01 December 2007

IQ and Race: Why the Excitement?

Ever since the Nobel prize winner James D. Watson asserted six weeks ago that Africans have innately lower intelligence, fervid debates about race, genes and I.Q. have sprung up on the Web, in publications and in conference rooms. NYTimes
James Watson stumbled into the PC quagmire several weeks ago, and paid a significant public penalty for his lack of caution. William Saletan, respected senior writer at Slate, inexplicably followed Watson into the PC swamp with a 3-part series on IQ and race in the somewhat leftist online magazine. Saletan has been soundly spanked by critics and forced to mutter his "mea culpas" although, unlike Watson, he was not forced to resign his position.

Saletan's series of pieces was quite forgettable, and if not for the entry of Cato Unbound into the online debate, I would probably not have commented further on the current sucking vortex of online "IQ and Race" discussions. I expected a publication of the Cato Institute to take an even-handed approach to the IQ debate, but perhaps I was too generous.

Why would Cato Unbound choose to take a "triple-team" approach toward this issue, particularly? By loading the debate panel with three "anti-g" panelists (Flynn, Turkheimer, and Ceci) vs. only one "pro-g" panelist (Gottfredson), Cato Unbound would seem to be taking sides--a big no-no in "objective" journalism. But can anyone or any organisation truly afford to play this issue objectively, given the political minefield it has become?

Unfortunately, PC society is not ready to face a preponderance of scientific data uncensored, or in Cato's terms, "unbound." Given all that, how did Linda Gottfredson perform under pressure? The answer is clear and simple: she was magnificent.
IQ tests measure only phenotypic (developed) differences in general intelligence (g), not what causes them. Ability differences among groups can be real without necessarily being genetic, either in whole or part. When scientists speak of race or sex differences, this is short-hand for average differences between the groups—just as when we refer to men being taller than women or Americans being fatter today than decades back. There is no implication that the observed differences are caused by genetic rather than non-genetic differences between the groups....

[ed: IQ syllogism]
* An underlying ability (called g) is needed for all forms of cognitive performance
* g is manifest in any broad cognitive battery such as IQ
* g is related to many types of biological markers and is highly heritable
* Large individual and group differences exist in g
* Variation in g predicts differential life outcomes
* Therefore, variation in life outcomes is at least partly rooted in biological differences in g

...In fact, the syllogism has already been empirically verified. Level of education, occupation, and income are themselves moderately heritable (60-70%, 50% and 40-50%, respectively), and these heritabilities overlap that for g by at least half (yielding 40%, 25%, and 20% of the phenotypic variation in the three life outcomes being jointly heritable with g: e.g., Rowe, Vesterdal, & Rodgers, 1998).

...Proponents of the taboo on discussing race and IQ assume that the taboo is all for the common good, but whose good, exactly, is served? It is most certainly not individuals of below-average intelligence, who face a tremendous uphill battle in modern, literate societies where life becomes increasingly complex by the day. General intelligence (g) is simply a general proficiency to learn and reason. Put another way, it is the ability to deal with complexity or avoid cognitive error. Virtually everything in life requires some learning or reasoning and thus confers an advantage on brighter individuals. Life is complex, and complexity operates like a headwind that impedes progress more strongly for individuals lower on the IQ continuum. Everyone makes cognitive mistakes, but lower intelligence increases the risk of error.
Cato UnboundRead Gottfredson's entire article, and follow the links to the several pieces by Flynn, Turkheimer, and Ceci for comparison. The PC consensus on this topic is that there is no demonstrable difference between ethnic populations in mean IQs, and even if there were a difference it would be meaningless. But--if such a difference existed, and if it were a meaningful difference, then it would be IMMORAL to even discuss it.

It is a quagmire, just as any issue on which PC multi-cult has staked a strong claim has become a quagmire. It is a thankless task for a scientist to leap into the fray with good data, good design, and good analysis. It is thankless because if the scientist's results contradict the PC multi-cult, the scientist becomes vulnerable to peer pressure, loss of grant sources, cancellation of speaking engagements, public vilification, and they can forget about tenure unless they already have it rock solid.IQ correlates well with life success, general health, lifespan, crime rates, and much more. These are well documented correlations. But does IQ actually cause any of those outcomes? How can you know the answer to that, if it is morally reprehensible to even ask the question?

By giving itself over to PC multi-cult censorship, society diminishes itself--parochialises itself--into a caricature of the open-minded society it claims to be. So I ask again, why the excitement, why the demonisation of those who merely raise the question?

A society that is afraid to look into itself--afraid of what it might learn and what might become publicly known--is a sick society. If there are problems that can be at least partially resolved by a deeper knowledge of underlying reality, denying the reality only allows the problem to fester and worsen. This is what appears to be happening on the issue of race and IQ.

As I have stated many times, Executive Function (EF) is as important as IQ in determining life success. But EF is largely a function of the pre-frontal lobes, and itself may be more than 50% heritable. We will not know unless we research it. We have to stop being afraid.

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Blogger Chris Chatham said...

Excellent commentary, and I agree wholeheartedly. I do not understand why it's so difficult for people to actually read and correctly summarize the literature on racial differences in g - namely, that there ARE differences.

I wonder whether the journal that accepted the study showing nearly perfect heritability of EF will now delay that article, because of this giant debate. I'm sure none of them are eager to get involved.

Monday, 03 December, 2007  
Blogger al fin said...

Interesting. I understand just about anyone's reluctance to step into the controversy--given what has happened to so many accomplished individuals after a moment's verbal indiscretion.

Study of EF seems to be in its early stages, compared to study of "g." If EF can be mostly localised to parts of the prefrontal cortex, it may be easier to find neurologic correlates of EF with imaging such as fMRI or nuclear medicine imaging.

Your posting about reaction times and "g" looks interesting. It would be great to find "culture-free" testing like that which correlates well with g.

The "anti-g" forces are fighting a "rear-guard" action, allowing an orderly retreat--although they may not understand that that is what they are doing.

Monday, 03 December, 2007  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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