April 29, 2005

Study claims IQ differences at least 50% genetic "A 60-page review of the scientific evidence, some based on state-of-the-art magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of brain size, has concluded that race differences in average IQ are largely genetic." Full article and critical responsess in the June 2005 issue of Psychology, Public Policy and Law, a journal of the American Psychological Association.

As a fan of equality through social engineering, I suggest making black children watch more TV and banning email from their lives.

  • ::dons flame-retardent suit::
  • mmm...this has the buttery goodness of neoeugenics! Wait...that's not butter.
  • Oh dear. I thought science was above this.
  • I doubt science is above anything. Just saying.
  • Even science can be highjacked, ya know.
  • I highly recommend the rebuttal (PDF) by the (ex-) APA president Robert Sternberg. I would like, in particular, to highlight his final paragraph, which is precisely my opinion of the Rushton-Jensen report:
    The quality of science is determined not only by the quality of problem solving but also by taste in the selection of problems to solve. Readers will have to decide for themselves whether the problem addressed in Rushton and Jensen's (2005) article represents good taste in the selection of the problems. Would that Rushton and Jensen had devoted their penetrating intellects to other more scientifically and socially productive problems!
    I'm glad I can cite Sternberg, because, as a layman, I might be given to err in favour of taking Rushton and Jensen's report at face value. In this specific case my agreement with Rushton and Jensen is unlikely; their report has many easily spotted logical flaws. The biggest fault of their report, which also plagues The Bell Curve and similar works, is that they treat the concept of 'race' as well-defined. Thus, there are racial differences in IQ because, at the foundation of their work, is the assumption that there are racial differences. Besides begging the question, their assumption runs counter to the biological view that all modern humans are members of a single species. Rushton and Jensen attempt to mitigate the fallout of their (biologically) unpopular assumption by speaking about large populations, specifically the categories 'White', 'Black' and 'Asian' (by which they generally mean 'East Asian'), that might seem at first glance to be uncontrovertibly distinct. They are, however, not opposed to fuzzying the boundaries of these categories by citing examples from South America, India, Southeast Asia, and so forth, when it serves their purpose. My impression is that they don't have a clear definition of 'race' either. Perhaps because they are aware of this deficiency, they use the tactic of presenting their report as if they were making public policy recommendations. They engage in this tactic half-heartedly: the section of their report that discusses policy proposals is not as carefully documented as the rest of their paper. I wonder if they never intended the public policy section to be their take-home point, and if this compromise wasn't forced upon them by the referees. (Sorry, that was longer than needed.)
  • Our society is still too racially polarized to handle this type of research gracefully, no matter how good the paper is (and it sounds like there are doubts). On the one hand, some people attempt to analyze the differences between groups of people as a purely scientific endeavor so that we might learn more about humankind as a whole. On the other hand, a bunch of people take the results of even the best-intentioned research and use it to justify their biases. The rest of us wince whenever articles like this appear because of that second group. Even of the article's conclusions are true, what does it prove? Is IQ still considered a meaningful predictor of real-world success? Even if it is, the range of IQs among a population is so large that no individual can be judged by the average of their race, gender, country of origin, etc.
  • rhiannon, you should read the Rushton and Jensen report. It's fairly approachable, and your specific concerns are addressed.
  • Way back in grad school, I wrote A Glossary of Gifted Education and studied the issue of race and intelligence. Race and IQ didn't make my gloassry because there is nothing there. The measures of IQ used in those "studies" are not valid. Heck, IQ itself is barely a valid concept under the best circumstances, let alone claiming you can judge the IQ of a huge population based on largely anecdotal evidence.
  • I used to hang on a MoFi-type forum with a woman who genuinely believed and aggressively argued that The Bell Curve was well-researched and scientifically proved the genetic inferiority of various racial/ethnic groups. No amount of evidence presented that race isn't trivially quantifiable and IQ has limited meaning would get through her skull. In the end, she claimed that Rice's biology department was bad because it didn't teach that whites were genetically superior based on intelligence (a plurality of people on the forum were Rice folks, many of whom had known each other as undergrads). It was a heavily white forum, and I always cringed at what the non-white folks on the group must have thought when they read her comments and even some of the responses. I shuddered when I saw this come up because there are a lot of folks a body simply can't talk to about this subject. "Our tools aren't good enough to give us solid answers yet" is not an acceptable answer for people who have emotional investment in hearing that they're more intelligent.
  • Jared Diamond argues that the unforgiving climate conditions in some parts of Africa led to a cultural conservativism, as trying something new could completely wipe you out. I wonder if that could lead to a slight genetic disposition towards sticking to the tried and tested rather than innovation, that would influence whether someones problem solving ability had a chance to develop. So if any two kids are given the right kind of education, they will have an equal chance of developing a high IQ, but given a bad upbringing a slight difference emerges.
  • a slight difference emerges over a population that is, not between individuals
  • Is there really anyone who still believes that IQ-testing is a measure of reality, rather than a mirror of the political agenda of the test devisors?
  • All I know is that black people really, really suck at Jeopardy...
  • You got the numbers to back that up, carfilhiot?
  • Is there really anyone who still believes that IQ-testing is a measure of reality, rather than a mirror of the political agenda of the test devisors? I've heard that viewpoint before, and it makes no sense. How does "What number comes next in the following series...?" push a political agenda?
  • Not only is race poorly defined, intelligence is poorly defined as well.
  • How does "What number comes next in the following series...?" push a political agenda? Not political as in Liberal or Republican I venture, but as in how intelligence is measured. That is a fairly political issue. To use your example rocket88, I cringe whenever I come across this type of question in IQ tests. I come up with a formula or theory about sequence, but I get the answer "wrong" because what I came up with was not the sequence or theory that the testers used. My answer didn't agree with their theory, but it wasn't wrong, because it was consistent with the sequence as it stood.
  • rocket88: g (general intelligence) is just defined as a score on a bunch of tests. The idea was that if you made the tasks diverse enough you'd get at something that underlies performance on all of them. The problem is that it isn't clear that there is any natural phenomenon being measured at all so intelligence is really only just a score on a particular test, nothing more. The problem is that these tests can disadvantage particular social groups. While it isn't a IQ test, think of the vocabulary words on the SAT for example.
  • Heck, IQ itself is barely a valid concept under the best circumstances BINGO!
  • And what about "EQ"? What the fuck does "treble" mean, anyway? And how come Belgian people love BASS so much? Huh?
  • Are you saying that there is no such quality as "intelligence"...that it's nothing more than the score from a particular test? I'd have to disagree with you there. Intelligence is real. You can argue the accuracy of the standard IQ test, but there are obvious differences between someone who would score 120 and someone who would score 80. The test's "political agenda" can't be blamed for that. While it's nice to assume that without external social forces like poverty, abuse and discrimination, everyone would have the same intelligence (however measured), it's a flawed assumption.
  • Intelligence is real Not in my case.
  • Okay, question I've always had but have been afraid to ask: Back in America's slaveholding days, literate slaves tended to get killed. It wasn't a good thing to be smart, only to work and reproduce. American slaveholders treated slaves as livestock, and "good stock" isn't chosen for smarts. Could "genetic differences" in IQ in America's races be partly due to slaveholders playing Darwin for five or six generations? If intelligence has ANY genetic component, I'd think it would be reduced significantly by the insanely awful practices of the slaveholders. Five or six generations of killing off the people who teach themselves to read is a pretty surefire way to decrease the smart population, no?
  • I'm not saying that IQ doesn't measure something, of course it does, but that something is poorly defined to the extent of not being biologically meaningful. It can still agree with our social perceptions of how bright someone is, especially at the extreme limits of the test, but such perceptions can be deceptive. For example, it's often said that Yankees perceive Southerners as less intelligent because of their speech patterns. It is possible for the language portion of a test to disadvantage Southern English speakers. This would fit our expectations, yet still have no bearing on any innate quality of the test-takers. A good book on the subject is the late and much missed Stephen J. Gould's The Mis-measure of Man.
  • The thing about IQ is that it's a very good measure of what it tests. It's in trying to figure out what it tests that we run into the problems... Since the questions are problem solving sorts of things, it isn't testing only those things that are on the test. But it also is only testing those types of things. So asserting that one's performance on it necessarily indicates anything about more general ability is a fallacy. Also, asserting that the test truly is testing for a certain thing is probably a bad idea, unless you've studied it a lot, which most people who base conclusions off it have not done. I fail to see that there's anything wrong with evaluating a person's ability to solve that sort of problem (quickly! since it's timed), but I do see a lot wrong with assuming it indicates anything more about that person than strictly their ability to solve that sort of problem. As a whole, IQ has been elevated to a much higher standing than it deserves as a measure of a person's intellectual capability. Also, Alnedra, in coming up with different patterns than the test writers had in mind... That's why there are multiple questions like that. It's an attempt to smooth out discrepancies like that. But I know what you're talking about, I do that a lot too.
  • I think anyone who's ever been to a Mensa meeting will be convinced that intelligence is real, and that it is strongly predictive of such qualities as poor dress sense, obsessive interest in the Hugo and Nebula awards, and a tendency to get nostalgic about Lisp programming. No offence intended, Mensa members...
  • Heck, IQ itself is barely a valid concept under the best circumstances BINGO! Double Bingo!! And no I really don't believe there is singular trait that can be labeled intelligence. There are various traits that get lumped together to represent intelligence, such as memory, vocabulary and reading comprehension, and mathematical reasoning, but even they vary from society to society. There are many languages across the world what do not even contain an equivalent word to the English "intelligence," but instead use terms that denote a mix of everything from a high capability for invention to social skills to alertness. Which brings us to another problem with defining intelligence as a singular trait. An IQ test, even a non-verbal, culture-fair test can often over look the variety of traits a person might possess. An autistic person might score incredibly low on parts of the test, say the verbal comprehension area, while scoring off the charts in another area, like the mathematical portion. How then do you rate this person, someone who might be able to do your physics homework in ten minutes but can't make a grilled cheese sandwich?
  • In the early 1980s Michael Gardner, a psychologist at Harvard, proposed that the theory of multiple intelligences, that there are seven (now eight) different categories of intelligence ranging from logical mathematical to kinesthetic to intrapersonal. Another psychologist, RJ Sternberg at Yale, suggested separating intelligence into three different subcategories: contextual (environmental adaptability, problem solving in specific situations), experiential (formulating new ideas and synthesizing unrelated facts), and componential (thinking abstractly, processing information). I feel, and you're welcome to disagree, that all of this adds up to a fairly damning picture of intelligence as a singular measurable trait.
  • Then there are intelligence tests themselves. Much progress has been made to make modern intelligence tests free of cultural biases but, as noted earlier, garnering information on the basis of ill-defined races is still a fuzzy area. And then there's also the tests done at Standford that showed that African-Americans, when told they were taking an intelligence test, scored lower than their European-American counterparts but, when the same test was presented as not related to intelligence measuring, the African and European Americans both scored equally well. And while Rushton and Jensen say their data shows that intelligence differences continue along racial lines even after adoption of a black children by white parents, other studies have shown the opposite. The list to ways to cast doubt on this study goes on and on.
  • Finally, there's the question of the practical application of IQ in the real world. In the oft cited and debated book The Bell Curve the authors conclude that IQ, beyond a certain level, has very little practical application in predicting future successes in life and that "If tomorrow we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that all the cognitive difference between races were 100% genetic in origin, nothing of significance would change."
  • I apologize ex post facto for the post summa largo.
  • Based on what I've been able to tell from this research and other things like it (does "The Bell Curve," um, ring a bell?), none of this research goes anywhere hear being able to separate out cultural and socioeconomic factors from these IQ assessments. They seem to be trying to tell me that a black child(ren) - from a poor neighborhood whose parents were barely squeaking by - and who is likely to have experienced periods of distinct malnutrition in their early development - as well as facing a culture in their school and neighborhoods which is largely antipathetic to intellectual achievement (what kids who work hard in these neighborhoods are never accused of being an Uncle Tom or "acting like whitey"?) - but who works their ass(es) off nevertheless and makes it into a university - where some professor notices an IQ which may be lower than some middle class white kid(s) - whose parents both went to college - and never experienced developmental malnutrition and rarely was subjected to antagonism for being "kinda nerdy," ...means that the black kid(s) has a lower IQ because of their race?!??
  • musingmelpomene - not sure about that one. wouldn't learning to read more be about having the opportunity rather than innate talent.
  • This is all a valid debate, but it's interesting because the question has been asked. If you take groups of people that have evolved for example different coloured skin to deal with climate, wouldn't it be strange if they hadn't evolved slight differences in mental characteristics. I'm sure that when we start finding out more it won't all favour any one race.
  • I fail to see that there's anything wrong with evaluating a person's ability to solve that sort of problem (quickly! since it's timed), but I do see a lot wrong with assuming it indicates anything more about that person than strictly their ability to solve that sort of problem. That's like saying vision tests only measure your ability to read eye charts, or that driving tests only measure your ability to drive a particular make and model of automobile. There's more that one problem type on these tests, and several instances of each type. That serves to generalize the outcome, and make the results more applicable to a "general" inelligence score. What you do with those results, however, is where the political agendas come into play.
  • chimaera: That's not what the study says at all. The results of a group study can't be applied to individual cases. If you read the paper it addresses that issue (and most of the other ones you mentioned). Wibbleflex said: I'm sure that when we start finding out more it won't all favour any one race. What makes you so sure of that? Or is it just what you *want* to be true?
  • Wibbleflex, this is purely my opinion, but I think that external characteristics have fairly little to do with intellectual ability, mainly because ultimately, the very idea of distinct "races" is an 18th century fallacy: there is, just as with language, a continuum of physical characteristics, where for example, if one were to walk from Kenya to Sweden, and took pictures of indigenous people along the way that if you generally compared any 2 people from adjacent towns or villages that their physical appearance would change little, but we also know that a Kenyan is very different looking to a Swede. This is really my pet theory, but I think that geography has a profound influence on culture, and culture ifluences the abilities and worldviews of its populace. Is it a surprise that cultures who live in tropical regions were less likely to be technologically advanced? The answer is simple when you consider that culturally, there is no compelling need to adapt one's environment to suit oneself when for the most part, the rain forest provides for virtually every need. People in temperate (cold winter) or other hostile regions (like the North African deserts), have all seen cultures in which science and technology flourished, much moreso than in Central Africa or the Amazon basin. And where science and technology flourish, other forms of intellectual advancement come along for the ride. Basically, I believe that if you transplant any child from birth into a culture that values learning and technology, and with a first-world middle- or upper-class equivalent upbringing, they will achieve just as much as those whose ancestors lived in the same place. But my point is: this all must be done before the imprint of the culture is made upon the child: would a child whose culture is exceptionally superstitious do well when having to learn about science? Why do you think so many fundamentalist Christians are against teaching Evolution in schools? A culture of credulity and superstition does not tolerate skepticism, and that culture stunts the intellectual growth of its adherents. Hence the apparent difference in intelligence of races, and more pointedly, among the states in the US.
  • rocket88, I'm aware that a group study can't be applied to individual cases, and I think using a single for-example hurt the clarity of my idea, but I did read part of the paper, and felt that it was still inadequately distinguishing race from other statistically relevant factors. With adoption and racial admixture, there was still a lack of complete representation of cultural bias with respect to the environment in which the child was raised, and unfortunately, I don't think that it's even possible to study the impact of race completely independent of these other factors I mentioned, mainly because culture is the ultimate contamination when it comes to evaluating intelligence, both in individuals and in groups.
  • But then, I'm one who adheres to a high-culturation model of intelligence, at least much closer to culture-only than hereditarian.
  • That is, when speaking of large groups. I DO think that heredity is a dominant factor in intelligence, but I think that all races start out, at least statistically, in pretty much the same boat.
  • Chimaera I think your theory on tying technological advancement to climate is lacking a bit. The Maya, South Indians, and the Thai all built techonologically advanced societies in a jungle enviroment. Plus, the climate of Greece and Italy isn't exactly what anyone would call hostile to human development.
  • no, there is too much. let me sum up: race is poorly defined; the notion of intelligence quotient is poorly defined; testing methodologies for iq are dubious; and this study is itself based on studies that have in the past been called into question.
  • Spooky, it is just a pet theory, and I've thought much about particularly the Maya and Thai civilizations. I'm not tying it directly to climate, but I do feel that it has an influence. It's all incredibly complicated when thinking about cultures and technology. The Thai and Maya were advanced civilizations in tropical climates, but it is also clear that the Maya declined, and its people returned to living in the jungle. Perhaps the negative impact on the people was lessened and they may have resisted it less due to the fact that their environment was not hostile? And also, my outline above doesn't deal with the fact that for many advanced technological cultures (inside and outside tropical zones), their religion was a powerful force in favor of technology: the Maya, North Africa, Medieval Europe, and the Thai can all be connected to the powerful pro-technology force of their religions: the need to make great temples and glorious religious architecture promoted the technology of civil engineering. As for Italy, they owe nearly everything to Greece as a trailblazer for them, and in turn the Greeks rely greatly on the cultural influence of the Egyptians and peoples of the Middle East (Assyrians especially among them, and not just for their alphabet) for their cultural and technology mindset. And though Egypt did have the Nile floods annually, I think it's fairly clear that Egypt was not on balance an especially favorable environment for jungle-style hunting and gathering. But yes, this is all complicated, and climate is merely one of the factors, but I think it's an important one.
  • Homo sapiens sapiens refers to the human race. There is no other.
  • *yawn* The fact that this matters enough to generate a discussion is vaguely worrying. Why should it matter if race A is smarter than race B? Does that somehow validate discrimination against race B? Is it ok to discriminate based on intelligence, but not based on race?
  • The biggest fault of their report, which also plagues The Bell Curve and similar works, is that they treat the concept of 'race' as well-defined. Exactly. "East Asians" is not a racial group - there are dozens of distinct races in China alone, if one insists on the concept of race. Neither is "blacks" or "whites", for that matter. Furthermore, black-white is categorized by skin color, East Asian by location. Apples and oranges. Intelligence is real. Absolutely. So is love. The question is whether they can be measured objectively.
  • chimaera brings up good examples of factors (income, nutrition, parental education) which would in fact be more likely to have an impact on on the average scores of certain minority racial groups in North America than on just an individual score. We shouldn't underestimate the effect of nutrition, especially - poor nutrition in certain developing years can have a devastating impact on future health and intelligence, and can effect future generations as well. But definitely the fact that the tests are very flawed is true. Just the fact that your intelligence can change radically whether or not you have had breakfast in the morning should be a warning sign; my mother could tell you what percentage of low income children (of all races) go to school without a proper breakfast, since she used to work for the Toronto Children's breakfast club, but it's significant. Intelligence tests can also be studied for; spacial relations scores have been increased by videogame playing. So we have tests that only measure certain cognitive tests, have been found to be often culturally biased, are not reliable, and which can be studied for - and we think they measure innate intelligence? As for the international development - at least two recent books (Diamond's Guns Germs and Steel, the McNeills' Human Web) have both suggested that it is communication between human groups that speeds up technological advancement - the ability to build on the discoveries of others. I am by no means expert (I don't think anyone is, on such a difficult question), but it fits with what I know of history - early modern Europe built on the technological and scientific discoveries of the Middle East, East and South Asia, as well as (to a lesser degree in technology than in law, etc) on the Greeks and Romans, who had built on the Phonecians, Egyptians, and Sumerians, who probably built on the ideas of peoples whose names we no longer knew (I heard recently that agriculture may have originated in SE asia, esp with bananas). So those areas most well connected to the rest of the "human web" in William and John McNeill's terms, benefitted from the critical mass of people - (though I think Diamond's analysis is more nuanced).
  • That said, this isn't a neat theory - necessity (and context) is also the mother of invention. The Mayans didn't have wheeled vehicles because they would have made no sense in their mountainous terrain; sub-Sahara Africa had excellent iron working skills (probably better than those of medieval Europe, but I'm not sure), but not the same intensive agriculture as Europe because they had far more land and it was illsuited to European-style intensive farming (as shown by the terrible soil erosion caused by European-style farming in this century). The history of development of the human race, at least in terms of technological sophistication, is very complex - it depends as much on needs and situation as on actual discovery. It has also contantly shifted around the world - within recent history, the locus of development has shifted from Asia to Europe and the developed world - but it will shift again. In 500-1000 years, we may be asking ourselves what it is about African (European) culture that allowed it to develop so rapidly after its troubles of the twentieth (fourteenth) century; surely Africans must be smarter/more innovative/better than all those Europeans and North Americans (Asians) whose culture stagnated and declined so rapidly after coming to an early peak. Sorry - I just get so frustrated with the short term view of history, and I've been teaching Chinese history and trying to get it out of my students' heads that European and Chinese culture are innately different when it came to inovation and development (which some of them seriously believe, falsely, and believe that it was the "fault" of the Chinese that they could not beat the agressive Europeans back in the nineteenth century, rather than the product of complex factors including the rather peaceful period in China which did stagnate weapons development). So maybe we folks of the paler extraction should just enjoy our moment at the top, because it will be fleeting.
  • Hear hear, jb!
  • Poor Phillipe Rushton, I remember he was bleating the same ideas *twenty* years ago. Shame to waste a life like that. Fools rush in where scientists fear to tread. Until you can run a controlled experiment on this, you can't draw a conclusion. Persisting in beating this particular dead horse says more about the beater than the horse. If I remember correctly, Rushton also did some research on the penis sizes of various "races". 'Nuff said.
  • Hmm, penis size of various "races" -- I wonder how the Boston Marathon came out in that.
  • I imagine that pre-natal care and diet are enormous contributors to how intelligent a person is. Poor people do much worse in this department than rich people do. Therefore, I would imagine that the children of the wealthy have higher IQ scores than the children of the poor. As a higher percentage of black people in the US are poor, it would follow that black people in the US might have lower overall IQs than white people.
  • Read the study. Economics were accounted for. Seriously, did anyone bother to read the study? I'll admit I don't know enough about the subject to say whether the conclusions are valid or not, but if you're going to criticize something, at least take the time to read it first.
  • As far as the whole IQ flap goes, I flat-out blame the ambivalence of progenitors for the decline of their own kind. I view any parents (regardless of race) who abrogate parental responsibility in favor of an ambivolent social system to maintain their families as total frauds. Weak. And it happens more and more. So what does this have to do with IQ? If you're a helpless (meaning "stupid") family with ingrained traits that would begat violence, anti-social attitudes, and a lingering intellectual indifference, then maybe you get help, maybe not. In the meantime, IQ tests are a convenient means to maintain the equilibrium.
  • Oh, and rocket88. I didn't read the study, so let me just carelessly toss this out: are you a racist?
  • musingmelpomene, I understand your premise, but I think you haven't thought all the way through your question. Point one: the category of "Black people who endured slavery in the United States from 1619-1870" (dates courtesy of this random site I found in Google) is a very small sub-set of "All black people who existed across the planet from 1619-1870". Slavery was a TERRIBLE TERRIBLE THING, but it only affected a certain percentage of the global population of black people. Point two: So far as I know, slaves were mostly killed for [perceived or ostensible] acts of disobedience, not for being smart per se. Not to be blunt, but one might assume that the smart people either successfully escaped or were too clever to be caught. I'm sure plenty of smart people were killed by those sick motherfuckers during that time, but there's not (as your question presumes) a 1:1 ratio between "smart people" and "people killed by slave owners." Point three: that was a long time ago, and there's been ample stirring of the genetic pool since then. Even if smart people were selectively murdered, from that limited pool of people, during that limited space in time, the ripple effects on IQ (if IQ is indeed hereditary) would be pretty infinitesimal today. It's like arguing that all Catholics are inherently stupid because Cromwell killed the smart ones. Or that Chinese people are really strong because the most powerful ones were imported to help build America's railroad system. This pseudo-scientific argument - that present-day black people are stupider or better at sports due to genetic engineering by Civil War-era slave owners - is frequently presented as fact by really, REALLY vile, racist people. They use this argument to justify and rationalize their racism. (I wish I could count the number of times I've heard someone say "I'm not racist, it's just the scientific truth." Yes they are, and no it isn't.) Normal, kind, rational, non-racist people like yourself might occasionally get duped into following their line of reasoning, but hopefully not for long.
  • rocket88 (and really everyone), there's very little need to either read the original study or give it serious discussion. The original study was flawed, biased, based on bad data, and poorly-researched. As is (I feel obliged to point out) every other study which purports to "scientifically prove" that black people are not as smart as white people. I trust we've all read The Mismeasure of Man?
  • Oh, and rocket88. I didn't read the study, so let me just carelessly toss this out: are you a racist? As is (I feel obliged to point out) every other study which purports to "scientifically prove" that black people are not as smart as white people. This is the kind of thing I'm talking about. A simplistic reaction that does no one any favours. The study doesn't claim that black people are stupider than white people. It claims that lower IQ is something black people are slightly more prone to and that given the right chances in life people can end up with the same IQ. Black people are more prone to schizophrenia, but that doesn't mean most black people have split personality. I can't judge whether the results are valid or not, but that's a matter for academic debate. If you think that IQ is not a valid measure then again that's something to discuss. If we have a knee jerk reaction to anything that discusses difference between groups of people and, it plays into racists hands, because they can always say the PC crowd are hiding the truth. Whatever you think of the results, they're not 'stupid' for looking at the question. When this kind of thing comes up we need to look it straight in the eye, and test it until we know what the truth is. Then we'll know exactly what the differences if any are, and will be able to answer racist theories from a position of knowledge.
  • Wibbleflex: When this kind of thing comes up we need to look it straight in the eye, and test it until we know what the truth is. Then we'll know exactly what the differences if any are, and will be able to answer racist theories from a position of knowledge.
    The majority of the criticism of the Rushton-Jensen report is on methodological and scientific grounds. Even Rushton and Jensen themselves are under no illusion that they are peddling the truth. If so, they wouldn't couch their conclusions as public policy proposals. Also, saying "when this thing comes up" is an interesting frame. As far as I can tell, there is no pressing need for this sort of study. It doesn't produce scientific tools that have more general application, nor does it provide a framework for approaching this particular question. (Citing every study ever is not a framework.) There aren't long-standing disputes about the role of race in intelligence that they are settling conclusively. Their public policy proposals--the few that can be so called--are shit from a policy standpoint. "When this comes up" seems to be whenever they publish anything, which is hardly the definition of an active research area.
  • rocket88: if you're going to criticize something, at least take the time to read it first I have read works by Jensen and Rushton earlier, as they are cited repeatedly in The Bell Curve (Herrnstein & Murray). I was able to find quite a bit at the local university library. As to the current article: Self referential, check. Fails to discuss the concept of intelligence and how it relates to measured IQ, check. Fails to discuss the reliability or validity of IQ estimates, check. Fails to discuss how race classifications were made, check. Fails to cite authors of the very few acceptably valid IQ test intruments, check. Presents irrelavant or misleading quantitative data without citation, check. Hmm . . . Have Penn & Teller done a "Bullshit" show on this yet? Wibbleflex: When this kind of thing comes up we need to look it straight in the eye, and test it until we know what the truth is. And in all these decades of making the claim of race based IQ differences, they have not designed or conducted any valid original scientific research that directly tests this claim.
  • I see what you're saying - I'm not saying this piece of research is great. I do think there is a knee jerk reaction against anything that looks at differences between people.
  • I confess that I did not read the study and should have before making my comments. I suspect that I might have made similar contents, but I would have acknowledged what was found in the study. Still, I have yet to read the study.
  • And allow me to extend my previous comments: I have now read nearly the entire paper this morning, and have found their statistical method for separating economic factors to be inadequate to the purported task at hand. Furthermore, the trick they use in the attempt at statistically partially nullifying cultural impacts is rife with assupmtions and innuendo rather than measurable effects. When I was reading this analysis, I saw a reduction used to serve the purpose of their presumption: this is confirmation bias at work. This whole paper is a spectacular example of the foolishness inherent in applying statistical methods of data reduction upon data that is ill-defined at best and manufactured (via confirmation bias) at worst. People who use the scientific method and statistical analysis love to call their pursuit science: but there is no gestalt, here, and no framework that adequately defines intelligence independent of any confounding cultural and economic effects. And to those people who persist in saying that these researchers accounted for socioeconomic and cultural impacts, allow me to put it bluntly: when you normalize shit data, selective and loaded reduction does not take away the smell.
  • Horse. Still dead.
  • I don't know if anyone's pointed this out, but here in the US someone who is 3/4 white and 1/4 black is still likely to be classified and to classify oneself as black; sometimes it takes even less "Negro blood", so you won't know they're "black" unless you inspect them closely for "Negro features" or if you knew their family. (I'm not up their genealogies but as with Adam Clayton Powell and Lena Horne come to mind). However, someone who is 1/4 Native American and 3/4 anything else is very seldom counted as Native unless s/he was raised on the res by a "half-breed" mother -- or better yet a "full-blooded" grandmother. So no, at least in this country "race" can't be dealt with "scientifically" because the word has no real meaning. Wouldn't it be beat for Rushton if a "light-skinned black"(!) kid took an IQ test with a classroom full of much darker kids and scored the lowest IQ around?
  • cynnbad: No.
  • there is no pressing need for this sort of study True, but one can say that about all sorts of studies. Science isn't always about pressing need. there's very little need to either read the original study or give it serious discussion. The original study was flawed, biased, based on bad data, and poorly-researched. We're supposed to know the study is that bad without reading or discussing it? How? Ad Hominem against Rushton and Jensen? Frankly I find both the study and the rebuttals to be lacking.
  • kenshin: True, but one can say that about all sorts of studies. Science isn't always about pressing need.
    I think you misunderstood my point. Science should be about bettering the human condition. A pressing need, such as a viral infection of pandemic proportions, can often justify fairly brutal and unethical research. There isn't such a pressing need to find apologies for claims of systemic racial bias. Therefore, Rushton and Jensen's work must stand on its scientific merits, and here it is very lacking. Specifically, I would point out their poor choice of framework (i.e., how might someone duplicate and check their claims?) and generalisability of their results (i.e., might one use similar statistical methods to discover the 'group-IQ' of a specific gender, or members of a religious community, and so forth?).
    We're supposed to know the study is that bad without reading or discussing it? How? Ad Hominem against Rushton and Jensen?
    I have read the study. We are discussing it. Moreover, where are the ad-hominem attacks on Rushton and Jensen? Certainly not in the published rebuttals. Are you careful to differentiate between the chatterings of a gaggle of internet monkeys and the serious, deliberative process of publication in scientific journals?
    Frankly I find both the study and the rebuttals to be lacking.
    Can you give us a summary of the defects you find in the rebuttal by Sternberg?
  • Sternberg's primary opposition to Rushton & Jensen is that they conducted the study in the first place, and with that I am in 100% agreement. No good can come of this study, and undesirable types will likely use it to perpetuate racist attitudes and policies. That being said, the fact remains that they did do the study, and it's results are now up for discussion. Sternberg exposes his idealogical bias against the study early and often, and as a result, his rebuttal is less about scientific criticism of Rushton & Jensen's methods and results, and more about the political incorrectness of it all. What Rushton and Jensen are questioning are the commonly held beliefs that: 1. Differences in academic performance and representation in certain professions among races is purely the result of systemic discrimination, and quota programs such as affirmative action are the only way to address the issue, and 2. Anyone who questions that belief is a racist. (I can personally attest to #2) In fact, one of their primary public policy recommendations is that every person be treated based on their own merits, as an individual, and not as a member of a racially defined group. When you think of it, what could be more egalitarian than that?
  • Science should be about bettering the human condition. We'll have to agree to disagree on this point. I think science is/should be about the search for truth/understanding, which may or may not benefit us. That leads to my main problem with Sternberg's rebuttal: the first paragraph, the talk of "values" in the second, and so on until the last paragraph, which you quoted. As a layman, when I read one scientist's rebuttal or another's work, I expect discussions of counterexamples, methodological flaws and/or logical fallacies. The motives/values of the authors, the horrible history/implication of the research subject... they distract. Sternberg's few good points are buried under numerous such distractions. And I nearly choked when Sternberg gives examples of "undesirable correlates of higher IQ." I have read the study. We are discussing it. Moreover, where are the ad-hominem attacks on Rushton and Jensen? Certainly not in the published rebuttals. I was replying to mechagrue, who said there's no need to read/discuss the study. The ad-hominem attacks happened here, and I never claimed otherwise. In preview: what rocket88 said.
  • One example where Sternberg lost me, other than the values stuff: I also believe they inadvertently create "straw men." These straw men take the form of false dichotomies, such as between the culture-only model and the hereditarian model (as though there is nothing in between) R&J's hereditarian model is "in between" - 50% genetic, 50% environmental. Regarding IQ (which may or may not measure intelligence), the ill-defined racial groups do score differently. The culture-only model attributes 100% of the difference to the cultural bias inherent in the tests; the hereditarian model attributes at least half to genetics. This is neither false dichotomy nor straw man. Sternberg himself clearly leans toward the culture-only model regarding IQ.
  • I think what people mean by saying that they aren't culture only is that they believe genetics does matter on an individual level - people with high IQ (whether that is intelligence or not) tend to have children with high intelligence (though I am curious about this tendancy to move back to average). But they believe that this matters at the individual level of differences, whereas the differences of racial groups is due to cultural factors. It is possible that the herditarian group could be right about it being 50% genetic while being totally wrong about racial differences being any bit genetic. Having read through all the rebuttals now, I think the evidence against the rigour or validity of the R&J study is pretty damning. They selectively cite, use old, flawed studies, and have invalid catagories - and there are a bunch of better studies that prove their hypothesis wrong, which they conveniently ignore. It is important that studies like R&J's aren't swept under the table - they need to be confronted head on, and be rigorously and honestly investigated, so that is they are flawed (as this clearly is), they can be repudiated with facts, before they worm their way further into our culture, bolstering outright stereotypes and racism.
  • Rocket88: OK, we're not agreed. StoreyBored: What's your point, beyond annoying postus interruptus?
  • omg, do I have the wrong thread?
  • Sternberg's was not the strongest rebuttal - his was policy/implication/morality oriented. But some of the others were quite damning on the shoddyness of the R&J study. rocket88: It isn't true that anyone who questions affirmative action is a racist, or will be called a racist. It is a sensitive topic, and it is used as a wedge issue by people who are racist to bolster support for themselves. But I have a lot of questions about it myself, especially in higher education (where I work) - as it currently functions at many American universities, racial diversity can be used to cover up a lack of socio-economic diversity. I've also had it pointed out to me, by someone who benefitted from affirmative action scholarships, that it can have the ill effect of giving excuse to people to doubt the abilities of minorities in higher education, etc. The desire to change the current situation is admirable, but both the effectiveness of affirmative action, and the possible fallout from it has never been isn't often discussed properly. But at the same time, it is difficult to, and not just because of PC people, but also because of the outright racist people who will jump on the anti-affirmative action bandwagon (I've tried to read threads on affirmative action at the Chronicle of Higher Education - they were truly trainwrecks). I would love it if we could have real good productive discussions on what affirmative action is, whether targetting racial diversity without looking at socioeconomic diversity can actually begin to address systemic racial inequality - do lower class visible minorities benefit at all, or only middle and upper class? But at the same time, the schools are under pressure to get their student bodies to be less pasty white, and fast; how is not very important to their image. I think this is the worst thing for poor underrepresented minorities - they aren't actually as desirable as well to do minorities, because they will actually bring issues and problems. I heard a really good radio program on NPR (This American Life, I think), all about this. Also - How does disadavantage work? Is affirmative action at the university level really going to do anything, or is action to decrease inequality in educational opportunity needed rather in kindergarten? Of course, this all pertains to the unique racial and social situation in the United States, from which much of the debate has emerged in North America - it's a different story entirely in Canada (and of course, in every other country). I don't remember hearing much at all about affirmative action in universities in Canada. Ours are so large it just might not be seen as necessary; there is not the same competition to be in an elite school as there is in the States. The little bit I heard about diversity at York was about mature students, or students from unique situations.
  • And r88, in principle I agree with you. But who gets to determine "universal" merits in a diverse society?
  • and obviously, I am all over the board here. Well, it's spring, and I'm up to sniffing everything! Rocket usually makes good sense on most things. Best to go to bed before I waffle some more on this issue.
  • Oh, and excellent points, jb. I'll consider them.
  • Yes, good points all round. This is obviously a complex topic, and there are no easy answers.
  • Do we agree that Rushton and Jensen's results, such as they are, are highly questionable, if not wrong? (In particular, see Richard Nisbett's rebuttal.) If so, I would claim that Sternberg's rebuttal is the most damning, because far from ending divisive debate based on false premisses (the purported point of the Rushton-Jensen report), their report would justify public policy using flawed data! Their report, if correct, would have given the opponents of affirmative action (and I am one of them) an excellent tool. But, as their report is highly flawed, they end up giving the pro-affirmative action crowd a solid counterpoint. I say let us do better research, with fresh data.
  • I say the human race is nuts and rarely, if ever, learns from history.
  • I think what people mean by saying that they aren't culture only is that they believe genetics does matter on an individual level ... It is possible that the herditarian group could be right about it being 50% genetic while being totally wrong about racial differences being any bit genetic. True, but my point still stands. The dichotomy between the two models regarding racial differences is very real, and it's what this debate is about. Do we agree that Rushton and Jensen's results, such as they are, are highly questionable, if not wrong? I do. But I'm not sure how better research is possible at present, when the very concepts of race (as a biological characteristic) and IQ (as a measure of intelligence) are under debate.
  • Perhaps unfortunately, I don't think such a political mandate is either useful or expedient.