Pharyngula

Greg knows a bit about the anthropology of race, and he also knows how to make fools suffer. Now he has weighed in on Watson.

I’m pretty sure he left boot marks on the old man.


Greg has followed through now with more criticisms of ‘scientific’ racism.

Comments

  1. #1 Caledonian
    October 17, 2007

    That was pathetic.

    We study IQ inheritance with the same tools we use to study a lot of other traits that we can’t tie down to specific genes very well. We’re currently in a renaissance of genetics research into not only crude physiology, but psychological and cognitive traits, and the data shows that genetic inheritance alone is a major factor.

    And what does this loser do? Unleash a series of ad hominem attacks and insults while repeating the conclusion over and over.

  2. #2 Inoculated Mind
    October 17, 2007

    Later in life, Galileo refused to accept that the moon influenced the tides. Newton got knee-deep in alchemy. This is no different. Scientists aren’t infallible gods – their claims are only as strong as the evidence behind them. And Watson’s recent claims are contradicted by the evidence.

    Unfortunately for Watson, his age has eroded his inhibitions before his bigotry. Unfortunately for the rest of us, his role in the discovery of the structure of DNA has lent him rockstar scientist status, and his mal-formed opinions on these subjects will lend undue credibility to these ideas.

    Greg does a nice debunking.

  3. #3 Inoculated Mind
    October 17, 2007

    the data shows that genetic inheritance alone is a major factor.

    Show us this elusive data.

  4. #4 darwinfinch
    October 17, 2007

    Dear Caledonian,

    I have great respect for you, generally, but it is YOU who do not see the point: it isn’t the science you do, but what takes place before and after it is done.

    And being pissed off at idiocy is not quite the same as ad hominem attacks.

    Look past this unusual instance, where you seem to be – can I say it? – holier than moi?

  5. #5 CalGeorge
    October 17, 2007

    Calling Mark Vernon! We need you to do a Freudian analysis of James Watson’s ego. It’s huge and nasty and can’t tolerate women, blacks, or just about anyone!

    [What a dickhead!]

  6. #6 Calednoian
    October 17, 2007

    Look past this unusual instance, where you seem to be – can I say it? – holier than moi?

    Black or white, male or female, gay or straight, all have fallen short of the glory of Caledonian… nah.

    There is science… and there are social conventions on what sorts of things are suitable topics and suitable claims. The nature of ethnic lineages, genetic inheritance of psychological traits, and our fledgling attempts to understand the human genetic code – these are all part of science.

    All this outraged rhubarb? Isn’t.

  7. #7 Great White Wonder
    October 17, 2007

    Watson had three semi-admirable traits that led to his “success”: ego, drive, and an instinctive sense of who to hang around in order to boost his not-terribly-bright self into the history books.

  8. #8 Great White Wonder
    October 17, 2007

    Caledonian, you are a boring gadfly and I won’t waste my time tearing you yet another asshole.

    Suffice it to say when you call someone a “loser” for unleashing “ad hominems” without addressing the substance of the post (one that is refreshingly free of distractions) then you are a hypocrite.

    Do genes influence one’s standardized IQ test scores? I think most people with Down’s Syndrome agree that they do.

    Are black people inherently less intelligent than white people? I don’t know but I do know that the question itself is about as scientifically valid as asking “are red haired people less moral than blonde haired people?” The people who ask such questions are the real retards.

    And then we have Allen McNeill.

  9. #9 Orac
    October 17, 2007

    Later in life, Galileo refused to accept that the moon influenced the tides. Newton got knee-deep in alchemy. This is no different.

    And Linus Pauling started advocating megadoses of vitamin C to cure cancer and a form of woo known as “orthomolecular medicine.”

  10. #10 Francis Crunk
    October 17, 2007

    If Watson is so wrong, why do the “rebuttals” of him consist of nothing more than ad hominem? The tenor of these repsonses indicates leftwingers are as much of a threat to science that threatens their worldview as the Jesus freaks are.

    Watson said, “There is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically.” If this is wrong, what is the reason to believe they have evolved identically? The odds of that happening would be astronomical.

  11. #11 Great White Wonder
    October 17, 2007

    “Later in life, Galileo refused to accept that the moon influenced the tides. Newton got knee-deep in alchemy. This is no different.”

    Well, as the article at issue points out rather plainly, this is entirely different because Watson was a mediocre thinker, albeit an aggressive and lucky one.

  12. #12 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 17, 2007

    We study IQ inheritance with the same tools we use to study a lot of other traits that we can’t tie down to specific genes very well.

    With the difference that we don’t know much about whether IQ is a trait.

    As the joke goes, the IQ test measures the ability to solve the IQ test…

    The nature of ethnic lineages

    Short look at European history, or at my family tree: there ain’t no such thing as an ethnic lineage. Oh man. I really wouldn’t have expected this gem of profound ignorance from you, Caledonian.

    As the author of a book on the Migration Period wrote: “Ethnicity is not fate but goal”.

  13. #13 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 17, 2007

    We study IQ inheritance with the same tools we use to study a lot of other traits that we can’t tie down to specific genes very well.

    With the difference that we don’t know much about whether IQ is a trait.

    As the joke goes, the IQ test measures the ability to solve the IQ test…

    The nature of ethnic lineages

    Short look at European history, or at my family tree: there ain’t no such thing as an ethnic lineage. Oh man. I really wouldn’t have expected this gem of profound ignorance from you, Caledonian.

    As the author of a book on the Migration Period wrote: “Ethnicity is not fate but goal”.

  14. #14 Caledonian
    October 17, 2007

    Suffice it to say when you call someone a “loser” for unleashing “ad hominems” without addressing the substance of the post

    There was no substance to that post – it’s all insults and outrage. It’s outrage that many of you agree with, though, and share. Thusly most of your brain stops working as your emotions kick in.

    I don’t know but I do know that the question itself is about as scientifically valid as asking “are red haired people less moral than blonde haired people?”

    Actually, we already know that the genes responsible for red hair are associated with certain neurological consequences – the most well-understood of which is a major difference in response to most anesthetic drugs.

    The question of whether people with red hair respond differently to societal codes of morality than people with non-red (or even specifically blond) hair isn’t scientifically invalid. It is just as reasonable as questioning whether their anesthetic metabolism responds differently. It’s just that this topic offends your sense of propriety, while the other does not.

    Do not speak on the nature of science.

  15. #15 Great White Wonder
    October 17, 2007

    Watson said, “There is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities

    Excuse me … the what? The “intellectual capacities”? Is that a technical term?

    Hence, the asshole’s problem.

  16. #16 Christian Burnham
    October 17, 2007

    I agree with Caledonian- which is pretty worrying and probably means I need a trip to the head doctor.

    It was pathetic. But then- JW’s comments were pathetic.

  17. #17 Great White Wonder
    October 17, 2007

    Do not speak on the nature of science.

    Do not tell me what not to speak on, retardo.

    There was no substance to that post – it’s all insults and outrage.

    That’s false. Maybe you want to start over? Or perhaps quit trying.

  18. #18 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 17, 2007

    Watson said, “There is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically.” If this is wrong, what is the reason to believe they have evolved identically? The odds of that happening would be astronomical.

    Then please do tell me why Napoleon crossed the Mississippi.

    The part “peoples geographically separated in their evolution” is wrong. Watson fails to take into account that fumans fuck, almost like bonobos. Result: clinal variation all over the place.

    The only human population that ever was reproductively isolated was that of Easter Island, and even that only lasted 400 years. For evolutionary timescales that’s still absolutely pathetic, and yet it’s the extreme case.

    Why has nobody ever classified humanity into two races, Easter Island and Rest? This scheme would be a lot more justified than any other that has ever been proposed. And lots of different schemes have been proposed; I remember seeing a book from the early 20th century that explained mankind’s 66 (sixty-six) races.

  19. #19 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 17, 2007

    Watson said, “There is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically.” If this is wrong, what is the reason to believe they have evolved identically? The odds of that happening would be astronomical.

    Then please do tell me why Napoleon crossed the Mississippi.

    The part “peoples geographically separated in their evolution” is wrong. Watson fails to take into account that fumans fuck, almost like bonobos. Result: clinal variation all over the place.

    The only human population that ever was reproductively isolated was that of Easter Island, and even that only lasted 400 years. For evolutionary timescales that’s still absolutely pathetic, and yet it’s the extreme case.

    Why has nobody ever classified humanity into two races, Easter Island and Rest? This scheme would be a lot more justified than any other that has ever been proposed. And lots of different schemes have been proposed; I remember seeing a book from the early 20th century that explained mankind’s 66 (sixty-six) races.

  20. #20 Great White Wonder
    October 17, 2007

    Thusly most of your brain stops working as your emotions kick in.

    Huh. You’re sure it couldn’t be the case that your emotions are kicking in and forcing you to leap to Dr. “Freethinker” Watson’s defence?

    Seems that way to me because your arguments thus far in his defense are incoherent or simply repeating Watson’s own incoherent ramblings.

  21. #21 Caledonian
    October 17, 2007

    With the difference that we don’t know much about whether IQ is a trait.

    Don’t be a fool. IQ is a measurable thing. Scientists simply don’t know precisely what it is that’s being measured – and the vast majority of laypeople don’t understand it at all, as you’ve been more than willing to demonstrate.

    It’s a measurable trait that inheritance is known to have a measureable, statistical effect on. It’s not different than other traits we study, except that it triggers irrational tirades from the ignorant and uninformed more often than most.

    Short look at European history, or at my family tree: there ain’t no such thing as an ethnic lineage.

    Of course there is. It’s just not a simple thing, and not a thing that can be applied to individuals as easily as groups. Nevertheless, certain traits vary predictably between various ethnic groups – groups that often don’t match our social concepts of ‘races’. Go to razib’s blog and search for the discussions on lactose intolerance as just one example – educate yourself instead of spouting off on things you don’t understand.

    Oh man. I really wouldn’t have expected this gem of profound ignorance from you, Caledonian.

    I will say this only once: if you find yourself disagreeing with me, check your position before concluding that I am wrong – then recheck it.

    Of course ethnicity isn’t fate! That’s as absurd as the moron-generated strawman that genes determine everything about us!

    You are putting yourself in the same league as people who claim homeopathy works and that the medical establishment is covering up the real cause of AIDS.

  22. #22 Dustin
    October 17, 2007

    Why is it that Caledonian devotees always write like shitheads? I mean, that’s an easy enough question to answer, but there’s a particular mise en scène — some kind of ineffable quality — to their feeble, timid, awkward garbage that seems not only to be unique to this board, but expressed in every last post that’s ever been written applauding his masturbatory pontification.

    Is there something about anal retentive behavior that causes people to write like that? Why, why do they write like shitheads? What has to go wrong in your life before you can not only commit something like “Look past this unusual instance, where you seem to be – can I say it? – holier than moi?” to print but also PUBLISH IT?

    Also, if I take a picture of Caledonian’s latest immolation, can I get a Pulitzer? Or does the immolation have to have its roots in something other than a weird cocktail of self-satisfaction and self-loathing?

  23. #23 Great White Wonder
    October 17, 2007

    Don’t be a fool. IQ is a measurable thing.

    But is it related to “intellectual capacity”?

    If so, please explain how. Then maybe send your explanation to Watson because he’ll need it.

    It’s not different than other traits we study

    IQ is like lactose intolerance?

    Right, Caledonian. Keep digging.

  24. #24 Great White Wonder
    October 17, 2007

    I will say this only once

    Another lie.

  25. #25 tristero
    October 17, 2007

    Francis Crunk,

    “If Watson is so wrong, why do the “rebuttals” of him consist of nothing more than ad hominem?”

    That’s easy. You don’t argue with racists. You dismiss them or humiliate them. Relentlessly and without mercy.

    Does that strike you as unfair and demeaning? Well yes, it is. So?

  26. #26 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 17, 2007

    Don’t be a fool. IQ is a measurable thing.

    And what if it’s a chaotic composite of 20 or 300 things? Would be neat if it were a discrete character with two states, like any of the mutations that produce lactose tolerance…

    You also imply that IQ is constant throughout lifetime. But you can train solving IQ tests.

    Of course there is. It’s just not a simple thing, and not a thing that can be applied to individuals as easily as groups. Nevertheless, certain traits vary predictably between various ethnic groups – groups that often don’t match our social concepts of ‘races’. Go to razib’s blog and search for the discussions on lactose intolerance as just one example – educate yourself instead of spouting off on things you don’t understand.

    Let me simply repeat: each trait has its own geographic distribution. You won’t find any bundles that mark peoples or races. You have understood the latter part, but not the former. I find that strange.

    I also find it interesting how outraged you become when someone sends your tone back to you. :-)

  27. #27 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 17, 2007

    Don’t be a fool. IQ is a measurable thing.

    And what if it’s a chaotic composite of 20 or 300 things? Would be neat if it were a discrete character with two states, like any of the mutations that produce lactose tolerance…

    You also imply that IQ is constant throughout lifetime. But you can train solving IQ tests.

    Of course there is. It’s just not a simple thing, and not a thing that can be applied to individuals as easily as groups. Nevertheless, certain traits vary predictably between various ethnic groups – groups that often don’t match our social concepts of ‘races’. Go to razib’s blog and search for the discussions on lactose intolerance as just one example – educate yourself instead of spouting off on things you don’t understand.

    Let me simply repeat: each trait has its own geographic distribution. You won’t find any bundles that mark peoples or races. You have understood the latter part, but not the former. I find that strange.

    I also find it interesting how outraged you become when someone sends your tone back to you. :-)

  28. #28 LM
    October 17, 2007

    IQ is not a reliable measure of intelligence. Hell, we can’t even agree on what “intelligence” means.

    IQ tests don’t measure much except how proficient you are at taking IQ tests. Kind of like the GRE. Hm.

  29. #29 CalGeorge
    October 17, 2007

    The 79-year-old geneticist reopened the explosive debate about race and science in a newspaper interview in which he said Western policies towards African countries were wrongly based on an assumption that black people were as clever as their white counterparts when “testing” suggested the contrary.

    Has he said anything about apartheid? Does he think that policy should have been left in place?

    What about slavery?

    James Watson, Policy Wonk, tell us how the world should be run.

    While you are at it, tell us how you stole a woman’s research and then smeared her afterwards. Tell us how that’s done.

  30. #30 Swiftsure
    October 17, 2007

    I would recommend anyone to read Stephen Jay Gould’s The Mismeasure Of Man, which does a first-rate job of demolishing the notion of black people being inherently lower in IQ than white people.

    What, exactly is IQ anyway? What does the number assigned as a score in such a test reveal about anyone? IQ testing has a chequered and sometimes appalling history in the way it has been used to discriminate against people.

    If you would like to join MENSA, the society of people who have scored highly in an IQ test and then presume themselves to be experts in everything, there is a straightforward way to do it: get some books of IQ testing and practise doing the tests. Once you are familiar with the way the tests are constructed, apply to MENSA, pass the test and send of a hefty joining fee (they’re not daft, these MENSA people). Hey presto, you are now a person of superior intelligence.

    On the other hand, if you live in an African village, uneducated and poverty-stricken through no fault of your own, then sorry, but you’ve been labelled and you’re stuck with it.

    I would just ask this question: are IQ tests Intelligently Designed?

  31. #31 Christian Burnham
    October 17, 2007

    This conversation is largely defunct now that some have resorted to name-calling.

    The whole thing was begun with some pretty insensitive comments by JW and went downhill from there, but calling each-other racist isn’t helping much.

    And rebutting one set of rubbish quotes from JW with another set of rubbish from GL is only fanning the fire.

  32. #32 LM
    October 17, 2007

    “IQ is a measurable thing.”

    Caledonian, do agree with academic tracking? Because from your argument, it sounds like you would.

    You sound an awful like Lewis Terman and many other “intelligence testers” of the early 20th century.

  33. #33 gatoscuro
    October 17, 2007

    Intelligence research by Nisbett, Grigorenko, Phillips and others indicates that nutrition, educational opportunities and family environment factors account for most of the differences between American black and white children. The difference in IQ between the groups has also decreased in the past three decades, which would indicate a non-genetic change.

    Also, as the textbook I currently use for teaching intelligence points out, in the early 20th century the average Italian American was considered significantly below average on IQ tests. Today? Italian Americans score above average. Less than a century to move from one side to the other of the bell curve…

  34. #34 Bride of Shrek
    October 17, 2007

    I ran them through the ultimate tester for all-things-right, Googlefight. Watson won. Weird.

    http://www.googlefight.com/index.php?lang=en_GB&word1=jim+watson&word2=greg+laden

  35. #35 Graculus
    October 17, 2007

    Watson said, “There is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically.” If this is wrong, what is the reason to believe they have evolved identically?

    Because they didn’t evolve independently.

    Next!

  36. #36 Bride of Shrek
    October 17, 2007

    But the I made Jesus and Charles Darwin fight and Jesus kicked arse so maybe Googlefight sucks after all.

  37. #37 LM
    October 17, 2007

    “It’s a measurable trait that inheritance is known to have a measureable, statistical effect on.”

    Ah! But do we know how much of that “inheritance” is genetic and how much is a product of the environment? It is a fact that there is little intergenerational social mobility in this (or any) country… if your parents are poor and not well educated, chances are good that you are also poor and not well educated, and chances are excellent that you AND your parents would score rather abysmally on a standard IQ test (designed by, who else, intelligent white men who are rather well off financially). Is that due to genetic inheritance? Maybe a little, but I would bet not entirely, probably not even mostly.

  38. #38 coathangrrr
    October 17, 2007

    Don’t be a fool. IQ is a measurable thing.

    Technically IQ is a measurement of something, not a measurable thing. The difference is important. Mass is a measurable thing because we define what we are measuring before we measure it, whereas a kilo is a measurement of mass. If IQ scores are distributed such that “white” people, whatever group that actually picks out, score higher than “africans” or “blacks,” again, whatever group these terms actually pick out, then we only know that whatever it is that IQ measures, which has not yet been established, is more prevalent in “white” people.

    The further problem is that every definition of intelligence we have is based on a distinctly western ideal, not to say that there is no objective standard but that to use a skewed standard is certainly not good science.

  39. #39 Azkyroth
    October 17, 2007

    I think these sorts of conversations are extremely helpful.

    For example, when we argue against the claim that human variation takes the form of nice neat little bundles of traits that are distributed in a fashion more or less corresponding to societal definitions of race, and whose contents more or less correspond to Western racial prejudices particularly as regards intelligence and temperament, and then get people who lash out at us for supposedly thinking genetics has no influence on intelligence, we can safely dismiss the people who do the lashing as idiots. It’s not quite as effective a procedure as having them wear signs announcing themselves as such, but they’re much more cooperative with this approach.

  40. #40 MAJeff
    October 17, 2007

    from earlier discussions of this topic, I’m still waiting for a definition of “race.”

  41. #41 brtkrbzhnv
    October 17, 2007

    Bride of Shrek: That’s obviously not a fair fight. Charles Darwin narrowly defeats Jesus of Nazareth.

  42. #42 Great White Wonder
    October 17, 2007

    This conversation is largely defunct now that some have resorted to name-calling.

    Thanks, troll. Your concern is noted.

  43. #43 LM
    October 17, 2007

    “What, exactly is IQ anyway? What does the number assigned as a score in such a test reveal about anyone?”

    IQ traditionally is a measure of a person’s “mental age.” Here is a nice explanation from Walter Lippman, circa 1922:

    “…if a child of seven can answer all tests up to the seven-year-old tests perfectly, and cannot answer any of the eight-year-old tests, his total score is seven years. He is said to test “at age,” and his “intelligence quotient” or “I.Q.” is unity or 100 percent. Anybody’s I.Q. can be figured, therefore, by dividing his mental age by his actual age. A child of five who tests at four years’ mental age has an I.Q. of 80 (4/5=.80). A child of five who tests at six years’ mental age has an I.Q. of 120 (6/5=1.20).”

    The first IQ tests developed in the US were given to members of the US military, and revealed that the average mental age of adults in America was 14 years old.

  44. #44 Azkyroth
    October 17, 2007

    Wait. So, if you’re 60, having an IQ of 150 means you’re showing early signs of senility? :P

  45. #45 LM
    October 17, 2007

    So, are those of you arguing from a genetic standpoint saying that genes responsible for skin color are somehow linked to genes responsible for determining intelligence level? I guess that’s a nice explanation, assuming that there are very few genes that control for both skin color and for intelligence, and assuming also that these genes almost always occur on the same chromosomes, and that they sit right close to one another (so as to resist the muddying effects of crossing over and independent assortment).

    But really, does that sound very likely to anyone? Because it doesn’t to me.

  46. #46 SixOfSwords
    October 17, 2007

    Much like theists who put a velvet rope around their faith-based claims, there are those who feel that even discussing group differences in intelligence automatically makes one a racist. This is, of course, horribly presumptuous and egregious question begging.

    There is much work being done in the biological correlates of g-factor intelligence. For those who feel that they can simply train themselves in matrix analogies and thereby score highly on a highly g-loaded assessment – well, I wish them luck. It’s not going to happen. Better yet, why not train yourself to decrease your reaction time in ECT’s (elementary cognitive tasks)? This is, after all, highly correlated with g.

    Now, from my reading of Dr. Watson’s remarks, he is neither making a causal argument for group differences nor is he making a prescriptive one. He is simply pointing out that which is not a secret among psychometricians: that for whatever reason, group differences in g exist. Of course, for those of an egalitarian bent, this is the ultimate sin.

  47. #47 LM
    October 17, 2007

    I wonder what would happen if you ignored race and instead used as your grouping variable socioeconomic status when administering an IQ test to a random sample of the population.

    I wonder…

  48. #48 Greg Laden
    October 17, 2007

    Caledonian:

    Thanks for pointing out the ad hominem nature of my post. It was indeed such an attack, but I forgot to specifically mention that.

    You’ll note that I spent only a couple of paragraphs on the science. I could write a book on that. In fact, I am writing a book on that.

    You see the intended irony, right? No? OK, I’ll explain. You see, this guy, Dr. Watson (funny name, like in Sherlock Holmes and everything) goes out of is way to insult EVERY SINGLE PERSON LIVING ON THE AFRICAN CONTINENT and their relatives. He calls them all stupid.

    So then, see, I takes this guy and I write a post in which I call HIM stupid. See?

    I thought that was hysterical!

    (I would have figured most people would have figured I was being nasty at the part where I suggest he turn around and bend over so I could ram my boot up his ass. But I do appreciate you pointing it out!)

    Cheers,

    GTL

  49. #49 J Myers
    October 17, 2007

    Race: A contest of speed, as in running, riding, driving, or sailing.
    (Dictionary.com)

  50. #50 SixOfSwords
    October 17, 2007

    “You see, this guy, Dr. Watson (funny name, like in Sherlock Holmes and everything) goes out of is way to insult EVERY SINGLE PERSON LIVING ON THE AFRICAN CONTINENT and their relatives. He calls them all stupid.”

    Does he really? I recall something from my Introduction to Philosophy class called “the principle of charity”. It addressed the notion of reading the works of philosophers with their likely intent in mind in an attempt to understand their perspective. Do you honestly believe that Dr. Watson believes that EVERY SINGLE PERSON LIVING ON THE AFRICAN CONTINENT is stupid? Do you really believe that, Greg? Or was it more likely that Dr. Watson was talking in terms of central tendency and you’re just trying to score points by intentionally interpreting his comments in the most damning light?

  51. #51 LM
    October 17, 2007

    I would also like to point out, for giggles, that Lewis Terman and his intelligence-testing buddies were proponents of eugenics and supported laws enforcing compulsory sterilization in California.

  52. #52 tristero
    October 17, 2007

    “This conversation is largely defunct now that some have resorted to name-calling.”

    You say that as if it were a bad thing. It’s not. And I’m not joking. Conversations with racists should end that way. And quickly.

  53. #53 SixOfSwords
    October 17, 2007

    “I would also like to point out, for giggles, that Lewis Terman and his intelligence-testing buddies were proponents of eugenics and supported laws enforcing compulsory sterilization in California.”

    So?

  54. #54 LM
    October 17, 2007

    “So?”

    Terman developed the Stanford-Binet IQ tests used in the US in the early 20th century. Haven’t you been reading anything I’ve posted?

  55. #55 Caledonian
    October 17, 2007

    And what if it’s a chaotic composite of 20 or 300 things? Would be neat if it were a discrete character with two states, like any of the mutations that produce lactose tolerance…

    Most human traits aren’t controlled by single genes with only two states. Why in the world would we expect the nature of intelligence, one of the most complicated topics in the known universe, to be one of them?

    You also imply that IQ is constant throughout lifetime. But you can train solving IQ tests.

    Wrong. I do not imply that.
    Wrong. IQ isn’t constant. It becomes increasingly ‘heritable’ as time passes, and decreases with age past a certain point.
    Wrong. You can practice specific skills that certain IQ tests examine, but the practice wears off with time, and quite rapidly. The very best IQ tests involve functions that cannot be trained.

    Let me simply repeat: each trait has its own geographic distribution. You won’t find any bundles that mark peoples or races.

    But some traits are more bundled than others.

    You have understood the latter part, but not the former. I find that strange.

    It’s not that I haven’t understood the former, it’s that you don’t understand the implications.

    I also find it interesting how outraged you become when someone sends your tone back to you. :-)

    Tone is irrelevant. Lack of intelligent content is grounds for contempt.

  56. #56 Greg Laden
    October 17, 2007

    Six: Ouch, what nerve did I hit?

    Yes, he may be speaking, though incorrectly, about central tendency. But he is simply, obviously parroting the Rushton line. This means that, given the alleged central tendency and the alleged variance, he’s calling all but a couple of percent of the people on the continent of Africa stupid. Yes, I think that is sufficient to take him to task and rake him over the coals. Yes, a most damning light is what is needed here. Very very damning.

    But on a much less important note, you need to check in with your own advice. You understand, right, that my comments here was meant to be both dripping with sarcasm and really funny? You must, I think, embrace the notion of reading the works of philosophers with their likely intent in mind in an attempt to understand their perspective.

  57. #57 Christian Burnham
    October 17, 2007

    Tristero: It’s dangerous to level accusations of racism against posters who you don’t know when you’re only working on a small amount of information.

    It also effectively shuts down any debate.

  58. #58 Caledonian
    October 17, 2007

    This means that, given the alleged central tendency and the alleged variance, he’s calling all but a couple of percent of the people on the continent of Africa stupid.

    The vast majority of people on this continent are stupid. Given the known consequences of disease, malnutrition, and parasite load on the developing brain, the claim that all but a couple of percent of people on the continent of Africa are stupid is not only reasonable but inevitable.

    But let me guess – you take offense at the idea that most people here are stupid, don’t you.

  59. #59 LM
    October 17, 2007

    CB: I agree that it isn’t nice to accuse strangers of being racist.

    I would like to put forth an hypothesis, though… I would bet that most of the people on here arguing in favor of Dr. Watson are well-educated white males. It’s just a hunch of mine…

  60. #60 LM
    October 17, 2007

    “The vast majority of people on this continent are stupid.”

    The vast majority of people on this continent are also of lower socioeconomic status and not terribly well educated.

  61. #61 Caledonian
    October 17, 2007

    I would bet that most of the people on here arguing in favor of Dr. Watson are well-educated white males.

    Emphasis mine.

    I will make a further bet – the majority of people who have argued in favor of Dr. Watson here are well-educated, period.

    Those against? Not so much – not in cognitive psychology, genetics, or statistics.

  62. #62 Christian Burnham
    October 17, 2007

    LM: Most of the people discussing any topic on this board are well-educated white males.

  63. #63 LM
    October 17, 2007

    “I will make a further bet – the majority of people who have argued in favor of Dr. Watson here are well-educated, period.”

    I agree. That’s part of my point.

  64. #64 sailor
    October 17, 2007

    “Don’t be a fool. IQ is a measurable thing. Scientists simply don’t know precisely what it is that’s being measured”
    What is interesting is that everyone uses the word intelligence in the general sense as if it really meant something. All it means as far as I can see is what the tests measure.
    But suppose it means something. Sure, like muscles it has a hereditary basis, but why would one assume that unlike muscles it couldn’t change vastly according to environment? In which case any difference between any group that was not in some way extreme would be relatively unimportant.
    I remember in Sapolsky’s course on the biological basis of behaviour, he described an experiment in which researchers took a group of rats and knocked out some gene that made one group much dumber at simple tasks than the other. Then they took a bunch of the dumb rats and brought them up in a highly stimulating envrionment with lots of toys and tasks. They completely overcame the genetic defect and performed as well as the normal rats. And this is just simple rats we are talking about.
    That is why it is dumb to talk about racial or sexual differences in intelligence. First we really don’t what we are talking about, and secondly, the interplay between heredity and environment is so complex and plastic to render any differences between normal groups meaningless. Watson should have known this. In his favor, he thinks Collin’s view on religion is bullshit.

  65. #65 LM
    October 17, 2007

    CB: Touché! :)

  66. #66 Greg Laden
    October 17, 2007

    The vast majority of people on this continent are stupid. Given the known consequences of disease, malnutrition, and parasite load on the developing brain, the claim that all but a couple of percent of people on the continent of Africa are stupid is not only reasonable but inevitable.

    Holy crap, Cal!?!?!? Man, have you stepped over a line. Count yourself lucky that you did not say that on my site, because I’d kick your IP’s ass as well.

    Have you ever even been to Africa? Are you really sure you want to say that you fully expect almost everyone on the continent of Africa to be dumbed-out by parasites affecting their brain development? Do you have ANY idea what you are talking about? Holy crap!

    Hold me back, boys, hold me back…

    (Breath deep … breath deep … ok, ok, just start ignoring that guy….)

  67. #67 Caledonian
    October 17, 2007

    LM: Most of the people discussing any topic on this board are well-educated white males.

    True enough. So let’s specify: the bet should be something along the lines of “the proportion of posters defending Watson’s statements being well-educated, white males is much greater than the proportion of well-educated, white males who are attacking it”.

    It’s not ideal, of course, because the population of Watson defenders here is so small that reliable statistics on the type of person who would defend them in general, but we work with the populations we have.

  68. #68 LM
    October 17, 2007

    @ 64: Oh, for the love of… Can we stay on task here?

    Hey, I asked you what you thought of tracking. What do you think of it?

  69. #69 SoxOfSwords
    October 17, 2007

    “Terman developed the Stanford-Binet IQ tests used in the US in the early 20th century. Haven’t you been reading anything I’ve posted?”

    I’m well aware of the history of psychometrics, but I fail to see what Terman’s alleged policy beliefs has to do with anything.

    Just for giggles, Hitler was a vegetarian.

  70. #70 LM
    October 17, 2007

    SOS: First of all, there is nothing “alleged” about his policy beliefs.

    Now, you don’t think it’s fishy that the dude who developed IQ tests in this country, which subsequently found that all groups were intellectually inferior to whites, was also a eugenicist?

  71. #71 Colugo
    October 17, 2007

    Caledonian: “consequences of disease, malnutrition, and parasite load on the developing brain”

    But your position is not simply that Africans have had their brain developmentally affected by these insults, but that Africans have genetically based lower potential for cognitive ability. Right?

    Further, you imply that lower brain function is part of a genetically based life history trade-off created by sub-Saharan African ecology. Correct?

    What is your model, exactly? Whose hypotheses have influenced it? Rushton, Cochran, Sarich? The more details you provide, the more specific any critiques can be.

  72. #72 sixOfSwords@yahoo.com
    October 17, 2007

    Greg,

    So we agree that he’s likely talking about g and central tendency. So do you 1) disagree with the notion that black Africans, on average, score lower than other groups, 2) agree with this but feel the means of assessment are invalid, or 3) have some other perspective?

    In an effort to be mutually charitable, why don’t you lay out your position all sarcasm aside. Sometimes it’s hard to tell in this medium.

    Unperturbedly yours,
    6

  73. #73 sixOfSwords@yahoo.com
    October 17, 2007

    “which subsequently found that all groups were intellectually inferior to whites”

    Factually incorrect.

    And, no, I don’t find it suspect at all. You are suggesting that the content of the SB is somehow either designed to be racially biased or is inherently racially biased and that is simply unsupported by the research.

  74. #74 Epistaxis
    October 17, 2007

    This is ridiculous. Watson made a politically incorrect off-the-cuff speculation; a public figure should know better. But by far, the truly malignant behavior here is that of the people who resorted immediately to name-calling because the scientific issue at hand has implications for their political beliefs, especially Greg Laden, but also most of the commenters here. Intentionally or not, they prevent the truth from coming to light clearly and minds from being changed appropriately.

    Here are examples from Laden’s post:

    The man is a terrible embarrassment to us all.

    James Watson is, simply put, a moron.

    I assert, here and now, that Dr. Watson’s remarks indicate that he is of substandard intelligence.

    Therefore, he must be stupid.

    It may seem odd that the guy who, with others, “discovered DNA” could be a moron, but a brief analysis suggests that this is in fact quite possible. There are at least three factors that could explain James Watson’s obvious dullness

    Here are some examples from the commenters here:
    #5:

    What a dickhead!

    #7:

    his not-terribly-bright self

    #8:

    you are a boring gadfly and I won’t waste my time tearing you yet another asshole.

    #11:

    Watson was a mediocre thinker

    #12:

    I really wouldn’t have expected this gem of profound ignorance from you

    #16:

    retardo

    #20:

    Why is it that Caledonian devotees always write like shitheads?

    I find this comment most troubling:

    “This conversation is largely defunct now that some have resorted to name-calling.” You say that as if it were a bad thing. It’s not. And I’m not joking. Conversations with racists should end that way. And quickly.

    That’s about the worst, wrongest, counterproductivest thing you could say or do.

    There’s a good way to treat incorrect speculation: calmly (re)state the known facts of the matter and illustrate why they lead to a different conclusion. There’s a bad way to do it, too, which is Greg Laden’s preference: scream epithets at the person who’s expressed an opinion you don’t agree with; addressing the opinion itself is optional. Every sentence that applies an adjective like “stupid” or “racist” to Jim Watson’s character instead of applying “incorrect” or even “misguided” to his statement makes it harder to sympathize with his critic. This is a time to talk about the facts and the arguments, not about the people presenting them. Laden has done a great disservice to everyone who wants to stamp out centuries-old misconceptions about race and ethnicity. Shame on him.

  75. #75 Greg Laden
    October 17, 2007

    sixOfSwards: I actually have explicitly stated my “position” in my post, pretty unambiguously. At some other time I may address this in more detail with all the bells and whistles, but my writing patterns don’t really need to be jerked around by whatever the press happens to report on a given day, as I’m sure you understand.

    One thing I’ll mention quickly: There are published numbers that show “Africans” to have an IQ of around 70, and it has been suggested that this makes sense because African-Americans are a certain admixture of Europeans (IQ of 100) and these Africans (IQ of 70).

    What I can tell you is that these numbers are utterly, amazingly bogus, yet they are still often cited and relied on in this kind of discussion by people who simply must live in a world in which black people are inferior. The utterly bogus nature of these numbers together with their tenacity tells me that in general, the “side” of this “discussion” busy pushing the inferiority of non-whites is as politically motivated as it is annoying.

  76. #76 LM
    October 17, 2007

    “Factually incorrect.”

    Really, now? Not according to what I’ve read. Of course, the results have changed in recent history, yes? I believe I read something about Asians scoring higher than whites. I’m talking, however, about the original tests designed by Terman in the early part of the 20th century.

    “And, no, I don’t find it suspect at all. You are suggesting that the content of the SB is somehow either designed to be racially biased or is inherently racially biased and that is simply unsupported by the research.”

    Not necessarily racially biased, but yes, biased. Have you SEEN those tests? Come on, now.

  77. #77 SixOfSwords
    October 17, 2007

    Greg,

    So I take it that you have a problem with the validity of the instruments used in these kinds of studies? I have to assume this because you describe the data as “bogus”. Now is it intelligence assessments in general that you have problems with or the specific tools used in group studies? Similarly, are all measure of intellectual aptitude suspect or only those that show group differences?

    ~6~

  78. #78 SixOfSwords
    October 17, 2007

    “Have you SEEN those tests?”

    Yes, I’ve seen them and use them extensively. There is no racial bias. The literature on this is clear.

    ~6~

  79. #79 SixOfSwords
    October 17, 2007

    As an aside, I’m not trying to be nasty, so take my comments in the spirit of genuine inquiry and discussion.

  80. #80 Carlie
    October 17, 2007

    Would someone please define “race” and “ethnic group” for me? Because those terms are even more slippery, insubstantial, and nonexistent than “intelligence”. Which “blacks” does he mean are less intelligent? Papua New Guineans? Haitians? Jamaicans? Australian aboriginals? Congolese? Dark-complected Brits?
    And less intelligent than who? Fair-skinned Americans? Pale Canadians? Scots? Irish?

  81. #81 LM
    October 17, 2007

    SOS: I know you’re not asking me, but I would argue that there are problems with all intelligence tests. These tests are always biased in some way. Also, they don’t do a good job of teasing apart the genetic and environmental bases of what we call intelligence, which these tests purport to measure (the validity of which has still not been proven). It may appear superficially that race is a predictor of test performance, but considering that race is closely tied to socioeconomic status and access to resources (especially educational resources), it would appear that there is more to the story than simply the color of one’s skin.

    Is it mere coincidence that most blacks perform poorly on such tests, and that most blacks live in poor, urban communities?

  82. #82 Francis Crunk
    October 17, 2007

    Tristero said: “That’s easy. You don’t argue with racists”

    Laden and Meyers, and hundreds of people in comments, have seen fit to argue with him. But they can’t seem to be bothered to explain why he’s wrong. Laden does do a good job of calling names, hyperventillating, and denigrating the achievements of a person who has contributed vastly more to science than he has or ever will.

    Back to the matter at hand. Why should we think the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution have evolved identically?

  83. #83 Carlie
    October 17, 2007

    Sixofswords – even if there were no racial bias, those tests have an incredibly strong preparation bias. I used to teach classes that would almost guarantee a several hundred point increase in scores on the SAT and GRE, just from familiarizing oneself with the way in which the tests were given. The ability to do well on any “intelligence” test goes right back to educational history. As for their validity, Binet designed his test specifically NOT to segregate intelligence levels, or discover innate ability, but to note students who were lagging behind and needed some extra schooling. Any “IQ” tests based on his model are, to interject Tom Maglliozzi, bo-o-o-ogus.

  84. #84 LM
    October 17, 2007

    “Yes, I’ve seen them and use them extensively. There is no racial bias. The literature on this is clear.”

    You use tests from the 1920s? Remember, I’m referring to those initial tests. The ones given to the military were especially ridiculous. And biased, though not necessarily racially so.

    I’m arguing that Terman had an agenda, and this agenda had a lot to do with the outcome of the tests that he created. The tests that are used today aren’t nearly as ridiculous, but I still think that their results should be taken with a grain of salt. There are other, better explanations for poor test scores than race… and anyway, we don’t really know if IQ tests measure intelligence in the first place. But all of that has been said already.

  85. #85 Christian Burnham
    October 17, 2007

    Watson’s planned talk at the London Science museum has just been canceled because of his comments.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/7050020.stm

  86. #86 LM
    October 17, 2007

    Carlie: That’s a good point. Terman bastardized Binet’s original tests… to his own dastardly ends, I suspect!

    Read his “Great Conspiracy” article (The New Republic, December 27, 1922). The man was a petty, whiny little bitch. And I mean that in the nicest way possible. ;)

  87. #87 SixOfSwords
    October 17, 2007

    LM,

    At present, I am open to a variety of possible explanations as to why groups perform differently on average. I think that’s an important element to these discussions: distinguishing between the causal, descriptive, and prescriptive. From my research, it seems clear to me that there is a genetic component to the ability to solve novel problems quickly and complex problems reliably. However, I am not so naive to think that we have solved the problem of intellectual expression. Why do groups perform differently? I don’t know. I’m just not ready to dismiss Dr. Watson out of hand as a “racist” simply because he articulated a viewpoint that is held by likely the majority of psychometricians.

    ~6~

  88. #88 Epistaxis
    October 17, 2007

    A good starting point for the science of race/ethnicity/ancestry is “Genetic Structure of Human Populations,” back in the 20 Dec. 2002 issue of Science, by Noah Rosenberg et al.

    Here are some highlights:
    ? Genetic differences between, not within, major population groups account for 3-5% of overall variation. However, the patterns within between-population variation are strong enough that ancestry can be inferred from genetic markers without information about sampling location.
    ? Genetic diversity of populations decreases with the distance they’ve historically traveled from humanity’s birthplace in Africa, as expected from the founder effect.
    ? Genetic clustering often, but not always, concurs with predefined ethnic/geographic or linguistic categories.

  89. #89 Dustin
    October 17, 2007

    Laden has done a great disservice to everyone who wants to stamp out centuries-old misconceptions about race and ethnicity.

    In fact (and this is hot off the wires) Wayne Allard just finished reading Laden’s blog and is working on an amendment to reinstate the Jim Crow laws as we speak! He was that moved by it. Garrett Hardin’s reanimated corpse is, again as we speak, typing another defense of “The Bell Curve” and will be sending it to the Wall Street Journal in the morning. What blasphemous energies freed him from the grip of death? Why Gred Laden’s blog, of course!

    The damage, it’s so widespread, so catastrophic that only Epistaxis’s sneering sanctimony can save us! Godspeed, good asshole! Godspeed!

  90. #90 rjb
    October 17, 2007

    Just a point…

    Wasn’t there a recent study that showed significant IQ variation based on birth order? And, as a biologist, I’m pretty certain that there is no basis for a genetic preference of intelligence related genes to be passed to first-borns, unless there’s some new genetic hypothesis that I’m not aware of.

    While this is not the same issue as race and intelligence, it does show that you can get significant variation in intelligence in situations where genetics can be ruled out.

  91. #91 LM
    October 17, 2007

    Francis: Please refer to post #42. I think I raised some good points there that nobody has yet to consider.

    I would also like to point out that I have not resorted to name-calling. I wouldn’t do that to you guys. :)

  92. #92 SixOfSwords
    October 17, 2007

    “The damage, it’s so widespread, so catastrophic that only Epistaxis’s sneering sanctimony can save us! Godspeed, good asshole! Godspeed!”

    I’ll give it a “4″. The sarcasm was a bit blunt-edged.

  93. #93 LM
    October 17, 2007

    @ 84: Fair enough. I also agree that there are differences between groups… I am just hesitant to rush to the conclusion that race is the most important factor driving these differences, for a number of reasons (other than the fact that I’m a foaming-at-the-mouth-bleeding-heart-liberal and champion of equality! ^_^). There are a heck of a lot of other factors correlated to race that likely have an effect.

    Don’t quote me on this, but I believe that poor whites perform on the same level as poor blacks. Again, I think that it is extremely important not to overlook the environmental component of this issue. Also, see my post # 34 re: the genetic vs. environmental basis of heredity (in regards to “intelligence,” or at least performance on intelligence tests).

  94. #94 LM
    October 17, 2007

    “Wasn’t there a recent study that showed significant IQ variation based on birth order?”

    You’re right, I saw that on the Today show. And Matt Lauer would never lie to me…

  95. #95 Francis Crunk
    October 17, 2007

    LM said: “So, are those of you arguing from a genetic standpoint saying that genes responsible for skin color are somehow linked to genes responsible for determining intelligence level?”

    No. But just as genetically distanced groups have evolved physical differences, they’ve also, unsurprisingly, evolved mental differences.

  96. #96 LM
    October 17, 2007

    @ #92: But why should these mental differences track so closely with racial differences if they are not genetically linked?

    I’m skeptical, is all. Especially given the tremendous amount of gene flow that we see between groups. I would think that this would mask any measurable genetic differences.

  97. #97 LM
    October 17, 2007

    Well guys, I’m out. Bedtime, and all. When I come back tomorrow I expect there to be another hundred posts, and I won’t have time to read them all. But thanks for a good discussion! (Excluding those who did nothing but sling mud, of course.)

  98. #98 Francis Crunk
    October 17, 2007

    LM: What tremendous amount of gene flow has their been between, say, central Africans and the Chinese?

    You should follow the links in Epistaxis comment.

  99. #99 Inoculated Mind
    October 17, 2007

    I will make a further bet – the majority of people who have argued in favor of Dr. Watson here are well-educated, period.

    Those against? Not so much – not in cognitive psychology, genetics, or statistics.

    Hi, Caledonian. Shall I introduce you to my Bachelors of Science in Genetics? How about my test scores for my statistics classes? Shall we have a talk about how I’m going to grad school right now for genetics, and am taking more statistics? They wouldn’t matter worth space dross if you had any evidence for what you are arguing for. I’m not claiming authority, but you are instead claiming the absence of authority of everyone else, trying to make it sound like you know what you’re talking about.

    Again, I encourage you, Caledonian, to offer up the evidence for your position. All you’ve done here is obfuscated, avoided ponying up the facts, and avoided addressing Greg’s criticisms of Watson based on the correlation between IQ and Socio-Economic Status.

    The vast majority of people on this continent are stupid. Given the known consequences of disease, malnutrition, and parasite load on the developing brain, the claim that all but a couple of percent of people on the continent of Africa are stupid is not only reasonable but inevitable.

    And then you backtrack – and say people everywhere are stupid. But you know you’re smarter than them. You’re sure of that. You’re not one of the dumb ones, no. No way at all. So, tell us, Caledonian, where is all this magical evidence and information about genetics and the jaw-dropping statistics you keep talking about? And you wouldn’t accuse others of making the same mistakes you are, would you?

    You are putting yourself in the same league as people who claim homeopathy works and that the medical establishment is covering up the real cause of AIDS.

    Oh, you would. Nice job. No evidence for your position, and you accuse others of being like the woo-flingers that have no evidence for their positions.

    The thing is, I agree with you completely, Caledonian, in that this is a scientific topic worthy of discussion when there’s evidence to discuss it. My point in the previous post about Watson, and others as well, is that it is damned irresponsible of Watson to claim it as fact when he doesn’t have evidence for his position. (And neither do you.) The issue is that Watson has lent popular credibility to a mere hypothesis, which is not only scientifically irresponsible, but also socially irresponsible due to the potential harm involved in people acting on believing it to be true when it is not.

    No one is questioning whether or not it is a scientific topic, or whether such a hypothesis could be true or not. You’re knocking down straw men. Straw well-educated white men. :)


    I find it hilarious that Caledonian doesn’t have the guts to address Gregs claims on his own blog, and sees fit to plug his ears over here.

  100. #100 Caledonian
    October 17, 2007

    But your position is not simply that Africans have had their brain developmentally affected by these insults, but that Africans have genetically based lower potential for cognitive ability. Right?

    WRONG.

    You haven’t really been reading anything I’ve been posting, have you?

  101. #101 Caledonian
    October 17, 2007

    No one is questioning whether or not it is a scientific topic, or whether such a hypothesis could be true or not.

    Oh, Great White Wonder isn’t questioning. He’s denying. And he’s wrong.

    Again, I encourage you, Caledonian, to offer up the evidence for your position.

    If you really possess the qualifications you’ve claimed, you already know the evidence for my position. Hell, even if you don’t you likely already know.

    What exactly IS my position? Do you have any idea?

  102. #102 Dustin
    October 17, 2007

    You haven’t really been reading anything I’ve been posting, have you?

    Right. Innoculated Mind is a total moron not to notice that you haven’t been arguing that Africans have genetically based lower potential for cognitive ability, but instead have been arguing that Watson is not wrong when he suggests that Africans have genetically based lower potential for cognitive ability.

    IM should really adoped a more nuanced view of the world.

  103. #103 MichaelE
    October 17, 2007

    Since everything else about us follows the pattern of genes turned on or not turned on by stimulus from the environment (including the internal one), and “intellegence” is a function of our brain and is demonstrated by how we interact in the world, then “intellegence” must be set up by genetics and influenced by the environment. How could it be otherwise?

    Human migration patterns are still being worked out, and, interestingly enough for this discussion, the genetic evidence has shown some changes need to be made in hyptheses that had been based on cultural and linguistic evidence (and some flat-out lies). Some folks deliberately isolated themselves from others, at least culturally and linguistically (but genetics is showing they couldn’t keep randy boys and girls from hopping the walls), so they designed their environment to reward certain behaviors and punish others. We ought to agree that those who learned how to “win” in that environment showed intellegence.

    If intelligence testing is to be used for setting policy, it should be used in the way the Binet tests were described above: If there are major “intelligence” disparities between geographical groups and economic groups, then every effort should be made in support of the “unintelligent” people to eliminate the environmental factors that are holding them back. Such efforts should be made by the people in those groups and those who wish to support them.

    Finally, if this post is not really to a particular point, it’s because the issue of what James Watson says about race is pointless. If I had not clicked on SciBlogs today, I would not have known about Watson’s remarks, my life would have been no different than it is going to be after I post this comment: I treat individuals as individuals and hang around with the ones I like and/or the ones who can benefit me and don’t hang around with the others. I do as much as I can to -not- judge on aspects I consider superficial, such as skin color, location of ancestral origin, artistic and clothing tastes. Instead I judge actions and words, but certainly do not claim to be perfect.

  104. #104 Caledonian
    October 17, 2007

    Right. Innoculated Mind is a total moron not to notice that you haven’t been arguing that Africans have genetically based lower potential for cognitive ability,

    Correct. Stupidity is about what one does, not what one can do – and Innoculated Mind is being very stupid indeed.

  105. #105 Bob L
    October 17, 2007

    So anybody know who is the black guy or gal whose work Watson is claiming credit for?

  106. #106 Dustin
    October 17, 2007

    Since everything else about us follows the pattern of genes turned on or not turned on by stimulus from the environment (including the internal one), and “intellegence” is a function of our brain and is demonstrated by how we interact in the world, then “intellegence” must be set up by genetics and influenced by the environment. How could it be otherwise?

    Like this. And the rest of your post makes you sound like a eugenicist.

  107. #107 Geral
    October 17, 2007

    It’s a contentious issue. If intelligence capability is an inheritable trait, then yes I imagine we would see some variation between the races of man based on how they are selected on.

    But I think its important to realize that we all* do have the capability to learn and race shouldn’t be considered a limiting factor as Dr. Watson suggests.

  108. #108 Dustin
    October 17, 2007

    Correct. Stupidity is about what one does, not what one can do – and Innoculated Mind is being very stupid indeed.

    Heeey! A quote mine! That’s some classy shit there, Caledonian. Or should I say…. SAL CORDOVA!

    Let’s ban this fucker before he gets another sock puppet.

  109. #109 Caledonian
    October 17, 2007

    That’s still set up by genetics and influenced by environment, Dustin.

    The rest of your comment makes you sound like an axe-grinding zealot. You may wish to look to that.

  110. #110 deron
    October 17, 2007

    “No. But just as genetically distanced groups have evolved physical differences, they’ve also, unsurprisingly, evolved mental differences.”

    I reckon this is logical, but it raises questions to my mind.

    Individual physical differences seem to be fairy uniform as a result of genetic distance. Are mental differences uniform as well? It’s not that African’s all score poorly on IQ tests, but they do all seem to have dark complexions. N. Europeans don’t all seem to do well on IQ tests, but they all seem to have fair skin. Why the consistency in physical traits, but the variety of IQ scores? Shouldn’t all Africans score low, and all Europeans score high?

  111. #111 coathangrrr
    October 17, 2007

    What exactly IS my position? Do you have any idea?

    Well, generally speaking it is that everyone else is wrong and stupid. This time it is that everyone else is wrong and black people are stupid.

    As for some sort of “scientific” position, you don’t have one. Or, if you do, you refuse to actually articulate it in any meaningful way.

    P.S. I expect a dismissive response that includes an ad hominem, or simply no response as per your usual M.O.

  112. #112 E L
    October 18, 2007

    “Back to the matter at hand. Why should we think the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution have evolved identically?”

    Where IS the observation that certain geographically separated populations have demonstrably lower intellectual capacities than others in a statistically significant way to begin with? I have never seen any. Care to show us? Here is a hint: Start by defining the intellectual capacity of a population and how it can be meaningfully measured? Here is another hint: It has been widely argued that IQ measures little other than the ability to beat IQ tests. If you think otherwise, convince us.

    Before that actually happens, it seems to me rather revealing what kind of preconceptions operate beneath all that pretense of anti-political correctness free inquiry when certain people skip the observable reality altogether or simply offer anecdotal evidence and take for granted that some races are actually intellectually inferior and thus there is something here that demands explanations perhaps evolutionarily. Even schoolchildren know that is the antithesis of the scientific method of inquiry. Watson ought to be ashamed, and so should those of his defendants who actually managed to call themselves well educated on the matter.

  113. #113 coathangrrr
    October 18, 2007

    Why the consistency in physical traits, but the variety of IQ scores? Shouldn’t all Africans score low, and all Europeans score high?

    I don’t see any environmental reason that Africans should score low and Europeans high. In fact, it seems like there wouldn’t be a whole lot of selection pressure on intelligence after a certain level was reached.

  114. #114 Caledonian
    October 18, 2007

    Why the consistency in physical traits, but the variety of IQ scores? Shouldn’t all Africans score low, and all Europeans score high?

    No.

    The physical traits in question are relatively simple, controlled by a small number of genes. Brain structure is quite complex, controlled by the subtle interaction of large numbers of genes, as well as countless environmental factors, which is part of why things like IQ are distributed on a normal curve.

  115. #115 CalGeorge
    October 18, 2007

    That’s about the worst, wrongest, counterproductivest thing you could say or do.

    Yeah. Now go tell that to James Watson.

    The guy’s a major asshole, everyne knows it, and there is no point in being polite.

    He has insulted gay people, fat people, women, blacks… and that’s just the stuff he has the balls to mention in public.

    If the world were made up of James Watsons, it would be a very, very ugly place.

  116. #116 To the Middle of the Right Left
    October 18, 2007

    Caledonian -

    “On further examination, it is found that socioeconomic status (SES) and home environment predict IQ as well. When you analyze the data, you find that the latter — SES and Home Environment — are the main predictors of IQ across a given contemporary population, not skin color. It happens that skin color and SES and skin color and Home Environment, in the US and over the last few decades, are intertwined realities. The cause of the state of the SES and Home Environment variables is not IQ … it is cultural variation and, predominantly, racism. The IQ difference we see is the end product.”

    Please respond to this.

    Also, you have expressed your point in a coherent manner but you seem to ignore any hard questions people give you and respond to the easy ones.

    I’ve seen this one repeatedly, “Where is your evidence?”

    So please be intellectually honest and respond to the quote and the question and stop being so arrogant. I understand your viewpoint and it has some validity but you seem to be ignoring other solid points that then cause you to seem petty.

    “The nature of ethnic lineages, genetic inheritance of psychological traits, and our fledgling attempts to understand the human genetic code – these are all part of science.”

    True.

    “It’s a measurable trait that inheritance is known to have a measureable, statistical effect on.”

    Where is your evidence?

  117. #117 Dustin
    October 18, 2007

    The rest of your comment makes you sound like an axe-grinding zealot. You may wish to look to that.

    Yeah, I’m sorry. As long as the eugenicists of the world aren’t safe from being persecuted by little old me, no one is can be truly free. Now, let’s hold hands and sing “Kumbaya”.

  118. #118 Azkyroth
    October 18, 2007

    What exactly IS my position? Do you have any idea?

    If the answer is “no”, whose fault is that likely to be?

    You do seem to be advocating a more nuanced position than the genetic/essentialist/White Man’s Burden party line, the pattern-recognition buttons of which you seem to be going to Herculean lengths to ensure your argument trips, but you haven’t very clearly and cohesively articulated exactly what it is you’re in favor of.

  119. #119 Caledonian
    October 18, 2007

    The cause of the state of the SES and Home Environment variables is not IQ … it is cultural variation and, predominantly, racism. The IQ difference we see is the end product.

    Um, no. It’s a feedback loop. Mentally less-capable people have a harder time overcoming obstacles, both natural and socially-imposed. It’s just that the mental development IQ scores are a proxy for aren’t the only cause of SES and the state of home environments.

    Also, you have expressed your point in a coherent manner but you seem to ignore any hard questions people give you and respond to the easy ones.

    It’s actually the other way around.

    Where is my evidence? For Christ’s sake, the heritability of IQ and mental attributes in general has been studied to death. None of my points are obscure or even disputed within the field, and they’re sufficiently well-known that even laypeople enough to be familiar with the basics of the argument. That question is so easy as to be ridiculous.

    If you’re demanding citations, go find them yourself. I *could* go dig out my old freshman-level psychology textbooks and cite chapter and verse to you, but I’m frankly not interested in doing so.

  120. #120 Caledonian
    October 18, 2007

    If the answer is “no”, whose fault is that likely to be?

    Looking at the parties involved, I’d have to say that it’s more likely to be theirs. By far.

    but you haven’t very clearly and cohesively articulated exactly what it is you’re in favor of.

    But the argument I’ve been expressing isn’t about being “in favor of” anything. As for what I’m in favor of, that should be well-known by now: reason and logic. And wisdom, which logic is the beginning of.

  121. #121 Francis Crunk
    October 18, 2007

    El said: “Where IS the observation that certain geographically separated populations have demonstrably lower intellectual capacities than others in a statistically significant way to begin with?”

    It’s irrational to assume we all evolved the same, so some populations must be more intelligent on average than others. You may think Watson is wrong about which populations have the greater average intelligence, but his premise is sound. Even if one doesn’t accept IQ testing, given how Africa actually is, it’s entirely reasonable to draw the conclusions Watson does.

    “It has been widely argued that IQ measures little other than the ability to beat IQ tests. If you think otherwise, convince us.”

    There’s extensive evidence for the validity of IQ tests, which is why it’s unsurprising that researchers studying things like alzheimers or the harmful effects of lead rely on them. But there aren’t any serious arguments against them. Really, point to a single honest and serious argument which disputes the validity of IQ tests.

  122. #122 Azkyroth
    October 18, 2007

    You know, if you were to reverse the ratio of contumely to evidential support in your arguments, you would be one of the most formidable intellectuals and debaters on the net. As it stands…

  123. #123 MichaelE
    October 18, 2007

    Dustin,

    Your links show me that things that happen to humans develop from our genes, which are turned on or off by external and internal environmental factors, and our behavior is influenced by our environment.

    I am completely baffled about your claim that the rest of my post makes me sound like a eugenicist. You’ll have to educate me, or, if you don’t care enough to bother, I won’t care enough to think about it any more.

    It’s up to you.

  124. #124 coathangrrr
    October 18, 2007

    It’s irrational to assume we all evolved the same, so some populations must be more intelligent on average than others.

    Yes, and it’s irrational to assume we all evolved the same, so some population must have more hearts on average than others.

    Or maybe we generally have the same intelligence.

  125. #125 coathangrrr
    October 18, 2007

    But the argument I’ve been expressing isn’t about being “in favor of” anything.

    What’s your damn point then. Goodness, are you really a troll or what?

  126. #126 tomh
    October 18, 2007

    coathangrrr wrote:
    What’s your damn point then. Goodness, are you really a troll or what?

    Yes, obviously. Are you just catching on?

  127. #127 Colugo
    October 18, 2007

    I withdraw my characterization of Caledonian’s views and apologize to Caledonian. I was confused by his repeated defense of Watson’s remarks, but reading through all of his comments on both Watson threads it appears that he basically takes an environmental developmentalist position.

    Frankly, I’m still not entirely sure what exactly Caledonian’s views are. Perhaps he can explain them in greater detail, including a list of scientists in the field whose views he most agrees with.

    However, Caledonian clearly does not understand what Watson’s views are. (Hint: when a geneticist says “evolved” he means differences in gene frequencies.) I do, and I think Watson’s full of it.

    Coincidentally, another story in the news is about an archaeological site in southern Africa from 170K bp that shows a number of features previously associated with the 40K bp European Upper Paleolithic, which is looking less revolutionary all the time.

  128. #128 Francis Crunk
    October 18, 2007

    “Yes, and it’s irrational to assume we all evolved the same, so some population must have more hearts on average than others.”

    No one is arguing some groups have two brains. Since you mention hearts, science shows different races have different genetic predispotions to heart disease. Or is that racism too?

    Yes, and it’s irrational to assume we all evolved the same, so some population must have more hearts on average than others.

    “Or maybe we generally have the same intelligence.”

    Yes, if you define generally as within + or – 30 points.

  129. #129 To the Middle of the Right Left
    October 18, 2007

    Okay, something short enough that it doesn’t turn into a gigantic post, (neurologist) Dr. Robert Novella:

    “What is Intelligence?

    The first controversial question that arises from this study is the very definition of intelligence, and specifically how does standard IQ testing relate this intelligence. Cognitive scientists have struggled with this question for decades, and many classic definitions have been criticized for being too narrow, or even biased. In the extreme some argue that intelligence is impossible to measure because any measurement will be overwhelmed with subjective and cultural bias – often based in sexism and racism.

    While I do not adhere to this more extreme view, I do think that measuring intelligence is highly problematic. The difficulty stems from the fact that there is no recognized all-inclusive definition of intelligence. This is because intelligence is not one thing, but rather is comprised of many separate neurological functions. It is also because choices must be made in the definition that are not ultimately objective.

    For example, we could try to define intelligence as the net effect of many underlying sub-abilities, such as facility with math, logic, memory, perception, emotional maturity, personal insight, ability to abstract, etc. All of these identifiable individual cognitive functions work together to create a combined net effect we experience as “intelligence.”

    Or, we could also conceptualize many separate intelligences. We could therefore talk about memory intelligence, math intelligence, and emotional intelligence.

    It is now completely clear from neuroscientific evidence that different parts of the brain are dedicated to specific functions, and that individuals can be geniuses in one area but morons in another. The question remains, however, is there a generic intelligence. Do some people’s brains function better, faster, etc. in a way that gives them a cognitive advantage across the board (i.e. not localized to one brain area)?

    Nature vs Nurture

    In addition to global vs focal intelligence, there is also the question of how much intelligence is hard-wired and genetically determined, and how much is learned. The evidence suggests that there is a strong, perhaps even dominant, genetic component to measures of intelligence. However, evidence and experience also suggests that the more people learn the better able they are to further learn. Also, learning in one area improves the ability to learn in other areas. And finally, remaining intellectually active seems to have a protective effect against developing dementia.

    This question has many wrinkles I don’t have time to explore now. For example, is there a genetically determined or acquired desire to learn or basic curiosity that improves intelligence in all areas? Or is ability in each area largely separate?”

    This is essentially the view point that I’m coming from. Note, I’m not saying that you can’t measure intelligence just that’s harder than you’re making it out to be.

    “Um, no. It’s a feedback loop. Mentally less-capable people have a harder time overcoming obstacles, both natural and socially-imposed.”

    You’re serious? So let’s say you were born into slavery and you weren’t shown any letters, numbers, books, anything…and then someone tried to measure your intelligence, how would you do?

    Well, clearly that is a feedback loop. If the slave was more mentally capable he would’ve just simply overcame the obstacles.

  130. #130 darwinfinch
    October 18, 2007

    “Hey, if Watson ‘s wrong, how come you guyz have to attack him with that add hominy stuff?”

    I will make no further effort reason with, much less refute, the defenders of this silly old man’s delusions, as I do not engage in debate with those who have demonstrated they are simply dishonest fuckwits, however sciency they may paint themselves.

  131. #131 Clare
    October 18, 2007

    Once more, with feeling… for those who want to know more about “human variation” versus “race,” take a look at the American Anthropological Association’s web project on the subject. It’s aimed at the general reader, not the expert, but even some of the “experts” commenting here seem like they need the refresher..

    http://www.understandingrace.org/home.html

  132. #132 MichaelE
    October 18, 2007

    TMRL,

    You lost me with the last bit, when you invoked slavery. It doesn’t follow from the quote. On the one hand, a slave who is denied tools to improve his intelligence will score low on IQ tests, as you note, but, freed from bondage and given the tools, their intelligence will improve.

    On the other hand, someone who is left on their own to decide their intellectual future may or may not choose to develop their intelligence. Won’t their beginning state of mental ability have an effect on how far they choose to go? There are lots of people who come home from work and plop in front of the MTV for the rest of the evening. They don’t bother to do anything to improve their IQ, so they will have reached an intellectual plateau, no? An external influence (perhaps a TV show!) may make them decide to take some action to work their brains more than they have been doing, but if they aren’t intelligent enough to understand how to react to the influence, it will have no effect on them, will it? Wouldn’t that be a feedback loop?

  133. #133 Colugo
    October 18, 2007

    And Caledonian, “the claim that all but a couple of percent of people on the continent of Africa are stupid is not only reasonable but inevitable” is simply ludicrous. Absurd. Embarrassing. Worse than your misunderstanding of Watson’s views.

  134. #134 To the Middle of the Right Left
    October 18, 2007

    MichaelE,

    I used an extreme example simply because the conclusion is beyond obvious.

    But sure, there may be SOME “feedback loop.” But don’t ignore the S.E. feedback loop in play as well. For example:

    If you take subject A and put him in an environment where he has all his basic needs met, where he is pushed to pursue his interests, has access to books, and parents both come from colleges and continually tell him what he needs to do to achieve.

    Then take subject A and put him in an environment where he’s hungry, has to watch his siblings, is in an overcrowded classroom, has substandard teachers, and no one talks of college as a reasonable option.

    And lets say both A’s are exactly alike outside of their environment. Obviously the first A is going to do better because he was raised in a better environment. That A will go off to college and that chain may continue for awhile. But the in the second example, he works at odd jobs trying to make rent and that chain may continue for awhile.

  135. #135 MichaelE
    October 18, 2007

    TMRL,

    I agree that the two A’s could very well test out as equal in intelligence if their environmental influences were cancelled out.

    On the other side, an A and a B from the exact same environment (as much as that is possible) can have very different levels of intellegence, thereby making their future choices different regarding what they were going to do about improving their own intelligence.

    We can shape our own environments, can’t we?

  136. #136 Gullible Jones
    October 18, 2007

    @Francis Crunk:


    Yes, and it’s irrational to assume we all evolved the same, so some population must have more hearts on average than others.

    “Or maybe we generally have the same intelligence.”

    Yes, if you define generally as within + or – 30 points.

    We’ve already gone over why the IQ test is a very poor test of a person’s innate reasoning capabilities.

  137. #137 To the Middle of the Right Left
    October 18, 2007

    “On the other side, an A and a B from the exact same environment (as much as that is possible) can have very different levels of intellegence, thereby making their future choices different regarding what they were going to do about improving their own intelligence.

    We can shape our own environments, can’t we?”

    To the extent that you are allowed to. You’re brain is wired to react to your environment and after that things will go as they go. So of course, if you’re brain operates differently then mine you are going to react differently to the same environment.

    If you take an average population and and subject them to the same (good) environment you will get a spectrum of results.
    G = Genius , A = Average, B = Below Average, E = Environment

    G + E = College
    A + E = College
    B + E = Factory Worker

    Now take an average population and subject them to (bad) environment you will get a spectrum of results.

    G + E = College
    A + E = Factory Worker
    B + E = Factory Worker

    Please take this metaphorically, the G still survives in the second example but the A doesn’t do as well as the other A. Most of the population will fall into the average category and this is important because when you throw in the different environment the results change. If you don’t factor in E then you might suppose that one of these groups is better than the other.

  138. #138 To the Middle of the Right Left
    October 18, 2007

    “Yes, if you define generally as within + or – 30 points.”

    ‘We’ve already gone over why the IQ test is a very poor test of a person’s innate reasoning capabilities.’”

    If you take the IQ test problems and stack them with environmental factors I’m pretty sure it makes up the remaining points. But I can’t say that as “fact.”

  139. #139 Dale
    October 18, 2007

    David Marjanovi? said…

    “The only human population that ever was reproductively isolated was that of Easter Island, and even that only lasted 400 years. For evolutionary timescales that’s still absolutely pathetic, and yet it’s the extreme case.”

    Er, the Tasmanian aborigines were isolated for 10,000 years.

  140. #140 Brandon P.
    October 18, 2007

    It’s irrational to assume we all evolved the same, so some populations must be more intelligent on average than others.

    Yes, but why would selection for intelligence be more severe for some human populations compared to others? Human populations differ because of different selective forces between regions. To prove that human populations must have evolved different degrees of intelligence, you’re going to have to prove that certain environments were more intellectually demanding than others.

  141. #141 Inoculated Mind
    October 18, 2007

    RE: Caledonian

    If you really possess the qualifications you’ve claimed, you already know the evidence for my position.

    I did not claim specialist knowledge of the field in question. Instead, I asserted that I have basic training in approaching the topic, which you claimed none of your opponents possess. Don’t put words in my mouth, or wave your hand and say “You do not need to see any evidence.” You’re claiming specialist knowledge. Out with it or out with the ruse.

    RE: Dustin

    IM should really adoped a more nuanced view of the world.

    Love that sarcasm!
    RE: Caledonian again

    Correct. Stupidity is about what one does, not what one can do – and Innoculated Mind is being very stupid indeed.

    At least I can spell “Inoculated” It has one N. (Dustin forgiven due to above joke) Good quote mine – I think you’re DaveScot, not Scordova! :) By missing that sarcasm, you sure lose your obfuscating edge.

    Truthfully, your position is all over the place. Unfortunately, it cannot be easily pinned down, as it does not follow a normal distribution. You seem to have several discrete positions that you shift between. I think we would have to make a normal approximation of a binomial distribution to even begin to illustrate what your position is. Please waste everyone’s time with your comments 30 more times, maybe 50 times over (1500) so we can make such an approximation.

    After re-reading your posts, and the further discussion on the other page on this topic, I think I can safely say that you’ve been defending Watson’s hypothesis, without actually defending it at all. Trying to tie it to some sort of elusive “we shouldn’t avoid this topic – it is under the realm of science… I stand for reason, and wisdom, and references to Spock in Star Trek VI” is just covering for your sorry arguments.

    At the top, you said:

    We study IQ inheritance with the same tools we use to study a lot of other traits that we can’t tie down to specific genes very well. We’re currently in a renaissance of genetics research into not only crude physiology, but psychological and cognitive traits, and the data shows that genetic inheritance alone is a major factor.

    And you went downhill from there. Keep defending Watson’s baseless and irresponsible comments, and feel free to use the word “iNNoculated” in the same sentence as calling me stupid anytime! It worked for DaveScot!

    I haven’t paid particular attention to your comments before, but I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt that this occasion is an outlier.

  142. #142 SeattleJew
    October 18, 2007

    Humans are a young species, BUT we obviously have a lot of genetic diversity that does arise from isolation and selective advantage of locality. This includes even some mendellian variants, including Sickle. Multigenic diseases like diabetes and atherosclerosis have large heritable components as well. The only way intelligence could escape this fundamental biological principle is if IQ arose as part of intelligent design!

    The idea that intelligence can be bred is, OTOH, as obvious as the effects (good and bad) of breeding race horses, long snouted collies, lab mice, etc. BUT, the idea that a little bit of melanin defines “race” is a fanatasy. The openly thing that makes Barak Obama, Jesse Jackson, Haille Sellasie, and an African Bushman of one race is the KKK.

    Before getting too e4xcited about the genetics implied by IQ testing in the uSA, someone better figger out how comes a little bit of Africa is domonanjt over the genes of Tom Jefferson.

    If anyone here wants to see a longer essay on this topic .. I have posted one at my blog SeattleJew.

  143. #143 Scrabcake
    October 18, 2007

    I had the good fortune of going to a fairly prestigious university on the East Coast, and unfailingly, every week in the school newspaper, the following want-ad (or one similar) would be posted in the school newspaper.

    ———————-
    Egg Donors Wanted!
    Must be tall, Jewish, and have a combined score of at least (1600) on the SAT.
    ———————-

    Apparently, there were a lot of wealthy hopeful parents who were convinced that SAT scores were heritable.
    Just about anyone with *any* knowledge of genetics knows this is laughable. I don’t really see how IQ tests are all that much different. They were developed on an archaic understanding of intelligence, and the type of “intelligence” which they supposedly quantify are at best limited.

  144. #144 tristero
    October 18, 2007

    Christian Burnham:

    “It’s dangerous to level accusations of racism against posters who you don’t know when you’re only working on a small amount of information.
    It also effectively shuts down any debate.”

    1. Danger is my middle name.
    2. There’s nothing to debate.

    Francis Crunk:

    “Laden and Meyers, and hundreds of people in comments, have seen fit to argue with [Watson].”

    Hardly. They’ve condemned him for his racism. As well they should.

    “Back to the matter at hand. Why should we think the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution have evolved identically?”

    Wrong. The only matter at hand is Watson’s racism. It is sheer intellectual dishonesty to pretend otherwise.

  145. #145 Mike
    October 18, 2007

    Well, I’m a physicist/materials scientist, so I know nothing about genetics. Not that that’s stopped anyone else, so here’s my non-expert opinion:

    Are there factors that may effect intelligence that are inheritable? Sounds plausible. Could some such factor exist in some people and not others? Well, they’re not going to spontaneously appear in everyone all at once. Will all such positive factors only appear in one group? No, of course not. Do we have the foggiest what such factors are and how to accurately measure them? No. (Yes, IQ is measureable. So are bumps on the head, for all that gets you).

    So, in short, the only way to get the “genetic superhuman” would be to (hand-wavingly somehow) get all such inheritable genetic factors improving intelligence into one person, and the only way that would be doable is by making mixed race babies. So perhaps Brazil will produce the next Einstein…

  146. #146 AlanWCan
    October 18, 2007

    Can we just lock JDW in a room with Michael Richards and Neil degrasse Tyson, a slide rule, and a big book of really hard sums, and they don’t get to leave til the exercises are all done. My money’s on Neil.

  147. #147 IjonTichy
    October 18, 2007

    People keep mentioning the either unquestionable validity or obvious vacuousness of the concept of a unitary “intelligence” that IQ tests measure, and yet not much evidence has been brought to bear on the issue, beyond “Go look at a freshman-level psychology textbook.” (Incidentally, that priceless little quote is nothing more than a sign that you, Caledonian, are not interested in engaging in an actual conversation, which makes me wonder why you’re here. To briefly namedrop, I was talking to Ramachandran about “g”, and he thinks it’s complete rubbish, along with every other cognitive science professor and neuroscience professor I’m acquainted with, so clearly not everyone is in lockstep with Freshman Psychology. Possibly you should have taken a couple more classes, and possibly you should be a little less willing to accept decades-old orthodoxy.)

    So: one problem with “intelligence” from a neuroscientist’s perspective is that there’s no plausible biological correlate. About seven-eighths of the human brain is devoted to sensory and motor processing, containing areas specialized to recognize objects, detecting edges, representing vibrating objects touching the palm, etc. Seven eighths is dedicated to this sort of seemingly “low-level” processing, and much of the rest is directed towards other rather prosaic-seeming tasks (motor planning, basic survival such as breathing control, etc.)

    The brain contains hundreds of separate areas specializing in a bewildering array of pattern recognition skills. Intelligence researchers want to boil all of this complexity down, somehow, to a single number related to the sorts of skills that most humans have only been learning in schools for the last two centuries. How does this make sense? Why do so many people seem satisfied with this view?

    Put another way: if you measured humans’ athletic ability in a number of different ways (shot put, table tennis, golf, track, soccer, etc.) they would most likely all correlate. Does that mean that when discussing athletic ability we should just sum it up in a single number and then go home? No, because that’s patently stupid. “G” is a concept just barely worthy of nineteenth century science, and should have been killed and buried decades ago.

  148. #148 Jeff
    October 18, 2007

    I believe HTML this article might have something to say about Watson’s latest.

  149. #149 Bernard Bumner
    October 18, 2007

    We’re still bogged down in the same argument here, and a large part of it stems from the fact that people acting as apologists for Watson actually aren’t addressing what he said, which wasn’t simply that there may be heritable aspects of IQ, which is entirely possible (but is not well evidenced).

    He said that “blacks” and Africans don’t have “the same” “intelligence”. This doesn’t make any scientific sense, because those are all nebulous terms coming together to express a matter of fact – apparently known to anybody who has worked with “black employees” – which is unsupported by evidence.

    Is he really saying that “blacks” and Africans have a genetically different “intellectual capacity”? If so – and it seems to be the case in that interview – then it is a racist and unscientific opinion.

    Equally, the interview mentions a previous occasion when Watson postulated that people with darker skin have a stronger libido. Putting the two together, we come dangerously close to that archaic stereotype of the lusty savage.

    Keep in mind that interview wasn’t a hatchet job by a liberal journalist, but a sympathetic interview conducted by someone who used to work for Watson. Also, keep in mind that Watson has form on making scientfically unsupported, and offensive arguments.

  150. #150 rjb
    October 18, 2007

    Next morning, finally responding:

    LM said:
    “Wasn’t there a recent study that showed significant IQ variation based on birth order?”

    You’re right, I saw that on the Today show. And Matt Lauer would never lie to me…

    I wasn’t referring to Matt Lauer. If you want the reference, it’s here:

    Kristensen and Bjerkedal. 2007. Explaining the Relationship between Birth Order and Intelligence. Science. 316, 1717.

    My point is that, in all cases where people have looked, environmental influences have profound effects on intelligence as measured by IQ, even in highly controlled circumstances such as within a single family. This study went on to show that it was social rank per se that was important (e.g., second born children in families where first born children died showed the same advantages as first born children in IQ tests).

    Perhaps it’s because I’m a developmental biologist who is interested in studying variations in developmental patterns, but it is ridiculously obvious in repeated cases that, at a mechanistic level, early experience and neural development can radically alter the final structure of the brain. The norm of reaction for a given genotype when dealing with nervous system function is enormous everywhere anyone has looked (ie, ocular dominance columns in the cortex, sensory representation in somatosensory cortex, learning ability in rats raised in an enriched environment vs. an impoverished environment, etc). Outside of very specific genetic disorders, it is clear that experience is the largest determinant of brain function in nearly every study ever examined. So to pick up on some relatively small differences in neural function between groups that have, on average, large differences in environmental conditions, and then attribute them to genetic differences, is simply ignoring the vast amount of mechanistic data regarding neural development. The most parsimonious hypothesis is that, like every other neural process, environmental factors will play a large role in final brain function.

  151. #151 Laser Potato
    October 18, 2007

    There is no single, homogenized group of “Africans” any more than there is a single, homogenized group of “Caucasians” or “Asians.” Thinking like that leads to ridiculous logic like this (quote from Wikipedia):

    “The attention focused on race leading up to, during, and after the American Civil War led to a proliferation of works looking at the physiological differences between Caucasians and Negroes, with a large amount of attention paid to the question of “miscegenation.” Work by early anthropologists such as Josiah Clark Nott, George Robins Gliddon, Robert Knox, and Samuel George Morton attempted to prove scientifically that Negroes were not the same species as white people, and alleged that the rulers of Ancient Egypt were not actually Africans, and that racial mixture provided infertile or weak offspring. In the years after the Civil War, Southern physicians wrote text after text outlining different scientific studies which sought to prove that the Negro was dying out as a race under the conditions of freedom, implying that the system of slavery had been beneficial.”

  152. #152 Laser Potato
    October 18, 2007

    Oh, and did I mention black people were supposed to be HAPPY to be enslaved, and a desire to escape was seen as MENTAL ILLNESS:

    “Because the Atlantic slave trade raised moral questions from its inception scientific theories were provided to justify the enslavement of Africans, in particular in the United States. According to Alexander Thomas and Samuell Sillen during this time period the Black man was described as uniquely fitted for bondage because of what researches at the time called “his primitive psychological organization.” Hence, a well-known physician of the ante-bellum South, Samuel A. Cartwright (1793-1851) of Louisiana, had a psychiatric explanation for runaway slaves. He diagnosed their attempts to gain freedom as a treatable mental illness and coined the term “drapetomania” in 1851 to describe it. His feeling was that with “proper medical advice, strictly followed, this troublesome practice that many Negroes have of running away can be almost entirely prevented.” Cartwright also described dysaethesia aethiopica, “called by overseers ‘rascality’”.

  153. #153 John B
    October 18, 2007

    Caledonian wrote:”If you really possess the qualifications you’ve claimed, you already know the evidence for my position. Hell, even if you don’t you likely already know.

    What exactly IS my position? Do you have any idea?”

    Wow.

  154. #154 True Bob
    October 18, 2007

    So what about the brains of different “races” would make them inferior? AFAIK, brains have the same structure and functionality.

    I mean, “Caucasian” brains don’t us a different means of neurotransmission than “Black” brains, do they? Are “Black” brains less foldy than “Caucasian” brains, which are less foldy than “Asian” brains? How about total # of brain cells, is there a difference there?

    So who’s got these answers?

  155. #155 Laser Potato
    October 18, 2007

    Subtitute “Aryan” for “Asian” in any of these posts and you start to see Caledonian’s agenda show through.

  156. #156 Laser Potato
    October 18, 2007

    …or substitute it in place of “white” or “Caucasian”. It works either way.

  157. #157 Iain Walker
    October 18, 2007

    One point that doesn’t seem to have been raised in this discussion so far, is that (if I remember correctly) Africa contains the most genetically diverse population of all the continents. So it’s hard to see how Watson can justify generalising so broadly about “Africans”, as if they were a homogenous group.

    It also makes his “justification” for his claims (about having to deal with black employees) doubly silly. The “black employees” to whom he is referring are presumably African Americans, but African Americans are predominantly descended from groups from equatorial West Africa, in which case they are not necessarily a representative sample of African diversity.

  158. #158 robotaholic
    October 18, 2007

    I find the arguments here unconvincing. Picking on the individual in the comments doesn’t speak to his argument.

  159. #159 Laser Potato
    October 18, 2007

    “So what about the brains of different “races” would make them inferior? AFAIK, brains have the same structure and functionality.
    I mean, “Caucasian” brains don’t us a different means of neurotransmission than “Black” brains, do they? Are “Black” brains less foldy than “Caucasian” brains, which are less foldy than “Asian” brains? How about total # of brain cells, is there a difference there?”

    This stands to be repeated. We’re all the same species, so why the heck would our brains be different? Unless you’re suggesting, Caledonian, that “blacks” like me are some sort of subspecies or suffer from some abnormality.

  160. #160 robotaholic
    October 18, 2007

    …better yet, since we are all physical entities, how is it that in all areas we have genetic differences and our genes/environment influence those but when it comes to the brain and it’s resulting aptitude for intelligence, somehow it is untouchable and we are all inately equals? explain

    I don’t know that it is bigotry to say one race is on average smarter than another – it is just a difference – I mean we are all equidistant from a common ancestor – that alone would indicate that we are all brothers and sisters and should preclude hatred – it is retarded to call Watson a bigot – that should be reserved for those who have hatred for other races – I can see the distinction

  161. #161 Laser Potato
    October 18, 2007

    “I find the arguments here unconvincing. Picking on the individual in the comments doesn’t speak to his argument.”

    In case you haven’t noticed, we ARE dissecting his argument and showing it to be flat-out wrong. Besides, isn’t HE the one who’s supposed to provide evidence for his assertions?
    THE ONE PRESENTING THE ARGUMENT IS THE ONE WHO HAS TO PROVIDE THE PROOF.
    THE ONE PRESENTING THE ARGUMENT IS THE ONE WHO HAS TO PROVIDE THE PROOF.
    THE ONE PRESENTING THE ARGUMENT IS THE ONE WHO HAS TO PROVIDE THE PROOF.
    THE ONE PRESENTING THE ARGUMENT IS THE ONE WHO HAS TO PROVIDE THE PROOF.
    I think I’ve made myself clear…

  162. #162 Caledonian
    October 18, 2007

    You know, if you were to reverse the ratio of contumely to evidential support in your arguments, you would be one of the most formidable intellectuals and debaters on the net. As it stands…

    Ah, but its the comparison to my ‘peers’ that matters. And look at how much evidence they’ve brought to the table to support their positions!

    (crickets)

    Quite frankly, I do not feel the need to provide links to rudimentary knowledge within the field when the majority of my ‘opponents’ are screaming fools.

    It doesn’t help that I have an extensive memory of findings, but not always the ability to recall where I found them. I should really keep a list of references handy for the rare times I care to share hard data.

  163. #163 Laser Potato
    October 18, 2007

    “Quite frankly, I do not feel the need to provide links to rudimentary knowledge within the field when the majority of my ‘opponents’ are screaming fools.
    It doesn’t help that I have an extensive memory of findings, but not always the ability to recall where I found them. I should really keep a list of references handy for the rare times I care to share hard data.”

    Translation: “I got nuttin’.”

  164. #164 Laser Potato
    October 18, 2007

    So, since obviously know MUCH more than us about race and intelligence, you clearly don’t mind answering this:
    “So what about the brains of different “races” would make them inferior? AFAIK, brains have the same structure and functionality.
    I mean, “Caucasian” brains don’t us a different means of neurotransmission than “Black” brains, do they? Are “Black” brains less foldy than “Caucasian” brains, which are less foldy than “Asian” brains? How about total # of brain cells, is there a difference there?”

  165. #165 Caledonian
    October 18, 2007

    It also makes his “justification” for his claims (about having to deal with black employees) doubly silly. The “black employees” to whom he is referring are presumably African Americans,

    Not that I disagree with the general tenor of your argument, but Watson is British. Are we to call all people with recent African-area heritage ‘African-Americans’?

    It is my understanding that Europe has many, many more recent emigrees from Africa than we do here, where many African-Americans are descended from slaves brought over predominantly from specific regions and then often (forcibly) interbred with their owners.

  166. #166 True Bob
    October 18, 2007

    Thanks ‘tater. It seems we can’t really define “intelligence” or “smart/smarter”, so let’s get down to the nuts and bolts.

  167. #167 Joolya
    October 18, 2007

    Seriously, MAJeff. “Race” seems to be like “obscenity” – Caledonian et al “know it when they see it” but can’t reasonably define it (without sounding like assholes). I.e. they “know” that a black person is black because he or she “looks black”. But in the US, the African-American population has got to be extraordinarily genetically diverse! So how do we classify the (forgive me, making a point) the mulattos and quadroons and octraroons? Does a “drop of black blood” still make a person “black”? Genetically, that doesn’t make sense. And what about all the “white” people with mixed-race ancestors they don’t even know about? Maybe they’re the ones skewing the IQ tests with their hybrid vigor and there’s no way to discern that.
    Bascially, “race” as a category for humans is far more a social construct than a biological one; which means that for all that some posters may have think they have good intentions about being “scientific” and “asking hard scientific questions” the underlying assumptions that cause them to pose the questions they do are inherently racist.

  168. #168 Caledonian
    October 18, 2007

    Unless you’re suggesting, Caledonian, that “blacks” like me are some sort of subspecies or suffer from some abnormality.

    Blacks like you?

    This is simply too easy. In the interests of good sportsmanship, I will let this pass without further comment.

  169. #169 True Bob
    October 18, 2007

    Blue Buicks get worse gas mileage than Green Buicks. See, the blue ones also have CD players, while the green ones have MP3 interfaces. While both blue and green have electrically heated seats, blue ones cruise control buttons on the steering wheel but green have radio function buttons on the steering wheel.

  170. #170 True Bob
    October 18, 2007

    Oops, meant to finish with:

    We assume blue and green buicks get the same gas mileage, anyone who’s driven a blue one knows they don’t.

  171. #171 Laser Potato
    October 18, 2007

    I noticed you ignored the rest of the message and went straight for the ending sentence, then turned it into an insult. I was saying *I’m* black, but I was referring to BLACK PEOPLE IN GENERAL.

    I repeat:
    “So what about the brains of different “races” would make them inferior? AFAIK, brains have the same structure and functionality.
    I mean, “Caucasian” brains don’t us a different means of neurotransmission than “Black” brains, do they? Are “Black” brains less foldy than “Caucasian” brains, which are less foldy than “Asian” brains? How about total # of brain cells, is there a difference there?”

  172. #172 PZ Myers
    October 18, 2007

    Watson was born in Chicago, went to grad school in Indiana, and has been a Harvard professor since 1956. I don’t think a few years as a post-doc at the Cavendish makes him British.

  173. #173 Caledonian
    October 18, 2007

    I stand corrected. My apologies.

    Hmm. Perhaps I was thinking of Crick.

  174. #174 Laser Potato
    October 18, 2007

    Something tells Caledonian’s dodging…again. Just a wild guess.

  175. #175 Laser Potato
    October 18, 2007

    Oops, #171 was another response to #165

  176. #176 June
    October 18, 2007

    Watson may be a moron, but he sounds smarter than a lot of the commenters.

  177. #177 JT
    October 18, 2007

    Caledonian and sock puppets, for all your talk of genetic differences in the intelligence of your still ill-defined races, why is it that you do not seem to have considered the possibility that people of African decent possess superior cognitive ability?
    It seems to me that since intelligence is such a complicated trait and since environment effects it so strongly as to completely overshadow genetic traits in a large population of humans that the genetic differences between the “races’” cognitive abilities, if they exist, are equally likely to favor any one group as any other.

  178. #178 windy
    October 18, 2007

    “Don’t be a fool. IQ is a measurable thing.”
    And what if it’s a chaotic composite of 20 or 300 things?

    Then either the central limit theorem should kick in, or if the “things” aren’t independent, we should be able to isolate the variables that matter the most.

    I am not out to defend Watson’s comments specifically since IMO his remarks weren’t constructive, but some of the criticism here (and the piling on Caledonian) is even weirder. Since when are we biologists daunted by complicated things, or the incompleteness of information?

  179. #179 Matt Penfold
    October 18, 2007

    “Not that I disagree with the general tenor of your argument, but Watson is British.”

    It was Francis Crick who was British. Watson was an American who was working at the Cavendish doing his first major research following his Phd. As an item of trivia the son of Linus Pauling, who both Crick and Watson regarded as their biggest rival in the search for the structure of DNA was also working at the Canvendish at the time.

  180. #180 Jenbug
    October 18, 2007

    This whole imbroglio has set off an alarm in my head, and while my thoughts below on the subject might set off the paranoia alarm to someone else, I can’t help but wonder this:

    Does it strike anyone else as coincidental that this happened on the heels of Gore and the IPCC’s win? Like, perhaps someone decided ‘We sure would like the whole ‘global warming’ thing to go away and yet a Nobel Prize makes it damn near bulletproof. . . what we need is way to cast doubt on the whole shebang, a Nobel Prize Laureate who’s a complete ass. . . ‘

    Maybe I’m not that smart and seeing conspiracies everywhere but sowing the seeds of discord in order to undermine truth is a favorite pastime of our current media and political leaders.

  181. #181 Bernard Bumner
    October 18, 2007

    robotaholic wrote,

    …it is retarded to call Watson a bigot – that should be reserved for those who have hatred for other races – I can see the distinction

    Technically, a bigot is someone who is strongly partial to their own group at the expense of others, so this could well be bigotry. I think people have actually tended towards calling Watson racist, since he is apparently articulating prejudiced views against a social race.

    The main problem with trying to excuse Watson is that “black” is utterly meaningless in a scientific context, and he must surely know that. His words are therefore either incredibly – almost, inarticulately – poorly chosen, or else are racist (whether intentionally or not).

    Laser Potato wrote,

    This stands to be repeated. We’re all the same species, so why the heck would our brains be different? Unless you’re suggesting, Caledonian, that “blacks” like me are some sort of subspecies or suffer from some abnormality.

    Well, the question can clearly be answered that allelic diversity within a species permits the possibility of certain subpopulations with different levels of cognitive functioning on the basis of heredity. That isn’t a problem for genetics; population genetics is founded on exactly that kind of question.

    That there is genetic variation – with very real phenotypic consequences – is the grain of truth which lies at the heart of Watson’s ugly hypothesis. However, as has been pointed out, any such variation is likely to have a small effect given the magnitude of the effects of environment on the development of the brain and cognitive functions.

    The problem Watson has is that “black” is a social construct, not a rigourous scientific classification. So, his statment is a mistruth simply because it is scientfically unsupported, and it is racist because the social implications, the semantics, are racist.

    Had Watson postulated that a specific genetic subpopulation of black Africans may have an inherent cognitive bias which causes them to underperform on standardized intelligence tests, then it might not be racist. Still, we would have expected him to produce evidence to support it. (And, possibly he has such evidence, for that very limited hypothesis. Perhaps not.)

    And Caledonian; can you still not understand that “black” is simply not a meaningful concept in science, and that this therefore renders Watson’s statements, as given, racist?

  182. #182 Matt Penfold
    October 18, 2007

    “And Caledonian; can you still not understand that “black” is simply not a meaningful concept in science, and that this therefore renders Watson’s statements, as given, racist”

    This is quite correct. In the US black means a person of African descent only, whereas here in the UK it can also be used to refer to people of Asian descent. This difference caused a little consternation when Venus (or was it her sister ?) first won Wimbledon and said how much it meant for her to be the first black woman to win. A number of commentators noted that Yvonne Cawley had won back in the 70s and was an Australian of Aboriginal origins.

  183. #183 LM
    October 18, 2007

    “Mentally less-capable people have a harder time overcoming obstacles, both natural and socially-imposed.”

    Oh. My. God.

    You are so, so wrong. SO WRONG. That is to say, I can scarcely believe that you think people with low economic and social statuses are where they are BECAUSE THEY ARE STUPID.

    I’m an education researcher, and I can tell you that you are flat out WRONG. But thanks, I’m going to bring this up to my cohorts, see what think. I kind of already know.

  184. #184 LM
    October 18, 2007

    RJB: Dude, I’m on your side. I really DID see that story on the Today show. The Matt Lauer bit was a joke.

  185. #185 June
    October 18, 2007

    LM, that’s a logic error: “all Fords are cars” does not imply that “all cars are Fords”.

  186. #186 LM
    October 18, 2007

    June: The logic error is not mine.

    Here is my interpretation of what is being said here (I could be wrong, but this is what it sounds like to me): “Poor, undereducated blacks (for instance)perform poorly on standardized IQ tests because they are black and therefore genetically predisposed to a lower level of intelligence, and people with low levels of intelligence are incapable of overcoming natural and social obstacles that inhibit their ability to get ahead.” So their being poor and undereducated has nothing to do with a lack of access to resources and opportunities, but is due instead to the fact that they are black. This is, of course, utterly ridiculous. Poor, undereducated whites do just as poorly on standardized intelligence tests. How do you explain that? I don’t buy the “they are stupid and that’s why they are poor” argument. I bet if you took a child born to poor uneducated parents and raised it in an upper-middle class environment with the same access to education and opportunities, that child would score just as highly on IQ tests administered to other children of similar socioeconomic status REGARDLESS OF RACE.

  187. #187 greg laden
    October 18, 2007

    Hey, google fight guy, considering that James Watson is, like, fourty years older than me and has a nobel prize, but I came close to him on the fight, is pretty good.

  188. #188 June
    October 18, 2007

    LM, that explanation rings a bell here in California, where the federal NCLB program tests all children in English, regardless of their native language. The results are then used to “track improvement”, penalize schools, transfer children, fire teachers, and so on. If that’s going on in IQ testing, your OMG is correct.

  189. #189 Matt Penfold
    October 18, 2007

    Back when I studied pychology for a bit I came across an IQ test that was supposed to be culturally neutral. One of the questions was how many stamps could be bought for one dollar.

  190. #190 True Bob
    October 18, 2007

    Would one of you defenders of Watson please respond to this clear query?

    So what about the brains of different “races” would make them inferior? AFAIK, brains have the same structure and functionality.

    I mean, “Caucasian” brains don’t use a different means of neurotransmission than “Black” brains, do they? Are “Black” brains less foldy than “Caucasian” brains, which are less foldy than “Asian” brains? How about total # of brain cells, is there a difference there?

    So who’s got these answers?

    Really, this is a serious question. Is there a different brain chemistry or physiology among (whatever you define as) races? If not, what characteristic of the electrochemical marvel do you associate with “intelligence” or “IQ”? Because really, isn’t altered brain chemistry a driver of brain function (the voices in my head tell me so)?

  191. #191 Caledonian
    October 18, 2007

    If not, what characteristic of the electrochemical marvel do you associate with “intelligence” or “IQ”?

    Well, see, there’s part of the problem right there. The brain is a remarkably complex neural net information processing device. The neurotransmitters are just the method the nanoprocessors use to communicate.

    How can we have an intelligent discussion on intelligence when you don’t know and/or acknowledge basic facts about the subject?

  192. #192 Caledonian
    October 18, 2007

    You are so, so wrong. SO WRONG. That is to say, I can scarcely believe that you think people with low economic and social statuses are where they are BECAUSE THEY ARE STUPID.

    It’s good that you can scarcely believe that, because it will be easy for you to divest yourself of that mistaken belief.

  193. #193 True Bob
    October 18, 2007

    Well, see, there’s part of the problem right there. The brain is a remarkably complex neural net information processing device. The neurotransmitters are just the method the nanoprocessors use to communicate.

    And you have some evidence that shows that some subset of all the world’s brains have neural nets that process information “better” than the neural nets in a different subset of all the world’s brains? Show this, then you have something to base a hypothesis on.

    The problem is you have a variety of essentially undifferentiated brains (could you tell them apart if they weren’t in a skull?) and assert that they perform differently, and that that performance difference relates to the skin’s melanin content. We call that “racism”.

  194. #194 Caledonian
    October 18, 2007

    Matt Penfield:

    It was Francis Crick who was British. Watson was an American who was working at the Cavendish doing his first major research following his Phd. As an item of trivia the son of Linus Pauling, who both Crick and Watson regarded as their biggest rival in the search for the structure of DNA was also working at the Canvendish at the time.

    PZ has already pointed this out, as I previously acknowledged, but I shall acknowledge Mr. Penfield’s point again.

    I was mistaken about Watson’s nationality and upbringing, and may indeed have confused him with Crick. I was incorrect.

  195. #195 Caledonian
    October 18, 2007

    And you have some evidence that shows that some subset of all the world’s brains have neural nets that process information “better” than the neural nets in a different subset of all the world’s brains? Show this, then you have something to base a hypothesis on.

    Okay. As the first subset, I choose the graduating class of MIT, 1972. As the second, I choose, at random, five hundred of all the Down Syndrome births in that year.

    Shall we compare their test scores, or their life achievements?

  196. #196 HadasS
    October 18, 2007

    Hmmph. The head of my former lab once told me that Watson is anti-semic. I said “no way”. Now it looks like it’s possible he was right…I’d say Watson is senile, but having read The Double Helix, he was an ass when he was young, too. I’m surprised Dawkins is friends with such a person.

  197. #197 True Bob
    October 18, 2007

    Caledonian, nice, yet irrelevant to the discussion, selection. Go for it.

    Now fit that methodology to Watson’s expressed views (i.e. subset A is white westerners, say Scots-Irish, subset B is black Africans).

    And BTW, you can tell the race of a brain outside it’s case? Impressive.

  198. #198 Caledonian
    October 18, 2007

    Now fit that methodology to Watson’s expressed views (i.e. subset A is white westerners, say Scots-Irish, subset B is black sub-Saharan Africans).

    (addition and emphasis mine)

    It’s already been done.

    It’s already been done.

    Twenty point difference in the mean.

  199. #199 True Bob
    October 18, 2007

    It’s already been done.

    Really?

    …some subset of all the world’s brains have neural nets that process information “better” than the neural nets in a different subset of all the world’s brains.

    Assuming a statistically significant number of examinations, how was that information processing measured? How were those little nanoprocessors “clocked”? Was neurotransmitter (all of them) production measured? If so, I welcome our alien overlords, because it sure wasn’t some puny human (even one as awe-inspiring and ego-rific as you) that did it. Heck, was it even done with EEG?

  200. #200 Great White Wonder
    October 18, 2007

    Caledonian is still digging? What a surprise. And he still hasn’t explained the relationship between “IQ” and “intellectual capacity.” Another surprise.

    Has he continued to brag about his brainpower and belittled the brains of those who call him out on his bullshit, in violation of his promise upthread? Yes.

    Another surprise.

  201. #201 Great White Wonder
    October 18, 2007

    Would anyone be surprised to learn that Caledonian is not black?

    I would be surprised, but only if I believed Caledonian’s “theory.”

  202. #202 SixOfSwords
    October 18, 2007

    “Would anyone be surprised to learn that Caledonian is not black?”

    And if he were black and still postulated what he did, would it make a bit of difference? No, it wouldn’t.

    What a cheap shot.

    ~6~

  203. #203 True Bob
    October 18, 2007

    Okay. As the first subset, I choose the graduating class of MIT, 1972. As the second, I choose, at random, five hundred of all the Down Syndrome births in that year.

    Shall we compare their test scores, or their life achievements?

    Forgot to mention this. Caledonian is left to his own devices to choose comparable subsets. He chooses one based on achievement and the other based on genetics. Why not just chooses European Explorers of the 15th to 18th centuries vs spontaneous abortions? Science my ass.

  204. #204 True Bob
    October 18, 2007

    And if he were black and still postulated what he did, would it make a bit of difference? No, it wouldn’t.

    Because stupid is as stupid does.

  205. #205 SixOfSwords
    October 18, 2007

    So Bob, let’s clean up the subsets a bit. What if:

    Group A = 1000 individuals with a Raven’s Progressive Matrices score 2 SD above the mean

    and

    Group B = 1000 indivuals with RPM scores 2 SD below the mean

    and

    you controlled for SES. Do you think those two groups would end up achieving at comparable levels?

    ~6~

  206. #206 True Bob
    October 18, 2007

    Did you not just create those groups based upon achievement?

    So fine, what would your hypothesis be? Those who scored higher, scored higher than those who scored lower? Give this guy a grant!

  207. #207 SixOfSwords
    October 18, 2007

    No, you are presuming that the RPM is an achievement test, which it is not. I am asking you if you think that those two groups with widely divergent scores based on an aptitude measure would likely have similar educational and occupational achievements.

    For the record, I do not. How about you?

    Awaiting the grant money,
    ~6~

  208. #208 Brownian
    October 18, 2007

    Are the posters such as Caledonian, SixOfSwords, and the rest unaware that there exists a science of race (or more accurately, what is and isn’t behind those categories)?

    Or do they honestly think thought experiments designed to support a priori convictions are more compelling than the work of actual researchers?

    By the way, I thought of a joke:

    Q: How do you get Caledonian to sit down?
    A: Tell him to stand up.

  209. #209 TheHangedMan
    October 18, 2007

    Q: How do you get Caledonian to sit down?
    A: Tell him to stand up.

    Now that you’ve accused him of being contrarian he’s going to assert that he is not being contrarian, no doubt on the grounds that it is “factually incorrect” that he is being contrarian, and by “factually incorrect” he of course means: “my brain said so”.

    Oh, since we’re doing the Tarot card theme for this thread, who wants to be “The Jack of Shits”? It’ll be hilarious.

  210. #210 SixOfSwords
    October 18, 2007

    Brownian,

    It’s ironic that you accuse me of holding a priori convictions while knowing next to nothing about me. One might think that you have a standard response to those who present an opposing point of view to the one you hold.

    The question can easily be reversed: are you not aware of the volumes of research which controls for SES and looks at performance on aptitude measures and consequent achievement?

    You presume quite a bit.

    ~6~

  211. #211 TheDevil
    October 18, 2007

    It’s ironic that you accuse me of holding a priori convictions while knowing next to nothing about me. One might think that you have a standard response to those who present an opposing point of view to the one you hold.

    Well, seeing as how most of what’s been put up in this thread as evidence that Africans are inherently mentally inferior to Europeans has the distinct smell of a Hovindesque “This coral reef is 5,000 years old, thus the world is 5,000 years old” argument, I’m going to have to go ahead and say, yeah, Brownian can accuse you of holding a conviction and rigging shit to match it.

  212. #212 SixOfSwords
    October 18, 2007

    Really, Devil? At what point did I suggest that Africans are inherently mentally inferior?

    And the Hovind analogy? Bit of a stretch there.

  213. #213 True Bob
    October 18, 2007

    I would suggest NOT “measuring for aptitude”, and instead measure something meaningful and objective.
    As I wrote before, at a MINIMUM, EEG for brain activity mapping, but better would be to measure neurotransmitter production, neuron activity (density by mapped area), etc. You thus avoid the nonsense bickering over test design.
    Would you measure engine torque or power performance by which sounds “coolest”? No, you’d slap that puppy on a dynamometer, and take some objective measurements.
    So actually measure the functionality of the brain, not something with an inherent cultural bias.

  214. #214 TheQueenOfDrag
    October 18, 2007

    At what point did I suggest that Africans are inherently mentally inferior?

    My bad! I thought you were defending Watson. I mean, that was what we were talking about in here. Wow, that opens up whole vistas of philosophy for us! Let’s give it a spin!

    I think Hitler’s ideas were great, and you can’t accuse me of wanting to exterminate the Jews because I never said so explicitly, I’m just defending Hitler. Nyaaaaah.

  215. #215 SixOfSwords
    October 18, 2007

    Queen,

    Oh, we were talking about ONE thing! I forgot the rules. Silly me, I thought this thread was originally about Greg Laden’s response to Dr. Watson’s comments.

    “I think Hitler’s ideas were great, and you can’t accuse me of wanting to exterminate the Jews because I never said so explicitly, I’m just defending Hitler. Nyaaaaah.”

    There’s some rhetorical tawdriness for you.

    ~6~

  216. #216 Brownian
    October 18, 2007

    It’s ironic that you accuse me of holding a priori convictions while knowing next to nothing about me.

    My but you’re the petulant whiner, aren’t you? Sorry that I haven’t gotten around to reading your autobiography, since I’m busy reading your comments here.

    I suppose it would be similarly foolish to make claims about the intellectual capabilities of a group of people while “knowing next to nothing about” them, wouldn’t it?

    The question can easily be reversed: are you not aware of the volumes of research which controls for SES and looks at performance on aptitude measures and consequent achievement?

    Yes it can, and such a reversal is often used to avoid answering the original question when the answer would reveal that the respondent is indeed, talking out of his ass.

    Or does Chapter 16 of Six of Swords: My Life explain how you really are aware of the literature on race (the existence of which is real issue here) but merely choose not to display such awareness?

  217. #217 True Bob
    October 18, 2007

    six, why must you rig your “experiments? RPM is not neutral to environment, unless you restrict comparisons to within groups, at best.

    How about the IJPIOMA (I-just-pulled-it-outta-my-ass) test:

    Individuals are challenged to problem solve by selecting and killing a suitable wildebeest during their migration. The chosen wildebeest must be large enough to feed a village of 40 members over 12 and 20 members under 12. Assume a 60/40 F/M ratio. Score will be reduced if lost to predators or scavengers, and personal injury in the attempt.

  218. #218 SixOfSwords
    October 18, 2007

    Bob,

    Do you feel that all instruments that purport to measure aptitude are broken? For example, you feel that the Raven’s Progressive Matrices is inherently biased and that it lacks predictive value?

    I’m all for using neurological markers for assessing intellectual functioning, but that research is in its infancy. I am, however, looking forward to seeing how it all pans out, (if it does so in my lifetime). There are interesting studies on elementary cognitive tasks and reaction time and how they correlate with measures of g. However, you seem to be dismissing aptitude measures out of hand. What would you recommend as a useful correlate to the neurological measures?

    ~6~

  219. #219 TheHierophant
    October 18, 2007

    Silly me, I thought this thread was originally about Greg Laden’s response to Dr. Watson’s comments.

    Damn! I was wrong again. So what we’re really doing here is:

    Churchill doesn’t like Hitler but I don’t like that Churchill doesn’t like Hitler because I actually like Hitler’s ideas, here’s some support of Hitler’s ideas because I agree with them, but that doesn’t mean I agree with them.

    Is that a better approximation?

    There’s some rhetorical tawdriness for you.

    Why yes, Ah do declayah, Ah may just be faintin’…

  220. #220 SixOfSwords
    October 18, 2007

    Bob,

    Regarding your wildebeest scenario, and this is admittedly hypothetical, I would guess that those scoring better on an RPM would, controlling for physical aptitude, perform better at this task than their cohorts scoring lower.

    Now THAT would be a good grant opportunity.

    ~6~

  221. #221 SixOfSwords
    October 18, 2007

    Heirophant/Devil/Queen, etc….

    Description vs. prescription – look into it.

    ~6~

  222. #222 True Bob
    October 18, 2007

    I’m all for using neurological markers for assessing intellectual functioning, but that research is in its infancy.

    So why make assertions about things we cannot objectively measure? Besides test taking performance, the best measures are the demonstrable functioning ones.
    Infancy schminfancy. It’s not even a hypothesis to claim race based brain functioning differences without objective measures. What “race” (whatever that is) has the foldiest brains? Whose got the best neurotransmitter functions? Can you separate brains by race, once they are freed of their cases?

    BTW, I chose the migrating wildebeests because it is a different form of dynamic complexity. I suspect that the dimmest villager with experience will outperform your Wile E Coyote Supergenius every time.

  223. #223 SixOfSwords
    October 18, 2007

    “I suspect that the dimmest villager with experience will outperform your Wile E Coyote Supergenius every time.”

    This is very likely true, but then you no longer have matched samples.

    Bob, you are working from the basis that only direct biophysical measures have any validity while it is readily demonstrable that even crudely created paper and pencil assessments have predictive value for student performance in novel and complex problem situations.

    And no, I could not look at a brain and tell you to which race it belonged. But I never claimed at any point that differences in aptitude performance was INHERENT and INERADICABLE. That simply seems to be an assumption that some people make about those who believe that there are, indeed, group differences in IQ measures.

    ~6~

  224. #224 True Bob
    October 18, 2007

    6, when did you stop defending Watson’s remarks? The entire issue of this thread has been about assertions regarding mental performance based on “race” differences.

    This is very likely true, but then you no longer have matched samples.

    Could be true, but wouldn’t my dim villager likely perform low on RPM, while Wile E would perform well? Perhaps we could normalize by allowing a certain number of injuries. Or better, take my dim villager from Manchuria. I’d still put my money on someone whose life of complexity is related to in the moment, in nature survival to your cleverest, most coordinated Wile E. Now let’s get that grant.

    Now, I must go tuck in the young’uns.

  225. #225 Caledonian
    October 18, 2007

    Are the posters such as Caledonian, SixOfSwords, and the rest unaware that there exists a science of race (or more accurately, what is and isn’t behind those categories)?

    We’re aware race is a social construct. What you don’t seem to realize is that scientists don’t particularly care about ‘race’. They care about ethnic groupings and trait associations.

    What’s so confusing is why you keep bringing up social definitions of race when the actual subject is quite different. It’s like you don’t want there to be a serious discussion of the topic, or something.

  226. #226 SixOfSwords
    October 18, 2007

    Bob,

    I’m going, too. But before I do I want to point out that I know nothing about Dr. Watson’s motivations or personal beliefs on race. It seems to me however that the comments attributed to him in this latest episode did not merit the vitriol they elicited. He was pointing out there are group differences in IQ and this has to factor into policy recommendations. Taken at that level, I agree with what he said. If he is motivated by racism or the pure scientific spirit of inquiry – well, I simply don’t know. If he is racist, well that’s just poverty of character. But it is a separate issue from the claims stated.

    I think once we reflexively knee jerk at observational commentary and heap a pre-set litany of abuse and stereotypes on the observer then we are basically saying, “This is epistemologically off-limits.” I have problems with that.

    Good night to your kids – see you on the savannah.
    ~6~

  227. #227 Leigh
    October 19, 2007

    Caledonian and SixofSwords: You are ignorant, arrogant, racist assholes. And you’re probably stupid too.

    There, gentlemen, is an ad hominem attack. Mark it carefully, since you seem to be unclear on the concept.

    Your argument is specious, since you can’t define

    1) intelligence
    2) race
    3) “intellectual capacity”

    with any degree of rigor . . . and you can’t provide a metric that measures the thing(s) you can’t define.

    Therefore you can’t support the notion of “group differences in IQ” because you can’t construct an argument that IQ tests measure anything meaningful.

    And that, gents, is NOT an ad hominem attack. Stop whining when people don’t agree with you; save that energy to tighten up your reasoning.

    And by the way “left-wing liberal” is a compliment, not an insult as you seem to think.

  228. #228 thalarctos
    October 19, 2007

    It seems to me however that the comments attributed to him in this latest episode did not merit the vitriol they elicited.

    From the Independent article:

    He said there was a natural desire that all human beings should be equal but “people who have to deal with black employees find this not true”.

    I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on how much vitriol someone in a position of management deserves when making blanket public statements like that about employees. Personally, I think he asked for all the vitriol he got and more when he drew that implicit distinction between “people” and the “black employees” they “have to” deal with.

    Watson’s anecdotes about things any managers of black employees supposedly “know”, however convincing he and his defenders here may find them, do not constitute evidence. I’d rather see him respond to Cosma’s critique of g than pontificate about his anecdotes, and claim to be talking about science.

    But as was mentioned on the later thread, given the history and current reputation of institutions like Tuskegee and UPenn in African-American history, I can see why CSHL would want to put as much daylight as possible between their past eugenics practices and Watson’s current reminiscences. It’s too bad he put them in that position, but really, what organization can afford to have its major spokesman taking that attitude publicly to a subset of its scientists and employees?

  229. #229 thalarctos
    October 19, 2007

    Crap. My comment is in approval purgatory, because I linked to both the original Independent article and Cosma’s discussion of g.

    Suck it, ScienceBlogs.

  230. #230 Greg Laden
    October 21, 2007

    Some of you will enjoy this:

    http://gregladen.com/wordpress/?p=1559

    Others will hate it. My ass is probably grass.