various government programs. Of course, it’s hard to get into details when all we have is a Wikipedia stub bio of an author rather than a relevant citation.

            As I said, it boils down to political axe grinding … again, quite predictable. Ok, gotta stop wasting my time here on an increasingly irrelevant mindset.

          • I don’t think it contradicts any position that I am defending. Early education has some effects on later work, crime, and other social outcomes, but not lasting cognition boosts. There is wide variation between projects and target groups, and all available information needs to be used to figure out which are better uses of scarce funds.

            Also, I do know a lot of rural people (in the north, not in the South, which is presumably significantly different with respect to these things, but my S.O. is from the south and had to deal with discrimination there) and MIT graduates.

  37. “n, they would not support the sorts of policy changes that Derbyshire, Utilitarian, and others who grind this axe are seeking — eliminating “quotas”, affirmative action, and other levelers.”

    I know the term ‘quota’ is a charged term, but it is accurate. Firms, agencies, and schools look at their demographics and change their policy until the numbers come out right. That’s a perfectly legitimate way to implement affirmative action in the face of discrimination.

    If you did studies with controls for genetics, SES, etc, you could figure out exactly what fraction of difficulties were caused by discrimination, genetic factors, poverty, etc. I endorse affirmative action/preferences to counter the effects of current discrimination, or lasting effects of past segregation (I support reparations for slavery, for instance), but insofar as race serves as a proxy for genetic disadvantage, then countering redistribution should be based on the genetics and not race.

  38. Sorry, utilitarian, I misinterpreted your point, I thought you were insinuating divergence, not higher rates of gene flow.

    It sounds like we’re all on the same page, even the flame throwing from truth machine.

    So what I would like to get out of this is a rational for condemning the findings of people like Derbyshire, while still allowing for the scientific discussion of genetic/societal/environmental effects of IQ as well as the viability of IQ testing as a measure of “success”.

    My main issue with The Bell Curve isn’t that it was written by someone from the AEI, but that it interpreted success as income. Success as defined by the individual is succinctly different than the success as defined by communities and by society (which are also different). Tying societal success to individual IQ appears to be a start down a racial pathway, if one so desires to take it in that direction, right?

    • even the flame throwing

      If you have a problem with something I wrote, quote it and point out the problem, rather than engaging in such ad hominem innuendo.

    • “My main issue with The Bell Curve isn’t that it was written by someone from the AEI, but that it interpreted success as income. ”

      Agreed, that misreads anyone who chooses highly rewarding low-pay jobs, or prioritizes leisure.

      “So what I would like to get out of this is a rational for condemning the findings of people like Derbyshire, while still allowing for the scientific discussion of genetic/societal/environmental effects of IQ as well as the viability of IQ testing as a measure of “success”.”

      I like Rawlsianism. We already believe in redistribution to those with genetic disadvantages (funding for kids with learning disabilities, genetic nondiscrimination in insurance so that people with costly genetic conditions get health care), so just extend the principle. People with genetic advantages didn’t somehow earn them, so tax them and use them to help the worse off. Argue for and establish this principle, then you can just continue on unhindered in the wake of otherwise shocking discoveries.

      Also, cite the massive cultural changes that affect outcomes regardless of genes. Rates of violence and single parenthood in the African-American community shot up dramatically in the 1960s and it wasn’t because of genetics. We know that there is discrimination of a variety of types (audit studies with resumes, implicit attitude tests, etc) and can show it.

      Have research on genetics and cognition done by unbiased researchers with no connections to outfits like the Pioneer Fund, and report their results in dense technical language (this is already being done to a great extent).

      Push to subsidize embryo selection and other reproductive technologies so that when any disturbing results become known they are already visibly on their way into irrelevance.

  39. “I can’t believe from this that you know many “rural” people. Yes they do see it as a mark of inferiority – only in reverse.”
    That’s what I was referring to.

  40. One question I am quite uncertain about is whether a sudden or gradual reveal would minimize the negative social consequences.

    The cost of using genomics to perform admixture studies to test for biological explanations of group differences in IQ is declining exponentially. With a $399 SNP-chip analysis from 23andme already on hand, and the $1,000 and then $100 genomes on their way a single private individual or foundation like the Pioneer Fund will be able to test for this. Any genomics studies that need to collect IQ information to examine Alzheimer’s, depression, alcoholism, etc, will also be able to test it just by examining their data.
    http://www.apa.org/journals/releases/amp60160.pdf

    This puts a limit on how long research findings can be suppressed. In the interim time, we can take various actions to make the reaction less painful, e.g. laying the groundwork for a Rawlsian attitude to genetic inequality. On the other hand, will the negative reaction be worse if bad results come out if the scientific establishment is accurately seen to have been trying to conceal things from the public? Would conservatives use this as an excuse to attack science on climate change and the like, “they hid the truth there, why not on this too?”

    It’s not obvious that it must be that way, given the general irrationality of the public, as previously discussed: we might be able to have a flip where one day we go from talk about contingent equality and the next it’s Rawlsian talk of imposing justice on the genetic lottery. If this is the case, then early preparation of the public would be counterproductive.

    What are your thoughts?

  41. What you are suggesting, I believe, is that society has the capability and propensity to use genetic determinates to apply value to a human being (and extensible to non-humans, but outside of this discussion), right?

    I genuinely don’t have an answer as to why not. Designer babies are already the playthings of authors and informal questionnaires, as if the reality isn’t far away. Why not genetic determinates for value assigned to those that aren’t “designed” from birth? No one would design a bell ringing humpback or a miner with average intelligence, so the possible high marks might only be determined by the original genetic material and its ability to be molded into the “perfect” specimen.

    Too disturbing of a future, I’ll leave that up to the philosophers and their counterparts in the bad fiction screenwriters guild.

    • I don’t see why genetic information will greatly increase the assignment of dollar values to people. That’s already done in cost-benefit analysis for governments building highways and setting traffic regulations, national health care systems with limited resources, employees and unions negotiating hazard pay, etc. If that sort of thing bothers you, you should have been bothered by it all your life.

      Embryo selection is already done today: you use IVF to create several embryos, examine their genetics, and pick one. There’s no ‘design’ involved. The greater our genomic knowledge, and the more embryos we can produce, the greater the effects. If you pinned down all the relevant variation and produced 100 embryos you could produce a boost at least equal to the black-white difference in a single generation.

      • Assigning monetary values to a population as a sum is different than assigning a dollar value based upon a genetic sum of an individual, don’t you think? Using those values to provide or withhold fundings for programs or education I could see happening.

        The counter argument to that is the increasing, or desire to increase, current special education funding. I just don’t know that societal empathy will tend to treat 75-90 IQ scores as a group that should get additional funding for education and/or other support.

  42. Jay: “What you are suggesting, I believe, is that society has the capability and propensity to use genetic determinates to apply value to a human being (and extensible to non-humans, but outside of this discussion), right?”

    Where did you get that from? Got a quote to cite? Did you get it from this:

    Utilitarian: “I like Rawlsianism. We already believe in redistribution to those with genetic disadvantages (funding for kids with learning disabilities, genetic nondiscrimination in insurance so that people with costly genetic conditions get health care), so just extend the principle. People with genetic advantages didn’t somehow earn them, so tax them and use them to help the worse off. Argue for and establish this principle, then you can just continue on unhindered in the wake of otherwise shocking discoveries.”

    I don’t really see that as assigning value to people based on genetics. That is quite the opposite really. It is saying that everyone is worth the same and deserves a high standard of living *despite* genetics, so people who got lucky and got genes that give them higher earning power should be taxed and the money should be given to those who were unlucky in that regard.

    • Yes, I basically got it from the combined whole of the comments from utilitarian, and not from a single quotable moment. Of course, it could be the shock value of realizing that human genetic materials may be precursors to organizations assigning a “value” to human life. I could easily see insurance providers doing something, and there has already been talk about insurance providers using genetic identifications for illness precursors, why wouldn’t they use it to also assign values to life insurance and possibly other areas?

      • Ok I understand you, I just got hung up on you using the word value. You are just talking about monetary worth to society.

      • “there has already been talk about insurance providers using genetic identifications for illness precursors, why wouldn’t they use it to also assign values to life insurance and possibly other areas?”

        We don’t have to let the free market do whatever it wants. In this regard, the US has already taken action to prevent the scenario you just laid out. See the “Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008″. I have a hunch that our egalitarian impulses will continue to overcome our darker impulses if our knowledge continues in the way that Utilitarian expects it to.

        I really see society mostly saying “wow, these genetically disadvantaged people deserve our support and sympathy”. There is also the issue that the US is a democracy. The genetically disadvantaged can vote, and thus have power. Voting rights are self-perpetuating. Anyone who wanted to take away their voting rights would lose their votes (as well as many other peoples votes), and thus probably lose elections.

        I can also see the US trying a marshal plan to help remedy genetic defects, as Utilitarian was talking about. Why not a marshall plan to find intelligence raising drugs? And a marshall plan to find a way to genetically engineer smarter children so that the disadvantaged can procreate but have offspring far more genetically advantaged then they are.

        But before we can do these marshall plan’s, we have to do the genetic research to find out for sure if people really are disadvantaged or not. A corollary is micro-nutrient deficiency in africa (including iodine). African Americans have higher IQ’s than Africans, most likely in part because of that. But how could society ever muster a marshall plan for Africa to help fix that before society acknowledges en masse that IQ means something and that African IQ’s really are low? There are people here who would deny that.

  43. “The genetically disadvantaged can vote, and thus have power. Voting rights are self-perpetuating. Anyone who wanted to take away their voting rights would lose their votes (as well as many other peoples votes), and thus probably lose elections.”

    Yes, this is key. Plus antidiscrimination laws (which wouldn’t be abolished, since conscious and unconscious racism will continue to exist, but could just be more accurately targeted).

    • This only works if the ‘genetically disadvantaged’ are indeed enough of the population to make a difference. We don’t have gay marriages federally legal, do we? And fundamentalist christians are having a lot of trouble getting abortion to be illegal… so you can’t really guarantee that they wouldn’t lose their rights. What if the ‘genetically advantaged’ are able sway the votes of those in the middle enough to win elections and get what they want?

      • no matter what the cutoff genetic intelligence potential you are using, the genetically disadvantaged are going to be found in all races, (just possibly to varying degrees). They will even be found in many of the extended families of very, very successful people (just not nearly as much as in the family of an “average” achiever).

        how many smart people are going to want to take away rights from their dull nephew or cousin? even siblings can have surprisingly different IQ’s (of course siblings are still more similar than strangers). True, the very highest strata of society are much less likely to know or be related to such people, but the people in the middle are a totally different story. It would be hard convince those people in the middle to vote to take away the rights of their far more numerous neighbors, friends, and family members that are genetically disadvantaged.

        I think it would be easy to get this message through almost everyones head: “There are genetically disadvantaged in every race and every extended family. They’re your neighbors, friends, cousins, and nephews. They have rights too”.

        • Maybe, but I think it would depend on the selling points of whatever legislation was trying to pass. I mean, couldn’t they be convinced that the ‘genetic disadvantaged’ are such a detriment to social policy that they shouldn’t be allowed to destroy our nation by voting? I mean, it’s all hypothetical, but I could see how propaganda and politics could be used to get what a small subset would want (like that doesn’t happen already). Not to mention, not every piece of legislation goes to some form of open voting where everyone pays attention – after all, how much other stuff was on that $700 bil. bill that just passed? I think roughly $140 bil. worth. So even if they kept the right to vote, whose to say they wouldn’t get the shaft? I’m just saying it’s possible, and if ‘genetic disadvantaged’ becomes the new group of people to be ‘racist’ against, it probably will happen.

  44. “This only works if the ‘genetically disadvantaged’ are indeed enough of the population to make a difference.”
    If we’re basing this off of points at which the tax system increases or decreases rates, then presumably a supermajority. And it’s easier to barter for funds than symbolic issues. The distribution of pork (farm subsidies, the deduction for state taxes, SS and Medicare payments) is pretty broad.

  45. Wicked blog – the guys commenting here are full of it! I’ll be keeping up with your posts :)