Pharyngula

I mentioned before Cosma Shalizi’s excellent discussion of heritability; add to that now his summary of g. We’ve got a few pompous no-nothings lurking in the comments who are fond of declaiming that they know that they have proof that the brain works in such-and-such a way, and that we can blithely assert an average stupidity exists in broad swathes of humanity (said broad swathes typically sweep across very diverse groups, united only by the obvious ephemera of skin color), but they need to read and comprehend those articles in order to learn that their certainty of a heritable simplicity is a phantasm.

Reality says that race is a category error, and that IQ foolishly tries to pin complexity into a cramped and tiny corner, and that human minds are both diverse and similar … and the great gross simplifications of racists, scientific and otherwise, are lies to comfort fearful bigots.

Cosma has another post that summarizes the exasperation we should all feel.

Comments

  1. #1 Christian Burnham
    October 19, 2007

    Those seem like useful pieces, though I don’t understand them on a first reading.

    Personally, I think that discussing the science is more beneficial than the name calling or accusations of racism.

    It seems to me that both race and intelligence are vastly multidimensional properties, which are ill-defined, but must exist if taken to extremes. As a complete lay-person, I have to assume that in some sense Einstein was more intelligent than others, though it’s probably true that the intellectual difference can’t me measured by one number.

    It’s a pity that we’re having this conversation because of some pretty pathetic comments by an eminent Nobelist. Like it or not, people are interested in this topic (witness the number of comments) and I suppose this is a good opportunity to educate us.

    I still fail to see why people who consider that differences in group averages might exist are taking an inherently racist point of view. Personally, I’m persuaded that differences exist and that they’re likely due to educational and environmental factors, including nutrition and racism. I think this is important. For instance, I think we ought to find out if it’s possible to raise the average intelligence of any population by improved diet.

    Looking at the comments, I have seen a few that I would consider to be racist. However, I’m still not convinced that shouting ‘racist’ is the best response. The way to defeat poor arguments is with better arguments.

  2. #2 Jared
    October 19, 2007

    In an upper-level statistics class, my professor spent a lot of time explaining the misuse of statistics by the “soft sciences” and the media. He didn’t talk about IQ but he did rant about equating correlation and causation and that “there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

    After reading that summary of g, I think he would have agreed that “nobody has presented a case for g apart from thoroughly invalid arguments from factor analysis.”

  3. #3 Shawn Wilkinson
    October 19, 2007

    hmmm…I’ve been following the Watson dialogues, as I call them, but I think he is on to something with half of what he said.

    We are genetically different in certain regions of our DNA. That’s not a lie. Local genomes diverged from the global genome. Yet, even these minute divergences did not equate to significant changes except physiological.

    I’m not very convinced that the brain’s functionality (and hence our mental prowress; welcome to physicalism) is limited to the genetic basis which it developed from. I know very little neurophysiology, but isn’t our ability to process sensory data dependent on the functionality and connectivity of neural networks? I would argue that it is the development and structure of these networks would be a deciding factor on mental prowress, not our genes.

    Even then, if I am wrong and everything is reducible to genetics, I don’t see how we can dehumanize an entire local genome based on its genome. *shrug*

  4. #4 j.t.delaney
    October 19, 2007

    I, for one, defend the “blithe” assertation of an average stupidity existing in broad swathes of humanity… albeit irrespective of race.

    Wherever you go, the average IQ remains a constant 100.

  5. #5 djlactin
    October 19, 2007

    sorry, j.t., the average IQ is 100 only because the average score in a given year is defined to be 100. The average score required to achieve a 100 score has been increasing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flynn_effect).

    On a different tangent: “intelligence” is not a single item. How can we assign a single number to simultaneously quantify such varied important abilities as the ability to judge spatial relationships, memory, language skills, mathematical ability, social canny, musical ability, ability to forecast trends, ability to judge the trajectory of a thrown object and to put the object on that trajectory, capacity to innovate, seductive ability, parenting talent?

    And of course, the relative importance of each of these skills varies according to the environment in which its owner is embedded. I would not be surprised if a paleolithic human outscored modern humans on many of these measures and relatively bombed on others. The ones they did well on would be the important ones (to them). I doubt that my ability to extract square roots would have had any relevance during the ice age…And if some member of some ‘race’ did poorly on one measure, why conclude that he/she is ‘less intelligent’, when other skills were not tested.

    The concept of an “intelligence” is an amorphous blob, too often defined (when defined) by people with a prejudice to support (I personally remember a mathematician who claimed that the only measure of intelligence is mathematical ability!)

    My advice: f*ck IQ. Take people as they come. Dump them if they’re @ssholes. But you can learn something new from nearly everyone.

  6. #6 Graculus
    October 19, 2007

    I still fail to see why people who consider that differences in group averages might exist are taking an inherently racist point of view.

    It’s not inherently racist to say that such differences exist (if supported by data). What’s racist is to claim it is genetic.

  7. #7 Doddy
    October 19, 2007

    If and only if a trait is heritable, can it evolve.
    Intelligence evolved.
    Therefore, intelligence is heritable.

    Q.E.D.

  8. #8 CraigF
    October 19, 2007

    What’s racist is to claim it is genetic.

    What if it’s true though? And backed by evidence?

    Now, I’m not saying Watson is right – enviromental and social factors are much more likely causes, and no evidence seems to indicate otherwise as far as I can gather – but to say that it’s racist to claim it is genetic with or without evidence, is wrong.

  9. #9 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    Now that’s why PZ is a fundamentalist: he’s TOTALLY CERTAIN that intelligence doesn’t happen to correlate with skin colour, and he admits NO ELEMENT OF DOUBT.

    Richard Dawkins’ discussion of this topic in “The Extended Phenotype” is far more dispassionate and reasonable than these bullying tirades from PZ. Here’s an extract:

    “…it still does not follow that there is any genetic variation in mental abilities left in the human population today: the genetic variance might all have been used up by selection. On the other hand it might not, and my thought experiment shows at least the inadvisability of dogmatic and hysterical opposition to the possibility of genetic variation in human mental abilities.”

    I’ve lost a great deal of respect for PZ recently. On issues of political correctness, he misrepresents furiously. Speaking of which, has anyone found some actual evidence that Hitchens did indeed promote genocide, as PZ claimed?

  10. #10 MyaR
    October 19, 2007

    Bizarrest thing in this whole ‘discussion’ (and I haven’t read every comment, but I’ve read a lot) — aside from Greg Laden’s post on this, no one seems to be distinguishing between ‘heritable’ and ‘genetically heritable’. (I’m talking simple word usage here, not the point people are arguing from.) This seems like a simple thing to do to at least clarify some of the arguments — if you mean ‘heritable’ (you get it from your parents/group — other people) and ‘genetically heritable’ (you get it from your genome).

  11. #11 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    I just want to add to my last post: if you accept the possibility of genetic variation in intelligence between individuals, then you are open to the possibility of such variation between groups. There’s no intrinsic reason why two arbitrary groups should have exactly the same average intelligence.

  12. #12 Graculus
    October 19, 2007

    but to say that it’s racist to claim it is genetic with or without evidence, is wrong.

    To say it’s genetic *and tied to skin colour* without any supporting evidence and without even a basic understanding of how genetics interacts with the environment to produce the various things we call intelligence *is* racist, period.

    There are several problems here.

    One is that we do not know which genes or what role they play in in cognitive abilities, and what role cultural, epigenetic and other environmental factors play in same.

    Two is that we have no reason to believe that any such set of genes is linked to the genes for skin colour. There are various “races” (I prefer the term “cline”) in Africa itself, and they are easily as or more diverse than any other geographical area.

    Three is that we have a measure of cognitive abilities that is, at best, fuzzy and badly understood.

    Four, there are groups of “whites” that scored consistently low, yet somehow they go unmentioned in the discussion. How is it *not* racist to assert that “blacks” are genetically predisposed to lower IQs, but these “white” groups are just victims of environment?

    In short: It’s not racist to say that there is likely a genetic component to cognitive abilities. It is racist to say that it is linked to skin colour.

    Isn’t it interesting that these “serious” discussions of genetics and IQ manage to follow the lines of the arbitrary social constructs of “race”?

    When the Irish weren’t “white”, they were also deemed intellectually inferior. It’s about asserting one’s own superiority over the “other”. When the Bible was the authority. “blacks” were the descendents of Cain or Ham, doomed by God to be the underclass (hint: The Bible itself makes no such claims). Now “serious” thinkers say it’s genetics that dooms them (hint: science itself makes no such claim).

    If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s quackery.

  13. #13 Christian Burnham
    October 19, 2007

    Maybe the point PZ and others is making is that since there is apparently no evidence that there are differences in intelligence between groups, the only reason people would argue otherwise is in order to justify their own racism.

    Would that be a fair summary?

  14. #14 Andrew
    October 19, 2007

    I think one of the most interesting and telling things in that summary of “g” is the throwaway reference to Williams Syndrome. People with WS (I’ve known one) almost invariably have a higher than normal degree of linguistic and musical ability, lower than average mental ability in most other areas, and almost no ability to do arithmetic (the young woman I knew could talk very intelligently about all sorts of emotional or artistic matters, but could not add one pound plus fifty pence without the use of a calculator). There are similar interesting specific variations in intellectual ability with other genetic conditions. I don’t think anyone familiar with congenital mental disabilities believes that “general intelligence” is anything but a fantasy.

  15. #15 Caledonian
    October 19, 2007

    IQ foolishly tries to pin complexity into a cramped and tiny corner

    Only if you try to use IQ to represent the entirety of cognitive ability, which certain does contradict the scientific data on the subject – and the way that psychometrics, and IQ tests specifically, are actually used.
    That’s pretty much what the ignorant, uninformed, pop-culture understanding of them is, though.

    O, those foolish neurologists, trying to access cognitive functioning with a battery of what’s no better than voodoo. PZ should go enlighten them – I’m sure after he provides them with the proper education, they will abandon their primitive superstitions and treat all of their patients equally.

  16. #16 JRY
    October 19, 2007

    Re #9:

    In the quote by Dawkins, he states that there may be genetic variation in human mental abilities.

    You (Smith) are saying there is genetic variation and it is linked to skin color.

    Slight difference in concept there…

  17. #17 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    Enough of this nonsense about there not being any grounds for suspecting that black-skinned people tend to be less intelligent on average than light-skinned people. The economic and intellectual performance of the former group is incomparably worse, on every continent. The difference is, quite frankly, enormos. In light of this, surely the the Bayesian probability of their happening to be less intelligent (on average) oughtn’t be negligible.

  18. #18 Graculus
    October 19, 2007

    Five, skin colour is a very, very poor indicator of ancestry.

    If and only if a trait is heritable, can it evolve.
    Intelligence evolved.
    Therefore, intelligence is heritable.

    Intelligence evolved in Africa.

    The African environment selects strongly for intelligence.

    QED.

    :-P

  19. #19 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    “In the quote by Dawkins, he states that there may be genetic variation in human mental abilities.

    You (Smith) are saying there is genetic variation and it is linked to skin color.

    Slight difference in concept there…”
    I’m talking about the genetic intelligence of an arbitrary group. I don’t care about skin colour. If blonde-haired people were economically and intellectually backwards, and had showed little sign of improvement, I would also suspect them of being less intelligent than the rest.

  20. #20 Doddy
    October 19, 2007

    Yes, Graculus. But what about the other continents? If they had apes, what selection pressures for intelligence would they face there?

  21. #21 Christian Burnham
    October 19, 2007

    So many difficult issues…

    It’s racism to suggest that the genes for skin color have anything to do with intelligence. It’s not racism to suggest that the genes for skin color and appearance can give a crude indication of the geographic origin of a particular person.

    I think it is racist to assume that skin color and appearance can be used to form any a-priori opinions- good or bad about that person.

    There may or may not be inheritable traits that correspond to geographically isolated groups, but it’s clear that those traits cannot have any serious correlation with the genes for skin color.

  22. #22 potentilla
    October 19, 2007

    Maybe the point PZ and others is making is that since there is apparently no evidence that there are differences in intelligence between groups, the only reason people would argue otherwise is in order to justify their own racism.

    But the point appears to be wrong. See, for instance, here. There are 50 academic signatories to this letter, which is specifically intended as a summary of mainstream science. It says both that intelligence (as defined) can be reliably measured, that there are consistent average differences between racial groups, but that there is not yet (mid-nineties) any definitive answer about the reason for these differences . Can anyone tell me why it should be ignored?

  23. #23 Caledonian
    October 19, 2007

    Graculus:To say it’s genetic *and tied to skin colour*

    Good thing no one here has made any claims about associations with skin color.

    Actually, I’m rather surprised that we haven’t had any white supremacists frothing at the mouth in these post threads.

    One is that we do not know which genes or what role they play in in cognitive abilities, and what role cultural, epigenetic and other environmental factors play in same.

    Not quite true: we know that all of those things have an influence. What is uncertain is precisely how much and what kind – which is why it is outrageous that you would deny the possibility that between-groups differences could have anything to do with genes.

    Two is that we have no reason to believe that any such set of genes is linked to the genes for skin colour.

    True. Good thing no one’s made any claims about that, then.

    There are various “races” (I prefer the term “cline”) in Africa itself, and they are easily as or more diverse than any other geographical area.

    It’s been said that if you were to try to group humanity into subgroups by genetic association, there would be five groups in Africa – and one for everywhere else.

    But within that last group, there are still geographic trends and associationally-linked traits. Humanity is far more uniform that most other species, but that’s relative.

    Three is that we have a measure of cognitive abilities that is, at best, fuzzy and badly understood.

    No, IQ is quite well understood. That’s how we know that it is NOT a measure of all cognitive potential, and it’s not even a complete measure of the basic cognitive functions. It’s cognitive abilities as a whole that we don’t understand very well, much less how to measure them – but we’re still trying. The more sophisticated the cognitive function is, the harder a time we have accessing it. Producing an effective measure of executive functioning, for example, has been a complete nightmare, but we’re still better off than we were fifty years ago.

    Four, there are groups of “whites” that scored consistently low, yet somehow they go unmentioned in the discussion. How is it *not* racist to assert that “blacks” are genetically predisposed to lower IQs, but these “white” groups are just victims of environment?

    No, that is racist. But I have yet to see anyone (except some of my vehement detractors) suggest that these low-scoring white groups are only victims of environment. Indeed, it is entirely possible that genetics plays a role there as well.

    In short: It’s not racist to say that there is likely a genetic component to cognitive abilities. It is racist to say that it is linked to skin colour.

    NO ONE HAS SAID IT IS LINKED TO SKIN COLOR. No one’s even said it might be. Although technically it wouldn’t be impossible for genes controlling melanin distribution to have some effect on neurological development – but that would almost certainly imply that there’s something very wrong with the very-pale section of the world popoulation, not that they’re superior.

    Isn’t it interesting that these “serious” discussions of genetics and IQ manage to follow the lines of the arbitrary social constructs of “race”?

    They don’t… or only in your fevered mind.

  24. #24 Christian Burnham
    October 19, 2007

    JS: I agree with Graculus and others here. Linking anything to skin color except a very approximate guess at where that person’s ancestors heralded from leads very quickly to racist ideology.

  25. #25 Flex
    October 19, 2007

    Shawn Wilkinson wrote, “We are genetically different in certain regions of our DNA. That’s not a lie. Local genomes diverged from the global genome. Yet, even these minute divergences did not equate to significant changes except physiological.”

    The accusations of racism crop up in where you draw the lines between populations.

    If, for example, you wanted to take a collection of expressed traits, and knew precisely which parts of the genome influenced those traits (maybe hundreds of genes), then determine what other traits this collection of genes influenced (and were able to determine them), you might be able to say that a person with the original collection of genes may have these additional set of traits.

    That’s what the medical studies on genetics are doing. They know that some people who visibly express a certain trait are also likely to have another trait which could result in treatments having different affects.

    But to take a trait like intelligence which, depending on the various studies I’ve read, may be anywhere from 10% to 70% heritable (whatever that means) and then take another trait which would be arbitrary aside from our long history of abhorrent treatment of people with this trait, and try to correlate them is racist (in the prejorative sense of the word).

    Take the same concept, but link it to a trait which has not been subject to institutionalized discrimination for a couple hundred years and you see how the concept in nonsense. If I were to propose that blue-eyed people are, averaged across an entire population, smarter than brown-eyed people, you would not only ask me for the correlation study, but the causal path for me to reach that conclusion.

    Cripes, if you use a p of 0.05, and pick a hundred arbitrary traits, you will find correlations between a number of traits and the somewhat poorly defined trait we call intelligence.

    If you want to avoid the label of racist, you need to specify precisely which traits you want to examine (amount of melanin in the skin and, say, proximity to the equator), determine if there is a correlation (Not 100%, but strong.), and find a causal path (vitamin D production).

    Since intelligence cannot be precisely defined, trying to correlate it to another trait is either silly, or racist (if the attempt is to correlate it to a trait which has a history of being used prejoratively). People who propose that there is a genetic link between intelligence and any other trait must first define intelligence, then correlate it, then show the causal path.

    Making the claim, even simply for the sake of argument, without defining what is meant by intelligence is either ignorant or foolish. Making the claim about a trait which has a history of prejustice associated with it is either ignorant, foolish, or deliberatly inflammatory.

    Finally, Shawn, and you touch on this in your comment, we know that large sections of the brain develop after birth, and after the exposure of the senses of the body to the surrounding environment. There is ample evidence, and not more than a few theories, which suggest that the structure of the cogitive parts of the brain is only generally imposed by genetic constraints. Instead, environmental feedback has a tremendous influnce on how the structure of the brain develops.

    For the record, I happen to think that Dr. Edelman’s theory of neural darwinism has some merit to it, but I don’t claim to be an expert in the field. I know there are some major theoretical questions to be answered in his theory, and it disturbs me not a little that he self-publishes quite a bit (it can be hard to find good criticism of a self-published theory), but the underlying premise of conservation of evolved systems strikes me as a good basis for study.

  26. #26 Christian Burnham
    October 19, 2007

    Caledonian: In fairness- John Smith said exactly that.

  27. #27 Bee
    October 19, 2007

    While what little (self-selected) science I’ve read on the subject appears to support PZ’s views, I’d like to throw out a question that hasn’t been discussed much, and that is, how important, after a certain point, is IQ in the actual performance of any human outside of certain narrowly defined fields of endeavour?

    Anecdotally, thirty seven years ago, I accidentally was able to discover the measured IQ scores of about thirty of my high school classmates. Those scores, including my own, have in no discernible way predicted the ‘success’ of that group of individuals. Notable is the woman who scored 90 – 95 on the three rounds of testing our group was subjected to over six years (we were part of some kind of study). She is a respected artist and businesswoman who developed and owns four successful businesses. In person she is witty and well-spoken. Some, but not all, of the people who had relatively high scores, did well in academic fields. One of the high scorers has barely managed to stay off the streets.

    Are there any respectable studies out there that have actually measured the human end result of having low average, average, high average or very high IQs? I ask because an unspoken undercurrent of these conversations appears to be the notion that having a high IQ is equivalent to having some kind of higher status, or makes a person better, or is a predictor of success, and I personally don’t see that. In other words, does whatever IQ tests measure matter in any real way?

  28. #28 thalarctos
    October 19, 2007

    NO ONE HAS SAID IT IS LINKED TO SKIN COLOR. No one’s even said it might be.

    Watson, who got this whole discussion rolling, said exactly that: he maintained that “people” who “have to” deal with “black employees” “know” this.

    If he was misquoted, I expect to see a retraction from the Independent; unless he is shown to have been misquoted, however, your assertion is mistaken.

  29. #29 Graculus
    October 19, 2007

    Yes, Graculus. But what about the other continents? If they had apes, what selection pressures for intelligence would they face there?

    Well, as Asia has apes, and humans didn’t arise there, obviously Asia didn’t have what it takes to select for intelligence.

    If you see :-P or ;-) on a post of mine, it generally indicates that I’m not entirely serious.

    Now, on to Caledonian…

  30. #30 potentilla
    October 19, 2007

    I think it is racist to assume that skin color and appearance can be used to form any a-priori opinions- good or bad about that person.

    Absolutely right. Any average population differences that may or may not exist say nothing about any individual, unless the two distribution curves show no overlap (for instance, if you knew that a person had black knees you would be justified in assuming a priori that they also had black elbows, probably).

    There may or may not be inheritable traits that correspond to geographically isolated groups, but it’s clear that those traits cannot have any serious correlation with the genes for skin color

    Absolutely wrong. There are average population differences in heritable susceptibility to sickle-cell disease, for instance, and such differences correlate with skin colour. There is no a priori reason to suppose that the same is not true for intelligence. It is not yet clear from the scientific evidence either way (see Gene Expression, passim).

  31. #31 Caledonian
    October 19, 2007

    Caledonian: In fairness- John Smith said exactly that.

    More accurately, he’s using ‘blackness’ as a crude indicator of having African ancestry – or am I misreading him?

    Maybe I *am* projecting my own nuanced and intelligent views on him, but that’s what I get when I read his comments.

    John Smith, your response?

  32. #32 Flex
    October 19, 2007

    Caladonian wrote, “NO ONE HAS SAID IT IS LINKED TO SKIN COLOR.”

    Aside from John Smith you mean.

    Who wrote, “Enough of this nonsense about there not being any grounds for suspecting that black-skinned people tend to be less intelligent on average than light-skinned people. The economic and intellectual performance of the former group is incomparably worse, on every continent. The difference is, quite frankly, enormos. In light of this, surely the the Bayesian probability of their happening to be less intelligent (on average) oughtn’t be negligible.”

    I don’t know how you could get any out of that statement which doesn’t imply that “black-skinned” people are “less intelligent” than “light-skinned” people.

    I put the quotes in becuase I’m not entirely sure how those terms are defined. Are Hindus “black-skinned”? How about the native South Americans?

  33. #33 True Bob
    October 19, 2007

    Watson clarifies. Sounds much more rational than what was connected to him:

    http://comment.independent.co.uk/commentators/article3075642.ece

  34. #34 Caledonian
    October 19, 2007

    Watson has published a statement on what his views are and discussing (briefly) how the interview reflected them.

    Find it here.

  35. #35 John B
    October 19, 2007

    I can’t speak about the biology side of this issue. On this issue of social constructs I can say a couple of things:

    Graculus wrote:”Isn’t it interesting that these ‘serious’ discussions of genetics and IQ manage to follow the lines of the arbitrary social constructs of ‘race'”?

    It is interesting, and follows a trend within the materialism of many modern western cultures that turns to science for the justification of its (pre-existing) beliefs. Although the old prejudices and fears have not changed, a portion of society is no longer comfortable with the old authorities Graculus mentions. If they use their understanding of science to test the elements of their worldview, a scientifically-grounded theory of racial hierarchies is of great comfort to them.

    Race, like gender, is a social construct (a category-error, as PZ says, when applied to a biological problem). Think of the differences between biological fact of being a female (on a group’s average intelligence, strength, etc…) and the social fact of being a woman, and how much difficulty we have separating out the nature vs. nurture elements of the differences between the sexes. If someone found that girls’ IQ scores were on average much lower than boys, would they interpret that as evidence that females are naturally more stupid than men? or would they see it as evidence of a social reality about the advantages of being raised as a boy?

    I don’t have a hard time believing the certain groups of humans have some real genetic differences that reflect their particular group history, but I’d be surprised if those genetic differences had any relation to the racial stereotypes about sexual prowess, agression, intelligence… As surprised as if scientists discovered that female humans have a ‘cooking & cleaning’ gene that predisposes them to be home-makers, or a ‘pretty-in-pink’ gene that makes my nieces enjoy disney princess movies.

  36. #36 Christian Burnham
    October 19, 2007

    Potentilla: I’m no expert- but skin color is controlled by I would guess a tiny number of genes. It’s not possible to tease out a plausible genetic history from such a small amount of near-irrelevant information.

    Also- to concentrate on skin color to the exclusion of much more interesting and complex markers does smack of racism.

  37. #37 Graculus
    October 19, 2007

    There are average population differences in heritable susceptibility to sickle-cell disease, for instance, and such differences correlate with skin colour.

    Oh, I can’t let this pass.

    There are plenty of dark-skinned groups that do not have any pre-disposition to sickle-cell, mainly because their ancestors didn’t live in areas where malaria was virulent enough to select for the gene. That is an artifact of geographical origin, not genetically linked to skin colour. The incidence of the sickle cell gene in USian “blacks” is dropping like a stone, due to lack of selective pressure.

  38. #38 potentilla
    October 19, 2007

    Bee – see here (scroll down to the sub-head “why all the fuss” if you don’t want to read the whole thing.

  39. #39 Caledonian
    October 19, 2007

    I put the quotes in becuase I’m not entirely sure how those terms are defined. Are Hindus “black-skinned”? How about the native South Americans?

    If he’s using skin color as a proxy for Africanness, his statements are utterly defensible.

    If he’s really concerned with skin color itself, much less so… and I will have to stop making a very important claim, or at least modify it significantly.

  40. #40 potentilla
    October 19, 2007

    Yes, Graculus, but I – and Christian Burnham who I was quoting – didn’t say say “genetically linked” – I said “correlated”, meaning (and sorry if it wasn’t clear) “statistically correlated”.

  41. #41 Caledonian
    October 19, 2007

    There are plenty of dark-skinned groups that do not have any pre-disposition to sickle-cell, mainly because their ancestors didn’t live in areas where malaria was virulent enough to select for the gene. That is an artifact of geographical origin, not genetically linked to skin colour.

    Most certainly. The geographical origin question, however, is statistically associated with dark brown skin, in addition to various other traits.

    The incidence of the sickle cell gene in USian “blacks” is dropping like a stone, due to lack of selective pressure.

    Nonsense. What you mean is a lack of pressure maintaining the gene. Obviously there is significant selective pressure working against its perpetuation.

  42. #42 sailor
    October 19, 2007

    “Enough of this nonsense about there not being any grounds for suspecting that black-skinned people tend to be less intelligent on average than light-skinned people. The economic and intellectual performance of the former group is incomparably worse, on every continent. The difference is, quite frankly, enormos. In light of this, surely the the Bayesian probability of their happening to be less intelligent (on average) oughtn’t be negligible.”

    John Smith, you seem to speak with great authority. How widely have you travelled? Ever been through the Caribbean where you have many nations of African ancenstry living quite comfortably and democratically? You write as if you a both a racist and an idiot. One of the things one would hope reading columns like PZs would teach is that in modern biology, the things we have learnt about the interaction between genes an the environment would make it seem that even if there were a general intelligence factor (this has yet to be shown), it would not be a simple genetic link that could be hooked onto a race, or that the genetic element of it (except in extreme defects) really had a great deal of connection with the final outcome once the environment was taken into account.

  43. #43 thalarctos
    October 19, 2007

    From True Bob’s link above:

    For if I said what I was quoted as saying, then I can only admit that I am bewildered by it. To those who have drawn the inference from my words that Africa, as a continent, is somehow genetically inferior, I can only apologise unreservedly. That is not what I meant. More importantly from my point of view, there is no scientific basis for such a belief.

    I will be very curious to see a couple of things: 1) whether or not he pursues action against the paper or the reporter for misquoting him, or whether he has to acknowledge the quotes in question, and 2) whether in a couple of years, we’re having this very same discussion when he gives a similar interview again.

  44. #44 Bernard Bumner
    October 19, 2007

    Even Watson has admitted that the quote attributed to him sound racist (see his apology);

    I can understand much of this reaction. For if I said what I was quoted as saying, then I can only admit that I am bewildered by it…there is no scientific basis for such a belief.

    The Sunday Times says that the interview was recorded, and that the quotes are accurate.

  45. #45 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    “Maybe I *am* projecting my own nuanced and intelligent views on him, but that’s what I get when I read his comments.

    John Smith, your response?”
    We all have African ancestry; what you mean is recent African ancestry (but even that needs to be unpacked somewhat further). The advantage of using the label “black-skinned” is these self-deceptive wingnuts can’t deny its existence, as it is a real characteristic. We don’t need to define it precisely, any more than we need to define “human” and “kangaroo” precisely (yet it makes perfect sense to say that humans are more intelligent than kangaroos.)

  46. #46 Bernard Bumner
    October 19, 2007

    Snap!

  47. #47 sailor
    October 19, 2007

    “But the point appears to be wrong. See, for instance, here. There are 50 academic signatories to this letter, which is specifically intended as a summary of mainstream science.”
    Yes and you can find 600 “scientists” signing something saing they don’t believe in evolution. Dumb is as dumb does.

  48. #48 Caledonian
    October 19, 2007

    If someone found that girls’ IQ scores were on average much lower than boys, would they interpret that as evidence that females are naturally more stupid than men? or would they see it as evidence of a social reality about the advantages of being raised as a boy?

    It’s worth noting that the mean IQ of women is virtually identical to the mean IQ of men, but the variance of male IQ is larger than the female – which is exactly what we’d expect, since any x-linked traits will be homozygous in the male.

    Females are also outperforming males in school and make up a disproportionate fraction of college students… although not in specific fields.

    Yet we don’t hear much talk about how this means that there’s really no social burden with being female. Curious.

  49. #49 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    “John Smith, you seem to speak with great authority. How widely have you travelled? Ever been through the Caribbean where you have many nations of African ancenstry living quite comfortably and democratically? You write as if you a both a racist and an idiot.”
    Oh yes, how idiotic and terribly ignorant of me to suggest that light-skinned people are on average more economically and intellectually advanced than dark-skinned people. I really mustn’t know what I’m talking about!

  50. #50 Caledonian
    October 19, 2007

    We all have African ancestry; what you mean is recent African ancestry (but even that needs to be unpacked somewhat further). The advantage of using the label “black-skinned” is these self-deceptive wingnuts can’t deny its existence, as it is a real characteristic. We don’t need to define it precisely, any more than we need to define “human” and “kangaroo” precisely (yet it makes perfect sense to say that humans are more intelligent than kangaroos.)

    I see nothing to disagree with here.

    I will note, however, that the wingnuts can deny the reasonableness of your statements by linking your position in people’s mind with actual racism, so there’s a rhetorical danger.

  51. #51 Benjamin Franz
    October 19, 2007

    There are two sets of people here with ideological blinders on.

    The first set is the set that wants, desperately, to link skin color to intelligence. The second set is the set that wants, desperately, to deny that intelligence is largely genetically determined.

    Both are off their rockers.

    Skin color is determined by a set of genes that have nothing to do with intelligence as far as we know. But ‘base’ (by which I mean the intelligence of a person before environment begins modifying it) intelligence is clearly 100% genetic: Not everyone starts from the same point before the environment begins modifying their smarts.

    Just ask any lemur.

    Oh, right. They can’t use language or complex tools. Guess they are just underprivileged and the result of poor nutrition, bad schools and negative, unstimulating environments.

    Or maybe they just aren’t very intelligent compared to humans because of their genes. And that fact, by itself, is telling. Because they are literally relatives: We share ancestors (admittedly, not recent ancestors). Our great-to-the-10000000th grandparents are the same.

    Denying that intelligence (whether one big “g” factor or thousands of individual “intelligences”) is primarily genetic is both contrary to observation and just as ideologically corrupt a position as the racists who want to claim that the amount of melanin in a person’s skin determines their intelligence.

    There ARE smart people and dumb people. And a large part of the difference is genetically determined: All other things being equal smart parents will tend to have children who are smarter than those of dumb parents. Seperated twin studies have unambiguously confirmed this.

    This is a basic fact that many people don’t want to face. They are willing to admit that if your parents were tall, you have a better than average chance of being tall yourself. That if your parents had straight hair, you will probably have straight hair. That if your parents get severe allergies, you have a good chance of getting them too. And they have no problem admitting that each of those are largely genetic.

    But god forbid that you suggest that smart parents tend to have smart children and that it is in large part due to genetics.

  52. #52 True Bob
    October 19, 2007

    #49 settles it for me. JS, you are racist.

  53. #53 Flex
    October 19, 2007

    Caladonian wrote, “If he’s using skin color as a proxy for Africanness, his statements are utterly defensible.”

    Utterly defensible? Or simply a speculation of a linkage between a poorly understood trait like intelligence, and a huge geographical area which has greater genetic diversity than anywhere else?

    It’s fine for him to speculate, but surely he realizes that either the trait he is using as a shorthand (‘black-skinned’) or the continent he may be actually refering to (Africa) are both inflammatory topics and care should be taken in his communications to avoid raising hackles. Possibly he feels that clarity in communicating his thoughts (which means having some idea what the audience is going to hear) is secondary to being obtuse.

    Then, of course, there is the evidence that his last statement did nothing to answer your question. It simply implied that the trait of “black-skinned” is the important one to consider, not the continent.

  54. #54 sailor
    October 19, 2007

    “Oh yes, how idiotic and terribly ignorant of me to suggest that light-skinned people are on average more economically and intellectually advanced than dark-skinned people. I really mustn’t know what I’m talking about!”

    For once I really agree with you.

  55. #55 Bernard Bumner
    October 19, 2007

    The advantage of using the label “black-skinned” is these self-deceptive wingnuts can’t deny its existence, as it is a real characteristic. We don’t need to define it precisely, any more than we need to define “human” and “kangaroo” precisely (yet it makes perfect sense to say that humans are more intelligent than kangaroos.)

    “Human” and “kangaroo” are both common names of species, whereas “black” is an adjective which describes a superficial characteristic. Your analogy is fallacious. Clearly, “Human” and “kangaroo” are definitive, although there are a number of different ‘roo species.

    “Black” means nothing, it is a subjective judgement, as can clearly be seen by its varied and inconsistent usage around the world and in different parts of society. Who exactly is black? It depends who you ask. It has no more meaning than “white”, which also includes various different ethnic groups, with varying degrees of shared genetic identity. It is a social epithet, not a biological concept.

  56. #56 Graculus
    October 19, 2007

    Good thing no one here has made any claims about associations with skin color.

    Oh, yes they have.

    “One is that we do not know which genes or what role they play in in cognitive abilities, and what role cultural, epigenetic and other environmental factors play in same.”

    What is uncertain is precisely how much and what kind – which is why it is outrageous that you would deny the possibility that between-groups differences could have anything to do with genes.

    How the fuck are these statements not essentially congruent?

    Humanity is far more uniform that most other species, but that’s relative.

    Yet there are few discussions of the relative cognitive abilites of black cats vs white cats.

    “Three is that we have a measure of cognitive abilities that is, at best, fuzzy and badly understood.”

    IQ is quite well understood.

    I didn’t say IQ

    That’s how we know that it is NOT a measure of all cognitive potential, and it’s not even a complete measure of the basic cognitive functions.

    That was my point.

    (re: low scoring white groups) Indeed, it is entirely possible that genetics plays a role there as well.

    And the USian South has been genetically isolated long enough to produce such an effect?

    Although technically it wouldn’t be impossible for genes controlling melanin distribution to have some effect on neurological development

    And when we better understand what the genes and environment are up to we can have that discussion.

    They don’t… or only in your fevered mind.

    Bollocks.

    When did the Irish become white, and when did the alleles that contribute to cognitive function change?

  57. #57 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    “I will note, however, that the wingnuts can deny the reasonableness of your statements by linking your position in people’s mind with actual racism, so there’s a rhetorical danger.”
    Well, yes. Normally I wouldn’t say anything about skin colour when discussing genetic intelligence, for most people are stupid and highly self-deceptive, and they would willfully, maliciously misinterpret me. I (wrongly) assumed that the free-thinkers present here would be rather less volitile than ordinary, clueless people.

  58. #58 sailor
    October 19, 2007

    Also, since we are all on a biology blog. You have all read about genes and the way things are expressed. Why on earth would you expect the biological mechanism that expresses skin pigmentation to have anything to do with what goes on in the brain?

  59. #59 Caledonian
    October 19, 2007

    When did the Irish become white

    ‘White’ is a social construct. Hell, it includes the Welsh, who have an ancient indigenous lineage that seems to be related to the Iberians – heavily mixed with the genes of the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon invaders.

    There’s a whole heck of a lot of diversity, both subtle and obvious, that’s include in ‘white’. Same with ‘black’.

    Good thing the scientific research doesn’t actually use those concepts in studying ethnic associations… or only when it’s forced to. (And it *still* gets results! Good ol’ science…)

  60. #60 Graculus
    October 19, 2007

    Nonsense. What you mean is a lack of pressure maintaining the gene. Obviously there is significant selective pressure working against its perpetuation.

    Perhaps you’d like to tell me what language you’re speaking.

    “Lack of selective pressure” is pretty fucking plain English.

  61. #61 thalarctos
    October 19, 2007

    Just ask any lemur.

    If you’re going to deliberately conflate variations in different human ethnicities with variations across different species, you’ve chosen a historically very unfortunate example–“lemur” is what the colonial French used to compare the Malagasy (of Madagascar) to.

    Personally, I’d stay away from such an invidious comparison; your mileage, as they say, may vary.

  62. #62 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    Hilarious. Some people are even trying to deny that white-skinned people are currently more economically and intellectually advanced than black-skinned people. What lunacy.

  63. #63 Graculus
    October 19, 2007

    ‘White’ is a social construct. Hell, it includes the Welsh

    A questionable decision. ;-)

  64. #64 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    “Also, since we are all on a biology blog. You have all read about genes and the way things are expressed. Why on earth would you expect the biological mechanism that expresses skin pigmentation to have anything to do with what goes on in the brain?”
    I wouldn’t expect that, as you surely know very well. The skin colour is just a purely incidental feature. There’s no reason why extra intelligence couldn’t have evolved *in addition* to paler skin. As a wholly separate feature.

  65. #65 Graculus
    October 19, 2007

    Are Hindus “black-skinned”?

    Are “Christians” white-skinned?

  66. #66 Graculus
    October 19, 2007

    Some people are even trying to deny that white-skinned people are currently more economically and intellectually advanced than black-skinned people. What lunacy.

    No, we are stating that the two features are not genetically linked.

    I also defy you to demonstrate that Fijian Polynesians (light skinned) are currently more economically and intellectually advanced than Fijian Melanesians (very dark-skinned).

  67. #67 Jud
    October 19, 2007

    caledonian wrote: “Females…make up a disproportionate fraction of college students.”

    That statistic is quite variable over geography and time. Either evolution of IQ works damn fast and differently across political borders, or there’s something else going on.

  68. #68 Flex
    October 19, 2007

    John Smith wrote, “Well, yes. Normally I wouldn’t say anything about skin colour when discussing genetic intelligence, for most people are stupid and highly self-deceptive, and they would willfully, maliciously misinterpret me.”

    No.

    I don’t think we are willfully or maliciously misinterpreting you.

    Your posts have been very clear that you feel it would worth while to look for a link between skin color and intelligence. Which has been done. Several times. With the results showing no linkage between skin color and intelligence. Disadvantaged “light-skinned” people perform as poorly as disadvantaged “black-skinned” people.

    Caladonian has been defending you under the assumption that you are arguing that other genetic traits, which may be confined to recent African populations, could have an impact on intelligence. But even he is not making any claim about skin color being linked to intelligence.

    Your continued speculation about skin color being an indicator for intelligence is what makes you a racist.

  69. #69 sailor
    October 19, 2007

    No John, Skin color is not a “purely incidental feature” it has evolved to help protect the skin from the sun. Giving maybe a protection factor of 15 over pale white skin.

  70. #70 Bernard Bumner
    October 19, 2007

    Some people are even trying to deny that white-skinned people are currently more economically and intellectually advanced than black-skinned people. What lunacy.

    Inherently “more advanced”? Where is the evidence? Who gets to be “black” or “white” (and what is everybody else)? And what the hell does “advanced” mean in this context?

    There is plenty of evidence to show that many “black” groups and nations are economically and socially disadvantaged, and demonstrating the connection between socio-economic deprivation and poor health, development, social and educational achievement. Nobody disagrees with that.

  71. #71 Jared
    October 19, 2007

    I wouldn’t expect that, as you surely know very well. The skin colour is just a purely incidental feature. There’s no reason why extra intelligence couldn’t have evolved *in addition* to paler skin. As a wholly separate feature.

    Sure, “intelligence” could have developed differently for isolated populations but I still haven’t seen any evidence that this is true. We can all work off our own biases and theorize with no evidence but I would like to see citations.

    Since I don’t do research in a related area, I rely on experts for information on the genetics of race or intelligence. So, if you have good citations please share.

    At the moment, I will have to go with the American Anthropological Association:

    Given what we know about the capacity of normal humans to achieve and function within any culture, we conclude that present-day inequalities between so-called “racial” groups are not consequences of their biological inheritance but products of historical and contemporary social, economic, educational, and political circumstances.

  72. #72 tristero
    October 19, 2007

    Perhaps it’s time for John Smith to recall Captain Beefheart’s observation:

    “We’re all colored or you wouldn’t be able to see us.”

  73. #73 Jared
    October 19, 2007

    The American Anthropological Association’s full statement on race can be found here.

  74. #74 BaldApe
    October 19, 2007

    OK, intelligence (whatever that is) has a strong heritable component, but also a strong environmental one. A genius as judged by his genetic endowment who is set in a play pen in front of a TV for his first five years isn’t going to do so well in school.

    So is it possible that there are differences in the averages among “races” with respect to intelligence? Of course. Do these average differences mean anything? Not really.

    Some have asked “What if it is true?” Indeed, what if? How would we deal with people any differently?

    For instance, if we accept, for the sake of argument, that men score higher in math ability than women- so what? I’m sure I have met women with much higher math ability than mine. Do we tell them “Just stay in the kitchen, honey, you’re not cut out for all those numbers and stuff?”

    What I’m saying is that a dispassionate discussion of average intelligence differences among populations is not very useful, whatever its validity.

    “How do you dare to tell me,
    that I’m my father’s son,
    when that was just an accident of birth?

    I’d rather look around me,
    compose a better song,
    for that’s the honest measure of my worth.”
    (Ian Anderson- Jethro Tull)

    Oh, and anyone who doesn’t believe there are broad swaths of stupidity in the human population hasn’t worked with the public. “Paper or plastic?” becomes a really hard question for some of them.

  75. #75 Benjamin Franz
    October 19, 2007

    thalarctos, I was not aware of that historical usage. But unless I were to abandon comparisions with any primate I doubt I could avoid such historical items. I just wanted an animal with dexterous hands to avoid arguments about ‘not having hands’. Substitute ‘squirrel’ for ‘lemur’, if you like. The principle is the same.

  76. #76 Shawn Wilkinson
    October 19, 2007

    John Smith, so William Lester, Jr. or Peter Delfyett are simply statistical outliers?

  77. #77 kevin
    October 19, 2007

    I still fail to see why people who consider that differences in group averages might exist are taking an inherently racist point of view.

    I think a lot of it depends on how you define your “groups”, and if you adjust for other factors that influence your measurements.

    I have no qualms with someone proposing that there are genetic and heritable factors of social skills, math skills, leadership qualities, etc. (though frankly it seems farfetched to this layman to assume there is one big g factor rather than a bunch of different dimensions). And if there were such factors, and we found them, it seems reasonable that groups would vary in the factor.

    Here is the problem, though: a racist always picks “white” as one group, and “black” as the other. Or “african”. or “non-white”. This, despite ample evidence that these groupings are arbitrary and pretty meaningless. As has been pointed out many times, there are dozens, if not many hundreds of very distinct groups in africa with widely varying degrees of isolation, skin color, history, conact with other groups, geographic range, etc. Same goes for “whites” or “caucasians”.

    Suppose for a second that we really had some objective measure of something or other: IQ, or g, or lets just say height. Might it be true that “blacks” are taller on average than “whites”? Perhaps, but this is a stupid and racist way of coming about the question — there are groups thrown in with “blacks” that are extremely short. And groups that are tall. And the groups might have pretty much nothing in common (except for non-white skin color). And there are lots of groups that are sort-of-black, too. And same for whites.

    The non-racist way of asking such questions is to ask if there are groups that have a disposition for being tall (or having high IQ score)? Well sure, I’d guess that even after correcting for nutrition, social customs that might impact height, etc: there are some fairly distinct groups in africa that are tall. And some groups in south america. and some in europe, etc. And skin color really has little to do with it at all.

    But no, the racist is going to try and imply that “whiteness” corrrelates with “smartness”, and that this is an interesting question. And that lumping the inuit with “whites” and mayans with “blacks” is perfectly rational thing to do.

  78. #78 tristero
    October 19, 2007

    BaldApe,

    To continue quoting masters of music, Frank Zappa once said that he disagreed with scientists on the most abundant element in the universe. It’s not hydrogen, Frank said, but stupidity. Stupidity is far more abundant.

    Man, I miss that guy.

    (PS For what it’s worth, Frank was apparently quoting/plagiarizing Einstein. I always thought they were the same person, anyway – funny moustache, funny clothes, enormous talent.)

  79. #79 sailor
    October 19, 2007

    “Some people are even trying to deny that white-skinned people are currently more economically and intellectually advanced than black-skinned people. What lunacy.”

    Economic power as measured by GNI
    #1 Luxemberg
    #2 Bermuda (60% black Carbbean nation)

    The USA is at number 10 below Ireland.

    http://siteresources.worldbank.org/DATASTATISTICS/Resources/GNIPC.pdf

  80. #80 MartinC
    October 19, 2007

    Trying to avoid sounding like Alister McGrath, what I would like to say is that some very interesting points have been raised that deserve closer examination (OK, I didn’t try very hard).
    I would actually divide the two contentious quotes from Watson into separate categories.
    First the clumsy unthoughtful (for the political considerations – how it might be exploited by racists for example) category.
    “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really”.
    And secondly the quite clearly racist category when discussing the hope that everyone was equal “people who have to deal with black employees find this is not true”

    The second statement, I would hope, should not need any further debate – it clearly indicates a bias purely on the basis of skin color (although Watson may now be claiming that this is a misquote).
    The first point could, however, it can be argued, refer to environmental factors that might take decades or centuries to solve before the populations in question can reach their full potential.
    As an example I have a friend from Zimbabwe who works as a molecular biologist – a very intelligent, hardworking individual. Those of us who work with black african scientists don’t actually experience the problems indicated by Watsons second quote. There is not a causal link for the individual case between skin color or ethnicity and intelligence.
    On the other hand I have noticed that amongst the African community here (Sweden) there is a high degree of religiosity of the more fundamentalist kind (either Islamic or Christian). The belief in satan or witchcraft was widespread and the acceptance of scientific explanations of phenomenon (such as diseases) was not very high outside those who had been educated as scientists. Indeed going by the example of South Africa this belief in superstitions causes enormous problems for healthcare on the continent itself.
    So it may be reasonably (I hope!) argued there may be an environmental factor here (superstitious religious doctrines of one sort or another) rather than a genetic one that may contribute to the problems of that continent.
    As for genetic factors that may be more prevalent within Africa that might contribute towards lower IQ scores on average (yes, I do realize the problems associated with IQ scores as a measure of ‘intelligence’), it would not surprise me if there are indeed some that may, in that particular environment, do so – I am referring in particular to things like sickle cell trait in malarial endemic regions. I would be very surprised, however, if something as crass and simplistic as simple skin color genes were linked to cognitive abilities as seems to be implied by Watsons second quote.

  81. #81 Caledonian
    October 19, 2007

    No John, Skin color is not a “purely incidental feature” it has evolved to help protect the skin from the sun. Giving maybe a protection factor of 15 over pale white skin.

    No, ‘black’ skin is the norm that everyone else moved away from, for whatever reason.

    It’s clear you’re not a big reader of Gene Expression, because this topic has been discussed at length over the past several weeks.

  82. #82 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    Most people here seem less interested in the studies, and more interested in refuting me by “armchair reasoning” (which is obviously impossible). The criticisms of my position are getting more and more desperate.

    Direct me to a credible study which proves beyond reasonable doubt that black-skinned people are just as intelligent (on average) as white skinned people. If no one can do this, I will continue to be skeptical of the “all groups are identically equal” school of thought.

  83. #83 thalarctos
    October 19, 2007

    Substitute ‘squirrel’ for ‘lemur’, if you like. The principle is the same.

    Yes, the principle that you first have to validate your measurements is pretty much universal. And you have not yet demonstrated the validity of your equating cross-species comparisons with intra-human comparisons.

    Because if you really wanted to make your comparison vivid, then you could compare the outgroup with bacteria for intelligence, rather than with more similar vertebrates.

    You still wouldn’t have demonstrated that you understand that no one here is denying that there is *some* poorly-understood genetic component, along with much better-understood historical, social, and political factors, nor would you have refuted any of those non-genetic contributors–but your conflation of inter-species and intra-species comparisons would be so much more memorable if you compare the “smart” humans to come cuddly photogenic megafauna, and the “not-smart” humans to some icky species.

    Until you validate your comparisons, they’re meaningless. So demonstrate how your comparisons control for social, political, and other factors, in addition to genetic, and which genes are responsible for which phenotypes in what ways–then we’ll have something to discuss.

  84. #84 Caledonian
    October 19, 2007

    A questionable decision. ;-)

    Silence, sir! The Welsh will be here when all of the uppity invader upstarts have been scoured from the Isle!

  85. #85 Shawn Wilkinson
    October 19, 2007

    Quotes are from %51

    Skin color is determined by a set of genes that have nothing to do with intelligence as far as we know. But ‘base’ (by which I mean the intelligence of a person before environment begins modifying it) intelligence is clearly 100% genetic: Not everyone starts from the same point before the environment begins modifying their smarts.

    When you say ‘base’ do you mean the likely “neural efficiency” of the network required to process and manifest sense imagery into thought? If yes, I would slightly agree. Protein structure would have something to do with its confirmation in space and its level of reactivity necessary in the pertinent biochemical processes involved. But even then the protein itself requires a certain chemical environment in order to function. So, I wouldn’t say the genetic link is as strong as you recommend.

    Just my two worthless cents.

  86. #86 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    Sailor,

    You’re aware that Bermuda is a British territory, right? Do you think it was so economically well-off before the British arrived?

  87. #87 Caledonian
    October 19, 2007

    Perhaps you’d like to tell me what language you’re speaking.

    “Lack of selective pressure” is pretty fucking plain English.

    Oh yes, I’m quite confident as to your meaning. And it is wrong. There’s a major selective pressure working on the anti-malarial gene – working against.

    Your statement doesn’t specify, and thus excludes selective pressures of all types, which is incorrect.

  88. #88 Jared
    October 19, 2007

    Most people here seem less interested in the studies, and more interested in refuting me by “armchair reasoning” (which is obviously impossible). The criticisms of my position are getting more and more desperate.

    What studies are you offering beyond your “armchair reasoning”?

  89. #89 Graculus
    October 19, 2007

    Silence, sir! The Welsh will be here when all of the uppity invader upstarts have been scoured from the Isle!

    if we’re scouring the invader upstarts, then the Welsh have to go first. The Cruithne insist.

  90. #90 Caledonian
    October 19, 2007

    if we’re scouring the invader upstarts, then the Welsh have to go first. The Cruithne insist.

    I have some blue-green algae that would like to have a word with you, sir.

  91. #91 Tulse
    October 19, 2007

    This argument about blacks being genetically stupider that whites will soon be moot, since blacks are evolving much faster than whites — they’ve gotten up to 7 IQ points smarter relative to whites over the past 30 years. At that rate, I guess it won’t be long until they surpass whites and we can then turn to debating why Caucasians are so stupid. Certainly it must be evolution, right, since surely environment or testing factors couldn’t play such a large role in IQ change?

    But wait, it looks like everyone is evolving as well (just not as fast), since overall world IQ scores are rising about 3 points a decade. Wow, it is amazing how quickly natural selection works! A good thing, too, since judged by today’s standards the average IQ of an American child in 1932 would have been 80! No wonder they had the Great Depression then — no one was smart enough!

    When all is tallied up, it looks like the final winners in the evolving intelligence sweepstakes is the genetically distinct and completely reproductively isolated population of Dutch soldiers, who are getting 7 IQ points smarter per decade. I for one welcome our new Dutch overlords.

    Of course, naysayers will argue that there are other factors at work here, such as schooling, nutrition, parental approaches in child rearing, cultural factors, and even something basic like familiarity with test taking. But of course that is all nonsense, since all sophisticated people know that, because blacks are dumber than whites, intelligence must be genetic! See, evolution works!

  92. #92 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    As I said, the criticisms of my position are getting more and more desperate. You have to be really desperate to try to pass off Bermuda’s strong economy as evidence that blacks aren’t economically behind whites.

  93. #93 True Bob
    October 19, 2007

    I’m glad someone mentioned the Maya. Right now, they are quite economically impoverished, and what’s left of their culture has been suppressed.

    But back in their heyday, they knew the stars better than anyone else, they had a positional number system and zero hundreds of years before Europeans. They had a superbly accurate calendar, and a very rich culture (whether or not you agree with their moral values).

    So why did they evolve into stupidity so quickly (<2000 years), JS?

  94. #94 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    “What studies are you offering beyond your ‘armchair reasoning’?”
    The clear asymmetry lies in the fact that I’m not “swinging either way”. I’m not saying blacks are less genetically intelligent on average; I’m saying they might be. Whites might be less genetically intelligent than blacks, for that matter — but due to their far superior economic and intellectual performance, I think if either group are less intelligent it’s probably blacks.

    It’s a simple problem of Bayesian probability. Group X greatly outperforms group Y in a certain area. If either group is more intrinsically skilled in that area, which one do you think it’s likely to be?

  95. #95 True Bob
    October 19, 2007

    The Brutish British? For crtying out loud, they were a bunsh of island bound idiots until the Romans straightened them up! After that, those idiot skraelings needed the Vikings to strenghten their stock. If there’s any group inferior to the Brits…Gawd you’re stupid, john.

  96. #96 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    For the sake of clarity: “…if either group *is* less intelligent it’s probably blacks.”

  97. #97 Caledonian
    October 19, 2007

    If there’s any group inferior to the Brits…

    The Americans? Genocide from sea to shining sea…

  98. #98 thalarctos
    October 19, 2007

    Indeed going by the example of South Africa this belief in superstitions causes enormous problems for healthcare on the continent itself. So it may be reasonably (I hope!) argued there may be an environmental factor here (superstitious religious doctrines of one sort or another) rather than a genetic one that may contribute to the problems of that continent.

    As far as your comments go, Martin, I don’t see anything that I would disagree with, but the same is true where my in-laws live in Appalachia, where there are very few people of African descent. A huge proportion of them are Watson’s vaunted Scots-Irish success machines; for some reason that the genes-explain-everything crowd never seem to address, those genes didn’t “take” in the hills.

    In fact, in parts of Appalachia, one of the biggest home industries is malpractice suits against the few doctors willing to live and practice in such a remote place, a factor, which of course, leads to fewer doctors willing to come out there. That, and the rampant fundamentalism, present huge obstacles to addressing the basic economic, medical, and social justice problems the region is already confronted with. Again, much like the areas in Africa you describe, but with a population almost exclusively of European descent.

    I agree with your point as far as it goes, and your analysis is well-reasoned and thought out. I do not for a second believe that you are cherry-picking here–please do not misunderstand what I am saying about your comment in light of what I’m about to say. But those people who point to the problems Africa has, and who never acknowledge that we have similar problems, for similar non-genetic reasons, like John Smith in his posts here, for example–they are cherry-picking big time, and it’s totally appropriate to call them out on it.

  99. #99 True Bob
    October 19, 2007

    The Americans? Genocide from sea to shining sea…

    Taught by the best murderers and enslavers ever – the Brits.

  100. #100 Jared
    October 19, 2007

    “What studies are you offering beyond your ‘armchair reasoning’?”
    The clear asymmetry lies in the fact that I’m not “swinging either way”. I’m not saying blacks are less genetically intelligent on average; I’m saying they might be.

    Well, since you can’t cite any studies, I will remain on the side of the American Anthropological Association since they have better reasoning. If someone can cite some contrary studies, I am interested.

  101. #101 Caledonian
    October 19, 2007

    Taught by the best murderers and enslavers ever – the Brits.

    The British pale before the wrath of Temujin.

  102. #102 MartinC
    October 19, 2007

    thalarctos,
    I don’t disagree with your point. Obviously there are environments that are not conducive to things like education or scientific reasoning that are not African based. Cognitive abilities are certainly partly enviromentally determined so denying a child a good education or diet will have an effect.
    The whole Irish/English IQ situation may, in the past, have a grain of truth in it – if you take into consideration the differing environments that the two populations lived in within the 18th and nineteenth centuries. Nowadays the envirnoments are pretty much the same and the situation has pretty much equalized.

  103. #103 True Bob
    October 19, 2007

    Temujin? A piker. Xenu, now there’s a killer’s killer.

  104. #104 raven
    October 19, 2007

    John Smith:

    For the sake of clarity: “…if either group *is* less intelligent it’s probably blacks.”

    This multi-ID troll was spewing his hate of women and Moslems a few days ago. Now blacks.

    Smith et al.’s hate list must be about 100% of the human species. OTOH, as a mentally ill internet troll, who cares?

    BTW, he is also a fundie Xian death cultist.

  105. #105 Janine
    October 19, 2007

    So? Let me get this straight. Intelligence is determined by the invisible hand of the marketplace?

  106. #106 sailor
    October 19, 2007

    “Sailor,
    You’re aware that Bermuda is a British territory, right? Do you think it was so economically well-off before the British arrived?”
    You’r asking that very question shows a lamentable ingorance of colonial Caribbean history. You can research that for yourself.
    My observation on other Caribbean nations is that they did not start to really develop economically till they gained independence and were run by the locals not a bunch of English Bureaucrats.

  107. #107 Divalent
    October 19, 2007

    These discussion of race, intelligence, inheritance, etc are eerily but strikingly analogous to the battles over global warming and intelligent design.

  108. #108 David Wilford
    October 19, 2007

    This post of Shalizi’s is worth passing along a link to also:

    … In Different Voices

    Attention Conservation Notice: 1500-odd words on the plasticity and importance, or lack thereof, of certain human faculties, a topic of endless controversy; a controversy which, like the air from a blow-drier, is both arid and heated, and which this certainly won’t settle. Written in dialog form, which is always pretentious, especially when not used to good effect, which it isn’t here.

    Did I mention it was funny?

  109. #109 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    “This multi-ID troll was spewing his hate of women and Moslems a few days ago. Now blacks.

    Smith et al.’s hate list must be about 100% of the human species. OTOH, as a mentally ill internet troll, who cares?

    BTW, he is also a fundie Xian death cultist.”
    Do you have any evidence of this? You really should have some quantity of evidence before you start tossing about these serious accusations.

    I haven’t said anything about either Muslims or women, and (for what it’s worth) I’m a liberal on most issues. I didn’t disagree with PZ much until he recently trashed and misrepresented Sam Harris. Since then, my opinion of him has been on a downward spiral.

  110. #110 Christian Burnham
    October 19, 2007

    Can someone tell me why skin color is any more of a useful indication than whether a person wears a hat? They both serve the purpose to protect from the Sun, and they’re both crude indicators of a person’s ancestry and they’re both probably weakly correlated with a whole host of other traits.

  111. #111 Nan
    October 19, 2007

    “On the other hand I have noticed that amongst the African community here (Sweden) there is a high degree of religiosity of the more fundamentalist kind (either Islamic or Christian). The belief in satan or witchcraft was widespread and the acceptance of scientific explanations of phenomenon (such as diseases) was not very high outside those who had been educated as scientists.”

    Martin, I’m surprised you’d say this given how much space the science blogs gets eaten up by bitching about U.S. fundamentalists and creationist loonies, most of whom appear to be “white,” whatever that may mean.

  112. #112 MartinC
    October 19, 2007

    “Can someone tell me why skin color is any more of a useful indication than whether a person wears a hat? ”
    It depends.
    Is the hat white and pointy?

  113. #113 Derek James
    October 19, 2007

    To inject a measly bit of neuroscience in here, the neocortex, the newest addition and outer shell of your brain, has subsumed most perceptual and motor functions from older parts of the brain, and added new functionality such as language and abstract reasoning. The neocortex exhibits a high degree of uniformity and modularity, and one current line of thought is that the expansion of the neocortex and emergence of new cortical areas is due primarily to mutations in regulatory DNA.

    But this is only the nature part of the story, and it’s sketchy at that. Genes control the production of neurons and synapses at a coarse-grained level, and there is initially an overproduction of both early in life. Somebody mentioned Gerald Edelman’s Neural Darwinism, which details how through differential activity (experience), mature pathways and collections of related cells survive. It seems as if the genes set up a massive hunk of clay on a pedestal, and experience shapes, smooths, and reduces it through learning and experience.

    So even if geneticists were able to isolate the genes that defined the amount of “raw material” that different human groups started out with (which might settle part of the argument empirically), it is highly doubtful that anyone is going to measure, with any degree of certainty, the relative contribution of environmental influences.

    That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, just that both the theory and the evidence is very sketchy right now…which basically means that Watson was talking out of his ass.

  114. #114 MartinC
    October 19, 2007

    “Martin, I’m surprised you’d say this given how much space the science blogs gets eaten up by bitching about U.S. fundamentalists and creationist loonies, most of whom appear to be “white,” whatever that may mean.”
    Why the surprise? It is hardly a controversial point.
    It was purely an observation about one set of immigrants here in Sweden. This country has such a high level of native non-believers practically any immigrant group will have a higher level of religiosity, whatever their ethnicity.
    Would this level of religiosity contribute to problems in their original countries (healthcare, education etc)? That can be argued either way but I think it is at least valid to raise the point.

  115. #115 Tatarize
    October 19, 2007

    1) If and only if a trait is heritable, can it evolve.
    2) Pumped blood evolved.
    3) Therefore, pumped blood is heritable.

    Hm? The point I’m trying to make is intelligence doesn’t evolve; brains evolve. A better brain makes for better intelligence. However, if you’re going to grow up in an area with markedly worse building materials for brains you’re going to end up with worse. I don’t see how anybody can suggest that there is data on this. Any number you came up with would be dwarfed nutrition.

    And as a secondary twist if you found individuals who had proper nutrition they would have to be disregarded because they aren’t a random sampling, having bucked the odds perhaps due to something you want to measure.

    So to do this scientifically first destroy the self-fulfilling prophecy of racism, end malnutrition, poverty, and the rather odd superstitions that tend to grip the region… then run the numbers.

    People don’t use g because it’s a fiction and they want to quantify things, they use it because people better on one indicator of g tend to be better on all of the rest. All the little attributes fit together. Perhaps the brain is a one trick wonder, or perhaps better brains just work better for all the stuff they do.

  116. #116 JRY
    October 19, 2007

    Re #93:
    “The clear asymmetry lies in the fact that I’m not “swinging either way”. I’m not saying blacks are less genetically intelligent on average; I’m saying they might be. Whites might be less genetically intelligent than blacks, for that matter — but due to their far superior economic and intellectual performance, I think if either group are less intelligent it’s probably blacks.

    It’s amazing how you just focus on genetics and totally ignore:

    -environment
    -culture
    -resources
    -how one culture may help, or oppress, another culture

    It really does seem like that you are just looking for some scientific justification to your belief that one group of humans are better than others.

  117. #117 Epistaxis
    October 19, 2007

    This would all be so much simpler if someone would just provide a citation for a peer-reviewed research paper that compares the IQs of people of European ancestry and people of African ancestry. Could someone familiar with the literature get it over with? Then we could just focus on what IQ means instead of pretending not to know that Africans tend to have darker skin than Europeans, or for that matter pretending that those are the only two interesting populations in the world.

  118. #118 Bernard Bumner
    October 19, 2007

    I’m not an expert, but a quick PubMed search shows that there are numerous papers showing a difference between “blacks” and “non-blacks”. So, we can certainly accept the premise that such papers exist, and therefore have the discussion you’re calling for. (It is already underway, is it not?)

    The entire Jan 2005 issue of American Psychologist is dedicated to a discussion of this very matter, as it happens, so look there if you want.

    Try,

    Rushton, J. P., & Jensen, A. R. (2005). Thirty years of research on race differences in cognitive ability. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 11, 235-294,

    for a review of race and intelligence studies which suggests that there is a difference.

    And,

    Richard E. Nisbett
    Heredity, environment, and race differences in IQ, A Commentary on Rushton and Jensen. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law 2005, Vol. 11, No. 2, 302-310,

    for direct criticism.

    See also,

    Dickens WT, Flynn JR. Black Americans reduce the racial IQ gap: evidence from standardization samples. Psychol Sci. 2006 Oct;17(10):913-20.

  119. #119 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    “It’s amazing how you just focus on genetics and totally ignore:

    -environment
    -culture
    -resources
    -how one culture may help, or oppress, another culture.”
    Of course I’m not overlooking any of that. If I did, I would profess to be sure that whites are more genetically intelligent than blacks. As it is, I’m only offering it as a possibility.

    Whites currently outperform blacks on IQ tests, are responsible for far many more scientific innovations, etc., etc. Now maybe it’s for cultural reasons, maybe for genetic reasons — maybe a bit of both. I don’t know. The people who oppose me, in contrast, are claiming that they do know.

  120. #120 jdw
    October 19, 2007

    Why does everyone alway focus on “intelligence” when comparing races. Why not focus on a trait that really matters, like penis size?

  121. #121 Dustin
    October 19, 2007

    Of course I’m not overlooking any of that. If I did, I would profess to be sure that whites are more genetically intelligent than blacks. As it is, I’m only offering it as a possibility.

    Whites currently outperform blacks on IQ tests, are responsible for far many more scientific innovations, etc., etc. Now maybe it’s for cultural reasons, maybe for genetic reasons — maybe a bit of both. I don’t know. The people who oppose me, in contrast, are claiming that they do know.

    The best part of an argument comes when one side doesn’t have to actually argue any more because the other side is busy committing suicide.

    I think it’s time we stopped this argument and moved on to pleasant smalltalk: Say, John, do you still have that ‘Best Friends Forever’ keepsake box that you and David Duke started?

  122. #122 shiftlessbum
    October 19, 2007

    Tristero wrote; “To continue quoting masters of music, Frank Zappa once said that he disagreed with scientists on the most abundant element in the universe. It’s not hydrogen, Frank said, but stupidity. Stupidity is far more abundant.

    Man, I miss that guy.

    (PS For what it’s worth, Frank was apparently quoting/plagiarizing Einstein. I always thought they were the same person, anyway – funny moustache, funny clothes, enormous talent.)”

    It was Harlan Ellison, IIANM, not Einstein who said “The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.”

  123. #123 MikeM
    October 19, 2007

    I thoroughly reject the notion that skin color has any link to intelligence at all. Period. It’s all cultural.

    By the way, PZ… “no-nothings”? I’m pretty sure you meant “know-nothings”, or am I missing something?

    This has the potential to fire things up, but I would say that cultures are largely dependent on geography (no, not entirely, just mostly), and the value each of these cultures places on certain types of education will be reflected in the results of any intelligence test given to members of these cultures.

    Certainly the average Pacific Islander has approximately the same skin color as the average Japanese, but who would argue that any Pacific Island nation has attained the same economic success as Japan? And yet, I’d maintain there’s no reason (other than, ironically enough, bigotry) the average Pacific Islander couldn’t move to Japan and be just as successful there as someone born there. Race isn’t a factor.

    To me, the most fascinating part of humans is our adaptability. How long does it take to acquire color? With my blond hair and blue eyes, I really do struggle when I visit tropical areas. They don’t make strong enough sunglasses for me. But anyone can eventually survive anywhere. Look at where our ancestors came from: Deserts, tropical islands, the tundra, temperate zones, bogs… How many species are capable of surviving everything the earth can throw at them, and still be the same species? It’s amazing.

    I am in a “biracial” marriage. I put biracial in quotes because that assumes I’m one race and my wife is another, which is something I reject out of hand already. But, you know, I’m blond and blue, and my wife clearly isn’t, so it’s a little more obvious with us.

    I credit performance on intelligence tests with how much certain cultures (and I include religion in this) value certain knowledge. Regardless of what John and Caledonian are insisting here, I think I’d look pretty stupid (and dead) if you plunked me down in the Kalahari… And yet, people thrive there, because they LEARNED HOW to.

    Think of it this way: If your religion insists that the world is flat, and that to believe otherwise would cause you to be tortured in a really hot place for an eternity, well, I think other members of your culture would regard you as pretty stupid if you insisted the world more closely resembled a basketball than it does a crepe pan.

    As an aside, it was nice to see James Watson apologize for these remarks. I am absolutely certain I’d be asked to leave my job if I asserted that one group of people is smarter than another because of their color.

  124. #124 Sven DiMilo
    October 19, 2007

    re: #22: “There are 50 academic signatories to this letter

    How many named Steve?

    tristero (#77): FZ was a better guitarist than Einstein.

    Even if there is a demonstrable and repeatable difference in average intelligence–however defined (and I don’t know how it could be quantified enough to yield a difference in means without some kind of testing)–between two groups of humans–grouped by whatever criterion*–there is going to be overlap in the distributions so extensive as to make prediction of any individual’s intelligence from group membership alone extremely tenuous. That, in my mind, is what makes Watson’s alleged statement about “dealing with black employess” so silly and, yes, racist.
    Simply asserting that two groups–however sorted–differ in mean intelligence–however defined–is not necessarily racist, if empirical (c.f. Watson’s reference to “testing”), and further, should not be ascribed to “genetics” without further data. I believe this latter point is what Cal has been trying–in his/her usual condescending and hence ineffectual manner–to say.

    *naturally I exclude comparisons such as those between Downs syndrome folks and others, and between lemurs and humans.

  125. #125 Sven DiMilo
    October 19, 2007

    #121: FZ was a better guitarist than Ellison, too.

  126. #126 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    “I thoroughly reject the notion that skin color has any link to intelligence at all. Period. It’s all cultural.”
    That’s the kind of bullshit dogmatism I’m talking about. You have no way of knowing that there is no genetic variation in intelligence. Your assertion is dogmatic and unscientific.

    People, just stop letting your leftist views distort your perception of how the world actually is.

  127. #127 shiftlessbum
    October 19, 2007

    John Smith wrote

    Whites currently outperform blacks on IQ tests, are responsible for far many more scientific innovations, etc., etc. Now maybe it’s for cultural reasons, maybe for genetic reasons — maybe a bit of both. I don’t know. The people who oppose me, in contrast, are claiming that they do know.

    (Emphasis added).

    Actually JS, my take on this tedious discussion is that those who oppose you are making much the same argument as you make here; that intelligence is the result of a complex interaction between environment, contingency and genetics. The difference is, in my estimation, that the people who oppose you are making the claim that your assertion that skin color is linked to intelligence is refuted by the evidence. You have made numerous comments that cannot be considered anything but racist, even if your argument above (which is what almost everyone else is making as well) is correct. I think (hope) that you feel you have made some intemperate remarks, in response I am sure to provocation, that you now regret and so have dug your heels in and won’t agree that you and your adversaries are actually arguing much the same point. You are at a decided rhetorical disadvantage on account of your racist comments, but that is your fault.

  128. #128 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    I DIDN’T CLAIM THAT SKIN COLOUR IS LINKED TO INTELLIGENCE. I CLAIMED THAT *MAYBE* THE GROUP OF BLACK-SKINNED PEOPLE IS LESS INTELLIGENT ON AVERAGE THAN THE GROUP OF WHITE SKINNED PEOPLE.

    Just cut it out with this misrepresentation. It’s utterly sickening.

  129. #129 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    “…LESS GENETICALLY INTELLIGENT ON AVERAGE…”, I should say, before I’m accused of retreating.

  130. #130 Dustin
    October 19, 2007

    People, just stop letting your leftist views distort your perception of how the world actually is.

    That reminds me… I just got off the horn with David Duke. That “My First Jr. Klansman” action figure you lost? Turns out you left it at his place during his last slumber-and-lynch party. He’s plopped it in the mail. He also said that, since you wet the bed while you were there, he’s going to have to make your robes and pointy hood out of the sheets you left your essence all over. He said it wasn’t personal, it’s just part of the KKK code of conduct.

  131. #131 Dustin
    October 19, 2007

    I DIDN’T CLAIM THAT SKIN COLOUR IS LINKED TO INTELLIGENCE. I CLAIMED THAT *MAYBE* THE GROUP OF BLACK-SKINNED PEOPLE IS LESS GENETICALLY INTELLIGENT ON AVERAGE THAN THE GROUP OF WHITE SKINNED PEOPLE.

    Are you a racist? You sound like a racist. I mean, I could be wrong, but your suggestion sounds, you know, a little racist. I mean, it’s only slightly more racist than putting on some blackface for a stage adaptation of “Little Black Sambo”, so I don’t want to mistakenly misrepresent you as a racist.

  132. #132 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    It’s despicable fundamentalism to howl accusations of racism whenever someone merely suggests that there may be differences in average intelligence between people of different ethnic groups. I am not a racist at all. I really couldn’t care less about skin colour. You do not know me, and you do not know what friends I have and how I think about people. You are mortally afraid of the possibility that your “all groups are genetically equal in abilities” philosophy does not correspond with reality.

  133. #133 Christian Burnham
    October 19, 2007

    Well, there goes another chance for having a discussion on this topic.

    Once again, the shouters have won.

  134. #134 True Bob
    October 19, 2007

    JS, not true. You have claimed indicators like “intellectual advancment” and “cultural advancment”, in clearly racist contexts. My best advice to you is to stop digging.

  135. #135 Dustin
    October 19, 2007

    I am not a racist at all.

    That’s what David Duke says, so I believe you.

    I really couldn’t care less about skin colour.

    Except for that you think blacks have lower “average genetic intelligence” than whites?

  136. #136 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    Fetch some racist quotes of mine. You can’t. You’re a slimily dishonest fundamentalist, no better than a religious nut.

  137. #137 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    “Except for that you think blacks have lower “average genetic intelligence” than whites?”
    I’ve said that it’s a fucking POSSIBILITY. I didn’t say it’s my opinion. This is truly depressing. Apparently even many atheistic, self-styled freethinkers are illogical and dishonest savages.

  138. #138 True Bob
    October 19, 2007

    Shorter JS:
    Some of my best, inferior, friends are black.

  139. #139 Dustin
    October 19, 2007

    Well, there goes another chance for having a discussion on this topic.

    Once again, the shouters have won.

    You might win once in a while, if you’d develop an opinion and the balls to express it. As it is, I’m afraid you’re all too happy to sit on your fence until the pulmonary embolism sets in.

    Actually, is that you you lost your balls?

  140. #140 Bernard Bumner
    October 19, 2007

    You have no way of knowing that there is no genetic variation in intelligence.

    Which isn’t what is being asserted in the quote you’ve given! It states – rightly or wrongly – that skin colour and intelligence are not corollary. Don’t misattribute opinions, then complain that you’re being misquoted!

    I DIDN’T CLAIM THAT SKIN COLOUR IS LINKED TO INTELLIGENCE. I CLAIMED THAT *MAYBE* THE GROUP OF BLACK-SKINNED PEOPLE IS LESS INTELLIGENT ON AVERAGE THAN THE GROUP OF WHITE SKINNED PEOPLE.

    Don’t shout, it doesn’t validate your point, it just makes you look as though you’re losing it.

    The problem with the statement you’re suggesting may be true, is that the underlying assumptions are flawed, which is what people have been patiently trying to explain all along; that there is no meaningful “black-skinned” or “white-skinned” genetic distinction. (Those two groups are not biologically meaningful.)

    Nobody – as far as I can remember – has claimed that there is no genetic influence on cognitive functioning, or that there is no possibility of sub-populations showing variation in such. Where has anybody said that?

  141. #141 Dustin
    October 19, 2007

    I meant embolism there. In your balls. An embolism in your balls.

  142. #142 JRY
    October 19, 2007

    “I DIDN’T CLAIM THAT SKIN COLOUR IS LINKED TO INTELLIGENCE. I CLAIMED THAT *MAYBE* THE GROUP OF BLACK-SKINNED PEOPLE IS LESS INTELLIGENT ON AVERAGE THAN THE GROUP OF WHITE SKINNED PEOPLE.”

    Ok. So you are saying that MAYBE the black-skinned people are less intelligent on average than white-skinned people. Hell, you are implying a link between intelligence and skin color just be defining groups by skin color!

    And a shoddy group definition at that. What is “The Group of Black-Skinned People”? What is “The Group of White-Skinned People”? Where do they live? What is their culture like? What do they eat? What do they value? How do they raise their kids?

    Here: make life a little easier on you and either a) quit with the “maybe this” and “maybe that” and bring in some evidence and concrete definitions to support your position, or b) quit.

  143. #143 tristero
    October 19, 2007

    John Smith,

    “You’re a slimily dishonest fundamentalist, no better than a religious nut.”

    And your arguments are so vacuous that you have to resort to incredibly unoriginal ad hominem attacks in order to deflect attention from them.

    No wonder you’re so obsessed with the intelligence of others. When you worry about your own smarts, how can you possibly stand to imagine that an entire continent of Africa is far more intelligent than you? No wonder you defend racists so vehemently.

    And no wonder you can’t think of original ways of dissing your intellectual betters. Come on, John, show us a single example of that ever so superior white boy intellect you’re so proud of. Let’s see a genuinely interesting vitriolic attack.

  144. #144 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    “Which isn’t what is being asserted in the quote you’ve given! It states – rightly or wrongly – that skin colour and intelligence are not corollary. Don’t misattribute opinions, then complain that you’re being misquoted!”
    The guy I was responding to declared that intelligence is “all cultural”.

    Blacks and whites were separated for thousands of years. It’s fully conceivable that differences in intelligence could have evolved, separately from paler skin. I don’t know if it did, and you don’t know if it did.

    I had to shout because my position was being constantly falsely depicted. My opponents are employing stock fundy tactics.

  145. #145 JRY
    October 19, 2007

    “Blacks and whites were separated for thousands of years.”

    What do you mean by “Blacks” and “Whites”? The distinction alone reeks.

  146. #146 Dustin
    October 19, 2007

    I had to shout because my position was being constantly falsely depicted.

    Now now. There’s no sense in getting upset. I think we’re just suggesting that, if the Klan Hood fits, you should wear it.

  147. #147 True Bob
    October 19, 2007

    Blacks and whites were separated for thousands of years.

    JS, stop digging. You’re looking for some kind of genetic “purity”, aren’t you? [insert vitriolic insult here]

  148. #148 Brownian
    October 19, 2007

    I saw not one, but two black people reading on the bus last night. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that it was so statistically unlikely that two random blacks would have the ability to read that one of ‘em must have been faking it.

    I did spend some time considerin’ the benefits us superior whites accrued from colonialisation and that since all them darkies is all so stupid as to have done nothin’ much with all those resources anyhow, we ain’t gotta worry ’bout what happens to ‘em now.

    Good job, ever’body.

  149. #149 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    Lighter skin evolved in colder temperatures. That would have entailed geographic separation from the black-skinned majority. The separation endured for thousands of years, plenty enough time for there also to evolve slight (yet maybe to some extent significant) modifications to intellectual faculties.

    Maybe this didn’t happen, maybe it did. And if we find that it did, I’m not suggesting that we should treat anyone differently. Now I don’t know how any of the foregoing could possibly contain racism.

  150. #150 tristero
    October 19, 2007

    Christian Burnham,

    When will you learn that no “serious” discussion of these issues can possibly take place with racists? You are asking people to take Watson’s racism seriously, to parse it, analyse it, and see what “truth” may lie within it. Don’t you get it? There is no truth to be found except the repellent evidence of bigotry.

    This is not about science but about illogically extrapolating from science to feed prejudices. You can’t fight prejudice with logic. If you could, this would be a far better world. But you can’t.

    You want to discuss the scientific data regarding human differences? Wait until the agenda is set by someone responsible, not by racists like Watson. But to debate whether or not an entire continent may be dumber than or simply as dumb as Dan Quayle is simply insane. However, that, give or take, is the discussion John Smith et al want to have.

  151. #151 Brownian
    October 19, 2007

    Blacks and whites were separated for thousands of years.

    Hey, lookit that ever’body. Johnny don’t know his hist’ry. I swear I done seen him lookin’ hard at them books, though.

    Maybe he cain’t read.

  152. #152 MikeM
    October 19, 2007

    Personally, I don’t think skin color has a bit to do with it. It’s all in the nose. Large noses allow just a bit more room for the brain, so people with large noses are clearly smarter.

    (I have a really big nose.)

    John, I think it’s time you give yourself a cooling off. Time out. Come back in 72 hours, re-read what you read (especially when you started shouting), and then ask yourself, “Could that statement have been interpreted as racist?”.

    I’ve reached my own conclusion.

    Seriously, your hole is getting deeper. Stop digging. In 72 hours, if you want to break out the shovel again, go for it. Heck, if you want to keep digging now, go for it (I just advise against it, that’s all).

  153. #153 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    So you deny that black-skinned people and white-skinned people were separated for thousands of years? You don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.

  154. #154 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    That last post was addressed to the facetious Brownian.

  155. #155 Brownian
    October 19, 2007

    And if we find that it did, I’m not suggesting that we should treat anyone differently.

    Woah, why not there, then? I mean, you gotta folla them conclusions through, boy.

    Take medicine, fer instance. If’n it’s true that a black fella ain’t as clever as a white fella, then would you seriously want one ‘o them Nigras operatin’ on ya?

  156. #156 Christian Burnham
    October 19, 2007

    I don’t think much is being contributed to this discussion by trying to paint others as racists. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think that some of JS’s comments were borderline racism (as I explained above).

    JS is definitely taking an extremist view here, but I would hold off calling him a racist since I don’t know how he interacts with races on a day to day basis, and I don’t see what good it does. Presumably, real racists aren’t too concerned about being called a racist.

    Dustin’s comments are mostly juvenile name-calling. I think pretty much all of us agree that racism is a bad thing- but there is a meaningful debate on what constitutes racism. It doesn’t help screaming ‘KKK’ at random people on the internet.

  157. #157 tristero
    October 19, 2007

    John Smith,

    “plenty enough time for there also to evolve slight (yet maybe to some extent significant) modifications to intellectual faculties.”

    And easily the most significant is the ability that people like yourself evolved is a propensity to spew inaccurate, idiotic venom at people who simply cannot believe how obsessed you are with defending what you go to great pains to say is a “maybe yes, maybe no.”

    How that is adaptive is beyond me. Maybe your kind of argumentation is one of those spandrel thingies Gould and Lewontin talk about. All frippery and fluff and no adaptive essence.

  158. #158 Tatarize
    October 19, 2007

    “…LESS GENETICALLY INTELLIGENT ON AVERAGE…”

    Nope. There’s no way to measure that with a half dozen other affects which would dwarf the other differences.

    And yeah, John is racist.

  159. #159 shiftlessbum
    October 19, 2007

    John Smith wrote

    “I DIDN’T CLAIM THAT SKIN COLOUR IS LINKED TO INTELLIGENCE. I CLAIMED THAT *MAYBE* THE GROUP OF BLACK-SKINNED PEOPLE IS LESS INTELLIGENT ON AVERAGE THAN THE GROUP OF WHITE SKINNED PEOPLE.”

    Just cut it out with this misrepresentation. It’s utterly sickening.

    I don’t beleive I did misrepresent you. You made the link right here; “THAT *MAYBE* THE GROUP OF BLACK-SKINNED PEOPLE IS LESS INTELLIGENT ON AVERAGE THAN THE GROUP OF WHITE SKINNED PEOPLE”. You have made it before.

    Many -MANY- people have tried to get through to you that racial distinctions based on skin color have no biological meaning. The very premise of your suppostion is thereby flawed. In addition, PZ linked to sites that refuted any statistical link between race, based on skin color, and intelligence. So not only is there no biological basis for the claim, there appears to be no statistical one either.

  160. #160 thalarctos
    October 19, 2007

    So you deny that black-skinned people and white-skinned people were separated for thousands of years?

    ?”Don’t know much about his-to-ry / Don’t know much bi-o-lo-gy..”?

  161. #161 Bernard Bumner
    October 19, 2007

    Blacks and whites were separated for thousands of years.

    Who is “black”, and who is “white”? How much genetic variation or separation is there between “black” and “white”? Someone who is of mixed race would probably be classified as “black”, but are they somehow less “black” than others?

    How much geographical and historical differentiation is there within the “white” population, compared with “blacks”, and between the two groups?

    Which ethnic groups are “black”, and which are “white”?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ethnic_groups

    It’s fully conceivable that differences in intelligence could have evolved, separately from paler skin. I don’t know if it did, and you don’t know if it did.

    The only problem is that skin colour is not a good indicator of someone’s genetic makeup.

    It is true that cognitive ability may be genetically influenced, and that here may be differences between sub-populations, as I’ve said (often). There is no argument on that one, as far as I can tell.

  162. #162 Brownian
    October 19, 2007

    So you deny that black-skinned people and white-skinned people were separated for thousands of years? You don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.

    You betcha I do, there, Johnny. Maybe you done should lookit one ‘o them new-fangle an-thro-pol-o-gy books, they’s all got now. Them books is jes’ fulla infermation, like that all them racial differences mos’ likely came about when good ol’ Mount Toba blew its top way back 73,000 years before the Year of Our Lord, and reduced alla us humans to jes’ a few thousand groups scatter all over God’s green but wintry Earth.

    Less’n maybe you’s talkin’ ’bout them Australian black fellahs. They’s the most gen’rally isolated pop’lation we’s got fer a long time. Other than that, people been movin’ an breedin’ fer thousands of years.

    Then again, maybe you don’ wanna get yer head a fulla book-learnin’.

  163. #163 Dustin
    October 19, 2007

    Dustin’s comments are mostly juvenile name-calling. I think pretty much all of us agree that racism is a bad thing- but there is a meaningful debate on what constitutes racism. It doesn’t help screaming ‘KKK’ at random people on the internet.

    My shrink said I insult morons and racists because I hurt inside. I did hurt inside, but then I passed a kidney stone. It actually stopped hurting, so I’m at a loss for the mechanism.

    Still, I have renal problems, and you have tragically lost your balls to a fence-sitting induced embolism of the cojones. We should start a support group. Now come here and give me a hug.

  164. #164 tristero
    October 19, 2007

    Christian Burnham,

    “I don’t see what good it does. Presumably, real racists aren’t too concerned about being called a racist.”

    With all due respect, you have either lived an incredibly sheltered life or you’re pulling a deliberate fast one.

    What good does labelling a racist do? It tells the truth, that’s what. It makes it quite clear that the person is obsessed with judging others not on the basis of their specific merit but upon monumentally trivial differences. Do you have any idea how many millions of people have been murdered because their noses were too big? That’s how sick this stuff is.

    And that is only one expression of racism. There is Strom Thurmond’s kind, the ever so genteel Southern gentleman who helps himself to the help. And then there is the KKK, which very carefully says they’re not racists anymore and talk about freedom and the oppression of white culture.

    Racists come in all shapes and sizes. Including Nobel-prize winning scientists. What they share in common is an obsession with their own sense of their status and so they focus on the stupidest things – skin color, nose size, the shape of the eyes – and concoct the most preposterous arguments that those trivial differences are correlated with significant differences.

    It’s all nonsense. All of it. Whatever science there may be to any of this is entirely irrelevant. It is an excuse to publicly state racist ideas. The real science cannot take place or even be shared in an environment poisoned by the likes of Watson.

    But at least we can call a racist a racist, and identify racist ideas for what they are.

  165. #165 PZ Myers
    October 19, 2007

    It is conceivable that genetic differences that affect intelligence could have arisen in a thousand years; I’ll go further and state without equivocation that there are differing frequencies of alleles that affect the brain in sub-Saharan Africans vs., say, French people. We actually know of some alleles like that.

    And it doesn’t make any kind of difference.

    The brain is a highly plastic organ, and the mind, as an extremely sensitive outcome of the operation of the brain, is even more so. Talking about how maybe there is some difference in some unspecified molecules is utterly meaningless in the face of the huge reservoir of environmental variation that modifies the expression of a property so complex and remote from the level of simplistic causes you are talking about.

    Whining that a black child might have a strike against him because of some speculated deficiency in his genetic heritage, when that child is in an underfunded school district, in a crime-ridden neighborhood, undernourished, and with the dominant white majority yelling at him that he’s worthless, is racism. It’s ignoring the overwhelmingly environmental pressures against him to replace the fault that lies within us, our failure to provide an equitable social network for all races and classes, and blaming him for a biological flaw that you’ve only imagined.

  166. #166 ColonelDustin
    October 19, 2007

    An, afta awl Brownian, we’s awl hadta deel wit’ employificatin’ neegras. Ah figgur is gat sumptin ta do wit all dem taaausands of yeahs since we’d done been separated aftah we got exphelled from eden, and dem neegras bein’ Seed of Cain and what not. Ah hea tell is sometin like separately evolvin’ brains leadin to a diffrense in “average genetic intelleegince”. But now we got dem doctas an college boys who gon’ clean things up propah wi’ this newfangled “eugenics” AMEN!

  167. #167 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    Brownian still hasn’t explained why I don’t know my history. Of course there had to be geographical separation, just like I said, or else white skin would not have evolved. He did what so many of you have done and will continue to do after I depart: he made a bullshit, slanderous accusation, solely to discredit me, being completely indifferent as to whether it was true or not.

    Then we have the out-of-context quotations. If you read my posts carefully, you’ll see that I have not said anywhere that I think one group is more intelligent than another. I always make it clear that I’m speculating. I shouldn’t have to go to such lengths to defend a “maybe”, but such is the manner of PC-fanatic I’m up against here.

  168. #168 cm
    October 19, 2007

    Since the word “racist” is used often in the comments, I’ll throw the Webster’s New World’s definition of racism in here, to get people to think about whether they might be misapplying the term:

    racism. n. 1. a doctrine or teaching, without scientific support, that claims to find racial differences in character, intelligence, etc., that asserts the superiority of one race over another or others, and that seeks to maintain the supposed purity of a race or the races. 2 any program or practice of racial discrimination, segregation, etc. based on such beliefs.

  169. #169 tristero
    October 19, 2007

    PZ,

    Exactly. Thank you.

  170. #170 JRY
    October 19, 2007

    From dictionary.com…

    Racism: a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.

    PZ said:

    Whining that a black child might have a strike against him because of some speculated deficiency in his genetic heritage, when that child is in an underfunded school district, in a crime-ridden neighborhood, undernourished, and with the dominant white majority yelling at him that he’s worthless, is racism.

    Pretty much fits the definition.

  171. #171 tristero
    October 19, 2007

    John Smith,

    “Such is the manner of PC-fanatic I’m up against here.”

    You better not be talking about me. I’m NOT a PC-fanatic and don’t you ever dare say so. I’m a mac guy and have been for more years than you could possibly count.

    I’m serious, man. You persist and I WILL demand satisfaction.

    Oh, and John? Read what PZ just wrote. He’s talking to you, sonny.

  172. #172 thalarctos
    October 19, 2007

    but such is the manner of PC-fanatic I’m up against here.

    Because, of course, it couldn’t be *you* who’s cherry-picking, and impervious to the evidence that come of us have calmly tried to get you to understand the significance of.

    It’s always easier to deploy the epithet “PC” than to do the actual work of thinking.

  173. #173 David Wilford
    October 19, 2007

    What comes to mind about what P.Z. sayd in post #165 is this quip from several years ago:

    The Bell Curve is just a polite way to call nigger.”

    Or something along those lines. That’s what Watson was doing himself, and it’s deplorable.

  174. #174 Flex
    October 19, 2007

    John Smith, “I really couldn’t care less about skin colour.”

    Then why bring it up at all? You have had numerous opportunity to clarify your position to say that you suppose that there are likely genetic differences in selected groups of people who share many other common traits which may also relate to what we define as intelligence.

    And no one would argue.

    You could even say that you suppose, just as a hypothesis, that some groups which will perform lower than average due to genetic difference may reside in isolated locations in sub-saharan Africa.

    However, by choosing to lump all ‘darker-skinned’ people (whoever they are) into one group and saying that you believe this very large group, which shows tremendous variation, would demonstrate a lower average performance on intelligence tests than ‘lighter-skinned’ people (whoever they are) for strictly genetic reasons you are making an unsubstantiated claim.

    Or, do all ‘dark-skinned’ people fall under the one ‘different ethnic groups’ clarification you tried to make above. What precisely is an ethnic group? Defined how? Do you know it when you see it? Or are there specific genes necessary to belong to one?

    Further, by linking even that rather tenuous assumption to saying that it explains, in however a small way, why the African countries have performed ‘poorly’ you are assuming that the performance of a group of people is strongly predicted by the average intellignce of those people and ignoring all the other factors which influence group performance, individual performance, and all the interactions between these.

  175. #175 True Bob
    October 19, 2007

    JS, just consider it your White Man’s Burden.

  176. #176 JRY
    October 19, 2007

    John Smith said:

    I always make it clear that I’m speculating. I shouldn’t have to go to such lengths to defend a “maybe”, but such is the manner of PC-fanatic I’m up against here.

    If you were really just speculating on a maybe then the whole thread should have went like this:

    John Smith: Maybe there is a genetic factor contributing why white people are more intellectually successful than black people.

    Almost Everyone Else: That idea is poorly constructed, has no evidence supporting it, and reeks of racism.

    John Smith: Ok…I was just sayin’.

    The End.

    The fact that you continue to try to defend it, no matter how many holes has been punched through it, says alot about you.

  177. #177 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    “Whining that a black child might have a strike against him because of some speculated deficiency in his genetic heritage, when that child is in an underfunded school district, in a crime-ridden neighborhood, undernourished, and with the dominant white majority yelling at him that he’s worthless, is racism. It’s ignoring the overwhelmingly environmental pressures against him to replace the fault that lies within us, our failure to provide an equitable social network for all races and classes, and blaming him for a biological flaw that you’ve only imagined.”
    You do have a good point: putting emphasis on the possible biological differences will only get people less inclined to improve the standard of living in black neighbourhoods. So I concede that we should act as if there are no important biological differences between races.

    Of course, this doesn’t change the fact that maybe genetic factors have played an important role in the relative success of different races. But in view of what you said, I can accept that it would be pointless, and possibly even deleterious, to bring it up. So your blog posts on race probably aren’t as “fundamentalistic” as I first thought.

    I’ll let the matter rest here.

  178. #178 MikeM
    October 19, 2007

    John,

    Please give yourself a 72 hour timeout.

    You can thank me later.

  179. #179 tristero
    October 19, 2007

    John Smith,

    Since all you’re doing is “speculating,” let’s speculate on this:

    I speculate. based upon the numerous examples in the literature from the KKK and other folks that most people would call racists, that those who “speculate” on racial differences and use generalizations so enormous they encompass an entire continent – I speculate that such people may be just racists trying to pretend otherwise.

    Now why would they possibly pretend to be non-racist and maybe pose as “mere speculators” who are unafraid of The Truth, no matter where it leads? I don’t know but maybe it is because they think we’re all just as stoopid as they are, and won’t notice that the “maybes” and the “speculation” is totally bogus.

    Just speculating here. I could be right. And you, John Smith, are a craven fundamentalist fanatic if you refuse to keep yourself open to that possibility. Even it describes yourself.

  180. #180 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    If it weren’t for the little insidious slimebags like Tristero, I wouldn’t have made more than one or two posts here.

  181. #181 Dustin
    October 19, 2007

    God damn it, tristero, what did I tell you about wrangling up rednecks and holding them at gunpoint and forcing them to post here? What the hell is your problem?

  182. #182 tristero
    October 19, 2007

    John Smith,

    That last comment is perhaps one of the most dishonest things I’ve ever read on the web. What you’re saying, translated into consensually-understood English, is it’s a good idea to pretend that – maybe – black people aren’t as dumb as you think they are, because it wouldn’t be nice. But we all know the truth – that the science says otherwise, you say. Maybe. Can’t forget that maybe, can we?

    No, John. This isn’t about scientific proof. This is about extrapolating illogically and going far beyond anything resembling evidence. And the particular brand of illogic you’re touting has a, what’s the word? Yes! Your brand of illogic has a bias. And the bias is to seek out evidence of your own intellectual superiority by branding others inferior on the basis of their skin color.

    Racist? Yes. Just as important, it’s incredibly stupid reasoning. In short, your own brand of argumentation undercuts your wish to consider yourself a member of a superior race. Because wherever you came from, John Smith, it was no place with a lot of smart people in it.

    Maybe. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea, y’know.

  183. #183 thalarctos
    October 19, 2007

    You do have a good point: putting emphasis on the possible biological differences will only get people less inclined to improve the standard of living in black neighbourhoods. So I concede that we should act as if there are no important biological differences between races. Of course, this doesn’t change the fact that maybe genetic factors have played an important role in the relative success of different races. But in view of what you said, I can accept that it would be pointless, and possibly even deleterious, to bring it up.

    As someone who’s piled on you when you were being a jerk, it’s only proper for me to acknowledge when you get it right as well.

    In the paragraph above, you did get it right. So I retract my previous “impervious to evidence” description, because you showed you’re not perfectly impervious. (You are pretty damned stubborn, though.)

  184. #184 tristero
    October 19, 2007

    John Smith,

    I’ve been called far worse than “insidious little slimebag” and coming from you, that’s a compliment.

    But if you want to see me get angry, just you dare call me “PC-Fanatic.” Macintosh! OS-X forever! Can you get it through that thick skull of yours?

    The nerve of some people.

  185. #185 tristero
    October 19, 2007

    Thalarctos,

    Read his post again. John Smith’s saying we should lie about The Truth about black people’s brains because it’s not nice and doesn’t help them.

    He got nada right.

  186. #186 thalarctos
    October 19, 2007

    If it weren’t for the little insidious slimebags like Tristero, I wouldn’t have made more than one or two posts here.

    So much for “I’ll let the matter rest here”, huh, John?

    Pity. You could have left on a high note, but I guess your jerk part won’t be denied, after all.

    (And tristero, what Dustin said–Quit bringing them in and forcing them to post already!)

  187. #187 Dustin
    October 19, 2007

    In the paragraph above, you did get it right.

    BS. He’s just oozing more condescention towards blacks. “I suspect that you’re inferior to me, but I’ll let it go because commenting on it or revealing from a scientific basis that you are in fact inferior to me will just make my White Man’s Burden all the greater,” is what he’s saying up there.

  188. #188 tristero
    October 19, 2007

    Hey, man, don’t blame me! To paraphrase the great Ed Sanders of the Fugs:

    He crawled into my hand, honest!

  189. #189 thalarctos
    October 19, 2007

    Read his post again. John Smith’s saying we should lie about The Truth about black people’s brains because it’s not nice and doesn’t help them. He got nada right.

    I was reading it a little more charitably than that, in the hope that encouraging any faint glimmer of beginning comprehension he might be starting to have might be useful. I know–it’s just the teacher in me.

    Unfortunately, he then went on to prove that he’d rather be a jerk than follow the inferences he was starting to get a glimmer of, after all. Oh, well–pearls before swine, I guess.

  190. #190 thalarctos
    October 19, 2007

    BS. He’s just oozing more condescention towards blacks. “I suspect that you’re inferior to me, but I’ll let it go because commenting on it or revealing from a scientific basis that you are in fact inferior to me will just make my White Man’s Burden all the greater,” is what he’s saying up there.

    Yeah, I was trying to give him the benefit of the doubt about that, but he has since removed any doubt at all about his lack of good faith.

    Too bad, but he’s not the first one to post here, and he won’t be the last, either.

  191. #191 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    “That last comment is perhaps one of the most dishonest things I’ve ever read on the web. What you’re saying, translated into consensually-understood English, is it’s a good idea to pretend that – maybe – black people aren’t as dumb as you think they are, because it wouldn’t be nice. But we all know the truth – that the science says otherwise, you say. Maybe. Can’t forget that maybe, can we?”
    I was saying that while the “maybe” inevitably exists, it is irrelevant and possibly socially harmful to mention.

    This speculation about my ulterior motives is beyond absurd. I’m willing to admit that whites, Chinese, Indians, etc., are demonstrably essentially equal in intelligence. Now even if I did look down my nose at black-skinned people (I’m not for a moment saying that I do), I would be one out of about five billion people who aren’t “inferior”. My unconscious racist strategy would have improved my standing from one out of six billion to one out of five billion! Boy, mustn’t that make me feel special!

  192. #192 Caledonian
    October 19, 2007

    As someone who’s piled on you when you were being a jerk, it’s only proper for me to acknowledge when you get it right as well.

    I’ve read the post that you’re responding to. Ignoring that John Smith was almost certainly being facetious, your agreement with such an expressed sentiment is atrocious.

  193. #193 Caledonian
    October 19, 2007

    The brain is a highly plastic organ, and the mind, as an extremely sensitive outcome of the operation of the brain, is even more so.

    That’s rather like saying that space is a vacuum – it’s both trivially true, and something about which a great deal more needs to be said.

    The brain is both plastic and fixed, incredibly sensitive and incredibly robust. The environment has a profound effect on the structure and functioning of the brain; the environment has a limited effect on the structure and functioning of the brain.

    Instead of acknowledging the complexities, it’s easier for you to associate people with the KKK.

  194. #194 tristero
    October 19, 2007

    Thalarctos,

    There’s an interesing question embedded in your last responses, which is whether it is possible to confront racism in a constructive fashion and change it.

    Unfortunately, I’m very pessimistic. What is important, and doable, is to confront racism and refuse it any more purchase than it already has. That seems an incredibly tenacious fight. Look how much of a struggle John Smith put up! But they don’t have to prevail, unless people don’t pay attention, the situation in 2000 until after the invasion and conquest of Iraq.

    I have some hope that racism can be fought against and beaten. Not much, but some. That means confronting the John Smiths directly and forcefully. I’m pretty sure we can beat them – we are right, after all. But change them?

    Well, maybe it’s not impossible. In fact, Malcolm X changed towards the end of his life and his narrow worldview opened up enormously. But sadly, John Smith isn’t half as intelligent as Malcolm.

  195. #195 JRY
    October 19, 2007

    John Smith said:

    I was saying that while the “maybe” inevitably exists, it is irrelevant and possibly socially harmful to mention.

    And that is why you will mention it again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and…

    Now even if I did look down my nose at black-skinned people (I’m not for a moment saying that I do),

    …saying…

    I would be one out of about five billion people who aren’t “inferior”. My unconscious racist strategy would have improved my standing from one out of six billion to one out of five billion! Boy, mustn’t that make me feel special!

    Huuuuuuh? This is what they must mean when they say “the stupid, it burns!”

    From several posts back:

    I’ll let the matter rest here.

    Take. Your. Own. Advice.

  196. #196 Sven DiMilo
    October 19, 2007

    You people are pretty much all out of hand here. Nice Fugs reference though.

  197. #197 Dustin
    October 19, 2007

    The brain is both plastic and fixed, incredibly sensitive and incredibly robust. The environment has a profound effect on the structure and functioning of the brain; the environment has a limited effect on the structure and functioning of the brain.

    Was that a koan? Are we going to be considering the sound of one hand clapping next?

  198. #198 Brownian
    October 19, 2007

    Brownian still hasn’t explained why I don’t know my history. Of course there had to be geographical separation, just like I said, or else white skin would not have evolved. He did what so many of you have done and will continue to do after I depart: he made a bullshit, slanderous accusation, solely to discredit me, being completely indifferent as to whether it was true or not.

    I’ll use smaller words, so’s you kin unnerstand. Yup, it sure is true that white people evolved whiter skin than dark people, but as the title of this post innicates, it’s much more compulcated than you think. I’ll give you a few ideas tuh mull over, but I doubt you’ll consider ‘em, since they’s been posted already.

    Humans is less genetically diverse than many other species, includin’ chimpanzees. We’s look real diff’rent to each other, but how’s that work genemicallity?

    Waall, tha’s best explained by a few processes (processes are ways in which stuff works) called pop’lation bottleneckin’ and the founder effect. Such things done work by fixin’ a few genes in a pop’lation by restrictin’ that pop’lation down tuh jes’ a few members (maybe a hunerd, maybe a few hunnerd, maybe jes’ a baker’s dozen, dependin’ on the species). The problem is that you kin conflate the effects of a pop’lation bottleneck with general environmental selective pressures an’ derive some conclusions that jes’ ain’t true.

    Fer example, I heard tell of a tribe o’ Indians down in South Central America (near that fancy Pomeranian Canal, if mah mem’ry serves), tha’s all fulla albinas. Now, the rest o’ them Indians ’round those parts is as dark as y’all expect Indians to be, but this little tribe is all fulla pink-eyed cracker look-a-likes. Now how’s that all work out? They live in some forest so dark they evolved ofey skin? Naw. That’s jest the result of the founder effect.

    Now, the situation with alla God’s chillens is fulla more ins ‘n’ outs than that, but one o’ the prevailin’ theories ’bout why we’s all rainbow coloured when we’s all got mostly the same genes. Makin’ a buncha broad statements ’bout them Europeans and Afercans bein’ all seperated for a might long time jes’ ain’t true jes because they’s all done look so diff’rent. Remember them Indian albinas.

    So before y’all go spoutin’ off ’bout evolution and humans, I suggest you get tuh readin’ ’bout how it all mos’ likely played out. You got yer ‘pinions, and tha’s jes’ fine, but you’d do well tuh consider that a might many scientist bin studyin’ this fer a might many years, and they got a lot o’ these ideas all done figgered out. I know y’all done madder at that Greg Laden than a yaller dog that done been swiped by a barn tabby, but consider that he jes’ might know what he’s talkin’ ’bout more than you.

  199. #199 David Wilford
    October 19, 2007

    #198 is, of course, the winner of the next Molly. One hand down.

  200. #200 Caledonian
    October 19, 2007

    Waall, tha’s best explained by a few processes (processes are ways in which stuff works) called pop’lation bottleneckin’ and the founder effect. Such things done work by fixin’ a few genes in a pop’lation by restrictin’ that pop’lation down tuh jes’ a few members (maybe a hunerd, maybe a few hunnerd, maybe jes’ a baker’s dozen, dependin’ on the species). The problem is that you kin conflate the effects of a pop’lation bottleneck with general environmental selective pressures an’ derive some conclusions that jes’ ain’t true.

    I’m sure the Founder Effect is why Inuits are short and stocky while the Masai are taller and more slender.

    razib has posted extensively on why pale skin might have developed, especially since it seems to only have happened once on any kind of a large scale. Take a look – you might learn something.

  201. #201 thalarctos
    October 19, 2007

    I’ve read the post that you’re responding to. Ignoring that John Smith was almost certainly being facetious, your agreement with such an expressed sentiment is atrocious.

    Yeah, he proved me wrong, all right. Sometimes you try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but they go on to demonstrate that it’s a total waste of time, as John did here.

  202. #202 Caledonian
    October 19, 2007

    Yeah, he proved me wrong, all right.

    Not to disagree with this sentiment, but I put rather a different emphasis on it than you do.

  203. #203 Flex
    October 19, 2007

    John Smith wrote, “I’m willing to admit that whites, Chinese, Indians, etc., are demonstrably essentially equal in intelligence.”

    And so we find that in your opinion Chinese, Indians, etc., are not ‘darker-skinned’.

    But you are still speculating that ‘darker-skinned’ people will, on average, perform less well on an intelligence test than ‘lighter-skinned’ people because of a genetic difference.

    And you still claim this without defining what precise groups you mean by ‘darker-skin’ (or do we all just know? – nudge, nudge). Nor defining what is meant by intelligence (it’s what the test measures, right?). Or even acknowledging that what we do know about pre-natal and post-natal cognitive development suggests that the brain is highly plastic, leaving some room for genetic affects, but we don’t have a grasp on how large these affects could be.

    Thus, you are still making the mistake of over-broad generalizations.

    We are not asking you to shut up because it will hurt the poor, benighted, ‘darker-skinned’. We are asking you to acknowledge that your claim of a genetically less intelligent ‘darker-skin’ group of people is not supported by evidence. Primarily because the terms ‘darker-skin’ and ‘lighter-skin’ have no clear meaning. We don’t need to supply scientific studies, we need you to define your terms better.

  204. #204 tristero
    October 19, 2007

    Caledonian,

    In this context, it’s not only easier, it’s the only intellectually responsible thing to do. In a different context, you might have a point.

    John Smith,

    Like I said, your latest comment is utterly dishonest, repellent. and racist as is so much else you’ve written. You’re saying that rather than tell The Truth, all of us should lie about race and intelligence because who knows what those black people will do if we say something they don’t like? How could they possibly understand The Truth?

    Y’know, John Smith, racism is a pitiful condition. But as much as I feel sorry for you – and really, I do – there is something genuinely cree[u about your obsession with skin color. In my life, I’ve worked as a counselor for people with schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder, so I can deal with extreme mental illness and it doesn’t frighten me. Racism, tho, man is that an ugly Jones.

    You have one helluva life ahead of you, John Smith. And I don’t mean that in a good way. Bye-bye. It’s been real.

  205. #205 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    Brownian,

    You’re frantically grasping at straws. Of course there are some exceptions, as in the case of albinism, but it is a fact that most white-skinned people had recent ancestors that grew up in vastly different environments from the contemporary ancestors of most black-skinned people. White skin evolved as humans migrated north, so obviously they became separated from black Africans. Quit denying the obvious.

    If you’re going to post another (attempted) argument of more than a little intricacy, write it up in normal English, or I will assume that you’re just seeking to obscure things.

  206. #206 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    “You’re saying that rather than tell The Truth, all of us should lie about race and intelligence because who knows what those black people will do if we say something they don’t like? How could they possibly understand The Truth?”
    Despite your efforts, it is The Truth that the economic situation of black Africans, as compared with the rest of the human race, may be in part for genetic reasons.

    By the way, simply calling me dishonest doesn’t mean that I am dishonest. I’m not the one doing the slimey misrepresenting here.

  207. #207 thalarctos
    October 19, 2007

    Not to disagree with this sentiment, but I put rather a different emphasis on it than you do.

    Well, there’s a news flash…

  208. #208 thalarctos
    October 19, 2007

    By the way, simply calling me dishonest doesn’t mean that I am dishonest. I’m not the one doing the slimey misrepresenting here.

    Above, you said you were going to “let the matter rest here”.

    You can’t even represent that correctly.

  209. #209 Dustin
    October 19, 2007

    Just in case anyone missed it:

    John Smith said:

    Despite your efforts, it is The Truth that the economic situation of black Africans, as compared with the rest of the human race, may be in part for genetic reasons.

  210. #210 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    “And so we find that in your opinion Chinese, Indians, etc., are not ‘darker-skinned’.

    But you are still speculating that ‘darker-skinned’ people will, on average, perform less well on an intelligence test than ‘lighter-skinned’ people because of a genetic difference.”
    Ah, right. Perhaps this was a major source of misunderstanding; perhaps I was coming off as a white supremacist.

    When I was talking about “dark-skinned” people, I was referring to those who are conventionally considered “black”. I don’t think this group of people have convincingly shown themselves to be as genetically intelligent as the rest of the human race.

  211. #211 Brownian
    October 19, 2007

    I’m sure the Founder Effect is why Inuits are short and stocky while the Masai are taller and more slender.

    Now, Caledonian, you dear, dear dumbass, try to stay on topic. In this context, how white skin evolved isn’t at issue.

    I’m not sure why you bring up the differences between the Maasai and the Inuit (other than to impress us with the fact that you’re aware the world contains more than just the Scots.) Are you claiming it’s a cold weather adaptation? Maybe. But then why aren’t all Nordics as short? How come the world’s tallest people are the Dutch, and not the Khoisan? Your example only serves to show why geographical determinism has been discounted, the point I was illustrating using actual knowledge about human evolution.

    Take a look – you might learn something.

    Holy shit, Eminem’s in da house.

    C’mon. If you’re going to attempt to insult me, try using that great White brain of yours and put some thought into it. As it stands, you’re so thoroughly boring that the only reason we read your comments at all is because we never know when your gonna pull that great cork out of your ass and dump another load of crazy on us.

  212. #212 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    “Above, you said you were going to “let the matter rest here”.

    You can’t even represent that correctly.”
    If everyone stops imputing to me views that I don’t hold, I will go and never post here again.

  213. #213 Dustin
    October 19, 2007

    If everyone stops imputing to me views that I don’t hold, I will go and never post here again.

    Or, we could just keep picking at you until you throw out more gems like:

    When I was talking about “dark-skinned” people, I was referring to those who are conventionally considered “black”. I don’t think this group of people have convincingly shown themselves to be as genetically intelligent as the rest of the human race.

    You’ve gotta help me out here… how am I misrepresenting that position when I call it “racist”?

  214. #214 Brownian
    October 19, 2007

    Of course there are some exceptions, as in the case of albinism, but it is a fact that most white-skinned people had recent ancestors that grew up in vastly different environments from the contemporary ancestors of most black-skinned people. White skin evolved as humans migrated north, so obviously they became separated from black Africans. Quit denying the obvious. Emphasis mine.

    But, but, John Smith, that’s how science works. We go beyond the obvious. We look for evidence. Then we make hypotheses based upon them. That’s how we learned the sun does not revolve around the Earth (it’s true–look it up), that the Earth is not flat (it’s true–look it up), and that heavier things don’t fall faster than lighter things (it’s true–look it up).

    I mean, it’s just as obvious that Asians are all squinty because they migrated eastward, into the sun, isn’t it? But how come the Inuit are so damn dark if they’ve been living so far north for so long? And how come those crazy Ainu look like Russkies?

    I apologise for using idiomatic English to confuse you. Apparently posting using the language and concepts of science is sufficient to do the same.

  215. #215 Flex
    October 19, 2007

    John Smith wrote, “Despite your efforts, it is The Truth that the economic situation of black Africans, as compared with the rest of the human race, may be in part for genetic reasons.”

    How large a part?

    How does John Smith know?

    If you admit you don’t know, how do you propose we find out?

    It must be nice to be able to believe the any economic troubles experianced by a large population is (partially) due to a genetic trait.

    Your causal path is convoluted, and I suspect you are engaging in post hoc reasoning. Possibly thusly: a population of people have economic difficulties, why? Well, I suppose it may be partially due to a genetic difference which makes them less intelligent. Boy! That explains a lot.

    No wonder the (insert dispised ethnic group here), are having economic difficulties, they must be genetically less intelligent.

    It doesn’t really matter which ethnic group you choose, plenty of them have been used over the centuries to fill in that blank.

  216. #216 Chris Clarke
    October 19, 2007

    If everyone stops imputing to me views that I don’t hold, I will go and never post here again.

    Plus, I believe that elves are fungi, that Haile Selassie is the one true messenger of Chtulhu, and that I am the rightful heir to President Polk.

    — John Smith

  217. #217 JRY
    October 19, 2007

    John Smith, the self-proclaimed non-racist racist said:

    When I was talking about “dark-skinned” people, I was referring to those who are conventionally considered “black”. I don’t think this group of people have convincingly shown themselves to be as genetically intelligent as the rest of the human race.

    Well, that just clinches it, eh? He has stopped digging the hole, he has pulled ALL the dirt over himself, and even allowed some daisies to sprout on the ground above.

    You have effectively buried yourself. No squirming out of that one…no matter how slimy you are.

  218. #218 Flex
    October 19, 2007

    John Smith, “When I was talking about “dark-skinned” people, I was referring to those who are conventionally considered “black”. I don’t think this group of people have convincingly shown themselves to be as genetically intelligent as the rest of the human race.”

    What would it take to convince you?

    And since you are talking about your past experiances (learning), you might as well drop the ‘genetically’ from your statement. By now you should be able to admit that the influence on intelligence which arises from genes is unknown. So there is no way to seperate the evidence for genetic affects from the rest of the environment.

  219. #219 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    “You’ve gotta help me out here… how am I misrepresenting that position when I call it “racist”?”
    Because I’m not saying that I think black Africans are less genetically intelligent than other races. It’s just that their economic and intellectual history hasn’t convinced me that they’re not. I’m unsure. This is not a position.

    I won’t post again if there are no more snide remarks or misrepresentations. I think misrepresentations anger me more than anything else in life. Seriously.

  220. #220 Brownian
    October 19, 2007

    Plus, I believe that elves are fungi, that Haile Selassie is the one true messenger of Chtulhu, and that I am the rightful heir to President Polk.

    Finally, John Smith and I find some common ground.

  221. #221 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    “Well, that just clinches it, eh? He has stopped digging the hole, he has pulled ALL the dirt over himself, and even allowed some daisies to sprout on the ground above.”
    Huh? It’s what I’ve been saying all along. I’m not convinced that black Africans are as intelligent as the rest of us. Maybe they are, maybe they’re not. End of story.

  222. #222 Hap
    October 19, 2007

    JS: At some point, you might actually want to back your assertions with, like, data? That would, however, require, some definition of terms which you seem to lack either the will or the ability to undertake (“race” or “intelligence” being two); it would also, of course, require some ability to separate history and background from genetic causes (which would seem to be highly nontrivial, but you raised the point…). Caledonian is hard to take sometimes, but he actually submits constructive references once in a while, while you seem to run PC smack (and racist bigot smack) without actually saying anything substantative.

    P.S. I can’t speak for Brownian, but I think he was figuring that since you don’t seem to understand arguments in good English very well, he might raise some points in a different dialect of English, hoping that you might understand it better. If that doesn’t work, perhaps you might suggest an alternative?

  223. #223 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    I don’t need data to suggest that MAYBE Africans are less genetically intelligent.

    You’re the one who needs data, if you’re going to argue that all groups are exactly equal in average genetic intelligence.

  224. #224 Dustin
    October 19, 2007

    Because I’m not saying that I think black Africans are less genetically intelligent than other races. It’s just that their economic and intellectual history hasn’t convinced me that they’re not.

    It’s funny, even though JS is actually composting before our very eyes, he keeps flailing in the same motions as though it’s possible for him to get further down in the dirt than he already is.

    Does the KKK have a rank called “Troll”?

  225. #225 JRY
    October 19, 2007

    Heh heh…with very, very little bit of splicing, people can make these wonderful mind-bending gems:

    I’m not saying that I think black Africans are less genetically intelligent than other races. I’m just saying that I don’t think this group of people have convincingly shown themselves to be as genetically intelligent as the rest of the human race.

    The bold test is original quotes from John.

    Wow.

  226. #226 Brownian
    October 19, 2007

    John Smith, we’re not saying that you’re racist. It’s just that you haven’t convinced us that you’re not. We’re unsure. This is not a position.

    Well, John, thanks for coming out and explaining in three 200+ comment threads that you don’t know. What a grand fucking contribution to the world of knowledge you’ve made. Fuck James tWatson, you deserve a fucking Nobel.

    Anything else you haven’t a clue about that you’d like to waste our time with? Have no position on astrology? Why not write an encyclopedia set on it? What about the possibility that there’s a black (and therefore dumber, maybe) hole at the centre of the galaxy? Don’t know, don’t care? We’d love to read your essays on it then.

    Holy fuck, if you don’t have a position (nor any information to add either), then GET THEE THE FUCK OUT OF HERE.

    Retard.

  227. #227 thalarctos
    October 19, 2007

    Because I’m not saying that I think black Africans are less genetically intelligent than other races. It’s just that their economic and intellectual history hasn’t convinced me that they’re not. I’m unsure. This is not a position.

    You can’t rigorously define “race”, and you can’t rigourously define “intelligence”. You can’t give a coherent description of what genes are involved in “intelligence”, their mechanisms, or their relations to particular phenotypes.

    Yet you *can* look at the well-documented political and economic history of exploitation of Africa, the disease and malnutrition burden the inhabitants face, and the lack of educational opportunities available, and you *can* say “Gee, I don’t think that can possibly be *enough* to account for the differences I see. There must be something more, and it’s probably genetic.”

    Sounds like a position to me–you’re just adding pseudoscientific insult to historical injury in determining what weight you arbitrarily assign to what factors.

  228. #228 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    “Well, John, thanks for coming out and explaining in three 200+ comment threads that you don’t know. What a grand fucking contribution to the world of knowledge you’ve made. Fuck James tWatson, you deserve a fucking Nobel.”
    I originally said that we should lay off those who think they have evidence of genetic disparities. Maybe they do. We shouldn’t hysterically and dogmatically oppose the mere notion of genetic differences in intelligence between groups. That was all I initially said. Then I defended myself against misrepresentations and accusations of racism.

  229. #229 thalarctos
    October 19, 2007

    I don’t need data to suggest that MAYBE Africans are less genetically intelligent.

    Q.E.D.

    If you’re waiting for people to stop pointing out that you’re a pseudo-scientific racist before you leave, then we’re stuck with you forever.

    You may call yourself “John Smith”, but you’ll always be the “I don’t need data” racist to me.

  230. #230 Spaulding
    October 19, 2007

    Given populations A and B and heterogenous phenotype X, it’s astoundingly unlikely for the expression of phenotype X to be EXACTLY the same between A and B. More likely, A or B will express phenotype X more compared to the other population. Our populations could be Springfield and Shelbyville, and the phenotype could be blue shirts. Doesn’t matter. It’s a simple extrapolation that a variable trait will generally lead to different average expressions between two arbitrary groups.

    Things get more compicated when you don’t have a good way of measuring the hypothetical trait in question. If we’re talking about general intelligence, “G”, then we’re discussing a trait that may or may not exist and that we have no accepted means of measuring. So, after extensive testing, could we say that population A or B has a greater average expression of G? And if so, would the differences in expression exceed the margin of error in our testing system?

    It would be simpler to step away from a vague trait like G and focus on a simpler trait like IQ or mental rotation or spacial memory or manual dexterity. Keep in mind that If we compare average expressions of a long enough list of simple, valued traits, a proponent of population A’s superiority over population B will certainly find an area in which A has an advantage (just as population B would have advantages in certain areas).

    The idea of inter-group differences in average expression of variable traits does not imply racism. Expectation of exactly equal average expression between groups appears to be motivated by fallacious is/ought confusion. However, it’s reasonable to suggest that inter-group variations in average phenotypes will (for some phenotypes) be statistically insignificant, especially if there is a high degree of error in measuring the trait.

    The studies that I’ve seen suggest a genetic heritability of about 0.5 for intelligence, with some intelligence-related traits more heritable, some less. Search Pubmed to back that up or find other estimates. Ideals of political equality are not relevant to the heritability question, nor are tabula rasa philosophies.

    “Race” represents a set of divisions in which social attitudes and history do not align directly with biology. However, as with any two arbitrary groups, we should expect inter-“race” variation. If we’re comparing heritable traits (see above), then we can reasonably hypothesize that many inter-group variations will be accentuated by the duration and degree of isolation of the two groups.

    There’s also the issue of the founder effect, though I don’t know whether that’s especially relevant to human migratory patterns.

  231. #231 Chris Clarke
    October 19, 2007

    I’m not saying that I think black Africans are less genetically intelligent than other races. It’s just that their economic and intellectual history hasn’t convinced me that they’re not.

    To a first and perhaps second approximation, they have all so far refrained from posting to this thread. That’s gotta count for something.

  232. #232 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    So apparently it’s racism to suggest that maybe there’s a difference between average genetic intelligence of two disparate groups. OK, fine. If that’s your definition of racist, then I’m a racist.

  233. #233 JRY
    October 19, 2007

    John Smith, again:

    I originally said that we should lay off those who think they have evidence of genetic disparities. Maybe they do. We shouldn’t hysterically and dogmatically oppose the mere notion of genetic differences in intelligence between groups. That was all I initially said. Then I defended myself against misrepresentations and accusations of racism.

    By saying such things as:

    When I was talking about “dark-skinned” people, I was referring to those who are conventionally considered “black”. I don’t think this group of people have convincingly shown themselves to be as genetically intelligent as the rest of the human race.

    Don’t you see that you have become the best argument against you? There have been no misrepresentations. You have shown your true colors with the last few posts.

  234. #234 gerald spezio
    October 19, 2007

    I hate Cosma Shalizi.
    Nobody human is that smart.
    He makes me feel like an incompetent fool.
    Would Cosma run as Cindy Sheehan’s vice-pres?

  235. #235 Laser Potato
    October 19, 2007

    [When I was talking about "dark-skinned" people, I was referring to those who are conventionally considered "black". I don't think this group of people have convincingly shown themselves to be as genetically intelligent as the rest of the human race.]

    Ow, ow, ow, ow, OW.

  236. #236 Luna_the_cat
    October 19, 2007

    One of John Smith’s first posts, at #17, included:

    Enough of this nonsense about there not being any grounds for suspecting that black-skinned people tend to be less intelligent on average than light-skinned people. The economic and intellectual performance of the former group is incomparably worse, on every continent.

    Here we have a grossly generalised and inaccurate statement about something which can be observed in the world (“The economic and intellectual performance of [dark-skinned people] is incomparably worse [than light-skinned people], on every continent.“) being held up as “evidence” for an assertion that one named group is inferior due to genetics.

    JS, with all due respect, hon, that sounds pretty racist to me. And now you’ve done gone and repeated it, with variations.

    Incidentally, back when The Bell Curve hit the stands and exploded, the APA had to respond. The response is available at http://www.lrainc.com/swtaboo/taboos/apa_01.html ,and it makes a lot of interesting points. One I found particularly relevant was their discussion of “caste” and culture in providing an aspect of the environment beyond socioeconomic status.

    …Ogbu (1978) argues that the children of caste-like minorities do not have “effort optimism,” i.e., the conviction that hard work (especially hard schoolwork) and serious commitment on their part will actually be rewarded. As a result they ignore or reject the forms of learning that are offered in school. Indeed they may practice a sort of cultural inversion, deliberately rejecting certain behaviors (such as academic achievement or other forms of “acting white”) that are seen as characteristic of the dominant group.

    The extent to which this accounts for learning and intelligence test differences between different populations at the same SES status varies from place to place, but it most certainly exists, and I have seen it in action. This is a perfect example of where “intelligence” is heritable…just not genetically heritable, since it is actually being inherited from culture and family expectation.

  237. #237 Luna_the_cat
    October 19, 2007

    Dustin @ #224:

    Does the KKK have a rank called “Troll”?

    Well, they have “Dragons” — why NOT Trolls?

    Anyway, everywhere else in the world has trolls, so I don’t see that they would be immune.

  238. #238 Brownian
    October 19, 2007

    So apparently it’s racism to suggest that maybe there’s a difference between average genetic intelligence of two disparate groups. OK, fine. If that’s your definition of racist, then I’m a racist.

    Fuck, but you say dumb shit. You sure you’re white?

  239. #239 John Smith
    October 19, 2007

    Interesting new tactic: pretending that a quote means something it obviously doesn’t. Maybe those biased in favour of you, or those cursorily reading your post, will assume that you’re right.

    Before I go I want to say one thing further. I think human beings (of all races) are inherently violent and savage, and they feel the need to hysterically persecute, lynch and brutalize. The ones who don’t conform to the creed of the day are especially vulnuerable. Even atheists aren’t always totally innocent, as we have seen here. Be careful about your lynching activities.

  240. #240 thalarctos
    October 19, 2007

    So apparently it’s racism to suggest that maybe there’s a difference between average genetic intelligence of two disparate groups. OK, fine. If that’s your definition of racist, then I’m a racist.

    Persisting repeatedly in that suggestion in the face of 1) the lack of evidence for it, and 2) the strong evidence for non-genetic factors makes you not only a racist, but a pseudo-scientific one, as well.

    If you wish to refute that, you can begin by showing how you determined that the political, economic, medical, and other factors already mentioned exhaustively are insufficient to account for the difference you “perceive” in an ill-defined “intelligence” between ill-defined “races”, and how you determined that the gap you “perceive” must necessarily be genetic.

  241. #241 thalarctos
    October 19, 2007

    Be careful about your lynching activities.

    Oooh, John Smith is being lynched!

    Maybe it’s a “high-tech lynching”?

    Well, you don’t respond to requests for evidence or reason, so you don’t give us a lot else to work with here besides ridicule.

  242. #242 Brownian
    October 19, 2007

    Before I go I want to say one thing further. I think human beings (of all races) are inherently violent and savage, and they feel the need to hysterically persecute, lynch and brutalize. The ones who don’t conform to the creed of the day are especially vulnuerable. Even atheists aren’t always totally innocent, as we have seen here. Be careful about your lynching activities.

    Yeah, you’re a real fucking champion for the underdog, aren’t you?

    Any other last gems you wanna lay on us before you grace some other blog with your magnanimous wisdom?

  243. #243 Chris Clarke
    October 19, 2007

    Fuck, but you say dumb shit.

    Yeah, well, at least people like JS flush out the racism-enablers so that we can know who they are.

    I mean, with cartoon racists like JS and Caledonian, anyone with two heritable brain cells to rub together can get where they’re coming from right away. But it’s the enablers of the world who do the most damage.

  244. #244 JRY
    October 19, 2007

    Bonehead states:

    Interesting new tactic: pretending that a quote means something it obviously doesn’t. Maybe those biased in favour of you, or those cursorily reading your post, will assume that you’re right.

    No clue what quote you are referring to. All your statements have been taken pretty much at face value. If there is anything lost in the meaning, it is probably from a lack of communication skills on your part, but I doubt there has been any lost meaning…so, moot point.

    Before I go

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Stop! Stop….oh my spleen…I think i ruptured something. So funny though…

    I want to say one thing further. I think human beings (of all races) are inherently violent and savage, and they feel the need to hysterically persecute, lynch and brutalize. The ones who don’t conform to the creed of the day are especially vulnuerable. Even atheists aren’t always totally innocent, as we have seen here. Be careful about your lynching activities.

    Have you been lynched? Is there a noose around your neck? Are you dead? No. You have just had a proverbial slap-around on an internet blog.

    He’s a drama-queen to boot…

  245. #245 Flex
    October 19, 2007

    John Smith, “When I was talking about “dark-skinned” people, I was referring to those who are conventionally considered “black”. I don’t think this group of people have convincingly shown themselves to be as genetically intelligent as the rest of the human race.”

    What would it take to convince you?

    And since you are talking about your past experiances (learning), you might as well drop the ‘genetically’ from your statement. By now you should be able to admit that the influence on intelligence which arises from genes is unknown. So there is no way to seperate your (proposed) evidence of genetic affects from the rest of the environment.

  246. #246 JRY
    October 19, 2007

    Thalarctos states:

    If you wish to refute that, you can begin by showing how you determined that the political, economic, medical, and other factors already mentioned exhaustively are insufficient to account for the difference you “perceive” in an ill-defined “intelligence” between ill-defined “races”, and how you determined that the gap you “perceive” must necessarily be genetic.

    I know his refutation already: “I’m just saying maybe! I don’t know!”

  247. #247 Dustin
    October 19, 2007

    Have you been lynched? Is there a noose around your neck? Are you dead? No.

    We don’t lynch people. We keelhaul them — we’re pirates, not racists.

  248. #248 JRY
    October 19, 2007

    Dustin states:

    We don’t lynch people. We keelhaul them — we’re pirates, not racists.

    Oh…sorry, my bad. :)

  249. #249 Laser Potato
    October 19, 2007

    “Any other last gems you wanna lay on us before you grace some other blog with your magnanimous wisdom?”
    Tch, tch, tch. Haven’t you learned ANYTHING?
    Trolls who promise to be “leaving forever” tend to return within 30 minutes.

  250. #250 Christian Burnham
    October 19, 2007

    Tristero, if you’re still here:

    I still think it’s dangerous to start labeling people who you don’t know as racists based on a few comments on the internet. I think that most of us agree that if someone commits a racist act, then that person should have to face the consequences, but I have no evidence that any of the posters have committed such acts.

    It’s true that some of the comments would be considered racist by the majority of people posting here. I think it’s possible to expose those comments as idiotic without resorting to name-calling.

    Myself- I called Watson pathetic and referred to some of John Smith’s comments as racist. I was then accused of sitting on the fence because I didn’t go as far as labeling either of them as KKK members (which I doubt they are). I find it sad that some are taking hyperbolae to such extremes to get their points across.

    I still think there’s a valid debate to be had about what constitutes racism in genetics and science in general. There’s also a valid debate about what the data actually shows. I would rather that people have this debate and learn something than spend the rest of their lives without questioning their assumptions because scientists are too scared to talk about the subject.

    It’s interesting to contrast this debate with creationism. Evolutionists (is that a dirty word?) have got their act together and have a superb set of resources on the internet so that there’s really no excuse not to educate yourself about all of the holes in the creationist model. Unfortunately, there seems to be a relative dearth of information about race, because people are scared to touch the subject. The infamous Wikipedia page about race and intelligence is highly controversial- but it’s one of the most commonly cited sources at the moment.

    Well, maybe I’m wrong. I asked before about resources on the internet and I’m still interested in links. The links given by PZ at the top of this page are OK, but they’re a bit technical and also present only one side of the debate. As Caledonian has mentioned, there are a considerable number of respected scientists who have done serious research using IQ testing. I’d also like to see what they have to say.

    It’s also a shame that we don’t have more self-identified black posters on this board to remind us that words have consequences.

  251. #251 Brownian
    October 19, 2007

    Now that we’re done with Smith, where the fuck is Caledoltian to further explain the bullshit he spouts in comment #200?

    C’mon, Caledoltian, let’s talk about the environmental explanations for the respective heights of the Inuit (short), Maasai (tall), Dutch (tall) and Khoisan (short). I’d really love to learn something.

  252. #252 Laser Potato
    October 19, 2007

    I’m betting dollars to donuts he’ll come back under a sockpuppet he can claim we were unfair to his “friend”, repeat the same racist rubbish, and begin the idiocy anew. Rinse. Lather. Repeat.

  253. #253 JRY
    October 19, 2007

    Christian Burnham states:

    I still think it’s dangerous to start labeling people who you don’t know as racists based on a few comments on the internet. I think that most of us agree that if someone commits a racist act, then that person should have to face the consequences, but I have no evidence that any of the posters have committed such acts.

    Serious question here: does one have to commit an act to be considered racist? In my mind the only difference between a person who spews racist comments and a person who kills someone based on race is that one is violent and the other is not. I would think that they are both racist…especially since racism is a belief. Thoughts?

  254. #254 Hap
    October 19, 2007

    JS: You might consider going back to arguing for ID (the structure of your arguments and their bad and fallacious logic is sort of characteristic of ID proponents) – you’ll find that the rhetoric of the responses is somewhat less personal (you would only be considered stupid and ignorant rather than stupid, ignorant, and a bigot).

    And the Clarence Thomas paraphrase doesn’t work here anymore – though it is vaguely clever (it worked for a mediocre lawyer – why won’t it work for me?). Ultimately, though, the comment leaves the same bad taste in the mouth as CT’s comment did – the sound of someone trying to use the accomplishments of a culture and philosophy that he actively tried to denigrate. Thanks for playing.

  255. #255 Christian Burnham
    October 19, 2007

    JRY: I’m not an expert, but I think that it’s dangerous to start rounding up people who make racist comments, because it leads to the idea of thought-crimes.

    People who commit racist acts however- such as discriminatory hiring practices, should be prosecuted to the “full extent of the law” as they say.

    I’m not so naive to believe that racist remarks have no consequences, but I believe that a large amount of leeway should be given in discussions/debates about the abstract concepts- as opposed to making racist comments about specific people.

    I’ve been following the discussions on Digg and Reddit the past couple of days- and the consensus seems to be that Watson’s remarks were quite reasonable and that it’s only political correctness which has led to his current problems. This is even after Watson himself has retracted his comments.

    It’s important to realize that an enormous amount of people are agreeing with Watson- and they can’t all be shouted down as Klan members. There is an “ignorance-gap” which needs to be filled- and pretty rapidly if you ask me.

  256. #256 To the Middle of the Left Right
    October 19, 2007

    Brownian-

    Thank you for so throughly entertaining me.

  257. #257 Flex
    October 19, 2007

    JRY wrote, “Serious question here: does one have to commit an act to be considered racist?”

    One final comment before going home for the weekend.

    My answer to the above question is no.

    Racism, or any bigotry, appear to me to often be the result of ill-considered ideas, or opinions formed without critically assessing them.

    I’d submit that we all have quite a large collection of these types of opinions, and the best we can do is listen to the arguments of others who disagree, and start to critically think about them. We all have the ability to adjust our own thinking, and should be open to the concept of doing so. (Without leaving our mind so open that our brains fall out.)

    I don’t know if John Smith will be critically considering his opinion, but just because he holds it I’m not necessarily going to think he will act on it. If for no other reason than he doesn’t seem to have any hatred associated with the bigotry he demonstrated.

    A more pertinant question IMHO, and a much more difficult problem, are what steps should society take to correct racism and bigotry?

    The answers appear have a wide range.
    From; Nothing unless physical damage occurs, then punish the perpetrators.
    To; Any action, speech, writing, activity, sport, etc., which demonstrates any level of racism or hate needs to be suppressed.

    Most people fall somewhere between these two extremes. If this post wasn’t already extraordinary long I’d ask for people’s responses and why.

    As it is, I’ve got to go home and take care of the chickens, then I’m going out to eat at a Turkish resturant and going to see Cudamani: Odalan Bali this evening.

    Ciao all, have a great weekend.

  258. #258 Luna_the_cat
    October 19, 2007

    Christian Burnham:

    Saying something racist IS a racist action. Thinking something doesn’t have to involve speaking it out loud; but as soon as it is spoken out loud, it influences other people. Words influence attitudes as much as they are influenced by attitudes. Attitudes are what lead to hiring practices, and even more subtle forms of action, like acceptance of papers for publication being influenced by whether or not the lead author has an overtly “black” name. And words themselves contribute to things like working environment…as a female in what was a male-dominated field for years, do you have any idea how many comments I had to grit my teeth through that I wasn’t really very “female”, and lesbian jokes? If I didn’t have a good thick hide I would never have toughed it out; it’s a lot better now, but there are areas where that kind of thing is still a problem.

    Racist comments about groups of people are at least as influential if not more so than specific insults aimed at specific individuals, because listeners are being “educated” about all the individuals from that group that they may meet. Exactly how and why should we give this more leeway, and not less? Shouldn’t we be demanding — vociferously and stridently — that people NOT make stupid generalisations?

    Asking controversial questions is vastly different to making assertions backed by poor or no evidence, as you ought to know. And part of the badly needed education to counter these stupid assertions, is pointing out — loudly and as frequently as is necessary — that these are unsupported assertions about an entire group, and as such, is just as racist, if much more subtly vile, as the KKK claiming that all niggers is rapists.

  259. #259 Brownian
    October 19, 2007

    Don’t thank me, TtMotLR, thank my Northern Slav (smart, potato-eating) and Southern Slav (less smart, hairy) ancestries.

  260. #260 Dustin
    October 19, 2007

    I’m not so naive to believe that racist remarks have no consequences, but I believe that a large amount of leeway should be given in discussions/debates about the abstract concepts- as opposed to making racist comments about specific people.

    I believe you’re an Alister McGrath sockpuppet. Or a troll.

  261. #261 Chris Clarke
    October 19, 2007

    think that it’s dangerous to start rounding up people who make racist comments, because it leads to the idea of thought-crimes.

    Who the hell is rounding anyone up?

    What people are doing here is voicing their opinion.

    You are telling them they ought not voice that opinion here, but you have no trouble with JS’s voicing his.

    You have less problem with racist statements than you do with people calling racist statements racist.

    You’re wondering why there aren’t more self-identified black commenters in this thread? Based on the hundreds of blog discussions of this very phenomenon I have seen in the last year, some such are likely repelled by the blatant cartoon racism. But over and over again in discussions of this topic, I see people saying that it’s folks like YOU, Christian, the enablers of the cartoon racists, who are the reason they often tend to shrug and walk away. Because they — we, actually: there’s no reason for me not to stand with the folks of color — can see the raw hatred for what it is. It’s depressing, and sometimes amusing, and outrageous. But it’s there and honest.

    It’s the people like you who couch everything in high-school debate terms, who think the hatred being expressed is way less crucial an issue than the incivility or “non-constructiveness,” who generally make such threads feel less than welcoming to the people being insulted. Because people like you, Christian, appropriate the mantles of “rationality,” “disinterest,” “objectivity” and then use them to advance the idea that stabbing someone is not as bad an act as bleeding on the person who stabs you.

    In short, you are saying we should “teach the controversy.” There is no controversy. And objecting when people offer honest, accurate summations of another person’s racist bullshit is, objectively, to advance the cause of the racist bullshit.

  262. #262 Chris Clarke
    October 19, 2007

    If for no other reason than he doesn’t seem to have any hatred associated with the bigotry he demonstrated.

    No. Saying he’s never seen any evidence that Blacks aren’t stupider than whites isn’t hatred. It’s, I dunno, something else. Cilantro, maybe. Or apoptosis.

  263. #263 Christian Burnham
    October 19, 2007

    CC: You’re being stupid.

    The fact that I called JS’s comments as racist but don’t equate him to a KKK member does not make me an ‘enabler’ of racism.

    It’s true that people like you are successful in shutting down any debate by randomly hurling insults- but meanwhile there’s millions of people who believe Watson’s pathetic comments to be entirely non-controversial and justified. Millions of people who could be being educated.

    I’ve just been looking at Google searches for “race and intelligence” The first page returns several racist screeds, the aforementioned highly contested Wikipedia article and a dry statement by the AAA. Is it any wonder that people don’t understand these issues.

    People here can continue to shout KKK, but so far I haven’t seen any evidence that this approach is working, except to shut down any debate.

  264. #264 Tulse
    October 19, 2007

    The brain is both plastic and fixed, incredibly sensitive and incredibly robust. The environment has a profound effect on the structure and functioning of the brain; the environment has a limited effect on the structure and functioning of the brain.

    Apparently the brain is so plastic that Dutch IQ scores have increased over 21 points in 30 years. I presume you wouldn’t attribute a 20% increase in intelligence over one generation to genetics, would you? If not, then explain how IQ scores are at all useful as measures of some inherent genetic capability, and especially how they would be useful when comparing groups that do not share the same environment, such as “races”.

  265. #265 Dustin
    October 19, 2007

    People here can continue to shout KKK, but so far I haven’t seen any evidence that this approach is working, except to shut down any debate.

    It was hyperbole, dumbass, used to shut down a farce. It was obvious hyperbole, designed to get a giggle and prod JS into blurting his real position out for everyone to see. What did you think it was? And what were you doing? Nothing. Just whining and waffling and being generally ineffectual, and that seems to be something you’re very good at.

  266. #266 Christian Burnham
    October 19, 2007

    LTC: With respect, I disagree. I think there’s a place for debate and running the risk of experiencing racist or sexist arguments.

    I would rather that people engaged in debate than kept silent and continued in ignorance.

    I also vigorously defend the right of people to honestly express their opinions on any topic, no matter how uncomfortable it is for others.

    (I think you’re right that such comments are not appropriate in the work-place.)

    I’d suggest to you that the alternative is much worse. By making it impossible for people to honestly state their opinions you are denying yourself the chance to correct their errors.

  267. #267 Christian Burnham
    October 19, 2007

    I guess that I should mention that I’m not going to respond to Dustin’s comments, since he’s unable to rise above petty name-calling.

  268. #268 Kseniya
    October 19, 2007

    Brownian – you’re a Multi-Slav? Wow, me too!

  269. #269 JRY
    October 19, 2007

    Christian Burnham states:

    The fact that I called JS’s comments as racist but don’t equate him to a KKK member does not make me an ‘enabler’ of racism.

    Not gonna go into who’s enabling who. I just want to point out that a racist does not have to be a member of the KKK. Calling someone a racist is just that; calling him a racist. A KKK member comes with a whole extra set of properties, so to speak.

  270. #270 Luna_the_cat
    October 19, 2007

    Christian Burnham:
    One very quick comment, and then I’m gone for the weekend.

    In my experience, the people who *make* the comments rarely change their minds, no matter how much evidence they are presented with. The real crowd being addressed are the silent listeners, who haven’t stated an opinion because they don’t yet have a firmly held opinion. And they ARE influenced by people who shout out that the objectionable opinion in question is racist nonsense. I’m not saying that presenting evidence isn’t necessary too, because it is, to support WHY someone is being shouted down; but, for example, things only changed in my chosen career field, when ordinary people started responding to sexist bs with calling it sexist bs and telling the people saying to shut up. All the academic opinion in the world didn’t have as much influence on the actual environment I worked in as a couple of offshore engineers turning to another engineer and telling him to keep his gob shut because he didn’t know what the bloody hell he was talking about.

  271. #271 Luna_the_cat
    October 19, 2007

    Ah, hit post too soon.

    The point I was trying to make — because the bs-shouting engineer got shouted down and made to shut up, the younger engineers coming in to the company didn’t hear the same string of jokes and comments, and to a large part, it thus didn’t occur to them to think that way.

  272. #272 Christian Burnham
    October 19, 2007

    LTC: I agree to an extent. People should be called out when making racist/sexist comments.

    One important advance in feminism was the large effort put together by feminists to write books, educational literature etc.

    I’d like to see a similar effort in educating people about race on the internet.

  273. #273 windy
    October 19, 2007

    Apparently the brain is so plastic that Dutch IQ scores have increased over 21 points in 30 years. I presume you wouldn’t attribute a 20% increase in intelligence over one generation to genetics, would you? If not, then explain how IQ scores are at all useful as measures of some inherent genetic capability…

    Height seems to be equally plastic and has similarly increased in the Dutch in modern times. Does this mean that height is useless as a rough measure of some inherent genetic capability for size?

    People, when you argue against naive interpretations of IQ, please take care that you aren’t at the same time implying that most biological research in any species is useless. (which it would be, if complex plastic traits were impossible to measure and study)

  274. #274 Brownian
    October 19, 2007

    I’d like to see a similar effort in educating people about race on the internet.

    Oh, for the love of all, yes!

    It sure isn’t an excuse for tit-for-tat behaviour, but notice how quickly the I’m-not-racist-but-blacks-sure-are-dumb crowd whipped out the You’re-all-just-PC-libruls card?

    The gloves are off.

  275. #275 Sven DiMilo
    October 19, 2007

    Now that the knee-jerk name-calling, stupid redneck dialect, hyperbole, enabling (or not), and boneheaded hole-digging have died down a bit, I’d like to direct the attention of anybody still reading this thread to Spaulding’s eminently reasonable, and hence ignored, comment # 230. It addresses the actual issues at hand instead of piling on the excesses of a couple of stubborn boneheads, and is, I think, corroborative to my (equally ignored) comment #124. Thank you for your attention to this matter. That is all.

  276. #276 Brownian
    October 19, 2007

    Yes Sven, but if we’re discussing the phenotypic expression of multiple genes we’d see that the differences between the two populations would be less than the differences within the populations, depending on heritability of each gene (or gene complexes) and the linkages between them, wouldn’t we?

    Further, of course there’s no expectation that the two groups would be exactly equal. Statistically, we’d expect some amount of variation. Whether the variation is significant to reject the null hypothesis of no difference is another matter.

  277. #277 Tulse
    October 19, 2007

    Height seems to be equally plastic and has similarly increased in the Dutch in modern times. Does this mean that height is useless as a rough measure of some inherent genetic capability for size?

    Without controlling for the same environment, it means exactly that. If you look, for example, at young North and South Koreans, you’d find that the latter are on average 8cm taller. Does that mean that South Koreans are inherently taller? Consider that Koreans from North and South older than 40 do not show such difference, and that North Korea went through a famine in the 1990s — what does all this say about the utility of average height as a “rough measure of some inherent genetic capability for size” in these two groups?

    when you argue against naive interpretations of IQ, please take care that you aren’t at the same time implying that most biological research in any species is useless

    Of course, but most species don’t live in the diversity of environments that humans do. If one wants to compare the genetic contribution to body size of pigeons in, say, Buenos Aires and Oslo, one will also need to control for the wildly different environments they develop in.

  278. #278 Chris Clarke
    October 19, 2007

    The fact that I called JS’s comments as racist but don’t equate him to a KKK member does not make me an ‘enabler’ of racism.

    You’re absolutely right.

    What makes you an enabler of racism is the fact that you tut-tut criticism of JS.

    It’s true that people like you are successful in shutting down any debate by randomly hurling insults

    Again: the only one here trying to “shut down” any discourse is you. And you have your sights aimed on those who are criticizing the racists.

    If you think the insults that have been hurled are “random,” you’ve got your white boy blinders on too tight.

    You might also do a bit of research into the KKK. Their recent propaganda sounds remarkably like the comments you defend here.

  279. #279 Chris Clarke
    October 19, 2007

    Incidentall, I’m apparently not the only person who feels the way I do:

    Writes a commenter called Christian Burnham: “It seems that [another commenter] is now suggesting a genetic basis for the apparent variation in IQ between different groups. That may make him/her completely wrong- but it still doesn’t make him/her a racist.”

    Here we have yet another perfect example of how people squirm to make sure that even the most blatant, obvious racism is denied the label. For me, reading that thread, it also becomes an example of how [many of] the mostly white, mostly men are inured to anything except the abstract ramifications of what they’re saying. [Some c]ommenters [admonish] those who endorse the ev-psych viewpoint to [substantiate their viewpoints with evidence, not because they're making ridiculous statements, but] due to the controversial nature of the topic, while decrying anyone who reacts [to the black people are just dumb meme] with anger. The[se commenters] seem to have no real [understanding] that the asshats [who they suggest should not be lashed at angrily] are talking about real, flesh and blood people, and that what they’re saying has stakes. After all, it [probably] doesn’t have stakes — except po[tentially] beneficial ones — for them.

  280. #280 Christian Burnham
    October 19, 2007

    CC: I responded in some detail to that Blog post. Thanks for letting me know.

    I think the fact that you can get someone on the internet to agree with you doesn’t say that much in of itself.

    To be honest- I was surprised that the blog post didn’t single out Caledonian’s comments rather than my rather weak defense of them. I don’t agree with Caledonian’s comments, but I fall shy of calling him/her a racist since I don’t know him/her. Is that enough to warrant dragging me through the mud?

  281. #281 MartinC
    October 19, 2007

    What a nasty ill tempered thread.
    I’d just like to point out the commentator on post #325 is an anti-semetic KKK supporter who eats puppies.
    And he smells.

  282. #282 SixOfSwords
    October 19, 2007

    “The[se commenters] seem to have no real [understanding] that the asshats [who they suggest should not be lashed at angrily] are talking about real, flesh and blood people, and that what they’re saying has stakes.”

    Has someone made a prescriptive argument that I missed?

    ~6~

  283. #283 windy
    October 19, 2007

    Consider that Koreans from North and South older than 40 do not show such difference, and that North Korea went through a famine in the 1990s — what does all this say about the utility of average height as a “rough measure of some inherent genetic capability for size” in these two groups?

    Certainly not that it’s useless, just that you need to control for environmental influences. North Koreans growing up during the famine would probably still be taller, on average, in their particular ‘environment’. If the opposite would turn out to be the case due to interaction effects, even more interesting. Nobody seems to be throwing their hands up and saying “height is so very plastic and malleable, there’s no use talking about a genetic basis for height”.

  284. #284 Christian Burnham
    October 19, 2007

    Well- I doubt anyone’s that interested, but after submitting a fairly long and thoughtful reply to the blogpost mentioned in 279 which attacks me for not calling Caledonian a racist- I’m being told that my comment is being held in moderation (for the past 30 mins).

    I do hope they give me the right of reply.

    Interestingly, any commenter to the blog must click a box saying that they agree that white supremacy is a central organizing principle of American society. Well, I’m not an American citizen, so I happily clicked away, but it is rather an odd question to ask.

  285. #285 windy
    October 19, 2007

    Argh, I meant to say: North Koreans with tall parents who grew up during the famine would probably still be taller, on average, in their particular ‘environment’.

  286. #286 windy
    October 19, 2007

    [What's] up with all [t]he b[rackets] in that blog[post]?

  287. #287 Christian Burnham
    October 19, 2007

    Ah- OK, the ALAS meta-feminist blog finally let my comment through, after an hour of being held in moderation.

  288. #288 Caledonian
    October 19, 2007

    I just second the call for people to read post #230 – it’s truly exceptional, most especially for this blog.

    ***

    Mr. Burnham, I’m not yet convinced that you understand precisely what I’m saying, and I think that this is the reason you don’t agree with me. I’m prepared to be disappointed if you actually do understand, or come to understand, and still reject me and my position, but I hope that will not be the case.

  289. #289 Christian Burnham
    October 19, 2007

    Caledonian: I don’t understand precisely what you’re saying, which is part of the reason why I think it’s premature to call you a racist.

    I think you court controversy and enjoy doing it. That’s not to say you’re wrong, but it does make for a dangerous life.

    I was annoyed that one poster started comparing your comments to the B+W minstrel show, which seemed pretty juvenile to me.

    I’m not an expert in this field and I simply don’t know enough to judge the nuances of each poster’s arguments. I didn’t find your comments particularly offensive, but they weren’t particularly convincing either. I plead ignorance on the whole debate.

    Still, my main point is to defend your right to make the posts as I would defend everyone’s right.

    I think JS’s comments were by far the most contentious, verging on racist. It’s possible that he could have been speaking from a purely philosophical/hypothetical POV, but I doubt it. Even so- I’m happy that he made those comments on an internet forum such as this, so that people here had the chance to rebut his arguments with better ones.

  290. #290 PZ Myers
    October 19, 2007

    Not that there is anything wrong with it, but #230 isn’t particularly relevant, since no one on my side of the fence has been arguing for genetic identity between human populations.

    “most especially for this blog”? I would suggest that since Caledonian has so little respect for the content of this blog (to which he ‘contributes’ a dozen or more of his very special comments a day), he should go find one with intellectual pretensions more appropriate to his values, and plague them instead.

    Or, perhaps, he can go find a quiet, private place and bugger himself.

  291. #291 Caledonian
    October 19, 2007

    PZ

    Not that there is anything wrong with it, but #230 isn’t particularly relevant, since no one on my side of the fence has been arguing for genetic identity between human populations.

    Except for those places where countless people insisted that genetic differences couldn’t be responsible for observed performance differences. Or when people acknowledged that some superficial things like appearance might vary, but insisted that genes affecting cognition must obviously be distributed evenly across geography and ethnicity.

    Sure, no one’s arguing that all humans are identical. But quite a lot of people have been arguing that groups of humans must be identical to other groups of humans on the inside, no matter how much outsides vary. That’s absurdly unlikely, and given our present understanding impossible to support as well, simply because we don’t how genes affect those things very well.

    Your position hasn’t been based on the available scientific evidence and reason. It hasn’t even been founded on a clear understanding of what the arguments are. It’s looked quite a bit more like a vehement rejection of something that goes against your social doctrines and political positions, and a systematic misrepresentation of what people are saying.

    Oh yeah, and demonization of opponents.

    If we removed the specific nouns and compared the structure of your arguments with those of the most rabid creationist, how would we distinguish the two?

  292. #292 Fur-Bearing Brick
    October 19, 2007

    You said you were leaving, Caledonian…

  293. #293 Caledonian
    October 19, 2007

    Beg pardon? No, I didn’t.

  294. #294 thalarctos
    October 19, 2007

    Except for those places where countless people insisted that genetic differences couldn’t be responsible for observed performance differences. Or when people acknowledged that some superficial things like appearance might vary, but insisted that genes affecting cognition must obviously be distributed evenly across geography and ethnicity.

    Citations, please?

  295. #295 PZ Myers
    October 19, 2007

    Except for those places where countless people insisted that genetic differences couldn’t be responsible for observed performance differences. Or when people acknowledged that some superficial things like appearance might vary, but insisted that genes affecting cognition must obviously be distributed evenly across geography and ethnicity.

    Complete nonsense. You really are a dishonest little shit, aren’t you?

    The reason those arguments are dismissed is that genes are not destiny, and the allelic composition of an individual does not completely specify the individual’s abilities. Babble about the genetic differences between human populations all you want, but genes do not represent a deterministic game of biological billiards — there is so much flexibility in human intellectual ability that is utterly dominated by environmental factors that these arguments are absurd.

    The closest thing to them are the arguments of astrologers that the gravitational influence of the moon might make people do crazy things, never mind that the variations they are fretting over are trivial against the actual effects of local experience, right here on planet earth.

    If we removed the specific nouns and compared the structure of your arguments with those of the most rabid creationist, how would we distinguish the two?

    You know, I look at the comment statistics and see that a quarter of the comments in the last hour are coming from you, and then I see intentionally obnoxious, and patently bogus claims like that from you, and my patience is at an end. I’ve put up with you for far too many years.

    I’m going to suggest a cooling off period and that you try to get over your obsession with splattering your noise on every single thread on this blog you admittedly despise. Go away for the weekend. I don’t want to see your name here for a few days.

    And if you can’t do that, or if you continue your fuckwitted dour pattern, I’m happy to ban you. Finally. And with the only regret that it has taken me this long to get sick of you.

  296. #296 Caledonian
    October 19, 2007

    The reason those arguments are dismissed is that genes are not destiny

    They’re not the ONLY kind of destiny. But tell someone who’s inherited the Huntington’s repeat mutation that genes aren’t destiny, and see how they respond to you.

  297. #297 PZ Myers
    October 19, 2007

    Good grief. Are you going to try to compare the genetic variation we see in human populations to a lethal genetic disease?

    I have told you that I’m fed up with you, and have given you a chance to go play somewhere else and give me an excuse not to ban you. This is your very last warning. Show some restraint and find something better to do with your weekend, or it’s good riddance.

  298. #298 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 19, 2007

    Or when people acknowledged that some superficial things like appearance might vary, but insisted that genes affecting cognition must obviously be distributed evenly across geography and ethnicity.

    All that I, for once, have tried to say is that it would be very naļve to expect that “genes affecting cognition” have the same geographical variation pattern as genes affecting skin color or hair shape. To repeat myself, for each gene you’d need to recognize its own set of races.

    Apart from the fact that intelligence, whatever that is, is very malleable over an individual’s lifetime — in other words, I think you overestimate the genetic contribution massively.

  299. #299 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 19, 2007

    Or when people acknowledged that some superficial things like appearance might vary, but insisted that genes affecting cognition must obviously be distributed evenly across geography and ethnicity.

    All that I, for once, have tried to say is that it would be very naļve to expect that “genes affecting cognition” have the same geographical variation pattern as genes affecting skin color or hair shape. To repeat myself, for each gene you’d need to recognize its own set of races.

    Apart from the fact that intelligence, whatever that is, is very malleable over an individual’s lifetime — in other words, I think you overestimate the genetic contribution massively.

  300. #300 Caledonian
    October 19, 2007

    I find it deeply ironic that you accuse me of making bogus claims, all the while misrepresenting what I and others have actually argued.

    No one has claimed that genes are destiny, or that genes determine everything about people, or even that human genetic variation is the most powerful influence on cognition. Those are all utterly absurd positions that no one has tried to support, but you’ve spent a whole lot of time attacking them nevertheless.

    Most likely you do this because it’s much easier to knock down that pathetic strawman than the actual position being defended, which is this:

    We have no reason to presume that all populations of human beings have the same distribution of any traits, neurological or otherwise, and that given a clearly demonstrated group-level difference in performance on all sorts of cognitive metrics between one large association of humans and most other associations of humans on the planet, it is entirely possible that genetic effects have an influence on this difference.

    NOT that skin color is an appropriate phenotypic marker for thte discussion, or that people in Africa are sentenced to inferiority because there’s something wrong with their genes, or whatever ridiculous lies you’ve come up with about the arguments lately. I can’t even keep track any longer.

    You are an intellectual coward who substitues his own prejudiced delusions about what people who contradict him must be arguing, instead of what they actually express. When your own sacred cows are in danger of being turned into hamburger, you let loose with the same behaviors you mock in the IDists, demonizing the people and arguments you reject and putting self-righteous certainty in the place of thought.

    What better way would there to demonstrate how you really value the free exchange of dangerous ideas than for you to ban me for expressing obvious truths you find distasteful? Truth alone concurs, Myers. Let’s see you defeat it.

  301. #301 thalarctos
    October 19, 2007
    Except for those places where countless people insisted that genetic differences couldn’t be responsible for observed performance differences. Or when people acknowledged that some superficial things like appearance might vary, but insisted that genes affecting cognition must obviously be distributed evenly across geography and ethnicity.

    Citations, please?

    That was my little joke. I never really expected Caledonian to actually back up any of his assertions.

  302. #302 windy
    October 19, 2007

    That was my little joke. I never really expected Caledonian to actually back up any of his assertions.

    That’s not very fair, since Caledonian was already told to get the hell out of Dodge. If we count instances outside this blog, there’s Francis Collins, who was reported saying

    …In a telephone interview, Collins said Watson’s statements are “the wildest form of speculation in a field where such speculation ought not to be engaged in.” Genetic factors for intelligence show no difference from one part of the world to another, he said.

    If that is what he really said, it’s as much a misrepresentation as to say that the factors (what factors?) do show a difference.

    A milder case in a recent Nature news report on human diversity

    “This is a very delicate time, and a dangerous time, as people start to come up with things that the general public, or the media, or various groups might misinterpret,” Sabeti says. “I like the fact that, so far, the evidence we find for natural selection in humans is only skin deep.”

    Which is also a misrepresentation – a lot of it seems to be in our guts.

  303. #303 thalarctos
    October 19, 2007

    That’s not very fair, since Caledonian was already told to get the hell out of Dodge.

    Eh. It didn’t stop him from responding to PZ’s post suggesting a break. Changing the subject and attacking, he can find the time for after being told to get out of Dodge–backing up his misrepresentation of our position, not so much.

    And I seriously doubt that PZ would ban him for actually backing up an assertion for once, rather than just dropping insults and disappearing. Hell, if Caledonian actually provided citations for his arguments for once, and then PZ banned him, I’d be the first one to call PZ out on that behavior as unfair.

    If we count instances outside this blog, there’s Francis Collins, who was reported saying

    What does that have to do with anything? PZ said no one on his side of the fence here was asserting what they were accused of, and Caledonian said there were “countless” instances of commenters making specific fallacies. I just asked him to provide some of them, is all. When Caledonian is talking about “countless people” here, I don’t see what a quote by Collins somewhere else has to do with this argument.

  304. #304 windy
    October 19, 2007

    Neither PZ nor Cal used the word “here” so I thought they might have been talking about the discussion in general, rather than in this thread.

  305. #305 thalarctos
    October 19, 2007

    Neither PZ nor Cal used the word “here” so I thought they might have been talking about the discussion in general, rather than in this thread.

    Or I could have misread it. Caledonian was talking about the poor quality of comments on this blog in general, so I thought that’s what the scope of his and PZ’s argument was, but the way this discussion has bounced around, I could have totally missed a change in scope, too.

  306. #306 Spaulding
    October 19, 2007

    PZ, #290:

    Not that there is anything wrong with it, but #230 isn’t particularly relevant, since no one on my side of the fence has been arguing for genetic identity between human populations.

    I agree that my point should be so trivial as to be unneccessary. However, the two recent threads showed strong and imediate accusatory reaction to anyone who made a statement in the form of “group A probably expresses more or less of phenotype X than does group B” or “there may be inter-group genotype differences that contribute to inter-group phenotypic differences in X.”

    Many of the commenters seem to take these mild statements and see other things instead: a recommendation for foreign policy, a denial of environmental influences, a denial that intra-group differences outweigh inter-group differences, or a suggestion that all inter-group phenotype differences neccessarily flow from the same genes. All of these interpretations are unwarranted, and where they were projected onto other people’s statements, I saw a lot of ugly straw-man battles.

    Obviously, the groups and phenotypes in question should raise peoples’ hackles when people extrapolate from nebulous data to prop up ignorant conclusions. But I don’t want to see taboos in intelligence research. As we find more genes implicated in the development of intelligences, we’re assuredly going to find unequal distribution of said genes, and it will be uneqal in ways that are awkward for doublethink versions of the philosophy of human equality.

    It’s going to be a hundred little racial versions of “girls are bad at math.”

    The price of that knowledge is that it’ll give lots of ammo to racists of all shades, and dealing with that is going to suck for a lot of people. Getting the knowledge will be the first step, and getting over it and treating people as individuals, with individual capacities to be challenged, will be the next step. I’d rather get started on it now than bury my head and expect that genetics will bear out my ideals of equality.

  307. #307 Tulse
    October 20, 2007

    windy:

    Certainly not that it’s useless, just that you need to control for environmental influences.

    Exactly. And once there are studies that have controlled for environmental influences in intelligence, let me know. All the studies I have seen suggest that environment plays a huge role in IQ scores, such that they have increased in the US on average over 20 points in 70 years. If you can explain how, in that context, we can make meaningful distinctions between the genetic contributions to the scores of genetically distinctive groups, I’m all ears, although it certainly looks to me that environmental contributions are likely to swamp any possible “racial” differences (presuming both that intelligence can be defined and measured in any reasonable way, and that “race” can be defined in any biologically sensible fashion).

  308. #308 Pinko Punko
    October 20, 2007

    Caledonian just favors the Larry Summers style “it could be possible.” Yeah, it could also be space rays. Given the existence of several other non-genetic variables, why would one need to even go to bat for a genetic one? Is it because the others are so difficult to control for and too obvious? Why search the haystack for the racist possible needle? Noone is saying something is impossible, C, they’re saying its highly unlikely or very very difficult to prove, given a high number of more easile observable and obvious factors. So why must you go to the wall for the possibility of something falling up instead of down? It is just so annoying. Also, PZ has every right to be annoyed at C, for sure. Highly annoying. The hyperbolic namecalling is so Sega BlogFight 1996 though. He needs some Wii tennis or something.

  309. #309 truth machine
    October 20, 2007

    It is far more likely that low intelligence is generally a genetic characteristic of those who suspect that low intelligence is generally a genetic characteristic of those of certain races than that low intelligence is generally a genetic characteristic of those of certain races.

  310. #310 truth machine
    October 20, 2007

    Given the existence of several other non-genetic variables, why would one need to even go to bat for a genetic one? Is it because the others are so difficult to control for and too obvious?

    No, it’s because of racism.

  311. #311 truth machine
    October 20, 2007

    I still fail to see why people who consider that differences in group averages might exist are taking an inherently racist point of view. Personally, I’m persuaded that differences exist and that they’re likely due to educational and environmental factors, including nutrition and racism.

    So many comments in this thread stemming from such a foolish strawman.

  312. #312 truth machine
    October 20, 2007

    “What’s racist is to claim it is genetic.”

    What if it’s true though? And backed by evidence?

    What if it’s true that you’re a mass murderer? And backed by evidence?

    Why would anyone even suggest that you’re a mass murderer, in the absence of evidence? Why would anyone even suggest that intelligence is based on race genetics? The answer to the latter is … racism.

  313. #313 truth machine
    October 20, 2007

    There are average population differences in heritable susceptibility to sickle-cell disease, for instance, and such differences correlate with skin colour. There is no a priori reason to suppose that the same is not true for intelligence.

    Yes, there are. Unless parenting, education, nutrition, and numerous other cultural factors have an effect on the presence of the sickle-cell trait that we’re not aware of.

  314. #314 truth machine
    October 20, 2007

    Maybe I *am* projecting my own nuanced and intelligent views on him, but that’s what I get when I read his comments.

    Ah, yes, because Caledonian’s blatant “project”ed misrepresentations are so nuanced and intelligent.

  315. #315 truth machine
    October 20, 2007

    I’m not saying blacks are less genetically intelligent on average

    Oh goody.

    I’m saying they might be.

    How boring. Shall we list all the things that might be true?

    Whites might be less genetically intelligent than blacks, for that matter — but due to their far superior economic and intellectual performance, I think if either group are less intelligent it’s probably blacks.

    “if either group are less intelligent” — you mean if either group has less genetic intelligence on average — but we have many reasons to think that there’s nothing to that “if”.

    As for the “probably” (which only applies given the unsubstantiated “if”) — if you leave all the documented historical reasons for white advantage, and the fact that black IQ is increasing faster than white out of your “Bayesian” analysis. A proper Bayesian analysis that leaves out all a priori racial bias yields blacks and whites probably being equivalent in terms of average genetic intelligence.

  316. #316 truth machine
    October 20, 2007

    I CLAIMED THAT *MAYBE* THE GROUP OF BLACK-SKINNED PEOPLE IS LESS INTELLIGENT ON AVERAGE THAN THE GROUP OF WHITE SKINNED PEOPLE.

    And maybe you’re racist and stupid. It’s not logically impossible, which is all one can say for your “maybe”.

  317. #317 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 20, 2007

    Caledonian on PZ:

    You are an intellectual coward who substitues his own prejudiced delusions about what people who contradict him must be arguing, instead of what they actually express.

    You have left out an important possibility: that people have honestly misunderstood you because they did not understand what you wrote. Given the fact that you don’t consider it necessary to ever explain what you mean, this ( = the misunderstanding is your fault, not PZ’s) should be the default hypothesis, considered correct until disproven. Yet you just ignore it.

    ————————

    And once again, sickle cell anemia is not correlated with skin color. It is correlated with coming from a certain part of West Africa. People in adjacent regions look just the same yet lack that allele altogether. Those African-Americans who have ancestors from Liberia have a serious likelihood of having sickle cell anemia; those who only have ancestors from Angola have the same likelihood as someone with only Norwegian ancestors, namely zero.

    If you want an example of a trait that is correlated to “race”, look for something else.

  318. #318 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 20, 2007

    Caledonian on PZ:

    You are an intellectual coward who substitues his own prejudiced delusions about what people who contradict him must be arguing, instead of what they actually express.

    You have left out an important possibility: that people have honestly misunderstood you because they did not understand what you wrote. Given the fact that you don’t consider it necessary to ever explain what you mean, this ( = the misunderstanding is your fault, not PZ’s) should be the default hypothesis, considered correct until disproven. Yet you just ignore it.

    ————————

    And once again, sickle cell anemia is not correlated with skin color. It is correlated with coming from a certain part of West Africa. People in adjacent regions look just the same yet lack that allele altogether. Those African-Americans who have ancestors from Liberia have a serious likelihood of having sickle cell anemia; those who only have ancestors from Angola have the same likelihood as someone with only Norwegian ancestors, namely zero.

    If you want an example of a trait that is correlated to “race”, look for something else.

  319. #319 truth machine
    October 20, 2007

    Ah, but you said much more than “maybe”:

    Enough of this nonsense about there not being any grounds for suspecting that black-skinned people tend to be less intelligent on average than light-skinned people. The economic and intellectual performance of the former group is incomparably worse, on every continent. The difference is, quite frankly, enormos. In light of this, surely the the Bayesian probability of their happening to be less intelligent (on average) oughtn’t be negligible.

    Likewise, there are grounds for suspecting that you are a racist.

  320. #320 truth machine
    October 20, 2007

    “Except for that you think blacks have lower “average genetic intelligence” than whites?”
    I’ve said that it’s a fucking POSSIBILITY. I didn’t say it’s my opinion.

    You said there was reason to suspect it, that there’s a non-negligible Bayesian probability — that’s not the same as “possibility”, liar.

  321. #321 truth machine
    October 20, 2007

    Well, there goes another chance for having a discussion on this topic.

    Once again, the shouters have won.

    As PZ says, “Reality says that race is a category error”. It’s not shouting, it’s indulging in such category errors, that makes fruitful discussion impossible. It’s like trying to discuss whether you’ve stopped beating your width.

  322. #322 truth machine
    October 20, 2007

    So you deny that black-skinned people and white-skinned people were separated for thousands of years? You don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.

    Snort. Odd that someone so clueful has a concept of human history not much different from that underlying “Why are there still monkeys?”

  323. #323 truth machine
    October 20, 2007

    “The Bell Curve is just a polite way to call nigger.”

    No no no! It’s *MAYBE* you’re a nigger.

  324. #324 truth machine
    October 20, 2007

    You do have a good point: putting emphasis on the possible biological differences will only get people less inclined to improve the standard of living in black neighbourhoods. So I concede that we should act as if there are no important biological differences between races.

    Not to mention that there’s no evidence of such differences (in regard to intelligence), including your Bayesian nonsense.

    Of course, this doesn’t change the fact that maybe genetic factors have played an important role in the relative success of different races.

    And maybe you’re a mass murderer — but that’s actually considerably more likely.

    But in view of what you said, I can accept that it would be pointless, and possibly even deleterious, to bring it up. So your blog posts on race probably aren’t as “fundamentalistic” as I first thought.

    Gee, have you ever made that sort of mistake before?

  325. #325 truth machine
    October 20, 2007

    Despite your efforts, it is The Truth that the economic situation of black Africans, as compared with the rest of the human race, may be in part for genetic reasons.

    In the same sense that it may be in part because the name of the continent they live on starts with an “A”.

  326. #326 truth machine
    October 20, 2007

    I don’t think this group of people have convincingly shown themselves to be as genetically intelligent as the rest of the human race.

    You haven’t convincingly shown yourself to be as genetically intelligent as a toadstool.

  327. #327 truth machine
    October 20, 2007

    Huh? It’s what I’ve been saying all along. I’m not convinced that black Africans are as intelligent as the rest of us. Maybe they are, maybe they’re not. End of story.

    “the rest of us”? That’s pure racism. The fact is that many black Africans are a lot more intelligent than you are.

  328. #328 truth machine
    October 20, 2007

    Then I defended myself against misrepresentations and accusations of racism.

    But your “defense” reveals it. “I’m not convinced that black Africans are as intelligent as the rest of us” — what makes you think you’re part of “us”? Since you’re obviously very stupid, perhaps you have inherited stupidity genes from African ancestry. Or perhaps you have your own personal stupidity mutation. The point is that you talk about averages, but you don’t really mean it — you’re talking about “us” vs. “them”.

  329. #329 truth machine
    October 20, 2007

    The idea of inter-group differences in average expression of variable traits does not imply racism. Expectation of exactly equal average expression between groups appears to be motivated by fallacious is/ought confusion.

    And what motivates such an idiotic strawman?

  330. #330 truth machine
    October 20, 2007

    JRY: I’m not an expert, but I think that it’s dangerous to start rounding up people who make racist comments, because it leads to the idea of thought-crimes.

    No one’s rounding anyone up asshole.

  331. #331 truth machine
    October 20, 2007

    “Not that there is anything wrong with it, but #230 isn’t particularly relevant, since no one on my side of the fence has been arguing for genetic identity between human populations.”

    Except for those places where countless people insisted that genetic differences couldn’t be responsible for observed performance differences.

    Caledonian’s “except”, like so much of his “logic”, is a non sequitur. #230 is irrelevant for just the reason PZ said. Claiming that performance differences aren’t the result of genetic differences is nothing like claiming that there is “exactly equal average expression between groups”, which is the strawman that #230 attacked. Caledonian rails against stupidity, but ironically he is demonstrably quite stupid himself.

  332. #332 truth machine
    October 20, 2007

    “You are an intellectual coward who substitues his own prejudiced delusions about what people who contradict him must be arguing, instead of what they actually express.”

    You have left out an important possibility: that people have honestly misunderstood you because they did not understand what you wrote.

    There’s another important possibility: that people honestly understand Caledonian when he repeatedly moves goalposts, backtracks, and changes the subject to dodge legitimate criticism.

  333. #333 Nix
    October 20, 2007

    Far be it from me to defend Caledonian, but PZ has gone too far above in comment #297. There are combinations of alleles that can affect brain function in non-lethal ways.

    e.g. I’ve got (fairly severe) Asperger’s. Autism and the autistic spectrum is one of the most strongly heritable of all neurological disorders: you can see differences in the brains of people with autism (fairly subtle ones and probably not the primary cause of the disorder, but still).

    That’s not lethal. Its genetic cause is not yet known (very probably there are many variations which can cause the same cluster of symptoms we call `autism’), but there almost certainly *is* one.

    There’s diversity and polymorphisms all over the human genome (well, other than the ancient strongly conserved areas where any functional change means you die). Why not in the area of neurodevelopment too?

    (Of course connecting this to `more/less intelligent’ is arguing far in advance of the data, and connecting *that* to skin colour is insanity: as others on this thread have said, by that reasoning Africans should be *more* intelligent than us, what with the African environment having selected for intelligence at least once in the recent geological past. But it’s lunacy anyway: a few tens of thousands of years of isolation isn’t enough to change this sort of thing, and unless I forgot a lot of geography Africa has never *been* isolated from the rest of the world, at least not while humans have existed. Reproductive isolation of that population doesn’t exist either, so gene flow rates can be expected to be high.)

  334. #334 windy
    October 20, 2007

    And once again, sickle cell anemia is not correlated with skin color. It is correlated with coming from a certain part of West Africa.

    It *could* still be statistically correlated with skin color, just a lot more weakly. The alleles for lactose tolerance or cystic fibrosis might be correlated with skin color as well on a larger scale, despite lactose tolerance arising independently in Africans. I don’t think that zooming in on a bit more restricted geographic region really changes the situation – you’ll always find a lot of people that lack the allele in question and a lot of smaller-scale structure. Rather than saying that we should never look at larger geographical groupings, I think we should point out that “correlated” just means that a trait is a bit more common somewhere, not that everyone has it.

    People in adjacent regions look just the same yet lack that allele altogether. Those African-Americans who have ancestors from Liberia have a serious likelihood of having sickle cell anemia; those who only have ancestors from Angola have the same likelihood as someone with only Norwegian ancestors, namely zero.

    I wouldn’t be so sure. Check where Angola is in relation to the distribution of the sickle cell trait

  335. #335 Monado
    October 20, 2007

    It’s fairly easy to show that political conservatism is a lot more heritable than IQ. And that makes sense: one of the nine behaviours that you can observe about babies from very young is whether or not they like new things.

    But with intelligence, especially in the day-to-day, it’s almost impossible to separate the observer from the observed. I read (was it in Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man? or perhaps an article in Atlantic) about a school where the student’s locker numbers were recorded in the “IQ” blank. And the numbers must have been over 110 – because suddenly the students started getting better marks. The teachers had been told the false IQs; and believing that the students were smart, began answering their questions in more detail and expecting more of them in class.

  336. #336 Pinko Punko
    October 20, 2007

    truth machine is on fire!

  337. #337 Alaya
    October 20, 2007

    Jesus H. Christ, this thread is depressing. Is ANY other black person reading this?

    So, how WILL we deal with the problem of those ignorant darkies in Africa, predisposed by a lack of intelligence to wallow in misery (like, you know, lemurs)? Of course their problems have nothing to do with punitive World Bank policies, widespread disease and malnutrition, and lack of education. And by golly, I sure know from personal experience that having an IQ over 120 just means you’re an economic and practical genius, set for life.

    Of course, it helps if you were born to the comfortable upper-middle class, with access to higher education, the internet and leisure time enough to take advantage of it.

    But, whatever, I’m sure it’s great pontificating about the genetic inferiority of an ENTIRE CONTINENT with other white people who have never been there.

    The only bright spot? PZ opening a can of whoop-ass on Caledonian. About fucking time.

  338. #338 tomh
    October 20, 2007

    Alaya said

    Everything, just right. Can’t improve on that.

  339. #339 Caledonian
    October 21, 2007

    David Marjanovi?:

    You have left out an important possibility: that people have honestly misunderstood you because they did not understand what you wrote.

    There are several problems with that hypothesis.

    1) The words in question are quite simple and straightforward.
    2) The people doing the ‘misunderstanding’ have publically demonstrated academic skills sufficient to grasp the meaning of far more complex texts.
    3) Hanlon’s Razor can only go so far – eventually the stupidity required to account for events becomes so improbable that malice becomes the parsimonious explanation.

    People aren’t bothering to read the text carefully and honestly, because they don’t wish to – it’s much easier to simply take for granted the things you’d prefer to ‘know’.

    truth machine

    Claiming that performance differences aren’t the result of genetic differences is nothing like claiming that there is “exactly equal average expression between groups”, which is the strawman that #230 attacked.

    If you’re talking about performance differences in the abstract, the claim is absurd. Variation in genes that affect the development and functioning of the brain will result in differences in performance.

    If you’re talking about the specific performance differences at hand, your claim has no merit, because we don’t understand the biology well enough to assign weights to the different factors. There are simply no grounds for excluding genetic variation between population groups as a factor in observed performance differences.

  340. #340 thalarctos
    October 21, 2007

    Heh. Looks like somebody doesn’t know how to quit you, PZ.

  341. #341 Don't Panic
    October 21, 2007

    Caledonian, the words themselves can be quite simple and straightforward, but the way you assemble them complex and unobvious. ei? = -1 is composed of simple, straightforward symbols, but understanding it isn’t a triviality to most. And not without some explanation or background. 2+2 = 5, is also made of simple objects but it’s wrong. I’ve seen you write things that fall into both these categories. But most of the time you write the equivalent of: “2 + = 5″. Your penchant for making unstated assumptions leads us back to “that people have honestly misunderstood you because they did not understand what you wrote.”.

    Oh, I see. You’re again going to claim that everyone who disagrees with you or even questions your pronouncements from upon high is doing it out of malice. I know your contrariness has been discussed to death. But this persistent claim that that you write clear, unambiguous, evidence-backed statements and that we’re all just either too stupid to understand, or too stubborn to admit that you’re right in all things … well, it really is moving from annoying to trollish. Do we really need to rehash the long discussions we had back in the ADHD/mental “disorders” threads of July? I was hoping that PZ wouldn’t banish you because you certainly aren’t as obnoxious as JS was, and sometimes it is good to have a contrarian. But I think you are pushing the line (as always) and have a tone deaf ear for how far you can go.

  342. #342 truth machine
    October 21, 2007

    “Claiming that performance differences aren’t the result of genetic differences is nothing like claiming that there is “exactly equal average expression between groups”, which is the strawman that #230 attacked.”

    If you’re talking about performance differences in the abstract, the claim is absurd.

    More evidence of Caledonian’s stupidity. I wasn’t talking about performance differences at all, I was talking about a false equation between two different claims. Whether one of those claims is absurd is irrelevant to that — duh.

  343. #343 truth machine
    October 21, 2007

    Alaya: right on. On the bright side, there are plenty of people here who can see that even taking the question of whether “dark-skinned peoples” have “lower genetic intelligence on average” as one worth pursuing is racist. It’s akin to the theism of those who think that it’s worth investigating (other than to debunk) whether prayer is efficacious — to even entertain the possibility that studies might show such efficacy requires theistic assumptions that fly in the face of everything else we know. In the case racial genetic inferior intelligence, the underlying assumptions are of the same sort as those triggered by “welfare queen”, which was intentionally coined as a racist epithet by Lee Atwater in service of Ronald Reagan’s aim of dismantling field-leveling social programs.

  344. #344 Caledonian
    October 21, 2007

    You’re again going to claim that everyone who disagrees with you or even questions your pronouncements from upon high is doing it out of malice.

    No. I’m saying that people who repeatedly make untrue statements about what I have claimed are probably not acting out of simple misunderstanding – malice is in some cases the best explanation.

    Such as the suggestion that I’m discussing the possibility that “dark-skinned people” are inherently less intelligent than their genes.

    That’s wrong for multiple reasons, right there, but most especially because it isn’t what I argued. Are you really suggesting that truth machine is so dumb that he makes that claim out of a series of repeated and honest mistakes?

  345. #345 Caledonian
    October 21, 2007

    Sorry, that should be *because of* their genes.

    This is another fascinating topic in addition to the ones already at hand: why have so many people responded to the idea that social concepts of race, and/or “dark” skin colors, are what determines the populations in question, when that has never been the case? What causes so many people (and it’s the clear majority of posters at this point) to substitute something else for the arguments being made?

  346. #346 thalarctos
    October 21, 2007

    Except for those places where countless people insisted that genetic differences couldn’t be responsible for observed performance differences. Or when people acknowledged that some superficial things like appearance might vary, but insisted that genes affecting cognition must obviously be distributed evenly across geography and ethnicity.

    I’m still waiting for you to back up this assertion with citations. Seeing as how they’re “countless”, finding and citing a few examples ought to be trivially easy for you.

  347. #347 thalarctos
    October 21, 2007

    PZ, I know you threatened to ban Caledonian if he didn’t go away for the weekend, and I know he’s already broken that condition. However, it seems like your threat has actually gotten us a window where he’ll behave civilly to other commenters.

    So given that opportunity, I want to ask him a couple of questions, and I’d like to request that–if he responds civilly to the questions below–you not ban him for responding reasonably to questions asked of him in this comment. I think he’s given you plenty of reasons to ban him over the years, but responding reasonably for once to questions I asked of him in this comment would not be one of those reasons.

    Caledonian:

    This whole debate had its origins in James Watson’s statements, which Martin analyzed above into two categories: one of which is indisputably racist, and one of which is arguing way ahead of any data with a racist bias.

    Do you agree with Martin that:

    1) basing statements about a whole continent on what “people” who “have to” deal with “black employees” “know” is an indisputably racist overgeneralization from biased anecdote?

    2) that arguing about Africa’s economic prospects based on ill-characterized concepts of “race” and “intelligence” is overarguing what little genetic data we have?

    You keep twisting your opponents’ stance, which is why I asked you to provide examples of your assertions above.

    Because we already have sufficient reasons for Africa’s plight: historical and economic exploitation of its resources by the colonial powers, poverty, disease, and malnutrition, a stifling Church presence in many places, and lack of access to educational opportunities.

    Wouldn’t Occam’s razor suggest that–instead of trying to extrapolate insufficiently understood genetic data and non-rigorous definitions of “race” and “intelligence” to retrofit an explanation onto the situation–we should go with the sufficient explanation we already have, and address those problems? Then and only then, if that doesn’t work at the expected rate, *once the genetics are rigorous and solidly understood*, should we start casting around in there for explanations.

    I mean, if you’re going to make a positive assertion, you’re expected to back it up with evidence, and your genetic “evidence” is nowhere near ready to back Watson up.

    If you disagree, please clearly connect the dots for us from the genetic status quo to the policy consequences Watson asserts. Thank you.

  348. #348 Caledonian
    October 21, 2007

    However, it seems like your threat has actually gotten us a window where he’ll behave civilly to other commenters.

    Or your perceptions of me have changed. Since my behavior certainly hasn’t.

    For an example of my words being mutilated completely out of their actual meaning, take a look at PZ responding to my Huntington’s argument in #296 and #297. He gets the nature of the argument completely wrong (it’s not a comparison), ignores the actual argument (a demonstration case that disproves his point) and involves a non-sequitur: he was the one to bring up the “genes are destiny” angle, and then only to knock it down.

    (I don’t have to prove I’m not a racist. The people insisting that *they know* what my motivations and positions consist of are the ones who can reasonably be expected to point out the places where I’ve made such arguments. But they don’t do that – because they can’t. It’s much easier to simply repeat the accusation over and over again instead of examine the arguments.)

  349. #349 Ichthyic
    October 21, 2007

    It’s not that Watson is necessarily racist, he’s just… old, and therefore racist stuff just pops into his head, evidently.

    http://www.physorg.com/news111949427.html

    “I am mortified about what has happened,” Watson said. “More importantly, I cannot understand how I could have said what I am quoted as having said.

    “I can certainly understand why people, reading those words, have reacted in the ways they have. To all those who have drawn the inference from my words that Africa, as a continent, is somehow genetically inferior, I can only apologize unreservedly. That is not what I meant. More importantly from my point of view, there is no scientific basis for such a belief.”

    not saying I ever took much stock in what an 79 year old x-ray crystallographer had to say on the application of genetics and behavior to begin with, but I really think if there is to be a discussion about genetics and intelligence, it certainly shouldn’t revolve around the ramblings of someone who can’t even recall what or why he said something.

    like I said, long before, he’s just an “old bigot”.

    my own pop, 80, who I know is not a racist, often spouts similarly racist gibberish from time to time, and also cannot explain why.

  350. #350 Ichthyic
    October 21, 2007

    he was the one to bring up the “genes are destiny” angle, and then only to knock it down.

    I have to agree with Cale on this point. PZ is very fond of creating strawmen of genetic predispositions towards certain classes of behaviors in order to knock them down.

    odd coming from a developmental biologist, I always thought.

    probably a result of the fights that occurred after the release of EO Wilson’s Sociobiology, where there were generated inordinate fears of social darwinist types misusing even the preliminary results of the study of human behavior from a genetic/evolutionary standpoint.

    I mean I could understand how public misconception can result from the MISUSE of genetic information; just witness the current fracas over Watson’s ill-phrased commentary (that he apparently can’t even recall saying). However, I tire of the whole movement to metaphorically toss the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.

    There is obviously an interaction between genes, epigenes, development, and environment, that produce both morphological and behavioral end-phenotypes.

    there is simply no reason to conclude that behavior is any less subject to these influences than any other variable morphology.

  351. #351 Caledonian
    October 21, 2007

    See, here’s the problem:

    1) basing statements about a whole continent on what “people” who “have to” deal with “black employees” “know” is an indisputably racist overgeneralization from biased anecdote?

    2) that arguing about Africa’s economic prospects based on ill-characterized concepts of “race” and “intelligence” is overarguing what little genetic data we have?

    These questions assume key points that are at the heart of the debate and/or repeat fallacious assumptions about the arguments being made.

    Africa’s prospects are quite dim, not because all Africans have been lumped together in some arbitrary racial category, but because the demonstrated ability of the various groups and subgroups is terrible. This has nothing to do with genetics or our understanding of them, there’s no genetic data being brought into the argument. There’s further variation of the average between specific ethnic and national groups – some do better and some do worse. “Race” has nothing to do with this.

    In regards to #1: Watson’s statements about Africa weren’t based on his statements about black employees, they were based on the truly dismal results of many different psychometric examinations, so the central premise of the question doesn’t hold. And he was quite right about that: on the population level, various parts of the world perform better or worse than other parts on cognition-measuring instruments, and sub-Saharan Africa in particular performs particularly poorly. There’s variation within that large geographic designation – I believe the Khosians perform especially badly, but it’s been a long time since I read the relevant studies – but the whole region’s intellectual development is stunted, and deeply.

    Do you understand just how significant a population-level difference of more than a standard deviation is? Very.

    In regards to #2: There’s no genetic data involved in the argument. We’re not overreaching the data because it isn’t part of the point in the first place! Neither is “race”! And the objections about “intelligence” have been profoundly ignorant – it’s like listening to Creationists talk about evolution and hearing them replace all of the scientific terminology and concepts with common, intuitive meanings that are utterly wrong. We have a great many people contributing comments who obviously know very little about psychology.

    Because we already have sufficient reasons for Africa’s plight: historical and economic exploitation of its resources by the colonial powers, poverty, disease, and malnutrition, a stifling Church presence in many places, and lack of access to educational opportunities.

    Sufficient? Sufficient?! That’s utterly wrong – we have no ability to determine from first principles what sorts of cognitive deficits would result from any one of the myriad factors sSA is plagued with, and we certainly can’t tell what the result of combinations of them is!

    There are specific cases – Muramasa syndrome, for example – where we determined the statistical effect of a single cause of mental impairment by conducting empirical research and finding out what it is. That’s why we can say fetal mercury poisoning at such-and-such concentrations causes a five-point IQ deficit, or why Down Syndrome causes on average such-and-such an IQ deficit.

    In the case of sSA, we know that there are a whole host of possible negative influences: diseases, parasites, lack of education, lack of stimuation. (Whenever everyone around you uses simple and concrete reasoning, you’re not likely to ever develop your potential for abstract thought because you never need it.)

    We cannot quantify the total effect of all of those causes, and they’re not uniform in the first place. The only way we could even begin to guess would be to look for outbreaks where groups which previously had the same influences and similar performance and hope that the outbreak left unaffected ‘control groups’.

    There are no grounds for excluding statistical, group-level differences in genetic distribution from the list of influences responsible for sSA’s performance. Period. We do not understand how genes contribute to intellectual development, and we do not understand how disease, varied forms of malnutrition, and parasites inhibit intellectual development. We can’t quantify any part of this process well.

    Is that direct and exhaustive enough for you to accept? Do you have any arguments you’d like to bring against the points? This would be the time – I can’t even begin to guess how long it will take PZ to get around to banning me, and I’m amazed it’s taken him so long to carry out his threats.

  352. #352 thalarctos
    October 21, 2007

    Or your perceptions of me have changed. Since my behavior certainly hasn’t.

    Sounds like a testable hypothesis. Quantitatively, your average post since PZ’s threat to ban you is already significant longer than your drive-by invective was (epithets are almost always more efficient than actual discussion), and I think a textual analysis of the rates of “fool”, “moron”, “hysterical feminist”, etc. pre- and post-threat would reveal interesting differentials. As well as the factors PZ mentioned: frequency of first posts, proportion of posts to other posters, etc. Would you be willing to test your claim that there is no change in your behavior?

    Plus, you’re actually answering questions answered of you. That’s definitely a qualitative change.

    Because we already have sufficient reasons for Africa’s plight: historical and economic exploitation of its resources by the colonial powers, poverty, disease, and malnutrition, a stifling Church presence in many places, and lack of access to educational opportunities.

    Sufficient? Sufficient?! That’s utterly wrong – we have no ability to determine from first principles what sorts of cognitive deficits would result from any one of the myriad factors sSA is plagued with, and we certainly can’t tell what the result of combinations of them is!

    Exactly–we can’t tell from first principles. But there is a great deal of empirical literature on the results of all of those factors that suggest lines of research. There’s no need to race ahead of the genetic data to suggest additional unsupported ones, when those other lines of research are already well-documented.

    It doesn’t mean that genetic hypotheses can *never* be explored, but until you get rid of those multiple known confounds, your genetic data will be crap, anyway, because you’ll be comparing apples and oranges.

    Not everything can be derived from first principles; if you require that for sufficiency, then you’ll never be convinced by any amount of evidence. So, if evidence is orthogonal, we’re not talking about science anymore in that case.

    And for what it’s worth–zero, since we’re talking about the scientific basis of medical research here–in my opinion, with you, as opposed to with James, it’s not about the racism qua racism. With you, I think that you’re a radical quietist who is quite happy with the status quo. And if the problem is indeed genetic, then not only is there no need to address it, but addressing it would be counterproductive and wasteful. So you can think of yourself as fair-minded, and remain a quietist, without having to deal with any cognitive dissonance between the two principles.

    If the activists are right, however, then there are clear indicators about what steps need to be taken, and you’re intelligent enough to recognize the entailments: that radical quietism in that situation is inconsistent with fairness and justice. So that causes cognitive dissonance, and in order to keep both, you overreach the existing data in favor of poorly-supported genetic hypotheses.

    That’s my opinion, and scientifically, it’s worth nothing. I only mention it because you perceive that you are being forced to defend yourself against charges of racism. Unless you have cause to refer to it again, I never will, and we’ll confine ourselves to discussion of the scientific facts.

    Which is that your insistence that sufficiency be derived from first principles is inherently unsatisfiable in this situation, so no amount of empirical data will have any impact on you. As I explained above, I don’t think it’s for the same reasons at all, but that stance happens to be indistinguishable from James’ “I don’t need data” above.

    Can you clarify how sufficiency can be established from first principles in this case, or is your position simply that nothing can ever be done by definition? If so, how do you reconcile that with actually looking at the science?

  353. #353 Caledonian
    October 22, 2007

    Quantitatively, your average post since PZ’s threat to ban you is already significant longer than your drive-by invective was

    And look what a mistake that’s been.

    “hysterical feminist”

    Hmm… I recall using the word ‘hysterical’ to describe many people, but not ‘feminist’ as an epiphet. Can you provide a link to an example post?

    As well as the factors PZ mentioned: frequency of first posts, proportion of posts to other posters, etc.

    First posts are necessarily random and rare – they occur only when a new thread happens to be started just as I enter the site. It’s chance alone that I happened to get several.

    As for proportion of posts to other posters – if I respond to even a fraction of the people demanding responses, I’m accused of posting too much. If I do not, I am accused of posting too little.

    You cannot have it both ways.

    Plus, you’re actually answering questions answered of you. That’s definitely a qualitative change.

    I often do that. People are usually too careless to notice the answers, much less understand them.

  354. #354 Caledonian
    October 22, 2007

    As for your specific points:

    Exactly–we can’t tell from first principles. But there is a great deal of empirical literature on the results of all of those factors that suggest lines of research. There’s no need to race ahead of the genetic data to suggest additional unsupported ones, when those other lines of research are already well-documented.

    This is absurd. That intelligence is highly heritable is VERY well-known, that genes can be partially responsible for highly heritable traits is known, and we are rapidly discovering that many aspects of personality and general cognition are significantly influenced by genes. Your claim that genetic influences on intelligence are “unsupported” is totally at odds with the actual state of our knowledge.

    What’s so curious is that the same people who so vehemently deny that inherent and inborn factors can have a serious influence on intelligent are ALSO usually the same people who insist that homosexuality has a genetic basis. This may certainly be true – but the data and logic they reject in one case they accept in another, depending on whether they like the results or not.

    It doesn’t mean that genetic hypotheses can *never* be explored, but until you get rid of those multiple known confounds, your genetic data will be crap, anyway, because you’ll be comparing apples and oranges.

    Only if you tried to isolate genetic effects empirically, in the populations with multiple probable factors. Which no one is likely to attempt, because it’s so difficult as to be stupid to attempt. Scientists are not generally as stupid as that.

    With you, I think that you’re a radical quietist who is quite happy with the status quo.

    How curious that you’re so unwilling to draw even obvious conclusions (that you don’t like) and say that it’s because of insufficient evidence, and next you begin making speculative claims about my motivations and purposes.

    If you had been paying attention for – oh, any substantial period during the time I’ve been posting here – you would have noticed that I am profoundly dissatisfied with the status quo. In every sense.

  355. #355 thalarctos
    October 22, 2007

    Can you provide a link to an example post?

    Summer of 2006, one of the female genital mutilation threads. I happen to remember it because I was finishing my dissertation; I’m not going to go hunt the particular post down, though–you had one newspaper anecdote from one woman who didn’t resent her operation, and you wanted to know what the “hysterical feminist” thought of it.

    I often do that. People are usually too careless to notice the answers, much less understand them.

    So does that mean you’re going to answer my question about first principles? We promise to notice if you do.

  356. #356 thalarctos
    October 22, 2007

    Your claim that genetic influences on intelligence are “unsupported” is totally at odds with the actual state of our knowledge.

    So connect the dots: how does the actual state of our knowledge lead to writing Africa’s prospects off?

    What’s so curious is that the same people who so vehemently deny that inherent and inborn factors can have a serious influence on intelligent are ALSO usually the same people who insist that homosexuality has a genetic basis. This may certainly be true – but the data and logic they reject in one case they accept in another, depending on whether they like the results or not.

    Non-sequitur; you’re goalpost-shifting. Let us stick to one topic at a time; we can discuss homosexuality later.

    Only if you tried to isolate genetic effects empirically, in the populations with multiple probable factors. Which no one is likely to attempt, because it’s so difficult as to be stupid to attempt. Scientists are not generally as stupid as that.

    So how do you determine what is and isn’t a sufficient explanation?

    How curious that you’re so unwilling to draw even obvious conclusions (that you don’t like) and say that it’s because of insufficient evidence, and next you begin making speculative claims about my motivations and purposes.

    As I said, it is an opinion, which makes it worth absolutely zero in a scientific context. The only reason I mentioned it is that you seemed to think I was accusing you of being a racist. As I said, the only reason I mentioned my opinion at all is to reassure you on that point; we don’t need to discuss it any further than that.

    So, in light of all the literature of the effects of malnutrition on learning and such topics, what *would* you consider enough to consider an explanation sufficient, and how would you validate that?

  357. #357 Ichthyic
    October 22, 2007

    Only if you tried to isolate genetic effects empirically, in the populations with multiple probable factors. Which no one is likely to attempt, because it’s so difficult as to be stupid to attempt. Scientists are not generally as stupid as that.

    at least, not before a much better mapping of the human epigenome is done, anyway, which would go a LONG way in enabling us to control for environmental effects on heritable traits. There are several groups pushing for funding to proceed on researching a complete map of the epigenome as I write this. Even twin studies cannot currently completely control for differing epigenetic factors, though that’s not saying there aren’t plenty of conclusive twin studies that examine linkage between genetics and behavior, nor that there are always epigenetic factors to consider (epigenetics would go a ways to explain differences, for example, but not similarities across a large sample size)

    still wondering why PZ hasn’t jumped on the opportunity presented by the recent epigenetics special that aired on PBS on the 16th, as the work in this area directly impacts the field of developmental biology (is part of, in fact).

    the pharma cos. are all over it, since there are demonstrable effects of chemicals on epigenome markers (already some positive studies looking at treatments for certain types of cancers via control of the epigenome; some potential for treating autism as well).

  358. #358 Caledonian
    October 22, 2007

    Summer of 2006, one of the female genital mutilation threads. I happen to remember it because I was finishing my dissertation; I’m not going to go hunt the particular post down, though

    Yet you don’t refrain from using this as a point in the argument even though you can’t conveniently access the actual instance and your recollection might be mistaken?

    Hmm… that’s almost like some of the other posters here, including one who’s frequently condemned for doing the same thing – what’s the name, it’s on the tip of my tongue… begins with a K, I think…

    So connect the dots: how does the actual state of our knowledge lead to writing Africa’s prospects off?

    1) It’s not *all* of Africa.
    2) Ignoring the fine details of #1 for the sake of simplicity: speaking in terms of populations, not individuals, Africans are not mentally well-developed. This has profound implications for its economic development, the chance of deep political reform, and the ability of large groups of people to use aid properly and make useful demands regarding aid upon richer regions of the world.

    Whether you like it or not, most social and political developments take place because of elite individuals who direct and channel the activity of large numbers of the less-gifted – and the twenty-point differential in IQ means that there’s a whole lot fewer elite with the necessary skills and abilities.

    Keep in mind also that IQ tests do not measure the more sophisticated aspects of intelligence, but those aspects are fragile and easily disrupted, as well as requiring a firm foundation of more basic functions to exist. (This is why frontal lobe damage can have a profound effect on the capacity of human beings to function, yet have no effect on IQ – because it disrupts some of the subtle control mechanisms but doesn’t touch the primitive foundations of thought themselves.)

    If factors have a certain effect on IQ scores, they will have had a much larger effect on the advanced functions that we cannot easily measure. And those are desperately needed.

    Non-sequitur; you’re goalpost-shifting. Let us stick to one topic at a time; we can discuss homosexuality later.

    Wrong. You do not understand the nature of the goal.

    The point is not to discuss homosexuality. The point is to demonstrate that people in this community accept arguments on one topic that they reject vehemently on other – it’s a massive double standard, and that betrays a lack of logic and consistency.

    So how do you determine what is and isn’t a sufficient explanation?

    If you’re asking the question seriously, this discussion needs to stop at once, because you lack the basic knowledge necessary to make or understand reasonable arguments on the topic.

    If you’re not asking the question seriously, I see no reason to rise to this bait.

    The only reason I mentioned it is that you seemed to think I was accusing you of being a racist.

    Everyone else has. Why not you? Do you think you’re better than everyone else? :cP

    So, in light of all the literature of the effects of malnutrition on learning and such topics, what *would* you consider enough to consider an explanation sufficient, and how would you validate that?

    Changing only that one factor and eliminating the difference. Without a profound understanding of development and environmental factors, that’s pretty much the only way – empiricism.

  359. #359 Graculus
    October 22, 2007

    Caledonian:

    I think a large part of the issues that people have with you stem from the fact that you do not lay out your position, people have to “tease” it out of you, sometimes by brute force. To me (at least) it looks like a stupid game, not a discussion.

    Lay out your position, with reasoning, and people will not be so hostile to you.

    Her’s mine:

    I hold that Africa’s problems are complex and varied, and given the history of that continent (disease, malnutrition and colonialism being major factors) and given the great genetic variety in Africa, it is highly unlikely that any measured differences in IQ scores are genetically based.

    Do you agree or disagree? If so, where do you disagree and why?

  360. #360 thalarctos
    October 22, 2007

    at least, not before a much better mapping of the human epigenome is done, anyway, which would go a LONG way in enabling us to control for environmental effects on heritable traits.

    Yes, but that still does not change the basic problem of evaluating and validating the evidence. And the epigenome is not going to be as simple as just putting a mouse in a blender and testing the soup for gene expression.

    You still have to determine what evidence is sufficient for inclusion in the epigenome, and how. So we don’t get away from the basic problem I’m asking Caledonian to answerl the epigenome is just a different approach.

  361. #361 thalarctos
    October 22, 2007
    Summer of 2006, one of the female genital mutilation threads. I happen to remember it because I was finishing my dissertation; I’m not going to go hunt the particular post down, though

    Yet you don’t refrain from using this as a point in the argument even though you can’t conveniently access the actual instance and your recollection might be mistaken?

    PZ, can you grep “hysterical feminist” from Caledonian’s summer 2006 corpus and provide the citation, so he can quit bogging down in irrelevant minutiae and get back on topic? If it helps, you can grep the same term in my response to him (I was RavenT at the time, I think). Thanks!

    1) It’s not *all* of Africa.

    Watson, whose comments kicked this brouhaha off, included not only all of Africa, but also “black employees”. If you and James Smith were not defending his comments, you did an insufficient job of distinguishing the point you were making from his “points”.

    Whether you like it or not, most social and political developments take place because of elite individuals who direct and channel the activity of large numbers of the less-gifted – and the twenty-point differential in IQ means that there’s a whole lot fewer elite with the necessary skills and abilities.

    If by skills and abilities, you mean “taking IQ tests”, sure, because that’s basically what IQ scores measure. But the successes of microlending programs such as Mohammed Yunus’ work, Hamish Fraser’s electronic medical record work in Haiti and Peru, and Tapan Parikh’s work with computers for sustainable development, show that if you provide even uneducated villagers with necesary tools and instructions, they are capable of learning and carrying out essential tasks for their own economic improvement and medical well-being. IQ scores simply don’t matter in this situation.

    If factors have a certain effect on IQ scores, they will have had a much larger effect on the advanced functions that we cannot easily measure. And those are desperately needed.

    The work cited above, and other work in sustainable development currently in progress, refutes the assertion that without high IQ scores, uneducated villagers cannot participate in meaningful activities for economic, educational, and medical improvement.

    Wrong. You do not understand the nature of the goal.

    Before you bog down in irrelevant minutiae again, let us finish talking about sustainable development, and how it refutes your assertions about the relevance of IQ scores. Then we can move to logic, homosexuality, or whatever else you want to discuss.

    If you’re asking the question seriously, this discussion needs to stop at once, because you lack the basic knowledge necessary to make or understand reasonable arguments on the topic. If you’re not asking the question seriously, I see no reason to rise to this bait.

    This is PZ’s place, and if he wants the discussion to stop, then I will stop. Otherwise, you don’t get to decide if and when the discussion stops, although you can always stalk off in a huff if you want, achieving the same effect. Or you can just stop participating in it–same thing.

    On the bright side for you, if my arguments are that unreasonable, then your refutation should be trivially easy.

  362. #362 thalarctos
    October 22, 2007

    Whether you like it or not, most social and political developments take place because of elite individuals who direct and channel the activity of large numbers of the less-gifted – and the twenty-point differential in IQ means that there’s a whole lot fewer elite with the necessary skills and abilities.

    Forgot to mention this above, but another advantage of the sustainable development efforts I referred to is that, by working directly with villagers, those efforts are relatively impervious to the rampant corruption among the elite in many countries.

    So they break down the double-bind of not wanting to fund a corrupt oligarchy, but perceiving that no one else outside that oligarchy is able to manage the development efforts.

  363. #363 Kseniya
    October 22, 2007

    If you really want to know, look here: “particularly hysterical feminist” (which pointed me here and here).

    Just FYI. I ain’t takin’ sides here. :-p

  364. #364 Kseniya
    October 22, 2007

    Oops. Too many links; prior post held for approval…

  365. #365 Caledonian
    October 22, 2007

    If by skills and abilities, you mean “taking IQ tests”, sure, because that’s basically what IQ scores measure.

    Ehhhh! Wrong.

    (So you used to be Raven T? That makes much of this mess much clearer.)

  366. #366 thalarctos
    October 22, 2007

    Shorter Caledonian: I can’t refute Yunus’, Parikh’s, Fraser’s, or other studies, so I’ll resort to name-calling instead.

  367. #367 Caledonian
    October 22, 2007

    I think a large part of the issues that people have with you stem from the fact that you do not lay out your position, people have to “tease” it out of you, sometimes by brute force.

    Never resort to brute force when thinking remains untried.

    As I stated my position quite clearly in my initial comments, the idea that no one can tell what it (they, now, since so many subjects have been brought up) is seems more than a little ridiculous.

    The problem is that too many people will not perceive meaning that requires any amount of thought or reflection to be revealed.

    I offer you wine, cheese, and crackers, and you complain that I’ve given you spoiled juice, rotten milk, and bread that didn’t rise.

  368. #368 thalarctos
    October 22, 2007

    I offer you wine, cheese, and crackers, and you complain that I’ve given you spoiled juice, rotten milk, and bread that didn’t rise.

    At least you haven’t lost your sense of humor, Caledonian.

    So now that Kseniya’s provided the link you requested, can we get back on topic? The ball’s in your court.

    Or shall we talk instead about why you seem to need to cast so many of your pearls before us swine?

  369. #369 Caledonian
    October 22, 2007

    Thank you, Kseniya.

    I presume it’s not the label of ‘feminist’ that RavenT objects to – and ‘particularly hysterical’ seems an apt description of her past and present behavior to me.

    Quick question: why did you search for “particularly hysterical feminist”? I don’t recall ‘particularly’ being mentioned previously.

  370. #370 thalarctos
    October 22, 2007

    If by “particularly hysterical”, you mean I expect something more from someone who purports to be so intelligent and scientific than mere invective, appeal to your own authority, and cherry-picking, whenever you claim to speak on matters of science, then I’d go along with that definition. But I’d have to caution you that that’s not the way most scientists use the phrase, and you run a serious risk of being misunderstood when you use it in such a non-standard way.

    But it’s clear you’d rather sling irrelevant insults than discuss the current topic of how you over-reach the existing genetic evidence, and cherry-pick the literature to keep your conclusions from ever having to actually be tested against reality.

    You assert:

    the twenty-point differential in IQ means that there’s a whole lot fewer elite with the necessary skills and abilities.

    The studies I cited show that the necessary skills and abilities to make meaningful demands on the developed world are not confined to the elite, nor are they tied to IQ scores.

    As always, you ignore the evidence just to sling invective and try to distract from the fact that you’re not answering the question.

    Pity–it’s such a waste.

  371. #371 Kseniya
    October 24, 2007

    Caledonian:

    Quick question: why did you search for “particularly hysterical feminist”? I don’t recall ‘particularly’ being mentioned previously.

    Ah! That’s a good question. This is what happened:

    I googled for [pharyngula "hysterical feminist"] and found the post in which RavenT quoted “particularly hysterical feminist” in a way that suggested she was quoting something you’d just said. I was then surprised to discover that whatever she was referring to had not been posted earlier in the same thread! I figured, assuming that she’d quoted you accurately, that I’d have an easier time finding the original instance of the phrase if I searched for the quoted three-word phrase and sure enough, she had, and it popped right up.

    For some reason – perhaps my own lack of acuity – I didn’t see both posts in my initial search of [pharyngula "hysterical feminist"]. When I do it now, though, they both turn up, right next to each other, on the first page returned by Google.

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