Saturday, June 30, 2012

Race and Intelligence: Unlocking the Truth

No topic of which I am aware gets to the core of an individual's ability to cope with reality better than race. If a person's intellectual core is emotionalism, moral dogmatism, or social conformism, bringing up race will bring it out.

Race itself isn't an emotional or a moral or a philosophical or a political or a social construct. Race -- or haplotype, cline, or population, or subspecies, or whatever term you prefer --  is a genetic construct produced by the adaptive process over thousands of years.

Race deniers seek to protect their social views against the perceived threat of acknowledging sets of distinct phenotypes produced by patterns of geographical isolatation in the distinct evolutionary lineages of individuals.  Race deniers deny that observable clusters of phenotypic distinctions among people, extending to skull shape and brain size, have objective biological existence.

Now with regard to questions of existence, it IS all or nothing. Either races exist or they do not. If they exist, and if there are intelligence differences among them, then the pertinent question is: To what DEGREE does racial inheritance itself cause the observed correlation?

To insist that race accounts for 0% of intelligence differences among phenotypically disparate populations is irrational and implausible. It would be to suppose that evolution endowed races with different skin, facial features, bone density, skull shape, leg length, testosterone levels, vocal resonance, and host of other phenotypical differences but left the brain itself untouched in some non-adaptive state, that once humans branched off into races, evolution shut down inside the brain but kept working everywhere else.

The responses race equalitarians give when their views on race are challenged are indicative of their emotionalist psychology and idealistic worldview. If positive claim X about race makes them feel uncomfortable or conflicts with their ideal of all races being innately equal, then positive claim X is transmuted into a normative claim in the mind of the denier so that the claim and the individual making it can be denounced via a moral rationalization that is irrelevant to the claim's objective truth or falsehood.

My views on race are an application of my own independent thinking on the subject. That's not the case for most people who espouse race equalitarianism, which is unfounded scientifically but reinforced socially and accorded the status of a pseudo-truth, not as a consequence of factual correctness but of political correctness. The person who succumbs to group-think in believing, without evidence, in innate equality because it feels good, is of a similar mindset as a person succumbs to group-think in believing, without evidence, in the superiority of his race because it feels good.

Tens of thousands of years of human geographic isolation produced racial distinctions all the way to the marrow of the bone.  Any practicing medical doctor who adopted denialist views on race would be committing malpractice. You have to be a race realist with regard to the body's internal chemistry to grasp, for example, that performing bone marrow or organ transplants from one race to another is dangerous. The immune system is likely to reject the implanted material as foreign. It is often very difficult for mixed race individuals find suitable bone marrow on the donor registry. Fortunately, we can pinpoint anyone's racial ancestry, however mixed, with great precision using DNA analysis.

What most deniers do is compartmentalize. They accept the biological reality of race when it's a useful concept to them and deny it in contexts when they view it as opening the door to something undesirable.   This is the fallacy of appealing to consequences.

To withhold full consideration of the factual merits of a claim until one knows that the facts will lead to "positive" outcomes (in an emotional or moral sense) is to invert the relationship between facts and values. All rational values are based on facts first identified objectively. An objective assessment takes into account only whether a claim corresponds with reality, not whether it accords with a pre-derived emotional or moral standard.

The notion that racial distinctions exist in all organs of the body...except the an fantastical one, especially in light of the fact that skull measurements show clearly identifiable racial traits on virtually every major feature of the skull, from eye orbits to teeth. Moreover, modern MRI scans show measurable differences in brain size and shape between Africans, Europeans, and East Asians.

Twin studies show that IQ is mostly inherited and identifiable in the brain itself. All environmental, economic, and cultural factors put together have less explanatory power than inheritance.

Racial variation exists biologically because the human species as it branched out geographically didn't stop evolving. Racial variation affects organs, body systems, and chemicals. Racial variation influences susceptibility to certain diseases, influences psychological traits such as extroversion, and influences cognitive capacity,

Charles Murray expects the black/white IQ gap to stay about the same or widen slightly in the decades ahead due to higher rates of dysgenic reproduction among blacks. The reason why he's not optimistic about socioeconomic improvements narrowing the gaps is because:

1) We observe that the gaps don't go away when controlling for socioeconomic status (blacks underperform when compared to other races across all income levels. 2) Part of the reason why blacks are disproportionately in poverty is because of their innately smaller brains and lower IQs, which translate into poorer job skills.

A strong heritability component to intelligence -- which is now proven, established science -- would not square with the degree and persistency of observed racial variation in intelligence unless the heritable traits for intelligence also vary by race. We know that traits for brain size vary by race, and that these variations line up with variations in measures of intelligence.

Obviously, there is overlap in racial IQ variation, just as there is overlap in height with the bell curves for men and women plotted against each other. Clearly, men are taller on average. Most of that is genetic, though certainly malnourishment and other environmental factors can stunt one's full height potential.

That women today might be as tall on average as men were in generations past does not mean that the male/female height gap has no genetic basis. In fact, it is mostly genetic. And so is the black/white IQ gap.

Even supposing that IQ was only 50% heritable, race differences in IQ could still be mostly heriditary in origin because environmental advantages/disadvantages between groups can cancel out. If Asians in the US don't have better environments than European-Americans on net, then the Asian IQ advantage can be 100% attributable to genetic differences, even if IQ variation among individuals is only 50% genetic.

Asians and Europeans have some environmental advantages over Africans on average, but there is more environmental variation within the races than between the averages of each race. So the black/white IQ gap has always been mostly genetic, except perhaps in the time of slavery (before IQ tests were given), and becomes more genetic as the social environments under which blacks and whites live become more similar. Frederick Douglass, assuming his IQ would have tested above average in adulthood, shows that even being enslaved doesn't prevent one's innate cognitive abilities from ultimately being realized and expressed. IQ becomes more heritable with age, and is about 75% so in adulthood according to the best science.

The genetic component of the race gaps can't be transcended, and any environmental component is likely to be caused largely by the innate IQ disparity itself (low-IQ people tend to inhabit and raise children in worse environments because of their low IQs).  Well-off, well-educated blacks have kids who on average score BELOW white kids whose parents are rednecks.
Therefore, as Murray suggests, we shouldn't expect the black/white IQ gap to narrow in the future (it hasn't in 40 years).  You can be an idealist and believe something else if you want or be a super-skeptic and refuse to believe or espouse any position, in which case reality will continue to escape your notice.

Reality, of course, is irrelevant to wishful thinkers and willful evaders. Still, IT IS.

Racial differences, no matter how much abhorred or denied, won't go away.  You can denounce them or close your eyes to them. But they're still going to be there, so you might as well open your eyes, open your mind, and deal with them.


  1. Michael R. JacksonJuly 1, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    Dear Libertarian Realist:

    Your piece on race and intelligence encompasses several arguments for genetic determination of IQ differences among races, but contains some important flaws.

    You begin with some purely rational arguments (if there are observable differences between races, there must be differences in intelligence too, evolution must make it so, etc.). History, however, is replete with rationalist thinkers arguing that such-and-such must be true. Such a priori reasoning does not constitute evidence; contradictory empirical conclusions can easily be reached by other purely rational arguments simply by varying the underlying assumptions.

    Your other arguments are based on evidence, but are problematic. You put a great deal of stock in differences in brain size. This claim also has quite a colorful history, and I presume you are aware that it is a contested one. However, assuming that it is true, you have not demonstrated anything about causation. Since physical characteristics of the brain would be correlates of race, the causal arrow could go in either direction. That is, brain size is at least as plausibly an effect of educational, environmental and nutritional deprivation as a cause of discrepant intelligence or other behavioral differences.

    You put even more stock in statistical arguments about heredity and environment. These arguments, however, are full of traps. The techniques that parse hereditary and environmental variance were derived from agricultural breeding experiments in which the contrasted groups were subjected to constant environments. When these techniques are imported into the human population, with all its variability, problems ensue. H cannot distinguish between variability in IQ that is directly determined by genetic factors and that which is determined by social assignment to membership in discriminatory environments based on genetically determined physical markers that are cognitively irrelevant (e.g. skin color), therefore inflating the estimates of heredity. Furthermore, even if the contribution of environment were small, the effect on your argument would be devastating because even a small difference between environments undermines your conclusions if the environmental differences are systematic ones (which is clearly the case here). Environmental differences between the races, however, are not small. Environment is not a single variable but an exceeding large array of variables which includes not only discrimination in all its many forms but also, for example, substantial discrepancies in income and living conditions, peer influences, quality and funding of school systems, distribution of diseases and environmental toxins, and nonrandom distribution of occupational, medical and nutritional resources.

    Your attempts to defend your use of H are unconvincing. Controlling for specific influences like SES means nothing when the short- and long-term effects of other nonrandom environmental influences remain operative and systematically skew the computed results. Likewise, differences that increase with age, which you interpret as some kind of genetic time bomb, are more plausibly related to the ongoing effects of environment and the accumulating results of unfavorable trajectories that are set in motion by earlier disadvantages and magnified by increasingly discrepant environmental options. And your comparison of race differences in IQ to male-female differences in height is fatally flawed: the proper analogy would be a situation in which females were subjected to different environmental influences (say inadequate nutrition while males remained well-fed), in which case environment really would be the operative factor.

    Finally, your portrayal of yourself as an objective and independent thinker is a little shaky given that these are essentially the same arguments for white supremacy that have been made for over a century and that have long been discredited.

    1. The totality of environmental influences and how they vary among races will never be known with precision. What we do know is that when comparing people from similar environments, the same racial orderings emerge consistently and persistently all over the world and have for as long as IQ tests have been given. No environmental variables have been identified that, when controlled for, eliminate the race gaps.

    2. what about Iodine and omega-3 Asians are known to be the biggest consumers and blacks consum it way Less than whites these tow are known for Their ability of Raising iq in Babies and Children Is exposure to diet that encourages the growth of brain cells can have genetic influence On offsprings I also know that Jews tend to eat fish or at least did While they were Europe I'm not trying to disprove Inheritance of intelligence I just want to know if you know something that i dont and want to Get rid of this uncertainty thank you from tomghoto

  2. Michael R. JacksonJuly 25, 2012 at 9:39 AM

    If your point is that IQ differences between races could possibly be genetic, you are correct; but this is a trivial point. The real issue is plausibility. Genetic arguments rely on complex statistical inferences that are essentially speculative and that can always be adjusted into new iterations when they are challenged by reasonable counter-inferences on the other side. On the other hand, we have long possessed direct empirical evidence about a multitude of environmental factors that affect IQ, that act on races differentially, and that therefore constitute a reasonable explanation for the differences. Looking at studies that "control" for environmental factors is fundamentally problematic. Each such study assesses only one aspect of the environment while ignoring numerous others, and the studies cannot be treated additively because they consistently commit the same fallacy. Multiple invalid arguments do not sum up to a larger valid argument.