2007 November 18 Sunday
William Saletan Considers Heretical Views On Race

Writing in Slate William Saletan commits the outrageous sin of heresy against the left-liberal secular religion (at least as that secular religion has been defined in the last half century).

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

I wish these assurances were true. They aren't. Tests do show an IQ deficit, not just for Africans relative to Europeans, but for Europeans relative to Asians. Economic and cultural theories have failed to explain most of the pattern, and there's strong preliminary evidence that part of it is genetic. It's time to prepare for the possibility that equality of intelligence, in the sense of racial averages on tests, will turn out not to be true.

The latter link is to Jason Malloy's highly excellent Gene Expression blog post about the entirely unfair and anti-scientific liberal media attacks on James Watson: James Watson Tells the Inconvenient Truth: Faces the Consequences. Jason points to relevant psychometric and genetic research on racial differences. Saletan read Malloy's post and apparently even read a substantial amount of the supporting material that Malloy points to (much of it familiar to long term readers of ParaPundit).

The article is amazing. Saletan doesn't say that the measured differences in intelligence are genetically based. But he admits the science does not rule it out. To publically take the real science of human differences in cognitive abilities that seriously makes Saletan something of a novelty in liberal media. Is he going to get crucified? Or has he left enough room to defend himself from the inquisition while still drawing attention to the real evidence?

Curiously, this turn of events began as a result of the attack on Watson. Jason wrote his article in defense of what Watson said about Africa. That led to a New York Times piece by Amy Harmon quoting Jason and blogger Half Sigma in an article entitled In DNA Era, New Worries About Prejudice.

New genetic information, some liberal critics say, could become the latest rallying point for a conservative political camp that objects to social policies like affirmative action, as happened with “The Bell Curve,” the controversial 1994 book that examined the relationship between race and I.Q.

Yet even some self-described liberals argue that accepting that there may be genetic differences between races is important in preparing to address them politically.

“Let’s say the genetic data says we’ll have to spend two times as much for every black child to close the achievement gap,” said Jason Malloy, 28, an artist in Madison, Wis., who wrote a defense of Dr. Watson for the widely read science blog Gene Expression. Society, he said, would need to consider how individuals “can be given educational and occupational opportunities that work best for their unique talents and limitations.”

Liberals have hung the defense of political equality on genetic equality in ability. This has been a big strategic mistake on their part since even within races people obviously vary greatly in ability and genetic differences play a large role in creating differences in ability. Research on selective pressures that have created differences in brain genes is not hard to find. Genes which code for the brain are not immune to selective pressures caused by differences in local environments. People who hold otherwise are effectively embracing a form of neo-Cartesian dualism where the spiritual side of the mind includes brain genes that are held above the influence of local selective pressures in the physical plane. Really, they don't want to think of their position this way. But that is what it amounts to.

Steve Sailer highlighted some comments Jason made about how liberals hung their entire argument for equality on genetic equality and what a huge mistake that was. Their character assassinations of the realists did not really further the cause of defending free societies. There was never any need to deceive citizens to get them to treat others as possessing of rights. Some of their motives for deceiving selves and others weren't even most effectively achieved by the deception. Though the Marxists involved in the inquisition probably benefited their (still doomed) cause by their role in suppressing psychometric research.

See Steve's articles on Watson's comments: James D. Watson—A Modern Galileo and James D. Watson: Broken By The PC Inquisition, Betrayed By The Righteous Right.

Also see Half Sigma's posts NY Times article: time to celebrate?, Race differences in intelligence: does genetic proof already exist?, DTNBP1 gene and racial IQ differences, and Response to comments on race and intelligence.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2007 November 18 10:27 PM  Human Nature

HellKaiserRyo said at November 19, 2007 12:01 AM:

Randall, do you think eugenics will be endorsed by liberals? Liberals will acknowledge that not everyone is equal, but that we should actively make them equal and eliminate genetic disadvantages. I think eugenics may experience a resurgence in the future. However, I actually expect the political left to endorse eugenic programs (that are not coercive) such as encouraging government funding for embryo selection for intelligence alleles or genetic engineering for everyone. Of course, this will be rather expensive at first, but after thirty years after such a program is initiated, you have an enormous boon in productive.

John S Bolton said at November 19, 2007 1:43 AM:

The left is not going to give up its (up till now) most effective weapon: proceed as if equality were the default assumption, then smear anyone who objects to any move to the left on that egalitarian premiss, as being motivated entirely by racial or other such hatred. Someone has to stand up and say there is no rational argument for the political move in the direction that the smear-mongers want, and that's why they have to use exclusively smears in the place where a rational argument was rightly to be expected. It is smart people, professors and political leaders, who do this; but they are the ones whom we had every right to expect could come up with more and better in support of their preferred changes.

Jason Malloy said at November 19, 2007 4:58 AM:

"Saletan doesn't say that the measured differences in intelligence are genetically based. But he admits the science does not rule it out"

Thanks for the props. Saletan actually goes much further than this. He says that there is 'strong preliminary evidence' that the gaps are partly genetic, which is to say that the current evidence does more than fail to rule it out. He also explicitly uses brain size as an argument for genetic causes:

"Economic and cultural theories have failed to explain most of the pattern, and there's strong preliminary evidence that part of it is genetic...

How could genes cause an IQ advantage? The simplest pathway is head size... On average, Asian-American kids have bigger brains than white American kids, who in turn have bigger brains than black American kids. This is true even though the order of body size and weight runs in the other direction. The pattern holds true throughout the world and persists at death, as measured by brain weight... And when you compare black and white kids who score the same on IQ tests, their average difference in head circumference is zero."

Jason Malloy said at November 19, 2007 6:49 AM:

Again in his latest column:

"When I look at all the data, studies, and arguments, I see a prima facie case for partial genetic influence. I don't see conclusive evidence either way in the adoption studies. I don't see closure of the racial IQ gap to single digits. And I see too much data that can't be reconciled with the surge or explained by current environmental theories."


JJ said at November 22, 2007 10:22 AM:

The first step in closing gaps is to admit they exist. If African-Americans score a standard deviation
higher than native Africans, we can guess that nutrition and environment are taking a lot of IQ points away from the average African.
So we could close half the IQ gap between the first world and Africa and improve the average African's output and standard of living substanially through good policy. Steve Sailer actually wrote some good stuff about this.

I would also add that most people are roughly aware of the existence of IQ gaps between populations, if not aware of the cause. For a long time, the general opinion of humanity has been that people of Jewish ancestry are quite smart. So finding out that Jewish folks outscore cauacasians by 10-15 points is not that surprising.

IQ seems to be fairly predictive of overall outcomes in general, but it's not always perfect. The Northeast Asian nations outperform the caucasians by 1/3 of a standard deviation and outdo them on international math and science tests, but aren't economically any more affluent. I suppose there might be other prerequsite traits for success (creativity, vision, leadership, ability to apply knowledge) that caucasians might exceed NE Asians on. La Griffe suggested that lower East Asian verbal IQs is probably a strong factor at work here.

I'm fairly curious about why South Asian and Middle Eastern IQs are so low. That region has quite a history of achievement on par with Chinese. So their modern day IQ lag seems hard to explain. Perhaps poor environment and nutrition at work here? Or maybe living in a closed, conservative society isn't conducive to intellectual development?

Rob said at November 22, 2007 11:53 AM:


It is possible that Islam or some other feature of the mideast has caused dysgenic breeding in the Arab world, maybe even only over the last, maybe 400 years or so. Maybe cities that were population sinks, absorbing the brightest rural people for a long time.

josh stein said at December 22, 2007 2:59 AM:




want the truth: the truth is from the national science foundation.

The races do differ in intelligence, in IQ, in g, for general intelligence.

google: IQ of races

google: SAT of races

google: income of races

google: education of races.

want blame. blame Mother Nature. Blame Nature

Nature created humans.

Nature gave the races different IQ.

Nature is at the heart of the issue.

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