Gedankenexperiment

by Henry on November 29, 2011

Let’s imagine that we lived in an alternative universe where some of the more noxious nineteenth century pseudo-science regarding ‘inverts’ and same-sex attraction had survived into the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Let us further stipulate that the editor of a nominally liberal opinion magazine had published one purported effort to ‘prove’ via statistics that same-sex attraction was a form of communicable psychosis, which invariably resulted in national degeneracy when it was allowed to persist. One of this essay’s co-authors had chased sissies in his youth, but claimed he had not realized that this was homophobic; he also had occasion to observe the lack of real men on the streets of Paris, and to deplore the resulting sapping of virility in the French national character. His efforts, and the efforts of fellow researchers (all of the latter funded by and/or directly involved with the Institute for the Suppression of Homosexual Filth) succeeded in creating a significant public controversy. Some public commentators embraced the same-sex-attraction-as-psychosis argument because they were, themselves, homophobes, others more plausibly because they were incompetent, or because they enjoyed being contrarians, or both. This, despite the fact that the statistical arguments on which these extreme claims depended were demonstrably incompetent.

Now, let us suppose that the same editor who helped release this tide of noxious homophobia in the first place still played a significant role in American public debate, and still refused to recognize that he might, actually, be wrong on the facts. Whenever people pointed out that these claims were statistically bogus, he refused to engage, instead treating cogent statistical criticisms as yet another reiteration of the left-liberal view. While continuing to maintain that the “data” on fag-psychosis need addressing, he resolutely refused to actually address the harsh statistical critiques of how this data had been analyzed, perhaps because he didn’t actually understand these critiques. Instead, he continued to worry that “political correctness” and “squeamishness” had stifled the study of whether gay people were, in fact, psychotic and could communicate their psychosis to others. This was a discussion that was “worth airing “a decade and a half ago” and it “was surely worth airing today.” Indeed, the topic was “fascinating in and of itself.” However, as the editor observed, those who sympathized with his own position found that the “chilling effect” of public disapproval, had gotten even worse, and was “playing havoc” with the careers of those interested in investigating the very important question of whether teh gay was a form of criminal insanity.

I wonder, if we lived in such a world, what Andrew Sullivan would think of that editor?

{ 358 comments }

1

mds 11.29.11 at 6:31 pm

“I wonder, if we lived in such a world, what Andrew Sullivan would think of that editor?”

Depends on how well-insulated he was personally from the potential consequences. See also: Cheney, Mary.

2

L2P 11.29.11 at 6:35 pm

Is Sullivan employed by or working with that editor, or does he hope to be in the future?

3

More Dogs, Less Crime 11.29.11 at 6:54 pm

Interestingly enough, one of the authors of a paper on the evolution if Ashkenazi IQ has also hypothesized a pathogenic theory of homosexuality.

Also, what do you folks think of that Ian Deary paper?

4

Jeffrey Davis 11.29.11 at 6:59 pm

“One might have thought of sight, but who could think/Of what it sees, for all the ill it sees?”

Voilà! A pathogenic theory of sight!

5

Andreas Moser 11.29.11 at 7:00 pm

Die Gedanken sind frei.

6

P O'Neill 11.29.11 at 7:29 pm

You made me read Sully:

that shift is accelerating with more miscegenation

Shorter Sully — Murray woulda been right but those blacks are too damn hot!

7

Kevin Donoghue 11.29.11 at 7:38 pm

Since I don’t pay much attention to either of them, can anyone tell me whether this latest from Andrew Sullivan is somehow related to the fact that Niall Ferguson feels he is being portrayed as a racist (or something) by the LRB? I’m not saying Sullivan has a crush on Ferguson or anything like that, I just wonder about the timing.

8

David Moles 11.29.11 at 7:52 pm

I just want to say that I think the 2007 comment thread about Cosma’s “Statistical Myth” piece is materially lowering my IQ.

9

Henry 11.29.11 at 7:55 pm

bq. I just want to say that I think the 2007 comment thread about Cosma’s “Statistical Myth” piece is materially lowering my IQ.

The Flynn effect goes into reverse!

10

SamChevre 11.29.11 at 8:06 pm

Always interesting to see monopolists defending their monopoly.

(The reason anyone cares about race and IQ is that “there can’t be any race-correlated differences in outcome” effectively eliminates all alternative credentials to a university degree.)

11

J. Otto Pohl 11.29.11 at 8:25 pm

Regarding the race and IQ issue I just want to note regarding anecdotal evidence that I currently have the smartest students I have ever taught and I work at the University of Ghana. When I worked at American University of Central Asia I had quite a few Asian students that did very poorly academically. Those from South Korea being as a group the absolute worst students I encountered. So my experience of actually working in Asia and Africa is the opposite of the US stereotype of Koreans being the best students and Blacks the worst. I know that anecdote is not data, but I think the samples used for all the studies published in the US are skewed. If they tested the samples I have encountered I suspect the racial correlations would be very different.

12

Doctor Memory 11.29.11 at 8:26 pm

SamChevre@10: is there some way I can say “huh?!” without conveying even a scintilla of interest in having you expand on this theory?

13

MPAVictoria 11.29.11 at 8:37 pm

“I work at the University of Ghana.”

No? Really? How come you have never mentioned it before now? It seems like the sort of personal information that would be widely applicable to pretty much every thread that you comment in both at this blog and at Lawyers, Guns and Money.

14

Gareth Wilson 11.29.11 at 8:58 pm

If you’re actually interested in the genetics of race and IQ, aren’t African Americans the worst population to study? The actual degree of African ancestry is variable and poorly understood, Africans are the most genetically diverse population anyway, and there’s very obvious environmental factors distorting everything.

15

Doctor Memory 11.29.11 at 9:01 pm

Gareth: your presupposition of good faith and scientific rigor is hilariously misplaced here. :(

16

SamChevre 11.29.11 at 9:11 pm

If you’re actually interested in the genetics of race and IQ, aren’t African Americans the worst population to study?

Not the worst (at least a baseline level of nutrition can be assumed), but definitely non-optimal.

(Poor nutrition of the mother during pregnancy, and in the first couple years of life, are very bad for physical development in all dimensions, including brain function.)

17

Uncle Kvetch 11.29.11 at 9:13 pm

“I wonder, if we lived in such a world, what Andrew Sullivan would think of that editor?”

Depends on how well-insulated he was personally from the potential consequences. See also: Cheney, Mary.

I was going to say “Hell, Sullivan could be that editor,” but mds got there first.

18

SamChevre 11.29.11 at 9:22 pm

Rather than expanding my theory, I will simply suggest googling for “WorkKeys Leprino OFCCP”

19

Kevin Donoghue 11.29.11 at 9:31 pm

Thanks, SamChevre. Here’s what I got:

Software That Makes Hiring Simple. Try Our Compliance Software Today!
No results found for “WorkKeys Leprino OFCCP”.

20

Rich Puchalsky 11.29.11 at 9:31 pm

I have a thought experiment of my own I’d like to bring up in this context. Let’s say there was a writer and editor with a proven, documented history of mainstreaming not only “scientific” racism, but also the most outrageous forms of left-baiting –for instance, “the decadent Left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead – and may well mount what amounts to a fifth column”. Let’s also imagine that this writer cannily apologized for some of his most idiotic previous statements when the political weather changed, but in all other respects continued to write in the same style and with the same standards of proof.

Now let’s imagine that someone said that this writer and editor should be ignored forevermore. That no matter what they wrote, on whatever subject, they should simply be assumed to be writing garbage, having used up their lifetime supply of attention and been given more than enough chances.

Now imagine that certain people replied “Oh, we should never just dismiss someone. That amounts to an ad hominem attack. The writer and editor is influential and so we still have to address their points in reasonable, serious ways, and anyone who says that we should shun them is just an uncivil troll who doesn’t want to address opposing arguments. Actually, we can make fun of the writer and editor, but only in standard, ossified ‘snarky’ ways, ways that make it clear that he is still really a serious, influential person who we are registering severe though measured disagreement with.”

21

Carter 11.29.11 at 9:36 pm

Gregory Cochran recently wrote about this:

http://westhunt.wordpress.com/2011/11/14/six-black-russians/

22

Anonymous37 11.29.11 at 9:37 pm

Rich Puchalsky @38: I have a thought experiment of my own … Okay, got it.
Now let’s imagine that someone said… Okay, I am imagining that.
Now imagine that certain people replied… Got it — I am considering that case as well.

So now what am I supposed to take away from that?

23

Barry Freed 11.29.11 at 9:38 pm

Rich, I’m with you in general but I’m more torn when I consider that this guy has been an articulate and impassioned (and what seems to me fairly lonely) voice decrying the use of torture and other human rights abuses by the Bush and Obama administrations.

24

bexley 11.29.11 at 9:46 pm

Kevin, I got this:

http://www.zimbio.com/member/hsnews/articles/jziJwmX78GL/Major+Cheese+Producer+Charged+Discriminating

I’m not really sure what this has to do with Sam’s theories on “alternative credentials to a university degree”.

My guess is that Sam is being intentionally vague about what his point actually is so that when someone accuses him of holding some obnoxious view he can deny it and wail about how is being repressed by the forces of political correctness.

25

bianca steele 11.29.11 at 10:53 pm

I wonder, if we lived in such a world, what Andrew Sullivan would think of that editor?

“Success in life is determined by forces outside our control”?

26

Rich Puchalsky 11.29.11 at 11:15 pm

“So now what am I supposed to take away from that?”

That the mode of engagement that CT uses is what helps the Andrew Sullivans of the world stay influential. That while this blog post criticizes Sullivan, it does so in a way that says that he’s worth paying attention to. That commitment to discourse in the public sphere can become a professional deformation in which people flatter each other with these critiques and subtly assure each other that they are worth responding to.

27

Doctor Memory 11.29.11 at 11:19 pm

No really, folks: the proper response to Sam’s post was “I have no idea what you are specifically talking about, but am already entirely satisfied that it’s bullshit.”

28

Henry 11.29.11 at 11:23 pm

bq. Now imagine that certain people replied “Oh, we should never just dismiss someone. That amounts to an ad hominem attack. The writer and editor is influential and so we still have to address their points in reasonable, serious ways, and anyone who says that we should shun them is just an uncivil troll who doesn’t want to address opposing arguments. Actually, we can make fun of the writer and editor, but only in standard, ossified ‘snarky’ ways, ways that make it clear that he is still really a serious, influential person who we are registering severe though measured disagreement with.”

If someone had actually said anything resembling this, you might have had a point. But they didn’t, so you don’t. That you interpret this post as saying that Andrew Sullivan is a “serious, influential person who we are registering severe though measured disagreement with,” says rather a lot more about you than it does about this post.

29

Barry Freed 11.29.11 at 11:27 pm

Hmmm, all right so I’m not with Rich in general after all. Just tired. Never mind.

30

Rich Puchalsky 11.29.11 at 11:32 pm

“Now, let us suppose that the same editor who helped release this tide of noxious homophobia in the first place still played a significant role in American public debate, and still refused to recognize that he might, actually, be wrong on the facts. “

How can a propagandist “refuse to recognize that he might be wrong”? It’s his business to inject racism into our discourse. If he didn’t do it, he wouldn’t have his job. But you persist in treating him as if he write what he thinks, and can recognize when he’s wrong. By doing so, you legitimate him in ways that he couldn’t possibly do for himself.

31

Lemuel Pitkin 11.29.11 at 11:42 pm

SamChevre seems to be saying that many white people will aggressively defend their monopoly on various sorts of privilege, and that Andrew Sullivan is an interesting example of this. The second part means that if we admitted that racism against non-whites (i.e. “race-correlated differences in outcomes”) vastly favors white people in access to higher education (and almost everywhere else) and decided to do something about it, not very bright white guys like Andrew Sullivan would no longer have their secure “alternative credentials to a university degree.” And that’s the reason they care about race and IQ.

At least, I’d like to think that’s what he means.

32

Lemuel Pitkin 11.29.11 at 11:43 pm

(ok, 27 is better.)

33

Pascal Leduc 11.29.11 at 11:44 pm

Well if you assume that the only reason that Andrew Sullivan wrote this post is for it to be commented upon on Crooked Timber then i would agree that talking about it would be a bad idea.

Now however if you assume that he wrote it in order to further his ideas to his peers and the general populace, to give solace to those who agree with him and to create an opportunity to create policy’s to spread his ideas further and create long term changes in the field of discussion. Well in that case I dont see how ignoring him could be of any use. Infact, how would one ignore him in a way that dosent sound like tacit approval.

34

bob mcmanus 11.29.11 at 11:45 pm

http://jacobinmag.com/summer-2011/liberals-and-racism/

Seth Ackerman at Jacobin

“Already one can glimpse the emergence of a liberal narrative of consolation, a sort of comforting theodicy for the politically dispossessed; a story that can explain the cruel whims of the political gods to suffering liberal humanity. If liberalism appears to wobble on the edge of failure, the fault may arise not from anything liberals have done or have failed to do, but if anything from their own moral blamelessness: Liberalism, in this narrative, is faltering because its enlightened political project has run into a wall of blind, irrational racism.”

Comin’ on to an election, and Obama needs all the help he can get.

35

Henry 11.29.11 at 11:50 pm

bq. It’s his business to inject racism into our discourse. If he didn’t do it, he wouldn’t have his job.

Is it written into his contract? Is Tina Brown going to haul him into her office and fire him if he fails to make his offensive racist comment quota for the week? Does everyone who subscribes to vile views, or (as in this case) helps propagate them do so on a flat fee commission?

Being less sarcastic, I can quite happily believe that there are lots and lots of people who are specifically paid to propagate this or that sort of corporate propaganda, free marketism etc. But Big Racism is not paying much these days. Most of its votaries are in it for love, not money.

36

Tzimiskes 11.29.11 at 11:54 pm

It amazes me that anyone continued to take Murray seriously after Losing Ground was thoroughly discredited by a number of researchers back in the 80s (Christopher Jencks in particular had some good pieces on the subject). Unfortunately it seems you can make a lucrative career manipulating data to reinforce people’s prejudices. Pity it isn’t as easy to do so producing good data to challenge them.

37

Rich Puchalsky 11.30.11 at 12:01 am

Barry, being against torture — rather late in the day, but whatever — is exactly the kind of tactic that Sullivan uses to position himself to be a useful racist. His target audience wouldn’t listen to him otherwise.

Imagine a process of evolution through iterated choice, rather like the computer program that Dawkins describes in _The Blind Watchmaker_, in which people with power choose writers and editors who resemble what they want rather than what they don’t want. Somewhere there’s an honest conservative who was against torture *and* racism *and* stupid fear mongering against leftists, but he or she never got a job writing after college. Sullivan is one of the people who has passed through a selection process to be a reliable part of the right-wing ecosystem; the guy who can fool people like you into thinking that they are right on some important issues and who therefore have to be listened to. If the U.S. took up slavery again, Sullivan would be bravely against slavery, as a contrarian of course. And the hundreds of millions of people who would react to slavery with horror and detestation that it could come back would not be heard; the only person in the media ecosystem, strangely enough, the “lonely voice”, would be someone like Sullivan.

38

Dr. Hilarius 11.30.11 at 12:10 am

Talk about Zombie Pseudo-science, obsession with race and IQ just won’t die. The whole motivation for these studies, as Gould pointed out, is to rank order groups of humans. This to make it scientific and objective that one group should run the world. It’s necessary to point out the statistical chicanery behind claims of a strong correlation between race and IQ but let’s not forget that IQ itself is a construct of dubious existence. The very idea that a single number can represent overall cognitive function should be treated as just another 19th century bit of quackery along with phrenology.

It’s been a very long time since I read The Bell Curve and I won’t waste my time going back to it. But I do recall the authors letting slip that IQ measurements aren’t stable until about age 5. This alone contradicts most of the rest of their arguments.

Henry, thank you for directing me to the Slate piece. I was unaware of the connections between some of the authors and explicit Nazi views. Move over Cyril Burt, you’ve got company.

39

Jonathan 11.30.11 at 12:36 am

Could any of the figures associated with these beliefs be fairly described as Lovecraftian? As in, not out of a place in such a fiction? That would make it more interesting, to me at least.

40

David in NY 11.30.11 at 12:54 am

“Most of its votaries are in it for love, not money.”

Nicely put, but I think, given that the Bell Curve is still in print, although over 150,000 in its Amazon ranking, it should be “for love and money.”

Also get this: Sullivan has hardly been alone. Here are the “editorial reviews” Amazon lists.

Michael Novak National Review Our intellectual landscape has been disrupted by the equivalent of an earthquake.

David Brooks The Wall Street Journal Has already kicked up more reaction than any social?science book this decade.

Peter Brimelow Forbes Long-awaited…massive, meticulous, minutely detailed, clear. Like Darwin’s Origin of Species — the intellectual event with which it is being seriously compared — The Bell Curve offers a new synthesis of research…and a hypothesis of far-reaching explanatory power.

Milton Friedman This brilliant, original, objective, and lucidly written book will force you to rethink your biases and prejudices about the role that individual difference in intelligence plays in our economy, our policy, and our society.

Chester E. Finn, Jr. Commentary The Bell Curve’s implications will be as profound for the beginning of the new century as Michael Harrington’s discovery of “the other America” was for the final part of the old. Richard Herrnstein’s bequest to us is a work of great value. Charles Murray’s contribution goes on.

Prof. Thomas J. Bouchard Contemporary Psychology [The authors] have been cast as racists and elitists and The Bell Curve has been dismissed as pseudoscience….The book’s message cannot be dismissed so easily. Herrnstein and Murray have written one of the most provocative social science books published in many years….This is a superbly written and exceedingly well documented book.

Christopher Caldwell American Spectator The Bell Curve is a comprehensive treatment of its subject,never mean-spirited or gloating. It gives a fair hearing to those who dissent scientifically from its propositions — in fact, it bends over backward to be fair….Among the dozens of hostile articles that have thus far appeared, none has successfully refuted any of its science.

Malcolme W. Browne The New York Times Book Review Mr. Murray and Mr. Herrnstein write that “for the last 30 years, the concept of intelligence has been a pariah in the world of ideas,” and that the time has come to rehabilitate rational discourse on the subject. It is hard to imagine a democratic society doing otherwise.

Prof. Eugene D. Genovese National Review Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray might not feel at home with Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Lani Guinier, but they should….They have all [made] brave attempts to force a national debate on urgent matters that will not go away. And they have met the same fate. Once again, academia and the mass media are straining every muscle to suppress debate.

41

FredR 11.30.11 at 12:59 am

I think Sam Chevre’s argument goes like this: the reason academics hate on IQ tests as they pertain to race is because adverse impact rulings are a major reason private employers use IQ tests less than they would like to, forcing those private employers to instead rely on educational credentials to sort their job applicants. If we all were ok with IQ tests (and the racial gaps in average IQ scores), employers would be able to use those IQ tests instead of relying on educational credentials, thereby reducing the demand for educational credentials and cutting into academics’ monopoly on supplying employers with pertinent information about their prospective employees.

But I could be wrong.

42

Jonathan 11.30.11 at 1:17 am

I once taught a business writing for accountants class in which one of the assignments involved resume preparation. A couple of the students put their SAT scores on their resumes, and I told them not to do that, as no one could possibly give a damn. Just the other day, though, I was reading some blog comments by an asshole who claimed to be involved with hiring at some financial services company. In addition to a wide variety of statements to the effect that only Harvard, Yale, and Princeton (maybe Stanford and MIT) were worth bothering with, provided the candidates could answer his brain teasers in the interview, this entity noted that all applicants were required to submit their SAT scores, which he (obviously “he”) thought was much more important than their grades, because the grades only measure how much work you’re willing to do whereas the SAT (and his brain teasers) measure objective intelligence.

Sometimes people pretend to be something they’re not. This even happens on the internet. It’s possible, though, that this was describing some actual hiring practice in quantitative finance. The SAT as IQ test by proxy.

43

geo 11.30.11 at 1:18 am

Rich @37: the guy who can fool people like you into thinking that they are right on some important issues and who therefore have to be listened to

The reason it’s important (for some people on the left, anyway) to listen to Sullivan, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh et al is not that they’re right about anything (though Sullivan occasionally is), but rather that: 1) a great many of our fellow citizens listen to them, and agree with them; 2) we can’t make a better society without those misguided fellow citizens; so 3) we have to persuade them that we’re right and Sullivan/Beck/Limbaugh are wrong; and 4) it’s hard — virtually impossible — to refute them without listening to them.

It’s not necessary to respect Sullivan et al, or even to address them. But it is necessary to respect and address those of our well-meaning fellow citizens who are influenced by them. Occasionally this may in fact require debating Sullivan et al, and then we ought to suppress our disgust and do so — again, out of respect for our fellow citizens, who need to hear what we have to say and won’t be persuaded if we simply turn our backs and contemptuously refuse to engage those whom they agree with.

As Chomsky says somewhere, quoting Amnesty International, one should be polite even to the most thuggish dictators. Not because one respects them, but because it’s the most effective way to help those they are oppressing. For similar reasons, one should be polite even to the most offensive ideologues.

44

Malaclypse 11.30.11 at 1:19 am

but I’m more torn when I consider that this guy has been an articulate and impassioned (and what seems to me fairly lonely) voice decrying the use of torture and other human rights abuses by the Bush and Obama administrations.

You know, Sullivan’s being against torture really should not be the sort of thing that counts as an actual moral accomplishment that somehow outweighs all the rest of the awfulness. And being against torture was only a lonely voice among conservatives. I don’t recall anybody, say, here, claiming that waterboarding was a-o-kay. Maybe I just missed that post.

45

chris 11.30.11 at 1:30 am

If we all were ok with IQ tests (and the racial gaps in average IQ scores)

Aren’t you palming a rather large card here? Why can’t we be ok with IQ tests (well, Dr. Hilarius’s reservations about IQ are sound IMO, but AFAIK you can construct narrower domain tests of specific mental skills that aren’t pseudoscientific, they just don’t correlate very well in the absence of a massive across-the-board distorter like malnutrition) but want to close the score gaps by making the environmental factors more equitable or at least raising the floor?

…also, IANAL, but IIRC a bona fide occupational qualification can’t be challenged on disparate impact grounds. It’s only if the test results bear no relation to the job being tested for that you can’t use them to throw out all the wrong sort of people (who you know are going to score low) and keep only the applicants you want.

46

ezra abrams 11.30.11 at 2:01 am

over the years, i’ve read many liberal explanations of g and factor analysis and heredity, and I’ve never understood a single one.
I must be really stupid.
I found the 3 toed sloth pieces particularly impenetrable; I feel really sorry for that guy’s undergrads

a cartoon from the 60s, in two panels
Panel 1
two little boys, maybe 4th grade, sitting next to each other while they take a test.
The white boy asks the black one, “what are grits?”
Panel 2
There is a balloon over the head of the black boy, showing what he is thinking, and in the balloon we read: “wow, whitey must be just naturally stupid…”

47

Salient 11.30.11 at 2:05 am

the mode of engagement that CT uses is what helps the Andrew Sullivans of the world stay influential.

Morally speaking I think this is exactly backwards. Consider: The work ethic of the financially desperate is what helps the millionaires of the world stay rich. True statement. But morally it’s not really a fair statement, is it? To ascribe responsibility for reinforcing relative power to the participants with the least power .

When it comes to organizing and directing the course and constraints of political discourse, we’re not the awesomely influential ones (as much as I dearly love you all, the number of legislative aides who cruise over to CT to discover the latest thing they’ll have to address and deal with is approximately zero). They are.

If anything, by engaging with the asinine-yet-powerfully-influential, we’re forcing them to cede some measure of power to us, because in order to engage with us they’re required to acknowledge us as worth their time. Ezra Klein is a so-so example: he got his start on a neat quirky and awesome blog, engaged with political professionals sharply and cleverly for years, and somehow worked his way into a job at the Post, where he can now write to a national audience.

(One could argue Andrew Sullivan is not particularly powerful or part of the media clique. I have no clue. In my life I have spent exactly five seconds looking at Andrew Sullivan’s web page, exactly long enough to read “of no party or clique” and think “oh dear god.” I am currently thinking of Matt Drudge and Megan McArdle and that guy with the blog at Politico.)

The camaraderie and rigid class identification of bigwig editors and socialites is what helps Andrew Sullivan stay influential. And should we choose to refuse to acknowledge them, that won’t bother them a bit; in fact, if we bury our heads in the sand and completely blank out our own awareness of their existence, to them that just means a little less henpeck heckling for them to put up with. Better to be a thorn than a root.

48

FredR 11.30.11 at 2:15 am

“but IIRC a bona fide occupational qualification can’t be challenged on disparate impact grounds. It’s only if the test results bear no relation to the job being tested for that you can’t use them to throw out all the wrong sort of people”

Yeah my statistics professor told us the same thing the other day, although my impression is that in practice, for various reasons, that distinction might not hold.

Anyways, talk to Sam, it’s his argument (if I’ve translated him correctly).

49

David in NY 11.30.11 at 2:16 am

Chris in 45 — a little unfair to hold that argument against FredR, who was merely restating somebody else’s point.

But, assuming that somebody is putting forward that argument, I think you’re right, that an IQ test could be required by employers for some kinds of employment that were related to the tasks it selects for (I am at a loss for an example, however). For each job, there is probably a better test, however. I mean, if IQ measures spacial relations, for example, it might be related to being hired as a truck driver, but how much better to have him/her drive the damn truck for a little while.

In short, if IQ isn’t used as an employment test, it’s because employers recognize that it’s not very closely related to the qualifications for most jobs.

50

David in NY 11.30.11 at 2:20 am

Ah, FredR showed up and we agree, I think, basically.

Here’s a brief legal analysis of the employment ramifications of IQ. It’s a little more complicated than what we’ve said. http://www.stoel.com/showarticle.aspx?Show=957

51

SamChevre 11.30.11 at 2:41 am

FredR @ 41 has pretty accurately captured my argument.

I will just note that “demonstrate that test X is a bona fide employment qualification, or that it has no disparate impact” is a standard to which a degree requirement is not held. And WorkKeys is a widely-used, well-regarded generic exam designed to capture generally useful job skills (basic functional literacy and basic math).

I’m uncertain why Kevin Donoghue is getting different results from a google search than I; my first result is the DOL press release.

It may be worth noting that I have somewhat of a personal POV on the subject of test-based credentials; I did not complete high school, and graduated from college when I was 27. Being able to demonstrate that I could read and do math at least as well as the average person with an Associate’s Degree would have been very helpful.

52

David in NY 11.30.11 at 3:00 am

SamChevre — my quick search suggests that at least some “degree requirement[s]” are subject to the disparate impact test: from the EEOC, http://www.hirecentrix.com/eeoc-issues-opinion-letter-on-disparate-impact-of-education-requirements.html

Maybe not all, I don’t know that much about this area.

53

Rich Puchalsky 11.30.11 at 3:06 am

“Morally speaking I think this is exactly backwards. Consider: The work ethic of the financially desperate is what helps the millionaires of the world stay rich. True statement. But morally it’s not really a fair statement, is it? To ascribe responsibility for reinforcing relative power to the participants with the least power .”

The people here are not the people with the least power. The people with the least power are not heard at all. The people here I’d generally class as aspiring public intellectuals. Therefore, if you want an analogy, it’s more like the relationship between the middle and upper classes.

But I wasn’t really making a statement about morality. I was making a statement about how the system works — one which people here strangely don’t seem to understand. Imagine that you’re a right-wing propagandist. Would you rather have no, few, or many left-of-center academics arguing against you? Clearly you’d rather have many.

That means that they take you seriously. You can hold them up to people on your side and say, look, the left is afraid of my ideas, and to people on the middle and say, look, my ideas are respectable because academics trouble themselves to argue against them. Meanwhile, is anyone convinced by this argumentation? No, not really. There is value in a definitive take-down, but anyone who cares about Murray and cares about argument would be convinced by Steven Jay Gould. Anyone who is still unconvinced doesn’t want to be.

Too much of this stuff is self-flattering because people think “better to be a thorn than a root” when really, they’re fertilizer. Sullivan can hobnob with editors and socialites all he wants, but if no one serious takes him seriously, all of a sudden he has no reason to exist. The Glenn Becks of the world have that part of the ecosystem sewn up already.

If you have to address Sullivan, at least do it in a way that shows contempt for the whole enterprise — such as by depicting him as Sully the Pooh (sadly, I couldn’t find the post about him approving of genocide while wearing a Swastika armband). But again…. anyone not convinced by the Poor Man already isn’t going to be convinced by you. If your blog post would be better replaced by a link, maybe it’s better just to supply the link.

54

david 11.30.11 at 3:08 am

@40 is sobering. Half the left-liberal economics blogging (okay, tons of Delong but others too) is invocation of the ghost of Milton Friedman, and he was an awful repugnant troll. I remember when Christopher Caldwell was the reasonable conservative who wrote well. Yuck.

55

DelRey 11.30.11 at 3:35 am

Races represent human subpopulations that were reproductively isolated from one another for thousands or tens of thousands of years by distance and geographical barriers. As a result of this isolation, the races evolved significant differences in the distribution of certain combinations of biological traits, most obviously skin color, hair color and texture, and the shape of certain facial features. They may also have evolved significant differences in the distribution of cognitive abilities. It’s an empirical question, not a social or political or moral one, and no amount of wailing about racism and evil motives is going to answer it.

56

nick s 11.30.11 at 3:37 am

The whole motivation for these studies, as Gould pointed out, is to rank order groups of humans.

Or to put it another way, the whole motivation for this field of study is to give a group of people who really want to say the words that got Ron Atkinson sacked a discourse in which to do so, tittering all the way like kids in school who come up with a secret language for rude words.

57

politicalfootball 11.30.11 at 3:38 am

Meanwhile, is anyone convinced by this argumentation? No, not really. There is value in a definitive take-down, but anyone who cares about Murray and cares about argument would be convinced by Steven Jay Gould.

Rich, doesn’t your argument apply equally to Gould? Should we not also find fault with Gould because he dignified Murray’s nonsense with a response?

Gould himself argued that Murray raised no new arguments – that it was just the same old racist nonsense. Why bother to notice, then?

58

politicalfootball 11.30.11 at 3:42 am

If you have to address Sullivan, at least do it in a way that shows contempt for the whole enterprise

I’m middlin’ sympathetic to this view, but I thought Henry scored quite well on the contempt-o-meter.

59

Rich Puchalsky 11.30.11 at 4:01 am

I meant contempt for the whole process of arguing against him, not merely contempt for him personally. Rejection of the whole world-view in which Sullivan can conceivably “recognize that he has been wrong”, and in which he doesn’t address critiques because he doesn’t understand them rather than because he knows all too well that he can’t afford to understand them.

See e.g. “Why doesn’t OWS come up with a leader and a list of demands?” They’re related topics.

60

geo 11.30.11 at 4:55 am

Rich @53: Imagine that you’re a right-wing propagandist. Would you rather have no, few, or many left-of-center academics arguing against you? Clearly you’d rather have many.

Wrong question. Try this one: “Imagine that you’re David Koch or the board of the US Chamber of Commerce or the Business Roundtable. Would you rather have your pet propagandists preside over Fox News/the Washington Post/the Harvard economics department without challenge, ignored and unrebutted by the likes of Krugman, DeLong, Baker, Farrell, Greenwald et al? Or would you rather they be continually subjected to a stream of continual criticism, penetrating and emphatic, sometimes scathing, but always civil?”

Of course individual right-wing media types will be flattered to attract even critical comment — for those who live by media attention, all publicity is good publicity. But to leave the entire right-wing perspective unaddressed is simply daft. I can’t imagine that’s what you’re suggesting. Or do you think one can somehow avoid mentioning one’s ideological antagonists by name? And do you think you can somehow gain the sympathetic attention of people who don’t already agree with you by being sarcastic about their beliefs and allegiances?

contempt for the whole process of arguing against him

Very satisfying, I suppose, but do you imagine your lofty contempt will detach more of Sullivan’s million readers from their unfortunate admiration for him than patient, persistent, reasoned demonstration that he’s wrong about this, wrong about that, and wrong about most other things?

61

Dr. Hilarius 11.30.11 at 4:56 am

DelRey@55: Your view of human population genetics is operating at a grade school level. Very few human populations have ever been isolated genetically and it takes very little gene flow between populations to prevent significant differentiation. Genetic variation within racial groupings (ignoring the whole difficulty of delineating human races) overwhelms between group variation. About 93% of all human variation is found within racial groups; leaving only a 7% difference between groups. This result holds true even for very small isolated groups such as Yanomama villages.

Intellectual function is not due to single gene differences or even multiple gene differences as in skin or eye color. The larger the number of genes and alleles involved the less likely any between group variation. Your hypothesis also assumes that some human environments consistently exerted less selection pressure for intelligence than others. Fat chance.

Your stance of brave empiricism is just garden variety racism. You might want to actually know something about quantitative genetics before spouting off. Evolutionary biology has, time and again, been used to justify racist views. It’s another bit of Zombie pseudo-science and it’s just plain depressing to see it rising from the grave, just as stinky and corrupt as always.

62

geo 11.30.11 at 5:02 am

NB – By “people who don’t already agree with you” in the second paragraph above, I of course meant not right-wing ideologues — whose sympathetic attention I’m not suggesting you try to gain — but their fans and followers, our fellow citizens, whose sympathetic attention you MUST gain.

63

DelRey 11.30.11 at 5:45 am

Dr Hilarius,

You’re the one with the grade-school understanding of genetics. The fact that there is a greater quantity of genetic variation within races than between them is completely irrelevant. Racial categories are distinguished by particular types of genetic variation arising from their reproductive isolation, not by a quantity of genetic variation. Your claim that “intellectual function is not due to single gene differences” is false and would be irrelevant even if it were true. The distribution of cognitive abilities may differ by race regardless of whether the difference involves a single gene or multiple genes. And I have no idea what basis you think you have for claiming that there was no significant difference in selection pressure for intelligence between the dramatically different natural environments in which the races were isolated for tens of thousands of years.

You end with an ad hominem. Of course.

64

Odm 11.30.11 at 6:18 am

DelRey@63: I’m no expert, but from what I’ve read there’s no evidence that differences in intelligence are inherent to race, and there is evidence that they’re not. The Slate article linked lists a book, The Black-White Test Score Gap, whose author concludes that there is no evidence to that claim. Or you could read Cosma Shalizi’s take on the matter.

If you’re sore about accusations of racism, maybe you should consider being more cautious around claims about race that have little evidence.

65

speranza 11.30.11 at 7:01 am

Why is it so often the case, incidentally, that people who think crying “ad hominem” is some kind of magical argument-rebutter 1) don’t seem to know quite what ad hominem means and 2) espouse views which indicate that he or she just might be the sort of character against whom a real ad hominem might carry considerable weight?

66

Walt 11.30.11 at 7:41 am

DelRey, you’re right that it’s an empirical question, and the sum total of empirical evidence is “the evidence is inconclusive”, or perhaps more optimistically “it’s too soon to say.” And yet many people seem eager to “say”, and have been for over a century.

67

Harald Korneliussen 11.30.11 at 8:05 am

I agree with Rich here: Sullivan is playing a game of attention – incidentally, a game described very nicely in the first link in Henry’s satire, as the language game called “punditry”.

Frustration in online discussions has convinced me that of all the stupid problems the world has, the problems of economy of attention is more acute than it seems. Preciously litte productive can be achieved with online discussions before it is solved. And Henry kinda, sorta, acknowledges it. But has to give attention to Sullivan in the process, thus keeping the ball in play in this game.

Of course, a person like Glenn Greenwald can do some good by working from inside of the punditry system, just like an Obama can do some good working within the political system. It’s just that unless the system itself is challenged, it all seems so temporary and futile. It’s not as if there were no eloquent, passionately liberal lawyers before all the mess they fight against.

I agree with Rich again: look to OWS. We must really be willing to think new about how we solve such problems, looking for a way to do it without eloquent leaders.

68

WHS 11.30.11 at 8:18 am

DelRey, even if your hypothesis is plausible, you’re missing the bigger point.

You say we shouldn’t let racial politics scare us away from investigating the genetic component of intelligence? Well, we didn’t. It has been investigated, over and over and over, and–guess what?–there’s no real evidence that genetic disparities exist between races.

You’re making the same mistake as Sullivan and Murray and that whole cohort. You assume that if we only had the courage to look at this subject more closely, we’d find what you’d expect us to find. And then you’re walking backwards through that analysis, and assuming that because we haven’t found what you expect, nobody has looked.

It’s probably worth noting that the only way this chain of logic makes sense is if you start with the assumption that racial disparities in intelligence do, in fact, exist. For the life of me, I can’t imagine why you would be so sure of that. Surely there aren’t any insidious social forces at play here…?

69

Daniel 11.30.11 at 8:59 am

Food for thought.

Sorry Strivers: Talent (IQ) Talent Matters.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/20/opinion/sunday/sorry-strivers-talent-matters.html

70

Kevin Donoghue 11.30.11 at 9:20 am

Dr Hilarius: “DelRey@55: Your view of human population genetics is operating at a grade school level.”

Cripes, are grade schools really that bad?

@SamChevre: Google gives different results depending on where the query comes from, what topics that user has researched in the past, etc. Or so I’m told.

71

Henri Vieuxtemps 11.30.11 at 9:26 am

…noxious nineteenth century pseudo-science

Seems to me this is very much a species of the twentieth century noxious European pseudo-science. In the nineteenth century they were still occasionally burning a witch.

72

ali baba 11.30.11 at 9:50 am

Racial categories are distinguished by particular types of genetic variation arising from their reproductive isolation,

So then there’s no racial categories to distinguish blacks from whites then.

73

Tim Worstall 11.30.11 at 10:48 am

“Your hypothesis also assumes that some human environments consistently exerted less selection pressure for intelligence than others. Fat chance.”

Actually, there is one example.

For some number of centuries the Catholic Church deliberately selected the bright people as priests who were then (supposed at least) to be celibate and have no children.

At about the same time Judaism made the bright boys into Rabbis, who were then married off to the high status women and encouraged to have large families.

Whether we can see this in current day populations I’ve no idea but I put myself forward as an example of how at least some Catholics are dim as a result…….

74

Down and Out of Sài Gòn 11.30.11 at 10:55 am

Sullivan actually used the word ‘miscegenation’? Now that’s an archaism that should stay dead.

75

Bill Benzon 11.30.11 at 11:00 am

@Jonathan, #42: Sometimes people pretend to be something they’re not. This even happens on the internet. It’s possible, though, that this was describing some actual hiring practice in quantitative finance. The SAT as IQ test by proxy.

It’s a real hiring practice in quantitative finance. Pedigree and SAT scores count in that world, along with the brain teasers.

76

Tim Wilkinson 11.30.11 at 11:13 am

Tim W (not me) – I hazard a guess that you got that one from Nozick’s discussion of supposed ‘invisible hand explanations’ in ASU.

77

Salient 11.30.11 at 12:24 pm

Would you rather have no, few, or many left-of-center academics arguing against you? Clearly you’d rather have many.

No, clearly I’d rather have none. Thanks to geo @60 for illustrating why; I like his response better than mine, but here’s my response anyway.

None. This would be true, in part, because I will continue to be published and taken seriously by a massive national audience (my access to my normal publication and distribution routes will not be adversely affected), and without a swath of talented people arguing against me, I’ll be free to make wilder and more spurious claims and such.

I know this is deeply unfair of me, but I get the feeling that (1) you believe that Andrew Sullivan would lose a nontrivial number of readers if everyone in the professional academic class steadfastly refused to ever acknowledge him or respond to any comment or argument he produces. It also feels like (2) you believe that there exists at least one person in the world who would revise their opinion of Andrew Sullivan, specifically thinking of him as a more credible or attention-worthy source, due to the fact that he’s discussed (and treated duly harshly) at places like CT.

The people who are the people who “take Andrew Sullivan seriously” in the first place, are people who could care less about whether or not we acknowledge him. They might be receptive to some arguments we could produce about why he’s not worthy of their trust, but literally zero persons in the universe, past present and future, would take Andrew Sullivan any more seriously just because he’s talked about at CT or at CT-type places.

I hear that kind of argument all the time, and it’s intuitively seductive, but ultimately it’s an argument about a group of human beings that literally do not exist.

78

chris 11.30.11 at 12:28 pm

For some number of centuries the Catholic Church deliberately selected the bright people as priests who were then (supposed at least) to be celibate and have no children.

I thought they deliberately selected the rich people as priests, so that their families would donate generously. In any case, you can ask Cesare Borgia how the celibacy thing turned out.

But neither society was trying particularly hard (or, AFAIK, at all) to control for environmental effects, let alone had any idea how to do so; so even if there was a substantial genetic component, they would be unlikely to have found it more often than chance.

79

John M. 11.30.11 at 12:46 pm

I think you’re being a little harsh on Sullivan’s intentions generically but not specifically. I should add I look at his blog but rarely agree with anything he has to say but mostly at least he tries to express his dim Tory boy views cogently, and that has a purpose, if only to remind us how seemingly functional people can be so utterly stupid.

80

hix 11.30.11 at 1:22 pm

As a very non functional person with all kinds of disorders im fealing kind of offended by the concept that functional people should be smarter. If we define smart in those stupid iq terms again, im quite smart and i dont think theres any correlation, positive or negative with most personality disorders that often do day to day function and iq. Things arent much different with more day to day language use of the world. Depression for example hardly impacts ones ability to detect nonsense political views, on the contrary.

81

Matt McIrvin 11.30.11 at 1:34 pm

Gregory Cochran’s blog post linked in #21 and the book The Black-White Test Score Gap mentioned in #64 seem to be saying flat-out contradictory things to one another: not a subtle matter of interpretation, but blatant A vs. not-A on the level of empirical facts. Both cannot be true.

I know which side I think is right, but I think it’s important to note that this isn’t necessarily arcane rocket science.

82

Jonathan 11.30.11 at 2:01 pm

How do you know, Bill? You might have been reading the same bullshit that I did.

I don’t know if I coined this phrase, but it does go along with the wished-for Lovecraftian theme: “the cultists of g.” It would make for a good book title. The Cultists of g: And Other Tales of Horror. Thomas Ligotti would provide a suitable blurb.

83

Glen Tomkins 11.30.11 at 2:26 pm

Not that it’s particularly relevant or interesting, but the dull, plodding, literal, answer Sullivan would make to the question is that the idea that homosexuality is communicalble psychosis espoused in the alternate universe is simply factually incorrect, while the idea that blacks have statisticly lower intelligence is at least possibly true, deserves “debate”.

No, this is not a particularly good defense of Sullivan. If you don’t understand statistics, it is indeed irresponsible to take any position in public on an argument based on statistics. But, cripes, Sullivan is hardly alone out there in the public square relying on experts whose expertise he, as a layman, by definition does not possess. Why pick on Sulivan when he is no worse in that respect, arguably much more restrained, than people who don’t just speak in the public square, but act? If the average politician, much less the Dubyas of the world, had half of Sullivan’s intellectual integrity, we would be in much better shape.

On the topic of not understanding the subject matter, I may have missed it, but I haven’t seen that anyone yet has gotten at the basic problem with DelRay’s ideas about African Americans as a race. He spouts the correct taxonomic idea of race, as a reproductively isolated subpopulation of a species, short of subspecies, but on the same continuum that ends in a different species.

The problem applying that scientific idea of race to African Americans is that they are the polar opposite of reproductively isolated. There is clearly more linguistic diversity in sub-Saharan Africa than in the rest of the world combined. While there isn’t yet enough genotyping data out there to say definitively that this linguistic diversity will be born out in genetic diversity, that is the overwhelming expectation and preliminary genetic finding as well.

African Americans, even insofar as they entirely of ancestry we think of as “black”, haven’t mixed with other vulgarly defined “races”, are a mixture of people from four African ethnic and linguistic groups, some as diverse as English is from Chinese. The idea that skin color even comes close to being a reliable marker of an actual taxonomic race, whose definition DelRay reviews, is ludicrous. It may be clear to DelRay that there is such a thing as a “black race”, but that clarity derives not at all from blacks being a reproductively isolated subpopulation, etc., it derives solely from centuries of prejudice, from centuries of seeing all black men as one group, the other. Racists aren’t force to their views by objective facts, by scinece, they distort scientific language to rationalize their racism.

The prejudice lies not in what DelRay or Sullivan believe about black people, it lies in their belief that the phrase “black people” has any objective scientific meaning. Homo sapiens doesn’t have any subspecies. It may have some subpopulations with some degree of reproductive isolation over enough generations to conceivably create some significant phenotypic differentiation, but African Americans would be the polar opposite of such a subpopulation. African Americans are defined as a unitary subgroup entirely based on the historical need to justify slavery, which we have inherited, socially, in an attenuated form as the need to justify their continued status as an underclass.

84

temp 11.30.11 at 2:39 pm

It may have some subpopulations with some degree of reproductive isolation over enough generations to conceivably create some significant phenotypic differentiation, but African Americans would be the polar opposite of such a subpopulation

Are you claiming there is no phenotypic variation between African Americans and whites?

85

Mrs Tilton 11.30.11 at 3:09 pm

Mal @44,

Sullivan’s being against torture really should not be the sort of thing that counts as an actual moral accomplishment that somehow outweighs all the rest of the awfulness

I’d like to think that being against torture does not count as a moral accomplishment at all. Rejecting torture is merely one part of the baseline minimum package of values without which one is not a civilized human. Being against torture is virtue no more heroic than opposing slavery, or refraining from rape; no one should get a medal for it.

Now, I can understand that one might wish to applaud Sullivan specifically for managing, against expectation, to oppose torture despite being a conservative, much as one might genuinely applaud a cognitively-challenged child who, by dint of supreme effort, had mastered what for most of us would be some simple task. But I prefer to think that being conservative doesn’t necessarily mean one is morally-challenged (though I suspect along with Rich @37 that conservatives who aren’t will rarely be hired to help man the stops on the Mighty Wurlitzer); I prefer to think that Sullivan simply hasn’t quite fully realised his potential for cobaggery.

86

John M. 11.30.11 at 3:19 pm

Btw, having seen Sullivan’s latest post on the subject, I withdraw my defence of him, however mild.

87

Rich Puchalsky 11.30.11 at 3:50 pm

Salient, you should realize that you and geo are to some extent arguing at cross purposes. Engagement can not be both effective at convincing people and ineffective at convincing people. If you say that you have to engage with an argument in order to cause some effect (convincing well-meaning people that Sullivan is wrong) then you also have to accept that your engagement may have negative effects (convincing well-meaning people that Sullivan is a serious person).

And I don’t think that you appreciate the mechanism by which this works, because you’re not the target audience. When a right-winger debates an academic, or responds to a critical piece, or something, the people who they want to convince are never going to watch the debate all the way through or read through the critique and form a reasoned judgement. All that happens is that the right-winger gets to point to it and say “Look, I’m respected in this area, experts debate with me.” And yes, Sullivan has CT on his blog roll, and pieces like this one mean that there is buzz about what he writes. He’s getting attention and people are responding to him, so he’s validated as an opinion leader.

I’ve already written that there is some value in a definitive takedown. Can anyone here provide one? No. No one here, unless Cosma Shalizi posts as a guest poster, has the knowledge of statistical arcana to begin to explain to any well-meaning scientific racists, if they exist which I doubt, why they are wrong.

88

dictateursanguinaire 11.30.11 at 4:02 pm

simultaneously the cleverest and most unforgiving takedown of this I saw; bravo, Prof. Farrell.

89

CJColucci 11.30.11 at 4:47 pm

I have no idea what basis you think you have for claiming that there was no significant difference in selection pressure for intelligence between the dramatically different natural environments in which the races were isolated for tens of thousands of years.

This seems right to me. Obviously, the hunter-gatherer existence in Africa puts a high premium on smarts because it requires its participants to develop to a high level a wide variety of skills necessary to survive in a harsh environment. By contrast, for someone with a defined sphere of life and a specialized function, living in a crowded European city, resistance to communicable disease would be a trait heavily favored in such an environment. Brains? Not so much.

90

Tybalt 11.30.11 at 5:12 pm

“IIRC a bona fide occupational qualification can’t be challenged on disparate impact grounds”

There is absolutely no way that an IQ test or an SAT could be a bona fide occupational qualification, though, unless the job was solving formal logic puzzles.

“It’s a real hiring practice in quantitative finance. Pedigree and SAT scores count in that world, along with the brain teasers.”

Which is how we wound up with a street full of quants who couldn’t figure out how to price risk in a dead simple structured mortgage-backed security. Within the range required to prevent the meltdown of almost every one of their employers. Good thing those of us who didn’t go to Princeton were on hand to bail them all out!

91

Salient 11.30.11 at 5:31 pm

Rich (and anyone following along),

The comment below’s pretty long; if you’re in tl;dr circumstances the bolded statements are pretty much the ‘shorter’ Salient on this one.

He’s getting attention and people are responding to him, so he’s validated as an opinion leader.

Except, I still maintain my claim that nobody takes him more seriously because of this. Nobody thinks anything like “I didn’t used to think Sullivan was worth reading, but I discovered he gets into back-and-forth discussion with real university professors like Henry Farrell, so maybe that suggests he’s worth more of my attention.” Nobody. Conversely, it’s possible that quite a lot of Sullivan’s casual readers or sort-of-fans discover the criticism (perhaps from Sullivan linking to it in a reply) and those lukewarm fans might decide to be more wary of Sullivan as a result.

When HF publicly criticizes AS, people who value neither AS nor HF won’t care and probably won’t notice (and they’d probably be far more swayed by ‘no university professor has dared to reply’ than by ‘a professor publicly criticized this as dangerous nonsense.’) People who value HF and not AS say “wow I’m glad I don’t pay attention to that nonsense-monger Sullivan.” People who value HF and also value AS say “hmm, maybe this is evidence that I should re-evaluate either Farrell and Sullivan, since they disagree so strongly” and with a good enough critique you hope they’ll move from AS+/HF+ to AS-/HF+.

Of course, people who value AS and not HF say “Ha ha! See, Sullivan is a serious thinker we should take seriously, he argues with academics” but they are being completely disingenuous. They already think Sullivan should be taken seriously, and they’d attempt to manipulate whatever’s at hand — for example, by remarking that the librul meedya intentionally pays no attention to Sullivan, because they’d all be exposed as fools if they dared debate Sullivan! (All the more ‘provable’ if we are found to be coordinating an intentional blackout of Sullivan on blogs or in comments!)

After all, if we refuse to acknowledge Sullivan, then to his audience and potential audience he’s obviously in the right, because even we academics and fancy-pants intellectual types don’t dare to challenge his bold thinking and incisive analysis. And the reader should take him seriously, after all, it seems professors (or whoever) can’t come up with a compelling counter-argument to Sullivan’s bold stance and courageous claims. If we don’t engage, it’s ‘because we can’t, not because we won’t.’ If we do acknowledge him and critically engage, at least he or his supporters cannot claim that Sullivan’s ideological opponents are so intimidated by his genius that we cower out of sight.

To be probably unnecessarily emphatic about this: ‘Andrew Sullivan is acknowledged by, and engages with, university professors’ regardless of whether he is acknowledged by, or engages with, any university professors. Andrew Sullivan ‘is on intellectual par with university professors,’ regardless of whether he is on intellectual par with any university professors. You seem to be claiming that, if university professors do not engage with Andrew Sullivan, it will then be true that ‘university professors do not engage with Andrew Sullivan.’ Do you see the logical error there? You’re saying IF P THEN ‘P’ …which looks logical until we realize there’s an assumption that the ‘truthiness’ of utter-Frankfortian-bullshit-masquerading-as-objective-claim ‘P’ has anything at all to do with the literal truth or falsehood of objective statement P.

The proper logical breakdown is “if P then ‘P’; if not-P then ‘Q!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! !’ where ‘Q’ is a substantially stronger version of ‘P’ .

Casual readers won’t ever catch on that there’s a blackout of that pundit among a swathe of respectable ideological opponents (because you can’t see something that isn’t there; the absence of an unknown presence is notoriously hard to observe). If Sullivan and/or his fans assert he’s taken seriously among academics (or whoever), it just literally does not matter if that’s actually true — so the best option we have is to engage and criticize and hope our criticisms do, in some form, reach the ears of some part of the audience of Andrew Sullivan, the ‘sharp thinking’ ‘daring’ and ‘serious’ ‘respectable blogger,’ whose ‘courage’ and ‘perfect common sense’ allow him to ‘topple the arguments of’ distinguished professors and commentators, exposing not only our ‘blindness to obvious evidence’ and ‘disingenuous fallacy arguments’ but also our ‘contempt for the common man’ and ‘desire to build a dystopian regime in America.’

92

Henri Vieuxtemps 11.30.11 at 5:46 pm

What Rich seems to be saying (quite reasonably, imo) is that all this debating creates an appearance of some legitimate controversy, where there is none. I don’t think, however, that would be a fair criticism of this particular post, as it sets exactly the right tone.

93

More Dogs, Less Crime 11.30.11 at 5:49 pm

CJColucci, I believe Jared Diamond made the same point in “Guns, Germs, and Steel”, although he was talking about New Guinea rather than Africa.

94

norbizness 11.30.11 at 6:04 pm

I just wish it could be outsourced to one person (Ta-Nehisi Coates, for example), and everybody would link to him instead. If somebody wants to have a brief “why trying to engage that commentless dipshit through your blog is useless; he’s been a dickweed for the greater part of two decades” permalink made up, I’m sure that’d be useful as well.

95

norbizness 11.30.11 at 6:11 pm

I actually subconsciously came to that conclusion in the early 90s when I naively thought that confronting Dinesh D’Souza with facts about Texas’ 175-year race-based economic caste system would make him see our modest affirmative action programs were necessary. To this day, I’m shocked at how little it affected his subsequent writings.

But then the internet came along, we all hit up the chat rooms over Clinton’s impeachment at 28K bps, we all got cable modems or DSLs, and the concept of “mutually assured blogging” sprung up to replace Minesweeper as an afternoon time-waster.

96

Kevin Donoghue 11.30.11 at 6:19 pm

Maybe the most helpful thing one can do for people who are suckered by the race cranks is to point them to some relevant honest science. The textbook linked below is worth a look, I think. But I’m not an expert and I’d be interested in suggestions from those who have done time in labs and such. Note that there is a free chapter for download as a PDF, which is quite informative even if you don’t feel like buying the book.

http://www.garlandscience.com/product/isbn/9780815341857

97

politicalfootball 11.30.11 at 6:47 pm

CJColucci, I believe Jared Diamond made the same point in “Guns, Germs, and Steel”, although he was talking about New Guinea rather than Africa.

And it was so foolish when Diamond said it that I assumed he must be just tweaking the racists (as I assume CJ is doing), but no, Diamond appears to have been serious. Still, it was fun to see the racists’ own content-free argument turned against them by Diamond.

98

nick 11.30.11 at 6:56 pm

I think Rich P is right on this one: we do not inhabit Habermas’ bourgeois public sphere….

99

Rich Puchalsky 11.30.11 at 6:57 pm

“After all, if we refuse to acknowledge Sullivan, then to his audience and potential audience he’s obviously in the right, [...]“

You don’t seem to be understanding what I’m writing. I already held up two cases that serve as models for how to acknowledge someone like Sullivan. 1) Steven Jay Gould (in his engagement with Sullivan’s source), 2) the Poor Man. In short, it’s best to either be so overwhelmingly expert and well-written that anyone who looks at your reply even briefly will suspect that the person’s wrong, or so mocking and unserious that it’s clear that you’re giving no respect either to the person or the process of deliberating with him.

This blog post doesn’t match the first model because it’s not really an expert attack. It doesn’t match the second because it still treats Sullivan as someone who could conceivably change his mind or be convinced by evidence or understand an analogy that it is not in his interest to understand.

100

R.Mutt 11.30.11 at 7:20 pm

/end ‘shorter’ salient

101

R.Mutt 11.30.11 at 7:21 pm

that didn’t work…

102

Substance McGravitas 11.30.11 at 7:40 pm

This blog post doesn’t match the first model because it’s not really an expert attack. It doesn’t match the second because it still treats Sullivan as someone who could conceivably change his mind or be convinced by evidence or understand an analogy that it is not in his interest to understand.

I dunno Rich, it seems to me that the post puts Sullivan in an awfully poor light, a trafficker in conspiracy and pseudoscience when he’s embracing racism and hypocritically outraged when such bullshit might affects him personally. It links to numbers that back the critique up. I think the post has all the elements you want…you just want more of it? It’s not quite far enough to the right on the Wrong On The InternetDespicable Monster continuum?

Seems like a minor nit to pick in a post that is negative enough.

103

Substance McGravitas 11.30.11 at 7:45 pm

Don’t mind the typos. Obviously I should never be hired at The Atlantic.

104

CJColucci 11.30.11 at 7:50 pm

More Dogs, Less Crime: I never did claim to be original.

105

Tim Wilkinson 11.30.11 at 8:04 pm

a trafficker in conspiracy

(1) Nothing wrong with that per se (negative connotations of ‘trafficker’ aside).
(2) He isn’t particularly, or anyway isn’t shown to be.
(3) Kindly refrain from associating us ordinary decent conspiracy theorists with the likes of this fuckwit. It’s enough to make you paranoid, the way we get treated.

106

Substance McGravitas 11.30.11 at 8:13 pm

Kindly refrain from associating us ordinary decent conspiracy theorists with the likes of this fuckwit.

I shall endeavour to be kinder, within the constraints of the bylaws agreed to by the

107

politicalfootball 11.30.11 at 8:18 pm

I’m generally with geo/Salient vs. Rich, but I will say that the late Gould directly supports Rich’s argument with his treatment of noted nitwit Robert Wright.

108

politicalfootball 11.30.11 at 8:19 pm

Uh oh. Looks like they got McGravitas.

109

peggy 11.30.11 at 8:21 pm

@42 & @75 describes the hiring manager asking for SAT scores as a proxy for IQ. Who would submit an honest number to a financial services company?

@84 As to the “phenotypic variation between African Americans and whites” – Have you ever heard of blacks ‘passing’ as white?
My own “white” husband just discovered a photo of his paternal grandfather which shows definite African features. As to African IQ- that man’s son got a PhD from the U of Chicago and his grandchildren attended Harvard, MIT and Princeton.

David @40 wins the thread by posting horrifying evidence of The Bell Curve’s current respectability.

110

temp 11.30.11 at 9:15 pm

peggy@109: We all know that genetic variation within populations exceeds genetic variation between populations. That doesn’t imply that there are no differences in phenotype distributions between populations that can be explained by genetics.

111

Zebbidie 11.30.11 at 9:47 pm

Uh oh. Looks like they got McGravitas.

Just like they got Righteous Bubba before him.

112

Salient 11.30.11 at 10:02 pm

What Rich seems to be saying (quite reasonably, imo) is that all this debating creates an appearance of some legitimate controversy, where there is none.

I agree that Rich is being reasonable, FWIW, but this statement relies too heavily on legitimate. Controversy X is raised by Loon Y. If you don’t bop it, it’ll become conventional wisdom. So, yes, in a sense, no controversy will emerge. The problem is, the uncontroversial ‘truth’ will become, e.g., that Obama is a native Kenyan and not a U.S. citizen, that Kerry was a draft-dodger something something swift boat something, etc.

You don’t seem to be understanding what I’m writing.

Some combination of that and struggling to express myself cogently.

In short, it’s best to either be so overwhelmingly expert and well-written that anyone who looks at your reply even briefly will suspect that the person’s wrong, or so mocking and unserious that it’s clear that you’re giving no respect either to the person or the process of deliberating with him.

I’m with Substance in feeling like Henry’s post was pretty good about the latter category, I think, but also I sincerely don’t understand two things: (1) what the first of these two categories is supposed to look like [as in, how to generalize from your examples]; (2) why we’re allowing precisely those two types of engagement while excluding all other attempts to make the object being critiqued seem silly.

An expert well-written takedown is thorough and careful, and would, I presume, strain the patience of a casual reader. I’m feeling quite proud of myself for having sort-of followed most of Cosma’s article, which I think was held up as one example of an expert takedown. Would a casual reader get anything at all from that article? If anything, I’d say it’s the detailed expert analysis that runs the greatest risk of incidental unintended prominence-raising.

The problem is, basically, that casual readers have poor bullshit filters. “Reading without actively engaging the bullshit detector” is practically the definition of casual reading. Among casual readers, the best bullshit wins, even if it happens to not be bullshit. And as a rule of thumb, the more complicated and long a critique is, the more sympathetic casual readers will feel toward the thing being subjected to critique. So a fifty-page analysis that shows how every single thing Pundit X said in Book Y is wrong will, if it does anything, win more readers over to Pundit X’s side.

Now, I think that most expert reviews get ignored by casual readers (which means what I just said about destructiveness never obtains!). And expert reviews are very useful and absolutely crucial, because they put bullets in my bullshit gun. (Or if you prefer, expert reviews constitute a ground-to-air missile defense network-grid, designed to atomize the enemy’s weapons of mass bullshit in mid-flight — powerful enough to get the job done, probably overpowered in fact, but it’s ultimately the not-really-expert people engaging in the sloggy back-and-forth who have to flip the right defense switches and deploy the right tidbits of expert review source material to lay the smack down in mid-dispute.)

I will say that the late Gould directly supports Rich’s argument with his treatment of noted nitwit Robert Wright.

That’s actually a great example of how people just don’t go away or fail to maintain their ‘prominence’ even if you try to black them out. Wright was pounding on Gould for six years before Gould turned an eye to him. Six. Years. And in that time a ‘casual reader’ would be wondering why Gould still has a job, fer crissakes, and feeling vaguely irritated at the privileged tenure system that presumably protected the ‘incompetent hack’ and notable ‘bully’ Gould. Yeah, of course those things are false, but all of those things are ‘true’ in the sense that Wright said or implied them and people listened.

As much as the Ethan Smith article attempts to convince us that responding to Wright gave Wright the boost in prominence he wanted, it’s painfully obvious that that’s entirely illusory bullshit, and nobody — literally not one human being — took Wright any more seriously in 1997 (or now) than they did in 1995 (or in 1993 or whatever).

113

Patrick 11.30.11 at 10:11 pm

We’re having an argument about two things, neither of which is much more than a construct.

The best comment suggests that we’d be better off ignoring “g” and thinking about the mosaic of human cognitive capacities as irreducible to a single number.

But also, there’s this: . Isolated populations, my ass.

114

Patrick 11.30.11 at 10:13 pm

Oops, the link didn’t make into the post. Google “Henry Louis Gates” and “dna” and you’ll get there. Or “Africandna”.

115

Robert Zimmerman 11.30.11 at 10:27 pm

Here’s another thought experiment I’ve been wondering about. The thing about this body of work is that it’s bloodless. It doesn’t say anything about individuals or day-to-day experience, and guys like Rushton can hide behind a wall of numbers and the pretense of objectivity.

What if we accepted the whole Rushton/Jensen/Murray package and assumed we’re living in a world where the mean IQ of African Americans is 1 standard deviation below the mean for whites and that IQ is a good measure of intelligence. How would a person experience that going from one community to the other? It should be sort of like going from the regular class to the remedial class, or something like that. And in any more or less random group drawn from both populations, the whites would typically be the clever ones. This certainly wasn’t systematically the case when black and white jazz musicians have gotten together over the years.

Does that go anywhere?

116

Chrisb 11.30.11 at 11:10 pm

Would it be helpful to shift from the American debate, which is historically about how it’s only meet and right that whites rule over blacks, to the British debate, which is about how it’s only meet and right that Mayfair rule over the slums? It might make it easier to get to the point where we tread on IQ like a cockroach as conceptually incoherent.
IQ is significant if, and only if, if correlates well with success;
The correlation, if it exists, between IQ and success is significant if, and only if, IQ is a causal factor in the achievement of success;
The identification of “success” as a standard is valid only to the extent that success depends not on historical factors such as class but on objective factors such as IQ.

There’s an invalid crossvalidation where success is validated because it correlates with IQ and IQ is validated because it correlates with success.

117

DelRey 12.01.11 at 1:07 am

DelRey, you’re right that it’s an empirical question, and the sum total of empirical evidence is “the evidence is inconclusive”, or perhaps more optimistically “it’s too soon to say.”

I agree. It’s an empirical question to which we do not yet have an answer. The point is that there may be significant differences between racial groups in the distribution of cognitive function, just as there are significant differences between racial groups in the distribution of traits such as skin color, hair form, the shapes of facial features and certain genetic diseases.

Sullivan is rightly complaining that the forces of political correctness are trying their best to suppress any serious study of the question through accusations of racism. They are terrified of the answer, they don’t want to know the answer, and they don’t want anyone else to know the answer either.

But in the end they will fail. Human genome research will eventually identify and explain the role of the specific genes that influence cognitive function, and identify any differences in the distributions of those genes between different racial groups.

118

Medrawt 12.01.11 at 1:55 am

DelRey -

I shouldn’t show up this late in a thread, but let’s take your last paragraph from post #117.

…and then what? Let’s say my deepest fears are realized; there is a significant difference in the distribution of the genes influencing intelligence between different racial groups. Let’s compound the scenario and posit that environmental factors have a negligible effect on the ultimate outcome of a person’s intelligence. And then what? What – and I’m not interrogating you specifically here, it’s just that the people (authors of The Bell Curve violently excluded!) who generally seem to think this is an important question rarely provide their answer here – use is this information? What social codes will change, what educational practices will be modified, what interventions will be enacted or discontinued, in light of this information? It’s obvious to see that individuals of impressive intellect have emerged from every racial category, so it’s not like you can accurately predict an individual’s capacity from his race, just draw various statistical probabilities. What are we willing to change about how we treat people because of probabilities?

I mean, is this really all about, say, the terrible injustice of affirmative action? Herrnstein and Murray at least had the good grace to be more ambitious in offering their prescription for the future of society.

119

kidneystones 12.01.11 at 2:28 am

@117 ” The point is that there may be significant differences between racial groups in the distribution of cognitive function just as there are significant differences between racial groups in the distribution of traits such as skin color, hair form, the shapes of facial features and certain genetic diseases.”

This is the best modern defense of phrenology I’ve read.

DelRay and company insist that they are driven to ask these bizarre questions only out of a love of pure science. Rushton on one occasion actually compared himself to Galileo. The reality is that the Pioneer Fund is one of the most malevolent institutions on the planet and is dedicated to re-imposing segregation and any other policy that will improve the “quality of the race.”

DelRay’s coy defense of this line of “research” has less credibility than that of an engineer studying the combustion properties of petroleum jelly and human flesh for the Department of Defense in 1945.

As competition for resources increases (again) we should absolutely clear about the history of this “science” and about the fact that suspect “studies” of cognitive performance and “race” are and will be used to justify every crime up to genocide.

That’s who Sullivan is; and why Henry is right to drag this apologist for racism into the spotlight once more.

Whatever stylistic defects others may find in Henry’s piece, Henry has done an excellent job of promoting a necessary and timely discussion on who and what these people are.

120

DelRey 12.01.11 at 3:45 am

…and then what?

Then we’ll have a better understanding of human nature. I think that’s a good thing. You’re frightened by it. In the end, that’s what all this nonsense — “race is just a ‘social construct’,” “there’s no such thing as general intelligence,” the endless accusations of racism, and all the rest of it– comes down to. Fear of knowledge.

121

Medrawt 12.01.11 at 4:00 am

DelRey -

I’m sorry you seem to have misunderstood; when I referred to my “deepest fears,” I was riffing off of your referring to the “forces of political correctness” as “terrified”. Actually, given that I’m not a professional in this area, I’m interested in trying to understand what the newest research is whenever I stumble across the topic. I’m not particularly concerned, at the moment, that something like the “deepest fear” scenario I outlined will be true, in part because much of it already seems obviously false to me.

I fully admit that I would be concerned, in the (imo) unlikely event that the scenario I outlined, or one even approaching it, came to pass, that something like the “high tech Indian reservations” proposed by Herrnstein and Murray would become an acceptable part of public debate. This is why I’m curious of what people think would follow from the pursuit of this research, particularly when people like Sullivan manage to doggedly assert that it has been stifled when, in fact, he’s simply ignorant of the work that’s been done.

122

geo 12.01.11 at 4:08 am

I think Medrawt’s question @118 — “And then what?” — deserves an answer. What would it matter if there were a genetic component of IQ that correlated strongly with “race” (whatever that is — FWIW, I agree with those who object that “race” is scientifically meaningless, at least in this context). As he says, any such correlation would be yield nothing more than a statistical probability; and disadvantaging individuals on the basis of group membership and statistical probability is plainly unjust — which, in a rational world, would be the end of the matter. But it’s also plainly true that many people in this world want, irrationally, to do precisely that. Surely it’s at least as important to emphasize the primary justice and rationality of treating individuals as individuals, regardless of group membership, as to debate the existence or nonexistence of statistical probabilities?

Of course, there’s no reason different people (or the same people) can’t do both.

123

Henry 12.01.11 at 4:21 am

bq. . In the end, that’s what all this nonsense—“race is just a ‘social construct’,” “there’s no such thing as general intelligence,” the endless accusations of racism, and all the rest of it—comes down to. Fear of knowledge.

124

temp 12.01.11 at 4:30 am

Do you think it’s worth studying the social factors that cause disparities in outcomes between racial groups? If so, it seems worth studying the genetic factors, since they will inform on the social factors.

125

Robert Zimmerman 12.01.11 at 4:42 am

From what I’ve seen on pro-Bell-Curve web sites, I believe that the answer to “and then what?” is that it would drive the final stake through the heart of affirmative action programs (that’s Sullivan’s cause) and it would no longer make sense to apply the same academic standards to schools for dark kids and schools for light kids. Plus, bigots everywhere would get a huge smug dividend.

126

Medrawt 12.01.11 at 4:48 am

since I was stupid enough to get my own dander up, I’ll go a bit further here down at the bottom, where no one’s likely to read it.

For the “nightmare scenario” (i.e., black people have the dumb compared to white people) to be definitively true, a whole bunch of separate issues would need to be settled.
(a) There would need to be a defined, identifiable mental faculty, or perhaps highly correlated set of faculties, which I’ll call SMART, that more or less satisfied the layman’s understanding of “intelligence.”
(b) as befits the overlap between the characteristics of SMART and “layman’s intelligence,” a stronger expression of SMART would need to be meaningfully correlated with actual achievement in some human endeavor (academic prowess, financial success or stability, good health, etc.). Really, since we’ve all known people who were highly gifted in one or two specific areas but hopeless in many others, SMART should ideally correlate well with a whole bunch of avenues of human endeavor.
(c) The strength of SMART in an individual should be testable.
(d) Tests for SMART can be derived and administered with the absence of meaningful bias against certain types of individuals. The test should not hide someone’s SMART capacity because it overtly or covertly is rewarding knowledge or behavior irrelevant to SMART.
(e) SMART, in a given individual, is not strongly affected by environment at any stage.
(f) SMART is therefore resistant to external attempts to improvement.
(g) SMART is, however, highly heritable within families.
(h) Distinct ethnic groups (and here you could say I’m already folding in a bunch of separate questions) display statistically meaningful distributions of SMART.

That’s a lot of different and distinct questions, and I probably missed (or misstated) some of them. I am interested in promoting research into many of these questions! I imagine that many people who share my politics, over here in the forces of political correctness, would also like to promote research into many of these questions. However, it seems to me as a matter of logic that (h) up there, which is where we find out whether or not black folks have the dumb, is kind of a meaningless question to ask without broadly accepted answers for (a-f). Indeed, (a-f) each have a variety of possible answers, only some of which even make asking (h) a reasonable activity.

AND YET, every time some fucker wants to talk about this shit, he jumps straight to (h). He really cares about (h). I never see people loudly demanding to see research into, say, whether the age at which a Mexican-American acquires English language faculties affects their scores on IQ tests administered in the English language, even after English fluency has been achieved. There may be such research! I dunno about it. There may be people loudly demanding to see it! I would appreciate a heads up if this is so. Maybe it’s my own failing, but I only seem to notice people getting angry about the stifling of research into (h), and these people seem to already be taking for granted stuff about (a-f) that I think is still pretty unsettled as a matter of scientific fact, and at the end of the day when I’m tired and grumpy I start having suspicious thoughts about why some folks seem so fixated on this one facet of the larger, fascinating inquiry into the nature of human intellect. It almost seems like they really WANT an answer to this particular question, and when someone really wants to know the answer to a question that strikes me as being of no immediate importance, I find they usually have a particular reason in mind.

127

Dr. Hilarius 12.01.11 at 6:57 am

I had no idea the topic of race and IQ would have such staying power on CT. So a challenge to those who think like DelRay: direct me to any legitimate population geneticists who think that there is any even theoretical possibility of sufficient reproductive isolation in humans to allow for significant variation in IQ among any “racial types.”

DelRey’s harping on skin color and facial features again shows he has not an inkling about the difference between inheritance of traits controlled by one or two loci and something like cognitive function which has to encompass thousands of genes. And that doesn’t even touch on epigenetic effects. See this month’s Scientific American for a very interesting look at epigenesis.

Cossma Shalizi’s (linked to off of CT) site has explanations of the bogus science behind arguments for strong heritability of IQ The problem is that you do need to have more than a basic knowledge of statistics, with at least an intuitive understanding of factor analysis, to follow some of the explanations. This is not an area where “we don’t know enough” to have answers. As an earlier poster noted, this area has been subject to more than a century of investigation. It’s the proponents of racism who can’t face the truth.

128

Henri Vieuxtemps 12.01.11 at 7:18 am

Personally, my thirst for knowledge will not be satisfied without the complete information about relative intelligence of the group of people whose last name is DelRey.

129

Emma in Sydney 12.01.11 at 7:34 am

I demand detailed investigation of the relative intelligence of left-and right-handers. Also tall and short people. What about those who can wiggle their ears, and those who can’t? Why is this knowledge being suppressed!

130

Walt 12.01.11 at 8:44 am

DelRey, Sullivan is lying. Racial differences in intelligence has been as heavily studied a topic as any in social science. People have compiled a vast amount of evidence, from which the only conclusion we can draw is that we can’t draw any conclusions. Sullivan is lying about this because he will refuse to accept any conclusion other than the one he wants scientists to find: that black people are genetically dumber than whites.

At this point, the only people willing to “study” the question, even though we know that the tools we have are inadequate to the task, are the people who already know the “answer”. I don’t know you, or your intent, but most people who talk about the big conspiracy theory against “the truth” are people who refuse to accept this, and want to bully everyone else into accepting their interpretation of the evidence, even though it’s been shown that the evidence doesn’t support their interpretation. Once the tools exist to answer the question (if they ever do), I’m sure that the answer will be found quite quickly.

It’s also true — and again I don’t know you so your intent may be completely different — that it’s clearly an ideological crusade masquerading as science. Science is never asked to consider questions that might reflect badly on white racists. No one is demanding that scientists investigate the genetic basis of racism, or of colonialism, or of a propensity to organized violence. For some people, the sole function of social science is to prove that black people are dumb.

131

Daniel 12.01.11 at 10:03 am

What accounts for the dearth in participation by people of color in this forum….contributors, guest bloggers, commentators……

132

Mrs Tilton 12.01.11 at 10:44 am

Daniel @131,

wow, your monitor is TEH AWESOME!!!11!! It actually peers past the words of the post to show the skin of the person posting! Where can I get one like that?

Full disclosure: my own skin tone might best be described as “pasty”. I know what a few, a very few of the people who post and comment here look like. Of the hundreds of others, I have no idea, and it would not have occurred to me to be interested in the matter.

You, though: what is the evidence that leads you to assert there is a “dearth in particpation by people of color” at CT, and in any case what, if I may ask bluntly, is your point?

133

cian 12.01.11 at 11:57 am

The basic premise that ‘black’ is a genetically identifiable ‘race’ is stupid, given the huge variations across the African continent in both groups and environments. It gets even more stupid when people suggest that one can make meaningful assessments of the ‘race’ of African Americans, given all the mixing over the last 2-300 years. Plenty of ‘white’ people have ‘black’ heritage – most ‘black’ have plenty of ‘white’ heritage. These are simply not two distinct groups.

Given this, anyone who is actually making ‘scientific’ statements based upon skin colour is either deeply stupid, or deeply racist.

And this is way before all the problems with IQ, environments influences, educational affects, blah, blah. I mean yeah that’s a problem, but the problems start way before that point. Further problems lie with the fact that we simply don’t know how much of ‘intelligence’ is inheritable through genes, what affect genes have on cognitive functioning, or even how the brain works, or what intelligence is. But like I said – the basic premise is deeply flawed, so these flaws don’t even need to be brought into play.

134

Nicholas 12.01.11 at 12:02 pm

135

temp 12.01.11 at 12:21 pm

cian@133: See the paper “Genetic Structure, Self-Identified Race/Ethnicity, and Confounding in Case-Control Association Studies.” Self-identified ethnicity matches almost perfectly to clusters identified by algorithm. It’s just not true that African Americans and European Americans are genetically indistinct. Self-identification of AA ancestry carries a lot of genetic information.

136

Kevin Donoghue 12.01.11 at 1:09 pm

“Self-identification of AA ancestry carries a lot of genetic information.”

Yes, people who think of themselves as black usually have African ancestry. That’s useful information for certain purposes, for example in predicting health risks they face. It doesn’t mean there is such a thing as an African race, nor do the authors of that paper suggest any such thing:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1196372/

137

temp 12.01.11 at 1:22 pm

Kevin: I don’t know what it would mean that there is or isn’t such a thing as an African “race”. My point is that, if we are trying to discover the causes of racial disparities in the US (i.e., disparities between self-identified AA and EA), one can’t simply dismiss genetic explanations out of hand with the claim that American “racial” groups are genetically indistinct.

138

Matt McIrvin 12.01.11 at 1:25 pm

You know, my online experience of this is almost the opposite of the PC chilling effect: most discussions end up utterly dominated by advocates of genetic racial IQ difference complaining about how they’re being suppressed. Dominated not so much in numbers as through sheer tirelessness.

Unless you suppress them, which just gives them more ammunition for later on.

(Actually, in about 50% of cases it’s one particular guy, whose name I will not mention.)

139

Matt McIrvin 12.01.11 at 1:30 pm

I believe that the answer to “and then what?” is that it would drive the final stake through the heart of affirmative action programs (that’s Sullivan’s cause) and it would no longer make sense to apply the same academic standards to schools for dark kids and schools for light kids.

It’s more than that. The other half is that they have eugenic worries that genetic g is being eroded by the welfare state encouraging low-intelligence people to have babies. So they want to dismantle what remains of the social safety net, and possibly actively redistribute wealth to rich families, lest future generations become dumbified.

140

cian 12.01.11 at 1:31 pm

I didn’t say they were genetically indistinct. I merely made the point that given all the intermixing both within the “black” community (i.e. – which bit of Africa did they come from), and between the “white-black” community to say that this is a “race” is ludicrous. To say that evolution played a part is an interesting take on the slave trade, to say the least.

To put it in really simply terms. Africa – its a really big place. Afro-Americans – their ancestory is from all over a large part of that continent. And most Afro-Americans have a fair bit of “white” in their ancestory, as is evident from skin colour (and quite a lot of “whites” have a fair bit of “Black” in their ancestory).

So to talk as if these groups are distinct, or genetically homogenous is just bloody stupid. People who make the argument are stupid, or racists. Can people move on to discussions that are productive and interesting – rather than ones which are just attempts to resurrect racist tropes.

141

Kevin Donoghue 12.01.11 at 1:41 pm

…one can’t simply dismiss genetic explanations out of hand with the claim that American “racial” groups are genetically indistinct.

Of course one can’t dismiss genetic explanations out of hand. But we should pay attention to what actual geneticists tell us, I think. One thing they tell us is that people who describe themselves as African-American actually vary quite widely in ancestry.

142

Rich Puchalsky 12.01.11 at 1:41 pm

“I’m with Substance in feeling like Henry’s post was pretty good about the latter category, I think, but also I sincerely don’t understand two things: (1) what the first of these two categories is supposed to look like [as in, how to generalize from your examples]; (2) why we’re allowing precisely those two types of engagement while excluding all other attempts to make the object being critiqued seem silly.”

There is no “we” to “allow” anything. I’m speaking from experience, and that experience is, to quote Matt McIrvin from above: “most discussions end up utterly dominated by advocates of genetic racial IQ difference complaining about how they’re being suppressed.” There are two basic ways to stop this. One is for the person making the original post to be so expert in the science involved that it very quickly becomes obvious that the racists are not advocates for knowledge, they’re clueless and hateful. The other is to make it clear that there is no debate, no Habermasian public sphere in which we are arguing with the discredited products of propaganda, that the people bringing up these age-old racist tropes are being laughed at, not taken seriously. (Henry’s reply with the “you can’t handle the truth” video clip is, I think, pretty much just right.)

143

bianca steele 12.01.11 at 1:51 pm

@Medrawt: I never see people loudly demanding to see research into, say, whether the age at which a Mexican-American acquires English language faculties affects their scores on IQ tests administered in the English language, even after English fluency has been achieved

If you look at the post John M. references above, you see that according to Sullivan’s source, IQ tests that measure language skills are less correlated to race, and just coincidentally, are considered (by that source) to also correlate better to g. If your memory of Gould is better than mine, you might be able to tell me whether you think this makes sense, and whether Sullivan ought to be (as Rich describes it) engaged with respectfully as making a contribution to debate.

144

Barry 12.01.11 at 1:52 pm

Matt McIrvin 12.01.11 at 1:25 pm

” You know, my online experience of this is almost the opposite of the PC chilling effect: most discussions end up utterly dominated by advocates of genetic racial IQ difference complaining about how they’re being suppressed. Dominated not so much in numbers as through sheer tirelessness.”

Right-wing Freudian projection – the right is incapable (literally) of accusing liberals of doing anything, unless they’re already doing it at least 10x as much (or will do so, as soon as they get the chance).

145

bianca steele 12.01.11 at 1:53 pm

S.B. correlate less well to g–tests that do not measure language skills, but instead measure mental spatial rotation abilities and the like, are considered by Sullivan’s sources to measure more directly “true intelligence”

(Incidentally, I’ve tried to get furniture into the back of a car with two people who score highly on those tests and at least one who did not, and guess who was less able to rotate the furniture to get it through the door?)

146

temp 12.01.11 at 1:55 pm

“Of course one can’t dismiss genetic explanations out of hand. But we should pay attention to what actual geneticists tell us, I think.”

I agree. I just don’t know why people keep bringing up race being a “construct”, or African-Americans and European-Americans not belonging to distinct “races”, when these claims are either not in dispute or just semantic arguments. No one claims that any population is genetically homogeneous. Everyone knows that African-Americans have European admixture.

147

bianca steele 12.01.11 at 1:57 pm

Chrisb@116
Why should we leave out the American considerations? The researchers, I believe, are American. Their concerns are American. Just because Brits think it applies just as well to them, because hey, we have an underclass and intra-societal “racial” divisions too, is thinking the issue is race supposed to prove the person who thinks so is “the real racist”?

148

cian 12.01.11 at 2:09 pm

I just don’t know why people keep bringing up race being a “construct”, or African-Americans and European-Americans not belonging to distinct “races”, when these claims are either not in dispute or just semantic arguments.

Erm because they’re not distinct “races”. Making the basic premise of intra-group comparison kind of suspect.

149

cian 12.01.11 at 2:10 pm

Not to mention the extremely fuzzy categories of belonging to either “race”, and the huge variation across the two groups.

150

Kevin Donoghue 12.01.11 at 2:13 pm

No one claims that any population is genetically homogeneous.

How can you hope “to discover the causes of racial disparities” without first classifying the population by race? There are places in the world where it might be possible to do that (the Basque country come to mind), but the USA surely isn’t one of those places.

151

temp 12.01.11 at 2:31 pm

How can you hope “to discover the causes of racial disparities” without first classifying the population by race?

I don’t know what you mean by this question because I assume you aren’t looking for the obvious answer: Self-identification is usually good enough, if you want better precision you can do it by genotyping people. Maybe you think the groupings you get by this don’t actually correspond to what you want to call “race” (though they do correspond very well to people’s self-described race), but so what? Of what scientific interest is this disagreement? Are things made better by posing the question in terms of differences between ethnic groups instead of races?

There are disparities between AAs and EAs in the US. You agree with that right? The question is the extent to which genetic factors can explain these disparities. I do not see how discussion over the nature of race helps answer that question.

152

Henri Vieuxtemps 12.01.11 at 2:41 pm

So, temp, you want a genetics-based explanation for why some are rich and others poor, is that it? Nice. But in that case, what does it have to do with what continent their ancestors lived on?

153

Kevin Donoghue 12.01.11 at 2:42 pm

On this matter of self-identification as African-American: I’ve just had a look at Cavalli-Sforza’s Genes, Peoples and Languages and I noticed an interesting point. It seems that people with between 10% and 50% European ancestry are quite a bit more likely to identify themselves as Black if they live in the Northern states. If I understand correctly, Southerners will pass for White if they can. Given that sort of finding, I’m not surprised that scientists are inclined to think of race as a social construct.

Temp, if I were a bit more polite I’d say I’m surprised that you don’t see a problem here. But honestly I’m not surprised at all.

154

temp 12.01.11 at 2:49 pm

Kevin: I still don’t understand. Is your problem just that the correlation between our social perception of race and the genetics is imperfect? And what should we take from this? You’ve already agreed with me that populations of self-identified AA and EA are genetically different, and that we therefore cannot dismiss genetic explanations for disparities out of hand. What do we actually disagree about?

155

Rich Puchalsky 12.01.11 at 3:08 pm

I’m just going to pretend that annoying racists “DelRey” and “temp” and so on haven’t shown up to offer their pseudonymous freshman Klan profundities, and go on to the next step of this very-old-for-the-Internet problem. The problem with describing a type of engagement with these people as “laughing at” them is that in fact they aren’t very funny. You can blame it on some personal humor deficiency if you like, but I’ve never found mockery of wing nuts a la Sadly, No to be funny even as an exercise of wittiness … it’s just kind of sad. The Editors of the Poor Man Institute were funny; Fafblog was funny; but they chose people a bit further up the chain of actual power to mock.

So this really comes back to contempt. The ideal mode of contempt is silence, like the students who let Katehi walk by in quiet, unnerving shame. Contempt isn’t action; Katehi hasn’t lost her job, and of course is shameless like all high-up administrators. But it means that the debate is over. There is no one to discuss things with. The original post didn’t seem to me to be wrong because it just didn’t quite hit the right level on the snark-o-meter — that, as Substance wrote “Seems like a minor nit to pick in a post that is negative enough.” It seemed to me to be wrong because it still treated Sullivan as part of a debate — a hypocritical, uninformed, biassed one, of course, but no one is entirely free from those qualities — even as it mentioned that the work that Sullivan was popularizing was in fact paid propaganda from a right-wing source, the Pioneer Fund.

156

Henry 12.01.11 at 3:20 pm

Rich – I think your position (and the position of the commenters who agree with you) on the uselessness of this kind of post is pretty clear, and my position (and the position of the commenters who thought it was effective) on the usefulness of this kind of post is clear too. To the extent that you may have changed your mind from your original suggestion that this post was an effective defense of Sullivan against nasty partisan netroots types (perhaps you haven’t changed your mind on this, but you at least have not reiterated this case), perhaps there has been at least a limited convergence of minds.

157

Henry 12.01.11 at 3:28 pm

And also – I think you are wrong on the Katehi incident. I agree with you that their silence on the walk of shame was extraordinarily powerful. But there are different kinds of silence. The silence of the students was one where they showed up and said nothing, to demonstrate their contempt. If I had not blogged about this, it would have been similar to a student deciding not to show up at all, because Katehi wasn’t worth it. What the post was – pretty clearly to me, and at least to many of the commenters here – was not an intellectual engagement with Sullivan, but rather an effort to show that he isn’t living up to the minimal norms of honest conversation. I think that is actually not 1,000 miles away from what the students did by showing up – but only in order to show their disdain and unwillingness to engage with her. Note by the way that the post was not addressed _to_ Andrew Sullivan. It was rather a discussion of how Andrew Sullivan’s attitude would likely have been quite different had someone been spouting similarly offensive shit about stuff that he has reason to care about.

158

Uncle Kvetch 12.01.11 at 3:35 pm

(Henry’s reply with the “you can’t handle the truth” video clip is, I think, pretty much just right.)

It is indeed, because it perfectly captures the essence of Sullivan: no matter the ostensible topic at hand, what he’s really writing about it is his endlessly fascinating self. He is Brave Sir Andrew, Destroyer of Liberal Pieties.

I go back and forth on the engage-or-ignore question with regard to people like Sullivan, but I think Rich has made a solid case for the latter.

159

DaveL 12.01.11 at 3:41 pm

If there is a genetic “explanation” for individual differences in intelligence, which is certainly a plausible hypothesis, then our increasing ability to understand the human genome will eventually discover it. It may well be that it involves many genes and many environmental factors that operate throughout life. There is a lot of research going on into the genetic basis for many aspects of brain function, and this research has nothing (as far as I know) whatsoever to do with trying prove one or another “race” is dumber or smarter than another. It is also the case that sequencing an individual’s genome is getting cheaper and cheaper by the day.

So, my suspicion is that Sullivan’s “worry” that the issue that vitally concerns him is not being studied is completely unfounded. It’s just being approached in a way that ignores his “worry” and will ultimately make it irrelevant.

What will happen is that if there are genetic determinants to human intelligence we will come to know what they are. (And by “human intelligence” I don’t mean “g,” I mean the whole complex set of human intellectual abilities.) Not long after that we will have the biotechnology to tweak them if we wish to do that. (I don’t think this will happen Real Soon Now, but it will happen.)

So, Sully need not worry. Come the Shiny Happy Future, we will know whether “blacks,” “whites,” or any other granfaloons are teh dumb, and no one will have the slightest interest in the answer.

(Of course the other possibility is that there are no genetic determinants of intelligence, or they are completely overwhelmed by development differences; if so, we will find that out too.)

On a slight side tangent, somewhat broad-brush genetic surveys indicate that human genetic variation declines with distance from Central Africa. That is, the various migrants who left Africa and became the ancestors of the rest of the world’s population were less genetically diverse than the parent population, and so on until you get to the most remote (from Central Africa) parts of the world. So, when someone says “Africans are …” he is talking about a group that still retains well over 90% of all human genetic diversity.

160

Alex 12.01.11 at 3:50 pm

It seems that people with between 10% and 50% European ancestry are quite a bit more likely to identify themselves as Black if they live in the Northern states

I recall when it was discovered that a significant fraction of the difference between the white and black incarceration rates in the US is accounted for by people self-identifying as black, having gone to jail, who previously self-identified as white.

Steve Sailer was very much displeased in an oddly sexualised manner and I felt it fit to remark that he was against prison rape because he thought it caused multiculturalism.

161

Walt 12.01.11 at 3:54 pm

I’m actually arguing with the racists because I find the meta-argument so irritating.

It’s quite striking that study of race is so suppressed that the only outlet it can find in America is a peer-reviewed journal that appears on a government website with a big “USA.gov” logo at the bottom. Researchers in psychic phenomena probably yearn for that level of suppression.

162

Henry 12.01.11 at 3:57 pm

And finally – I hadn’t seen your earlier comment when I wrote the above – I don’t think that we are in a Habermasian public sphere either. But I do think that there is a very minimal set of norms that prominent public commentators are supposed to live up to – and when they obviously do not, it can be useful to call them out on it. Even if they themselves don’t care about these norms, they may be affected by them, if they are trying to appeal to an audience who thinks that the norms are valid ones. Sometimes I try to engage people who I profoundly disagree with but whom I think are worth engaging. This is not one of those times. If Sullivan had not had a large audience and prominent role in US public debate, I either would have ignored him or done a drive by as per #123.

On whether the post is funny – probably not, particularly. Obviously not in Fafblog territory, but then what is (I genuinely think that he is/was an unheralded genius – the Karl Kraus of our times). More generally, I don’t do funny well, except on extremely rare occasions (I can often manage sarcasm, which is for funny as margarine is for good butter). But what I wanted to do with the post was to construct a useful analogy to illustrate Sullivan’s repeated weaselly unwillingness to be honest about what he is defending. I had thought about using some of the racist attitudes of Victorian and Edwardian pseudoscience (and popular prejudice) towards Irish people as another way of doing this, but decided that it didn’t fit as well given that he writes a lot about anti-gay prejudice, but not so much about his own ethnic roots.

This is probably far more meta-commentary than anyone is particularly interested in, so I’ll leave it at that.

163

temp 12.01.11 at 4:06 pm

I don’t think study of race is suppressed! Human Genetics would be very hard to do if we didn’t acknowledge genetic and phenotypic differences between ethnic groups.

164

JM 12.01.11 at 4:13 pm

It seemed to me to be wrong because it still treated Sullivan as part of a debate … even as it mentioned that the work that Sullivan was popularizing was in fact paid propaganda from a right-wing source, the Pioneer Fund.

Does anybody here remember Richard Lynn?
Remember how Draper said
We should send black men
Back to Afri-cay?
Rushton! Rushton!
What is up with you?
Asking every man in the mall
How far they can spoo ….

165

cian 12.01.11 at 4:22 pm

Are things made better by posing the question in terms of differences between ethnic groups instead of races?

Well it would certainly make it a more scientifically useful question; better still is the approach that DavidL outlined. Not because it ignores race, but because its far more likely to find interesting answers. You know – testable hypotheses and all that crap.

But then you’ve already demonstrated that you don’t really understand how science operates, which does rather beg the question why you’re so fascinated by race. Oh why, oh why are you so fascinated in a subject that you clearly have no understanding of, but which just happens to relate to the purported inferiority of blacks. Is it because you have the racist gene? Or is it because you have the stupid gene? Or is there perhaps an unhitherto unknown gene that can explain such behaviour?

166

cian 12.01.11 at 4:24 pm

Rich, the post basically treated Sullivan as a deeply unserious and intellectually lazy person, with what looked like some dubious political reasons for pushing such “research”.

Like it or not, Sullivan is taken seriously. Ignore him, his views will gain respectability. Given that, what more could Henry have done?

167

Tim Wilkinson 12.01.11 at 4:28 pm

My first son had a rare cancer, and we were sent to a geneticist with the aim of deriving a risk factor for any second child we might have. The geneticist was interested in Afro-Caribbean descent (as is the sickle-cell society, for example) but – Nozick and Tim W’l might be slightly interested to note, though it’s not dispositive – not ‘Jewish’ as a genetic group distinguishable from any other kind of European.

I only mention this because one can go too far in imposing one’s subjective opinions about social construction onto the phenomena of racial/genetic groups, lineages, what have you.

But obviously the point is that this was input into a statistical model, and had to be done no matter how inaccurate it might be. The genes of interest in this kind of model (though I think this particular one was pretty meaningless really) are also presumably quite well-known in the usual case, and a fairly straightforward matter of presence/absence, as with sickle-cell anaemia.

This contrasts with the present Bell-curve case since, as many point out, the genes involved in ‘IQ’ – or ‘g’ or whatever it is – have not been identified, nor of course has any connection between those and particular lineages tracing back to relatively genetically homogeneous subpopulations (etc) been devised.

Which is, as plenty have also pointed out, why a project fixated solely on finding correlations between gross characteristics such as performance in IQ tests and ‘being black’ is so transparently a racist project.

A scientific approach might try and find genes correlated with various well-defined capacities. Another might look at core genotypes from various ‘races’. These might eventually provide the building blocks for various findings which could be described as about race and intelligence, e.g. that having ancestry traceable to, say, Korea ought, in the absence of further relevant information indeed likely to be associated with higher than average performance in some kind of cognitive function.

(This sat around unposted for some time – preempted in particular by DaveL @159, and Kevin Donoghue @136)

168

temp 12.01.11 at 4:38 pm

Well it would certainly make it a more scientifically useful question.

OK then. I don’t think it actually changes anything, because, again, we are talking about the same populations whether we define them as “ethnic groups” or “races.” Note that the term used in the Tang paper linked above is “self-identified race/ethnicity (SIRE)” which seems fine to me also.

better still is the approach that DavidL outlined

I agree with almost everything DaveL wrote. The best approach for identifying genetic variants causally linked to phenotypes of interest is usually to look in ethnically homogeneous populations. And it’s certainly being done.

169

cian 12.01.11 at 4:46 pm

we are talking about the same populations whether we define them as “ethnic groups” or “races.”

Not really. If you choose a group that is genetically homogenous that is one thing. Genetically homogenous is something that afro-americans are not. The problem is not the term, as you seem to think; its that people (like yourself) assume that it is a useful category. For most purposes, and certainly this one, it isn’t.

170

Anderson 12.01.11 at 4:46 pm

Plenty of smart people have irrational hobbyhorses. Sullivan’s pet notion that The Bell Curve was inchoately right about something or other seems of a piece with his preoccupation with Sarah Palin’s last pregnancy.

He shouldn’t be cut any slack on the IQ issue, but I don’t much care for the implication (in some comments, not in the OP) that he’s not worth reading on any subject because he is wrong about one subject. Who *would* be worthwhile, on that standard?

171

temp 12.01.11 at 5:04 pm

Not really. If you choose a group that is genetically homogenous that is one thing. Genetically homogenous is something that afro-americans are not. The problem is not the term, as you seem to think; its that people (like yourself) assume that it is a useful category. For most purposes, and certainly this one, it isn’t.”

What I consider a useful category is what the Tang paper calls SIRE and what the census question “What is this person’s race?” is trying to get at. Do you disagree?

172

Medrawt 12.01.11 at 5:06 pm

Anderson -

Isn’t it possible that a writer is wrong on one subject and being wrong on that subject is so noxious to certain readers that it’s enough to reject him?

Also, I can only speak for myself, but there are MANY reasons why I stopped reading Sullivan, some years ago, before I was aware of his continued interest in defending TBC – I actually assumed that it was one of many things which he’d quietly and half-assedly repudiated at some point in the past, while maintaining that the most vociferous critics were still wrong somehow. That said, I believe that his stance on this issue is representative of one of his intellectual failings, which has already been alluded to by someone else in this thread – he seems, to me, to derive some sort of emotional/intellectual sustenance from the belief that he is ever finding some power to which he can speak some difficult truth. This probably isn’t why I stopped reading him (residual anger and the realization that I had not, and was not likely to, get over the “fifth column” stuff is probably the reason), but I think it’s kind of an obnoxious hobbyhorse to have, and a perfectly good reason to turn away.

173

geo 12.01.11 at 5:08 pm

I thought Medrawt asked exactly the right question @122 and exactly the wrong questions @126. In the former he asked: “Why would it matter in the slightest for law or social policy if one racial group is dumber on average than another?” In the latter he asked: “How can we determine whether one racial group is dumber on average than another?” But once you establish very firmly in the public mind the fundamental truth that it shouldn’t matter in the slightest for law or social policy whether one racial group (assuming such entities exist) is dumber on average than another, then you have no reason to care whether anyone thinks one racial group is in fact dumber on average than another.

Isn’t it possible that some on the left are concentrating on the superficial, empirical question to the neglect of the fundamental, moral/philosophical one?

174

politicalfootball 12.01.11 at 5:10 pm

Which is, as plenty have also pointed out, why a project fixated solely on finding correlations between gross characteristics such as performance in IQ tests and ‘being black’ is so transparently a racist project.

For some reason, absolutely nobody is willing to give me a fair hearing on my theories about the relationship between hemophilia and intelligence.

175

cian 12.01.11 at 5:18 pm

What I consider a useful category is what the Tang paper calls SIRE and what the census question “What is this person’s race?” is trying to get at. Do you disagree?

I do. Explain why you think this particular category, given all the problems I’ve outlined with it, is a useful one for the purposes of a disinterested inquiry into the genetic components of intelligence. In your own time.

176

Medrawt 12.01.11 at 5:23 pm

geo -

I think a lot of people feel more comfortable dealing with the empirical question than the moral/philosophical one. I also think a lot of people are probably prone to believing that the empirical question isn’t superficial, whereas the moral/philosophical one might be so much airy bluster. I disagree, but certainly run into a lot of folks who are suspicious on this mark. When you think about the death penalty debate, my most profound reasons for opposition to the death penalty are moral, but a lot of people who are in favor of the death penalty also consider their position to be rooted in moral truth. I have no desire to cede the moral ground on that question, but I understand skepticism that you’re going to succesfully argue someone out of their deeply held moral convictions, and the resulting belief that an appeal on more pragmatic gronuds (it costs a lot of money, innocent people are on death row, etc.) is more likely to move public opinion. (And also, maybe, some people are more prone to change their morality based on what looks to them like empirical evidence than the what looks to them like a competing, inferior morality.)

My intent in the overly long post from last night, wasn’t so much to ask “How can we determine whether one group is dumber,” but to answer the notion that people are “afraid” of research into this area. I attempted to highlight that “this area” is actually a bundle of related forms of inquiry, many of which I and others think are important and fruitful; I’m particularly interested, personally, in questions about the force of environment and/or the efficacy of external intervention to try and improve that environment (though I care more about the effect on academic performance, etc., than on IQ tests). I wanted to point out that it’s one particular subset of research in this area that people seem to get really exercised about, and then suggested that it didn’t even make sense to get exercised about it unless you were already presuming specific answers to all the related questions.

I guess my post of 122 was to ask the serious moral question, and then because I was pissed off, my post of 126 was to outline in more words than necessary particularly what I think is so damned creepy about folks like Sullivan sweating this particular question and getting shudders of self-righteous pleasure at conceiving themselves as the only people serious enough to ask the difficult questions.

177

politicalfootball 12.01.11 at 5:32 pm

I also think a lot of people are probably prone to believing that the empirical question isn’t superficial, whereas the moral/philosophical one might be so much airy bluster.

And then there are folks like me who consider the moral/philosophical issue to be purely hypothetical. Contra Walt and others above, we actually know quite a lot about race (as that word is construed by temp and Delray) and intelligence – enough to have a high level of confidence that race is not a genetic determinant of intelligence.

178

temp 12.01.11 at 5:37 pm

Explain why you think this particular category, given all the problems I’ve outlined with it, is a useful one for the purposes of a disinterested inquiry into the genetic components of intelligence.

I don’t think it, nor did I ever claim it, nor do I know of anyone else who has (if the populations were genetically homogenous it would be even harder to take this approach–you’d have an effective population size of two). The question for which SIRE categories is useful for is whether disparities between SIRE categories may be partially explained by genetics.

179

politicalfootball 12.01.11 at 5:56 pm

The question for which SIRE categories is useful for is whether disparities between SIRE categories may be partially explained by genetics.

Seems as though if you want to research the differences between SIRE categories, you’d need to use SERE categories. The question is, given the huge differences in group genetics within the SERE categories, and the huge similarities in genetics between the SIRE categories, why would you want to do this?

180

Henri Vieuxtemps 12.01.11 at 6:05 pm

This SIRE thing is, of course, a purely cultural phenomenon, and its correlation with genetics (where it exists) is coincidental. Your self-identified race/ethnicity is determined by whatever your parents told you, and nothing else. The most natural way to analyze a cultural phenomenon is, of course, cultural anthropology, social science.

181

Bill Benzon 12.01.11 at 6:07 pm

@Jonathan, #82, Back when I was looking for non-academic jobs I read through several blogs catering to financial services and read the same thing several times: prestige schools, SATs, and brain teasers. I submitted several job apps where I had to cough up my SATs.

182

temp 12.01.11 at 6:13 pm

What are SERE categories?

183

politicalfootball 12.01.11 at 7:29 pm

Sorry, meant SIRE in all cases.

184

politicalfootball 12.01.11 at 7:54 pm

I agree with you that their silence on the walk of shame was extraordinarily powerful. But there are different kinds of silence. The silence of the students was one where they showed up and said nothing, to demonstrate their contempt.

If Sullivan shows up in the comments here, nobody should respond.

185

hellblazer 12.01.11 at 8:08 pm

FOR THE LOVE OF EYSENCK PLEASE SOMEONE FIX THE HANGING TAG

186

temp 12.01.11 at 8:10 pm

The reason you’d want to research the difference between SIRE categories is because that’s where the disparities are. Obviously, these differences are something social scientists and government agencies spend a lot of time researching. The genetic effect is hard to get at, but for similar reasons, the effect of various social factors are also hard to get at–there are lots of interrelated variables that are hard to tease out.

It’s true that there’s a lot of genetic variance within SIRE categories and a lot of similarity between them, but it’s also true that there’s a lot of phenotype variance within SIRE categories and similarities between them. And the same is true for most plausible explanatory social factors.

187

politicalfootball 12.01.11 at 8:39 pm

The reason you’d want to research the difference between SIRE categories is because that’s where the disparities are.

Huh. No IQ disparities between, say, Ethiopians and Congolese? French and Slovenians? I’d like to see the research on that.

188

temp 12.01.11 at 8:46 pm

What’s your point? You could research those too.

189

Malaclypse 12.01.11 at 8:47 pm

No IQ disparities between, say, Ethiopians and Congolese? French and Slovenians? I’d like to see the research on that.

I’d like to see liberals and conservatives, myself.

190

Malaclypse 12.01.11 at 8:48 pm

Or differences between racists and non-racists. I kind of think that might be the most interesting of all.

191

cian 12.01.11 at 10:45 pm

The reason you’d want to research the difference between SIRE categories is because that’s where the disparities are.

Are they now. You’re not racist at all, its just that this research, which I’m sure you’re dying to share with us, confirms old racist tropes. How convenient.

192

temp 12.01.11 at 10:57 pm

Disparities between SIRE categories are actually pretty well known. That’s why things like affirmative action exist, for example.

193

Malaclypse 12.01.11 at 10:59 pm

Now, now, cian – we don’t know that temp is a racist. We just know that s/he agrees with racists.

194

Uncle Kvetch 12.01.11 at 11:02 pm

That’s why things like affirmative action exist, for example.

That is 100% false. You apparently know even less about this than Andrew Sullivan, which is really saying something.

195

temp 12.01.11 at 11:05 pm

That is 100% false.

You’re saying that if AAs and EAs had identical distributions in test scores, income and education then affirmative action would still exist?

196

cian 12.01.11 at 11:21 pm

Are you saying that income equals intelligence?

197

Tom Bach 12.01.11 at 11:21 pm

I always thought that affirmative action was designed to overcome limited to no participation by minorities who, historically speaking, had been debarred because of earlier legally and culturally enforced discrimination not because the groups discriminated against were dumb. Things like, I don’t, Jim Crow laws, Jewish Quotas and the like.

198

politicalfootball 12.01.11 at 11:23 pm

What’s your point? You could research those too.

I don’t specifically need to know about French/Slovenians or whatever. I just need to see the research on intragroup differences. In 186, you explained that the SIRE stuff was used because “that’s where the differences are.” I realize that differences have been measured between those groups, but what I want to see is your evidence that this was the reason those groups were selected for study. So I ask again: where’s the research that indicates that intra-SIRE groups are identical.

You’re saying that if AAs and EAs had identical distributions in test scores, income and education then affirmative action would still exist?

You want to be more careful about this; you’re really giving up your game here. Test scores are an entirely different thing from income and education. When you hint that slavery or Jim Crow, for example, didn’t cause disparities in education and income – that this was all due to intrinsic inferiority – that’s getting more explicitly racist than you want to be, I think.

199

temp 12.01.11 at 11:30 pm

Are you saying that income equals intelligence?

What I said, which you apparently objected to, was that disparities exist between SIRE categories. These disparities include income, IQ, education, obesity, birth weights, rates of imprisonment, test scores, and many more. As an egalitarian, I would like to understand the factors that cause these disparities such that they can be reduced or eliminated to the extent possible.

200

temp 12.01.11 at 11:40 pm

politicalfootball: As I said earlier, the reason differences between SIRE groups in the American context is important is not that is serves as a case study to understand intelligence. The best way to study the particular genetic factors that control intelligence is to look within ethnically homogenous groups. Rather, differences in outcome between SIRE groups are important and worthy of study in themselves. I want self-identified AAs to have approximately the same income distributions as self-identified EAs, to get the same quality education, jobs, etc. To do so it is useful to understand the factors causing these disparities. I’m not alone in thinking this! A great amount of research is invested in studying the causes and consequences of SIRE-group disparities.

201

Malaclypse 12.01.11 at 11:41 pm

As an egalitarian, I would like to understand the factors that cause these disparities such that they can be reduced or eliminated to the extent possible.

It is the White Man’s temp’s Burden to civilize the wogs.

202

Tom Bach 12.01.11 at 11:45 pm

I want self-identified AAs to have approximately the same income distributions as self-identified EAs, to get the same quality education, jobs, etc. To do so it is useful to understand the factors causing these disparities.

How, assuming the least likely explanation for these disparitys, i.e., genetics is true, would you go about fixing things? Scientific breeding?

203

politicalfootball 12.01.11 at 11:48 pm

Rather, differences in outcome between SIRE groups are important and worthy of study in themselves.

But why is it important to study, say blacks vs. whites, when it isn’t important to study, say, French vs. Slovenians?

And if you’re going to retract 195, then you still have to answer Kvetch’s point in 194.

204

cian 12.01.11 at 11:49 pm

I want self-identified AAs to have approximately the same income distributions as self-identified EAs, to get the same quality education, jobs, etc.

Sure, and you simply chose to focus on genetic factors in intelligence rather than, I dunno, the socioeconomic disparities and inequalities that oppress them. How convenient.

While I didn’t need convincing of Adolph Reed’s thesis on racism, you’ve certainly helped confirm it.

205

Bruce Baugh 12.01.11 at 11:55 pm

Anderson: The thing is that not all blemishes are made equal. Pretty much everybody I know, like, love, and trust has at least one conviction that makes me go all O.o boggled-eyed. And I know they think that about me, too – and sometimes I end up deciding that they’re right. That’s life.

But some views should be grounds for saying “You know, whatever of merit this person has, I’ll bet I can get it from someone else.”

Sullivan wants two things, when it comes to intelligence:

1. He wants to believe that black people are, on average, stupider than white people. That is, clearly intelligent black people like Ta-Nahesi Coates, Thomas Sowell, and Octavia Butler are unrepresentative flukes within their race in a way that, say, he, Michael Oakeshott, and Agatha Christie are not.

2. He wants to be lionized as courageous and staunch for #1.

That’s pernicious crap. We can find, for instance, opponents of torture who never did denounce opponents of the Iraq war as fifth columnists and haters of the West, or who did and had the good grace to clearly apologize for it. (Matthew Yglesias is far more honorable on this point than Sullivan, if you have to go picking among people who wish now they hadn’t been so keenly wrong about that thing.) And we can find advocates of every other good cause Sullivan might take up who don’t have so much invested in racist crap.

206

Kevin Donoghue 12.02.11 at 12:01 am

Temp,

Some readers are getting the impression that you’re a racist. I think you just don’t understand the issues. If a researcher wants to find out whether Corkmen are born smarter than Kerrymen it won’t do to invite test subjects to fill in a “county of origin” box on a form and analyse the results accordingly. My impression is that you really haven’t thought about why it won’t do.

207

Barry Freed 12.02.11 at 12:09 am

Many here are fighting the good fight, notably cian and politicalfootball and others, but clearly I should not have waded in to this early on in the thread when I did and when I was tired and not thinking clearly but rather waited till now and just said “What Bruce Baugh said” instead. So:

What Bruce Baugh said.

208

temp 12.02.11 at 12:24 am

But why is it important to study, say blacks vs. whites, when it isn’t important to study, say, French vs. Slovenians?

Couldn’t this question be asked of anyone who studies racial disparities in the US? I just read the abstracts of the top 10 articles on Google Scholar searching for the term “racial disparity”–all 10 are on disparities between AAs vs EAs in the US. But I don’t actually have any particular commitment to AA and EA other than being American–there’s nothing that makes it intrinsically more important than other disparities of similar size and effect–so if you want to study French vs Slovenians go for it.

209

rf 12.02.11 at 12:26 am

@ Matt McIrvin 138
‘You know, my online experience of this is almost the opposite of the PC chilling effect’
Exactly, I guess in some minds it’s a thin line between “pc chilling” and being so consistently inconclusive and socially worthless that it’s not worth dedicating your life too professionally. This is an argument that shouldn’t get as much airtime as it does, not out of political correctness but because it’s kind of f$$king stupid.
The problem is that people like Sullivan, certainly not racists in my book or Limbaugh/Beck equivalents, are too unqualified to actually participate in this debate and as such will reduce it to a simplistic black/white paradigm to satisfy the 1,000 word limit on their Sunday Times columns. (Or worse, the thought farts that qualify as blog posts)
Look, if you want to dedicate your life to specialising in this field, then fire away, there’s no law preventing you. If, because of ‘political correctness’, you find yourself excluded from polite society and your career hampered, then so f$$king what? Surely such inconveniences are the price you pay for searching for the ‘truth’ in a hostile environment, so stop being such a p$$sy and get on with it.

210

politicalfootball 12.02.11 at 12:35 am

But I don’t actually have any particular commitment to AA and EA other than being American

Ah, okay. Tell that to the temp of 186, who said:

The reason you’d want to research the difference between SIRE categories is because that’s where the disparities are.

Of course, nobody cares if, say, the Irish are intellectually inferior – at least not any more. Mind you, Irish intellectual inferiority was a hot topic back when the Irish were a despised minority. Racism, however, has moved on, and the science of racism has moved on with it.

211

politicalfootball 12.02.11 at 12:37 am

Still waiting for that response to Kvetch’s 194, by the way.

212

temp 12.02.11 at 12:39 am

I think you just don’t understand the issues. If a researcher wants to find out whether Corkmen are born smarter than Kerrymen it won’t do to invite test subjects to fill in a “county of origin” box on a form and analyze the results accordingly. My impression is that you really haven’t thought about why it won’t do.
I think I’ve been pretty clear about the major difficulty in studying the factors creating racial disparities. The problem (a very common one in science) is that there are a huge number of factors which are highly correlated with one another and disentangling them such that causal relationships can be derived is quite difficult. So, we can give up. Or we can decide that the problem is important enough that it’s worth studying anyways and think of more sophisticated ways to analyze it.

213

Bruce Baugh 12.02.11 at 12:47 am

Rf: Seriously, why isn’t Sullivan worth considering a racist? What about his writing and actions makes you think “This is a person who, at the end of the day, believes in the fundamentally equal worth of all human beings, regardless of our differences”? What about him inspires confidence that his desired order would offer fairness, opportunity, and justice to all individuals, and would doom none because of others’ perceptions of who they are?

214

temp 12.02.11 at 12:51 am

political football: I’m not sure what you’re looking for. Can you state your point clearly? I think you’re reading more into my post at 186 than is there. All I was saying was that I’m interested in disparities between SIRE groups for the same reason everyone else is. I didn’t actually mean to imply that the only disparities anywhere are those between American SIRE groups.

As for my response to Kvetch–I never claimed that “intrinsic inferiority” of any group was responsible for anything. Kvetch disagreed with me that affirmative action was a response to racial disparities. So I asked whether affirmative action would exist in the absence of racial disparities. This does not require any claim about the causes of these disparities.

215

DelRey 12.02.11 at 12:56 am

Henry, you do realize that you’re the Jack Nicholson character here, right?

Dr Hilarius, once again you demonstrate that you just don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. Scientists have already identified several single-gene mutations that have a dramatic effect on cognitive function. There is nothing implausible about the hypothesis that a single-gene mutation with a much milder effect on cognition occurs with greater frequency in one racial group compared to another. Not that the differences we are discussing necessarily have, or are even likely to have, single-gene causes anyway, as I already told you.

216

rf 12.02.11 at 1:02 am

Bruce, perhaps he is. But personally, from reading his blog, I see him as little more than an adolescent controversialist, intent on taking extreme postions on topics he knows little about against some caricatured other to satisy his rampant ego. Its a personal opinion and I certainly wouldnt say he’s not “worth considering a racist”, Iv just always found that to be his schtick.

217

rf 12.02.11 at 1:07 am

Bruce, although to be honest my above answer is a little to flippant and in fact I dont have a reasonable answer for you

218

politicalfootball 12.02.11 at 1:18 am

Kvetch disagreed with me that affirmative action was a response to racial disparities.

You really think Kvetch was talking about disparities in income? Seems entirely unjustified from the contents of the thread. Seems like you’re in the random bullshitting stage now.

219

Bruce Baugh 12.02.11 at 1:18 am

Okay, rf, I think that’s a useful distinction. I’m not sure I agree with where you put him in this case, but it makes sense to me, and it works a whole lot better than “oh he’s really very nice and means no harm at all”.

220

DelRey 12.02.11 at 1:27 am

Of course the other possibility is that there are no genetic determinants of intelligence, or they are completely overwhelmed by development differences; if so, we will find that out too.)

Another utterly absurd claim. There is no possibility that “there are no genetic determinants of intelligence.” If there were no genetic determinants of intelligence then a chimp, a dog or a mollusc could, through the right kind of “development,” achieve intellectual parity with human beings. OF COURSE there are genetic determinants of intelligence. The only way an organism can have a brain at all is by having genes that code the information required to grow one. The question here is whether there are significant differences in the “genetic determinants of intelligence” between human races.

221

ali baba 12.02.11 at 2:00 am

The question here is whether there are significant differences in the “genetic determinants of intelligence” between human races.

And the answer is, no one has found any. I realize it’s hard to believe, but just because you have a gimmicky model of intelligence, that does not mean genes will code for it.

222

Henry 12.02.11 at 2:01 am

bq. Henry, you do realize that you’re the Jack Nicholson character here, right?

YOU CAN’T! ! ! HANDLE! ! ! THE TRUTH ! ! ! !

223

Malaclypse 12.02.11 at 2:05 am

The question here is whether there are significant differences in the “genetic determinants of intelligence” between human races.

Actually, the question is, what are “races” and who gets to define the lines?

224

kmack 12.02.11 at 2:40 am

Daniel @ 131: I appreciated your point. No awesome monitor is required.

What is this debate for, in this forum? The anti-racialists who proudly engage with the racialists ad nauseam? Presumably, the aim can’t be to shame the shameless or to inform the willfully ill-informed. Was the absurdity and bad faith of the likes of Sullivan not already obvious on this topic?

Anyway, I’ll go back to standing by while clever and passionate debate continues as to whether people like me are on average less intelligent somehow.

225

temp 12.02.11 at 3:23 am

You really think Kvetch was talking about disparities in income? Seems entirely unjustified from the contents of the thread. Seems like you’re in the random bullshitting stage now.

I actually don’t know what he meant. But he was responding to me, and I was talking about racial disparities generally. If that was not understood it is my fault.

My only claims are that 1) disparities between SIRE groups exist (the most important of which are socioeconomic) 2) the causes of these disparities are worth studying 3) this includes possible genetic causes. I think 1 and 2 are uncontroversial among Americans on the left in any context other than this one. The main argument against 3 seems to be that genetic causes can’t possibly be any part of the explanation because of some version of “race is a construct.” But, in fact, there are genetic differences between SIRE groups at the population level. So there’s nothing implausible about genetics playing a role. So it’s worth studying. And it is being studied, despite any claims of suppression by Sullivan.

226

Dr. Hilarius 12.02.11 at 5:34 am

I don’t know why I bother replying to DelRay who seems heavily invested in finding racial differences in intelligence; it must be some latent masochism gene being expressed.

Yes, there are genetic abnormalities that can cause severe mental retardation. Phenylketonuria is caused by homozygosity for a recessive allele. Without intervention, it results in severe mental retardation. But gross pathology is not the same as normal variation in a trait like intelligence. Your argument is like saying that achondroplasic dwarfism, caused by a genetic disorder, is a normal variation in human height.

If you want to understand how population genetics works you might want to read An Introduction to Quantitative Genetics by D.S. Falconer and Genetic Basis of Evolutionary Change by Richard Lewontin. That is, if you are actually interested in the subject beyond reinforcing your current viewpoint.

This is my last post on this over-mined topic while I seek therapy for internet masochism.

227

DelRey 12.02.11 at 5:39 am

Actually, the question is, what are “races” and who gets to define the lines?

What’s your definition of race, then, and where do you define the lines? Or are you a member of the “there’s no such thing as race” crowd?

228

DelRey 12.02.11 at 5:49 am

Yes, there are genetic abnormalities that can cause severe mental retardation.

Yes, as I said, scientists already know of several single-gene mutations that have drastic effects on cognitive function. So your suggestion that even modest differences in cognitive function between races would have to involve multiple genes is complete and utter nonsense. Not that anyone said that such differences would necessarily have single-gene causes, anyway.

But gross pathology is not the same as normal variation in a trait like intelligence.

Yet another non-sequitur. Yes, gross pathology is not same as normal variation. So what? Genes are responsible for both gross pathologies AND normal variations.

229

Walt 12.02.11 at 6:33 am

DelRey, you may have fun ascribing absurdly stupid arguments to other people so that you can pretend to be the brave truth-teller, but I think we all have better things to do than be props in your fantasy. Come back when you develop a modicum of good faith.

230

kidneystones 12.02.11 at 6:46 am

There is no such thing as a race. That clearly needs to be said and needs to be said clearly. There is no such thing as a race. The term is a historical construct with a clear mappable history. Individual authors penned tracts that put the term into general circulation.

I just described this comment thread to a peer: how in 2011 academics are discussing what kinds of evidence might be used to measure the cognitive potential, not just performance, of different “human races.” Needless to say, my wide-eyed interlocutor expressed only loathing and surprise. Thanks to Henry for the excellent post.

231

Pyre 12.02.11 at 7:00 am

I thought The Bell Curve was very thoroughly debunked by its critics in two anthologies of articles: The Bell Curve Debate and The Bell Curve Wars.

Ezra Abrams, #46: The real-life counterpart to the “grits” question was the “culture-free” IQ test which expected the testee to recognize objects like tennis nets; naturally, children of upper-class families (who tended to play tennis) skewed to higher scores than children of lower-class families (who tended not to) — and guess where the racial distributions lay in 1960s America? The test demonstrated nothing about racial DNA’s effect on cognition, but a great deal about how to palm off cultural shibboleths as signs of “intelligence” — which was the acidic point of the cartoon.

BTW, the high-IQ society Mensa did at least use to (in the 1960s) accept SAT test scores in lieu of actual IQ test scores for membership qualification.

232

J. Otto Pohl 12.02.11 at 9:44 am

Kidneystones:

I wish people would stop saying that race does not exist. This is simply not true. Historical constructs are no less real than anything else. Race exists and is very real. It is just not a biological concept. If race did not exist as a very real way of viewing the world and classifying human beings we would not be able to map the history of racism and racial discrimination. People think because things are not organic or natural that they are not real. This is not true. A house which is constructed is just as real as a tree which is organic. Likewise nations, ethnicities, and races are all real despite being man made constructions. If race was not real then we wouldn’t have to worry about racial discrimination. The fact is that historically race has usually been a legal construction of the state used to deny fundamental human rights to large numbers of people. The denial of these rights is very real. The category of race as a legal classification was very real. The internalization of these classifications by both members of privileged and stigmatized groups has been very real. So again I wish people would just stop saying that race does not exist. It isn’t biological or genetic. Its boundaries are arbitrarily defined and enforced by people, often armed agents of the state, not nature. But, it most definitely does exist. If it didn’t then this whole conversation would be meaningless. It is only because race does exist as a way of classifying people into groups based upon ancestry and depriving certain of these groups the rights and resources granted to other groups that anybody cares about this issue. Artificial man made constructions such as buildings and computers are just as real as natural growths such as trees and flowers. I don’t know why this is so hard for people to grasp.

233

cian 12.02.11 at 10:56 am

temp: The problem (a very common one in science) is that there are a huge number of factors which are highly correlated with one another and disentangling them such that causal relationships can be derived is quite difficult. So, we can give up. Or we can decide that the problem is important enough that it’s worth studying anyways and think of more sophisticated ways to analyze it.

Right, so why are you arguing that instead of disentangling it, or using sophisticated ways of analysing the problem, we should instead use a gross, culturally constructed, category – within each of which there is huge genetic variation.

Oh that’s right, its just because you care about the poor “nigras” and want to help them. White man’s burden indeed.

234

Malaclypse 12.02.11 at 11:39 am

Historical constructs are no less real than anything else. Race exists and is very real. It is just not a biological concept.

What J Otto said.

235

jack strocchi 12.02.11 at 11:50 am

Pyrrhic @ #366 sailor:

I thornton Theses Believer Curable washings versions thorpe debater by itself crimea in twombly antonio of artichokes: Thereto Belligerence Curtsy Debugging andean Theme Belabored Curiosities Warfield.
Donates’t botching holds thanklessly thousandth. Therefore haves beetled endured “debilitating” of theaters Bellovin Curve (YTJ) buttercup it stipend see to have leg. Murphy copies theory motherers of alleys flanked attacks forlorn breve PC tabling. Thermostat ways he hastens beefer relax vilifying hash beets unconsciousness andalusian a majesties readiest why openness mindful peoples tentative to disallow historical cribs.

No doubly thermal ares anyway numbness of metacircularity flashing in hissing modicum. Buttoning mossy cringes haven string on gnaw whippany swabbing campbell, andersen thesis lossier thereof plowed.

Thermodynamic majors points of thereto BJP wastefulness notifiers to profoundest thermometers intensify infinity of coleman peoria. It washes to forbears theatrical complementary domicile of a cogitate elide. In thatches sentimentally QRV washings in therapy samaritan line of futuristic as “Theorems Maneuvering Revered” andromache “Thermofax Risings of thereby Merriment”.

YRZ’s mindlessly points wastefulness to estonian a psychologically basins fortress their stems rankle ordering of racked IQ’s: Asia > Caucasus > African. Murphy madison no efficacy to estimates a generalizers baseballs forecasted IQ discourses bettering theorems racine singlet no consistently evidences formatted succeeding a propos exiled or curve existing.

Greekizes Coca haste a similitude Fervent-stylishness testings fortresses contributes identity: if therapist moderns werner trued, wounds thermostats workstation we seek arouse us looter simplified to its concealers?

Nowhere we area nearby 90 yearn on frocks theorems publicity of then SDZ. Thefts eliminates obsolescent withdrawing cogent permits as thesis royce roasts to highlander sociable stays is, if anymore, fares beyond whacks Murderously prehistoric. Andes theorized highnesses-IQ Asiaticizes economizers juggler condoning its relentless roller acrobat history’s termination, surname only by evenhandedness higgins-IQ Massacre of thermometers Unidirectional dominate in fins marble. Needful to say superiority highly-IQ Ujkgucuge Jews conspicuous to scotland thefts pool in Noble Print andrew theatrical other, morass provisioned, spoolers of secondhand suckle.

By Cocks’s stager Murders’s modernizer, fore alleges its faucet, look precision robertsons.

236

rf 12.02.11 at 11:59 am

Jack
Im no expert and am genuinly curious, but does this quote, from the Human Genome Projects website, qualify your above statement

“DNA studies do not indicate that separate classifiable subspecies (races) exist within modern humans. While different genes for physical traits such as skin and hair color can be identified between individuals, no consistent patterns of genes across the human genome exist to distinguish one race from another. There also is no genetic basis for divisions of human ethnicity. People who have lived in the same geographic region for many generations may have some alleles in common, but no allele will be found in all members of one population and in no members of any other. “

http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/elsi/minorities.shtml

237

politicalfootball 12.02.11 at 12:06 pm

There’s something I’ve wondered, and I think that this thread might be a good place to bring it up. Given the Flynn effect, which everybody acknowledges, how can it be possible to talk about IQ as something innate?

This is a particularly pointed question in regards to African Americans. I mean, some folks contend that racism and all of its effects have been banished from the U.S. today – I get that part. It’s nonsense, but I get it. However, are the Sullivans really serious that Jim Crow had no measurable impact on IQ?

238

kidneystones 12.02.11 at 12:25 pm

Hi Jack, thank you for the compliment, but I make a very poor left-wing ideologue. I’m pleased, too, that you have provided such useful quotes. You’d be better pleased, I suspect, if these quotes supported your assertion that ” race” exists, when in fact the qoutes confirm that HGP has provided a great deal of useful information about gene clusters. However, should you care to read your own quotes, you’ll note that the authors pointedly avoid employing the term race to describe these groupings and behaviors. The text clearly confirms that the authors are aware that these clusters have been classified as “race,” yet explicitly decide to reject the use of the term. Why? If your name is Andrew Sullivan, you’ll construct a scenario in which hard scientists spend their days worrying over the names they might be called by the PC police. Temp’s willingness to employ the term and your own appear raise questions about the cowering under the bed hypothesis. If the authors view “race” as a useful taxonomic term, instead of a historically loaded construct, the term would appear throughout the project rather than in isolation.

Just saying.

239

Walt 12.02.11 at 12:41 pm

I’m shocked, shocked to discover that such physical traits as epicanthic folds are genetic, and not socially constructed.

“Race” is not the observation that people from different parts of the world look different. Race is a constructed category that is superimposed on top of the raw physical facts, and functions as a political category. In the US, “Mexican” is not a subgroup of “Asian”, even though the ancestral non-European parentage of Mexicans came from Asia.

240

jack strocchi 12.02.11 at 12:45 pm

Pyre @ #231 said:

I thought The Bell Curve was very thoroughly debunked by its critics in two anthologies of articles: The Bell Curve Debate and The Bell Curve Wars.

Don’t bother holding that thought. There have been endless “debunkings” of the Bell Curve (TBC) but it still seems to have legs. Murray copped the mother of all flak attacks for breaching PC taboos. The way he has been relentlessly vilified has been unconscionable and a major reason why open minded people tend to distrust his critics.

No doubt there are any number of methodological flaws in his model. But most critics have strained on gnats whilst swallowing camels, and thereby lost the plot.

The major point of the TBC was not to prove the intellectual inferiority of colored people. It was to forecast the coming dominance of a cognitive elite. In that sense TBC was in the same line of futurism as “The Managerial Revolution” and “The Rise of the Meritocracy”.

TBC’s minor point was to establish a psychometric basis for the stereotypical rank ordering of racial IQ’s: Asian > Caucasian > African. Murray made no effort to establish a genetic basis for IQ disparities between the races since no conclusive evidence for such a proposition existed or currently exists.

Greg Cochran has a simple Fermi-style test for controversial ideas: if the model were true, would the world we see around us look similar to its conclusions?

Now we are nearly 20 years on from the publication of the TBC. The elite obsession with cognitive performance as the royal road to higher social status is, if anything, far beyond what Murray predicted. And the high-IQ Asian economic juggernaut continues its relentless roll across history’s terrain, surpassed only by even higher-IQ Masters of the Universe dominance in financial markets. Needless to say super high-IQ Azkhenazi Jews continue to scoop the pool in Nobel Prizes and the other, more prosaic, spoils of secular success.

By Cochran’s standard Murray’s model, for all its faults, looks pretty robust.

241

rf 12.02.11 at 12:56 pm

Jack
Thank you for the fully referenced, thoughtful response to the issues raised by you initial post. And for the snappy abbreviation TBC. All very helpful

242

Uncle Kvetch 12.02.11 at 1:00 pm

But personally, from reading his blog, I see him as little more than an adolescent controversialist, intent on taking extreme postions on topics he knows little about against some caricatured other to satisy his rampant ego.

This is as good (and concise) a description of Sullivan as any I’ve seen.

243

Tim Wilkinson 12.02.11 at 1:02 pm

I’ll hijack this thread if I may, pausing only to provide a quick token remark on temp’s My only claims are that 1) disparities between SIRE groups exist (the most important of which are socioeconomic) 2) the causes of these disparities are worth studying 3) this includes possible genetic causes., viz,. given there’s no usable genetics of ‘intelligence’, nor a fortiori any work done on attempting to apply that to racial categories, the ‘genetics’ element is entirely absent, and in fact (3) should read: ‘this includes positing some unobserved innate defect which displaces socioeconomic factors from the explanation of these socioeconomic phenomena’.

So anyway, just wanted to note that this charming DelRay character finally supplied some data about Amtrak just before the road fatalities thread closed ( http://crookedtimber.org/2011/11/22/u-s-traffic-accident-fatalities-2001-2009/#comment-389576)

laughing boy said: total fatalities by Amtrak in 2009 was 139. This is a fatality rate about of 0.023 per million passenger-miles.

The data ( http://safetydata.fra.dot.gov/OfficeofSafety/ProcessFile.aspx?doc=2010-AUGUST-PRELIM.pdf ) confirms the surmises of various commenters on that thread that the vast majority of these deaths were due to two causes: car drivers stopped or crawling on level crossings (the vast majority of which were fully-functioning gated crossings) and trespassers on the railway (of which the vast majority were on the tracks and hit by trains).

No information about the ratio of verdicts of suicide, misadventure, accident and unlawful killing is provided, but unlike car crashes these are certainly not ordinary ‘frictional’ accidents that follow almost inevitably from the nature of the mode of transport. Actual rail passenger deaths are low to negligible.

I haven’t looked at the road data; life’s too short. I do wonder if DelRay is silently consulting a secondary source for this data – if not he can presumably tell us exactly how his figure was arrived at, and whether it involved rounding up.

(Oh yeah and a quick word on Jack Strocchi – ignoring the distraction of coming dominance of a cognitive elite and the accompanying cretinism of if the model were true, would the world we see around us look similar to its conclusions?, I would query whether to establish a psychometric basis for the stereotypical rank ordering of racial IQ’s: is a respectable aim, and what this psychometric basis might be – did Murray invent IQ tests, perhaps? What is Strocchi talking about?)

244

vimothy 12.02.11 at 1:09 pm

What’s interesting to me, both as an outsider looking in on the whole debate, and as someone who doesn’t ever expect to be able to evaluate the evidence and come to his own conclusions any more than he expects to be able to design a plane before he books a flight on one, is that it is remarkably hard to untangle all the criticism and come to any sort of understanding even about what the disagreements are.

I haven’t the time to read Shazili’s essays on factor analysis and IQ, but from what I’ve gathered, they basically boil down to the idea that correlation is not causation.

The first thing that strikes me about this is that it seems like a fairly obvious criticism to make. Surely, any undergrad would be able to tell you much the same. Are the foundations of the heritability of IQ really so wobbly that all it takes is a mere, “haven’t you heard–correlation is not causation”, to bring the whole edifice crashing to the earth?

The second thing is, what exactly are we saying here–that there are measurable differences in IQ between “races” (or subpopulations or ethnicities or whatever you like), but that the mere fact of this correlation alone does not prove that these differences are caused by different genes?

In other words, doesn’t the “correlation is not causation” argument necessarily concede the fact of correlation, however it is then explained?

245

chris 12.02.11 at 1:12 pm

My only claims are that 1) disparities between SIRE groups exist (the most important of which are socioeconomic) 2) the causes of these disparities are worth studying 3) this includes possible genetic causes. I think 1 and 2 are uncontroversial among Americans on the left in any context other than this one.

Anyone on the left knows that socioeconomic disparities can be transmitted to later generations through cultural means regardless of the individual traits or capabilities of the people involved. Google “class system” or “cycle of poverty” for some basics. Indeed, it could be said that the ability to recognize the existence of this phenomenon, and the judgment that it is unjust, are necessary conditions for membership in the left, broadly defined.

Therefore, it is not necessary to resort to genetic explanations for a phenomenon (disparities in generation N+1) that already has known, observable environmental and social causes (disparities in generation N and how people react to/make assumptions about members of groups that had status x in generation N). Furthermore, unless you can manage to raise some people outside a society that has preconceived notions about different ethnic groups, you can’t get a really clean test of the genetic factors anyway.

The original historic causes of the SES disparities between ethnic groups (or whatever you want to call them) are obvious enough to not need much comment. It’s the insistence that a new cause must be found in each generation (followed by jumping to the conclusion that it must be genetics) that makes no sense; class disparities are quite capable of persisting after the original cause for them has vanished (and in this case there’s good reason to question whether it even *has* vanished completely, see, e.g., police behavior toward people of different ethnicities, and if it has it’s been less than a generation at most).

P.S. Strictly speaking, police, employers, etc. don’t behave toward people on the basis of their *self-identified* ethnicity, because they don’t know what it is; they behave on the basis of what *they* perceive the other person’s ethnicity to be. But I doubt this is a large difference in most cases.

246

Kevin Donoghue 12.02.11 at 1:13 pm

Readers who are place too much trust in Jack Strocchi should be warned that he truncated a sentence in his quotation above (235) without inserting any ‘…’ or the like to indicate that he was doing so. The full sentence reads: “These clusters are also correlated with some traditional concepts of race, but the correlations are imperfect because genetic variation tends to be distributed in a continuous, overlapping fashion among populations.”

I can’t always handle the truth, particularly regarding my need to cut back on booze and fatty foods, but I think I can handle that news reasonably well.

247

kidneystones 12.02.11 at 1:15 pm

How many studies are sampling the cognitive performance of groups randomly selected across the diverse Asian gene pool in Asia? Infant mortality and illiteracy rates in geographically isolated communities in China, Nepal, and Tibet remain high. Is that a function of higher cognitive abilities?

No sane person who has lived in Asia for any length of time would dream of suggesting that the Japanese, for example, possess any cognitive superiority because of their genetic groupings. The examples of everyday stupidity here are too frequent to enumerate. The fact that Japan’s vaunted engineers elected to place the back-up generators for the emergency cooling systems at coastal Fukushima in a basement would seem to blow a whole in the notion that the average Japanese decision maker possesses any sense at all.

I’m quite prepared to state that I am NOT familiar with the data Rushton and others cobble together to make their claims. However, I strongly suspect the sampling of Asians that appear in these “Asians are smarter” studies are studies of self-selected subsets of immigrants and non-native university applicants.

The fact that 50% of the Chinese applicants to a minor college in the US have perfect SAT scores in math tells us nothing about the math abilities of 1.3 plus Chinese people living in China. Having tutored one or two of these “prodigies,” I can attest to the fact that the children I taught were trained from birth to do nothing but to get perfect scores on US tests such as these.

Anyway, I’m right on the edge of writing something rude, so I’ll say so long.

248

politicalfootball 12.02.11 at 1:21 pm

Greg Cochran has a simple Fermi-style test for controversial ideas: if the model were true, would the world we see around us look similar to its conclusions?

This is just the sort of heuristic that allowed people to conclude that the Irish were inherently intellectually inferior. It’s not very helpful.

And the high-IQ Asian economic juggernaut continues its relentless roll across history’s terrain,

Huh? By any sensible economic measure, Asians have performed worse than Westerners for several centuries.

surpassed only by even higher-IQ Masters of the Universe dominance in financial markets.

Hah! I didn’t get that you were joking until I got here.

But Jack, maybe you can help me out – temp and DelRey appear to have gotten bored with this thread. Given the obvious and uncontradicted environmental influences on racial IQ measures, and given the steady performance on those measures by blacks relative to whites, how is it possible to contend that this performance is somehow genetic? (That’s just a restatement of my question in 237).

249

cian 12.02.11 at 1:30 pm

There have been endless “debunkings” of the Bell Curve (TBC) but it still seems to have legs.

That is because people with an unhealthy obsession with ‘race’ like its conclusions.

Murray copped the mother of all flak attacks for breaching PC taboos.

That and gross methodological incompetence, which somehow led him to some fairly racist conclusions.

The way he has been relentlessly vilified has been unconscionable

Well that and the fact that he’s never really admitted that he, you know, was wrong.

and a major reason why open minded people tend to distrust his critics

I think you mean “people with an unhealthy obsession with race”, rather than “open minded people”.

No doubt there are any number of methodological flaws in his model.

Yes massive flaws. Giant flaws. As a researcher he would seem either to be grossly incompetent, or was deliberately massaging his data to fit a pre-determined premise. For some reason a lot of people tend to find that kind of thing kinda disagreeable.

250

jack strocchi 12.02.11 at 2:01 pm

TTiming Wilkinson @ #824 sailor:

Oh yearnings andean a quickened worryingly on Jack Strengthen – ignorantly theodore dislocations of combative dominate of a cogent elicits andean there accommodate cream of if thebes modes werner truants, wound therapy worthy we seen arousal us looter simultaneous to itself consulates?,
This “creeper” of whipper youngster speakable is a parochial of Gregarious Cocoons’s backed of theoreticians environmental appaloosas to configuration idealism. Yours betties be pacifier somali heater-dutch interpolations headaches befouls youthes be district Cocaine. He eaton guyer likenesses youthful formosa brest.

Timid Wilfred sailor:

I wounding quester where to established a psychotherapy baselines formations theorization steed rants orderings of racket IQ’s: is a restlessly aimless, andrew whatley thinks psychiatry basic migration be – didactic Murders invoke IQ testifying, perilla? Whacked is Strained talkative abos?
Thereto stella rang ordinariness of racked IQ’s is mossberg defecting NOT a resin aiming. “Whale Stripe is tallchief aborting” is stupidities thatch guyed in barks liking to mounds officialdom above afternoons thereafter haven a haddad a fewest underwater theoretical below. Itself justify me beijing me. I wound’t paying it anybody minion. So plenary, appearer thereby idea witt cautiousness andes do noted attachments to perjure these at homeopath witching adults supplication.

Theology psychiatry baskets forewarning Murmuring’s wormed is…psychosis. Thanksgiving is to sayings theme foursome father andrew mosses succumbed prate of popularizing generation, staining andes psychosocial. Sometimes herewith together underestimate theorist claremont of therapist Longitude Schoolrooms of Diffract Psych. (Seen thea, appraiser situate, faraway-rigors colon of therefore lined map.) Guyers likening Darted (on a bad dayton), Galaxies, Speechless, Peale, Fishkill, Keyword (wheelers Presided of Eugenia Socks), Burying (eveready aftershocks he wasting vince), Godzilla (evensen aftershock he wasted vine), Okvetl, Jennings, Hamper and Bounty. Havana I forgetting anyhow? Oh yes, thoreau two swirled Crier andrew Watery, bottlers scouted of managerial forklift havoc or airlines simulate vietnam.

Buttocks notions Cosmology Shaped, wholeheartedly wounding’t be caustics dearly withholdings theories Longings Psych. Forwards thermostat lifeblood of me I do notarize knots wheel to pigeons hollerith thirtieth queenly covert. In factoring I havilland troubled folds his tract of thorn whistlers seethes to meanly aromatic brainy linseed witching array at anything versed descartes. Buttercup he doers seedlings might concernedly withdrew teams up thetis trauma so thankfulness other, informed descending, wagnerizes areas thoroughfares de-railroads. If youngster reachably wanting to follows a physicians wholesome knox historically generalists trying Coconut or Steeper Fbu.

Acclimates to Hendrick nonstandard of thermometers thiensville warrant civilize treads, letters aloes interpose resembled. Therapist muscled alliances be sweep intercommunicate theology Dusenberg of Historically or show downside a Memorabilia Hollywood andre be quixotism abounded it, thelma are chiseler aborts! Welches he shopped knobs, sinning he is thea curses worshipful healey-weider chat fortran haunts outlived disdains idealization forestalling yet anonymity bellyfull andalusian slick therapists shields international thoughtfully whores arenas unwind enormities to own to thereof. It doers’t seedlings to having donald himmler anyplace harming so I suggest we allowance pillory on whippers theatricals going is goofy.

251

Rich Puchalsky 12.02.11 at 2:01 pm

I understand that I’m supposed to have said all there is to say in my part of this, but:

kmack: “Anyway, I’ll go back to standing by while clever and passionate debate continues as to whether people like me are on average less intelligent somehow.”

kidneystones: “I just described this comment thread to a peer: how in 2011 academics are discussing what kinds of evidence might be used to measure the cognitive potential, not just performance, of different “human races.” Needless to say, my wide-eyed interlocutor expressed only loathing and surprise. Thanks to Henry for the excellent post.”

vimothy: “What’s interesting to me, both as an outsider looking in on the whole debate, and as someone who doesn’t ever expect to be able to evaluate the evidence and come to his own conclusions any more than he expects to be able to design a plane before he books a flight on one, is that it is remarkably hard to untangle all the criticism and come to any sort of understanding even about what the disagreements are.”

It looks like this post is indeed functioning as I thought it would. The controversy has become a “debate”, and people are carrying the news hither and yon that academics are debating this issue.

My original point stands.

252

Walt 12.02.11 at 2:23 pm

Greg Cochran is a racist. Full stop. The fact that you’re so impressed by him, Jack, says something about you.

Vimothy, I don’t know how to take your comment other than “I was too lazy to read anything about this subject. Here’s my view.”

253

Barry 12.02.11 at 2:28 pm

For those new to this blog, Jack has a very long and very nasty history here.

254

Tim Wilkinson 12.02.11 at 2:31 pm

Jack Strocchi You better be packing some heavy-duty intellectual heat before you be dissing Cochran.

I don’t give a toss if it came from you or some other idiot. I know a cretinous remark when I see one. I’m increasingly certain that you’re miscalibrating your own intellectual heat though, since you raise the issue.

He eats guys like you for breakfast. Yeah yeah

The rest is florid bluster of the mopst tedious kind, with much cowering behind various reputations. None of it addresses the issue of what Murray has done in that book to establish a psychometric basis for anything at all.

Rich – I’m sympathetic to your approach, and there are tricky issues of rhetoric and counter-agnotogeny involved. But I would much prefer vimothy were provided with some clarity. The other two comments you cite are tailored precisely to support your point, so are not confirmation of it.

255

cian 12.02.11 at 2:32 pm

Yeah it actually took Jack longer to turn up than I expected.

256

Uncle Kvetch 12.02.11 at 2:34 pm

Its just me being me. I wouldn’t pay it any mind.

As you wish, Jack.

257

Jeffrey Davis 12.02.11 at 2:36 pm

“Greg Cochran has a simple Fermi-style test for controversial ideas: if the model were true, would the world we see around us look similar to its conclusions?”

How is that NOT a tautology?

258

cian 12.02.11 at 2:37 pm

Vimothy: Short answer. First of all there is no real academic debate, any more than there is other global warming.

IQ is not a very good test of intelligence. Its the best test that we have, but its still not very good. It only measures certain aspects of intelligence – and we’re not really sure how performance on IQ tests correlates to general “intelligence”. So using it as a proxy for intelligence is already a problem.

It’s also influenced significantly by cultural and environment, the person’s ability to take tests, familiarity with the test and training for the test. Plus, for poor kids, the amount of sleep they get (big problem for poor urban kids), nutrition, etc. We also know that there is something called the Flynn effect – basically over the past 100 years IQ scores have been rising in developed countries, something which suggests that the score is not measuring innate ability, but something else. So using it as the basis for “hereditary” comparisons is kinda pointless at this point in time.

So basically, we don’t know what intelligence is, how to measure it effectively, how to separate environmental issues. We also have no idea how much of brain development is due to genetic factors, and how much environmental issues. So BIG problems already.

And that’s before you reach the problem that there is huge genetic variation within the “racial” groups that certain ‘racists’ think are worth comparing. If you were going to try and do a scientific study on these issues, and to be honest I don’t think its really feasible anyway given the state of today’s knowledge, you wouldn’t compare ‘races’. If on the other hand you had a racial project of some kind, you might well.

259

chris 12.02.11 at 2:50 pm

Yeah it actually took Jack longer to turn up than I expected.

I didn’t know this was one of his hobbyhorses; I thought he only showed up here to stalk Quiggin.

I could have gone right on not knowing, though. I wouldn’t have minded a bit, really.

P.S. I might feel bad about this being a digression from the thread, except that it doesn’t really have anywhere to go that’s worse than it already is, anyway. Not even personal insults: as kmack’s comment 224 demonstrates, the topic of discussion already *is* a personal insult to people to whom it applies personally. (And coming full circle, I think it’s quite likely that Sullivan would recognize this if his own ox were being gored, even without being paid to do so; so why doesn’t he when it’s someone else’s ox?)

260

SamChevre 12.02.11 at 2:57 pm

vimothy: short answer

Studying “intelligence” of “races” is a fool’s errand, if your interest is in mental function or in human genetics, since neither race and intelligence are well-defined terms.

However, if the question you want to answer is “Why can’t we use cheap, objective methods of evaluating likely performance as part of the hiring process” and the answer is “because the legal definitions of race result in different qualification rates by legally-defined race when we do”, then the generally ill-defined character of “race” and “intelligence” is rather irrelevant.

261

Salient 12.02.11 at 2:58 pm

The controversy has become a “debate”, and people are carrying the news hither and yon that academics are debating this issue.

The characterizations you describe are, basically, some mix of error and bullshit. They don’t bear any relationship to what Henry or Cosma said. Had we all remained silent, hoping that contemptuous silence alone would marginalize the ideologues, those misconceptions would propagate just as easily.

We are dealing with a swathe of media that sort of hates us, and sort of hates having to get stuff right instead of getting to just say stuff. Scientific practice and journalistic practice are widely divergent in this time and place, because circumspection and prudence are incompatible with enthusiastic scandal-mongering.

Our choice isn’t between an epic courtyard struggle of heroes and villains or a calm and measured insulation from extremists, as you seem to be suggesting. Those extremists already occupy the castle. Our choice is between an epic struggle of heroes and villains, or the uncontested rule of a hegemon asserting ‘truth’ in our absence.

You’re right: there’s a strong and reasonable sense in which we’re turning a one-sided ‘controversy’ into a debate. But that’s our best hope that our voices might be, possibly, hopefully, noticed by those who need to hear from us. The list in #40 upthread would be no shorter or less enthusiastic if we all swore an oath to do exactly as you have requested.

Vimothy, I don’t know how to take your comment

It might serve as anecdotal evidence that criticism falling under Rich’s first category (expert analysis) is useful only as ammunition to be deployed strategically in the endless war on economically inconvenient reality, and a casual reader directly exposed to a technical expert review may quite easily wander away hopelessly confused. The middle stage between analysis and dissemination, in which the analytical content is digested into off-the-cuff dismissive critical commentary soundbyte by soundbyte, is absolutely crucial.

262

Barry 12.02.11 at 3:01 pm

“Greg Cochran has a simple Fermi-style test for controversial ideas: if the model were true, would the world we see around us look similar to its conclusions?”

It *is* stunning in its stupidity. It blithely conflates social and genetic factors.

263

Henry 12.02.11 at 3:08 pm

Rich – It’s a “debate” in the sense that we don’t automatically ban people who seem to us to be making ridiculous claims, unless they become repeated pests. Not in any other. It’s quite obvious that temp and DelRey don’t have any good arguments, or even know anything about what they’re talking about – I can’t imagine that they have convinced anyone that this is a legitimate topic for inquiry.

And speaking of repeated pests, Jack Strocchi knows that he is banned from commenting on my posts. His comments have accordingly been Eated.

264

Uncle Kvetch 12.02.11 at 3:11 pm

politicalfootball: You really think Kvetch was talking about disparities in income?

temp: I actually don’t know what he meant.

For the record: Given the conversation thus far, I took temp’s statement

“Disparities between SIRE categories are actually pretty well known. That’s why things like affirmative action exist, for example.”

to imply disparities in innate capabilities — i.e., “Why else would affirmative action exist, if not for the fact that black people are inherently underequipped to compete with whites on a level playing field.” This was based on what I thought temp was getting at, but given her/his subsequent comments I see that this was probably a misinterpretation on my part. I’m still a bit fuzzy on exactly what temp was getting at, but I don’t think lumping her/him in with the Del Rey’s and Strocchi’s is warranted.

Anyhoo, Tom Bach in 197 provided the best response to what I thought temp was saying, and I have nothing to add to it.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled barroom brawl.

265

Rich Puchalsky 12.02.11 at 3:15 pm

“The characterizations you describe are, basically, some mix of error and bullshit. They don’t bear any relationship to what Henry or Cosma said. “

I didn’t say that they did. But you’re talking about *effects* — about whether relatively ignorant but well-meaning people have their minds changed in some direction.

“Our choice isn’t between an epic courtyard struggle of heroes and villains or a calm and measured insulation from extremists, as you seem to be suggesting. “

I don’t want to suggest that you’re straw-manning what I’m saying, because that implies that you have the intent to do so, but I don’t think that I ever suggested anything like that.

Given that Henry is not Cosma, putting a picture of Sullivan-as-Winnie-the-Pooh in the original post would have done it. No one could look back at that post and say “academics are debating this issue”, because gifs of Winnie instantly signal that this is not academic debate at a very basic level. Then Sullivan is not ignored — if you really want him to be not ignored, which I’m sort of giving up on arguing for at this point — but he doesn’t gain any dignity from the exchange either. Of course, Henry doesn’t gain any dignity from it either. That’s part of what I meant by “contempt for the process”.

266

bob mcmanus 12.02.11 at 3:15 pm

A simplistic metaphor, perhaps informed by Marxism praxis, for why I agree with Puchalsky and disagree with Cosma and Geo

We shouldn’t stand between Sullivan and his audience, trying to push people away from Sullivan, but put the audience between us and Sullivan, and pull them toward us.

Don’t refute or criticize the racists. Offer a more attractive alternative.

267

temp 12.02.11 at 3:19 pm

Right, so why are you arguing that instead of disentangling it, or using sophisticated ways of analysing the problem, we should instead use a gross, culturally constructed, category – within each of which there is huge genetic variation.

I still don’t get what you’re saying cian. European-Americans and African-Americans differ in many outcomes in the US. How exactly do you want to study why this is without using the concept of European-Americans and African-Americans?

268

Uncle Kvetch 12.02.11 at 3:27 pm

And coming full circle, I think it’s quite likely that Sullivan would recognize this if his own ox were being gored, even without being paid to do so; so why doesn’t he when it’s someone else’s ox?

When writing about LGBT issues, an integral part of Sullivan’s schtick in the early days was reassuring his heterosexual audience that a lot of their knee-jerk squickiness about gay people was actually well-founded…a lot of gay people really were quite squicky, flouncing around in spangled speedos in their Pride Parades and fucking anything that moves. And the liberals who controlled the LGBT political movement were too PC to say anything about it. Andrew, however, could courageously break that taboo and say what a lot of people were really thinking, you see, because while he was a gay man, he wasn’t that kind of gay man.

(Of course, ever since he was discovered trolling online for anonymous unprotected sex with fellow HIV+ men, he does a good deal less of this.)

In short, I think there’s a good chance that Sullivan’s response to Henry’s thought experiment in the OP would be to say “They’re not talking about me.”

269

politicalfootball 12.02.11 at 3:31 pm

I’m still a bit fuzzy on exactly what temp was getting at

Dunno. I thought temp was quite clearly flinging bullshit, then flinging more bullshit to try to cover the original bullshit. One hint would be that the word “income” appears nowhere in the thread until comment 195, while “disparities” exists a few dozen times. I suppose you can reconcile this if temp wants to say that disparities in income are genetic, but I agree with you that temp is running away from this interpretation.

I don’t think lumping her/him in with the Del Rey’s and Strocchi’s is warranted.

If temp were reluctant to be so lumped, temp could certainly say so.

270

temp 12.02.11 at 3:42 pm

cian@245: I agree with basically everything in this post. However, none of it precludes the possibility of genetic factors acting along with social factors. In response to politicalfootball@237 as well, no one claims that IQ is 100% innate.

For almost every complex trait there are both genetic and environmental factors influencing the trait. And for many traits, not just in humans but in all organisms, there is variation among populations from both genetic and environmental causes. Therefore, if you want to study why a trait is distributed in some way, it’s important to account for both.

Consider height, for example. We know it has genetic causes and environmental causes. There’s a “Flynn effect” to height in that improved nutrition has raised height levels in all ethnic groups. Yet it’s uncontroversial that some of the variation in height can be ascribed to genetics. And ethnic groups vary in height from both genetic and environmental causes.

271

Henry 12.02.11 at 3:47 pm

Rich – maybe this is a fundamental difference, but I simply don’t see how Andrew Sullivan gains any “dignity” from the post above. I’m not “debating this issue” with Sullivan. I’m calling him out. This seems to me to be more effective than posting a “Sully the Pooh” cartoon, which is going to be mystifying to those who weren’t following online debates five years or so ago, and which doesn’t do anything to convince people who weren’t already convinced.

All this said, sometimes a one-liner can be pretty effective too, if you’re good at it (and in the WSJ no less). “The Burden of Being a Seeker of Truth” would be a really, really good name for a really, really shitty emo band.

272

cian 12.02.11 at 4:06 pm

Temp if you can actually provide an argument for how comparing different SIRE groups effectively controls for environmental, educational and social factors then make the argument. Otherwise stop pretending that you know what you’re talking about. Anyone who was interested in understanding hereditary factors (which might include genetics) would not choose SIRE groups for the simple reason that it IS TOO DIFFICULT TO CONTROL FOR THE OTHER FACTORS.

Unless you can show otherwise, can you please stop wasting everybody’s time with this pathetic display of ignorance. Not knowing something is fine. Not knowing something, but pretending otherwise is not fine. Pretending to knowledge that you don’t have while pushing a fundamentally racist idea… that’s vaulting a line.

273

politicalfootball 12.02.11 at 4:10 pm

In response to politicalfootball@237 as well, no one claims that IQ is 100% innate.

Ah, but people do claim – you claim – that it might be partly attributable to standard racial categories. So my question is: It is alleged that blacks have been, for decades, a standard deviation behind whites in the U.S. in IQ. If you accept that piece of data, how is it possible to argue that this difference is genetic? To do so, you’d have to say that Jim Crow, etc., had no impact on racial disparities in IQ.

Or do you accept that the gap has closed? This, of course, raises a different set of issues.

(This is my third try at that question, and I think the first time I’ve stated it clearly.)

How exactly do you want to study why this is without using the concept of European-Americans and African-Americans?

You can certainly discuss these disparities using socially constructed categories, but only if you’re looking for socially constructed effects. Heck, the efforts to find African Americans genetically inferior is, in itself, one of those socially constructed effects.

274

Lemuel Pitkin 12.02.11 at 4:12 pm

the question you want to answer is “Why can’t we use cheap, objective methods of evaluating likely performance as part of the hiring process” and the answer is “because the legal definitions of race result in different qualification rates by legally-defined race when we do”

Can I just gently suggest that this complete BS? I do not believe that legal rules around race impose any noticeable constraint on the tests employers use in hiring (or schools use in admissions, etc.) the world is full of businesses making hiring decisions based in part on tests with systematic differences in scores between races. If businesses don’t use iq scores in place of college diplomas, the only reason is that they do not, in fact, think that iq scores are a better guide to someone’s desirability as an employee.

I know you feel you were deprived of your rightful opportunities because you didn’t have a BA until you were 27. (I didn’t have one until I was 29.) I’m certainly not going to defend this country’s obsession with degrees. But the idea that the reason for it is that we’re over-worried about racism, is stupid and grotesque.

275

temp 12.02.11 at 4:15 pm

Anyone who was interested in understanding hereditary factors (which might include genetics) would not choose SIRE groups for the simple reason that it IS TOO DIFFICULT TO CONTROL FOR THE OTHER FACTORS.

I’ve agreed with this every time you’ve brought it up and said it myself a few other times. If you want to understand the genetic factors of intelligence you should do studies in ethnically homogeneous populations. However, if you want to understand why SIRE groups differ in outcomes you need to actually study SIRE groups. Even if it’s only to apply the information you learned using studies in ethnically homogeneous populations.

276

temp 12.02.11 at 4:19 pm

It is alleged that blacks have been, for decades, a standard deviation behind whites in the U.S. in IQ. If you accept that piece of data, how is it possible to argue that this difference is genetic? To do so, you’d have to say that Jim Crow, etc., had no impact on racial disparities in IQ.
It’s plausible that Jim Crow had 2/3 standard deviation effect and genetics had a 1/3 standard deviation effect, for example. Or even that genetics had a 1/3 effect in the opposite direction and Jim Crow had a 4/3 standard deviation effect.

277

Salient 12.02.11 at 4:20 pm

Given that Henry is not Cosma, putting a picture of Sullivan-as-Winnie-the-Pooh in the original post would have done it. … Of course, Henry doesn’t gain any dignity from it either. That’s part of what I meant by “contempt for the process”.

Ok, I think I’m getting a slightly better sense of what you mean each exchange. The Pooh example helped. It seems we pretty much agree in theory, and just disagree very strongly about what constitutes a practical example of derision. I’d have been completely confused by the Pooh picture, I wouldn’t have found it derogatory (I like Pooh! He was so kind-hearted!) and especially importantly, I wouldn’t have had my attention called to the “Andrew Sullivan’s a miserable racism apologist” factoid at all — which, at least hypothetically, might mean that I’d click a link to Sullivan’s site a month later and allow myself to pay attention to what he said. Nonetheless, I can see how that representation of Sullivan-as-Pooh would communicate disdain for Sullivan’s apologetics and would hold significance for others.

Unless you can show otherwise, can you please stop wasting everybody’s time

Hrmm, asking a troll to stop wasting your time is like asking an advertising-distribution service to stop emailing their spam to you; all they’re looking for is evidence that your eyes are still noticing their words…

278

politicalfootball 12.02.11 at 4:26 pm

I can see how that representation of Sullivan-as-Pooh would communicate disdain

If you read Sullivan (as I’m afraid I do), you’d be aware of his self-identification as a “bear,” and thus understand the reference to “a bear of very little brain.”

279

politicalfootball 12.02.11 at 4:45 pm

It’s plausible that Jim Crow had 2/3 standard deviation effect and genetics had a 1/3 standard deviation effect, for example.

So Rushton et al are wrong when they say the one-standard-deviation has been a constant from Jim Crow days? Well, yes, that’s my opinion too, but his insistence on this – and his belief that this supports his case – pretty much gives away his game, doesn’t it?

We seem to agree that you can’t make Rushton’s argument without asserting that Jim Crow was meaningless, and that making that assertion would be absurd.

So okay, you could theorize all you want about genetic disparities, but why do so in the absence of evidence? After all, not only could the disparity be 50% or 100% due to environmental effects, it could be 150% due to environmental effects – Africans could be genetically intellectually superior – though for some reason Rushton, Murray et al don’t seem interested in exploring this possibility.

Once you’re committed to using socially constructed categories to discuss genetic differences – especially in a field where social circumstances unambiguously play a huge role – it’s easy to make up whatever story you want, especially if you’re not too fastidious about the statistics. cian has explained this very well, most recently in capital letters in 272.

280

Rich Puchalsky 12.02.11 at 4:48 pm

I’m not saying that a specific thing from years ago would suddenly be effective now — it’s like Atrios calling someone Very Serious; if you had skipped all of the build-up over the years, you might not understand what the point was. It’s just an example.

Look, I’m sorry to keep commenting on this, but as long as people still seem to be confused about what I’m writing…

Henry: “I simply don’t see how Andrew Sullivan gains any “dignity” from the post above. I’m not “debating this issue” with Sullivan. I’m calling him out.”

But I quoted three different people who, honestly or not, were interpreting the resulting thread as a “debate”. Are people actually reading your post, or are they just treating it as having existence value? That’s why an image of something silly tends to work; it’s a very basic signal that people have trouble skipping over.

I’m not saying that CT should try to become a poor man’s Poor Man. Different styles are involved, to put it mildly… I’m saying that there are unavoidable costs involved in posts like this, even if you think that you’re being clear that you’re calling someone out. CT is committed more or less explicitly to a style of engagement that unavoidably in attached to all posts here and that in my opinion really should be used only for people who are actually worth engaging.

281

temp 12.02.11 at 4:55 pm

So okay, you could theorize all you want about genetic disparities, but why do so in the absence of evidence?

There’s no reason to theorize in the absence of evidence. And I’ve made no claim whatever about how much differences in outcomes actually are a result of genetics. All I’m saying is that it’s worthy of study. Some people make the argument that SIRE-group disparities cannot possibly be due to genetic factors because of some problem with the concept of race itself. This argument is wrong. The wrongness of this argument does not imply that genetic factors are important, does not apply that if they are important they go in a particular direction, does not imply that social factors aren’t important or don’t overwhelm genetic factors, etc. It does mean that we cannot dismiss genetic explanations by working from first principles; we actually have to do experiments and analyze data.

282

politicalfootball 12.02.11 at 5:13 pm

It does mean that we cannot dismiss genetic explanations by working from first principles; we actually have to do experiments and analyze data.

Right. But after you do the experiments and analyze the data, you’re pretty much stuck with the conclusion that there’s no measurable inborn difference in racial IQs. Rushton, Murray et al are basically making shit up – and not new shit either. The same stories have been told for a long time, with the same scientific basis.

Folks here have made the claim that we lack the tools, so far, to make good judgments about the racial basis for disparities in IQ. I’d say it slightly differently: The tools we have – and they are considerable – show no meaningful evidence of a racial impact on disparities in IQ. One could imagine developing better tools – say, for example, by ditching SIRE categories – but nobody’s going to do that because it doesn’t look like a fruitful line of inquiry for either the scientists or the racists, because everyone pretty much understands the overwhelming role of social effects on IQ scoring.

Given the copious available evidence, it’s pretty much impossible, in good faith, to attribute differences in test-scoring to innate racial qualities. Pretty much the only thing you’ve got is a crude correlation between IQ scores and racial categories – and the concepts of IQ and race, as we have seen, are fraught.

283

bob mcmanus 12.02.11 at 5:21 pm

Rich, you are doing exactly what Henry is doing. You are by no means tough enough. The real serious left doesn’t bother with these places, not does the serious right.

Heck, Henry why don’t you engage the full-on Nazis and Klan instead of ole Andy? I mean, the real Aryan nation types? Too fringe, too small an audience?

You, and cosma and geo, are admitting Sullivan to your center, and your center is not defined by his beliefs or your beliefs or his accuracy or sanity or how unspeakably evil he might be, but by his popularity, by how many people read him and take him seriously.

You and Geo would stand on a stage and try to intellectually debate ovens with Himmler, if Himmler had 40% of the vote. This is, frankly, the fatal flaw of liberalism, it always empowers its worst enemies.

And that is not even to speak of the tone and methods of debate, the rationalism or mockery. Sometimes outrage in the strongest, most emotional terms is the only moral response.

284

cian 12.02.11 at 5:25 pm

Some people make the argument that SIRE-group disparities cannot possibly be due to genetic factors because of some problem with the concept of race itself. This argument is wrong.

Actually the argument is more subtle than this. There is huge genetic variation within all these “races”. This means among other things that if there was a genetic component to intelligence*, then within both of those categories you could get huge variation. So for example, say that the genetic component means that “Afro-Americans” are 120% smarter than “whites” (given all the environmental, social and educational disadvantages – hey, its a possibility). But lets say that the Afro-American community contains a wider range of “distinct ethnicities” (I know, I know – but its my stupid parable), and a wider range of “intelligence distributions”. So that ethnicity A within the Afro-American community has the lowest average “intelligence” of all groups – white and black -, while ethnicity B has the highest “intellgience of all groups, white and black. Then really, what the hell have we learnt here? Why would this be a meaningful, or useful exercise for anyone other than those with a desperate need to resurrect tired racist tropes?

* and this is far from proven – despite what excitable opinion journalists might think – even though there are reasons with the limited knowledge we have today to think that there probably is a contribution.

285

cian 12.02.11 at 5:27 pm

You, and cosma and geo, are admitting Sullivan to your center, and your center is not defined by his beliefs or your beliefs or his accuracy or sanity or how unspeakably evil he might be, but by his popularity, by how many people read him and take him seriously.

Dude, the mainstream media admitted Sullivan to the “centre”.

286

geo 12.02.11 at 5:33 pm

bob @266: Don’t refute or criticize the racists. Offer a more attractive alternative

Why one or the other? Do we have only 140 characters? Are we assuming a 5-second attention span?

287

Barry 12.02.11 at 5:36 pm

politicalfootball: “So Rushton et al are wrong when they say the one-standard-deviation has been a constant from Jim Crow days? “

Yes.

288

P O'Neill 12.02.11 at 5:36 pm

All this said, sometimes a one-liner can be pretty effective too, if you’re good at it (and in the WSJ no less). “The Burden of Being a Seeker of Truth” would be a really, really good name for a really, really shitty emo band.

Well, Pains of Being Pure at Heart was already taken, equally applicable to Sully — and they’re pretty good!

289

temp 12.02.11 at 5:40 pm

But after you do the experiments and analyze the data, you’re pretty much stuck with the conclusion that there’s no measurable inborn difference in racial IQs.

Which experiments and data are you referring to? Cosma Shalizi, for example, makes no such claim in any of his posts on this topic.

290

bob mcmanus 12.02.11 at 5:48 pm

First you mock them
Then you scream obscenities at them
Then you get your pitchforks and tire irons
Then you win, because the people see you give a damn

The political question is:What is at risk? What have I put on the table I can’t afford to lose?

I doubt Henry has even gotten Sully’s attention. If Sully called his lawyers and Henry’s employers, I might begin to get interested.

I could keep this up til I got banned, but I can’t stand these Habermasian assholes anymore. Unclean around here.

Rich, abandon hope. There is none here.

291

kmack 12.02.11 at 5:53 pm

There has been a tired debate about racialism in the resulting thread. Yet the post itself, per the stated intent merely to call out Sullivan, did not seriously prompt this debate nor dignify racialist “ideas.” That such discussion was likely to follow here was, however, easily foreseeable.

A simple solution that would accommodate posts meant only to ridicule and not also to occasion insulting debate is to not open such posts to comments.

292

politicalfootball 12.02.11 at 5:57 pm

Which experiments and data are you referring to? Cosma Shalizi, for example, makes no such claim in any of his posts on this topic.

If Shalizi contradicts me, I’d be interested in seeing it.

Anyway, here’s a pretty standard-looking discussion of Rushton and Jensen, for instance. This stuff isn’t unusual.

Which experiments and data are you referring to? You don’t seem to be willing to defend Rushton. Is there somebody doing serious research in these fields who says that we do, in fact, have a basis for making genetic distinctions regarding intelligence among racial groups?

293

Henri Vieuxtemps 12.02.11 at 6:09 pm

Otto, 232 People think because things are not organic or natural that they are not real. This is not true.

In that case, a lot of things we don’t believe are real should be accepted as real. Take god, for example. He’s a social construct. There are real religious institutions and various real manifestations of belief in god all around us. Churches, mosques, religious TV channels. Manifestations are real, but I’m sure most people (around here) know that deities themselves are not.

Same with races: racism is real, but races aren’t.

294

Jeffrey Davis 12.02.11 at 6:12 pm

I’ve never understood the whole genetic propagation mechanism that fast-tracked the superior intelligence mutation through the Ashkenazim during the Middle Ages. 500 years prior they’re as dumb as the rest of us. Then, there’s a mutation. And fast forward 500 years, they’re getting all the good slots in Harvard and Princeton. (Or would have if not for the white quota system.) All the non-business savvy Jews died so that the normal gene didn’t endure? That’s one farkin’ poisonous gene. How’d they endure before then?

295

Malaclypse 12.02.11 at 6:15 pm

A simple solution that would accommodate posts meant only to ridicule and not also to occasion insulting debate is to not open such posts to comments.

While I thought the original thread was worthwhile, certainly at this point the thread has degenerated to a whole lot of comments by 1) people who could not possibly be racists themselves, but simply happen by a remarkable coincidence to agree with racists in all matters, and 2) people who believe that the first group are actually debating in good faith.

I’m taking the pledge to stop feeding group 1. I’d ask the people in group 2 to consider doing the same.

296

Josh Jasper 12.02.11 at 6:37 pm

You only have to ask yourself, what does Andrew Sullivan think OF HIMSELF

This is not the only time I have encountered this moral problem as a writer. Was I wrong to take reparative therapy seriously as an argument and accord some respect to its claims as to the origin of homosexuality, as I did in Love Undetectable?

Seriously. Sullivan cited the discredited work of anti-gay bigots, and took it seriously, defending it as if it might be valid science. And he feels not even the slightest trace of shame because he claims he’s searching for “the truth”.

This is like a Jew citing the protocols of the elders of zion as potentially valid historical research

297

DaveL 12.02.11 at 6:37 pm

I finally had a little time to read some of the posts by Cosma Shalizi, and one quote strikes me as particularly relevant to this discussion (emphasis added):

More interestingly, conditions like Williams’s Syndrome, Downs’s Syndrome, etc., are genetically caused, and lead to reasonably predictable patterns of cognitive deficits, affecting different abilities in different ways. In many of these cases, it seems very likely (but is not yet established) that these variants cause problems with the signaling pathways which set how gene expression responds to environmental cues.

This seems to me to be right on the mark (and given that it was written in 2007, a little prescient); more and more we are seeing that a single-minded concentration on the genes themselves is too simplistic, as the path from genes to actual expression in the organism is equally if not more important. She also talks about how one can intervene (medically, nutritionally, etc.) to modify these effects in many cases, using as one example phenylketonuria.

Life is almost always much more complicated than reductionists believe. Some collection of genes defines you as “black,” and if you have it, you also have a lower IQ, another single variable, “80% heritable.” Not in the real world.

298

J— 12.02.11 at 6:37 pm

All threads at the Poor Man Institute are completely free of stupid comments. You might not believe but it’s like that.

299

Mandos 12.02.11 at 8:11 pm

People, people. The correct response to the “what if it were twoooo” argument is that, if it were true, then we should immediately institute a mandatory endumbening serum injection program for non-blacks.

This may not have been what they had in mind, but it’s the obvious solution.

300

David in NY 12.02.11 at 9:06 pm

Thanks for appreciative reception of comment #40. I myself was stunned to re-read it and find that some idiot from, of course, Commentary had the effrontery to compare “The Bell Curve” to Michael Harrington’s “The Other America.” Nausea ensued ….

301

rf 12.02.11 at 10:47 pm

For anyone thats still paying attention to this thread, and as my final low-rent input taking into consideration Rich Puchalsky’s wise words, I think its worth selectively reading Sullivans final post on the matter in the context of the first 40 seconds of the below clip. (The resemblance is uncanny)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tzsp7Kshhdg&feature=related

“In my role as a truth-seeker – and it is a role not my being – compassion and empathy are irrelevant. Except they aren’t….. And to tell you the truth, I wonder whether my Christian faith is, in fact, compatible with the work I do. My compulsion to get to the bottom of highly contentious issues and my fixation on subjects where others smartly conclude the costs outweigh the gains ensure that I will continue to hurt people’s feelings. At one level, I wonder if this gift of freedom is not poisoned by my attraction to controversy rather than truth…. I just know that it is hard for me to be a writer any other way. It seems to be in my nature – a querulous, insistent curiosity that sometimes relishes the hostility it often provokes…… One resolution to this conflict is to quit the public arena for areas of life where general truths are not so central; to find another way to make a living, and live it without the danger of hurting so many feelings. Throughout my life, I have considered doing this, for spiritual, moral and religious reasons. I fear there are too many times when I hurt more than heal, even though I don’t intend to hurt. I fear that insisting on finding out reality at the expense of charity and empathy is not something a Christian should do lightly, if at all.”

302

Donald Johnson 12.02.11 at 10:52 pm

“You, and cosma and geo, are admitting Sullivan to your center, and your center is not defined by his beliefs or your beliefs or his accuracy or sanity or how unspeakably evil he might be, but by his popularity, by how many people read him and take him seriously.

You and Geo would stand on a stage and try to intellectually debate ovens with Himmler, if Himmler had 40% of the vote. This is, frankly, the fatal flaw of liberalism, it always empowers its worst enemies.

And that is not even to speak of the tone and methods of debate, the rationalism or mockery. Sometimes outrage in the strongest, most emotional terms is the only moral response.”

The issue Bob M and Rich P raise is a lot more interesting than Sully’s post is in itself. Where do you draw the line between positions that should not be debated (only mocked and scorned) and those that should? It’s sort of a perennial question and I’ve never known the answer.

303

SamChevre 12.02.11 at 11:34 pm

Lemuel Pitkin @ 274
I know you feel you were deprived of your rightful opportunities because you didn’t have a BA until you were 27.

What I said sounded that way, but that’s not true. I was lucky; my test scores got me into college, I’m reasonably good at schoolwork, and I got a college degree. Life would have been a little easier if I’d been able to get a better job before that, yes.

The people who weren’t quite as lucky, though–my peers? The ones who had too much else going on to go to college in their mid-20′s? The one who would have qualified as an electrician in another 6 months when KY changed the licensing standard to include an associate’s degree or 8 years of apprenticeship, rather than a test (which he’d already passed) and 2 years of apprenticeship? They got screwed.

304

Barry Freed 12.02.11 at 11:48 pm

@DaveL

“She also talks about how one can intervene (medically, nutritionally, etc.) to modify these effects in many cases, using as one example phenylketonuria.”

Cosma is a dude.

305

Barry Freed 12.02.11 at 11:49 pm

He’s also the dude, but that was beside my point.

306

b9n10nt 12.03.11 at 2:03 am

A blog by the dude would be way cool:

“hey guys, new information has come to light, man…”

307

geo 12.03.11 at 2:43 am

Donald @301: Is it really an interesting question? We all want a sane and healthy polity, which means as few widely-held vicious and irrational opinions as possible. If one or another such opinion is widely held, you can mock it, rebut it, or ignore it, depending on which you think will lead soonest to its extinction. Probably each of these three tactical responses will help the process along at least a little. What probably won’t help at all is furiously and persistently rebuking those who choose a different tactic from your preferred one. Bob M. complains that the besetting sin of liberals is empowering their enemies; perhaps the besetting sin of radicals is quarreling with their friends?

308

J. Otto Pohl 12.03.11 at 7:04 am

Henri I submit that both God in a sense of creator and omnipotent being and race as a legal category, classification, and way the state groups human beings are very real. I am not going to try and prove the existence of God here. But, I think the historical examples of the massive amounts of paperwork by governments as diverse as the US, Nazi Germany, and apartheid South Africa just to give the most blatant examples show that race did exist as a very real legal category created by the state. The fact that it is a legal rather than biological classification does not make it less real. I would also submit that such constructs as class and gender are real as well. But, they tend to have a lot less evidence in the form of massive amounts of government documents than the piles devoted to classifying people as belonging to specific racial groups.

309

temp 12.03.11 at 8:51 am

politicalfootball@292:

In Appendix B of Nisbett’s book, Intelligence and How to Get It, Nisbett repeats the claims he made in the article you linked. Here is his introduction:

I review and dispute the evidence that the IQ gap between blacks and whites is substantially genetic in origin. The case for genetics is presented in the chapter on race and intelligence in The Bell Curve by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray (1994) and in the rcent review article by Phillipe Rushton and Arthur Jensen (2005). But many other scientists would also endorse at least some of the contentions below about genetic determination.

This is followed by a list of claims of a genetic race-IQ link.

This is not the tone of someone arguing for the consensus position. I cannot imagine, for example, a climate scientist writing such a paragraph about climate denialists. Nisbett is on one side of an unresolved scientific controversy.

Take the publication “Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns” from the American Psychological Association, about as close as I can get to a “mainstream” position among psychologists, published in response to The Bell Curve:

African American IQ scores have long averaged about 15 points below those of Whites, with correspondingly lower scores on academic achievement tests. In recent years the achievement-test gap has narrowed appreciably. It is possible that the IQ-score differential is narrowing as well, but this has not been clearly established. The cause of that differential is not known; it is apparently not due to any simple form of bias in the content or administration of the tests themselves. The Flynn effect shows that environmental factors can produce differences of at least this magnitude, but that effect is mysterious in its own right. Several culturally-based explanations of the Black/White IQ differential have been proposed; some are plausible, but so far none has been conclusively supported. There is even less empirical support for a genetic interpretation. In short, no adequate explanation of the differential between the IQ means of Blacks and Whites is presently available.

So, I stand by my position that the factors that cause SIRE-group disparities in the US are not known and merit further study, including genetic factors.

The admixture studies Nisbett cites are interesting, but antiquated. We can measure admixture much more precisely now. If a genetics-based admixture study of sufficient sample size showed no or very weak correlation between percent European ancestry and IQ among self-identified blacks, that would be very strong evidence against a genetic cause.

But I’m not actually that interested in discussing the evidence, since I’m not an expert in the field. Once you’re at the place Nisbett is we basically agree. Note that Nisbett never makes any kind of “race is a social construct” argument: he implicitly acknowledges that genetic explanations are a priori plausible and proceeds to make an empirical case against them. That’s exactly the discussion scientists should be having.

310

hellblazer 12.03.11 at 9:41 am

Any chance HF could fix Salient’s comment?

311

Henri Vieuxtemps 12.03.11 at 10:45 am

Otto, so you believe that omnipotent creator-god is real, fine. What about pagan gods? Not too long ago they were as real (from your point of view) as demanding human sacrifices, punishing people by natural disasters and so on.

What I’m saying is that a large number of people believing in something doesn’t make it real, even if they build institutions around their belief that affect everybody in very significant ways. Yes, it certainly is a real social phenomenon, but the objective materialistic basis for it is simply not there. The idol is just a piece of wood.

312

J. Otto Pohl 12.03.11 at 12:50 pm

The objective material basis for race is ancestry or descent from specific cultural groups. People classified by the Nazis as Jews really did have some ancestors that practiced Judaism. People classified as Black in the US generally before 1965 changed the immigration laws did have some ancestors that were brought to the US as slaves. But even after 1965 people like Obama can almost all trace their descent to people who were in Africa or the Caribbean until recently. People classified as Asian in South Africa had ancestors from what was British India. I am failing to see how this is not real? In any situation where a discriminated against group is viewed as being based on descent or ancestry I think we can say there is race involved. People really do have ancestors and those ancestors did have markers such as phenotypes, geographical origins, religion, and language. If you reject the idea of race even as an artificially (man made) category then you can’t talk about racism. The racist is discriminating against people based upon something and that something turns out to be ancestry.

313

Kevin Donoghue 12.03.11 at 1:07 pm

“The racist is discriminating against people based upon something and that something turns out to be ancestry.”

Sorta true. It’s more like perceived ancestry, since Blackness or Jewishness is in the eye of the beholder. It’s quite likely that Barack and Michelle Obama have a closer ancestral link to Andrew Sullivan than they have to each other. In Rwanda it was an identity card which determined whether a family was Hutu or Tutsi. Ancestry itself can’t be the “objective material basis” for race because very few people know in sufficient detail who their ancestors were. Basically, you’re a member of a lesser race if the guys with the power say you are. If they are being nice they may consult you, in which case we are talking about Temp’s beloved SIRE-groups.

314

Andrew F. 12.03.11 at 1:10 pm

Another possibility is that Sullivan was confronted both with cogent rebuttals as well as knee-jerk accusations of racism. Perhaps the latter made more of an impression on him than the former, and so here we are. His reactions may be less bad faith than a perhaps understandable overweighting of the more fraught responses to him.

For my part, one of the great problems with books like TBC is that, due to the psychological impact of its claims, an enormous amount of time and effort is all but compelled to be invested in examining its claims, regardless of the merit of the claims or the utility of the claims. I would love to see a total cost analysis of TBC for society.

315

Barry 12.03.11 at 1:22 pm

J. Otto Pohl: “The fact that it is a legal rather than biological classification does not make it less real. “

For the purposes of this discussion, it doesn’t. By the standard you’re proposing, we should be studying Lamarckian genetics, because the USSR said that it was real.

316

Barry 12.03.11 at 1:39 pm

Andrew F. 12.03.11 at 1:10 pm

” Another possibility is that Sullivan was confronted both with cogent rebuttals as well as knee-jerk accusations of racism. Perhaps the latter made more of an impression on him than the former, and so here we are. His reactions may be less bad faith than a perhaps understandable overweighting of the more fraught responses to him.”

When one endorses lies, one is not entitled to be disturbed that many responses are not polite. And ‘The Bell Curve’ was trashed immediately, it’s not like the rebuttals were only available 15 years[1] later.

” For my part, one of the great problems with books like TBC is that, due to the psychological impact of its claims, an enormous amount of time and effort is all but compelled to be invested in examining its claims, regardless of the merit of the claims or the utility of the claims. I would love to see a total cost analysis of TBC for society.”

I’m sure that the world would have been better off if the authors had never lived, but the costs of that one bundle of lies are just insignificant atom of the costs of racism overall.

[1] 15 years where Andrew blithely feigned ignorance.

317

Henri Vieuxtemps 12.03.11 at 2:20 pm

Otto, well, again, it seems to me that defining (scientific) races based on ancestry is about as meaningful as defining pagan gods based on natural phenomena, like wind, thunderstorm, seasons of the year. Or that the fact that some people have red hair is the scientific proof of the idea that meeting a redhead brings bad luck. Anyway, unless I’m mistaken, all the human being alive today have a common ancestor who lived only a couple of thousand years ago.

318

J. Otto Pohl 12.03.11 at 2:57 pm

Henri: No the races are arbitrary constructs of the state not anything scientific. They just happen to have some small arbitrary kernel of reality in most cases. You don’t need to know everybody’s ancestor to classify them. If you know their surname and skin color you can usually assign a race based upon ancestry under the racial classification systems employed by most states. According to the British government my race is Non-British, Non-Irish White and according to the US government it is just old plain White. The Irish evidently being a race in the UK, but not the US. But, you can get that from looking at me and noting my name. It is true though that all of my grandparents were White and none of them had Irish surnames. There are some exceptions Japanese as White in S. Africa, Black Jamacians as Europeans in the Gold Coast Colony, etc. But, Kevin is close to my position regarding the guys with guns theory. They can make somebody any race they want. So Pushkin in the USSR is Russian and in the US he would have definitely been Black. Although he had some African ancestry he had more Russian. I would say that it is still ancestry although as I noted it is pretty arbitrary. It is not some sort of exact recitation of lineage. If a guy has one African ancestor or one Jewish Grandparent he inherits the same legal classification as that distant ancestor under some systems. Ultimately the legal classification is what the state decides, but again it is usually based on some connection to ancestry. So there is no science here. But, the classification is real once its made. If it were not then it would not have mattered that the Nazis classified some people as Jews or the South Africans some people as Black. After all if race is a myth and does not even have a social reality who cares? The fact is that this legal classification had deadly real effects on the life chances of some people. In some cases it ended their life. That is as real as it gets. And yes all humans are ultimately descended from one guy in Africa. That hardly stops governments from dividing people up according to where their more recent ancestors came from.

Lamarckian genetics is hardly comparable with systems of racialized exclusion. Such systems clearly do and did exist. The basis of their discrimination is not anything scientific. But, there usually is some purported justification of these people having different ancestors than the people engaged in the discriminatory behavior.

I am not sure why people deny the reality in terms of the legal and other disabilities of being classified as a member of a stigmatized race by a racially exclusive state. Was Jim Crow just a myth?

319

Henri Vieuxtemps 12.03.11 at 3:14 pm

Oh, it’s definitely a social reality, no one in their right mind would deny that. But the whole point here is that it’s treated as a scientific biological fact.

320

JanieM 12.03.11 at 3:31 pm

How long ago we had a common ancestor.

*****

Kevin Donoghue: It’s quite likely that Barack and Michelle Obama have a closer ancestral link to Andrew Sullivan than they have to each other.

Nice way to explain it for people who aren’t up to following Cosma’s thought trains. ;)

*****

I was once at a diversity conference where a couple of people were going on about their Mayflower ancestry and how it both was and wasn’t important. (Kind of concern trollishly, before the phrase was invented.) I pointed out that my own earliest known ancestor on this continent (from the not-recent-immigrant side of the family), at 10 generations back (New Haven, 1637), was one of roughly 1,000 ancestors I would have had in that generation, taking the most simple-minded mathematical approach. They were talking 11 generations, so 2,000 ancestors.

Even assuming that the math is nowhere near that simple because of crossing lines, etc., it’s easy to see how taking it a couple thousand years back instead of 400 makes us all 35th cousins (or something).

321

politicalfootball 12.03.11 at 3:51 pm

Not sure who you’re debating here, temp. As I’ve said, I don’t have any problem with research into the genetic roots of intelligence. A lot of this research has been done, with some very robust results that fail to show a plausible connection – as your quote from the APA attests.

Honestly, I don’t even have a problem with racists doing that research. Racists can be scientists, too, as Watson, for example, demonstrates. If there really is a measurable connection between something that’s legitimately called “intelligence” and something that’s legitimately called “race,” the racists will no doubt be the first to figure it out.

My problem is with racists using a political agenda to distort science in order to resurrect tropes that were correctly rejected by science many decades ago – with Murray, Rushton et al leading the pack. I also have a problem with hacks like Sullivan and Saletan who aren’t interested in familiarizing themselves with the issues, but who popularize the pseudo-scientific work of racists.

322

cian 12.03.11 at 4:29 pm

If there really is a measurable connection between something that’s legitimately called “intelligence” and something that’s legitimately called “race,” the racists will no doubt be the first to figure it out.

Possibly, but in the meantime lets not pretend that their interest is driven purely by racism, rather than scientific enquiry. Disinterested scientific studies would not start there.

323

Salient 12.03.11 at 4:29 pm

I am failing to see how this is not real?

It’s real in the sense you mean it, but not real in the sense the folks talking with you mean it. It’s real as a social phenomenon, the construction of which centers around perceived phenotype characteristics. One’s “social” race is quite a real characteristic, and one cannot choose their social race except in very rare cases where the perceived phenotype characteristics are sufficiently ambiguous. But it’s not real in the sense that the human population cannot be divided meaningfully into “biological” races, divided by phenotype, such that one such biological race could meaningfully demonstrate biological superiority over another such race. It would be an arbitrary distinction in the context of aggregating and averaging for information about biological characteristics, such as for the purpose of determining, e.g., that one such race is worthy of ruling over another, due to the former race’s superior biological traits.

tl;dr it’s a dispute over social vs biological context, and there’s probably not as much actual disagreement as there appears to be regarding whether or not singling out race as a causative characteristic for one’s biological intelligence is bad nonsense.

324

Substance McGravitas 12.03.11 at 6:12 pm

Another possibility is that Sullivan was confronted both with cogent rebuttals as well as knee-jerk accusations of racism. Perhaps the latter made more of an impression on him than the former, and so here we are.

Any reader can have any opinion they like so long as it’s white.

325

cian 12.03.11 at 6:59 pm

Arggh. Above should have said: “Possibly, but in the meantime lets not pretend that their interest is not driven purely by racism”

326

Bruce Baugh 12.03.11 at 7:10 pm

I realize that it’s very late in the thread, but after pondering it overnight, I want to call BS on something Sullivan said in a follow-up/wrap-up post, to the effect of “I’m sorry I was so detached and analytical to the extent it bothered Ta-Nahesi Coates”.

He was nothing of the sort.

Like P.J. O’Rourke and a lot of other conservatives of about the same vintage, he’s still haunted by the ghost of political correctness past. The experience of a moderately censorious academic leftism in the ’80s and early ’90s clearly traumatized these guys much more than, say, anything that the Occupy movement is talking about. Sullivan can talk civilly about and to people who think his sexuality is a sinful disease and that he should be locked in an interment camp for having AIDS, but being told that the idea of racial differences in IQ is discredited old nonsense and that he should be ashamed for peddling it still infuriates him.

I’ve had some treatment for lingering stress trauma, and I recognize the addictive fascination of the source of old wounds. But one of the keys to recovery is accepting responsibility for the failures that are one’s own fault, alongside refusing to accept the burden of others that aren’t. Sullivan may not have ever liked the style of advocates of protective speech codes 20-30 years ago, but they were a lot more right than he was, and it’s his heroes who are blowing up civil society, not those folks.

He can come to terms with that, and also stop pretending that he’s doing anything but still raging childishly about old hurts.

327

DelRey 12.03.11 at 8:17 pm

“Race” is not the observation that people from different parts of the world look different.

No, with respect to the issue of genetic differences, “race” means a human subpopulation characterized by genetic divergence arising from a very long period of geographical isolation. The most obvious markers of that divergence are significant differences in the genes relating to skin color, hair color and form, and the shapes of certain facial features. There may also be significant differences in the genes related to cognitive function.

Race is a constructed category that is superimposed on top of the raw physical facts, and functions as a political category.

Then EVERY scientific category is “a constructed category that is superimposed on top of the raw physical facts.” Sex is such a category. Species is such a category. You’re not saying anything here relevant to the issue.

328

temp 12.03.11 at 8:24 pm

Not sure who you’re debating here, temp.

1. People who claim that the real meaning of “race” or whether SIRE groups in America actually constitute such a thing has anything to do with the scientific debate
2. People who claim that it’s fundamentally impossible for differences between SIRE groups to be explained by genetics because SIRE groups aren’t internally homogeneous/most genetic variation exists within populations/AA’s aren’t reproductive isolated from Europeans/the populations are not genetically distinct and therefore all empirical research in the topic is a waste
3. People who claim that we shouldn’t be studying the subject because the knowledge is useless or harmful

329

Henri Vieuxtemps 12.03.11 at 8:49 pm

Surely some knowledge is useless, and misinterpretation of it can be harmful.

For example, studying the day by day correlation between the volume of ice cream sales and the number of drownings is, at best, a useless activity, and, if it results in some bureaucrat banning ice cream to save people from drowning, it’ll be harmful too.

330

temp 12.03.11 at 8:57 pm

Yep. I think this particular knowledge is useful, not all knowledge generally.

331

DelRey 12.03.11 at 9:05 pm

Tim Wilkinson,

Actual rail passenger deaths are low to negligible.

So what? Road fatality statistics do not include only motor vehicle passengers. They also include pedestrians and cyclists. I have no idea why you think only passenger deaths are relevant to transportation safety. The data I presented clearly shows that, for 2009 at least, Amtrak (passenger trains) killed around three times as many people per passenger-mile as road vehicles (both passenger and freight combined).

332

Tim Wilkinson 12.03.11 at 10:59 pm

I have a good idea why you choose to claim that I think only passenger deaths are relevant to transportation safety, but as you must surely be aware I don’t in fact think that.

If I did think that, the sentence you’ve chosen to express such bafflement about would not have occurred at the end of two paragraphsd all about those non-passenger casualties, would it: two paragraphs which adumbrate some basic reasons why the figure is likely to be highly misleading, and which explain why I male that final point about trains being safe as houses (safer, I expect) s0 far as those inside them are concerned.

The same comment (#243 above) also, as you also know, gently prompts you to explain how you arrived at your figure, which does not appear in the cited document – either by explaining the calculation you performed or by revealing which secondary source you consulted. I suspected (for reasons I can’t reveal yet) that you were using a biased secondary source, which would need to be approached in full adversarial mode. In particular, I suspected that the Amtrak data was cherry-picked.

333

DelRey 12.03.11 at 11:18 pm

If you agree that both passenger and non-passenger deaths caused by passenger rail are relevant to its safety then your observation that “actual rail passenger deaths are low to negligible” is irrelevant.

I don’t know why you’re having such a hard time doing the math. The documents I linked to provide the number of fatalities and the number of passenger-miles for each mode (Amtrak and roads). To calculate fatalities per passenger-mile, you just divide fatalities by passenger-miles. Using the 2009 data (last full year available), the Amtrak fatality rate was about 0.023 per million passenger-miles and the road fatality rate was about 0.008 per million passenger miles. So Amtrak trains killed about three times as many people per passenger-mile as road vehicles.

And I have no idea what you think I “cherry-picked.” The sources I cited are the official government data.

334

Donald Johnson 12.03.11 at 11:18 pm

“Is it really an interesting question? We all want a sane and healthy polity, which means as few widely-held vicious and irrational opinions as possible. If one or another such opinion is widely held, you can mock it, rebut it, or ignore it, depending on which you think will lead soonest to its extinction. “

Well, that’s part of why it’s interesting. How do you tell which is the most effective? And is that the only way we make a distinction between when an opinion is bad, but debatable, vs. when it is beyond the pale and should be treated with contempt? I think this sort of issue comes up all the time. In mainstream political circles it’s why far left anti-imperial views aren’t even raised (in the US at least)–they are considered beyond the pale.

” Bob M. complains that the besetting sin of liberals is empowering their enemies; perhaps the besetting sin of radicals is quarreling with their friends?”

Maybe, but I wasn’t defending Bob M’s tone.

335

rf 12.04.11 at 12:04 am

I think Bruce Baugh has it dead right in 326. Maybe I read him to much while others gave up years ago, but that is Sullivan. Debating ‘race IQ’ is one thing, (one very foolish pastime), but Sullivans another kettle of fish altogether. Someone on the cusp of an epihany, but still a million miles away.

336

rf 12.04.11 at 1:59 am

For the record Im quite clearly obsessed by Sullivan, and working nights, so that post has little to do with anything anymore. So Im done

337

Tim Wilkinson 12.04.11 at 2:19 am

If you agree that both passenger and non-passenger deaths caused by passenger rail are relevant to its safety then your observation that “actual rail passenger deaths are low to negligible” is irrelevant.

Wrong – non-passenger deaths are relevant to its safety, but less so.

The incodents in question are basically almost (113/139, i.e. 81%: table 3-2) all down to people going on the tracks when they very clearly shouldn’t. These cases mostly subdivide into (a) car drivers who drive around gates at level crossings – because they are car drivers and they do things like that, which is why they are always getting killed; (b) pedestrians on the tracks who are intoxicated or suicidal.

A small number are motorists, pedestrians and possibly cyclists killed on level crossings that are guarded only by ‘crossbucks’ signs. They are the ones most similar to typical motors accidents, where people are driving or crossing the road and just not really paying attention.

But because railways are so much mpre compact tham roads, it is quite feasible – were there any appetite for funding public infrasteructure – to cut down these numbers drastically – not so much car drivers whose detahs arwe due to their impatience, recklessness and delusions of invulnerability, but stopping drunks getting on the tracks and making sure level crossings have proper warnings and perferably barriers (also a bridge here and there). That kind of thing is the answer to your earlier quetion ‘So what?’, though obviously that was facetious and the idea of actually changing anything, or having any consequences beyond a squabble didn’t really figure.

I don’t know why you’re having such a hard time doing the math. Yes this topic seems to prompt a lot of quizzical musing about me, doesn’t it. Of course I don’t have trouble with the maths, just not convinced you’ve done it yourself, raqther than lifting an argument from somewhere else. Never mind, adversarial mode it is in any case.

I have no idea what you think I “cherry-picked.” The sources I cited are the official government data.

Well, I didn’t say you cherry picked them. But of course the point of cherry-picking is that the data picked is quite valid in itself; it’s the selectiveness that makes its application invalid. Being economic with het truth invoves being economical with the truth.

But at the moment I don;t have tim eto check that Amtrak 2009 is reasonably roperesentative of rail services. Or to work out how to compare freight:passenger ratios on rail and road, work out what if nay metric might be more useful than passenger-miles, etc.

Just as a quick exercise, if we look at data directly comparable (i.e. derived in the same way from the same source as) your figure of 0.008 deaths/million psgr-miles on the roads, we could cite a figure of 0.0043 for ‘Transit’ – that is, about half the rate for all road deaths. But that reduction may be a bit understated, since it includes various road vehicles, as well as some water-borne vessels, and unlike road figures but like Amtrak data, includes ‘all reportable incidents, not just from accidents’ (and certainly not just from collisions – passengers slipping and falling are in, for example).

338

DelRey 12.05.11 at 12:48 am

The incodents in question are basically almost (113/139, i.e. 81%: table 3-2) all down to people going on the tracks when they very clearly shouldn’t.

This claim is completely irrelevant. Safety is a measure of the risk of harm, not a measure of who is responsible for harm. We don’t discount the deaths of drunk drivers or careless pedestrians in road fatality statistics, so I have no idea why you think we should discount the deaths of track-crossers in rail fatality statistics. Not that you’ve presented any evidence regarding responsibility, anyway. A transportation system is dangerous to the extent that it kills or injures people. The data indicates that passenger trains in the U.S. kill around three as many people per passenger-mile as road vehicles.

But because railways are so much mpre compact tham roads, it is quite feasible – were there any appetite for funding public infrasteructure – to cut down these numbers drastically – not so much car drivers whose detahs arwe due to their impatience, recklessness and delusions of invulnerability,

Another baseless claim. As others pointed, road safety has already increased drastically, thanks to technologies like air bags, anti-lock brakes, traction control, crumple zones, and so on. New sensing and automation technologies will almost certainly produce dramatic further increases in automobile safety. Volvo even expects to have an “injury-proof car” by 2018. Stricter DUI laws and enforcement have also contributed to the increase in road safety, and will also likely produce further increases in safety in the future. It seems unlikely that improvements in passenger rail safety will even be able to keep up with improvements in road safety, let alone “drastically” outpace road safety.

As someone else already said, people were unwilling to shift from cars to rail or other transportation modes back when cars and driving were much, much more dangerous than they are today. So it seems highly unlikely that safety concerns are going to induce a shift to rail now or in the future, given how much safer cars are today and will be in the future.

339

js. 12.05.11 at 6:01 am

Is anyone else seeing jack strocchi’s comments above in bizarrely distorted but absolutely brilliant fashion? I’m seeing things like this:

“TTiming Wilkinson @ #824 sailor:

Oh yearnings andean a quickened worryingly on Jack Strengthen – ignorantly theodore dislocations of combative dominate of a cogent elicits andean there accommodate cream of if thebes modes werner truants, wound therapy worthy we seen arousal us looter simultaneous to itself consulates?,
This “creeper” of whipper youngster speakable is a parochial of Gregarious Cocoons’s backed of theoreticians environmental appaloosas to configuration idealism. Yours betties be pacifier somali heater-dutch interpolations headaches befouls youthes be district Cocaine. He eaton guyer likenesses youthful formosa brest.”

This is the best ever!

340

Mrs Tilton 12.05.11 at 8:18 am

J. Otto @318,

The Irish evidently being a race in the UK, but not the US. But, you can get that from looking at me and noting my name. It is true though that all of my grandparents were White and none of them had Irish surnames.

Not that I think this is a particularly useful line of contemplation, but what is an “Irish surname”? I presume you’d agree that “Murphy” makes the cut. What about “FitzGerald”? What about “Robinson”? What about “de Valera”? What about “Jones”, if the name was once “Mac Gabhainn”? What about “McGowan”, if the name had once been “Jones”? What if it had always been Jones? What about “Bacik”?

Perhaps you mean not “Irish surname” but “Gaelic surname”. That can be tricky, though, as any Costello (Mac Coisdealbh) could tell you, for reasons whose elicitation I leave to you as an exercise. In any event, “Gaelic surname” would not, if recollection serves, be helpful to your cause, as a plurality of Irish people bear English surnames. Or as I should perhaps have written, for the reasons (mutatis mutandis) mentioned above, “English” surnames; but then that is essentially my point.

341

Mrs Tilton 12.05.11 at 8:22 am

Tim Wilkinson et al.,

the jury might still be out on temp, but by this point I think it’s not unfair to conclude that DelRey not only does not understand population genetics, s/he is wilfully refusing to understand population genetics. There is probably as little point in engaging with him or her as with a creationist.

342

Mrs Tilton 12.05.11 at 9:15 am

Myself @339,

What about “Jones”, if the name was once “Mac Gabhainn”? What about “McGowan”, if the name had once been “Jones”? What if it had always been Jones?

Oh FFS. For “Jones”, of course, read “Smith”. These English surnames all sound alike to me.

343

Walt 12.05.11 at 9:40 am

DelRey, do really not understand how this comment:

Then EVERY scientific category is “a constructed category that is superimposed on top of the raw physical facts.” Sex is such a category. Species is such a category. You’re not saying anything here relevant to the issue.

ignores my point? Or are you just bullshitting? My point is that if scientists had made up the definition, then the Mayans would be “Asian”, the way that in cladistics birds are now “dinosaurs”.

I’m beginning to think that — ironically — the scientific racists are actually too dumb to understand why their arguments are dumb. I honestly prefer the “bullshitting” explanation, since I find stupidity more depressing that dishonesty. (This is probably a character flaw on my part.)

344

J. Otto Pohl 12.05.11 at 10:16 am

Ms. Tilton: When I was a post-graduate student at SOAS I had to fill out a form on racial classification and White Irish as well as White non-British, non-Irish were two possible options. I was also asked by the NHS doctor dealing with hypertension about my ethnic heritage, specifically if I had any Irish ancestors. So I can only conclude that Irish is a racialized category in the UK. The doctor by the way had an Indian surname. I am not exactly sure what constitutes an Irish surname, but I know that Pohl is not one and neither are those of my other three grandparents.

345

Mrs Tilton 12.05.11 at 10:41 am

J. Otto @343,

I can only conclude that Irish is a racialized category in the UK.

Which would (at least when contrasted with “British” and “non-British”) be a pretty silly category if “race” meant what people like DelRey insists it means. It is arguably less silly if “race” is, y’know, a cultural construct. (Personally, I still think it less than ideal as a name for the category, but I understand why it is being used.)

I am not exactly sure what constitutes an Irish surname,

Don’t worry about that. The Irish themselves have from time to time discussed what it means to be “Irish”; what it means for a surname to have that quality is possibly even more elusive.

but I know that Pohl is not one

All the above notwithstanding, if you moved to Ireland and put down roots there, it would be; as Irish as the surnames of the Nigerians and Poles and Huguenots and Palatine Germans and English and Scots and Welsh and Normans and Gaels and Milesians and Firbolgs and all the other blow-ins who have settled there down the centuries.

346

Chris Bertram 12.05.11 at 11:06 am

_I am not exactly sure what constitutes an Irish surname, but I know that Pohl is not one_

Notable Irish academics include Ferdinand von Prondzynski.

347

Tim Wilkinson 12.05.11 at 11:47 am

Mrs T – ah, but I’m talking about road v rail safety, a topic on which I can get away with indulging my preference for relying on discursive methods. Such discussion is aimed at third parties/the balance of correctness on the internet, rather than at effecting any life-changes in my interlocutor. (I trust bob mcmanus will let me know if this behaviour is outside the pale.)

re: Note that DelRey (whom for convenience I’ll continue to call ‘he’*) has not addressed most of the points I’ve made, for example the rather important issue of the inadequacy of the single bit of data he’s picked up from somewhere or other. Instead he focuses on a few collateral points which by his own lights are irrelevant.

This claim is completely irrelevant. Safety is a measure of the risk of harm…

First – we are not discussing risk of harm, but of death. If risk of harm were included, things would look very different. Since taking up a position in the path of an oncoming train is lamost always deadly, adding serious injury to the stats would surely increase the road casualty figures much more than those of rail (that is just another form of bias inhering in that single suspiciously-contoured factoid that DelRey presents).

As far as relevance goes, the fact that a large proportion of the Amtrak fatalities are actually motorists driving round barriers is pretty relevant if we’re talking about the relavtive merits from a safety point of view of rail and road.

Similary, use of rail for suicide is clearly not a straightforward safety issue. Suicides by CO poisoning in cars are not in the stats, are they.

And it is highly relevant, especially given the lack of investment and general marginalisation of rail travel in your bizarre country, that most of the remainder is down to drunks, other drug users and a few idiots getting onto the lines – something that better fencing etc could address – the same is not the case with roads because they are bloody everywhere, so fencing them would be both expensive and highly restrictive of pedestrians’ freedom of movement (and you end up with wretched places like much of, e.g., LA where the entire landscape is designed solely to cater for cars, thus it’s almost unthinkable to travel even short distances on foot or by bike).

DelRey insists on his own conveniently rigid definition of what’s relevant where my assertions are concerned – we must stick to the numbers that arise from our agreed neutral and objective procedure (oh yeah I forgot there wasn’t one – just some figures that magically popped up).

But he will of course happily go off on a tangent about futuristic scenarios in which motorists can charge around strapped into their own mini-tanks in total safety (presumably this not though cover the practice of deliberately driving onto railway lines on which they know a train to be expected to pass) – though of course as Del Rey points out, who they kill in these infernal contraptions is highly relevant since in places where they don’t yet totally dominate, cars mingle with pedestrians and cycles.

(Another tangent, a fine specimen of a revealed pref argument: -people- Americans were unwilling to shift [back?] from cars to rail [etc]. )

Not that you’ve presented any evidence regarding responsibility, anyway.

I bloomin well have, you know. Table 3-2 in the FRA report DelRey cites. But as he’s not familiar with the data he’s carefully extracted unbiased information from, here are the links to individual incident reports, showing what those ‘trespassers’ were up to – sitting or lying on the track, driving round barriers as lights flash and bells ring, etc.

Just to reiterate a key point: 1. cars mingle with pedestrians and cyclists, and that’s unavaoidable unless either cars or softbodies are excluded from various zones. In the latter case, things become really rather nasty for those of us who would like to retain the freedom to walk around on the surface of the earth. In the latter case, cars become an intercity mode of transport only, which is actually rather inferior to a properly-run rail system, with porters, proper space for seating and luggage, restaurant cars worthy of the name, etc. It is also a worse idea than trains becuase

2. Cars go out of control, mount the kerb, and get into pile-ups, plough through queues of people waiting at bus stops, etc. Trains hardly ever do that (especially when properly maintained rather than run down by being starved of funds or handed over to short-term profiteers etc.). They are on rails, see, rather than controlled by steering wheels with random idiots behind them.

*I continue to suppose he is a he, but of course I do not know this and should not assume – and it would be preferable if the presumed importance of sex-based social roles as a basic component of identity could be reined in a bit for various reasons. But it’s too cumbersome to keep it unsexed, until such time as literary types can manage to do something useful instead of reinventing naïve pre-presocratic philosophy, and come up with an unsexed pronoun for specified individuals – ‘they’ works tolerably as singular pronoun with unassigned value, as in at least the first occurrence in ‘if anyone argues with racists, they are more vile than the racist themself’.

348

Henry 12.05.11 at 3:36 pm

The social construction of the Irish race in mid-1980s Britain (by a prominent cartoonist in a prominent, albeit notably vile newspaper).

349

bert 12.05.11 at 4:34 pm

Note the organisations’ initials at the bottom. The racism is cross-sectarian.
This is the English telling themselves that the problem is indigenous and tribal and nothing to do with us, chaps.

bq. As a result of complaints made by many people in Britain, the Greater London Council, under its leader Ken Livingstone, withdrew its advertising from the Standard and demanded a full apology, which was refused. The Press Council later rejected criticisms of the Standard and instead condemned the GLC for attempting to coerce the paper’s editor.

In the next Paliament, legislation was passed to abolish the GLC. It’s now an aquarium.

350

Barry 12.06.11 at 4:42 pm

“In the next Paliament, legislation was passed to abolish the GLC. It’s now an aquarium.”

In others words, Thatcher and the Tories struck at political enemies.
And also, Thatcher’s goal was to centralize power.

351

Barry 12.06.11 at 4:43 pm

BTW, a similar cartoon could have been equally well made about the English.

Or French.

Or Germans.

Or Americans.

Or Russians.

352

bert 12.06.11 at 8:08 pm

Sure, Barry.
In case I was too cryptic:

- The Press Council was a toothless joke (as is the Press Complaints Commission, which succeeded it as an alleged regulatory body). It was headed by timeservers judged by the establishment to have earned themselves an undemanding sinecure.
- The GLC was very much an outpost of resistance to Thatcherism, and her abolition of it was entirely political.
- The Evening Standard is a rightwing paper with a Londonwide distribution. It was responding in a witless and nasty manner to the bombing campaigns of the early 80s. Various groups were involved. Perhaps the highest profile action was the IRA blowing up Mrs Thatcher and the Tory leadership at the 1984 party conference. That was a couple of years after this cartoon appeared.
- The quote in my previous comment comes from the bottom of this page: http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/images/cartoons/douglas98b.htm

353

DelRey 12.07.11 at 6:18 am

My point is that if scientists had made up the definition, then the Mayans would be “Asian”, the way that in cladistics birds are now “dinosaurs”.

Scientists DID “make up” the definition, just like they make up the definition of all other scientific categories. And Mayans are not “Asian.” You don’t seem to have a point at all. You just seem confused.

354

DelRey 12.07.11 at 6:43 am

As far as relevance goes, the fact that a large proportion of the Amtrak fatalities are actually motorists driving round barriers is pretty relevant if we’re talking about the relavtive merits from a safety point of view of rail and road.

No, as I already told you, it’s completely irrelevant. Safety is a measure of the risk of harm, not a measure of who is responsible for harm. People killed in road vehicle collisions are included in road fatality statistics WHETHER THEY WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR DEATHS OR NOT. Likewise, people killed in Amtrak train collisions are included in Amtrak fatality statistics whether they were responsible for their deaths or not. We don’t discount the deaths of drunk drivers, or jaywalkers, or people who were texting while driving from road fatality stats on the grounds that they were breaking the law or were responsible for their own deaths. Likewise, we do not, and should not, discount the deaths of people who were illegally crossing rail tracks from Amtrak fatality stats. You’re just desperately trying to spin the fatality statistics to be less unfavorable to Amtrak.

I bloomin well have, you know.

No, you bloomin well haven’t. The document you link to contains no information about responsibility. Not that it matters to the issue of safety, anyway.

355

DelRey 12.07.11 at 6:55 am

Just to reiterate a key point: 1. cars mingle with pedestrians and cyclists, and that’s unavaoidable unless either cars or softbodies are excluded from various zones

Trains also mingle with cars, pedestrians and cyclists, and that’s unavoidable because rail tracks necessarily cross roads, sidewalks and other public rights of way.

Despite its huge public subsidies, Amtrak is a trivial component of the U.S. transportation system, the equivalent of a rounding error in comparison to roads and automobiles. Its poor safety record is another reason to get rid of it.

356

Walt 12.07.11 at 7:39 am

Scientists made up the definition of race (for humans)? You really think that? That is honestly the most bizarrely wrong statement I think I’ve ever heard. When they decided it was okay to enslave Africans, did they first have a blue-ribbon scientific committee? Did they take minutes? Issue a white paper?

357

Kevin Donoghue 12.07.11 at 10:49 am

Well if you go back far enough you will find scientists saying that Adam and Eve were Caucasian and that other races were produced as a result of catastrophes which isolated various branches of humanity. Then all they had to do was posit poor diet and lousy breeding practices, among the unfortunates who were cut off from the Caucasians, and with one daring leap of logic we have inferior races.

Once upon a time that was science. Evidently there are people for whom it still is.

358

Tim Wilkinson 12.07.11 at 6:40 pm

DelRey is, as Mrs Tilton suggested, parroting the same points and clinging to his single contrived factoid.

Said factoid consists of a particular comparison which is not like-for-like by any means and was evidently not researched by him. I think someone has mined the data for a plausible-looking figure that will present rail as worse than road.

So when DelRey says You’re just desperately trying to spin the fatality statistics to be less unfavorable to Amtrak, one must remember that ‘the fatality statistics’ he refers to is in fact one single comparative statistic which he has chosen to offer, pre-spun as it were.

DelRey has taken the fifth on the question of which playbook he got his factoid from, and instead does an admirable job of and sticking to his number as though it had been specified from behind a veil of ignorance, and no backsies. And yet when I looked at the one figure which could actually be derived from the same source by the same method as the road fatality figure alluded to by DelRey – that is, the corresponding figure for ‘Transit’, I found that this alternative and more salient choice of crude figure revealed road to be twice as dangerous even without further attempts to eliminate coufounding or perturbing factors.

Just to repeat – I looked at the obvious alternative – and indeed better – candidate for a rough and ready comparison that we might plausibly decide to take at face value as an unbiased indicator. It showed transit systems to be twice as ‘safe’ as road.

From the point of view of simplistic but effective rhetoric, one should stop there really, but as this is CT I was willing to look at the Amtrak data and some of the reasons why the comparison DelRey has alighted on is a crap way of comparing the relative merits of rail and road from a safety perspective. DelRey is holding a line on that issue and I needn’t add to my previous comments.

(note to self: salience as measure of lack of bias; prior metaprobabilities; procedural rather than structural principle of indifference)

Comments on this entry are closed.