Genetics, Science / Tech
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No Voice at VOX: Sense and Nonsense about Discussing IQ and Race

Sam Harris, a noted commentator, recently had a podcast discussion with Charles Murray about the reaction to the publication of The Bell Curve in 1994. It is an informative, respectful discussion and I urge you to listen to itShortly after this podcast, the popular online news site VOX.com, ran a piece with the headline: “Charles Murray is once again peddling junk science about race and IQ—Podcaster and author Sam Harris is the latest to fall for it.”

The piece mostly restates old arguments that continue to misrepresent what The Bell Curve actually said about race and genetics. It is based on a selective reading of the research literature and the assertion of facts that are not supported by a weight-of-evidence. There is nothing new or original in the arguments and these arguments have been challenged many times by other experts in the field. Nonetheless, VOX gave new life to the false narrative that Murray is “peddling junk science” about average IQ score differences among racial/ethnic groups being genetic and therefore some groups are genetically inferior. The podcast makes clear this narrative is false and the subsequent discussion is important for anyone who cares about the pursuit of science into uncomfortable topics with social/political implications like climate change or education achievement gaps.

I wrote a short response to the junk science piece and asked VOX to publish it. I explained in a series of subsequent emails to the editors about the Default Hypothesis—whatever the factors are that influence individual differences in IQ, the same factors would influence average group differences. Since there is overwhelming evidence that genes influence the former, it would not be unreasonable to hypothesize that genes at least partially influence group differences. Within the context of understandable social justice sensitivity, however, this hypothesis is an anathema. In any case, Murray stated he was “agnostic” on this issue. I included the entire quote from The Bell Curve in my response. Nonetheless, in my view, a discussion of this hypothesis should not be out-of-bounds in 2017 given the latest compelling DNA data on individual differences in intelligence.

As you have guessed by now, and from the title of this piece, VOX declined to publish my response. Instead I understand that they have invited the authors of the junk science piece to respond to criticisms that others have posted in various online sites. I have not yet seen this response but, in my view, VOX has missed the point. Debate among researchers about the technical details of statistical analyses and how to interpret individual studies is best done in scientific outlets. Public debate about these issues requires a respectful context free of pejorative headlines that demonize one perspective before it can be presented fairly. The point is that VOX was front and center in perpetuating a false narrative about Charles Murray. Sam Harris did not “fall for it.” VOX did.

Finally, here is my piece that VOX declined to publish:  

Is it wrong to discuss IQ and Race? A Response to Critics

Long before the Trump Administration, alternative facts and misrepresentations have permeated attacks on the science of human intelligence. Even reasonable discussions are not immune. The recent piece posted on VOX (May 18, 2017) by Turkheimer, Harden & Nisbett (THN) excoriates Sam Harris about his recent podcast discussion with Charles Murray, author of the 1994 book, The Bell Curve (co-author Richard Herrnstein died before the book was published).

Sam Harris is not an expert in intelligence research but I am. After hearing the podcast, I emailed congratulations to him and Murray for conducting an informative discussion of complex and controversial issues. Every point they enumerated as having broad support among intelligence researchers is correct. There is an overwhelming weight of evidence to support the ideas that intelligence is something real, it can be reliably and validly measured without bias, and the measures predict many real world variables that are important to most human beings. There also is broad agreement that one component of intelligence is a general ability (the g-factor) to reason and problem-solve across a wide range of situations. There also is overwhelming evidence that genes play a significant role in explaining differences in intelligence among individuals.

These points were reasonably well established when The Bell Curve was published, as evidenced by a task force of prominent researchers constituted by the American Psychological Association in 1995 (report published in 1996), hardly a right-wing group. And, as Murray noted in the podcast, all these findings have been validated even further by subsequent research with much larger samples and more powerful research designs.

The main thrust of the THN post centers on whether average group differences in IQ and other cognitive test scores observed among some racial and ethnic groups have a partial genetic basis. There is not consensus on this because direct evidence from modern genetic studies of group differences is not yet available. Nonetheless, apparently THN view any possibility that this may be correct as inherently racist and malevolent. They attacked Harris and Murray for promoting this genetic view and the genetic inferiority of some groups it implies. It is a false charge. There is quite a difference between discussing and promoting.

Here is part of what Herrnstein and Murray actually said in The Bell Curve about genetics and group differences in IQ (pages 311-12):

If the reader is now convinced that either the genetic or environmental explanation has won out to the exclusion of the other, we have not done a sufficiently good job of presenting one side or the other. It seems highly likely to us that both genes and environment have something to do with racial differences. What might the mix be? We are resolutely agnostic on that issue; as far as we can determine, the evidence does not yet justify an estimate.

The podcast discussion of this issue, what the data mean and what they do not mean, is informative for any fair-minded person. It is nothing like what THN portrays and I encourage you to listen to the full podcast. Taking a bit from Bill Maher, I don’t know for a fact that many Murray critics, including the students who recently attacked him at Middlebury College, never read The Bell Curve, I just know it’s true.

As far as I can tell, THN support the general consensus concerning the existence, testing, importance, and heritability of intelligence and even the g-factor. A main point of the their post is to attack the “naïve assumption that heritable traits cannot be changed via environmental mechanisms.” Although you can cherry pick a few studies that suggest IQ scores are increased by adoption or other environmental factors (as suggested by the widely accepted Flynn Effect), there are two problems. First, claims about large, lasting IQ increases resulting from an intervention (like adoption) typically fail independent replication, the bedrock required to establish a compelling weight-of-evidence. Second, it is entirely possible that any actual increases in IQ scores are due to the non-g components of intelligence (this seems to be the case for the Flynn Effect).

Here is more from The Bell Curve (pages 314-15):

In sum: If tomorrow you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that all the cognitive differences between the races were 100 percent genetic in origin, nothing of any significance should change. The knowledge would give you no reason to treat individuals differently than if ethic differences were 100 percent environmental. By the same token, knowing that the differences are 100 percent environmental in origin would not suggest a single program or policy that is not already being tried. It would justify no optimism about the time it will take to narrow the existing gaps. It would not even justify confidence that genetically based differences will not be upon us within a few generations. The impulse to think that environmental sources of difference are less threatening than genetic ones is natural but illusory.

But the real contention of THN is a moral one. They explicitly argue that scientific data about genetics, IQ, and race cannot be interpreted outside of a moral responsibility to prevent ugly consequences. But they neglect that racists do not depend on science nor do they respond to it. I am not a moral philosopher but I believe we as researchers have an obligation to collect data and offer interpretations that are testable empirically and logically in the market place of ideas. This is how we progress. If we can change environments or genes to increase IQ in individuals, we have a moral obligation to do so because more intelligence is better than less.

In the 21st century, we know that genes are not necessarily deterministic. They are probabilistic and we are learning how to change genes and their functional expression. This is a major worldwide goal in medicine. Neuroscience has powerful tools so it is well within the imagination that aspects of brain function, like intelligence, that are under at least partial genetic control, can be modified by tweaking gene expression. This is good news for people at the lowest end of the normal distribution of IQ. For example, about 51 million Americans, including 13 million children have IQs below 85 (16th percentile). Imagine a neuroscience-based way to increase their IQs. And imagine increasing IQ across the entire distribution. This is where modern intelligence research is headed and progress may well have profoundly positive impacts on education and social issues beyond anything tried in the last 50 years.  This progress does not depend at all on whether or not average group differences are due partially to genetic influences. Ironically, identifying any partial genetic influences may impact the design and implementation of environmental interventions to help maximize their benefits because one size likely does not fit all.

From my perspective, intelligence research is entering a Golden Age based on advanced DNA and neuroimaging technologies. This is hardly junk science, the term used by climate change deniers, supporters of smoking tobacco, and others to deride data for political or self-interest reasons. Let’s be prepared to go where the data about intelligence take us in this exciting field and encourage more discussions like the Harris/Murray podcast along with informed and respectful disagreements. 

Richard Haier

Richard Haier

Richard Haier is Professor Emeritus, University of California, Irvine, editor-in-chief of Intelligence, a scientific journal, and author of The Neuroscience of Intelligence (Cambridge University Press, 2017) that includes hundreds of recent scientific references to support the arguments made here.
Richard Haier
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Filed under: Genetics, Science / Tech

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Richard Haier is Professor Emeritus, University of California, Irvine, editor-in-chief of Intelligence, a scientific journal, and author of The Neuroscience of Intelligence (Cambridge University Press, 2017) that includes hundreds of recent scientific references to support the arguments made here.

46 Comments

  1. kurtzs says

    Excellent piece. Unfortunately, many people are conditioned by political correctness which, like superstitions, warps probabilistic analyses.

  2. Oliver Traldi says

    I am incredibly curious what the correspondence with Vox looked like, given the way their editors overstated and misrepresented the original piece’s conclusions on Twitter.

  3. Regardless of the facts, politically biased individuals will take any research outcome and twist its scientific meaning, if not even just simply replace it, to meet their agenda.

    I question the wisdom of public debating complex topics in this form, which can be easily manipulated, without some kind of public media program aimed at curbing the ability of biased outlets, to twist and politically weaponize scientific outcomes.

    In other words, … scientists … get trained in media coverage and communication before you public scientific results. !!

  4. Byron Matthews says

    Excellent piece, yes, but the closing shot at “climate change deniers” is puzzling. The author does not tell us who he includes in that camp, as opposed to those who argue for skepticism about the evidentiary basis of certain claims about climate change. The temptation to divide a research field into Deniers vs. True Believers is always present and, as in the case of IQ research, it’s never helpful.

    • josil says

      Absolutely right. Somehow, when writers (even scientific ones) get into a polemic mode, they have difficulty seeing their own biases…like the mention of “climate change deniers”. We should honor skeptics of science “findings” as it helps keep scientific endeavor on track.

      • To_lazy_to_thinh_about_nickname says

        Maybe it’s more about covering own ass, like to signal hey I’m still 99,9% The Right Liberal Academic (TM) and agree to all our sacred things except this one small oeace about intelligence

    • Ivan says

      Then what method should be used to approach people who, for example, say the Holocaust is a Jewish hoax? Or who believe the earth is a few thousand years old because of the Bible?

      There comes a time when you must conclude your opposition isn’t intellectually honest and no amount of evidence will ever sway them, as they’ll simple distort or ignore what they don’t like. Arguing with them past a certain point just gives them a spotlight they don’t deserve.

      Under such circumstances, if you don’t support labeling such people in a way to let people know they aren’t worth wasting time on, what is the correct response to them? Particularly when it’s on a subject like climate change, where if the bulk of climate scientists are correct failure to respond in a timely fashion would have catastrophic results?

  5. And imagine increasing IQ across the entire distribution.

    IQ is based on a percentile ranking system. Make everyone smarter and the average is still 100, and 5% still fall below and IQ of 85. You can’t make everyone above average.

    • Paolo says

      You need to normalise before the average is again 100. The author did not say ‘increase IQ after normalization across the distribution’. Fastidiousness with no point.

    • DJA says

      Speaker to animals,
      A very good point indeed. I have said many times that the concept of IQ is being misused/misunderstood over and over again. (Freaquently we see statements from people like educationists saying “the average IQ of ……….group of students has increased by 20 points over the last 10 years” whearas the average IQ of those students has always been 100 because that is the definition of IQ)
      DJAIf the average IQ of any group of people has been shown to have gone up then the the IQ of an equivalent number of people must have gone down to keep the average at 100.
      I have long thought that although the idea of IQ ( being as you have pointed based on a percentile ranking system) is an exilelent tool for some purposes what is needed is some absolute scale of intelligence to report on any findings of intelligence differences from one group to another.

  6. I made a set of videos with detailed analysis that is critical of Harris’ conversation with Murray. Part 1 is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hd5eDaaNRUY . What follows is a similar analysis of Haier’s piece.

    “The podcast makes clear this narrative is false and the subsequent discussion is important for anyone who cares about the pursuit of science into uncomfortable topics with social/political implications like climate change or education achievement gaps.”

    Haier implies that the pursuit of science into education achievement gaps will have social/political implications and it’s uncomfortable.

    “Nonetheless, in my view, a discussion of this hypothesis should not be out-of-bounds in 2017 given the latest compelling DNA data on individual differences in intelligence.”

    Haier implies it is not morally bad for a person to discuss the hypothesis that average IQ differences are partially genetic.

    “Public debate about these issues requires a respectful context free of pejorative headlines that demonize one perspective before it can be presented fairly.”

    He implies it is morally bad for a person to use a headline that criticizes opponents before letting them present their side. This is quite similar to the view Harris and Murray implied in the podcast (it is morally bad for a person to declare someone’s actions to be morally bad before letting him/her speak), and it is still strange because Murray’s book has been out for 2 decades.

    “After hearing the podcast, I emailed congratulations to him and Murray for conducting an informative discussion of complex and controversial issues.”

    He praised Harris and Murray, so that implies he believes it is morally good for a person to discuss complex and controversial issues like race and IQ. Apparently Haier saw no problem with anything Murray said on the podcast – not even the part where Murray implied he feels freed up to do things he wouldn’t have done if his opponents hadn’t called him a white nationalist, a white supremacist, or a safe/dangerous eugenicist.

    Murray: “If tomorrow you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that all the cognitive differences between the races were 100 percent genetic in origin, nothing of any significance should change. The knowledge would give you no reason to treat individuals differently than if ethnic differences were 100 percent environmental.”

    Haier quoted these lines of Murray’s as if they reflect well on Murray. If average IQ differences between races were 100 percent genetic, that could be used as more reason to openly support safe or dangerous eugenics and government efforts to reduce IQ gaps by people who have no moral objection to doing so. Or maybe Murray doesn’t see that as a significant change. Murray implied on the podcast that it is not possible to scientifically prove that a person is or is not treating someone as an individual, and therefore he supports repealing anti-discrimination measures, so it is pointless for him to imply that it is morally bad for a person to not treat someone as an individual. Haier apparently read the book and listened to the podcast and still decided to quote these lines favorably.

    “They explicitly argue that scientific data about genetics, IQ, and race cannot be interpreted outside of a moral responsibility to prevent ugly consequences. But they neglect that racists do not depend on science nor do they respond to it.”

    Haier does nothing to imply he will make any effort to prevent “ugly consequences”. Neither did Murray. Haier implies that his definition of “to act like a racist” is “to discriminate against a race/ethnicity for a stated reason that is not based on science”, but his definition is different from Harris’ and Murray’s in that it implies that people who are following the scientific method can’t act like racists.

    “I am not a moral philosopher but I believe we as researchers have an obligation to collect data and offer interpretations that are testable empirically and logically in the market place of ideas.”

    This implies Haier believes it is morally good for a person to do scientific research without regard for moral boundaries. Maybe he’s a moral relativist or a libertarian.

    “If we can change environments or genes to increase IQ in individuals, we have a moral obligation to do so because more intelligence is better than less.”

    This implies it is morally good for a person to openly support changing environments or genes to increase IQ in individuals. It is not clear to me if this includes safe or dangerous eugenics.

    “This is where modern intelligence research is headed and progress may well have profoundly positive impacts on education and social issues beyond anything tried in the last 50 years. This progress does not depend at all on whether or not average group differences are due partially to genetic influences.”

    Here, Haier failed to acknowledge concerns about how things could turn out. It could have profoundly negative impacts that depend on what percentage of the differences is due to genes, and he does nothing to imply what he would do to prevent those negative impacts. If he only sees upsides, why did he imply earlier that the pursuit of science into topics like this is “uncomfortable”?

    • Joe says

      If evidence did emerge that intelligence was 100% genetic – which I heavily doubt, just exploring a theoretical – would you be in favor of that information being suppressed or otherwise denied because of the potential implications?

      The point here is a search for truth, and your tone seems to suggest putting a stop on it because of where it might lead. This is anti-intellectualism in its purest form.

      • Sam says

        In the search for truth, I think you do have to consider the broader context in which knowledge is disseminated. As a hypothetical, would it be responsible to disseminate knowledge that one knows could easily be used to create WMDs in a country engaged in civil war and ethnic cleansing?

        At the present moment, advocating for this line of inquiry in mass media may be adding gas to the fire and is likely not the most efficacious way of eliminating institutionalized inequities that limit blacks far more than a potential small IQ gap.

      • @Joe

        “…would you be in favor of that information being suppressed or otherwise denied because of the potential implications?”

        No comment.

        “The point here is a search for truth…”

        What kind of truth are you talking about if not scientific truth? Moral truth and strategic truth play no role in your thought process? How long can the average man endure temperatures above 120°F before death? How much of a difference is there in survival time between the average black man and the average white man? Black women and white women? What about ethnic Jews? What about descendants of Sioux and Cherokee Native Americans? This information could be useful when it comes to estimating how long a lost person can survive until rescued. Sam below makes a similar point. (Harris, is that you?)

        I believe it is morally bad for a person to act hypocritically. Are you willing to state on the record that you agree? You implied you believe it is morally bad for a person to act like an anti-intellectual, and your definition of “to act like an anti-intellectual” is “to not openly support the funding of scientific research for stated reasons of morality or strategy”. Are you willing to explicitly state on the record that you hold this view?

  7. @Kristopher Mann

    “This implies Haier believes it is morally good for a person to do scientific research without regard for moral boundaries. Maybe he’s a moral relativist or a libertarian.”

    Excuse me, but – what!?

    First of all, what is wrong with being a libertarian? Or indeed a moral relativist? Is that forbidden? Is that deridable?

    Second, how on Earth does that which we wrote imply libertarianism or moral relativism? In fact, it’s the opponents of this type of research which are the moral relativists…since we have problems with racism (both real and imagined), it is immoral to pursue research which might suggest racial differences in IQ are genetic…it is in fact immoral to make conclusions from such research even when the data is very clearly pointing in a certain direction. So, it’s more moral to…lie? That seems like moral relativism to me. It’s establishing a certain moral code which owes its standards to a specific historical social situation, and that overrides what one might call a universal moral (“tell the truth”). Textbook moral relativism, I’d say.

    Third, where did Haier say or imply that is is good to do scientific research “without regard for moral boundaries”? Did he advocate using live, unwilling human guinea pigs? Did he advocate using any sort of violence, coercion, or anything of that kind?

    Fourth, the “moral boundaries” that people like the writers of the VOX article want are arbitrarily defined and not universally agreed. The bigger problem is that they boil down to “whatever doesn’t suit my political and social ideology and resulting worldview is immoral”. Do you know what it is called? It’s called authoritarianism. It’s absolutely the same situation as when theocracies forbid scientific research into evolution, because it contradicts the official holy book which is the basis of all social interactions. The same as when communist regimes forbid research that says collective farms don’t work. Or when right-wing dictatorships forbid research that concludes tycoon-owned monopolies are bad for the average person. I could go on, but you get the point.

    • He mentioned that he is not a moral philosopher, then he implied a moral obligation to do science free of restrictions — free of moral restrictions. This is the same type of view that a moral relativist would hold. His mentioning of the market place of free ideas with a positive connotation implies he may be a libertarian because they tend to like free markets and that may explain why he doesn’t want restrictions on IQ research.

      “First of all, what is wrong with being a libertarian? Or indeed a moral relativist?”

      I did not declare that it is morally bad for a person to act like a moral relativist or a libertarian.

      “Did he advocate using live, unwilling human guinea pigs? Did he advocate using any sort of violence, coercion, or anything of that kind?”

      He implied a moral view that didn’t mention any boundaries, then he mentioned the free market place of ideas. In other words, he could believe the boundaries, if any, should be a result of the free market causing people to lose funding for their studies.

      “The bigger problem is that they boil down to “whatever doesn’t suit my political and social ideology and resulting worldview is immoral”. Do you know what it is called? It’s called authoritarianism.”

      You implied that it is morally bad for a person to act like an authoritarian, and you implied your definition of “to act like an authoritarian” is “to criticize someone for performing morally bad actions “. If you don’t criticize people to at least some degree for performing actions you believe to be morally bad, though, you are acting hypocritically. It is morally bad for a person to act hypocritically, so don’t do it.

  8. Gerhard Meisenberg says

    In science, the question of whether there is a genetic part to race differences in intelligence is becoming obsolete already. The question is no longer whether there is any genetic part to race differences, but what the allele frequencies of different IQ-determinant alleles are in different human populations. If you can spare the time, you can look up the 100+ GWAS hits for intelligence or educational attainment that have been reported so far and then go to the 1000 Genomes website and look up the allele frequencies for each of them in different parts of the world. Whether it’s worthwhile is another question, because the way the field is developing, the knowledge base will be massively enlarged within the next 1 or 2 years. We need those SNPs that are associated with IQ in non-European populations to make the knowledge base less “biased”, and we need the causal polymorphisms that are linked to the GWAS hits. That’s the status of the science at this point.

    Moving from science to public debate about IQ differences, it feels like moving 3 standard deviations down the IQ scale. If people (even in tenured faculty positions!) link IQ to notions of superiority and inferiority, they merely display that they haven’t risen above the level of chimpanzee politics, as they are mapping the IQ scale on the dominance hierarchy that structures social cognition in all primates.

    What would be so dangerous about finding that IQ differences between individuals, races, social classes etc. are “partly genetic”? There is the old 20th century notion that environmental causes are changeable and genetic ones are not. This belief reflected the status of science and technology at the time to some extent. It led to the idea of meritocracy, described by Herrnstein & Murray and embraced as a normative ideal by some. It is based on the idea that by equalizing environments, we are allowing those with better genes to dominate over those with worse genes. I don’t quite understand what is so meritorious about having been lucky in the genetic lottery, though.

    The “danger” of research on IQ genetics, including IQ population genetics, is this: Right now we try to eliminate sources of environmental disadvantage while preserving sources of genetic disadvantage. Why not pick embryos with high polygenic scores and edit the more serious flaws out of their genomes to reduce genetic disadvantages as well? That’s 21st century science. Failing to investigate the genes that put some people and perhaps whole groups (whatever way defined) at a disadvantage only means preserving their disadvantages. Therefore those who want to maintain a stable, hierarchical and meritocratic society are well advised to suppress research on the genetics of intelligence.

    How long will it take for knowledge of the science and its implications to percolate from practicing scientists to the general public? Perhaps half a century? The mechanism will most likely be generational replacement.

  9. Santoculto says

    Behaviorism is only the application of the ” K ” mentality in science. Parents who take good care of their children, believing that what children learn is fundamentally caused by their education or training/ compensatory effort.

    On the other hand, those who have many children and do not ‘take good care of’ are only applying the ” R ” mentality, giving their children a freer creation, implicitly knowing that genetic / instinctive influences are stronger or potentially inescapable .

    That explains in parts why so many ” smarter ” people believe in behaviorism more than in ” geneticism. ” Just as the ” K ” mentality is applied to delayed gratification, it is also being applied to explain human behavior, also a kind of delayed gratification’s. As almost always happens, it is a self-reflection / mirroring, and not primarily a minimally correct recognition of patterns.

  10. George says

    Ok, we start to talk more frankly about one of the sacred cows of left/SJW. Now, when we’ll have a biologist coming out of the woods and tell us that homosexuality is not a normal human behavior? Or it’s still not PC to say truths about gays?

    • Santoculto says

      It’s not normal because it’s not the rule. It’s primordially a statistical fact that homossexuality is not normal, 😉

      Homossexuality itself is not necessarily unhealthy, based on this other concept of normality. Because it correlates with other disorders so it’s creating the wrong impression that homossexuality is always the fundamental cause to disrupt other disorders and not otherwise, that homossexuality is often abducted by other behaviors to cause a plethora of disordered phenotypical/behavioral approaches, for example, pedophilia.

      Indeed, a normal human behavior, by now, based on domesticated scenario, is usually boring, uncreative, servant, conformist, hypo-morally correct, condescendent, convenient, hypo-perceptive, hypo-interesting.

      • George says

        It is not normal because it involves using your body not as evolution intended. Same sex relations between members of a sexually reproducing species is abnormal just like for a member of a bipedal species walking in 4 legs is abnormal. (It’s even worse. The inclination to walk in 4 legs could eventually lead to another species, the homosexuality leads to void.)

        It’s not unhealthy you say? Darwinian speaking, it is deadly. It’s a dead-end. It’s the grave of the DNA molecule, after a ~4 billion year journey. It’s the Darwinian bad/erroneous/maladive/nonfunctional/show-stopping side of a coin called genetic variation (to the extend that homosexuality is genetic). In a context of random mutations, it’s the price a species has to pay for getting back good/adaptation increasing/performance improving genetic variation.

        To brainwash an entire society that homosexuality is normal is to kill the truth as an offering to the God of Political Correctness.
        We should celebrate functionality, not “diversity”.

        • Santoculto says

          I said: homosexuality ALONE is not unhealthy. It’s clearly maladaptive in “Darwinian sense”, but still is not too bad at least in minority. I help don’t need say the same thing I said above.

          Based on “functionality levels” or in paid-partial slavery??

          What make politically correctness wrong is not because supposedly it protect some groups but because it use this groups as means to achieve truly morally unhealthy goals.

        • Santoculto says

          Tolerate homossexuality is a exercise to tolerate inherent imperfection of human/life condition. There are imperfections AND imperfections, even within predominantly bad conditions as psychopathy, because there are SOME facets of this bio-psychological construct that can be very useful/utilitary.

          In the near past ”we” ONLY celebrate functionality and treated other-people in very harshly stupid ways.

  11. Rex_Tir says

    “There is an overwhelming weight of evidence to support the ideas that intelligence is something real, it can be reliably and validly measured without bias, and the measures predict many real world variables that are important to most human beings. There also is broad agreement that one component of intelligence is a general ability (the g-factor) to reason and problem-solve across a wide range of situations. There also is overwhelming evidence that genes play a significant role in explaining differences in intelligence among individuals. ”

    Wow! So many “overwhelming”s given that there is not even a consensus on the definition of intelligence.

    And…correlation does not mean causation.

    • Santoculto says

      Because most definitions or conceptual diversity of intelligence start from different facets or perspectives of the same construct.

      For example, we have those who reduce the concept of intelligence to ” cognitive abilities ”. Others say that behavior and intelligence are practically the same. Others say that intelligence is the ability to adapt.

      All of these concepts have two things in common:

      they are right

      They are incomplete or approach only a perspective

      The idea that intelligence and behavior are the same part of a macrospective perspective, which relates to the beginnings of life. The concept of intelligence as ” capacity ” to adaptation also comes from a very old perspective, whether all living beings exhibit this capacity or rather this need.

      The concept of intelligence as only ” cognitive ability ” reduces intelligence to its cognition, whereas in my view, the psychological part is also very important and always influential in the cognitive part. Still right.

      All of these concepts are particularly true but not holistically correct.

      To understand the concept of intelligence, one must understand the concept of behavior as well as the evolution of it throughout the evolution of life itself on Earth.

  12. Pingback: Turkheimer's Projects: Genetics and Human Agency | The Ubiquity Problem for Group Differences in Behavior

  13. aris says

    Dear Professor Haier,

    Your approach of the matter seems to be quite misleading.
    In your essay you write: ” In any case, Murray stated he was “agnostic” on this issue.”. This is a specifically bad reading of TBC that makes me wonder if you have read it at all.
    A careful reader of the book would see how the authors set the plot to showcase how it is impossible that there is not a genetic explanation of the group (race) IQ difference. As a matter of fact they not only think that genetics have everything to do with the difference, but they also believe that the underclass (comprised mostly of black people) are not to be “trusted” with decision making. This implies that they leave no room for environmental improvement of individual IQ differences of the underclass, as someone would expect from the Flynn Effect.
    It is apparent that the phrase about them being “agnostic” is there for a motte-and-bailey tactic to diffuse accusations. But let me quote directly from my copy of TBC.

    “Over the next decades, it will become broadly accepted by the cognitive elite that the people we now refer to as the underclass are in that condition through no fault of their own but because of inherent shortcomings about which little can be done. Politicians and intellectuals alike will become much more open about the role of dysfunctional behavior in the underclass, accepting that addiction, violence, unavailability for work, child abuse, and family disorganization will keep most members of the underclass from fending for themselves. It will be agreed that the underclass cannot be trusted to use cash wisely.”

    and

    “Racism will reemerge in a new and more virulent form. The tension between what the white elite is supposed to think and what it is actually thinking about race will reach something close to a breaking point. This pessimistic prognosis must be contemplated: When the break comes, the result, as so often happens when cognitive dissonance is resolved, will be an overreaction in the other direction. Instead of the candor and realism about race that is so urgently needed, the nation will be faced with racial divisiveness and hostility that is as great as, or greater, than America experienced before the civil rights movement.”

    The book is obviously a political (far-right libertarian) manifesto and the authors carefully make a case for the so called hereditarian hypothesis.
    It would be better if we stopped denying the ideological bias on BOTH sides, rather than attack the liberal “PC-police” ONLY.

    I would also be interested in how you can reconcile your claims that the difference could likely be genetic with another quote of yours that is “Genes are not deterministic, as much as they are probabilistic” (this quote comes from a short video you made to promote your book “The neuroscience of Intelligence”, which unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to read yet).

    Now to promptly offer my view on the matter. I think whether the race-IQ difference is due to genetics is a fundamentally empirical question, but the subject is so politically loaded that anyone who enters it will have bias. Trying to build a case where only the one side is politically biased, is highly unhelpful and inaccurate. You claim that whatever factors influence individual IQ, must influence group averages, but you fail to say that treating socially constructed groups such as the underclass, or African Americans as genetic groups is not very scientific. It is true though that sub-Saharan Africans cluster in a principal component analysis, however that cluster is a statistical construct of the algorithm, since human variation is mostly clinal (this is pretty much established). Populations of sub-Saharan Africa are more genetically distant than let’s say Italians and Japanese. It would make more sense to approach more genetically confined groups in our quest for genetic group-IQ differences.

    Here I will outline the steps we need to make to show that group differences are genetic:
    1) Let us find the genes that influence intelligence
    2) Find a statistical difference between those genes and ancestral groups
    3) Map the genomic architecture of intelligence and show that the statistical differences in genes between ancestral groups result in the current phenotypical differences

    Step 3 is extremely important since most politically motivated people would stop at step 2. You could show a 100% difference in intelligence genes between ancestral groups and still this wouldn’t be enough to show that the current phenotypes are representative of their genes.

    Thanks for your time and essay

    • Thank you for these comments. You and others have made some good points in this forum. It is difficult to discuss the research in such a forum but my view about the VOX piece is that it misrepresented the argument about whether there may be any genetic influences on group differences. I and most others including Murray believe the answer to this is unknown today but that it is not unreasonable to discuss the possibility (the authors of the VOX piece disagree). The Bell Curve goes further with policy implications based on low IQ (irrespective of race, as I see it, and irrespective of genetic influences or not). I have a different view of what low IQ means for social policy and I have explained it in my book. Your last point about the 3 steps is correct. I am aware of such studies in progress and I expect to see some results in the not too distant future, but we will need replications and a weight-of-evidence, especially given the sensitive nature of the issues. BTW, the Default Hypothesis is not something I believe—it is proposed as a hypothesis to be tested.

      • Do you believe it is morally good for a person to do scientific research without regard for moral boundaries? Do you believe the boundaries of research, if any, should be the result of the free market causing people to get or lose funding for their studies?

      • aris says

        Thank you for your response. Having just read the blog posts from professor Turkheimer, I think his points are more nuanced than what you account for. He is basically claiming that currently the whole hypothesis is unfalsifiable, to an extent, since we don’t know the genetic architecture of such complex traits as intelligence, and what heritability even means. Making conjectures supported by correlations and relatively ambiguous data, shouldn’t be considered a strong thesis.

        Let me sketch out a conjecture of mine to illustrate my point. Let’s forget for a moment African Americans, who are far from a representative sample of sub-Saharan Africans.
        Recent publications from Jelte Wicherts et al. have shown that the average IQ of sub-Saharan Africans, based on the current datasets, is around 82. The same group also shows that, most likely, the Flynn effect hasn’t taken place in Africa yet. Therefore, someone should expect a Flynn effect raise on their average IQ of at least 15 points, and possibly even more. Let’s also look at the work of Christopher Eppig et al. who hypothesize that the prevalence of infectious deseases in sub-Saharan Africa has a role to play with their lower IQ. If we also take into account that the genetic diversity within Africa is far greater than the rest of the world; we would expect that phenomena such as heterosis would result in a greater genetic potential for cognitive abilities, than people that have ancestry from different continents. Thus, I can hypothesize that the genetic potential of average IQ of sub-Saharan Africans is likely higher than Europeans.

        I would maintain that this conjecture of mine is at equal grounds as conjectures of genetic origins of lower IQ in African Americans. What I am trying to get at here, is that intuitions and implicit assumptions matter a lot. For example, the points that TBC makes are predicated upon certain assumptions about the meritocracy of the American institutions, and so on, which are political assumptions. But there is also a significant amount of data that points to the continuous disparities of African Americans and the poor in general, that can be traced to inequalities of opportunity, and the lower social mobility that exists in America compared to countries like Germany or Denmark. You can always offer the counter-argument that those disparities could always be confounded by genetics, but that’s exactly the point of professor Turkheimer. We could look at the same data and interpret them differently based on our intuitions and political assumptions.

        I have never seen someone put forward a thesis for the higher genetic potential of sub-Saharan Africans. I think we need to move past spurious correlations and weak data on this subject, which unfortunately will always attract ideologues. As you note, we need weight-of-evidence because of the unique sensitivity.

        I won’t be taking any more of your time. Thank you again, for the essay and responses!

  14. There are some really thoughtful. in-depth comments here and I won’t attempt to comment on some of the well-researched responses posted. And, I will confess to not having read Murray’s “The Bell Curve” but I did listen to Harris’ Podcast discussion with him from start to finish. Then on a following Podcast, I listened to Harris engage a geneticist, Siddhartha Mukherjee, who raised some very good counterpoints to Murray’s (and Harris’) seeming certainty about this genes—IQ link. That said, let me interject a few of my concerns as well:
    1. I heard very little discussion of confounding variables that could affect the IQ scores of test subjects. Given the murky and challenging complexities of social science research, assessing or replicating similar environments for test subjects is next to impossible. Very young black American children, even those firmly ensconced in middle-class environments still show on early understanding of their “otherness” and lower social status. (Google “The Doll Test”)
    2. I heard nothing from Murray or Harris about a recent finding that the stress generated by poverty has a negative effect on IQ as much as 13 points (Google “Poverty Impedes Cognitive Function.”). We know that American blacks and some other ethnicities are disproportionately impoverished. And, no, I don’t view this fact as “chicken-egg” conundrum. A concise, brutally honest American history course will illuminate why this is the case.
    3. IQ measurement is done using testing and I heard no discussion of “stereotype threat” and how it might impact test results. (See Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson’s work in this area).
    Finally, in the Podcast there was scant discussion of the basic terminology of “race” itself. Murray glosses over subjects’ “ethnic self-identification” which I think is woefully inadequate for a genetic inquiry. However biologists have rejected such ad-hoc, phenotypic characterizations (ie. “races”) since the 1950s and sociologists note the ever-shifting racial definitions we see in societies over time (e.g “black” is defined differently in the US under the old “one-drop”rule than in South Africa, and “white” did not include Italians in early America). The glaring omission of “racial” complexity made the crux of the discussion pointless for me. (I’m referring to Murray’s Bell Curve thesis — not his right to speak on a college campus without being shouted down or assaulted. I’d be glad to attend a lecture or presentation by Mr, Murray and raise my concerns in a civil, respectful manner. Starting with: I’d like to ask Murray what racial box I fit into given that my ancestry.com results, which I grant you provide very loose averages, show my genetic lineage to be from: IvoryCoast/Ghana 23%; Nigeria 12%; Mali 11%; Cameroon/Congo 10%; Europe West 19%; Ireland 11%; Europe East 5%. But again, I admit to not having read his most controversial book, so if the concerns I note above are not applicable or off the mark, I’m open to elaboration and enlightenment for other commenters.

    • Anomaly says

      Dude, I hate to say it, but your second and third points are based off of single studies that are, at the very least, widely disputed. Even if they were easily replicated (they are not), they still fail to account for the size of the differences we’re talking about.

      They also fail to account for why some persecuted groups like Ashkenazi Jews score dramatically better than their persecutors — and they do this in every country they are found, and whether they are religious or not, or even know they’re Jewish or not.

      At some point, we might also want to ask why so many people try so hard to save the purely environmental explanation. Surely the most plausible explanation is that they fear the political ramifications of the hypothesis they suspect is in fact true.

      For skepticism about stereotype threat, see Lee Jussim: https://heterodoxacademy.org/2015/12/30/is-stereotype-threat-overcooked-overstated-and-oversold/

      For skepticism that epigenetics explains much about intelligence differences, see Quillette’s own Brian Boutwell: http://quillette.com/2017/04/07/epigenetics-become-dangerously-fashionable/

      • Rex_Tir says

        It is not that academics “fear” some research might lead to uncomfortable findings. It is that the weak correlations found between IQ and SES (each have a lot of caveats in their definition- see Santoculto’s comment in my response) do not in any way justify a causal link and they certainly do not justify any IQ-based social policy.

      • Santoculto says

        CORRECTLY persecuted… ‘Persecuted’

        Maybe it’s a good argument in alternative galaxies but not here. Firstly because it’s a false, vague and malicious to say “ashk has been anjoos since Egypt, always unfairly persecuted”. Ok Romans, Egyptians, Babylonians et all weren’t that super sweeties but this doesn’t mean “so ashk/jews has been always fantastically good”, otherwise it’s likely to be, exploiting in corrupt way the corrupt world of gentiles.

        Second because “we” are in the defensive even in passive position always searching for numerous explanations to refute leftoid lunatics and for what?? Most of them will not change their zombie views. Stupidity is usually strong, profitable and extremely stubborn. This debate seems futile, maybe good to convince indecisive people, impossible to convince seems most of “leftists”.

    • The issues about IQ and race require some background about the nature of intelligence research, especially defining and measuring intelligence. It’s a big topic but I have summarized it in my book. The questions you raise are important but beyond what I can address here. Please see my response to aris. The main point of my piece was that the Harris/Murray discussion was more about the reaction to The Bell Curve than about the science of intelligence. The VOX piece included statements about the science that many others have disputed (mostly on technical grounds). As another commenter just noted, single, un-replicated studies are not to be over-interpreted. My book states 3 laws: 1. nothing about the brain is simple 2. no single study is definitive 3. It takes many studies and years to sort things out. Hope this helps.

  15. Pingback: Intelligence | Talking about cognitive ability in 2017

  16. Christopher Hazell says

    “But they neglect that racists do not depend on science nor do they respond to it. I am not a moral philosopher but I believe we as researchers have an obligation to collect data and offer interpretations that are testable empirically and logically in the market place of ideas. This is how we progress. If we can change environments or genes to increase IQ in individuals, we have a moral obligation to do so because more intelligence is better than less.”

    I would argue that if you are African American, that last sentence ought to scare the ever loving crap out of you.

    One of the very common arguments for slavery in the 19th century was exactly and precisely that if we can change environments to better individuals, we have a moral obligation to do so. It was argued that life on a civilized, American plantation was going to be better for any black person than a short, dangerous life in the savage jungles of darkest Africa. And if the whole institute of slavery was economically beneficial to the white slave-owners, well, isn’t it lucky that it works out so well for both parties?

    What’s that? The slaves say they’re really unhappy? That just makes me so angry. I am doing all this great stuff for them, working so hard for their benefit, and those ungrateful curs refuse to act civilized or thankful! It makes me so damn angry that I just want to reach for my whip…

    It’s not about slavery, but read Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden” for another view of how this “moral obligation” can play out.

    This idea that the smarties have an obligation to manage the dum-dums of the world, for the dum-dum’s own good, of course, has played out across the last two centuries in an extremely predictable way, a way which has rarely been any good for those who get put in the dum-dum categoriy. African Americans have literally been managed to death, and, well, a similar dynamic is still playing out today. Look at all the writing about “the Ferguson effect”. The underlying moral assumption of all the Ferguson Effect arguments is that essentially African Americans can’t be trusted to make decisions about how many people the police should be killing in their communities. Instead, the police are in a better position to analyze that data and make those decisions themselves. Perhaps they even have a moral obligation to ignore the wishes of the communities they police, always and only for those communities own good, of course, but isn’t it just so infuriating how ungrateful those communities are that we risk our lives for them, and they don’t appreciate it at all, it just makes me so angry…

    One of the things I’ve noticed in people who get really excited about intelligence research is a bizarrely blithe dismisal of that history, or the way the actual management of the mass of dum-dums by the elect smarties has actually played out, whether here in America or in the Soviet Union or anywhere else.

    “Yeah, it turned bad really quickly the last couple of centuries we tried it, but what are the odds of it turning bad again?” seems to be the operative argument. It doesn’t give me a lot of confidence, frankly.

  17. Santoculto says

    I also think that some people cling to environmental hypotheses because they fear with the progressive knowledge or popularization of ” geneticism ” people are likely to start

    Act on your own [natural selection within one’s own family, do it yourself]

    or

    Ask for policies that eliminate what they determine as indissolubly unnecessary to continue to exist.

    “Geneticism” gives new power to human hands, to act as a god.

    And it tends to work against all the ideas that end up being linked to [affective] empathy, for example tolerance, social conviviality, respect for differences, and the human being tends to be exceptionally extremist, True revolution will occur only when the human being surpasses this evolutionary / existential / philosophical stage of duality.

    If it is now possible to make everyone genetically ” perfect, ” then empathy, especially for those who nurture greater rejection, will become outdated or superfluous.

    Another theory is that especially high functioning psychopaths and sociopaths who are in the power of any cult, because there is not a single human cult that has not sinned by excess or lack, use this human ignorance to always blame the environment for Their faults [something primarily childish] because, as well as parasitizing over the ignorance of the masses [and the ‘educated’ masses’] they also manage to camouflage their ‘disorder’ of the mind. I identify behaviorism as a typically psychopathic theory in its nature by ALWAYS blaming the other and not himself for not being honest with himself and accepting that we commit mistakes [very often, usually] and that therefore such errors can and will have effects Impact on their lives.

  18. Santoculto says

    ”Online trolling is predicted by psychopathy and sadism: Recent study (N=1,215). ”

    TRUE or at least very bright psychos are VERY subtle and chameleonik…

    😉

    And online trolling, usually, is in the eyes of beholder.

    Define it better, please, thank u, whatcha tcha…

    • Santoculto says

      Remember that any macro-variable, for example, schizophrenia, tends to affect its carriers differently, with distinct intensities.

  19. Santoculto says

    https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/jewish-genius/

    Maybe the fundamental question here is not

    ”How or when shekelnazis become smarter*”

    BUT

    ”How or when they become more CREATIVE*”

    Two different selective processes…

    So, they since a long time already are brighter BUT NOT creative, so since napeaux emancipation they were becoming more creative OR their creative classe simply exploded demographically..

    what tcha cha

    • Santoculto says

      Similar situation happened and ”still’ happening with

      japaneses

      seems a long history of higher intelligence

      and recently its creative achievements ”exploded”, comparatively speaking.

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