Eternal Recurrence

by Henry on October 19, 2007

The debate about IQ and race is rearing its ugly head again with James Watson’s charming interview statements about IQ and how while

there was a natural desire that all human beings should be equal …”people who have to deal with black employees find this not true”’

Thus, this monster post by Cosma Shalizi (a sequel to his earlier piece on heritability), discussing why g, the purported general factor of intelligence, is a statistical myth, is well timed, even if (as Cosma notes elsewhere it’s not much more then yet another bloody iteration of the lessons that statisticians have been hammering home again and again for decades, but which don’t seem to have penetrated the public debate.

In primitive societies, or so Malinowski taught, myths serve as the legitimating charters of practices and institutions. Just so here: the myth of g legitimates a vast enterprise of intelligence testing and theorizing. There should be no dispute that, when we lack specialized and valid instruments, general IQ tests can be better than nothing. Claims that they are anything more than such stop-gaps — that they are triumphs of psychological science, illuminating the workings of the mind; keys to the fates of individuals and peoples; sources of harsh truths which only a courageous few have the strength to bear; etc., etc., — such claims are at present entirely unjustified, though not, perhaps, unmotivated. They are supported only by the myth, and acceptance of the myth itself rests on what I can only call an astonishing methodological backwardness.

The bottom line is: The sooner we stop paying attention to g, the sooner we can devote our energies to understanding the mind.

Health warning – a little statistics required to follow the argument, albeit no more then you’re likely to have gotten in your first grad school class on multiple regresssion in the social sciences (about which last Cosma also has some unkind words to impart in passing).

{ 82 comments }

1

notsneaky 10.19.07 at 2:51 am

Cosma oughta get some kind of a prize for doing this.

2

the a factor 10.19.07 at 2:59 am

What is best in life? To have a high IQ, to be physically fit, and to be rated a 10 by the majority of one’s peers.

3

Roy Belmont 10.19.07 at 3:59 am

The last 19 winners of the (men’s)Boston Marathon were Africans, from Africa.
So this is clearly a cultural phenomenon, otherwise there would be winners of African ancestry from other parts of the world represented as well.
Plus the weather’s almost always good for training in Africa. Plus African governments fund their long distance runners much more than other nations do. Plus a lot of rural Africans grow up having to run really fast after antelopes and other game and away from predators like lions and large angry mammals of other various and sundry kinds. Plus nutrition probably somehow.
So it can’t be those hamstrings.
Therefore there are no discernible differences in intellect between anyone anywhere and anyone else anywhere else, ever, and there never were and there never will be.

4

alwsdad 10.19.07 at 4:06 am

Boy, some people really really really want to be able to say they’re smarter than black people.

5

SG 10.19.07 at 4:19 am

a factor, we all know that what is best in life is to crush your enemies, to drive them before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women. And the person who said so was a lot smarter than roy belmont.

6

bi 10.19.07 at 4:32 am

Which brings us to the hard-hitting question that confronts our great civilization:

Should we treat black women as sex slaves? Or should we just treat them as slaves, lest they sully the purity of our Great Race(tm)?

7

nu 10.19.07 at 5:02 am

roy belmont,

the winners at marathons not any africans, they’re ethiopians, kenyans, south african and morrocans. 3 unrelated groups (the ethiopians and the kenyans are related) that all share one thing: they live in high altitude.
there’s also virtually no one in the african diaspora coming from one of those countries.

that said the more interesting question is: is being born on high altitude nature or nurture ?
and yes, sports recruters have (positive or negative) prejudice. (aka they look for the talent where they think they can find the talent)

8

Roy Belmont 10.19.07 at 8:32 am

nu -#7 The NBA.

bi #6-
A greater question might be the deeper assumptions that make not having a particular measure of intelligence a question of fitness, as if the context wherein that fitness gets determined can never be challenged. Not the test itself or what it measures, but where it’s given, and when, and by whom.
In Watson’s world, and for most of the adamant partisans on either side of this question, the chimpanzee is an inferior sort of subhuman, partly because of how it looks, but mostly because of its much lower intelligence. Thus Bush could be ridiculed on the internet in a more innocent time for his simian features. That some of us found that disturbing because of what it ignored and profaned about the chimpanzee, and by extension about our larger older deeper selves – as animals and as members of healthy ecological systems like those in which the chimpanzee and many indigenous people are still fit members – was just noise from out on the loopier margins of real issues.
But it’s central. Our place in the world is built and maintained on the same bullshit chauvinism that permits the most grotesque versions of primate research, and torture, and violent colonization, and economic slavery.
An inability to work with these things as what they are, not what we’d like them to be will only perpetuate the greater illusions and lies. Those illusions and lies are the truer foundations of racism and bigotry, not the unequal competitions of the rat-race, not the artificial jungle green in tooth and claw of the marketplace. We’ve created a human ecology where greed and cunning and heartlessness are survival traits. Those qualities were anathema in many primitive cultures. There’s the really dangerous conflict.
It’s not that there aren’t differences among people, not that some differences aren’t better than others, but where and when – the context in which those differences are rewarded and punished.
Karl Rove gets an IQ pass on the eugenics test. That should be enough to condemn it right there.

9

Katherine 10.19.07 at 10:23 am

I have to say that the Telegraph article did a very good job of strongly implying that all the stats point to a racial difference because of IQ and that the opposition to this idea is just because of silly political correctness. Another person (like our friend Mr Belmont here) who needs to go and read what Cosma Shalizi had written. And also yet another demonstration of how badly most people understand (or rather, misunderstand) statistics.

10

Barry 10.19.07 at 11:10 am

katerine, it isn’t because of people misunderstanding statistics, as we will see over the next 20 posts – the same right-wing sh*ts who ‘misunderstand’ economics will show up.

11

Barry 10.19.07 at 11:11 am

Sorry, Katherine (my ‘h’ key is cranky).

12

Brett Bellmore 10.19.07 at 11:12 am

I honestly have a bit of trouble figuring out why it’s so important that this not be true; We’re talking about small differences in the location of the peaks of broad bell curves, which tells you absolutely nothing useful about any particular black or white or asian you might encounter. Perhaps it’s the way group differences make a hash of the presumption that disparate outcomes are proof of racism? I can see how some could find that inconvenient.

Mind you, if we were using more detailed measures of intelligence, looking at different aspects of it, we’d probably find that the very groups that measured worse on one scale did better on a different one… The mental analog to what we see in sports performance due to things like fast twitch/slow twitch muscle ratios.

I tend to think the problem in Africa is less genetic, than a result of bad prenatal nutrition and endemic disease, but that doesn’t make it magically non-existent. Even if somebody were going around the continent with the proverbial hammer, or giving all the children a dose of heavy metals at birth, you’d still have to find a way to cope with the brute fact of a lot of people there being dumb as rocks.

In any event, I must say that the way any dissent from the PC dogma that racial clusters have no difference in average intellectual capabilities is ruthlessly suppressed does NOT create the image of people who are confident they are right.

13

emmanuelgoldstein 10.19.07 at 11:35 am

Even if somebody were going around the continent with the proverbial hammer, or giving all the children a dose of heavy metals at birth, you’d still have to find a way to cope with the brute fact of a lot of people there being dumb as rocks.

Only took three paragraphs.

14

Bruce Baugh 10.19.07 at 11:42 am

Brett shows up to demonstrate another way to either not read, ignore, or misunderstand Shalizi’s points.

15

Seth Finkelstein 10.19.07 at 11:45 am

Brett, C’mon – you honestly have trouble figuring out why people get upset at a political basis for institutional racism? Semi-seriously, what would it take to get you to say “Aha, I really didn’t understand that wasn’t just some arcane technical dispute, but a key aspect of the justification for racism, which profoundly affected many people, and still can be found in some quarters”.

This is another stock argument that I wonder how to handle effectively.

16

Barry 10.19.07 at 11:57 am

When I posted ‘right wing sh*ts’ at post #11, Brett was my start, uh, poster child. I figured that he wouldn’t show up for at least several more posts. I guess he gets up earlier than I thought.

17

Kevin Donoghue 10.19.07 at 12:10 pm

I posted this a few days ago in PZ Myers’ thread on this topic. It’s a paragraph from Watson’s book, DNA; I think it is quite revealing:

Growing up, I worried quietly about my Irish heritage, my mother’s side of the family. My ambition was to be the smartest kid in the class, and yet the Irish were the butt of all those jokes. Moreover I was told that in the old days signs announcing the availability of jobs often ended with “No Irish Need Apply.” I wasn’t yet equipped to understand that such discrimination might have to do with more than an honest assessment of Irish aptitudes. I knew only that though I myself possessed lots of Irish genes there was no evidence that I was slow-witted. So I figured that the Irish intellect, and the shortcomings for which it was known, must have been shaped by the Irish environment, not by those genes: nurture, not nature, was to blame. Now, knowing some Irish history, I can see that my juvenile conclusion was not far from the truth. The Irish aren’t in the least stupid, but the British tried mightily to make them so.

So he goes into a long spiel about how the Brits stunted the Irish educational system, ensuring that Irish IQs remained low right up to our own day, many generations after Catholic Emancipation.

But when it comes to Africans, well, that’s a whole different story. I mean it’s not as if the Brits were mean to them, is it? They were transported, free of charge, to a land of opportunity. Their low scores have to be a fact of nature, not nurture.

18

Soullite 10.19.07 at 12:50 pm

Health warning – a little statistics required to follow the argument, albeit no more then you’re likely to have gotten in your first grad school class on multiple regresssion in the social sciences

Yeah, that will help the 20% of the population that actually got to go to college, but if you want to convince most people you’re either going to have to make it so that they can afford college too, or simplify the argument so that you don’t need to have gone to one to understand it.

19

Kieran Healy 10.19.07 at 1:41 pm

The Irish aren’t in the least stupid.

They’re fast, too. My uncle still holds the record for the fastest marathon ever run in Nigeria — and when he ran it (in 1971) it was the fastest ever run in Africa.

20

Barry 10.19.07 at 1:43 pm

D*mn, Kieran, since it’s all genetic, what did your uncle do – impregnate every woman on that continent?

21

nu 10.19.07 at 1:59 pm

O’basandjo, O’bianna, O’kri, O’demwingwe, O’bi, O’liseh..

i get it now..

22

Brett Bellmore 10.19.07 at 2:55 pm

So the principle here, (Please correct me if I’ve got this wrong.) is that any subject matter where the objective facts run a risk of confirming some belief of racists is, by that reason, illegitimate as a subject of inquiry, and anybody who insists on looking into it is presumptively a racist?

And, yes, I’m well aware that IQ is a very crude metric for a very complex phenomenon, and the interaction between genes and enviroment is complicated, and that ‘races’ aren’t really “races” in any strong gentic sense, and blah blah blah. But that doesn’t seem to be why anybody who departs from the PC dogma is subject to such vicious attack.

23

Mary Catherine 10.19.07 at 3:08 pm

20, 21: That can’t be true, because obviously Kieran’s uncle wasn’t a “Latin lover:

In 2000 Watson shocked an audience at the University of California, Berkeley, when he advanced a theory about a link between skin color and sex drive.

His lecture, complete with slides of bikini-clad women, argued that extracts of melanin _ which give skin its color _ had been found to boost subjects’ sex drive.

“That’s why you have Latin lovers,” he said, according to people who attended the lecture. “You’ve never heard of an English lover. Only an English patient.”

24

bi 10.19.07 at 3:11 pm

Holy cow, this must be the _third_ instance of the “blow lots of smoke in the name of encouraging ‘reasoned debate’, except the actual attempt ‘reasoned debate’ is nowhere to be found” antipattern.

“any subject matter where the objective facts run a risk of confirming some belief of racists is … illegitimate as a subject of inquiry”

Where are these “objective facts”, Brett Bellmore? Do they actually exist?

25

bi 10.19.07 at 3:13 pm

http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/europe/10/18/nobel.apology/index.html

“To all those who have drawn the inference from my words that Africa, as a continent, is somehow genetically inferior, I can only apologize unreservedly. That is not what I meant. More importantly from my point of view, there is no scientific basis for such a belief,” he [Watson] said.

Hmm… then I wonder what Watson _did_ mean when he said whatever he said.

26

Seth Finkelstein 10.19.07 at 3:17 pm

Brett, you didn’t answer my question. Let’s start from there.

Do you understand the long, long history of racist propaganda? Do you grant that it’s been prominent and oppresive for generations?

Now, don’t shift away from this – it’s really a simple question. A second, more complicated question, is of course how to deal with it in discussion. If your recommendation is that history be ruled completely out of bounds, and every racist demagogue be treated as a scientist, do you understand why that might not be such a good idea in practice ? (pre-emptive note – I didn’t call you a racist demagogue, I asked if you understood why it might not be a good idea to respect racist demagogues).

27

Mary Catherine 10.19.07 at 3:26 pm

25: What Watson really meant to say is that Irish men have “low foreheads and long bulging upper lips,” while Irish women have “pretty faces” but “large feet.”

Oh wait. Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor was published in 1861. And of course nobody nowadays could make such bizarre utterances and expect to be taken seriously.

28

Brett Bellmore 10.19.07 at 3:28 pm

“Do you understand the long, long history of racist propaganda? Do you grant that it’s been prominent and oppresive for generations?”

Sure do. I think that history is a bit more complicated than Democrats like to portray it, (For instance, the effort to define racism so that minority groups can’t be guilty of it.) but there’s no question that it’s got a long and oppressive history.

“If your recommendation is that history be ruled completely out of bounds, and every racist demagogue be treated as a scientist…”

Hello, Watson is a Nobel prize winner, I think he’s entitled to be treated as a “scientist”. He might be a racist demogogue, too, (The catagories aren’t mutually exclusive, you know.) but that has to be established, not presumed.

My recommendation is that saying something racist demagogues might be happy to hear should not be considered proof that somebody is a racist demagogue. On the stopped clock principle, racist demogogues are going to be, ghastly as this may seem, right sometimes. Are we going to let the fact that they’re right in some instance force us to be wrong?

I’m for fearless inquiry, and let the chips fall as they may. We’ll ocasionally learn things we’re unhappy about, but we’ll still be better off knowing the ugly truth than accepting comforting myths.

29

Seth Finkelstein 10.19.07 at 3:42 pm

OK, now, given there’s a long long history of racist justification, key question: What heuristic should be applied to determine when something is recycled claptrap, and should be treated as such? I assume we just agreed this is non-zero, and ruled out the trivial answer that everything should be treated with respect even if it’s overwhelmingly likely to intended for justifying racism.

30

nu 10.19.07 at 3:45 pm

The interesting thing is that no one even tries to counter Cosma Shalizi’s argument(s).
Funny how at the same time people play the “oppressed brave scientist just exposing the facts” part and are incapable or unwilling to discuss the scientific issues with their conclusions.

i guess after all, it is a gut feeling.

31

Brett Bellmore 10.19.07 at 3:50 pm

Oppressed? Yeah. Scientist? Yeah. Brave? On the evidence, not particularly.

“What heuristic should be applied to determine when something is recycled claptrap, and should be treated as such?”

In the case of somebody who’s got the least academic credentials in the subject matter, I would say the heuristic should be the same one we’d apply if the position being advanced weren’t so loaded: Scientific evidence. After all, it’s not as though science doesn’t have mechanisms for separating claptrap from sound theories even where the subject isn’t fraught with emotion.

32

jdkbrown 10.19.07 at 3:52 pm

Brett–

Very, very few people–and certainly none on here and certainly not Shalizi–are saying that this a verboten area of research. Indeed, Shalizi actually *suggests* several possible studies regarding the confluence of intelligence measures and population studies (or, more crudely, race).

Being curious about these matters does not elicit cries of racism. What does–and should–is continuing to that there is evidence for heritable racial differences in intelligence, *even after those claims have been repeatedly debunked.*

33

jdkbrown 10.19.07 at 3:52 pm

That should be “continuing to claim,” of course.

34

Matthias Wasser 10.19.07 at 4:06 pm

So the principle here, (Please correct me if I’ve got this wrong.) is that any subject matter where the objective facts run a risk of confirming some belief of racists is, by that reason, illegitimate as a subject of inquiry, and anybody who insists on looking into it is presumptively a racist?

No, it’s that anyone who advances racist claims should be blasted to the fullest possible evidence-based extent.

It is not scientifically specious to subject racist claims to stronger scrutiny than less politically sensitive topics any more than it’s a violation of free inquiry &c. to put extra research into fields with particularly (profitable, humanitarian, interesting) applications.

But you’re dropping shibboleths like “PC dogma,” so I don’t see why I’m bothering to address your points as if they were made in good faith.

35

Uncle Kvetch 10.19.07 at 4:18 pm

Poor Brett, bravely staring down the PC Police and getting no glory for it. Whereas if he could deliver his daring, provocative arguments in a sexy Oxbridge accent, he could be making a hell of a nice living.

36

EKR 10.19.07 at 4:19 pm

nu writes:

the winners at marathons not any africans, they’re ethiopians, kenyans, south african and morrocans. 3 unrelated groups (the ethiopians and the kenyans are related) that all share one thing: they live in high altitude.
there’s also virtually no one in the african diaspora coming from one of those countries.

that said the more interesting question is: is being born on high altitude nature or nurture ?
and yes, sports recruters have (positive or negative) prejudice. (aka they look for the talent where they think they can find the talent)

Interesting you should mention this, since there is actually significant evidence that there are evolved adaptions to high altitude. In fact, there are at least three different adaptation patterns measured in the Andes, Tibet, and the Ethiopian highlands. The most extensive work on this has been done by Cynthia Beall at Case Western Reserve University. A summary can be found here and a list of her papers here.

It’s not clear what the influence (if any) of this kind of adaptation on athletic performance is, but given the importance of oxygen delivery in endurance sports, it does seem fairly suggestive.

37

Kevin Donoghue 10.19.07 at 4:25 pm

Brett Bellmore: After all, it’s not as though science doesn’t have mechanisms for separating claptrap from sound theories even where the subject isn’t fraught with emotion.

But when Cosma Shalizi puts one of those mechanisms to work, all we get from you is more of the usual.

38

Barry 10.19.07 at 4:34 pm

Seth, bi, there are several different methods to use, when judging whether a particular debator is honest or not. One is that those who’ve repeatedly been dishonest in virtually all of many, many comments is to be presumed dishonest until proven otherwise. This is an extreme rule, and few at CT fit it.

Brett is one of those few, the proudless and the brave (against PC police, that is).

39

Francis 10.19.07 at 5:13 pm

Even if somebody were going around the continent with the proverbial hammer, or giving all the children a dose of heavy metals at birth, you’d still have to find a way to cope with the brute fact of a lot of people there being dumb as rocks.

which continent? Last I checked, both the North American and European continents have a staggering number of people who are dumb as rocks.

On the North American continent, frex, you have an astonishing number of people who reject the idea of evolution because it is inconsistent with a book assembled about 1700 years ago. How dumb is that?

40

bi 10.19.07 at 5:22 pm

Barry:

Well, yeah, but I thought the _”blow lots of smoke in the name of encouraging ‘reasoned debate’, except the actual attempt at ‘reasoned debate’ is nowhere to be found”_ rhetorical antipattern is used enough times by people other than Brett Bellmore, that it deserved a special mention.

Seriously, I think this antipattern deserves a name of its own. (It’s quite similar to the _”In my opinion, it’s a fact!”_ antipattern, I think, but it has a subtly different flavour.)

41

CJColucci 10.19.07 at 5:39 pm

It seems likely that if people live at high altitudes long enough (like Ethiopians or Kenyans), they will, in time, adapt in ways that might be advantageous in endurance sports like marathons. If people live in filthy, crowded cities long enough (lots of Europeans), they will, in time adapt in ways that increase resistance to prevailing infectious diseases.
We can come up with plausible scenarios like this all day, where environmental presures select genetic adaptations that have some advantage in some other activity we happen to care about. What I can’t come up with, though, is a plausible scenario where environmental pressures select for stupidity.

42

Brett Bellmore 10.19.07 at 5:59 pm

“What I can’t come up with, though, is a plausible scenario where environmental pressures select for stupidity.”

Can you come up with a plausible scenario where enviromental pressures select more strongly for being smart in one place than they do in another? Because that’s all it really takes for people in different places to evolve slightly different intellectual capacities.

I mean, do you imagine that people who’ve lived for a very long time at high altitude have better oxygen carrying capacity than lowlanders because enviromental pressures at low altitude are selecting for inefficient lungs?

43

Bruce Baugh 10.19.07 at 6:05 pm

The funny thing about #42 is that I debated, when I read #41, writing something to the effect of “The claptrapist answer would likely be that some environments – amazingly enough, the ones congenial to the author – select for smartitude and general coolness.” But I decided not to. And then Brett did it for me.

44

Rickm 10.19.07 at 6:07 pm

Brett-
Constructing plausible scenarios is irrelevant to finding out if IQ is determined by genetics, or if white people are smarter than black people. Evidence is what is required–and, if you read Cosma’s article, you would see that all the methodologies that produced the ‘evidence’ in support of your position are flawed, and the evidence is worthless.

45

CJColucci 10.19.07 at 6:17 pm

“Can you come up with a plausible scenario where enviromental pressures select more strongly for being smart in one place than they do in another?”

No.

This has been another chapter in the continuing series of simple answers to seemingly complicated questions.

46

Brett Bellmore 10.19.07 at 6:23 pm

My position, Rick, is that suggesting that there are genetically influenced differences between the average intellectual capacities of various groups of people isn’t, by itself, vicious racism which merits the kind of treatment Summers and now Wilson have been at the recieving end of. What my position is NOT, is that such differences have actually been proven.

“Not beyond the pale” vs “established to be true”; You do understand there’s a difference between these two concepts, don’t you?

Soon the cost of gene sequencing will drop to the point where we can do huge studies comparing the complete gene sequences of large numbers of people to a vast range of characteristics; Drug side effects, susceptablity to certain illnesses, and, yes, all the various aspects of intelligence. These studies will show that certain gene combinations are associated with better performance at specific kinds of intellectual tasks.

I wouldn’t bet serious money on the proposition that ‘racial’ groups don’t have different frequencies of those genes. But I wouldn’t claim that it’s already proven.

47

Rickm 10.19.07 at 6:28 pm

Brett-

Saying that “there are genetically influenced differences between the average intellectual capacities of various groups of people” when there is no evidence to support this claim is racism. You do understand this thing called ‘evidence’ don’t you?

48

Brett Bellmore 10.19.07 at 6:36 pm

“Saying that “there are genetically influenced differences between the average intellectual capacities of various groups of people” when there is no evidence to support this claim is racism.”

No, it isn’t, this is an overly broad definition of racism. To be a racist, one is required to move from the average to the specific. To, IOW, judge people based on the color of their skin, not the content of their character. Nebulous beliefs concerning averages just don’t cut it, if you aren’t applying them to specific people in defiance of particularized evidence.

And I wouldn’t say that there’s no evidence. I’d say that the evidence, such as it is, is so far from conclusive that nobody can say the case has been proven.

49

rilkefan 10.19.07 at 6:36 pm

“We’re talking about small differences in the location of the peaks of broad bell curves, which tells you absolutely nothing useful about any particular black or white or asian you might encounter.”

Brett is right on this point, but that means he’s got the sign wrong on Watson: the above is sufficient but not even necessary to dismiss ”people who have to deal with black employees find this not true”, a statement no one still functioning as a scientist could make because it shows an inability to consider selection effects.

There is of course an active program in education research into achievement gaps, and people are perfectly able to say “we aren’t able to account for the difference between group a and group b using cultural-factor model m” so there’s plenty of space for debate out there as long as one talks about what one can measure.

50

Rickm 10.19.07 at 6:38 pm

So, to Brett, saying that the African content is not as economically successful because Africans are plain ol’ dumber than everyone else is not racist as long as you are friendly to the black people you meet?

51

CJColucci 10.19.07 at 6:40 pm

Actually, I may have been too hasty when I said I couldn’t think of an environment that would select better for intelligence. Compare, on the one hand, some unskilled urban laborer in medieval through early modern Europe, performing routinized functions in a relatively complex, organized society with a high degree of division of labor, slogging away in his filthy, crowded city, and, on the other, an African jungle-dweller trying to scratch a hunter-gatherer living out of an extremely tough environment full of dangerous animals and hostile competitors scrabbling for scarce resources. I suspect that one environment will select fairly demandingly for intelligence and resourcefulness, while the other will select for such traits as resistance to influenza or plague and satying out of the way of your betters. Guess whose descendants are likely to be smarter?

52

nu 10.19.07 at 6:49 pm

what a weird comparision, Cjcolucci.
especially considering the timespan you use.

53

bi 10.19.07 at 6:50 pm

It’s clear by now that Brett Bellmore has nothing. No actual evidence, no actual science, no actual testable hypotheses, no actual arguments. All he has are lots and lots of smoke and mirrors, and lots of insinuations that the PC academia is quashing Ugly Truths(tm).

If there’s actually a solid argument that’s actually being suppressed, then why can’t Brett Bellmore show it? It doesn’t exist, does it?

54

soru 10.19.07 at 7:42 pm

‘ What I can’t come up with, though, is a plausible scenario where environmental pressures select for stupidity.’

Plantation slavery might just count, especially if the slave-master got to choose not just who lived or died, but was in control of breeding his stock. Complete control wouldn’t be necessary just enough of a statistical bias for evolution to kick in.

If plantation slavery had lasted another few generations, and human genetics hadn’t turned out to be unusually homogenous, more like cheetahs than dogs, things could have been almost unimaginably horrible.

It’s an outside possibility that some of the damage caused by those historical atrocities isn’t national, economic or cultural, but genetic.

If that could be shown to be true, then those arguing for race-based reparations would have a very strong moral case.

55

Brett Bellmore 10.19.07 at 8:23 pm

“So, to Brett, saying that the African content is not as economically successful because Africans are plain ol’ dumber than everyone else is not racist as long as you are friendly to the black people you meet?”

If somebody were to say, “The African continent is not as economically successful because, due to rampant disease and horrible prenatal nutrition a large percentage of their population is suffering from marginal mental retardation, and we really need to do more to fight disease and malnutrition in Africa!, would that strike you as “racist”?

56

Rickm 10.19.07 at 8:37 pm

Now, Brett…

If you presented convincing evidence that people on the African continent were mentally retarded because of “rampant disease and horrible prenatal nutrition”, then we could have a serious discussion.

That whole “due to” part, is what is being left out. As Cosma Shalizi shows in his article, the evidence is bogus.

57

Brett Bellmore 10.19.07 at 8:55 pm

http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P1-125689502.html

“AllAfrica
06-26-2006
Over 50 Percent of Ghanaians Risk Mental Retardation

Accra, Jun 26, 2006 (Public Agenda/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX) — A total of 51 percent of Ghanaian households risk many health problems, prominent among them being mental retardation. This is because they are consuming salt which is either inadequately iodized or not iodized at all, experts have revealed.

According to statistics made available by officials from Food and Drugs Board and corroborated by a nutritionist from the Ghana Health Service (GHS), as at the end of 2005, only 49 per cent of Ghanaian …”

Then there are such diseases as chronic toxoplasmosis, which are remarkably more common in Africa than in Europe and North America, and which cause mental retardation.

You thought maybe I was making this up?

58

Rickm 10.19.07 at 9:01 pm

Brett-

Your argument betrays the fact that you did not read/comprehend Cosma’s article.

59

Brett Bellmore 10.19.07 at 9:35 pm

Look, Rick, I don’t think “g” is a causal variable. I think it is, at best, a really crude summation of the results of a hell of a lot of minor causal variables. So I don’t see that anything I’ve written betrays an ignorance of the point Cosma is getting at.

Of course, all of those causal variable ultimately rely on the brain that’s implementing those functions not being globally damaged by heavy metal poisoning, intracellular parasites, prenatal malnutrition, lack of stimulus during critical developmental periods, and so forth. So even if g isn’t a causal variable, it’s non the less true that there are a long list of factors which can influence those variables en mass, and thus influence their crude summation.

In short, nothing Cosma writes suggests that a hammer blow to the head won’t make you stupid, or that your mom guzzling choline during the first few weeks of her pregnancy won’t make you smarter.

Really, I’d say you’re the one who doesn’t comprehend what Cosma is writing.

60

spasmodic 10.19.07 at 9:45 pm

Brett,

“A total of 51 percent of Ghanaian households risk many health problems”

51% risk suffering. Risk. A health problem.

This is not the same as:

“a large percentage of their population is suffering from marginal mental retardation”

In fact its a wilful misreading.

In any case, you can back up your “argument” with comparative stats from the rest of Africa (Ghana’s rather small you see) and Europe?

61

swampcracker 10.19.07 at 9:46 pm

Henceforth, when one talks about James Watson, one should also mention the name of Rosalind Franklin, one of the unsung women in science who did not receive the recognition she deserved:

Rosalind Franklin was born in London, England on July 25, 1920. From 1947 to 1950, Franklin visited the Laboratoire Central des Services Chimiques de l’Etat in Paris and learned about X-ray crystallography.

The following year, she returned to England to work at King’s College in the University of London with physicist John Randall in an interdisciplinary group. Her assignment was to study DNA using X-ray crystallography.

It was in 1951-1952 that she discovered two forms of DNA and that one had a helical structure. She and graduate student Raymond Gosling published a paper in 1953 on the DNA double helix. It was received by the journal Nature 11 days after a similar one submitted by Watson and Crick. Both papers were published simultaneously, but Watson and Crick received the Nobel Prize in 1962.

Rosalind Franklin was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1956 and died on April 16, 1958.

62

thag 10.19.07 at 10:45 pm

It’s actually pretty widely accepted in British scientific circles that Franklin did the real work for which Watson stole the credit.

And it’s not too surprising, either. I mean, christ, you think a half-wit paddy named Watson could do real science? More likely he’d be out tippling and thieving with the rest of his drunken kind.

63

Brett Bellmore 10.19.07 at 11:08 pm

Spaz, I offer a hypothetical question designed to test the operating definition of “racism”, and it’s not enough for you that I can demonstrate that my hypothetical isn’t totally off the wall?

64

the a factor 10.20.07 at 1:55 am

Cosm, I have never linked to you before. I have no blog for it. No one, not even you, will know whether we were right or wrong. All that matters is that many stood against one. Rigor pleases you, Cosm… so grant me one request. Grant me deductive validity! And if you do not listen, then to hell with you!

65

bi 10.20.07 at 3:55 am

I said:

“If there’s actually a solid argument that’s actually being suppressed, then why can’t Brett Bellmore show it? It doesn’t exist, does it?”

Darn, spasmodic, I’m right again!

Brett Bellmore keeps talking about suppression of truths, as if somewhere out there a rock-solid, well-researched magnum opus titled _On the Stupidity of Africans_ is languishing in the shadows, only prevented from seeing the light of day due to the efforts of the Scientific Inquisition.

Then we find that this magnum opus is nothing but a moronic misreading of one newspaper article…

66

Brett Bellmore 10.20.07 at 4:02 am

“Brett Bellmore keeps talking about suppression of truths,”

It seems some people here are militantly determined to keep reading more into what I’m saying, than the actual words I’m writing would justify. I’m not talking about suppression of truths, I’m talking about suppression of dissent.

We’re not at the point where we know what the truth is.

67

bi 10.20.07 at 4:08 am

Brett Bellmore, I’m not against suppression of moronic and willful misreadings of newspaper articles (“suppression” in the sense of, you know, not treating it as science). Are you?

68

Brett Bellmore 10.20.07 at 4:24 am

I repeat: Comment 55 was a hypothetical designed to get at the functional definition of “racism” being used here. And the newspaper article was cited purely to establish that the hypothetical wasn’t a totally whacked out fantasy, that African average intelligence being lowered relative to Western intelligence by way of a lot of disease and malnutrition caused marginal mental retardation is a realistic scenario.

That poor prenatal nutrition can cause marginal mental retardation is established fact, beyond any sane dispute. If poor prenatal nutrition is more common in Africa than in the West, then it’s essentially a given that more frequent mental retardation would follow, inevitably lowering average mental capacity.

So, what it comes down to, is you’re accusing me of being moronic for thinking that poor prenatal nutrition is more common in famine plagued Africa than in the US and Europe? Is that what you’re saying?

69

Roy Belmont 10.20.07 at 4:31 am

Suppression of the moronic act and its result leads directly and inevitably to suppression of the moron, and then where are you? Once all the morons are bred out and culled out. Abortioned out.
The real taboo here isn’t racism it’s eugenics.

70

lemuel pitkin 10.20.07 at 5:13 am

So I just read the linked article. Awesome! much more illuminating than the discussion here, I’m afraid to say. I especially liked the bit about “economists who regress countries’ growth rates on government policies, etc., etc. As the late sociologist Aage Sorensen said (e.g. here), the sort of social science which tries to identify causal effects by calculating regression coefficients or factor loadings stops where the scientist’s work ought, properly, to begin.” Snap!

A question, tho:

Luca Cavalli-Sforza, in one of his books, does a factor analysis of various gene frequencies from populations across Europe. Then plots the first three or four factors on a map of Europe. And tells a convincing story about how the facotrs correspond to different invasions/migrations into Europe. So the question is, is this invalid for the reasons Cosma talks about? And if it’s OK, what distinguishes it from the spurious factors analysis he’s critiquing?

71

bi 10.20.07 at 7:12 am

I said:

“Brett Bellmore, I’m not against suppression of moronic and willful misreadings of newspaper articles (suppression” in the sense of, you know, not treating it as science). Are you?”

You’ve still not answered my question, Brett.

72

Brett Bellmore 10.20.07 at 11:53 am

I think this time, I’ll wait on my question 55 being answered. I will say, though, I found your question somewhat argumentative.

73

SG 10.20.07 at 12:25 pm

But Brett, you answered a question with a question. That’s impolite. As a sterling model of internet politeness, surely you should repent and answer the question before you ask your own?

Also, reading the linked article might really help you to answer the main point, which is that the measurements have no meaning. It’s really hard to have faith in people who keep bringing up the same “measured quantity” when the “measured quantity” has no meaning. You do get that, right?

74

Brett Bellmore 10.20.07 at 12:46 pm

I read the linked article, and understood it quite well, having, yes, taken statistics in college. If you think it meant that “the measurements have no meaning”, rather than, “You can’t prove from all these measurements the existence of a single trait we’ll call “intelligence”, then I wonder how well you understood it. Here’s a clue: IQ tests DO work for predicting success in a number of areas, which precludes their being, strictly speaking, meaningless.

I’ll point you back to comment 59: The quantity we call “intelligence” is just a sort of summation of a lot of different traits.

However, there are strong biological reasons to believe that they’re not entirely independent, as I also pointed out in comment 59: Whatever the mechanisms underlying the myriad capacities we sum together and call “intelligence”, they’re all implemented in the same physical brain, and dependent on a lot of the same lower level functions. They can be degraded en mass by a long list of biological insults, and there’s evidence that they can, to some extent, be enhanced en mass, too.

I mean, my CAD program and word processor’s functionality are independent, but overclocking still makes ’em both run faster.

Finally, the question was an effort to draw out the functional definition of ‘racism’ as it’s being used here. I’m not allowed to find out how words are being used before answering loaded questions?

75

bi 10.20.07 at 1:29 pm

“Argumentative”? Well, since you kept complaining about “suppression”, I think it’s only reasonable that we find out exactly what kind of “suppression” you’re up against.

To reiterate:

“Brett Bellmore, I’m not against suppression of moronic and willful misreadings of newspaper articles (‘suppression’ in the sense of, you know, not treating it as science). Are you?”

I’m still waiting, Brett. It’s just a simple yes-no question.

76

Brett Bellmore 10.20.07 at 1:32 pm

So was mine, and it came first. Answer it any time you want.

77

SG 10.20.07 at 3:17 pm

Brett, the issue here is not of their meaning in predicting job outcomes, which is not being disputed, but their meaning in describing heritability. Perhaps meaningless was too rhetorical a word…

78

bi 10.20.07 at 4:18 pm

Brett Bellmore:

Fine, I’ll bite. I’ll borrow your tactics for a little while — you brushed off Rickm’s question (#50) by calling it “loaded”, and you tried to brush off my question (#67) by calling it “argumentative”.

So I’m now also perfectly entitled to brush your question off as _irrelevant_ — because whatever malnutrition’s going on in Africa has nothing to do with Watson’s remarks about dealing with “black employees” _in America_. Which were what started this whole thread.

Or if you want a yes/no answer: then “yes” in this context, because it’s being used as an irrelevant argument to justify Watson’s unjustifiable position, to justify saying bad things about black people _not_ living in Africa.

… Well, on second thought, I won’t force you to answer my question. Because I already know what your answer is.

79

bi 10.20.07 at 4:19 pm

(Oh, and Brett, if you can’t accept my “‘yes’ in this context” answer, I hereby proclaim that Brett Bellmore is fat.)

80

PJ 10.20.07 at 4:19 pm

sg – is it? It looks to me like Brett has understood Shalizi’s point:

“You can’t prove from all these measurements the existence of a single trait we’ll call “intelligence”

which doesn’t have all that much to do with heritability, since, as Shalizi says:

“Someone will object that g is highly heritable, and say that this couldn’t be true if it wasn’t just an artifact. But this also has no force…

The g found by factor analysis, being a linear combination of the test scores, is itself a linear combination of the abilities and noise, and so, in turn, heritable.

How heritable g would look would depend on whether the environmental contributions to the different abilities were correlated.”

81

Brett Bellmore 10.20.07 at 4:40 pm

“(Oh, and Brett, if you can’t accept my “’yes’ in this context” answer, I hereby proclaim that Brett Bellmore is fat.)”

LOL! You’d have been right, too, 75lbs ago. ;)

82

Matt 10.25.07 at 6:14 am

Fun thread. Especially to see Brett Bellmore demonstrate his superior intelligence over the ragtag posse pestering him with bbs. He writes much better than they do, too. Maybe it’s all that g.

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